GSI Executive Search Blog

Developing Your Agronomy Budget

By: Shawn Emerson, Agronomy Associate/Consultant

When it comes to the agronomy budget for the year, it is not just a financial statement but a checklist of accomplishments.

There are four principles I use in following a budget: (1) develop, (2) execute, (3) monitor, and (4) record. Golf course budgets consist of labor, utilities, tasks, and materials.

Priority 1: Everyday requirements
Course set up, mowing greens, raking bunkers, preparing the range

Priority 2: Requirements done multiple times a week
All close-cut mowing (fairways, tees, approaches, and collars)

Priority 3: All other tasks performed on a golf course
Rough mowing, edging, projects, and landscape

Priority 4: Tasks done as needed
Cultural practices like topdressing, verticutting, aerification, fertilizing, and pesticide applications

Currently, labor is 50-65 percent of the total budget, with Priority 1 and 2 consuming 40-60% of those hours worked. Utilities typically run 15-25% of the budget. The remaining 15-25% of the budget is tied up in materials cost and miscellaneous items.

Make sure to assign a cost to every task. For example, if you have three people mow greens for five hours a day at $15/hr., 300 times a year, you need to budget $67,500 for that task. Another example – if you purchase granular fertilizer (21-7-14) for $1000/ton and you need 200 lb./acre for 30 acres, and four applications per year, that’s $12,000 that needs to be budgeted.

Knowing the cost of each task makes it easier to keep track of your budget, as the cost is already assigned, and you can clearly see where the money is being spent. An agronomy budget is fluid and always changing. By removing and inserting specific tasks, you can control the numbers more easily.

The best way to approach this is with a 52-week plan. However, the best turf managers need to execute 80% of the plan on a yearly basis. If you execute more than 80%, you didn’t take advantages where needed, and if you execute less than 80%, you probably didn’t have a good plan. The objective is always to meet the financial commitment to the club by performing the tasks required while also keeping agronomy standards at the highest quality possible, meeting member and club satisfaction.