Sometimes golf is tough. Today I spent two hours with irrigation expert Gabe Lopez in our pumphouse. That cute little building every course has, but no one has ever seen inside. He talked to me using words I could barely understand, as we looked into this huge concrete hole, filled with rusty steel pipes and a lot of murky water. It was becoming very clear where this was going, the golf course is nearly 20 years old already.
I’ll save you the gory details, but I’m a proactive person. I was never fond of doing my college term papers the night before, and I’m not to keen finding out during a July drought, that the pump system has finally given out. Gabe was here to help me get ahead of what is inevitable.
I asked Gabe, “in your next 10 pump jobs, how many of those owners were proactive, and how many waited for the system to give out?” His answer was no surprise, maybe 1 will work ahead. Maybe. That one might be a private club who is simply blessed with finding capital quite a bit faster than single family owned publics.
Money is Often Why Golf is Tough
The hurdle is the money, and it can be quite a bit of money. There is a perception that it takes riches to own a seasonal northern golf course, and that is not a misconception. Whether we are open half of the year or the whole year, the pump station costs the same. Being open 6 months means we just have half the revenue to pay for it.
It brings absolutely no WOW factor. As a customer, you don’t give a damn what is in that pump building or how much it costs. Every dollar that is spent trying to keep the green canvas organism alive, is just one less dollar that was spent impressing you with a new amenity. Many courses aren’t even thinking about amenities, it’s everything just to cover the costs of keeping basic operations going.
Golf Course Realities
Courses you play every week might be generating $600,000 in revenue, they are in the red….spending $625,000 in expenses and then boom…their pump station goes down, their roof begins to leak, the rough mower engine blows. Where in the world does this money come from? The cost of these items are disproportionate to the amount of revenue being generated. If and when they get fixed; often times the irreversible slide begins. You can’t make any improvements when your future capital is already spent, and surely something else is destined to fail. It’s not like you’ve been proactive.
Golf Course Owner Guy feels really bad for these golf courses. Some of it man made, some of it just really bad breaks, but golf is tough. I told Gabe that we are going to get out in front of this. It was a big nut, but we have to do it. To kick the can down the road would be bad for staff moral, bad for customers, bad for the grass, and bad for who ever came after me. I learned a long time ago, being a course owner might take all my money, but it won’t take my pride…and I pride myself on having a nice little country golf course.