SUMMING IT UP
• Course maintenance facilities should be designed to support efficient operations, without detracting from the look of the property.
• Adequate facilities for private clubs with one course are now set at 12,000 square feet—and sometimes larger.
• Strategic landscaping can help hide unsightly storage areas.
Drawing a direct link between course care and quality, properties are spending more time, and money, on maintenance facility design.
More than five years ago, the golf maintenance “facility” at the Abenaqui Country Club in Rye Beach, N.H., consisted of barns and sheds full of tightly packed equipment. The setup not only caused operating inefficiencies, but also created uncomfortable work conditions. Clearly, something had to change.
“Our competitive position comes from our course conditions, and the membership knew investing in a state-of-the-art maintenance facility would protect that position,” says David Mazur, General Manager and Chief Operating Officer. “For Abenaqui to retain its reputation as a highly conditioned course, we needed to design our maintenance facility for the utmost efficiency, to allow us to [focus on working] on the course.”
That design goal was met in full. Today, Abenaqui’s $1 million, state-of-the-art, 16,000-sq.-ft. golf maintenance building, along with its new Environmental Management Center and fueling/wash-down building, have combined to streamline golf operations and improve course maintenance efficiency by 60 percent, Mazur reports.
Many other clubs and resorts have been following Abenaqui’s lead in recognizing the impact that top-notch course maintenance facilities can have. No longer considered out-of-sight, out-of-mind afterthoughts, today’s facilities are strategically designed to support strong golf operations, without detracting from the aesthetics of the property.
A well-designed maintenance facility, in fact, can be just what a club needs to take its course to the next level. “If you are proud of your building and facility, you’ll be proud of your golf course, and it will show,” says Sean McDonough, Golf Course Superintendent at the Broadmoor Golf Club in Seattle.
The Inside Details
A maintenance facility serves many functions, from equipment storage and maintenance to employee areas and meeting spaces. When a facility cannot house all of these elements in one well-organized site, the course can suffer.
Following an all-too-familiar pattern in the industry, the original maintenance facility at Broadmoor GC was continuously added on to, until it consisted of a series of 12 small, congested buildings and open-air covered storage areas. “As each add-on took place, it made our site more inefficient,” says McDonough.
The club needed proper space to house all of its maintenance operations in one contiguous area. Enter Broadmoor’s new Turf Care Center, designed to improve flow while providing adequate storage and employee areas. Where there once were 12 buildings, there now are three.
The largest, 13,500-sq.-ft. structure houses equipment, a mechanics’ work area, an irrigation room, a painting/work shop and all employee areas, including the lunch/break room, locker rooms and offices. The second building is approximately 2,500 square feet and divided into two parts: clubhouse storage space, and an area that houses fertilizer and chemical storage areas and associated spray vehicles. The third and smallest building holds fuel pumps and gasoline and diesel fuel cans.
Containing the Hazards
Storing fertilizers and chemicals in a maintenance facility requires extra attention. “When you are dealing with pesticides and the like, you need a facility where you are not damaging the environment,” says Patrick Kelley, Grounds Superintendent at Abenaqui CC. To protect both the environment and the staff, Abenaqui’s Environmental Management Center—which houses pesticides, mix and load for sprayers and a fertilizer storage area—is outfitted with concrete floors and spill-containment catch basins. And an automatic air venting system is engaged whenever someone walks into the pesticide storage room and the mix-and-load area.
Two quick-fill overhead hoses are used to fill a 300-gallon sprayer in less than five minutes, allowing the club to fill two sprayers simultaneously. The system has cut fairway application time significantly; what used to take from one to two days now requires just three-and-a-half hours. It’s a win-win in terms of time savings and environmental benefits, Kelley says. “The chemicals are applied more quickly, there are no golfers around the chemicals, and it is dry before people get onto the course,” he explains.
