Golf Course Challenges

By: Jim Cadott
Pebble Creek Golf Club

Every golf course faces many challenges throughout any given season. Whether your golf course is a high-end private facility or a heavily played daily fee course, all superintendents strive to manage the resources provided to achieve an enjoyable playing experience for every golfer.

At Pebble Creek Golf Club in Colts Neck, N.J., we are a true daily fee golf course that handles as many as 40,000 rounds per year. Sprinkle in around 100 outings each season, and our challenges become more daunting. So, where do you start?

To me, the answer has little to do with agronomics, but instead, has everything to do with the relationship among the management, superintendents, and greens staff. Those working together as a cohesive team help us attain the highest level of quality to operate the course budgetary guidelines at an appropriate cost.

An experienced greens crew is a necessity at any facility. At Pebble Creek, like at most daily fee facilities, we have a limited number on our full-time staff and operate with a total of nine crewmembers dedicated to maintaining the course.

With no true assistant superintendents, every work must perform their assignments efficiently and safely without the luxury of constant supervision.

On the course, our priorities are keeping the putting greens stable and in good shape. Whether your Handicap Index is 2.0 or 32.0, the conversation at the 19th hole always turns to the greens and how they roll. In addition to providing good putting surfaces, another challenge for busy public facilities is getting even routine maintenance done on a golf course with lots of golfers who start play early.

The owner at Pebble Creek realizes the importance of a quality play surface and will adjust start times to allow the crew some time to get ahead of play. However, with early bird prices and a demand for early time, there are still some mornings when we work on the greens while golfers head up the same hole.

Once the course becomes full of golfers, you must rely on the experience of the crew to mow fairways, rough, green banks, repair irrigation, fertilize, and trim around the trees. Our crew has to use good judgment and walk the fine line between getting the job done and not disturbing the paying customers.

Like many courses in these challenging economic times, we have no set capital budget for course improvements or equipment upgrades. Each year, we base our priorities on a constantly changing list of course problems that are addressed or equipment that needs to be repaired.

We handle most of these problems, such as tee work, bunker repairs, or a tee expansion without our own specialized equipment. We know that we must invest, but with limited budgets to spend, there are always tricky questions as to what the priorities should be.

The final pieces of public golf puzzles are the golfers themselves. Etiquette is a major issue on every golf course, and we all rely on golfer support. When golfers do not cooperate, the course and the rest of the golfers suffer. Simple tasks such as replacing divots, raking bunkers, and repairing ball marks seem obvious, but not everyone takes the time to perform these tasks. These actions can go a long way in keeping the course maintained and helping us achieve the gratifying experience our team at Pebble Creek strives for and that each golfer deserves.