Silverstein, Steranka: How best to control costs?

Average: 3.4 (366 votes)

At the recent Golf
Inc. Conference at the Camelback Inn & Resort in Scottsdale,
Ariz., Jeff Silverstein, president of I.R.I. Golf Group, offered some
blunt opinions about how the standard operating model for many
courses is making it difficult for them to control costs.

Here are some of
the things Silverstein had to say about this critical issue:

"I think it's
time that the owners of golf courses start taking responsibility for
the fact that the associations and the employees that are working at
our golf courses have actually taken a stronghold in the industry.
The Golf Course Superintendents Association [of America], the USGA as
an advisor to our clubs [and] the PGA of America have set standards
that the owners have allowed to be set, that have created an
expectation from our customer base, that has made, in most cases, the
viability and the investment in golf, not very strong.

"In a place
like Arizona where your water costs are rising significantly, and
your labor costs, your fertilizer costs, are going up, you need to
start taking a look at alternative ways to run your facilities. Do
you need an $85,000 head professional in your golf shop? Do you need
a Class A certified superintendent? Do you need to have fertilizer
put down four times a year? You need to take a look at all of those

"If we're
going to survive as an industry, we're going to have to stop doing
things status quo, because too many golf courses have been built that
shouldn't have been built and too many golf courses have been
purchased for economic reasons that are different than just the
operation of that golf course.

"Back in the
late '70s and early '80s, when we operated golf courses, our
average operating margin at a public golf course was north of 42
percent. Over 50 percent of our portfolio had a 51 percent net
operating percentage. We're now in the low 30s. We only have one
part of our portfolio that's still in the 40s, in North Carolina.
Here in Arizona, we're lucky to be in the high 20s.

"If that
continues, the viability of owning these golf courses is not going to
be something that we all want to have and the game of golf will be
threatened by it. I think we need to all take a look at how we go
about operating these golf courses so that we can grow the game of
golf and make it a good business."

Responding to
those concerns, PGA of America Chief Executive Officer Joe Steranka
presented a differing point of view as he discussed his own
presentation at the conference.

I noted in
our panel discussion that in tough times there are two distinct
strategies: cut costs to address shrinking margins or realign costs
and priorities to invest in growing your business. There were a few
industry executives who espoused the former and pointed critically at
golf course management staff, be they PGA professionals or GCSAA
superintendents. The criticism suggested professionals are out of
touch with contemporary customers and course needs.

Nothing could
be further from the truth.

I discussed
the second strategy of aligning costs to reinvest in the business of
golf, starting with the key employees that drive any business -- PGA
professionals. I pointed out the value of flying the PGA flag at a
facility as a point of differentiation in these challenging times.
The PGA of America is focused on supporting PGA members at their
facilities with education, employer, marketing and research services
(our four building blocks). We are investing millions of dollars
annually in these services and see ourselves as the HR resource
for the employers in the industry. We know we have golf
professionals for every type of facility and skill set required.

I also
urged collaboration or "co-opetition" as important in
these challenging times. With an industry as big as golf, even the
PGA can't go it alone. Our industry must use collaboration and/or
co-opetition to reduce redundancy of operations and spending or to
exploit joint opportunities. I referenced PerformanceTrak as an
example of reducing redundancy and Play Golf America as a joint
opportunity to be exploited. I cited PerformanceTrak data that showed
year to date rounds level and revenue slightly up at PGA facilities
reporting their numbers through August. The PGA's work with the
Golf Course Superintendents Association of American and Club Managers
Association of America is paying dividends in improving the level of
shared information and communication at the national, regional and
local course level.

I believe
wholeheartedly that in these challenging times, the best strategy is
to invest in our future. The PGA of America's $3 million investment
in member education, our expanded employer services, our developing
junior collaboration with the USGA and increased investment on golf
instruction research will prepare PGA professionals even better for
the future. Education which incorporates the latest best practices
will lead to better operating performances, more programs geared to
show amateur golfers how to improve their ball striking will
lead to more participation, and junior golf shares the healthy
qualities of the game with our nation's youth and is a proven
long term player development program.

