Minimum wage woes

By |  April 14, 2016 1 Comments
Jon Lobenstine at the 2015 Golfdom Summit

Jacobsen’s Klasie Baard (left), talks shop with Jon Lobenstine at the 2015 Golfdom Summit in Orlando.

In the April issue of Golfdom, which should be in your mailbox soon, I talked with Jon Lobenstine, director of agronomy for Montgomery County (Maryland) Golf. He has 171 holes of golf over nine courses. Supervising that much golf, he’s a good person to talk to about current trends in the industry.

So I asked him what was top-of-mind that day. His response was quick.

“One of the biggest challenges we have in Montgomery County right now is the accelerated rate of minimum wage,” Jon told me. “Minimum wage in Montgomery County is accelerating faster than the state and federal minimum wage… next year we’ll be up to $11.50 an hour. While it’s good for the people making minimum wage, it’s a big challenge for businesses. From this year to next year it’s going to cost us $250,000 for lower-level employees, and that doesn’t even include all the other raises I’d give to the regular staff, the superintendents, everyone else…”

That $250K number caught my ear, so I asked him if I heard him right. A quarter million, just for the minimum wage staff?

“Yes, a $250,000 payroll increase just with minimum wage employees from last year and this year. We get up to about 425 employees in-season at our nine courses — a majority are on the golf operations side, food and beverage, starters, marshals,” Jon said. “The impact is real, our golf courses don’t get any funding from the county. So, unless we increase revenues, we have to find a way to cut expenses to fit all that in, and revenues have been pretty flat lately. We’re not projecting a big increase next year, we’re actually projecting a decrease.”

I asked him if the golfers of Montgomery County should be expecting to pay more for their rounds. He said that greens fees are already maxed out, with some of the courses hitting the $85 per round mark. He did say they’re aggressive about maximizing their tee sheet and getting as many golfers through as possible.

So what to do, then?

Jon just shrugged and reiterated what he said earlier: they have to cut costs.

So what is the rising cost of minimum wage doing to your operation? Comment below, or email me at

Photo: Golfdom

This is posted in Columns, Featured

About the Author: Seth Jones

Seth Jones, a 25-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

1 Comment on "Minimum wage woes"

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  1. Jared Nemitz says:

    The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter if it’s golf courses or other businesses, profits cannot go down just because of wage increases. Autonomous mowers, robot kiosks etc will replace workers. Businesses are weary of admitting to having to cut labor but it is the easiest way to keep profit margins.

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