Golf superintendents and the associations that represent them regularly find themselves in the middle of environmental issues and that isn’t expected to change in 2009, a year in which economic factors may affect their livelihoods more than ever.
“Pesticides and water are going to be there. They’re going to be, more or less, permanent issues with respect to golf course management going forward,” said Ken Cousineau, executive director of the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association.
“I think fertilizer and nutrient use are going to fall in the same category,” he added. “In fact, if I were a betting man, I would suggest that nutrient use is going to be more of an issue than water use down the road. I think that’s going to be a big issue.”
So, the environment will certainly be as big an issue as ever in 2009, but the biggest challenge when it comes to green may be the dollars – or lack of dollars – spent in an uncertain economy this year.
“I think, in the next year, I think an obvious one is budgets,” said Cousineau. “Not that that’s not an issue as well on an ongoing basis, but I think it, obviously, is going to be a lot more prominent in the coming year.”
Tighter budgets will affect groundskeeping crews in different ways, according to Cousineau.
“Superintendents will be asked to make that equipment last one more year, whereas in the past, it might have been a case of, `Yeah, let’s replace that piece every three years or five years.’ It’ll be, `Let’s make it last one more year.’
“I think when you look at it across the board, there will probably be more pressure to spend less on equipment or renovations or just basic maintenance,” said Cousineau, adding that tighter budgets will also likely lead to more turnover in staff.
“The salary levels for the on the ground employees has probably not kept pace over the years with many other sectors, be it retail or otherwise,” he said.
“The working conditions and predominately the hours of work make it a tough sell today. Even though it’s tough economic times and there is higher unemployment rates expected, if not already here, I think golf is still going to struggle in respect to staffing.”
As a result, says Cousineau, plenty of time will be spent dealing with this revolving door for employees,
“It’s going to be a constant circle of hire-train-lose-hire again-train,” he said. “It’s time-consuming, but it also goes to your ability to stay on budget. It goes to your ability to provide quality conditions. There are all kinds of implications there.
“It’s been very difficult for superintendents to keep staff and I think that trend will continue.”
Keep an eye on GolfNewsNow over the next week as we continue to look ahead with executive directors of various associations in the Canadian golf industry to see what challenges face their respective members in 2009.