What's your
opinion? What do you think is the best way to start controlling
costs? Which business model works best for you?


The PGA needs to aggressively position itself to train memebrs to operate the entire club. They have allowed the GMAA F&B guys to take a stronghold position on the club industry and have been laced in a position of catering to this group.

I believe that clubs that employ top calibre professionals from all of the major associations (PGA,GCSAA, and CMAA) are more likely to be successful than those that don't. These individuals have their entire lives invested in their careers and in most cases are very sound and reasonable business people. All CMAA guys did not get there from the f&b side as anomynous suggests. I want smart well trained dedicated people involved in our business regardless of what alphabet soup they have behing their names. It seems like Mr. Silversteins approach would be like firing the head coach of a team and Hoping that everything would be all right or sending the warden home and letting the guards and inmates have fun. Niether of these examples would result in a happy ending. I would rather see us quit giving everything away from cheap golf(including free breakfast and lunch) to no initiation fee and cheap dues. If we would charge what our product is worth our entire organization would have an uplifting benefit of profit!

As a class A superintendent, we have been trained to maximize the resources provided by the club, and strive to produce the best conditions these budgets will allow. When those resources become unavailable (as during our current economic environment), a superintendents education and experience is critical in recommending responsible ways for the membership and owners to cut costs. A business like any other, course design must also reflect available maintenance costs and potential revenue for the area. Where revenues change, areas previously maintained to a high calibre may need to be reduced. (ei-mow tees every other day, rake traps 4days/week) Where labor accounts for 70% of most operational golf budgets, maintaining a bunker complex which requires weekly hand work, is very expensive. Renovations or naturalization may be possible to reduce or eliminate these associated labor costs. Lastly, when discussing fertility levels and rising mineral costs - I cannot stress enough the importance of soil testing, the best tool to determine what your soil needs. To avoid unecessary ammendments, a qualified superintendent knows this $100 soil test will save thousands of dollars in unecessary fertilizer applications, and avoid expensive pesticide applications due to poor plant health. Clear, concise budgets presented by an effective superintendent will further illustrate where club money is being spent, and could be saved - these decisions should be made responsibly by assessing each departmental category, the superintendent can communicate the outcome, be it slower greens, less attractive tee blocks, or course delays due to the unreliability of equipment forced to extend their effective life.

Mr. Silverstein's comments have totally missed the target. Having a staff comprised of PGA, GCSA and CMAA members will allow you to maximize your profit potential in most markets and during most economic swings. What owners need to recognize is that they have an investment and they need to hire individuals to run it for them not a management group who is taking their profit out of the business even before they open the door. What management company guarantees the owner a profit or they do not get paid at all? If owners have been successful enough to acquire properties such as golf courses, have them hire individuals who will share that ownership interest, who will do what is best for the business, who will realize their success is dependent upon the business succeeding ...this is the key to success. Payroll expense should not be mistaken as the same as management fees because given the choice the management fees should be cut and the staff allowed to grow. Your staff is your most important asset. Allow them to let you continue to be successful.

