golf course at sunrise

Short-Term Planning for Long-Term Success

Learn how use your current experiences to plan for next golf season.

Surprising but true — many clubs finish their playing season without using the experience as the foundation for a strong plan for the next one. We see this time and time again. In a way, it’s not shocking; superintendents are busy with the day-to-day work of maintaining their course. Formulating a plan of short-term goals for next year simply doesn’t make it to the top of their “to do” list.

But it should. Having a plan for the next year brings many benefits, including:

  • More efficient use of resources 
  • Greater accountability 
  • Greater transparency 
  • Improved budget compliance 
  • Increased productivity

Don’t Put It Off

There’s no better time to create such a plan than at the end of your peak-playing season — while challenges and successes of the season are still top of mind. For some clubs, it might be October; for resorts or clubs that cater to snowbirds, it could be May or June. Here’s how to get started.

Components of a Good Short-Term Plan

golf course
Take time to reflect. The best time to conduct short-term planning is at the end of your peak season.

The beauty of having a recorded plan that outlines your approach for the year to come is that it allows you to reflect on what you learned during your past peak season and put this knowledge toward the next busy cycle. Breaking the plan into areas of focus makes tackling the task easier. Here are the main components of a good plan:

  • Agronomic — What quantity and frequency will you apply inputs and at what key times throughout the year? What areas on the course were most impacted by problems that might be prevented or minimized by a different approach? 
  • Cultural — When should cultural activities take place, such as core aerification and verticutting, and where are more aggressive treatments needed? 
  • Labor — What worked this past season, what needs to change, when are slow periods and how can you make the most of them?
  • Equipment assessment — What’s in need of repair, what might need to be replaced next year? 
  • Improvements — Are there areas of your course in need of immediate attention? What are those? What’s the best way to schedule and budget for them? 
  • Club events — When are tournaments and big events anticipated or in the calendar already? Plan how to work around them.

Essentially, your plan needs to be agronomically appropriate to your course’s needs and commercially viable per your club’s fiscal responsibilities. Most important, the plan you create should definitely be synched with your budget schedule.

Who Should Be Involved

The plan touches nearly all aspects of your course, and over the course of developing the plan there are several parties that will have varying levels of involvement. These include the superintendent, general manager, greens chair/committee, golf pro, resort manager, agronomic consultants and advisors. All of these people will be impacted by the plan, but beware of the “too many cooks in the kitchen” syndrome. Bring in the appropriate parties for the portions relevant to that individual or group. Ultimately, it is the superintendent’s responsibility to draw up and drive the plan.

Dealing with the What If’s

Obviously, a plan is subject to change, particularly in the golf business where vagaries of weather and turf disease are all too common realities. Flexibility is a given and following the plan is not an excuse for failure.

Your plan is a starting point but it’s a crucial one. That’s because taking the time to review your course at the end of its peak season offers the ideal opportunity to write down what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to change. Talking through these things and writing them down brings clarity. It moves your club from a “fertilize when needed” mindset to a club with a clear-cut strategy that can be modified as needed or proceed apace.

Clarity Leads to Better Timing

Remember, we’re talking about short-term goals here — the kind that you intend to and can reasonably accomplish over the next season. It’s about being explicit and strategic. For example, you might decide to rebuild the bunkers on the first six holes in the coming year. That means hiring a contractor, building it into the budget, and timing it appropriately given your club calendar.

Other goals can be built around slow times for your crews. For instance, cleaning drains or re-planting flowerbeds. Look at your crew schedule and build these projects into the plan. Consider what hot spots or dry areas occurred during the season and plan your labor schedule accordingly to allow for hand watering during the next playing season. Assess areas that had pest or disease issues and create an agronomic plan to deal with that. Look at equipment and note what needs to be replaced or repaired and schedule it into the plan.

Consider all aspects of the plan and make a punch list. The list may change, items could be deleted or added, but without a plan you’re simply shooting in the dark, reacting to events instead of proactively managing the process.

First Time for Everyone 

Creating your first short-term plan can take up to a month. There’s a lot to it and it will need input from several parties. Once you have the crucial input from the key players, it may take a few weeks to finalize the plan. Don’t give up. It gets easier. Your first plan will serve as the infrastructure and springboard for next year’s plan.

Rest assured, this kind of planning is a basic discipline of how we operate at BrightView. We undertake this process with every client with whom we partner, creating a plan interactively and with great transparency. If you need help getting a plan going, we’re here. If you’re game to take it on yourself — and we firmly believe no club should be without a short-term and long-term plan — please take advantage of the information we’ve provided to get started. Here’s to your success!

Outstanding Golf Course Maintenance

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