First Steps For Private Clubs

By John LaFoy, ASGCA Past President

You may have already decided that your golf course needs renovation. But if you are the only one that has come to that conclusion, you may be very disappointed with the response that you get from those “in charge,” whether it be an owner, club manager, or greens chairman. Those first steps that you take in planning a renovation may be more critical that the actual process of renovating the golf course. Why is it so important? Simply put, if a club membership turns a renovation project down, it will likely be five years or more before there is any kind of momentum to get another renovation proposal passed. How many times have skeptical club members commented at an annual meeting, “here comes Joe wanting to tear up the golf course again.” You may recall that this is the same guy, mentioned earlier, who has not played at another golf course in fifteen years and sees nothing wrong with his course. The secret, of course, is not to fail the first time.

How can we not fail?

The truth is we can’t. You cannot brow beat a membership or an owner to renovate their golf course. You can, however, present them with all of the facts and hope that they will make their decision based on solid facts, rather than rumors and false science. We can all live with the outcome of a decision based on an honest effort with all of the facts presented.

Let’s see several ways that we can get the process started:

“Building” Your Case

  • Contact an Architect
  • USGA/University Agronomists/Consultants Visits & Reports
  • Document Maintenance Procedures
  • “Putting Out Fires”
  • Record Extraordinary Maintenance Practices
  • Finding a “Flag Bearer”
  • Contractor Visits

Informational Meetings

  • Organize a Renovation Team: “Flag Bearer,” Greens or Golf Chairman, Golf Architect, Superintendent, Club Manager, Finance Chairman, etc.
  • Budgets
  • Down Time
  • Alternative Courses to Play: Construction Schedule & Timing, Nine vs. Nine
  • Program Presentation: Organizing Proponents, Minimizing Opponents

Pitfalls in Planning

  • “Doing it Alone”
  • Unrealistic Budgets
  • Unlimited Add-ons
  • Excluding the Membership
  • Promising Unrealistic Completion Date

The importance of getting a renovation project approved on the first try cannot be stressed enough. Although there have been some successful attempts to get projects approved after they have been turned down, you should consider it a “one shot” deal. Your best effort ought to be given on the initial try. Half-hearted attempts will fail.