There are a number of issues that we could discuss but here are two that I see are very important in an effort to 'grow the game' as the suits say: 1. The PGA of American DOES need to educate and promote PGA Professionals to assume the role of a GM. The single most valuable asset at a club is still the golfer. We need to get the focus on the game. If you took golf away and let the golf course grow up in weeds at the clubs and courses around the country, how many members or people would come to the clubs just for H&F, or to eat at the club, or only to socialize? Golf is the most important asset at a club or course and it should be treated as such. We need 'golf guys/gals' with more GM capabilities because they understand the golfer and the importance of the game. Out of the 25,000 or so PGA MEmbers approximately only 1,000 or so are A-13(GM's). Why is a F&B or Hotel Excutive running golf? We as an organization have not done the best job to promote our own in this area. 2. To 'grow the game' club, management companies, municipalities, etc. must first get the PGA Professionals out from behind the counter and out teaching golf. That is fist and foremost the best way to increase growth in the game. If a golfer can play better then they will play more. We loose too many players and we can't afford to loose players. The PGA Professional is the person in the trenches. His most important role should be growing and promoting play of the game. Too many management companies and such have "de-horned" the golf professional and don't encourage them to teach or play with the members. Sort of like hiring a marketing expert and giving them no budget or access to the media. If clubs will use the PGA Professional's strengths, I think they will find members and golfers enjoying the game more, accessing the golf course more, and therefore see an increase in anciallary areas of the club. We have taken our eye off of the ball. We must put the focus back on teaching and playing the game and making the game enjoyable. Get the PGA Professional out of the office and out from behind the counter and back on the teaching tee. PGA stands for Professional GOLFERS Association. Make it count.

We are experiencing a "perfect storm" scenario in our industry. Nationwide recession, foreclosures, costs up across the board, overbuilding, and customer's disposable income has been disposed of by the stock market. Economic Darwinism needs to take place and let the healthier clubs survive. This will create a larger labor pool and adjust wages down as people compete for jobs. Secondly, of course it would be nice to get $85,000 in saving in one fell swoop by eliminating the high priced pro or superintendent but it's really the underlying layers that need addressing. How many first, second and third assistants does a club need? The days of seeing a superintendent in khaki's and a collar are over. We need to get back on the mowers and into our golf shops again. Lastly, it would be nice to stop "giving things away cheap" but ultimately your competition sets the market, not your own view of what your course is worth. If the club down the street drops it rate or changes it's approach and you don't appropriately respond, Darwin will get you too.

Mr Silversteins comments are close but miss the target. YES in hard times,higher salaries and benefits need to be examines closly in the market, BUT the PGA, GCS and CCM are important people. Clubs should consider survival mode to include negotiating with their experts a reduction in their wages before removing them for a less expensive,less experience and less qualified person. No club can CUT their way out of the economic mess. Revenue must be substained in more creative ways than ever, lower intiation fees, promotional memberships, whatever it takes to get the players out. It will be more difficult than ever in the next year but lowering service standards should not be an option. Operation Efficiency should be looked at first.

While being a consultant to the golf industry for the past 25 years, I have witnessed a dramatic and damaging change in business philosophy. The traditional business model has changed from what is known as the "Airline Model" to the "Hotel Model". In the "Airline Model", the customer who books their time in advance and is willing to commit is charged less than the customer that waits until the last minute (i.e. internet specials). In the "Hotel Model", the oposite is true, which rewards the customer who waits until the last minute. This makes it difficult to predict play levels at any given time and has resulted in a generation of golfers that believe in waiting for the internet specials so that they can pay less. This business plan is counterproductive to developing customer loyalty. As for expenses, I would have to agree with an earlier contributor who stated that management should be left up to the trained professionals in the industry. Most lower to mid-tier clubs simply can't afford to pay $150k to $250k per year for a third party management company. There are circumstances where these companies provide a valuable service, but those situations are market and property specific. Owners are going to have to become more involved in the management and operation of their properties, and to become better equiped to self manage. Afterall, nobody looks after your money better than you do.

