these newsletters are available for download.
trends to see in 2013
making golf fun
Golf's Bunny Slopes
The Augusta Effect
Winter 2013 - The Year in Preview
2012 turned out to be a strong year for golf. Golf Datatech reports that rounds played through October were up 7.5% over 2011. It was strong news for the North Central region as they reported a 13.4% increase in rounds. I’m sure most of this was due to the fact that there were few, if any, rain days for the summer. This provided stress on the turf, but allowed golfers to get out and play more. I think this shows that there are golfers ready to play.
Cost effective designs and construction
Last fall I worked with a least four courses that completed in-house projects. I’m not advocating that in-house construction is the best way to complete a project, but in these cases it was the right method. The key is to know your limitations and bring in the right people to complete the rest of the work.
I come from a construction background. I worked on the grounds crew at a club where we installed drainage, cart paths, and gabion walls. I’ve worked on housing developments providing site layout, and for the past 20+ years in golf design and construction. I don’t know everything about construction, but I know where to find the answers and the right people. In 2012 I helped many of my clients find the right people, for the right price, in order to complete their project. Here’s a quick recap of some projects that were completed.
Countryside Golf Course, Mundelein, IL - Completed a new putting and chippinggreen complex. Much of the work was completed in-house to help reduce the cost. Much of the work was completed in-house to reduce the cost by almost 50%. See the process on my case study page.
Merrill Hills Country Club, Waukesha, WI- Merrill Hills completed the reconstruction of two tee complexes. MJB, Inc. was brought in to prepare conceptual plans so the members could see the proposed work. Work was completed in combination of using a golf course contractor and in-house labor.
Canyata Golf Club, Marshall, IL - Work at Canyata included modifying the third green. I provide on-site construction management and we brought in a golf course shaper to modify the contours. The course crew completed the rest in over to save about 70% over the contractor price. You can see the entire process on my case study.
Last year I worked with both Canyata and Park Hills Golf Course in reviewing their fairway outlines and unmaintained areas.
I visited Park Hills in the spring to tour the the course with the superintendent. During the tour we marked out over 20 acres of turf to be converted to unmaintained areas. This will help in eliminating the need to mow these areas during the season and save money on fuel and time.
The impact of the Emerald Ash Bore is starting to be felt in the Midwest. I have been working with St. Charles Country Club, and The Country Club of Peoria over the past few years on updates to the golf courses. This year the updates turned to tree management.
At St. Charles, superintendent Chuck Barber saw the decline of many of the Ash trees on the course. In the fall I was brought in to prepare a plan for the elimination of these infected trees, and then review the areas for tree relocation. The Club is working with GRO Horticultural Enterprises who identified over 70 trees on the property that were right for transplanting. My plan incorporated these trees to prepare a cohesive plan for the golf course that put the proper trees in the right location.
Part of the Enhancement Plan I prepared for the CC of Peoria in 2006 included tree management. The course had become overgrown and over the past years over 500 trees have been removed. My involvement still extends to reviewing potential impacts trees have on the course. This fall I was brought in to review a few areas and offer my professional opinion.
The membership has come a long way since 2006 in regards to tree management. The case of “Why are we taking that tree out”, has now turned into, “Why are we NOT taking that tree out”. But occasionally there is a tree that creates discussion. That is when experts like myself, the USGA Green Section, and the Club’s arborist are brought in to explain the reasons. In this case, we explain how the tree is declining and how removal will allow for creating denser turf. In some cases it may also allow for the creation of strategic golf elements, such as mounds, depressions, and bunkers to improve the course. Something that we created in the early implementation of the Enhancement Plan.
I have reviewed of some of my past clients to see a trend. I have been blessed to work with some outstanding clients who take great pride in their course and continue to move forward. These clients will reach out to me throughout the year for questions and invite me to come in and review the course. I am happy to do this even if it only means providing a report on the findings. But it always strikes me as hard to imagine while more courses don’t use a golf architect. Your golf course is your more important asset on your property. So, why not bring in an architect for a day?
I got the idea of creating retainer basis for using a golf course architect from a couple different sources. I was then able to combine these to create the format. The first source is the USGA Green Section. I’m sure many of you use the Green Section’s Turf Advisory Service (TAS) to have them come in a provide support for your turf maintenance program. They provide a valuable tool for you to use. Why not have a golf architect do the same thing?