Wash operations also pose both environmental and operational challenges for any maintenance facility. Broadmoor GC designed its wash station to be away from the main entry of its Turf Care Center, to ensure that water would not seep inside. The wash station is sloped so the water drains into a sump that separates oil and grass clippings. The filtered water then enters the city’s sanitary sewer lines and goes to a treatment facility. For an added “green” perk, the club has the option to reuse the water. “The system is also capable of using a water recycler, and it may be converted in the near future,” says McDonough.
Today’s maintenance facilities are not just about the equipment, though; personal touches for employees are also becoming the norm, as recognition grows of how comfortable, healthier workspaces can boost employee morale, increase productivity and help recruit and retain talented staff members. “Employee areas are a necessity for good morale,” says McDonough. “If our employees are happy, they will be glad to come to the golf course and do a good job for members.”
Broadmoor’s break/meeting room has two refrigerators, a dishwasher, two microwaves, plenty of cabinet space and a 46-inch LCD TV with satellite service. The TV is more than a crew favorite; it can also be linked with a laptop computer for presentations to the Greens Committee or other club events. The locker rooms have showers, sinks, restrooms and generous-sized lockers. And the facility’s mud room, for the crew to change out of wet raingear, is a must, especially during Seattle’s rainy season.
“Our employees are the ones who make the world go round for this golf club,” says McDonough. “We wanted them to have adequate areas to be comfortable when they are working here.”
Buildings That Blend
A maintenance facility needs to be accessible, yet inconspicuous. “You want it to be a centrally located facility with easy access to the golf course and also accessible from off-site,” says McDonough. “But you don’t want your facility to be a focal point of the course.”
Because maintenance facilities have a more industrial look by nature, landscaping is key. When the maintenance facility of Cherokee Town & Country Club, an Atlanta-based club with two locations, was built at its country club location in Sandy Springs, the 35,000-sq.-ft. cinderblock building was hard to hide. While the building was painted green to help it blend with its natural surroundings, a strategic landscaping plan also became an important part of the plan.
“Architecturally, our facility is not something to look at,” says Michael Wheeler, Chief Operating Officer and General Manager. “But now you can’t see it. It has blended in and gone away because we have hidden it with big trees and plantings. We just said ‘Let’s plant, and it will eventually go away.’ ”
Abenaqui CC also relies on continuous landscaping efforts to minimize its facility’s physical presence. “We are always planting trees and shrubs on the golf course in different projects, so every time there are a few leftover shrubs or we’re digging out old ones, we intentionally plant them around the building,” says Kelley. “With time, we keep concealing the building more and more.”
The growing need for larger maintenance facilities adds to the challenge of how to effectively hide them, however. While previous studies have set the average size of a maintenance facility for a private club that has one golf course at between 8,000 and 10,000 square feet, many superintendents now report the real need is for facilities of 12,000 square feet or more. “Bigger is better,” says McDonough. “Equipment is getting larger and more expensive. Staff size seems to grow as well, along with golfers’ demands for perfect conditions. Each site will dictate different conditions.”
One of the biggest benefits of having enough size is the efficiency that comes from gaining access to one piece of equipment without having to move others. “The reason our facility is so large is that you can pull in and get out a piece of equipment without having to move 15 other pieces,” says Wheeler. “We have multiple large openings in both sides of the facility, and aisles where we can pull out a piece of equipment by itself without having to move anything else.”
To determine how much space was needed for Broadmoor CC’s Turf Care Center, McDonough and his staff physically measured each piece of existing equipment and also factored future growth into the plans. “In our old facility, we used to have to move five pieces of equipment to get to one,” he says. “We did not want to have to do that again with our new facility. So we created areas where we knew equipment would be parked, as well as other areas and travel lanes that always remain open.”
The payoffs in improved efficiency quickly became evident. “Gone are the days of fumbling around in an overcrowded shop, moving several machines to get access to the one you need while bruising your shins,” says McDonough. “Getting everyone going in the morning used to take around 30 minutes. With 20 people, you were looking at 50 hours per week of wasted time.
“Now, it takes a fraction of that, as staff can merely select their equipment and quickly leave to do their jobs,” he reports. “Everything has its place and is quickly accessible.”