Country Clubs
December 3, 2021

How To Manage Your Golf Course Maintenance Costs

by The Ottimate Editorial Team

Keeping your golf course up to par requires a lot. A lot of labor, equipment, time, and money. And yet, if you cut back on your costs, you might end up sacrificing the quality that your golfers have come to expect… and that won’t go over well. So, how do you balance both? How do you determine what’s appropriate when it comes to golf course maintenance costs? 

This article will help you answer those questions by covering:

  • How much should your golf course maintenance cost?
  • Golf course operating budget breakdown
  • AP automation helps you keep an eye on your budget
  • Streamlining your golf course operating budget

How Much Should Your Golf Course Maintenance Cost?

Your club members expect great service and attention to detail and your golf course is no exception. 

The cost to achieve and maintain the golf course condition players expect, or will at least tolerate, ranges from roughly $500,000 a year for a daily-fee course to a cool million a year for a private club, according to Bob Randquist, chief operating officer of the Golf Course Superintendents’ Association of America.

Text image quoting Bob Randquist of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America that states "Golf course maintenance costs range from $500,000 for a daily-fee course to $1,000,000 a year for a private club.

While the club across town may spend significantly more on their course than you spend and the course five miles down the road spends way less, golf course maintenance costs boil down to one thing.

“You gotta spend what you gotta spend.” 

So, don’t get carried away with the competition. Your club membership fees and the importance of the sport of golf in your club dictate what you can and should spend. 

For example, there’s a stark contrast in golf course operating budgets between a full-service country club and a golf-only club, where there’s less competition with other amenities for cash.

According to Club Benchmarking data, golf course maintenance costs break down differently at a full-service country club vs. golf-only clubs. Here’s the skinny on the two:

Full-Service Country Club Breakdown

  • 9% Fixed Charges (property tax, insurance, interest…)
  • 19% Buildings & Maintenance
  • 10% Golf Operations Labor
  • 12% Sports & Recreation (tennis, pool, etc.)
  • 29% Course Maintenance
  • 21% G&A

Golf-Only Club

  • 9% Fixed charges (property tax, insurance, interest…)
  • 15% Building & maintenance
  • 15% Golf Operations Labor
  • 44% Course Maintenance
  • 16% G&A
Text image from Club Benchmarking Data that breaks down golf course maintenance costs between a full-service country club versus a golf-only club.

Golf Course Maintenance Costs: Budget Breakdown

The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations.

Jacob Lew, Former United States Secretary of the Treasury

That statement applies to your golf course just as much as it applies to the United States budget.

So, the question here is what and where are your club’s values?

Odds are your board has set your budget based on your club’s values. Most club boards are usually heavily involved in expense management, from budget decisions to signing off on checks and everything in between.

When it comes to golf course maintenance costs, there are some common expenses that every course has in its budget in order to maintain excellence:

  • Water
  • Fuel
  • Mowing/cultivating equipment
  • Handheld equipment
  • Course accessories
  • Shop tools
  • Irrigation parts/maintenance
  • Fertilizer/pest control 

Text image with information from Coast App that lists common golf course expenses, including water, fuel, mowing/cultivating equipment, handheld equipment, course accessories, shop tools, irrigation parts/maintenance, and fertilizer/pest control.

If you’re going to operate an upscale golf course, expenses are necessary. Let’s do a deep dive into three important golf course maintenance categories and how to reduce expenses in these areas. 

1. It’s All About the Green

Golfers are going to complain about the green — it’s an unavoidable certainty. That’s just part of the game.

And they’ll ratchet up their complaints if they hit a lousy shot or miss a putt. 

Or stomp down invisible ball marks.

Or chalk up their extra strokes to the green getting bumpier and slower late in the day. 

That’s why keeping your green in tip-top shape is key to keeping golfers happy. 

You already know that maintaining the green is a science that requires a delicate balance between necessary, intricate course upkeep and keeping the books balanced on costs. 

Green Tip: When It Comes to Your Golf Course’s Reputation, Rate of Play Is Key. ‍

You’ve got to maintain your green in a way that promotes fast play to satisfy your golfers while also managing your golf course operating budget efficiently and keeping an eye on expenses. 

What does this mean? Rate of play = cost of green maintenance. Faster play requires higher green maintenance costs.

3 Tips To Reduce Rate of Play:
  1. Mow more often — Lower mowing heights tend to promote smoother, more uniform surfaces, and that increases ball roll.
  2. Lower your mowing height — Ball roll increases when you reduce mowing height. The faster the ball rolls, the lower your rate of play will be.
  3. Roll your putting green — According to a PennState Extension study, ball roll distance on rolled plots was 5 to 11 inches farther than non-rolled plots. That’s a significant difference! 

Looking To Trim Expenses? 