I entered the golf industry 15 yrs ago, after spending 18 years in hotel management. I've worked daily operations, "behind the counter", in multi-facility management, in consultation, and now do golf property valuation for property tax purposes. My vocation in golf has given me me the opportunity to talk to scores of owners/managers across the country and to visit/analyze their operations. From the "mom and pop" push up green to the high end private club, it amazes me just how far behind the curve the average golf course/club is in adopting/implementing basic business strategies the hotel crowd has been using successfully for years. Some of my observations: * Benchmarking is the "new" buzzword in golf....... the hotel industry has been relying on the STAR report when making yield management decisions for decades. Solid, well informed rate decisions should not be done as a "knee jerk" reaction to what your competitor does. What should drive those decisions is your Penetration and Yield index compared to a competitive set. You may have higher rates than your competitors but still enjoy a much better yield. Lowering your rates often just dillutes that yield position unecessarily. The industry now has an opportunity to adopt benchmarking and yield practices....... go for it. * Most often the courses we consult with do NO formal annual marketing or business plan. Big to plan, plan to fail. * Very often the courses do not prepare a formal, written, annual budget, or if they do, they look at what they "spent" last year and set goals for cutting those expenditures. That's backwards. To properly prepare a budget, you need to first develop REVENUE goals (based on your marketing and business plan), make some general assumptions about the market trends, THEN build the cost side of the budget. Your goal should be to set and enforce realistic margins of expense based on expected revenues...... not the other way around. Get EVERYONE on the staff involved in the budgeting process, (both the revenue and expense side), and have them take ownership. The "offseason" should be a time of analysis and planning...... in many cases, we see the key word being "off". * Discounting has been around since the first vendor of a perishable good/service experienced a surplus. Unfortunately in golf, there are a lot of bad discount strategies being practiced that need to stop. First and foremost, never offer a discount when the you don't have to.....(seems simple, but we see courses everywhere doing just that in reaction to their closest competitors........ competitors who often times are discounting in the panic mode). Never offer a discount that is easy to obtain or has a long shelf life, (specials should be just that...special), doesn't provide you payment in advance, targets your regular customers, or doesn't provide a reasonable return. NO Labor Standards. You should be reasonably able to predict your revenues week to week. The only real variable, albeit a big one, is weather. You should also be able to reasonably determine how much manpower it takes to service the customer and maintain the golf course. Remember that in any industry labor (schedules) starts with fixed salaries and builds from there. The closer you can stay to "zero based" labor, and still service the customer, the more profitable you'll be. The previous poster is right on the money. When labor standards are developed and implemented you have the recipe.....sometimes that recipe will call for management (and ownership)to step into that variable labor role. NO written or formal management training procedures for recruitment, interviewing, and hiring. Who is hiring line level employees at your club and what makes them qualified to do so? Are they asking the right questions of each potential candidate? Are reference checks REALLY being done? NO regular examination of fixed cost line items. When's the last time you "shopped" your health and liability insurance? Do you have a formal, written, safety program in place to help control workers comp? Is your real estate being assessed correctly or are you paying too much in property tax? (over 90% of all courses and clubs in the U.S. ARE overvalued and paying TOO much tax.....on average 35-40% TOO much). Plan your work and work your plan.

We in the golf industry have historically forgotten that the business of golf is subject to the same market forces as other industries. We have also failed to apply the basic principles of marketing, PRODUCT, PRICE and PLACE. There are no better managers available to deliver a quality golf PRODUCT than PGA and GCSAA Members. GCSAA Members have the training to provide the highest quality Playing PRODUCT and control costs. PGA Members have been trained specifically to provide a great Experience playing that product and tying all activities together, cost effectively, resulting in greater revenue production. PRICE is an important matter, however in order for our operations to be first choice in a competetive market, we had better deliver the BEST PRODUCT at a VALUE price. Price cannot succeed alone. Unless we are in early stages of development there is precious little we can do about PLACE. If we find ourselves in a bad location, cutting expenses and hoping to draw with price leads to disaster. We must draw with product and programming and combine that with a good price. There is little creativity displayed by "cutting" expenses, albeit one or two better-appearing seasons sometimes can be shown. However, many times this is the beginning of the "death spirial." Cutting fat is one thing; cutting bone, by eliminating the quality professionals and practices, that are our only hope of delivering a quality product in a difficult environment, spells doom. In difficult times why do many of us resort to the amateur option of "cutting, cutting, cutting" and pay precious little attention to tight INTERNAL CONTROLS combined with REVENUE PRODUCTION? Focusing daily, even hourly on how to drive greater revenues to our operations, and tying compensation to business success, are the keys to survival.

