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2022 Golfdom Report

By |  January 6, 2022 0 Comments
Golf course with sun in background (Photo by: KrivosheevV / iStock–Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)

Photo by: KrivosheevV / iStock–Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

“At this point in my career, nothing surprises me anymore.”

That’s what one superintendent told us when we asked readers to tell us about the craziest thing 2021 brought to the fairways.

So, let’s recap: A global pandemic injects new life into the game. Then a supply chain crisis delays deliveries across all industries. Inflation rates spike, sending prices and hourly wages out of control.

Yeah, 2020 was crazy, but then 2021 told it, “hold my beer.” What’s in store for 2022?

For the 2022 Golfdom Report, we asked readers what their expectations were for 2022, and what their biggest concerns are for the upcoming season. Other topics include labor challenges and rounds played.

This year, 233 readers took our State of the Industry Report survey. As a thank you, we donated $500 to the Wee One Foundation. In future issues, we’ll share more results from the survey to questions like, “how do you feel about the potential for robotic mowers?” and “did you get a thank you on Thank a Superintendent Day?”

High hopes for ’22

Participants in our survey were overwhelmingly optimistic for the upcoming season. Almost half of all respondents chose “very optimistic,” while 37 percent chose “slightly optimistic.” Only 5 percent of respondents chose a pessimistic option.

Golfdom Report figure (Graphic: Golfdom Staff)

Graphic: Golfdom Staff

A whopping 77 percent also reported that rounds played were up at their facilities, while 16 said they were level. Only 7 percent of respondents said they saw a decrease.

“We went from 70,000 to 80,000 rounds a year, between the two courses, to now we’ll hit 120,000 rounds. It’s crazy,” says Jason Fuertes, superintendent at Industry Hills GC at Pacific Palms Resort in Fullerton, Calif. “It was the busiest season ever at the property, and it went from January all the way to December, nonstop. I see it continuing.”

Chad Yotter, grounds superintendent at Mayfield CC, South Euclid, Ohio, says that golf proved it is a resilient game, and the way the game has progressed the last two seasons emphasizes that.

“I think (the outlook) is positive for sure. I don’t see any kind of letdown coming from this year moving forward,” Yotter says. “Especially with the new interest. It’s great seeing new members out there. Many people just got through with their first year as members, and I expect to see them out there again next year. There was a seed planted with COVID.”

Cory Griess, superintendent at Prairie Dunes CC, Hutchinson, Kan., calls the spike in rounds played “a good problem to have,” but wonders if the end is in sight.

“I could see a plateau in play. I don’t want to be a pessimist, but it’s probably got to slow down at some point,” he says. “At least it’s going great, but we’re to the point of, we don’t need this much play.”

Steven Ball, director of agronomy, Ballyhack GC, Roanoke, Va., agrees that a leveling off of the game could be forthcoming.

“We’re going to continue to see it high in ’22. You’ll still see a lot of people working from home, and that interest in golf that was created by the pandemic; people got into it while they had extra free time, and they wanted to get outdoors,” he says. “(But) I think rounds will about level out. I think we’re super high right now.”

For Fuertes, the increase in golfers is one thing, but another thing is the increase in the kind of golfers. Less experienced golfers mean more maintenance headaches for him and his team.

“We have a lot of new golfers, and they don’t know what it takes to keep up the golf course, the simple stuff, the rules of golf, fixing ball marks, those things,” he says. “From an agronomic standpoint, we had a lot of cart traffic. I’m sure that’s an issue everywhere.

“Then again, you become accustomed to it,” Fuertes adds. “You just have to be happy that they’re out there and giving us the rounds that we need.”

Beyond the game

While the popularity of the game and what it means to a course’s bottom line was celebrated among readers, what has them worrying are those national issues occupying the evening news. Supply chain challenges, inflation and labor were common concerns. These are problems that go beyond the game.

Golfdom Report figure (Graphic: Golfdom Staff)

Graphic: Golfdom Staff

These national storylines have superintendents on high alert. It also has them clearly dissatisfied with the current administration. A look at the 2022 survey shows a majority of readers (79 percent) would leave President Joe Biden in the locker room over having him join their scramble.

