An open letter from Nicklaus agronomist Jon Scott: Do your maintenance practices need a facelift

It goes without saying that these are trying times for the golf industry, and we thought it would be an appropriate time to check in to see if we can be of any assistance in meeting those challenges. We are embarking on a new initiative centered on helping all Nicklaus Design golf courses meet today’s expectations for operational efficiency as well as environmental and energy conservation. It is very likely that you have already instituted cost-control measures over the past few years that are stretching your ability to manage your facility to the expectations of your golfers. As the economic challenges continue to mount, there are really only two options left to explore: course modifications that will directly result in maintenance savings and resolving agronomic issues that are having a negative impact on the bottom line.

Nicklaus Design recognizes that when your course was designed and built, the technology with regards to grasses, irrigation, drainage, and greens construction was very different than what we have today. Likewise, it was standard to maintain and irrigate up to 110 acres (44 hectares) of turf grass. Today, we design courses that have as little as 75 acres (30 hectares) of maintained turf and still ensure the Nicklaus philosophy of keeping the course enjoyable for all ages and skill levels. This is over a 30-percent decrease in the amount of grass to fertilize, treat with expensive chemicals, irrigate, and, more important, mow. Not all courses can realize that much reduction, but we believe that every course has the potential to decrease its maintenance budget through targeted design modifications.

Poor turf conditions are usually not the result of bad management. More often than not the causes are complex and interrelated based on a number of environmental and physical changes the course has gone through over the years. Examples are declining water quality, increased shade, outdated and worn out irrigation systems, deteriorated drainage systems, and older grasses which no longer have the genetic purity or strength to meet today’s playing standards. It is easier to address the most obvious part of the problem with a Band-aid than to fix the underlying causes, and that can lead to a significant risk of failure, if the corrective action is not put in the context of the complete picture.

To address both the design and agronomic aspects of the economic challenges facing Nicklaus Design golf courses, we have developed a program to offer a complete course evaluation. This would consist of a visit from one of our design associates and an experienced Nicklaus Design agronomist. Everything would be looked at from a course design and playability standpoint, especially the potential for course design modification to reduce maintenance costs. Our team member would work closely with the key people of your management team, club officers, and especially your golf course superintendent to develop a comprehensive plan for developing a more sustainable golf course. In addition to reducing turf areas, this plan might also include recommendations for changing grasses, updating the irrigation system, and improving the equipment inventory with new technology. All suggestions would have but one goal in mind: reducing your operational costs.

In order to demonstrate our sincerity, Nicklaus Design wants to offer this course evaluation to all Nicklaus Design facilities at no fee other than reimbursement of the design team member’s reasonable expenses for the visit. The visit will take as long as necessary, but most likely will involve one full day of work on site. Travel will be linked with other site visits when possible to reduce reimbursable expenses. A comprehensive report will be submitted outlining the steps that can be taken immediately as well as long term. Minor design changes, such as tee expansions or grass line adjustments can be covered in this report. Any other course alterations would be handled by the appropriate Nicklaus Design staff member, as required. If you are interested in obtaining long-term agronomic support, that also can be discussed.

Based on our previous experience in this type of course renovation, we are confident we can reduce your maintenance costs by updating the design. If you agree and want to discuss this potential and a visit from a member of our Nicklaus Design team, please contact Ray Ball, Vice President Business Administration and Development at Nicklaus Design, at 1-800-6263900 (Overseas call +1-561-227-0300).

Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to hearing from you.

Jon Scott
Vice President of Agronomic Services
Nicklaus Design


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