The Pellucid Perspective - October 2011 - (Page 13)

COURSE MAINTENANCE ‘Brown’ not making Half Moon Bay golfers blue New low maintenance approach saves money … and players like it By Jim Dunlap G olf course owners, operators and industry mavens have, more frequently in the past few years, urged a return to what they’ve termed “firm and fast” course conditions, which many golfers view as a euphemism for less mowing, less water and less fertilizer – generally less maintenance expense for the owner and worse course conditions for the customers. Where there are almost certainly some courses where blatant cost-cutting is thinly disguised as a return to the game’s original Scottish roots of no-frills, back-to-nature golf, or others where the proprietors simply try to mitigate poor conditions with cheap pricing to appease customers and survive, some of today’s operators are taking a chance on going “brown” to keep more green in the till. Half Moon Bay Golf Links on the northern California coast is one of the latter. Half Moon Bay offers two upscale 18-hole tracks, the Arnold Palmer-designed Old Course, circa 1973, and the Arthur Hills-designed Ocean Course which opened in 1997. Beginning a three-phase process in mid-2009, Half Moon Bay opted to significantly cut irrigation, mowing and fertilizing on the links-style Ocean Course and roll the dice on how the course’s new “old” look would play with the resort’s guests and local golfers. The results, according to General Manager Bill Troyanoski, have been, perhaps surprisingly, extremely positive. “We’ve seen a trend onto the Ocean Course since we did it,” Troyanoski said. “There has been a 3.5 percent shift in play where people have the option, from the Old Course to the Ocean Course, which is a reverse of our normal historic trend. The people we have talked to, and admittedly this is not necessarily a scientific survey, but it’s been five-to-one in favor of the new fast and firm conditions. Across the board, it’s been a good thing for us.” In a bow toward the crude truism that money talks and, uh, fertilizer walks, Troyanoski said the facility’s accountants like the new practices as well as the customers do. “Economically, we’ve seen a 60 percent cut in irrigation use and a 40 percent cut in fertilizer costs,” Troyanoski said. “And when you’re reducing nitrogen on the golf course, it cuts down on disease pressure, so you need less pesticide and chemicals. What we’ve discovered is that the more you manage your water, the more the turf you want comes out and what you don’t want [primarily poa annua] declines, so that’s even more savings and better turf.” Troyanoski said a visit to the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach provided some direction for management of rough areas at Half Moon Bay’s Ocean Course. “The rough at Pebble Beach was at the height you’d expect for a U.S. Open,” he said, “but it wasn’t lush. It was clumpy and designed for flyer lies. Players were able to advance the ball, but they couldn’t control it as well. You can find the ball, but there’s still a penalty involved.” Hills’ links-style design of the Ocean Course made a much more fitting canvas for the reduced maintenance practices, Troyanoski said. “One of the things we found out is that there is a learning curve on how to do it right,” Troyanoski said. “It’s not just a matter of shutting off the water and fertilizer. The Ocean Course fits into that scheme because of its natural textures of brown and green and the ocean. There’s an art to it. Just the other day, one of our customers told me, ‘It’s great to see you didn’t just shut the water off.’” While the low maintenance, fast and firm approach has worked on the Ocean Course, Troyanoski admits it might not work for every facility. The fact that Half Moon Bay has both the traditionally maintained Old Course and the low maintenance Ocean links gives resort guests and other golfers a choice of venues for greens fees that are in the high $100s at peak times. “It might not work for some other high end or resort courses where they depend on the way the course looks,” Troyanoski admitted. “We’re fortunate in having both courses, which aln lows us to offer two very different golf experiences.” P E L LU C I D I S M Expecting discount shoppers to become fullprice, loyal customers is like singing to a pig. It doesn’t do you any good and it just annoys the pig. You have to take discount shoppers for what they are, extra rounds at low margin. If you can use each other for mutual benefit, fine (they get a one-time value, you fill up space on your tee sheet that would have been vacant). To expect more out of the relationship than that is wishful thinking on both parties’ part. The Pellucid PersPecTive 13 http://WWW.PELLUCIDCORP.COM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - October 2011

The Pellucid Perspective - October 2011
Table of Contents
When will pricing power return to golf?
Municipal golf’s identity crisis
Let’s make a deal
‘Winter rounds test drive’ promotion wins Labor Day battle
September weather impact: Too little too late?
‘Brown’ not making Half Moon Bay golfers blue
Cincinnati, OH Core Business Statistical Area (CBSA)
Comings & goings
The “Most Powerful” — really?

The Pellucid Perspective - October 2011