Michael S. Williams

Pomona, California 91767
(818) 425-6142
 

 

Chester Washington Golf Course/Maggie Hathaway Par 3

Golf Course Superintendent - 2000 to 2003
1930 West 120th Street
Los Angeles, California 90047
(323) 756 - 6975

Chester Washington Golf Course is a regulation 18 hole public golf course located in western Los Angeles County near LAX that averages over 110,000 rounds of golf a year. Just a few miles away is Maggie Hathaway Par 3 public golf course. I was responsible for the maintenance, management and financial's for both of these properties. During my tenure, the golf course staff and I completed many projects that improved the conditions and playability to our guests while increasing revenue to the bottom line.

Turf Issues

My biggest challenge was dealing with push-up style greens where there was a history for black layer during the summer months and managing an old irrigation system that used reclaimed water. The combination of poorly drained soils, shaded turf and high compaction with the addition of reclaimed water increased the chances of black layered greens during the busiest times of the year. To combat this issue I would frequently open up the putting surface to allow oxygen/gas exchange in to the soil at least twice a month. This practice along with deep leaching of potable water to move the salts from the rootzone helped the greens stay in the best condition possible. On two different greens the golf course staff installed "sand channeling" to help remove irrigation water from the rootzone. By incorporating a matrix of small 1" drainage pipe horizontally and vertically 18"apart and 6" down in the rootzone, excess water would drain away from the green and the probability of black layer and high salts was decreased. With in a few short weeks after this project was completed I noticed the turf was healthier. The roots from the poa annua and bentgrass were longer in the rootzone, the amount of black layer was decreasing and the reading on the TDS meter (measures salt index in the rootzone) was very low.

Managing Two Golf Courses

With a total crew size of 12 for both properties it was my responsibility to manage all aspects of golf maintenance for 27 holes of golf. My budget to run these properties was $550K which made me think twice on making certain decisions to benefit the golfing experience for our daily guests. To generate higher revenue I mainly concentrated my efforts on Chester Washington while my Assistant managed the maintenance at Maggie Hathaway. The par-3, 9 hole Maggie Hathaway golf course was very important to me for it was a learning center for the golfers of tomorrow. Our Pro Shop Staff would teach clinics during the Summer at Maggie along with other youth oriented events. To honor the importance of these youth programs, Maggie Hathaway Golf Course was the first Los Angeles County Golf Course to be apart of The First Tee Program in 2003. To maintain Maggie Hathaway I would normally send one man to perform all tasks for the golf course after his duties at Chester Washington were complete. At different times through the year I would need to send additional crew and transport machinery to the golf course for projects (aerification, chemical applications) to be completed.

To maintain two golf courses that averaged over 130K rounds per year it was a real challenge to perform certain maintenance practices while staying out of the golfers way. In the beginning aerifications would begin before sunrise and last until dusk, verticutting and topdressing of greens would never be completed due to 300+ rounds a day and some mowing practices would not be completed on time. To avoid these problems for the golfers and my staff all I did was schedule projects over two days instead of one and begin at a later time to allow the highest revenue amount of golfers play first. By doing these practices this way I was able to achieve a higher quality of work by not rushing to complete the entire job at once and keep my crew focused for 8 hours instead of 12.

Financial's

In 2000 the budget at Chester Washington was $586K. In Southern California for a public golf course that was considered to be average. With 50% of that amount going for labor that left the rest to maintain the golf course. Larger expense items such as water, gas and equipment repairs also reduced funds for the golf course to operate efficiently. With a very limited amount of funds available to maintain/operate the golf course it made me think differently on how to achieve my goals for the golf course and exceed the golfers expectations. Many times I would have to see the golf course as a golfer and not as a Superintendent to manage expenses wisely. This philosophy lead me to think of the entire golf course as my personal business. In other words I managed all expenses as if I was writing all of the checks myself. By having this mentality, it sharpened my financial skills, prioritized needs for the golf course and centered around our golfers concerns. This method worked well until the year of 2002. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in 2001, the golf course began to suffer. Revenue was down and we were struggling. For the year of 2002 management decided to trim the golf course budget at Chester Washington to $500K. Since the labor expense was not cut I had to manage the entire property for $86K less and with gas prices and water prices on the rise it really hurt "my business" to run on the level it once was. My labor budget was not trimmed but no performance raises were given to my crew which made me fell bad due to all their hard work for the past year. With these new perimeters in place for 2002 it was up to me to rethink on how I can still exceed the golf course and players expectations while staying under budget. At no time I sacrificed golf course practices to save on expenses. Aerification, verticutting and pesticide applications for greens still continued but I only bought the correct amount of sand I needed and applied pesticides only when necessary. The run times on the irrigation system were reduced in all areas. This turned out to be very beneficial for it saved money on water but it saved on buying pesticides during the summer when greens were kept a little too moist at times when disease pressures increased. To save on labor I found myself spending more time at the golf course during late afternoon hours to help the work load for the next day and even sometimes spending the night to monitor the irrigation system or put out hoses to leach greens. At the end of 2002 I was under budget for the golf course by 10K without sacrificing the playability for the golfers or conditions for the course itself. Upper management was happy with the results considering what was needed to be done to reach our financial goals for the year. In 2003 the maintenance budget remained the same and it was another long year of saving expenses while driving revenue to it's maximum. Rounds and outings did increase but no where near the pre-9/11 time frame.

Learning Experience

The time that I spent at Chester Washington and Maggie Hathaway Golf Courses was very helpful to me to become a better Superintendent. To have limited labor, operating budgets and resources may not sound like the best way to manage 27 holes but it made me think outside of the box on how to run two high round golf courses. There were times where I had to share equipment or labor from surrounding golf courses to get the job done or put off certain projects but I did it and met my goals. Besides the responsibilities of maintenance, financial and labor issues I learned some valuable people skills from our daily golfers. The regulars who have call Chester Washington home are people who appreciate the improvements and hard work for their course. They always told me how happy they were when projects were completed and when improvement were made. Those comments paid a huge role to me as Superintendent for someone noticed our efforts and hard work to make their course better then the day before. They understood why certain things were done or why I had to delay projects. All they wanted was the best $25 green fee golf course they could play on. I did my best to deliver that to them everyday.