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Of workers that work.

Posted by mynormas on August 8, 2018

Whether we like it or not, golf courses need to reduce workers. The new reality is that employing foreigners will be a luxury more than the norm in the near future. Malaysia – and I mean both government and us – must commit to reduce the number of foreign workers in Malaysia. Let’s face it; as members of the public drive by the 150-acre golf courses or sit in the comfortable clubhouses, most won’t be convinced that working in a golf club belong in the three-D (Dirty, Dangerous and Difficult) category.

The only ‘D’ that prevents us from hiring better workers is ‘Demeaning’. I mean, I have gone to many golf courses’ maintenance facilities, seen their deplorable condition and talked to many superintendents, managers and even owners and to too many of them; golf course workers only cut grass.

We hire a worker, we get another worker to teach him/her how to start/move a machine and we want him/her to stay for 20 years operating the same machine. Go ahead, stop a worker at work on your course and ask him how long he has work there and what he knows. I have met a worker who has worked almost 20 years and all she knows is raking bunkers and sweeping leaves. Go ahead and ask him/her the name of the grass on the course or if you happen to meet some one spraying; ask him/her what is in the spray tank. They know nothing because we don’t think much of them or what they do and we teach them nothing.

Yeah. We demean our workers; by getting the cheapest possible. We demean the work that they do by looking down on them, limiting their knowledge and their advancement. We demean our Superintendents by not hiring the best, by not increasing their knowledge, their pay and not giving them opportunities to do so; by not training a second tier of supervisors able to take over the Superintendent’s job so that they are not irreplaceable. But in the same breath; many Superintendents demean themselves too; by not giving or being the best, by not increasing their own knowldege, not looking for opportunities to better themselves and by not training their own replacements so that they are promotable.

Push yourself

I can talk some more about the hiring of local workers but I worry that we miss the real issue here; about reducing the need for a large crew altogether.

And to be clear; I talk from experience, I once reduced the number of field staff from 42 to 18 and was still voted the “Best Maintained Course in Malaysia” in 1999/2000.

Belanja minum?

Derma untuk belanja saya dan memberi lebih tenaga supaya lebih kreatif!


So I say, let’s reduce the need for staff regardless of local or foreign. The question is, how can we lower the number of staff required to maintain a golf course? Well, here are some of my suggestions:

  1. Mechanise. Walk-behinds need more manpower. The thing is, most golf courses ‘cheat’; it should take six walk-behinds to equal two triplex mowers (the goal should be to finish mowing in front of the first flight i.e. 9.00 a.m) but many golf courses get by with using two or four walk-behinds. But seriously, get a good triplex mower, finish mowing at 9.00 a.m, backlap for 10 minutes, take a 20 minute break and by 9.30 your operator can start to mow fairways or rough already. Or, use six walk-behinds and provide each one with a transport so they too finish at 9.00 a.m. and then operate other machines. That is just one example ya, you can also find ways to minimise the use of brush-cutters.
  2. Slow down growth. Use plant growth regulators (PGR) to slow down the growth of the grass. What it does is it shortens the internodes and makes the grass grow shorter.
    Benefits: It has a side effect of creating denser stands of turf. You can cut down up to 30% of your mowing needs.
    Disadvantages: you need to apply regularly to reap the benefits and this has cost but if done correctly the benefits outweigh the costs.pgr-primo-comparison
  3. Some architecutur… architektural… some design changes. The kind that will help you reduce workers. It is best if you do it from the beginning but perhaps you can reduce your dependence on future workers by using the current workers in redesigning your course. Some examples; have less steep slopes, reduce quantity of bunkers (or at least, don’t lah have the high-faced KLGCC type of bunkers). I never can understand the need for these kind of high maintenance bunkers. Ya, ya, ya, the new textile mat you put on the bunker face holds the sand and less need for maintenance. The comparison is between two high-faced bunkers; one with the mat and one without. I challenge you to compare maintenance cost of one high-faced bunkers with the mat and one bunker with low sand face or a ‘turf bunker’.bunker mats
  4. Upskill or multiskilled. Train your existing workers or workers you want to keep so that they know more or can do more. Why have three workers that can only operate the ubiquitous brush-cutter, knapsack sprayer and scisssors when you can have one who can operate a ride-on mower, a hedge trimmer and a boom sprayer even if you have to pay two person’s salary for that one guy/girl. No one worker can do only one job “Everyone can do everything” was a motto I had when I reduced the staff number on my 18 holes from 42 labourers to 18 professionals in the 1990s. Training also reassure your staff that you are thinking about their future and will help you in retaining the good ones.the only thing worse than training
  5. Be creepy. For steep slopes that can’t be mown with a machine, use creepers like Wedelias or Arachis pinto or perhaps even Weeping Lovegrass or maybe leaving it ‘naturalised’ i.e. unmaintained but managed (I have a no-creeper, no-small-trees policy in these ‘wild’ areas).
    Benefits: do it right and you give more color to a simple slope. You can save a lot of manpower here. This is where the need for foreign workers is highest.
    For some deep rough, you can ‘naturalise’ it by leaving it wild but managing it by, once or twice a year, sending workers to slash small trees, wild creepers etc.
  6. Don’t do weeding. Well, I mean not totally don’t do, but don’t have four extra workers to do manual weeding every day. We keep comparing ourselves with our Indonesian and Thai neighbours that have ‘so many workers’ to do weeding but we don’t compare ourselves with American or Australian courses that don’t do weeding. Yeah. They use sprayers with selective herbicides.Weed spray vs manual
  7. Plant less trees. I know, it sounds contrarian right? The thing is, trees create shade that forces grass to extend their leaves upward to look for more sunlight, creating more mowing needs. More trees will also reduce opportunities to mechanise your mowing thereby increasing your worker population. Plus, the roots of some trees (Khaya and Raintree anyone?) grow out of the soil and will damage mower blades, walkways, paths, even roads. If you need a lot of trees, remember how big they become five or ten years later and plant so that the canopies of the trees are just touching each other.
    Benefits: you can save up to 50% of the staff dedicated to manual mowing of that area, if you implement mechanization (not doable with a lot of trees).
    Disadvantages: in the beginning, your golf course is going to look empty when the trees are young. Resist the temptation to fill in the gaps! When the trees grow older, they need more space.


    The problem with trees especially when too many.

  8. Avoid urea. Actually, refrain from using too much nitrogen fertilising on your grass. Malaysian groundskeepers love using urea on their turfgrass because it gives them instant green-up. Of course it does, it contains 46% nitrogen! And nothing else!
    I’m not saying you don’t fertilise, I’m just saying don’t use straight fertiliser with only one nutrient; example Urea!
    Nitrogen fertilising gives surge growth that you have to mow aggresively. In fact, ask your superintendent about MLSN the new trend in fertilising turf (hint: the ‘M’ is for minimum)
  9. Use shrubs to reduce mowing or in places where grass is difficult to grow; for example under big trees or near building or small kerbs. We can use Rhoeo discolor or Iris or Spider Lilies or many others.


    Alternatives to grass when in areas that have to use hand-mow.

  10. Rotate your poison. If you use herbicide to kill the grass at your border fence, kerbs or even drains in the name of saving manpower; avoid weed succession by using different kind of herbicides.

The list is of course longer but I hope you get it.

With the ringgit as it is now, it is expensive to buy turfgrass machinery. So now we are stuck with too expensive to use manpower and also too expensive to use machinery. What’s going to become of Malaysian golf courses eventually?

If you need help with planning any of the above; please do give me a call or fill up the form below (don’t worry, it won’t show up here).

Maintaining this Website. Sumbangan.

Saya menyumbang ilmu secara ikhlas melalui laman web ini. Tetapi pengendalian laman web ini perlukan wang. Setiap tahun USD99 (lebihkurang RM400). Sedikit sumbangan anda amat membantu. Anda mendapat manafaat dari laman web ini? Sumbangan bermula dari $10. Jangan lupa ‘Like’ artikel ini; ‘Follow’ laman web ini dan klik mana mana iklan di page ini. This website is maintained and managed with my own money. I’ve done my best to not allow advertisement on this site thus far so that I can be independent. I’m going to start to ask for donations and see if I can get enough to sustain it that way. Donations start from $10.



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