Middle Ground, Turning that 3 into a 6 in your Backyard

Middle Ground Master Plan

As Golf moves along in a new century particularly in the US we have to ask ourselves, is there a ‘’Big World Theory’’?  I was under the impression that the ‘’Big World Theory’’ meant there were more than a few choices to choose from.   We now have ‘’member for a day courses’’ or “upscale public’’ that didn’t exist 30 or so years ago.   The new fad, ‘’Destination Golf’’, is building good-great courses on really good sites in predominantly low populated areas and it has taken off.   Our choices are improving in some senses.  This seems very obvious as to why it’s successful in today’s culture.  Many younger and older folks are unable to make the simplest commitments to play in work leagues or foot big bills at their local private club.  The other question that needs to be asked, are there quality local course(s) with very good value that golfers can justify playing due to the value offered?  Some cities and towns the answer is a yes, others it is no.

I believe we have turned a blind eye to some courses in our backyard that would benefit greatly from a full out renovation.  Courses particularly with good change of elevation, a decent routing, poor mowing lines, and tree problems creating turf problems which lead to poor conditioning.  We have all witnessed many top tier affluent private clubs renovate their course and a waiting list has ensued.  What I find in short supply for the longest time, is private/high quality/ Aussie club models in the US.  Some cities in the US already have really good public options and make my suggestion much less viable.  An alluring aspect of a member private club is the members know the course and in theory and reality play faster.  When I started looking at the Aussie models, I started asking questions.  Why can’t we have more members, with smaller dues?  Why do some UK clubs outsource their F&B, yet we seldom do?   Why does one keeper maintain a course so well with 1/3 of the budget he had at a prior club as an assistant?

Well there is a Golf course in my hometown and let’s give it a new name, Middle Ground, pun intended.  The course has really good change of elevation, a creek running through it, and it sits on around 100 acres.  It’s just screaming for a $3-4 Million Dollar renovation with new bold greens, new bent grass fairways, massive tree removal, 30% wider fairways, new single row irrigation, and re-routing of a few holes to take advantage of existing natural features currently not being utilized!  With the talent we have today with great Architects and the advancements in agronomy we have to ask ourselves are we making the most of it?  The options in my hometown for public golf is weak but there are many affordable public choices and the private golf options are expensive.  Most of the private courses are nowhere near worth the money they charge and their financial situations tell the story.   There is a population of 700,000 people within 25 miles of Middle Ground.  The experts say around 7% of people play golf, so that gives me a pool of 49,000 golfers to attract to Middle Ground.   I’d say that is pretty good pool to draw from and FOCUS ON.  I’ll get to the annual projections of revenues and expenses soon.

Common Ground a non-profit in Denver is an example of this, but the renovation was completed with money raised by the Colorado Golf Association and it’s a public facility.  Tom Doak and Co completed a new routing and a new irrigation system was installed all for $4 Million.  Common Ground does 30,000 rounds annually and offers a great value.   One of my home courses Radrick Farms, in Michigan does 30,000 rounds a year and has 700 individual members plus a portion of donate for access play.  The course is fiscally a net positive for the University of Michigan, sending surpluses back to the University annually.   Common sense, sustainability, local pride, and soul come to mind.  Both of these courses if privately owned could be very profitable, yet we overlook these opportunities in our backyard.

I understand that it is a lot to ask someone to risk their own Capital or take on debt from a bank.  I think they see some private clubs hurting and with $25 publics racing to the bottom with Golf Now as a scary time to invest.  There seems to be no Middle Ground, however every private club that built a new clubhouse in NW Ohio either was sold in a fire sale or went under.  Now with the idea of a clubhouse being open to the public, capital can be infused from leasing out to another party which takes the burden off the current owner in my opinion.  Had Middle Ground spent a million on the Golf Course and not a new clubhouse in 2005, it might have been a different story or at least more beneficial to the 2nd owner (The prior Clubhouse was much cooler too).   If current owners could attract additional investors for a private loan at around 2-3% interest rate for 15-20 years this could be viable.  It’s very important to convey the profitability of this idea by selling how important quality land is, the value of a great up and coming Architect, and a routing taking advantage of natural features while enabling ease for walking.   Golfers and investors are under the impression that quality courses cost a lot of money to maintain annually because the elite private clubs spend a lot.  Owners have in the past limited themselves to Architect’s closest to them geographically and have failed to do due diligence in finding talent and value when looking to hire an Architect imo.  That is not the case, if one digs deep and does their homework.  Many have overlooked the core asset which is the Golf course and diverted money into money pits.  This is easy to do when a club is member owned with too many chief’s.