Shaun Marcellus, superintendent at Wanumetonomy G&CC in Middletown, R.I., says the volatile economy and fluctuating prices are his biggest concerns for 2022. He says a colleague recently bought a piece of equipment for $60,000. Two months later, he inquired about a second machine, and the price tag had gone up $15,000.

“Labor is obviously a big part of that, but looking at equipment and inflation … everyone’s costs are going up. Everybody’s raw materials in every industry, the inflation has gone up so high. How do you combat that?” he asks. “The cost of living and inflation making everything go up, at some point, is going to hit every club pretty hard.”

Patrick Hensley is going into his second season at Towhee Club in Spring Hill, Tenn. Early on, he wanted to update the equipment at the club, only to learn it would be a waiting game.

“We ordered a new package in February. We didn’t finish receiving everything until October,” he says. “I’ve just ordered another smaller package from a smaller dealer, and they’re telling me June or July (of 2022).”

Steve Shand, superintendent, The Cliffs at Walnut Cove, Asheville, N.C., knows exactly what Hensley is going through. He says supply chain is his No. 1 concern going into 2022, and everyone he knows has a similar feeling.

“We booked equipment in August, and we were told we’ll get it next summer,” Shand says. “I guess I better stock up on parts for the old stuff!”

A scary situation

Golfdom Report figure (Graphic: Golfdom Staff)

Graphic: Golfdom Staff

Those who have worked for Kyle Callahan know he can be demanding of his crew. He can be tough, but it comes down to him wanting the best conditions possible for the golf course. That means he needs the best from his employees. That’s what he’s used to getting, at his previous job at Victoria National in Newburgh, Ind., and at his current role as director of golf course and grounds at Thornblade Club in Greer, S.C.

Despite his tough demeanor, his protégés might be surprised to hear how Callahan feels about 2022.

“I’m scared,” Callahan says. “Golf is doing excellent. Our club went from 76 on the resignation list, to we now have a waitlist. The labor market is what scares me. We’re trying to figure out how to do more with less, and we’ve been doing that. Now, I don’t know if we’ll be able to meet the expectations and demands with the number of golfers. The more golfers they’re adding, the more you’re going to have to be accommodating, and that scares me a little bit.”

Callahan says his club has raised its base hourly wage by $4 an hour, and another $1 increase is coming soon. He’s still having trouble getting people to walk through the maintenance building’s door.

Shaun Marcellus worries that McDonald’s can pay an entry-level employee $15 an hour to flip a burger, while his employees need to be much more refined and precise in the way they do their job. However, when it comes to the beauty of a golf course compared to the view on the inside of a fast-food kitchen, there’s no contest.

“I really hope the trend of the industry is how to fix the labor element. It ends up, how do you get people engaged in golf?” Marcellus asks. “I’ve been working with (industry workforce development consultant) Tyler Bloom, and we talk about apprenticeships, and kids who don’t want to go to school. And they’re not good at school. I was kind of one of those kids. I’m hands-on; I learn that way. How do you get that group, reach them and find them? It’s developing them because the roundabout answer is you’re always going to need people.”

Whether it’s 2022 or 2032, the challenges will be there. So will superintendents.

“Labor will always be a pain. As superintendents, we’ve always had to deal with challenges. That’s what makes us tough,” Yotter says. “Labor, whatever weather you throw out … we still get the job done.”

You said it

We asked readers, what was the craziest thing you saw in 2021? Here are a few answers.

“The ever-increasing lack of etiquette on the golf course.”

“Four golfers, four carts.”

“Twelve people maintaining a 36-hole facility!”

“One of the neighbors cut down 16 of our trees!”

“A complete disregard for basic course etiquette at a level never seen before.”

“Freeze in February 2021 killed 110 palm trees. At the course down the road, it killed 600 palm trees.”

“A hawk trying to fly away with my dog.”

“My 80-year-old dad, and course owner, working every day.”

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a 18-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.


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