Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Helping GMs & owners read between the lines

How free is a superintendent to speak his mind, really? Lohmann Golf Designs principal Bob Lohmann makes informative light of this issue in his most recent column for Golf Course Industry magazine, but it’s an interesting, important issue.

We all know that superintendents look after the most important asset at any daily-fee facility or private club: the golf course itself. But the downside to this reality is, superintendents also preside over the most expensive asset, and, on occasion, they must argue for additions to what is already the largest budget item at any course facility.

This can make communication with the head pro, the owner or board, and the golfers themselves an extremely delicate exercise. Club managers and course owners want candor, but superintendents must be extremely politic in the way they handle certain issues. Speaking their minds might just put them in a real awkward position, might put the club in an awkward position.

Bob cites three examples of on-course maintenance issues that perhaps do not get the frank discussion they truly deserve. What are the others? We at LGD are of the mind that architects can serve a valuable mediation role in situations like these — we can speak truth to power in cases where perhaps the superintendent cannot. Are there other mediators out there to whom supers can turn?

What do you think?

Monday, June 27, 2011

In February, on the pages of golfcourseindustry.com, we went public with our plans to replace the traditional master plan process with what we believe is a more efficient framework for renovation, the Cost-Benefit Action Plan. We even went so far as to say, tongue in cheek, that the master plan was dead — long live the CBAP!

The responses were great. We really touched a nerve, but in a good way.

Recently we added another component in GCI that we didn’t detail nearly enough in February: To really examine your golf course through the lens of a CBAP, you have to divide your course into cost centers: greens, tees, fairways, bunkers, drainage, etc. Then you have to ask, “Well, what’s wrong with the greens, the tees, etc.?” That leads to a consideration of what the ideal situation would be. Take greens as an example: We might be talking roll, speed, consistency (of both) from month to month, the ability to survive a hot, wet August, and so on. These are the specific standards superintendents and their owners must consider: “What do we want out of our greens. Are we achieving this? If not, why not?”

How many of you out there have taken the time to create standards for your golf course. If not, why not? We'd love to hear your stories... good, bad or otherwise.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I’m betting every golf course in the country, public or private, can illustrate how its 150 acres are used as green/recreational space by the community. A new attempt at outreach from the ASGCA, entitled The Value of Golf Courses: Talking Points, Talking Points (click here to download a copy) details some quite dramatic examples from across the country.

LGD actually participated in an interesting illustration of this dynamic recently. We were retained by the Village of Bloomingdale, Illinois, to help decommission 9 of 36 holes at a resort facility in town. That’s right, they paid us to take golf holes out of use. Our role was limited: covering up bunkers and devising a grassing plan that was more or less self-sustaining. But the upshot is clear: Golf courses and parklands are one and the same (we kept the cart paths as walking paths), and that land was more valuable to the community as open space than it would be as a housing subdivision — despite what the village stood to gain in terms of property taxes – which, it turns out, will still be realized in the long-term as the resort’s new Hilton-status produces additional tourism dollars for the community. A win-win, really.

We can all agree the green space benefits of golf courses, public and private, are often more wide-ranging and "everyday" — like sledding or cross-country skiing, or maybe running through the sprinklers on a hot summer night. We work with several park districts that conduct wildly popular fishing derbies using ponds on their municipal golf courses. Weigh in here with how your course serves this larger purpose. By sharing, we might gain good ideas from one another.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Master Plan is Dead

The Master Plan is dead. That’s a pretty bold statement to make, isn’t it? Judging by the comments we’ve gotten already from our column in Fast and Firm (Golf Course Industry magazine’s e-newsletter), it has struck a chord with many. Most think the approach has great merit, but some are wondering if their recently completed “master plan” is now junk.

To the latter we reply, absolutely not. If we can pull our tongue out from our cheek for a moment, the killing of the master plan was a symbolic reference to the re-prioritization of the planning process. We’ve always considered cost impacts when completing renovation work of any kind. It’s just that now, these considerations are more of a driving force than an ancillary product. We feel the CBAP is a vast improvement when it comes to describing how architects and clubs need to approach renovation work today.

The major innovation of the Cost-Benefit Action Plan is its emphasis on economic efficiencies, enabled by design. Here’s an example: When we talk to a club about renovating its greens, our first priority now is spelling out exactly how much money will be saved, year over year, in maintaining the refurbished greens — in comparison to keeping the old ones. If we can show that regrassing will save a club significant $ per year, per green, in water, chemical-use and man-hours (and in most cases we can do exactly that), then we are providing the sort of renovation service clubs really need today.

Of course, the “Benefit” part of the plan does not always have to be realized in immediate dollars saved. In the process of rebuilding or regrassing greens, we might address contour or reclaiming of lost square footage around the edges or bunker positioning. We’re architects! That’s what we do! But in the context of a CBAP, these changes might be justified by their impact on, say, pace of play – which directly affects user satisfaction and return business.

If you maintain or manage a golf course, I bet you have a master plan kicking around somewhere. Maybe we developed it. How do you use it? How would you change the document to better suit the way you manage, maintain and ultimately upgrade the course? That’s what we’re asking our clients, both old and new. And we’re asking you, too.