agronomist inspecting golf course turf

Three-Part Series: Why Does Golf Course Maintenance Cost So Much?

The Dollars and Sense of Golf Course Maintenance Labor, Payroll and Payroll Expenses

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There it is again, rearing its ugly head during budgeting meetings. Your golf course maintenance is eating up 30-40 percent of your overall budget…AGAIN. It probably gives you chills just thinking about how many dollars you have to set aside each year to maintain and enhance your course. But in reality, it should be the most sensible commitment you make on your budget sheet. Your course is your most valuable asset. Investing in its health and operations is the only way to ensure it continues to grow and flourish, not to mention provide you with solid ROI.

Why Investing in Your People Is So Important

three golf course maintenance crew members

It takes a village to run a successful business. This we know. But good people—people who care about the overall performance of your business—need to feel like they have a stake in the game. Courses that invest in the performance and happiness of their people have a competitive advantage over courses that strictly invest in capital upgrades. Have you made your people a top priority? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why should someone want to join the workforce at your course and not the one down the road? 
  • Are you motivating your people to want to invest in your asset?
  • Do you offer your employees continued education and training options?
  • Do you reward your people to refine their skills and become experts in their craft?
  • Do you offer great benefits?
  • Is your course culture not only player-centric but employee-centric, too?

With all these considerations, it’s no surprise the number one expense for your business is labor and payroll. In fact, BrightView has found the average cost for labor and payroll eats up about 50% of the maintenance budget. It may seem like a hefty expense, but in return you’re building and motivating a staff that is aligned with the goals of your course’s ownership or governance board. Let’s look a little deeper at why golf course maintenance labor is so expensive.

Top 5 Reasons Why Golf Course Maintenance Labor Costs So Much

As we all know well, it’s expensive to attract and retain talent in the golf industry. Here are the top five reasons why:

1. Highly Skilled Talent

Golf course maintenance professionals understand the game of golf and care for your course in a way that improves the player experience. They understand the equipment and applications needed to maintain a beautiful course. Their skills are unique and highly sought after. Attracting and retaining the right talent for your course may mean paying your people more than competitors. Additionally, BrightView has found courses need to look at both traditional and new sources for labor in order to find the right people. Looking at new sources for labor can help courses bring in new employees with talent and motivation to improve your course.

2. Training

Even highly-skilled individuals need some reinforcement to maintain their craft. To stay on the cutting edge of new technology and trends, promote a culture that values safety and prevent accidents, a robust, formalized training program for your people is a very necessary expense. It’s also important for superintendents to seek training to become better people managers so daily operations run smoothly and more efficiently.

3. Workman's Compensation

The job is labor intensive. It’s hard. It’s exhausting. Your people are operating in the fringe hours with sophisticated maintenance equipment in tow. All these things put you, your people and your customers at a safety risk. Accidents do happen, even to well- trained employees. A course culture that promotes safety will reduce their number of incidents by a significant amount. BrightView makes safety a priority and has seen our incident rate reduced 152% over the last 10 years and by 62% over the last 5 years. Have monthly check-ins with your team to reinforce the importance of safety at every level of operations.

4. The Healthcare Act

Universal healthcare is expensive for business owners. To offset the expense that both state and federal requirements have imposed on our businesses, seek out opportunities to invest in the health and well-being of employees. Offer incentives for folks who eat right and exercise regularly. Have morning kick-offs where employees do morning stretches before going out on the course. If your employees stay healthy, your business benefits.

5. Increase in Minimum Wage

Although unnerving to consider the added expense of the increase in minimum wage, you would hope if you pay your people more for their good work, they will continue to work hard and invest back into your asset. However, it takes more than that. Through years of research and experience, BrightView has found it takes the right combination of motivation, proper training, and a focus on productivity to maximize the work being completed for the wages you are paying.

The bottom line is this: Your course is your most valuable asset, and your most important resource is labor. Your people are invaluable and they are the lifeblood of your operation, day-in and day-out, solely responsible for bringing a high-quality, top-of-the-line, well-maintained course to market. Treat them well, reward them, and promote a course culture that encourages them to work hard and safely. Every dollar spent on labor and payroll should be looked at as an investment rather than an expense. When your staff takes pride and care in their work, the long-term needs for your course will surely be met. Think about it…we do every day.

Outstanding Golf Course Maintenance

You set the standard, we make it happen. We’re laser-focused on continuously refining the science, technology, and operations of golf course maintenance so we can bring our clients a competitive advantage and a course their players are proud of.