With new turf grass improvements, one would have the ability to differentiate themselves from the rest and give us that Middle Ground we desperately need in many areas of the US.  New grass varieties today require less inputs and water while providing an improved surface and enhance the Golf course which is the core asset.  They shouldn’t just be considered for the elite clubs.  There are some really good Keepers out there that can deliver very good playing conditions with a small budget.  Getting rid of Irrigated rough will help with pace of play, add contrast, and save on maintenance costs.  Also keeping carts on fairways will help with thatch.   Having interesting greens (unlike the other 20 courses with flat greens) will interest many people into joining or becoming repeat customers.  Now one has a blank canvas to create interest on the greens.

I personally blame myself for not persuading those with the means to accomplish such a feat.  I feel that predominantly through profitability does one achieve sustainable results.  You can have quality Golf, fellowship, value, and club comradery, especially when there are fewer Chiefs & more Indians.

I think it’s time for us to think backyard, within 25 miles, inclusiveness, value, quality, fellowship, squash the caste system Golf gets associated with, bold ideas, profits enabling sustainability, inclusive member golf with public clubhouse, more individual members with smaller fees.

I’d like to thank Tom Doak, Craig Moore of Marquette GC, Paul Scott of Radrick Farms, Joe Hancock, Colton Craig (professional rendering of master plan), and Mike Young for assisting me with their past experiences and knowledge.

Here are some numbers to ponder for my proposed course,

Revenue (Golf Course)

600 Single Members x $2,000          $1,200,000

Outings/Monday public play                $175,000

Total                                                      $1,375,000

(Golf Shop)

Club Storage                                              $16,000

Cart fees  (10,000 x $20)                       $200,000

Merchandise                                            $100,000

Total                                                          $316,000

Revenue Total                                     $1,691,000


Expenses   (Maint)                               ($515,000)

Property Taxes                                        ($80,000)

Expenses   (Golf Shop)                       

Staff  (pro’s/bag boys)                          ($170,000)

Handicap                                                     ($2,500)

Education/seminars                                     ($500)

Cart Repair                                                  ($2,500)

Equipment                                                  ($2,000)

Building Insurance                                    ($3,500)

Work Comp                                                ($3,000)

Cart Lease                                                 ($20,000)

Cart Ownership                                        ($20,000)

Office                                                           ($2,500)

Waste Disposal                                          ($1,100)

Merch. COGS                                            ($70,000)

Phone/Internet/Cable                              ($1,000)

Supplies                                                       ($2,500)

Taxes                                                          ($11,500)

Payroll Tax                                                 ($13,000)

Unemployment Tax                                 ($11,500)

Electric                                                         ($3,000)

Water                                                           ($1,000)

Gas                                                                ($1,000)

Total                                                          ($342,100)

Expenses Total                                        ($937,100)


PROFIT                                                      $753,900


Grounds Budget
Director Wages 70,000
Assistant Director Wages 45,000
Mechanic 45,000
Grounds Staff Wages 72,000 3 @ $12/hr-8 months & 3 @ $10/hr-5 months
W/C Insurance 5,300
Hospitalization Insurance 30,000
Building Insurance 4,000
Payroll Taxes (9%) 20,880 9%
Unemployment Taxes 9,910 12.7% of first $9000
Gas, Diesel, & Oil 27,500
Gas Propane 1,500
Grounds Office Supplies 500
Course Supplies 59,145
Repair & Maintenance 35,000
Utilities – Water 3,000
Utilities- Electric 20,000
Waste Disposal 4,000
Telephone 1,800
Snow Removal 500
Education/Seminars 2,500
Dues & Subscriptions 1,400
Miscellaneous 500
Licenses & Fees 900
Insurance- Equipment 3,000
Insurance – Vehicles 1,900
Equipment Payments (Total) 50,000
TOTAL 515,235


Equipment Needs Quantity
Greens Triplex (Toro 3300) 2
Carbide tip Verticut reels 1 set
Spike reels 1 set
Brush reels 1 set
Roller Reels 1 set
Tees/Approach Triplex (Toro 3300) 1
Carbide tip Verticut reels 1 set
Fairway Mowers (Toro 5410) 2
Carbide tip Verticut reels 1 set
John Deere 4066R Tractor with Cab 2
Lastec 721 rotary mower (pull behind) 1
Wiedenmann Super 600 1
Toro ProCore 864 1
Turfco CR-10 Material Handler 1
Pronovost Dump Trailer 1
Toro Sand-pro 1
Toro 5800G Sprayer 1
Toro Sidewinder 3500D 1
Toro 648 Aerifier 1
Utility Cart (Toro Workman MDX) 2
Toro Workman HD 1
Turfco 1530 widespin Topdresser 1
Pull behind Brush (Groom-it)
Golf Carts 5
Turbine Blowers 2
Stihl Backpack blowers 4
Stihl Weedeaters 3
Stihl MS180/290/310 chain saws 3
Cup Cutter 2
Hand Tools rakes/shovels etc.
Drag Mats (CoCo fiber) 1


