The R&A - Working for Golf

Using materials

Formulating a management policy will ensure you buy the correct materials in the right quantities.

Managing a golf course will always involve the utilisation of various different materials. Knowing your specific requirements and consumption figures, regularly reviewing these and then planning efficiently for the future will help your business to develop securely and successfully.

 The materials used across a golf course can include, but are not limited to:
  • water
  • pesticides
  • fertilisers
  • biologicals
  • plant growth regulators
  • wetting agents
  • seed
  • turf
  • topdressing
  • bunker sand.

In order to develop an effective materials management programme, there are several key issues which should always be considered:

Target setting
Before you can begin planning a materials programme, it is important to first establish what your targets are for your overall levels of course presentation. This will be determined by the expectations of your customers, the design of your course, and your available financial and machinery resources. The R&A asserts that the primary objective should always be to develop and maintain true, firm, dry and healthy turf. Working with a professional agronomist or course consultant to ascertain your current position and also where you want to get to, will allow you to accurately forecast what materials will be needed, and when, in order to realise your aims.
Sourcing and acquisition
In an increasingly competitive market for golf course management supplies, it can pay great dividends to thoroughly assess your options for procurement of materials. This may warrant you investigating numerous different suppliers and manufacturers in order to acquire the best quality products at the best price. To enable this process, it can be useful to draw up detailed specifications for everything that you require in order to allow potential suppliers to quote on a like-for-like basis. Careful consideration of future requirements might also allow you to negotiate reduced unit prices through bulk orders.  Producing an accurate course survey, to determine the exact area of playing surfaces, will help you accurately forecast total requirements, while minimising waste, when purchasing products in these larger quantities.  Furthermore, there are sometimes also opportunities to take part in group-buy schemes with other local golf facilities. Whichever route you decide to go, developing good relationships with trusted suppliers can put you in a strong position when it comes to being the first to be offered new products or discounted buying options.

The production of materials, notably chemicals and fertilisers, can have a significant carbon footprint. Try and procure materials with the lowest energy requirement for production and also source locally, where possible, in order to both reduce transportation costs and support local business. 

Volume of application
Materials spend can be a significant component of the total annual expenditure budget and it is, therefore, always in your business’ best interest to ensure that you are only purchasing and applying what is actually necessary. Over application of water and fertilisers will not only be costly but can also be detrimental to the overall health and quality of turfed surfaces. Accurately recording what you apply on an annual basis and then reviewing this information in comparison with business performance data, such as rounds played and days closed for play, will allow you to develop a detailed understanding of the efficacy of your current programmes. Following such a strategic approach will enable a progressive refining of your management methods over time, in order to develop and maintain the best surfaces while simultaneously minimising total expenditure.
Timing of application
Aside from the total volume of materials used, it is also important to consider when these are being applied throughout the year. Working with a professional agronomist or course consultant to accurately time your applications of water, wetting agents, biologicals, feeds, pesticides and top dressing can make significant efficiency savings in terms of total volumes required.
Environmental and social impact assessments
Many of the materials used by golf courses hold the potential to cause damage to local environments if not used responsibly and correctly. An important component of a materials management plan will be policies for safe use; this should include risk assessments for each substance that you apply on the golf course, while also ensuring that maintenance and storage facilities are fit for purpose and in line with current legislation. Understanding the potential risks will allow you to take appropriate preventive actions at all stages of course operation. Including a section to cover this in your Course Policy Document, and communicating this clearly to local residents and communities, can go a long way to building positive relationships with local people. Using the right materials, in the right quantities and at the right time, can be the difference between a successful golf course and one that fails. Understanding your requirements and carrying out effective planning through record keeping and target setting are essential steps to take in the management programme.