hello Conditional budgeting - Statewide Turf Equipment
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“We are an upscale public golf course and we strive for consistency. Knowing what we want to provide is how we develop our budget,” says Duane Schell, superintendent at Blue Ridge Trail Golf Club for 24 years.

Blue Ridge Trail, a northeast Pennsylvania, single-owner, daily-fee, 27-hole operation, has modest green fees and “could spend more money and have greens rolling 11 or 12 every day but that’s not our target market,” Schell says.

In addition to being the superintendent, Schell has been the general manager for the past six years. Other experienced staff, such as the chef and the director of golf, also have a long tenure. “We are successful because we run the business as an open book and as a team,” Schell says. “The managers review the numbers and are accountable.” Discussions involving managers and ownership are productive, respectful and transparent.  

Blue Ridge Trail’s fiscal year mirrors the calendar year, so the budget is reviewed in January. The past few years have been profitable and Blue Ridge Trail financed an addition to the clubhouse, creating a more formal dining room in 2020 for weddings and other events. That revenue is offsetting rising fuel and fertilizer costs and an aging irrigation system.

The first nine was built in 1992 and the irrigation system is requiring more attention. There will be money budgeted for it in 2023. Schell also hired an experienced irrigation tech. “We fixed quite a few heads this year, whether it was a solenoid or a leak,” Schell says. “If we had to subcontract that work out it would have cost a lot more.” Hiring the technician has essentially reduced costs for maintaining the irrigation system and enabled Schell and his assistant to focus their efforts elsewhere. It was a dry year, so this was good timing. Talented and dedicated staff members are always an asset.

Schell recognizes that experienced employees make the budgeting process run more smoothly and he leads a well-trained, versatile staff. Including payroll and benefits. Labor can be 50 to 65 percent of the budget. Compensation was improved for everyone, based on a percentage increase, so the wages and salaries of those who have been loyal to the organization are staying ahead of new hires.

“I would rather have three or four employees that can do different jobs and that I trust, than have more employees who aren’t as qualified,” Schell says. “People who don’t care about the property can hurt operations.” Budgeting for new hires and the time to train them costs more in many ways than raising compensation.

Smart budgeting means foreseeing needs. “We set quality standards and objectives and meet those goals through our mowing and rolling programs; pesticide and fertilizer applications; water management; and trim and detail work,” Schell says. The budget accounts for the agronomic practices that establish the desired turf conditions.

The crew at Blue Ridge Trail applies products as necessary and intended. “I’m always teaching my assistants to trust the rates and read the labels,” Schell says. “I will not cut costs when it comes to chemicals and disease/insect control because that interferes with consistent conditions.” They try new products too, cognizant of improving. The employees care about the property and what it offers.

To lower the budget, save labor and fuel, Blue Ridge Trail alternates between mowing and rolling. Greens are triplexed instead of walk mowed. The step cut can be eliminated or reduced. There are options.

“Knowing who you are as a facility helps you develop your budget,” Schell says. “The condition of your golf course and facility as a whole has to match your price point to stay competitive and profitable in your local market. Our goal is to provide exceptional customer service and consistent playing conditions on the golf course. We start there and that’s how we develop our budget.”

Lee Carr is a Northeast Ohio-based writer and senior Golf Course Industry contributor. ]]>