crew members mowing and inspecting golf course

The True Cost of Not Having the Right Equipment

Golf course maintenance equipment is expensive, but not having the right equipment can cost you more.

golf course maintenance crew member operating a greens roller
Delaying equipment replacement is not always prudent, particularly when many newer models are more efficient, use less fuel, and can lead to better playing conditions.

Golf course maintenance equipment is expensive and for good reason. The type of equipment needed to maintain quality-playing conditions is very specialized and few manufacturers make it. But as expensive as it is, not having the right equipment can cost you more.

What is the right equipment for your course? It depends. Topography and site conditions, course size, geographic region, budget and patterns of play for your members and guests all play a role in the amount and type of equipment you may have—or desire—for your course. The list of must-haves is long, so we’ll just focus on a few essentials and how you can make sure you’re maximizing efficiency and managing cost.

Mowers: A Big Ticket Item You Want to Get Right

Mowing consumes most of your maintenance crew’s time on a daily basis. Having the right equipment, whether a walk-behind or triplex mower, for the task at hand is critical to achieving efficiency and the right height of cut (HOC).

These days the desired HOC is considerably lower than in years past. Measurements are taken in thousandths of an inch and superintendents make adjustments throughout the seasons and in response to turf growth and environmental stress. When it comes to managing HOC and your crew’s valuable time, the mower you use makes all the difference.

Recently the BrightView Golf Maintenance team helped a club transition from reel-type rough mowers to rotary deck mowers capable of cutting a wider swath. The change doubled the crew’s productivity. It also raised the bar on quality.

Here’s how: In addition to time-driven benchmarks, the crew was given training on what the finished product should look like. Rather than the mowing process being a race to the finish, it was a time-efficient quest for quality—a move that resulted in better conditions, efficient time management, fuel savings and a more motivated crew.

Certain types of mowers handle specific tasks. Greens collar mowers, tee mowers, approach mowers, fairway mowers, intermediate rough mowers and primary rough mowers are each is ideal for particular parts of your course. Knowing which ones you need and where is a science. Knowing what technology is available and choosing wisely among your options is smart. For these reasons and more, it pays to work with a partner who can do a thorough equipment audit and help you develop a program for preventative maintenance and repair, as well as equipment updates and purchases.

Know Your Turf Cultivation Equipment

Equipment used for turf cultivation makes up the other big category in your golf course maintenance equipment inventory. Aerators, topdressers and sprayers all contribute to maintaining a high level of excellence in your turf. Chances are you know this already, but are you up to date with the most recent advances in this equipment?

Consider aerators. Older models enabled a hole spacing of two to four inches. With more current models, you get more flexibility and the ability to space aeration holes as closely as one inch by one inch. Modern aerators can also be retrofitted with smaller tines of varying shapes and tighter hole spacing for even more options.

Topdressers have also come a long way. The newer twin-spinner units throw sand at a much lighter rate over a broader area, making it easier to topdress faster and more frequently. In turn, this makes for a better playing area and efficiency for crew.

Sprayers are also becoming more specialized as the number of topical turf applications multiplies and increases in concentration. Having a good, reliable sprayer (or sprayers, as is increasingly the case) in your fleet ensures the proper tank mix of water to spray and a more effective and cost-effective application.

Vertical mowers, tractors, utility vehicles, soil moisture sensors—there’s so much more that goes into cultivating and maintaining turf and quality conditions, and advancements are being made all the time. Again, knowing what’s out there, what’s coming and what will work best for you is not always an easy puzzle to solve.

The Cost of Cutting Costs

A typical golf course maintenance inventory can run as much as a million dollars, making it one of the biggest line items in your budget. With the economic downturn not so far back in the rear-view mirror, many club budgets have been reduced, leading to delays in equipment replacement.

This is understandable, but not necessarily prudent. Using equipment beyond its useful life results in inefficiencies from lower reliability rates to higher repair costs, reduced effectiveness and often, higher labor costs.

Newer equipment affords greater efficiency, less fuel consumption, and can lead to better playing conditions, which in turn lead to higher revenues. Again, how do you know what new equipment will make the most difference in your bottom line and course conditions?

Have a Plan, Have a Partner

Taking advantage of the research and proven experience of a golf course maintenance partner can help. Experts, who have tested and, in many cases, been involved in the development of equipment, can draw upon their knowledge and experience to help you take the guesswork out of the replacement and purchase process. Further, partnering with a company who brings purchasing power and a ready supply of up-to-date equipment to help tide you over between purchases can help you manage costs.

Most important, have an equipment replacement and preventative maintenance strategy. Work with experts who can help you create an efficient workflow plan and a strong, proactive maintenance program. Everything is course specific and working with a partner who can bring depth and breadth of experience will help eliminate trial and error, and ultimately save costs.

With so many exciting developments on the horizon, from electric mowers to the use of drones to monitor course conditions, the learning curve is becoming steeper and the opportunities to save on labor, water and fuel costs are increasingly plentiful. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Take steps now to manage your equipment and maintenance costs wisely and reap the benefits for years to come.


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