“Broad Brush” I found the article in your November issue on “How Best to Cut Costs?” quite interesting. Mr. Silverstein talks about margins and how they are down from the past and I agree with him. It is much more difficult now than it was in the past to make it as an owner. That is why I believe it extremely important to hire the best operators possible to run our golf operations of today. I don’t believe there is a standard operating model anymore, either. It is important that owners take that into consideration before they agree on a price of purchase and not after. I also believe that Mr. Silverstein is right that all golf courses can’t afford certain levels of compensation for certain positions at their clubs. But don’t forget, I still believe, in America, you get what you pay for and a qualified Golf Course Superintendent and Class A PGA Golf Professional are worth their weight in gold. Now, is the perfect time, when a position opens, to find that qualified individual that meets the needs of your club. Superintendents, Golf Professionals, General Managers, Chef’s etc.are the key players that make it work and I believe it’s important they are compensated appropriately. To have the mentality to low ball everyone across the board is just as dangerous as believing there is a “Standard Operating Model” Thank you for allowing me to express my opinion. Art Colasanti PGA Professional

I have been in the golf industry for over 25 years, and remember the good old days when there were no management companies and the people who owned golf courses were there to operate them and sought out the best people they could afford to manage their facilities. Mr. Silverstein doesn't tell us what his background is or how he came to the position he now holds, but he's a PGA Member! If he's going to go in a national publication and preach to other owners that they don't need a qualified PGA Professional to run their golf operation, then I say let's take away his membership privileges becauses I certainly don't want to look at him as a "fellow professional". I'd say if course owners would do away with the middle men of golf management companies and get back to putting the responsibility of running their golf operations in the hands of dedicated professionals like the members of the PGA and GCSAA, it would be a much better world and golf would be much healthier. I could name countless "management" groups headed by so called experts that have been fortunate to make a living by sucking the revenue out of a course on the toil and sweat of unqualified and underpaid employees while they do nothing but generate reports. Course owners, wake up and get rid of these vultures!

I take great offense to Mr. Silverstein's comments concerning how PGA Professionals have allowed standards to be set, that the customer base has come to expect, that has somehow made golf a bad investment. The only expectation my customer has is the one that I have created. The level of customer service, programs offered and the value that is placed on my operation was done with great effort and concern. If I don't keep improving this standard I can easily be replaced. So I created this "role model for municipal golf" (Golf Digest 2004) and have been rewarded with a reduction in pay and staff. I make $51,000 a year and have no PGA Apprentice. I am the course ranger when needed, the back up worker in every area and the guy who promotes golf through lessons, leagues, tournaments and junior golf. I'm proud to be a PGA member and state it whenever and wherever I can. Obviously "brother professional" Jeff Silverstein is not.

I have a great idea for Jeff Silverstein! We could replace the management companies with a PGA professional and eliminate 10 layers of people that create work for others to make themselves look important. Owners and members have to take a look at there facility and ask themselves Do we really need to be paying this management company all this money, when one qualified PGA professional and one qualified superintendent with the proper staffing can accomplish the same thing. That's how to save money, Mr Silverstein!!!!!

I did a little research on Mr. Silverstein's company to see what they are about, and to try and figure out why course owners use their management services. In the late 80's and 90's management companies started to flourish and you could find all sorts of "experts" offering their services to the misguided people who had taken the National Golf Foundation's suggestion to heart that there needed to be a new course open every day for the next 10 years to keep up with the demand that was going to be generated by Tiger Woods coming on the scene. We can all look back and realize how foolish that was, as people who had no knowledge of the golf industry jumped in and figured all they had to do was build a course and they'd get rich, and since they knew nothing about golf they hired these "experts" and "industry leaders". Equally flawed was the model of what a daily fee golf course should be during that time, as all sorts of overpriced and too hard to play courses were built with the concept of "become a member for a day" at their ultra fine establishment. As more and more course owners realize there are not enough people with the kind of money and expense accounts to pay over $100 for a round of golf any more, there are going to be some bargains to be had in buying failed golf courses. Mr. Silverstein's group still touts this model of becoming a "member for a day", and while there may be certain areas of the country where it works, there will become fewer and fewer as the industry's economic woes grow. If I was planning an outing I don't believe that I'd be willing to pony up $14.95 to have a taco bar to feed the people who were playing in it, which is what you will find if you go to his company's web site.

