Turf Matters

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How to improve my golf course

Two ways:

Way #1. How to improve the golf course in three easy, quick and (reasonably) cheap steps:

1. Improve the green speed.

That sounds like what any golf course manager would say, right? However, the knee-jerk reaction of many golf courses would be to reduce the cutting height. The effect would not only be fast(er) greens but at the same time, increased stress.

Many people forget that grass – like all plants – make their food through photosynthesis, assuming that fertilizer is what feeds the grass. Photosynthesis happens in the leaf, so the more leaf that is cut during the mowing process, the less food the grass can make. The less food the grass has, the less grass the green will have.

Many golf course Superintendents now are enlightened enough to know that a faster green can be had through many other ways, for example with the help of a groomer, frequent light dethatching, frequent light topdressing, doses of Potassium Silicate, turf growth regulator and perhaps a few other methods. Not all of them at the same time please, let’s not get too excited…

So, don’t make lowering the cutting height the first thing to be done when greenspeed is an issue. We have seen greens that are faster at 5mm because there is more grass, the greens are healthier, than when the same greens are cut at 4.2mm.

Notice how we did not mention rolling? The effects of rolling can vary a lot on 18 greens. We have seen how one green would increase speed by 6 inches and another green by 2 feet. Rolling has its uses, but the greenspeed should be monitored on every green.

By the way, have your superintendent ever told you that ‘a slow green is better than a fast brown’? I believe in that too, just not all the time.

2. Sweat the small stuff

Broken vases, chipped pots, old notices, faded signages, old flags with caked bird shit, flaked paint on the tee markers so bad you can’t tell between blue and white, grimy benches, smelly ball-washers, dirty halfway hut toilets etc etc. You have seen them all on one golf course or another.

Remove the broken items, change the signage (even if it means to one that looks cheaper), use cheap paint regularly (we recommend buying 50 cans of spray paint that cost about RM5.00 a can to paint the accessories during the fasting month or during hollow-tine), change the water in the ball-washer once a week with water mixed with dish-washer liquid (get one with lemon scent and soft on the hands), clean the toilets or – if you really have to – lock the toilet door and put a notice at the clubhouse that the halfway hut toilets are out of order.

I promise you; do it right and your customers will comment that there are “some changes” in the club but they don’t know why. It’s the main reason why new managers get credit for changes: they see small things that the old management has grown used to.

Trim the path edges. Blow the leaves from the first tees, the path and the roughs near the paths. It makes a world of difference.

using nylon head

Don't this golf course look neat?

3. Beautify the places where customers wait.

Where do golfers wait? First tee, 10th tee, par 3s, halfway huts, starter huts, bag-drops, registration areas, golfer terraces, you get the idea right?

A little bit of colour from bright flowers like Allamanda, Ixora or even Puddings (the shrub, not the food) and paint will go a long way to turn a dump into a cheerful place.

Can’t afford the landscaping? Just keep the area neat from leaves and rubbish. And edge the buggy paths: it just gives a neat impression.

Can’t afford the paint? Get a sponsor to put advertisement on the wall. Give the wall to him for free on condition that he repaints it every year when necessary. Written contract!

Can’t do all the places? Pick and choose by prioritizing the areas where the most waiting is done. Your staff will be able to tell you the place.

The entrance to the club and clubhouse deserves a mention too but I can’t tell you about it because that would make it number 4. So consider that sentence as a bonus.

Way #2: How to improve the golf course in one easy step:

Hire a consultant.


  • A consultant is able to provide an independent third-party opinion when there is a dispute between two parties, or to provide an independent second opinion when a difficult decision needs to be made.
  • A consultant is someone who is able to bring a wide range of experience to tackle the problems that any golf course would face. He is able to help the golf course to find the solution within its means.
  • A consultant is able to see what the current management has grown used to. He/she will see the same thing from a different perspective.
  • A consultant is someone who can assist the golf course to set up schedules, programs and implement its routine maintenance practices.
  • He or she is well- versed in the latest technologies in golf course maintenance practices or someone not afraid to experiment and try out new techniques or materials that is suited to a particular club.
  • Your consultant should be someone who knows the local weather, the work culture and understands the prior or prevailing conditions of local golf courses.
  • The consultant is not someone who is after the job of the golf course superintendent, but is someone who can/will train the superintendent and his (or her) staff to do a better job.
  • He/she is someone who can work together with your team to achieve a common goal within set boundaries.
  • The consultant is not someone with an ulterior motive of pushing certain products or equipment to you even if you do not need it.
  • And most important of all, hire a consultant not only because of the years of experience due to his age or because of his report-writing skills or his ability to talk in technical terms with a slang; hire a consultant with a known track record you can verify and someone well known in the industry.

You are in luck. I meet all the above criteria…  and more.

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