Man­ag­ing course bud­gets.

Proper main­te­nance of ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems and machin­ery is a top pri­or­ity.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents -

We have pre­vi­ously stressed the im­por­tance of course con­di­tion­ing, since play­ing golf is the main pur­pose of being a club mem­ber.We have also touched on the cost of main­te­nance with lim­ited fi­nan­cial re­sources. Clubs have to ap­ply avail­able funds wisely in this area.

Two in­gre­di­ents which play a piv­otal role in course main­te­nance are ir­ri­ga­tion and equip­ment. Both re­quire a sig­nif­i­cant cap­i­tal out­lay, spe­cialised skills to main­tain and, once ac­quired, con­sume a chunk of the bud­get.When clubs in­vite Mark Wilt­shire Golf (MWG) for a site au­dit, we first eval­u­ate the ir­ri­ga­tion set-up, work­shop and course equip­ment.

Our au­dits have re­vealed that 90% of the time ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems are not fully func­tional, hav­ing not being prop­erly main­tained. Rea­sons range from in­ex­pe­ri­ence or lack of knowl­edge on how they op­er­ate – the course su­per­in­ten­dent when it was in­stalled may have moved on – to not spend­ing enough to main­tain the sys­tem.Why would a club bud­get for monthly main­te­nance if it has in­vested mil­lions in its in­stal­la­tion?

An ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem can strug­gle due to faulty sprayers, turf valves or com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­te­gral to an au­to­mated sys­tem.This al­ways leads to over­wa­ter­ing. A sprayer noz­zle will wear out. In­stead of con­sum­ing 100 litres of wa­ter per hour, it re­quires 120 to do its job.The pur­pose of an au­to­mated sys­tem is to wa­ter in pre-pro­grammed cy­cles. If not work­ing a course has to be wa­tered man­u­ally; turf valves have to be switched on and off by hand.This is in­ef­fec­tive and leads to 30–50% wa­ter waste.

The knock-on ef­fect of not hav­ing a fully func­tional ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem is pro­found. It leads to poor turf qual­ity and in­ef­fec­tive wa­ter man­age­ment. And it is costly. Over­wa­ter­ing pro­motes fun­gal ac­tiv­ity and re­me­dial chem­i­cals are ex­pen­sive. So is elec­tric­ity wastage due to run­ning pumps for longer cy­cles and the cost of ex­tra wa­ter us­age.

The cap­i­tal in­vest­ment for an ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem is sub­stan­tial (a ba­sic block sys­tem will cost R6–7 mil­lion) so it makes sense that once in­stalled clubs should en­sure it is main­tained prop­erly and be fully func­tional.

Course equip­ment has over the past decade become an ex­pen­sive com­mod­ity. The re­place­ment value of a ba­sic fleet is about R7 mil­lion. It is im­por­tant for clubs to get the max­i­mum value and life out of their machin­ery.The av­er­age life­span of a mower is 5 000 hours or five years, but with proper care it can be stretched to nine years. Our site au­dits have shown that pre­ven­ta­tive main­te­nance, par­tic­u­larly hy­draulic ser­vices, are not done as per the man­u­fac­turer’s re­quire­ments which leads to pre­ma­ture fail­ure of com­po­nents. Spares are ex­pen­sive.

The longevity of equip­ment is not only de­pen­dent on pre­ven­ta­tive main­te­nance but re­liant on a holis­tic ap­proach. Work­shops need to be tidy. Machin­ery re­quires des­ig­nated park­ing ar­eas so that me­chan­i­cal leaks can be iden­ti­fied. Proper main­te­nance record keep­ing is vi­tal. Con­tin­u­ing to re­pair a prob­lem­atic ma­chine reaches a point where good money is wasted. Op­er­a­tors need to take own­er­ship of their equip­ment – sign­ing ma­chines in and out is a good start­ing point – and con­tin­ual train­ing is essen­tial. Some op­er­a­tors do drive mow­ers care­lessly.

Course equip­ment plays a cru­cial role in con­di­tion­ing and pre­sen­ta­tion.The qual­ity of cut is de­ter­mined by back lap­ping pro­grammes, grind­ing and set­ting of reels; fail­ing in this is pri­mar­ily cost-re­lated and a lack of me­chan­i­cal skills.We be­lieve there is di­rect cor­re­la­tion between back-of-house or­gan­i­sa­tion (work­shop and of­fice) and on-course house­keep­ing.The con­se­quence of an un­tidy main­te­nance fa­cil­ity is sloppy house­keep­ing on the course.

Many clubs do not have a course equip­ment cap­i­tal re­place­ment pro­gramme. This is more com­plex than re­plac­ing one ma­chine with an­other when re­quired, as the cost of re­plac­ing equip­ment has ne­ces­si­tated a fresh ap­proach.Any golf club is wel­come to re­quest MWG to eval­u­ate the cur­rent sta­tus of their ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem and course equip­ment.This will be­gin with a site visit and com­pre­hen­sive au­dit re­port with rec­om­men­da­tions.

Nkana golf course, host of the Zam­bia Open, has been up­graded and is man­aged by MWG.

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