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2021 State of the Industry: No new normal

Overcoming increased rounds, supply chain issues and an intense February storm showed the resiliency of the crew at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club. (Photo Courtesy of: Anthony Williams)

Overcoming increased rounds, supply chain issues and an intense February storm showed the resiliency of the crew at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club. (Photo Courtesy of: Anthony Williams)

Go back in time and think of a kid sitting in a college classroom, hopeful to someday be a superintendent. This was the time to study, think ahead and prepare for the challenges that await.

Maintenance budgets, turf insects, soil compaction, disgruntled greens committee chairmen. There was nothing that student wasn’t preparing for.

Did that student ever consider the effect a global pandemic might have on golf? Or how a company called Amazon, so convenient to life at first, would then become the enemy when it comes to hiring a crew?

Forget the new normal — there is nothing normal in golf maintenance anymore. In our 2021 State of the Industry report, sponsored by Nufarm, the team at Golfdom spoke to numerous Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) chapter presidents around the country to learn what the year was like in their region.

Tim Glorioso

President, Northwest Ohio GCSA
Director of golf operations, The Toledo Country Club

How was the golf season in your region?

2020 sucked, and 2021 sucked even worse. We’ve had more rounds than ever and more members, but labor and weather have been really tough this year. We’re just doing whatever we can to stretch the day. We never needed lights before, but I’ve ordered new carts with lights on them so we can go out after dark. We had guys raking bunkers with the flashlights on their phones.

How was the weather in your area this year?
We’ve had heavy rains all summer. It seems like we never dried out.

How was your experience with labor this year?

Early in the year, labor was a massive problem because people didn’t want to work. Then, labor competition heated up tremendously in northern Ohio. Cedar Point in Sandusky began offering $20 per hour to hire hundreds of people to staff the amusement park, drawing people from the entire northern half of the state. Our biggest problem is two Amazon warehouses really close to us. They’re offering high wages, and a lot of people want to work indoors. I gave the whole staff a $2 raise because I didn’t want to lose anyone. My budget is going up, but the course looks good, so I can handle that.

Were there notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

The golf has been fantastic. We gained 100 members over last year. (The pandemic) has gotten people really interested in the game of golf again.

What are your expectations for 2022?

Increased membership and traffic have limited our ability to service the course. I used to be able to sneak out onto the course and do things — we called it Maintenance Mondays. Now, we have events every Monday, so I can’t go out and spot-treat anything. I’m hoping to get that back next year, even if it’s just one day a month.

— Robert Schoenberger

Kurtis Wolford

President, California GCSA
Superintendent, Woodbridge G&CC, Woodbridge, Calif.

How was the golf season in your region?

Chaotic. With the boom that golf has had in California due to COVID and a lot of people rediscovering golf, it’s been extremely busy.
Our facility has had three times the play that we normally have, which is great for us financially, but we’re not staffed accordingly to provide the level of service we normally do.

How was the weather in your area this year?

For the valley, it was very hot. We had an extremely hot summer, which had its challenges. The weather in California is always a roller coaster. You never know what you’re going to get.

Right now, everyone is keyed up with what’s going on with the drought because in California, there are more water restrictions. That’s been one of the biggest challenges and one of the biggest things on our radar.

This year was somewhat of a challenge with the restrictions that we had. Everyone is watching the weather with the utmost attention going into next year. Because of where our water levels are at in California this year, we are anticipating having restrictions next year.

How was your experience with labor this year?

It was the most challenging time in my career to date dealing with labor. There just wasn’t the labor available. Trying to find quality employees and attract people to apply was very challenging this year.

It was hard all across the board from every department — the restaurant to the maintenance to the outside service to our fitness. We were all short on employees. For our course, we had a lot of success with going to job fairs and trying to get the word out about how good of an industry this is to work in. On the maintenance side of the house, I was somewhat successful in reaching out to some of the graduates of Future Farmers of America programs from high schools for younger workers.

Were there notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

The California chapter is working really hard to get courses to adopt the best management practices (BMPs) documents. Getting golf courses on the best management practices is one of our key goals. We’re trying to get golf courses to craft and adopt those documents.

What are your expectations for 2022?

I think labor will slowly start to come back, where we’re still short-staffed but we’re anticipating getting back to normal staffing levels, which we need because of how busy the golf course has been.

— Sarah Webb

Paul Richmond

President, Maine GCSA
Superintendent, The Meadows Golf Club, Lichfield, Maine

How was the golf season in your region?

We were up from last year, which was up from previous years, play wise. It was a great year for golf in Maine. With everything going on in the rest of the world, golf seemed to be one of the few safe havens that people could go to.

How was the weather in your area this year?

We had one of the rainiest summers. Right now, we are a little over 10 inches ahead of average. We’re going to have to do more fungicides. We’ll end up doing a lot more repair work. Because of the extra traffic and the soft conditions, the course really took a beating.

How was your experience with labor this year?

We were OK. We had enough people. Inside was very difficult. It was a similar story at other courses in our region. I got lucky with the grounds crew and hired one guy who had a bunch of buddies. Most of the courses had issues with labor.

Were there notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

Financially, we’re doing fantastic. Also, the GCSAA National had its board of directors meeting up here recently, which was a big deal for us. They hadn’t been up here in a while. That was nice to get those guys up here. We moved forward on the best management practices. Maine has fully adopted that, and it’s in place, and we’re looking to start the facility-specific items now. Next fall, we’ll have a dozen or so facility-specific items in place, where other crews can come and look at and replicate for their clubs as well. It was a huge process.

What are your expectations for 2022?

I’m hoping with the COVID restrictions going down and as vaccinations get going, we’re able to get a little more help in the labor department, especially for the restaurant side of the business. We have really struggled there.

— S.W.



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