Course Supplies 2018


Fertilizer Quantity Price/unit Cost
(25-0-9) Andersons 85 $34 $2,890
(6-2-0) Classic Grade 40 $12 $480
(12-0-0) Photo Fuel 3.5 $190 $665
(46-0-0) Urea 41 $16 $656
Ferrous Sulfate 41 $24 $984
Turf Fuel Minors w/Fuel Kelp 9.5 $80 $760
Xchange 6.5 $115 $748
(2-0-16) Greens Phite Premier 2 $290 $580
Total $7,763


Lesco Three-way (cs) 5 $150 $750
Total $750


Daconil Action (case) 2 $400 $800
Secure (cost per 2.5 gallons) 0.5 $1,470 $735
Quali-Pro Chlorothalonil 720 flowable (cs) 23.5 $180 $4,230
Propiconazole generic (case) 12 $275 $3,300
Lesco Tracker Dye Indicator 3 $135 $405
Tank Cleaner 8 $20 $160
Recede Anti-foam (case) 2 $120 $240
Total $9,870


Snow-mold Fungicide
Enclave – QualiPro (cs) 19 $500 $9,500
Total $9,500


Wetting Agent
Revolution (30G drum) 1 $2,900 $2,900
Lesco Wet Plus (30 G drum) 1 $1,100 $1,100
Total $4,000


Growth Regulator
Trimmit 2SC (2.5 Gallon) 1 $1,010 $1,010
Pac-Low (1 gallon) 26 $175 $4,550
Total $5,560


Imidacloprid Generic (1 gallon) 12 $55 $660
Total $660


Seed/Divot mix
Bentgrass (Flagstick) 2 $275 $550
Jamestown II chewings Fescue 10 $90 $900
Total $1,450


misc.Hardware purchases $2,000
Topdressing sand 4 Loads $900 $3,600
Bunker sand $1,000
Topsoil (15 tons) 1 Loads $200 $200
Air comp. Rental 1 $1,500 $1,500
Logo Flags 36 $23 $828
Wood flagsticks 25 $100 $2,500
Laser Link Smarty (for top ferrule) 20 $28 $560
Cups 18 $25 $450
Wood bunker rakes 58 $40 $2,320
Tee towels (Package of 12) 4 $46 $184
Paint supplies N/A N/A $300
Turf paint 5 cases $40 $200
Course ropes and Posts (300) N/A N/A $500
Saftey Gear (ear plugs etc.) N/A N/A $300
Crew hats 10 $15 $150
Dew whips 2 $50 $100
Power washer rental 3 days $100 $300
Chain saw & chain parts N/A N/A $600
Hand tools (rakes/shovels etc.) N/A N/A $200
Drain Tile 2 $150 $300
Irrigation Heads N/A $1,500
Total $19,592


2017 Fall Fungicide Delayed payment
Total All Supplies $59,145
Total All Supplies minus Carry Over $59,145



April Granular Applications Product Rate Amount needed Setting
Tees 100/M (25-0-9) Andersons ½ # N/M 4 bags
Apps. 140/M (25-0-9) Andersons ½ # N/M 6 bags
Fwys 25/A (25-0-9) Andersons ½ # N/M 45 bags
Rough Wear areas (cart path ends etc.) (25-0-9) Andersons ½ # N/M 30 bags


November Granular Applications Product Rate Amount needed Setting
Greens 120/M (6-2-0) Milorganite Classic 1 # N/M 40 Bags
* Dormant application after T.D.


Greens Spray Applications Product Rate Amount/tank Needed
Greens Trimmit 0.4 oz./M 52 oz. 3.25 Gallons
*One tank to spray all greens Daconil Action ***4 Tanks*** 2 oz./M 260 oz. 8.2 Gallons
  Secure ***4 Tanks*** .5 oz./M 65 oz. 2 Gallons
  (12-0-0) Photo Fuel 2 oz./M 260 oz. 16.25 Gallons
1.5 gpm  200 gallons in tank Turf Fuel minors w/ fuel Kelp 2 oz./M 260 oz. 16.25 Gallons
8 tanks – 130/M per tank Xchange 4 oz./M 520 oz. 32.5 gallons
Greens Phite (0-0-24)  ***4 Tanks*** 2 oz./M 260 oz. 8.2 Gallons
Spray every 3-weeks Ferrous Sulfate 3 oz./M 25 lbs. 200 lbs.
a day or two after Maintenance Monday (46-0-0) Urea 0.08 #N/M 25 lbs. 200 lbs.
Revolution 4 oz./M 520 oz. 32.5 gallons
Lesco Tracker N/A 6 packets 48 packets

Additional Green applications

* Imidacloprid application 1 time 26 oz./A 80 oz. 80 oz.


