Daryl Sellar has been involved in the Golf Course and Turf Management industry for over 22 years, completing his Masters Degree in Turf Management in 1999. During this time, he has been actively involved in course preparation for tournament, membership, corporate and public use.
From 2000 - 2007, Daryl oversaw the successful redevelopment of Glenelg Golf Club in Adelaide as Course Superintendent, with a strong focus on the creation of a sustainable course, including the development of an Aquifer Storage and Recharge Scheme as part of a Water Management Plan. In 2006, Daryl received the AGCSA’s (Australian Golf Course Superintendents’ Association) Excellence in Golf Course Management Award, and the inaugural Golf Digest Superintendent of the Year Award. He now provides Golf Course Management advice to Glenelg and other golf clubs through his own business, Turfwise Consulting, as well as other sectors of the turf industry. Daryl has represented the Turf Industry on the South Australian Government’s Urban Water Drought Reference Group, as well as a Horticultural Industry advisory group to assist Government and SA Water in developing sustainable water use practices within the community. In addition, he is the Human Resource and Best Practice Manager for the AGCSA and also a Turf Management Lecturer at Urrbrae TAFE in Adelaide.
Daryl’s golfing background, which saw him represent South Australia at senior and junior level as well as Australia as a junior, enables him to look at the challenges of golf course management from both a golfing and greenkeeping perspective.
What is sustainability?
Sustained: 'maintained at length without interruption or weakening'.
'Sustainability is an economic, social, and ecological concept. It is intended to be a means of configuring civilization and human activity so that society and its members are able to meet their needs and express their greatest potential in the present, while preserving biodiversity and natural ecosystems, and planning and acting for the ability to maintain these ideals indefinitely. Sustainability affects every level of organization, from the local neighbourhood to the entire globe. It is a sometimes controversial topic.
Put in simpler terms, sustainability is providing for the best for people and the environment both now and in the indefinite future.' In the terms of the 1987 Brundtland Report, sustainability is: "Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs." Source: Word IQ.com
What does it mean?
“What does sustainable golf course management mean to me? This is a very complex discussion, but one that is critical to the future of our industry. I like the definition above as it highlights the interaction of the numerous elements that influence the sustainability model, and I think many of these are overlooked in terms of long-term golf course management.
The following is a brief overview of the concepts I believe influence sustainable golf course management:
The term sustainability usually evokes images of the environment, and the ways in which our courses interact with it. Do we impact positively or negatively through our management practices on the environment (water, soil, air, flora, fauna etc.) within and outside our boundaries?
The golf industry in Australia has learned a great deal over the last decade about these impacts, and through the development of the Australian Golf Course Superintendents’ Association (AGCSA) Environmental Initiative and the e-Par Environmental Management System, we have some wonderful resources to assist us promote and increase the positives, while reducing the negative risks.
The initiatives above have been a necessary response as our industry, like others, faces increasing public scrutiny over the management of our courses. More than ever, society believes that we are merely custodians of our parcel of land, and that if we do not manage it responsibly for the benefit of the wider community, now and into the future, there will be consequences.
This attitude is reflected in the increasing regulatory pressure being placed on golf courses, that is now seeing compliance management taking precedence in decision making over cost saving.
There is a whole new budget line appearing; compliance cost.
However, this conflicts with the financial reality of the golf market at the moment, where almost all clubs are facing challenges to maintain traditional membership bases, and are having to diversify their income streams to balance the books. This usually brings with it a new set of operational costs and responsibilities, with many clubs not structured to deal with the increased workload.
Typically, capital investment in the golf course is one of the first areas sacrificed to meet tightening financial conditions, and we are now seeing many clubs suffering from compromised asset management, with significant investment (e.g. irrigation systems, maintenance facilities) now required often placing clubs in considerable debt.
At the same time, maintenance budgets have tended to plateau, yet expectations of course conditioning seem to be continually increasing. The most common challenge for Superintendents is the one of time management in meeting growing expectations. Golf courses are notoriously labour intensive areas to manage, and with wages and salaries typically accounting for 50% of maintenance budgets in Australia, staff numbers are often called into question in tough times.
Superintendents and their teams have done outstandingly well to meet these expectations under the circumstances, but we are getting close to breaking point, and something has to give if we are to be truly sustainable in these management areas.”
But what can change?
“Golfers now have a market that allows them greater choice of where to play, and course conditioning and presentation is now more critical than ever in attracting and retaining golfers. The sense of loyalty to a golf club is becoming a thing of the past.
Many courses are now facing serious survival challenges, as the gap between the ‘haves and ‘have nots’ appears to be widening.
Yet the smaller clubs often provide a glimpse into the future, as they manage with fewer resources with more realistic expectations of course conditions. Perfectly playable, greatly enjoyable, just different. Golfers need to learn to appreciate the game for the game’s sake, not just the condition of the playing surfaces.
Superintendents should play an active role in educating the golfers about realistic expectations for course conditioning, but it needs the support of the golf administrators, professionals, architects and figure heads within the game to understand the true cost of producing what they want. It may also require some of us to swallow our own pride too, in an effort to manage courses more sustainably.
Golf course architects have a huge role to play in the sustainability debate, as many designs (especially bunkering) place unrealistic pressure on the resources of a club, most commonly in the area of time (human resources). We need to work with architects to do ‘more with less’, using the attributes of the site more effectively, rather than constructing features that consume disproportionate amounts of time to maintain. Sounds like a return to the past!
Superintendents can assist this process greatly if allowed to be involved from the outset of any design work. The choice of turf varieties alone can have an enormous bearing on the sustainability of an architect’s design, along with an understanding of soils and water quality.
Golf clubs need to be very clear about their expectations for the course. The development of a vision for the course allows strategic and business planning to be implemented more effectively, and if documented, can provide greater consistency in the inconsistent world of club Boards and Committees. Superintendents are going to need the management skills to justify their decisions to Boards, Committees, golfers, staff, the community and regulators. Increasing regulatory pressures will directly, or indirectly, see the goal posts continue to move in terms of our accountability for our actions. There will be costs (financial and/or time) associated with these obligations, and we need to understand the impacts these have on our budgets and financial plans, and potentially on the presentation and condition of the course.
It is said that to manage you have to measure. More than ever, the cycle of planning, implementation, monitoring and reviewing is essential if we are to be sustainable with our management practices.”
Can it be done?
“Sustainable golf course management requires consideration of all these aspects, but in far greater detail than discussed here. I firmly believe it is achievable, but education and planning have a huge role to play if courses are to meet the objective of meeting the needs of the golfer with a positive impact on the environment, within the financial means of the club and the game.”
The view from the 13th tee at Glenelg Golf Club, showing the diversity of habitat which can be incorporated across a well-managed golf course.
Wetlands serve a valuable function in terms of water storage, ...
... while also providing important habitat for a range of different species, including aquatic birds.
A more integrated approach to managing golf courses can balance the needs of golfers against the growing financial, environmental and social pressures being experienced globally.