For numerous reasons - economical, societal, political and demographic - revenue decline is a very real issue for golf courses and sports facilities these days.
In many cases, turfcare managers are being asked to do more with less resource, maintaining top-quality golf courses and sports facilities on flat and, in some cases, declining budgets. And, whilst resources may diminish, the expecations of the members, players and viewers do not - they still want, and demand, a great experience and value for their membership fees or ticket price
In this article, Trevor Chard, national account manager (golf) with Reesink Turfcare, looks at how to make the most of a modest budget to retain the high standards your members and customers have come to expect.
Things are still impacted by the 2008 global financial crisis. It was all change from that year forward as panic and fear, combined with uncertainty over the future of the world's major economies kicked in and disposable income spending was seemingly instantly curbed. Significantly for the UK, the drop in tourists visiting, mainly from America, to play at our prestigious and historic courses stalled and that trickle effect is yet to fully recover. Day after day, clubs experienced membership decrease as the economy floundered.
The result was lower revenues, which translated - then and still do today - directly to lower operating budgets, which impacts how well the job-in-hand can be done.
I'm often asked what the best areas or machines are to focus on, even which is the best 'all-rounder' machine to go for if you are working to reduced budgets, and the fact is there is no simple answer. It is impossible to pick that one machine for a golf course, for example, that will provide the clean, sharp and precise cut members want to see on the greens, which can then turn its hand to tackling the semi-roughs and roughs.
That said, whilst it is virtually impossible to cut the machinery fleet required to do an excellent job right down, planning and careful logistics management can see you use the machines you do have more intelligently, to get maximum productivity from them. Here's how…
For golf clubs, when budget allows and if you can only purchase one mower, invest in a greens machine. Then the machine you were using on the greens can move onto the often less demanding tees, which don't need such a fine finish. Machines these days are built to last and working a plan like this will see you get another few years, at least, of decent productivity out of them.
Hybrid and hydraulics
For longer-term, choosing hybrid, such as the Toro Reelmaster 5010-H, is a sensible decision, as is opting for less hydraulics when possible.
Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, choosing a hybrid is a good choice for your bottom line. Better fuel economy can save up to twenty percent more on fuel than a conventional mower. Add to this the benefit of a PowerMatch drive system, which sees the machine only produce the power it needs for the mowing conditions, bringing a further reduction in operating costs.
The elimination of all hydraulic components within the cutting units, and therefore over one hundred potential hydraulic leak points, is another way to help save on costs.
It can be extremely difficult to generate additional revenue, especially in such a competitive marketplace where players can 'price shop' for the best perceived playing value. Focus on the maximum return on your expenditure and stretching your budget by engineering efficiency from your fleet. Increased operating efficiency reduces operating costs and lowers the consumption of resources; nothing gained overnight, but long-term, say over a year or more, and your budget will go further. Let me explain…
New advancements in turfcare machinery product design and development means the opportunities for maximising machinery efficiency is better than ever. For example, a new interchangeable cylinder attachment for the Toro LT-F3000 gives the front-facing triple flail mower the capability to cut both coarse or fine grass. Such innovation has provided the groundscare sector with the ideal machine to maximise productivity and cost effectiveness - one machine can now do the job of two, and a machine that was originally intended as a flail mower can now cut as a cylinder mower. There are lots of efficiency opportunities today, so I would always encourage talking to your machinery dealer to see which ones help you most.
Is rental an option?
For clubs who would like the latest machinery, but would rather keep funds for short-term needs such as materials or building maintenance, then machinery rental is the way to go. Regular replacement of key machinery offers you a number of advantages. The increased reliability from new machines reduces the incidence of breakdowns and subsequent maintenance costs. New machines also incorporate the latest design features and turfcare technology, providing better operation and quality of cut, impacting on the presentation of the course or pitch. In the case of golf clubs, that can also impact on the potential to increase green fee income.
Affordable finance and lease agreements
For golf clubs, seasonality has a significant impact on cash flow as green fee income falls during the winter months. Similarly, income peaks after members pay their subscriptions when the cycle returns to balance. Finance plans can help to manage this to provide for short-term deficits in cash flow. The table explains more about the features and benefits of machinery financing.
Whilst budgets have been tighter these last few years, customers have been looking at alternative means to invest in their fleets, and we've found more and more that a one-size-fits-all approach to finance doesn't work for everyone. So, whilst Reesink Turfcare has many advantageous finance deals running on a regular basis, these aren't the only ones we negotiate for customers.
The best packages are tailor-made to the individual customer and may contain a mix of different financing facilities and support services, such as planned maintenance agreements and extended warranty products. Choosing and using finance needs careful consideration and, rather than being left to the finance director and club's management to make the decisions, it is important for the course or grounds manager to understand how things work, too. It plays an important part in planning and budgeting to ensure that the club has the materials and equipment it needs to deliver the quality and presentation that members, players and spectators appreciate.
The efficiency of the fleet depends upon good reliability and, as all machines need regular servicing as per the manufacturer's instructions, another major benefit worth taking advantage of in a lease agreement is the flexibility to build in regular servicing. In fact, any number of benefits not normally found in the purchase package can be built into a finance package. For example, a package with monthly repayments that covers hire, service and maintenance is not only convenient, but assures accurate budgeting without the risk of additional maintenance pay-outs resulting from unexpected breakdowns or needing urgent replacement parts.
Above all, what I'd like this article to do is reassure that less to spend does not mean less to enjoy for members and less job satisfaction for employees. Managing smaller budgets can, at times, be far more challenging than managing larger ones, but there are plenty of options, and manufacturers there to support the aims and objectives of the course and grounds managers, the clubs and boards alike, whatever resources they have available. What we've found when it comes to helping customers get more value out of their budgets is that we collectively need to be flexible and open-minded and then we can find the best solution.