Had these comments come from anyone other than Jeff Silverstein, I would be alarmed. However, for those of us familiar with his history, his comments are laughable. Practioners like Silverstein believe a 'scorched earth' approach at the course level is really the only way to make their 'margins'. Sustainable profit is a of good service and relationship building, neither of which Silverstein is familiar with. Sure, Silverstein has a few properties in stellar markets that return to him the unrealistic returns we all remember from the halcyon days of the 1990's. I managed several of those type properties. Those days are gone. For Silvestein to suggest that industry professionals are the root cause for the malaise we suffer from now is an afront to those men and women who poor their hearts and souls into their operations everyday. For a brief time, the business of golf was viewed as a sexy way to make alot of money in a short amount of time without the hard work and heavy lifting that typifies most businesses. It was that same period in which Mr. Silverstein's belief systems about the business of golf were formed. But those of us who show up everyday, serve our members, our guests, and our owners, know one thing. We do what we do not for the love of money, but for the love of golf, both as a business and as a game. If Mr. Silvestein is unhappy now with the state of his business, he should take a hard look in the mirror instead of trying to dismantle the foundation of our industry.

I have unfortunately worked under Mr. Silverstein's theory. I don't believe you take over a course, neglect it's budget and run on $0 operating expense. They ( I.R.I.), operate on a level of ethics that is un-imaginable to me. Reduce budget, and operating expenses, meanwhile provide absolutely no guest service and expect a profitable return is common nature to their theory. Fact is, you cannot have one without the other. The golf professionals who strived their whole careers to build something meaningful and profitable are completely discredited by his remarks. Our number one goal is to make money for our owners, build the game and operate in a professional manner. Mr. Silverstein has a history of buying and selling courses after he reeps no rewards. His gambles have landed him with the mentality he currently maintains. I watched a great local community golf course get over-taken by his company and within 2 years they reduced it's budget by half and took the profits and ran. Literally handing the keys over to the bank! The problem I have with that is you cannot discredit the PGA, USGA or any other major golf management company or private ownership firm and the golf professionals who work for them. Without the golf professionals as Mr. Silverstein so openly suggests, who is left to nurture the up and coming juniors and manage your memmbership? Answer is, nobody. I could pull somebody off the street to collect green fees, but who is really going to grow the game and promote the game? Mr. Silverstein's comments have not only inspired future PGA members like myself and other aspiring professionals to work harder and increase revenues for our owners meanwhile maintaining and building the relationships necessary to build our business.

Golf professionals and superintendants are the positive fiber of the golf industry. The golf management companies take all the money and provide little service and quality help so underachievers like Mr silverstein can ruin a golf course on a consistant basis.

For all the golf pros out there complaining on this board about your plight, remember that this magazine is dedicated to serving golf management companies and promoting them. All you have to do is look at who they listed as the most important people in golf in their October issue. Dana Garmany of Troon Golf #2, Eric Affeldt of Club Corp #3, Kemper Sports, #5, Billy Casper Golf #7 and on down the line to include all the major management groups in the country who have made the life of being a PGA Professional not nearly as good as it once was.

