The Squeeze
The Squeeze

The Squeeze

Posted on February 24, 2020
My friend John wrote an article for a golf magazine some years ago that is still meaningful today. I love the baseball metaphor he uses to make his point. 

With his permission, I have made a few edits and am posting for your enjoyment. Hopefully, this can serve as a refresher course on a few management fundamentals. Here it goes.
-Larry Hanks, Senior Vice President, Landscapes Golf Maintenance

Have you seen baseball's most daring play?

The one that generally occurs late in a close game, when the team at bat is desperately trying to get a runner on third across the plate? 

I bet you have seen it. The runner takes a big lead. The batter squares to bunt and the runner, even before the pitch is thrown, breaks for home. The batter lays the bunt down towards first-base, away from the charging runner. The runner crosses the plate just as the batter leaves the box. In baseball parlance, and his run is often the difference between winning and losing. It's a daring play. Done right, it's a beautiful thing. Done wrong, well, that's why it's called a "suicide squeeze."

We have a version of the suicide squeeze taking place in golf. A battle between flat (or decreasing) golf revenues and rising costs is being fought day by day, property by property all around the country. Nobody describes golf's "squeeze" as daring. Excruciating is a more appropriate description. But, just like in baseball, using golf's "squeeze" the right way can put you ahead of your competitors. Use it the wrong way, and, well (all together now) - that's why it's called a "suicide squeeze!"

The "squeeze" we are talking about is the financial pressure placed on golf maintenance departments across the globe. As opposed to golf operations, it's not apparent how maintenance contributes to revenue, but boy-oh-boy is maintenance expensive. Maintenance is where big money is spent; costs have been rising for years. Maintenance budgets, however, have not. This is the heart of golf's "squeeze." Today's golf course superintendent must produce a better product with less money, while also mitigating the increased costs of indispensable materials and supplies.

What to do? Raise green and cart fees? Increase monthly member dues? Not likely in today's super-competitive golf marketplace. 

The answer lies in improved resource management. The superintendent's daily challenge is to find better, more efficient products and processes to help him manage his/her property. Some Superintendents are finding that outsourcing some tasks such as aerification, bulk fertilizer applications, and overseeding have proven to be cost-effective. Others focus on managing asset and resource efficiencies and planning.  

For example, did you know that you can manage and monitor your fuel usage to take advantage of off-road fuel tax credits? These credits can add-up fast.

Or you can install GPS applications on smart-phones to help optimize your mowing patterns? Saving a few minutes here and there saves in labor cost and equipment hours.

Other opportunities include:

Prioritize your maintainable acres. Where possible, consider using (and thus mowing) fewer tees. Introduce more naturalized areas on the course. They are maintained less intensely and look beautiful when done well.
Don't keep infrequently used items in inventory. Inventory costs money, and most products are readily available when needed.
Be judicious when signing up for early order programs – they save you money if you order just what you know you will use.
Train your staff properly and with a focus on safety. Training costs money on the front end, but the returns in fewer lost workdays, fewer workers compensation claims, and lower insurance premiums can be meaningful. Not to mention the fact that taking care of your team is paramount to all else. Do not skimp on training.

"Scheduling for Success" - a term created by Mr. Ted Horton CGCS - is vital in all businesses, but more so relative to golf course maintenance. While hourly labor rates are somewhat out of your control, your use of labor is not. Creative and dynamic scheduling can reduce the absolute number of hours budgeted. Creating a detailed working hour study is a useful tool to understand your staffing requirements. It's essential to include preparation and tasks in this study. Don't discount using part-time labor (retirees and people looking for second jobs) in some areas. Combined, these strategies produce real savings in overall labor burden dollars and effectively reduce total headcount on an annual basis. 

There are many more ways to run an efficient maintenance department. The point is that you should be continually testing new ways to produce a competitive product. 
We've got to be good at doing more with less. Good at executing golf's squeeze play. 

There's a runner on third...

He's breaking for home...

Here comes the pitch...

Great bunt...

He's sliding…. 


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