The second source came from my wife’s business. In her line of work they sometimes have to consult with attorneys on current laws. In a competitive market, these lawyers have devised ways to provide their clients with good service for a reasonable rate. They use the retainer as a way to provide daily contact without charging for every minute of service. Most will charge their client a monthly rate, in this case $75-$100. This rate includes unlimited phone calls to answer any questions. If they have to do any research, they charge for that time, but most of the time any questions are answered with the initial call. So I thought, “Why not provide this for golf courses!”
So I am creating what I call the Architects Review & Consultation Program, or ARC Program. For a small monthly rate, usually under $100, a course can contact me in unlimited fashion with anything that deals with the design of their course. This can be with a basic phone call, or can include photos sent by texts or emails. I’ll review and answer your questions to keep you moving forward. I may even mark up your photos to give you a quick idea. However, I won’t charge you should I have to look anything up or make some phone calls.
And I won’t stop there in providing you service. Part of this plan also includes making a yearly site visit, much like the TAS, to review the course and provide a report on our discussions. You can download a sample report here. Finally, should you decide to do any planning work on the course, I’ll credit back your initial retainer cost and apply it to the planning cost. I’d rather see you use that money to help complete a project.
Hopefully you see this as a useful service. As I mention, I work with a few courses in like fashion and it helps to keep the golfers and membership informed and keeps them moving forward. Please contact me at email@example.com if you have any questions or download my ARC brochure. This program also works well with my Investment Return Analysis program.
Every January people open the year with a resolution. Well, this year I am starting out with a few of them. Some more personal, lose some weight and get in shape, and some professional. On the professional side, my resolution is with you in mind. So this year, “I resolve to stay more in touch!”
How am I going to do this? In today’s technological world it is becoming easier without imposing on people. Along with my newsletter, which I will continue to put out 4-5 times a year, I am also using Facebook and Twitter, plus a new blog that I have developed.
Facebook - If you didn’t know, I have a Facebook page at Facebook.com/mjbgolfdesign. I am using this page to post information on projects and updates on some of my travels and what is happening in the golf world. With the new year I am going to be using this page more often.
MJB Golf Design Blog - In December I started up a new page using blogger that is listed as mjbgolfdesign.blogspot.com. My plan is to use this page often, sometimes daily, to post information regarding the world of golf. It may have to do with design, but I am not limiting myself there. I’ll post my opinion of what is happening out there. I hope you will follow me there.
LinkedIn - LinkedIn is professional network with close to 200 million members. Its used to connect members to others in your industry and exhange ideas and knowledge, something very useful in the golf industry. You can check out my profile here.
Twitter - Finally, the world of twitter. Twitter is becoming a more user friendly way to post what is happening out there. I’ll use twitter to post photos of work taking place or courses I am visiting. I’ll retweet good information I find out there and I’ll also post links to exciting news about golf. You can follow me at twitter.com/BenkuskyGolf. I’ll use twitter as the main way to keep people informed on what is happening out there. When I post something on my blog or facebook, I’ll send out a tweet with a link. So if you follow me there you can get all the news. And, as I do with those who follow me, I’ll follow you as well. It’s an easy way to keep up on the news.
Blogs and social media lit up when the announcement was made that renovations were going to take place on The Old Course at St. Andrews. Online petitions were drawn up and they even created a hashtag, #savetheoldcourse, to get out the message. Those against the updates likened it to putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.
I think one of the reasons people were upset in the changes, was in how the Links Trust made the announcement. First, it was made on a Friday in the winter when most people aren’t watching the golf news. Then the work begins on the following Monday, so any opposition that was to spring up would not gain much traction as the machines are already tearing into the turf. So most took this as an insult and it fueled the fire. The best article I have found regarding the changes is Adam Lawrence’s interview with R&A chief Peter Dawson and his tour of the course.
What is my take on the changes? I’ll get to that. However, everyone admits that changes have taken place before at TOC. They’ve added length to the course and changes in maintenance has made the course play different then 400 years ago. In my opinion, that leaves us with one conclusion. All these changes may not be taking place, at this or other courses, if the USGA and R&A had addressed the club and ball years ago. So don’t blame the courses for wanting, or needing, to make changes. Blame the fact that technological improvements have made some courses obsolete to the best players in the world. Changes to the ball and club has helped the renovation business, but at what point do we pay a price in sacrificing the history of the game?
Member American Society of Golf Course Architects
MICHAEL J. BENKUSKY, INC - GOLF COURSE ARCHITECTURE
3813 Sonoma Circle
Lake in the Hills, IL 60156