If your club boasts 4 hours flat for a round, consider backing off your promoted green speed to reduce your maintenance costs. But keep in mind, “Every foot of green speed on a stimpmeter slows play by 7 minutes per group,” says Adam Moeller, the director of the USGA’s greens section education committee.

Determining how often to mow the rough is, obviously, an important calculation when it comes to cost, but how high you let it grow also affects rate of play. Choose wisely.

2. Golf Course Accessories 

Golf course accessories have become commonplace at most golf courses, but installation & upkeep on these accessories can drain your budget. Examine your course’s accessories and determine which ones could be eliminated to beef up your bottom line.

Common golf course accessories:

  • Ball washers
  • Benches
  • Tee caddies
  • Cleat brushes
  • Divot mix containers
  • Ornamental plantings

This may sound radical, but, consider eliminating or reducing the number of golf course accessories. 

For example, reducing the number of accessories, ornamental plantings, and paths on the West Course at Westchester Country Club has been extremely beneficial. These changes improved turf quality, saved a significant amount of money and labor, and reduced the need for rope and stakes to manage traffic. 

However, the biggest benefit by far is the improved appearance of the golf course — eliminating man-made clutter made the course look bigger, more natural, and much cleaner.

Wondering how they managed this without angering golfers? Subtly.

Westchester’s green committee approved removing the majority of golf course accessories and ornamental plantings on the West Course, tying the removal process into a tee renovation project.

Accessories, plantings, and unnecessary paths were removed during the renovation and simply weren’t replaced after the project was complete. 


A hybrid tee system was also developed that reduced the sets of tees from 5 to 3. This decreased the number of tee markers to be moved and maintained by the maintenance staff and made it easier to spread out wear on the tees.

**Just a note as we talk expense management — AP automation streamlines your invoice management and bill pay, enabling you to keep a close eye on your expenses. There’s a lot to track and automation offers a birds-eye view to make managing your golf course budget less daunting. 

Level up your expense management by using virtual cards to pay vendors and earn cash back. Cash back on vendor pay is a wise, not to mention easy, way to put money back into your golf course operating budget.

3. Golf Course Labor 

Knowledgeable, courteous staff is paramount to the success of your club’s golf course. While you need to keep an eye on labor costs, keep in mind — you get what you pay for.

Labor expenses usually make up the largest category of expenses for golf courses, roughly ranging from 52% to 58% of total expenses.

4 Reasons Golf Course Labor Costs So Much:

  1. Highly skilled talent isn’t cheap
  2. Training
  3. Workman’s compensation
  4. Increased minimum wage

While labor expenses make up the largest golf course maintenance cost category, there are still ways to trim expenses here without sacrificing quality. 

For example, removing golf course accessories saved Westchester Club 1918 annual labor hours! And AP automation shaves serious manual labor time spent on the paperwork shuffle.     

AP Automation Helps You Keep an Eye on Your Budget

Golf course management comes with a mountain of monthly invoices that need to be promptly paid. AP automation frees up your time, gets vendors paid faster, and enables more efficient expense tracking. 

3 top benefits of automating your AP: 

  1. Run monthly reports to analyze your budget
  2. Keep on top of expenses & identify any budget drains
  3. Streamlines audit organization and preparation

Ottimate offers AP automation throughout the AP lifecycle in a number of ways:

  • Invoice automation — Ottimate learns your workflow to process invoices in the way you want them done. 
  • Vendor pay — Schedule payments with checks, ACH, or Ottimate virtual cards (The Ottimate Card lets you earn up to 1% cashback).
  • Access — With digital document storage, Ottimate stores your invoices in the cloud for 7 years. This means you can search invoices by any detail and manage invoices remotely.
  • Expense management — See all invoices detailed by line item which enables more accurate and easily accessible expense management oversight.
  • Ottimate Card — Use the Ottimate virtual cards to pay vendors (& earn cashback) and monitor expenses in real-time. 
  • Automatic GL coding — Automatic line item invoice coding allows your controller or CFO to easily analyze monthly cost trends. This makes life much easier when it’s time to present to your board. 

Club Ravenna’s accounting manager used Ottimate’s AP automation to reduce time spent on invoice processing from an entire day to just 90 minutes a week. 

Text image from Ottimate about their client Club Ravenna that states "Club Ravenna used Ottimate's AP automation to reduce time spent on invoice processing from an entire day to just 90 minutes per week."

Streamline Your Golf Course Maintenance Costs

The majority of the golf course maintenance costs at your country club are necessary to keep your members happy. 

Streamlining your operating budget through expense management and AP automation will keep your board happy. 

Analyze your budget and expenses to determine any inefficiencies that need your attention. One of the best ways to do this is by using Ottimate’s AP automation to streamline your entire invoice process. 

It’s a big responsibility to keep your golf course operation running smoothly and efficiently without sacrificing member service. Ottimate is here to help — book a demo today!

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