Of the many things the month of December is, it is most certainly the month of reflection for most people. The time on the calendar we ponder about the year that was.
And it’s safe to say 2016 was as interesting a year as we’ve experienced for a while (the presidential election notwithstanding). The game of golf – specifically the maintenance of golf courses – was certainly no exception. So this sounds like a perfect time to look back at the year that was 2016. And, for full dramatic effect, let’s do it in Top 5 fashion.
1. Golf Ratings. TV viewership ratings continue to drop without Tiger Woods. Love him, hate him or indifferent to him, no one can deny the effect on the game of golf’s popularity without Tiger playing on a weekly basis. From the major championships to the Ryder Cup, 2016 saw the continuation of this alarming trend.
It cannot be denied that the popularity of the game on TV translates at some level to the rounds being played on all of our golf courses. This is a fact. Like tennis, golf is heavily dependent on the game continually drawing new players. TV is the number one vehicle in which to show off the game.
Golf ratings on television in 2017 (which will affect all of us) has to hope for one of two things: Either Tiger gets that troublesome back in order and starts to play competitive golf again, or the industry tries to figure out how to bring and/or keep viewers without him. Something that is proving to not be so easy.
2. Technological Advances. Golf course management is at the forefront of ever-evolving technological advances. We are finding ourselves with more and more tools at our disposal. Granted, many of these tools are still way too expensive for most of us to consider yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
2016 saw advancements in many areas, from drones circling above our courses with high resolution cameras, to advances in propane-powered turfgrass equipment, to GPS enhanced sprayers. Expect more of the same in 2017.
3. Less is More. I’ve been on this kick for a few years now, but I’ve noticed it more in 2016 with other golf courses as well. What I’m referring to here is reduction on the golf course. Reduction not only in mowing areas, or the amount of turf we are irrigating, but actually reducing the physical size of features on the golf course. Bunkers and tees most specifically.
Many golf courses, like the one I work at, overbuilt these two areas. Monstrously huge bunkers that are budget suckers as we try and maintain them. And tees that often were built two or three times larger than needed to be. Another strain on the budget.
A little effort initially (both time and money) can save exponentially down the road.
4. Mobile Apps. So, yeah, I’m pretty sure the number of superintendents using smartphones to help them manage their golf courses is up in the 99-percentile range now. And the companies that supply us with the things we need are well aware of this fact.
Mobile apps are popping up in every area of golf course management. Although many of them seem a tad frivolous, others are worth taking a hard look at. A good example of apps that can help most superintendents can be found with two of the bigger players in golf course management: John Deere and Toro.
2016 saw more usable apps than ever before crop up, and we can expect more of the same in the coming year.
5. 8-inch Special Event Cup. OK, thought I’d pick one new 2016 product to rave about. I love Standard’s big cup. It’s deeper (6 inches deep), which keeps balls from bouncing out, and never before has cutting a big cup been so easy.
In 2017, the course I work for plans on expanding our offerings of big cups to outside tournaments. In the past we just offered the big cup for putting contests on the practice green. But we have plans to actually offer the cups on each green for any tournaments that want to try something new and fun.