Getting More from Specialised Turfgrass Equipment
Golf Club Management, May 2001
The weather over the last seven months has been trying enough. Equipment used regularly has operated under very adverse conditions. In fact, with golf now played throughout the year equipment is often used to the limit with little available time for proper servicing unless qualified attention is on hand.
There is no doubt that great developments have been made in the production of specialised equipment for every treatment needed on the golf course: aerating, mowing, spraying, seeding, drainage …… Costs of these exacting items are rising alarmingly. It doesn’t take many extra items in the shed to lift the replacement asset value well over £150,000 – and yet it is of concern that while some items are worked to death in two-three years – the utilisation of others allows them to be kept for eight to ten years if properly looked after.
Without the right equipment achieving what it is capable of, greenkeepers can just not keep up with the work needed on the course – and unless the equipment is in good working order there is no benefit from it being in the shed.
The maintenance of machinery is a weak point in many golf courses. Even today most clubs rely on greenkeeping staff adjusting, repairing and servicing equipment with only major repairs and overhauls being done by the specialist dealer. Not only is this approach with today’s equipment not cost effective, but valuable hours lost in a relatively small staff complement can prevent much of the detailed greenkeeping from being completed.
Today’s sophisticated equipment, available at increasing cost, cannot be properly attended to by a greenkeeper after a full day’s work on the course.
Those clubs already employing a full-time fitter have already seen efficiency rise as well as benefit from lower outside repair costs. What’s more, a full-time specialist in the maintenance shed can undertake so many small improvements, modifications and repairs to a wide range of tools and equipment with little extra effort. He has the time too to keep a sound record of actual costs of individual items and this is the only basis on which responsible decision making can be made on the cost effectiveness of equipment. With the computer now a valuable aid to the course manager, the monitoring of maintenance expenditure becomes a simple and revealing exercise.
On less demanding golf courses, even a visit of once a week or fortnight from a specialist mechanic produces benefits that cannot be attained by leaving staff to carry out all equipment maintenance.
The right compliment of machinery depends of course on the budget available and the annual provision for replacement. This provision or depreciable allowance in the balance sheet must be allowed for if the fleet is to maintain maximum efficiency. The percentage utilisation of equipment is an important factor in budgeting and it can be more cost effective to hire less used equipment – though availability when it is required is not always possible unless planned well in advance.
By regularly assessing the cost tabulations as well as downtime of specialised equipment, the course manager can make responsible recommendations on equipment replacement. This should enable the compilation of a proposed equipment purchasing plan over the next five years at least – one that should be discussed and approved by the finance authority in the club.
But today there is another approach gaining much popularity – it involves leasing.
One of the biggest temptations in the maintenance shed is to keep equipment longer than it is cost effectively productive. Furthermore, new models are more efficient and versatile achieving much more in less time.
Current leasing initiatives incorporate a guaranteed return value after a specific number of years – generally three to five – with finance charges reduced accordingly. The main advantage of leasing schemes lies in the availability of a full complement of current models of specialised machinery instead of just two or three items that could be afforded with the same annual outlay. However, most important of all, downtime becomes negligible and work can be planned and carried out without problems when required. Extending the use of equipment beyond the guarantee period by only a few years also significantly reduces repair costs.
The maintenance shed
The layout of the maintenance shed too, has a large bearing on the cost effectiveness of golf course maintenance. Leading architects so often miss the boat without consulting the course manager. He and his staff are able to contribute invaluable practical information at the design stage.
The proper housing and location of storage, equipment and mess facilities improves the efficiency with which the system operates. An isolated workshop area out of bounds to greenkeeping staff allows for proper handling and control of equipment maintenance. A full complement of essential spares on hand saves much time that can be wasted in unnecessary urgent trips to collect vital spares.
So often there is insufficient thought to the outdoor provisions especially for washing down equipment, concreted surfaces, underground separator tanks and storage of bulk aggregates and dressings.
The currently erected ‘hangar’ type shed involves great cost and a cost effective alternative seen much in America comprises a stable type concept with narrower buildings constructed around a central concreted courtyard that can accommodate the underground separator tanks. Not only are the activities in the shed complex completely secured from the outside, work on equipment can also proceed outside buildings when necessary, out of view and protected from the elements. In addition, if properly designed, equipment does not have to be moved to gain access – a problem which often occurs in large completely enclosed buildings.
There is no doubt that with the exacting requirements needed on the golf course today, maintaining a capable and content greenkeeping staff, using efficient equipment well cared for and operating out of a sound and well thought out maintenance facility, will produce cost effective results.