Off season? What's that?

Presented by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America

Many golf facilities have a nine-month golf season, which means they also have a period when the volume of play declines. So what type of activity does the golf course management staff engage in during the "off" season?

While golfer activity may be virtually non-existent during the offseason, there is still much work to be done by the golf course superintendent and his/her staff. It should be noted that a golf course is staffed on a seasonal schedule to meet demand, thus temporary workers and/or student interns may not be available during the offseason to assist the full-time staff.

Depending upon weather conditions, a variety of golf course projects can be completed even though the temperatures are not conducive for member play. Such activities could include sodding bare areas with turf, renovating bunkers, rebuilding tee areas, trimming and planting trees, etc. These projects could close down portions of the course if undertaken during the playing season, therefore the offseason offers the opportunity to make improvements with little or no inconvenience. Whether or not there is play on the course, superintendents must be attuned to turf conditions. For example, allowing ice to sit on the turf for extended periods can result in turf winterkill.

Various golf course accessories might also need repair. Benches, signs, water cooler containers, trash bins, ball washers, rakes, etc., may need to be built or renovated. Routine building maintenance on areas such as the clubhouse, turf care center, pump houses, green house, tennis center, etc., are often set aside for this time period. Again, delaying work on these areas until consumption patterns decline results in little interruption.

Equipment is also a focus for the golf course superintendent during this time period. Everything from purchasing to various mechanical repairs such as engine tune-ups and reel sharpening are on the schedule. Irrigation systems are in need of similar annual maintenance to ensure that they do not get damaged during extreme cold spells.

The offseason also provides the opportunity to complete a variety of business management responsibilities. Annual plans and budgets must be developed and then presented to the appropriate club leaders. Inventories for fertilizers, pesticides, seed and other supplies need to be replenished. Staffing plans must be developed and employees have to be secured for the golf season. Golf course managers should also review their course conditioning programs on annual basis. Issues such as turf selection, green speed, bunker sand characteristics, fairway widths and integrated pest management programs all require significant research and planning.

Staff development is also a requirement for golf course managers. Superintendents and assistants participate in regional education seminars and attend the GCSAA Education Conference and Golf Industry Show. These continuing education opportunities provide information on the latest management techniques, products and services available to course managers. The opportunity to network with peers and learn how others tackle challenges can result in significant benefits to a facility, some of which do not have a price tag.

For more information regarding golf course management practices, contact your local superintendent or the GCSAA at 800-472-7878 or www.gcsaa.org.