Bringing this back to the original question; how to best control costs and what biz model works best...I'd like to offer a historical perspective from an Asset and Facility Management best practices model that is alive and well in similar asset based, asset rich industries. Some twenty years ago, the natural resources & utility/oil-gas industries, rich in land based assets, experienced a contraction so great it forced many companies out of business stateside. The largest companies were moving operations off-shore, and the smaller ones, who weren't able to, began to seek innovative, cost effective and appropriate tech solutions in order to survive and compete stateside with larger, better funded co's. Digital or computer Asset and Facility Management tools were in their infancy back then, but it provided a starting point for much greater due diligence, risk management and cost control...i.e. increased profitability. Today the tools are mature, scalable and provide tremendous extended utility by leveraging asset information that exists on each and every golf course/property/facility. In general, the Geospatial industry and specifically Geographical Information Systems technologies lend themselves very well to golf course/facility management; whether it is one course or many courses under one management group. It is all about leveraging asset information; location/relocation, size, area, cost over time, maintenance regimes, agronomic budgets and a host of related asset metrics on and around the golf property. It is about building a knowledge base of information that is sharable, extendable, repurposable, keeping it in the hands of owners, management and associated personnel for even greater ROI, rather than it leaving as employees come and go. Without going into specific detail here, this biz model provides a well documented and formidable process/solution for analyzing and controlling costs almost immediately once a dataset is delivered. The solution(s) is perfectly suited for gc design, golf construction/renovation/restoration project management, clubhouse construction/renovation, agronomic budgeting and out-sourced services bid control, course management/gps cart and irrigation software databases and more. It also enables virtual site management/presence, thus reducing, not eliminating on-site visits and travel. The information can be served 'real-time' from an on-going new build or renovation to anywhere in the world. Property portfolios are web based and on-line 24/7, with many levels of access depending on the type of info any team member needs to access. This tool can be thought of as the humble As-Built on steroids...3D, High Definition topography, aerial photo, record drawings with feature specific information...a virtual golf property or course at your fingertips, in your computer. Golf properties are valuable assets. The cost to build and maintain them is significant. The need to manage efficiently and cost effectively is a prerequisite to profitability and leveraging asset information that exists on site provides a very good ROI and best management practice worth considering. takes experienced and knowledgeable people from the major professional associations in the industry to fully implement and utilize what I describe...we can never do without them. May we navigate this challenging time with greater determination and commitment. Thank you for this opportunity to share another perspective.

Having been a Class A, Certified GCSAA Member for most of my 35 year career in this industry, I would naturally take exception to Mr. Silverstien's approach to solving golf's financial future by downgrading the quality of the Head Professional and Superintendent. However, I will be fair in pointing out that he did advise his audience to "take a look at those things" rather than immediately grabbing the phone and sacking those individuals. That may be the only good thing he said in his entire presentation, because I think when they do, the evidence will show that both are more than willing to help their clubs survive in this difficult financial environment in any way they can. I find it hard to accept that the current standards of golf course maintenance and service are the result of organizational pressure. In a free market world, it is the customer that decides what is acceptable and marketable and no one else. When the customer decides that the pursuit of perfection is no longer affordable to him or her at any given golf course, then and only then will the standards change. Of one thing I can be sure; the PGA Class A Head Professional and the GCSAA Certified Superintendent working with the CMA Certified Club Manager will be leading the effort to match cost efficiency with the customer expectations.

Key staff (qualified superintendent, pro and food and beverage managers) are critical for success. The golf industry should take a look at manufacturing across North America. They have implemented "lean manufacturing" over the last decade and have managed to improve their bottom line. The golf industry must do the same. Golf course owners and managers must work smarter and more efficiently to reduce their input costs and overhead. One simple way is to conduct eco-efficiency assessments at their clubs -these assessments are an independent review of the operations and at minimum will allow anywhere from 15-25% reduction of operating costs, (from water and energy use to pesticide, fertilizer and fuel consumption). Too often do I see club managers follow the recommendations of their suppliers who have a vested interest to sell more product that at times may now be needed. Through simple, independent reviews golf courses may become more fiscally healthy, and will improve their environmental and bottom line. JJ

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