There isn’t a golf course superintendent in the state of Kansas – and many neighboring states – who in the last 30 years hasn’t had Dick Stuntz’s contact information in a Rolodex, programmed into speed dial or listed as a favorite on a smartphone.
A golf course superintendent at heart, Stuntz has been a go-to resource because of his excellence in course management, prudent decision-making in facility ownership, and proficiency in playing the game of golf. I might add that staff at the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) considered Stuntz to be an adjunct team member as his office at Alvamar Golf Course was a driver-wedge from its headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas. Stuntz was always willing to field a question or request from staff.
Stuntz wore many hats at Alvamar during his time there (1983-2012). Regardless of his role, though, he earned respect for his ability to do more with less. So when he left Alvamar, it came as no surprise that the company he founded, Oak Golf Inc., focused on owning, leasing, consulting and managing facilities that were limited in budget. (Note: Stuntz says in the Midwest a nine-hole facility limited maintenance budget would be less than $150,000, while an 18-hole budget would range from $150,000 to $250,000.)
“That is what I grew up playing,” Stuntz says. “It was nine-hole Round Grove Golf and Country Club in Greene, Iowa. I’m not sure what we would have done if we did not have the course to play. It was a big part of the community.”
While these types of facilities don’t garner the attention of those that host major events or are top-100 courses rated by the media, 58 percent of nine-hole facilities have budgets of $200,000 or less (including labor), and 23 percent of 18-hole facilities have budgets of $350,000 or less, according to the GCSAA. They represent a major segment of the golf industry, but these are precisely the types of facilities that are often forced to go under because the financial margin is so narrow. That’s why I reached out to Stuntz to find out what he has done to turn struggling businesses into profitable ventures.
STUNTZ’S TOP 4 BUDGET STRATEGIES
1. CONSOLIDATION OF STAFF DUTIES.
“You can’t afford a large staff, so you have to play other roles in addition to what you typically do. If you’re a superintendent, you might have to get behind the counter once in a while and take green fees. You might not have a business manager, so a person might have to take on payroll duties in addition to the task of running the grill. You probably won’t have a mechanic, so the superintendent or other staff will absorb those duties. Cross-training is important in the case of illness, vacation or other absence.”
2. OWNERSHIP/STAFF ON THE SAME PAGE.
“Ownership must share with staff the business goals and financial performance of the facility. There must be a clear understanding as to where the money is spent and where revenue is generated. To that point, all elements should be cost out accurately to get a true accounting of operations. Areas such as the swimming pool, tennis courts, banquet facilities and fitness center need to be analyzed to determine if they should continue to be offered, enhanced or resources pulled back.”
3. TAKE PRIDE IN MANAGING A LIMITED BUDGET.
“It’s a challenge to provide quality conditions on smaller budgets, but a superintendent needs to embrace that and target what is most important. The U.S. Open at Pinehurst focused on maintenance down the center. Resources should be directed to the high-profile and high-play areas. Critically evaluate your use of inputs. The ability to be successful demonstrates value to ownership.”
4. EVERYONE IS IN SALES AND MARKETING.
This is the one area that I didn’t appreciate until later in my career, but the golf facility is a business. Everyone on staff has the ability to send a positive message and attract revenue. It might be a wedding reception, a golf outing, a civic club meeting or a luncheon. You might even consider creating a means to compensate those who bring in revenues to a facility.”
Stuntz himself has been surprised with the transformation of facilities with which he’s worked. He says the most important element is creating an atmosphere of team and having each member understand they are vital to success.