Tee Spray Applications Product Rate Amount/tank Needed
Tees QP Chlorothalonil 720 flowable 2 oz./M 200 oz. 7.8 Gallons
*One tank to spray all Tees Propiconazole 14.3 1 oz./M 100 oz. 4 Gallons
2 gpm  200 gallons in tank Lesco Wet Ultra 3 oz./M 300 oz. 12 Gallons
5 times – 100/M per tank Tide Paclo 0.4 oz./M 40 oz. 1.6 Gallon
Turf Fuel minors w/ fuel Kelp 3 oz./M 300 oz. 12 Gallons
Spray Monthly following vertical mowing Ferrous Sulfate 4 oz./M 25 lbs. 125 lbs.
(46-0-0) Urea 0.11 #N/M 25 lbs. 125 lbs.
Lesco Tracker N/A 4 packets 20 packets

Additional Tee applications

* Imidacloprid application 1 time 26 oz./A 60 oz. 60 oz.


Approach Spray Applications Product Rate Amount/tank Needed
Approaches QP Chlorothalonil 720 flowable 2 oz./M 280 oz. 13.5 Gallons
*One tank to spray all approaches Propiconazole 14.3 1 oz./M 140 oz. 6.75 Gallons
2 gpm  280 gallons in tank Lesco Wet Ultra 3 oz./M 420 oz. 20 Gallons
6 times – 140/M per tank Tide Paclo 0.4 oz./M 56 oz. 3 Gallon
Turf Fuel minors w/ fuel Kelp 2 oz./M 280 oz. 13.5 Gallons
Spray Monthly following vertical mowing Ferrous Sulfate 4 oz./M 35 lbs. 210 lbs.
(46-0-0) Urea 0.11 #N/M 35 lbs. 210 lbs.
Lesco Tracker N/A 4 packets 24 packets

Additional Approach applications

* Imidacloprid application 1 time 26 oz./A 85 oz. 85 oz.


Fairway Spray


Product Rate Amount/tank Needed
Fairways QP Chlorothalonil 720 flowable 2 oz./M 600 oz. 94 Gallons
*Four tanks to spray all fairways Propiconazole 14.3 1 oz./M 140 oz. 47 Gallons
1 gpm  300 gallons in tank Tide Paclo 0.4 oz./M 128 oz. 20 Gallons
5 times – 300/M per tank Ferrous Sulfate 4 oz./M 75 lbs. 1500 lbs.
Spray Monthly following vertical mowing (46-0-0) Urea 0.11 #N/M 75 lbs. 1500 lbs.

Additional Fairway applications

* Imidacloprid application 1 Time 26 oz./A 180 oz. 6 Gallons
**Herbicide applications will be needed in the future
**Fungicide products will have to change in the future
**Imidacloprid will be needed in the rough also



Snow Mold Applications

Product Rate Amount/tank  
Greens/Tees/Apps/Fwys (33.5/A total) Enclave 8 oz./M 1600 oz. 94 Gallons
*7.5 tanks to Spray all surfaces Pac-Low 0.4 oz./M 80 oz. 5 Gallon
*One tanks covers 200/M or 4.6/A
1.5 gpm  300 gallons in tank


Product Inventory
Product Usage
(25-0-9) Andersons 85
(6-2-0) Milorganite 40
(46-0-0) Urea 41
Ferrous Sulfate 41
(12-0-0) Photo Fuel 3.5 cases 5 gallon cases
(0-0-24) Greens Phite 2 cases 5 gallon cases
Xchange 6.5 cases 5 gallon cases
Turf Fuel minors w/ fuel Kelp 9.5 cases 5 gallon cases
QP Chlorothalonil 720 flowable 23.5 cases 5 gallon cases
Daconil Action 2 cases 5 gallon cases
Secure 0.5 cases 5 gallon cases
Propiconazole 14.3 select 12 cases 5 gallon cases
Enclave (snowmold) 19 cases 5 gallon cases
Imidacloprid 3 cases 4 gallon cases
Lesco Three-way 5 cases
Trimmit 2SC 1 case 5 gallon cases
Pac-Low 6.5 cases 4 gallon cases
Revolution (30 gallon) 1 drum 30 gallon drum
Lesco Ultra Wet 1 drum 30 gallon drum
Recede Antifoam 2 cases
tank cleaner 2 cases
foam marker 2 gallons
Lesco Tracker (40/case) #025888 3 cases




Ben Cowan

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