Next Generation Thinking

The wheelhouse is one’s area of interest or expertise. Or, in baseball, the area in which it’s easiest for the batter to hit the ball with the most power. Or, in nautical terms, an enclosed area on a boat or ship that houses the steering wheel. Call it what you want, most GCBAA members have tremendous power in their wheelhouse. And most golf course builders will be hard-pressed to rely on old tools and tactics in the years to come.

The needs, capabilities, and impacts of your wheelhouse will define the next generation of golf course development, construction, and re-construction…and the future success of your company.

Changing Needs

Planners and developers of new golf projects require greater accuracy, time adherence, and financial discipline. Investors and planners in new golf projects will allow for less uncertainty in golf course construction projects. Likewise, most such companies are well-stocked with smart young MBAs chomping at the bit to demonstrate their intelligence and capability. Golf course builders will be caught in the middle when the client’s financial and planning team is more sophisticated and capable than that of the builder.

Golf course builders will need formidable skills in the following capabilities, in addition to others:

  • Financial Forecasting and Estimating – Developers and bankers will look more and more at construction estimates from golf course builders, who are most current and familiar with supply chain influences and exceptions. Financial houses of bankers, investors, and analysts will require greater accuracy and transparency from builders.
  • Data Management and Analytics – GCBAA members must establish the baseline metrics that define the business segment around golf course construction. Participants – from legal to financial – will rely upon GCBAA metrics when these metrics are shown to be category standards of best practice. For example,
    • Unit-Count Measurement – Helping all parties to understand the financial structure which relies upon unit-count accuracy – such as the number of square feet of turf being required and used or the cost per foot of irrigation components.
    • Unit-Cost Pricing – Increased transparency will be beneficial and demanding for golf course builders who must develop pricing and budgeting take-offs on which all parties can rely…and will contest until proven to be the standard of best practice.
    • Real-Time Tracking – Builders will be asked to provide in-process financial updates which identify unexpected and / or unbudgeted disruptions to the previously established construction costs and financial projections.
  • In-Process Project Management – There will be no “black box” in which golf course builders can work and from which they will emerge with final billings. Investors and bankers will require in-process financial updates and communications from the builder. These communications will tie directly to pre-set measurement metrics and require timely updates and in-process financial revisions.

New and Emerging Capabilities

Future golf course projects are already changing in scale and scope. Investors, lenders, and project developers are requiring more timely and accurate estimates of costs. They will demand in-process communication that reduces last-minute changes to financial projections and agreements.

Builders have begun to invest in technologies that enable efficient process and project tracking. Among the capabilities that will be required in the rising generations of golf course construction projects are:

  • Locational and topographical modelling which will enable developers and investors to “see” what the eventual terrain may be. People who lack experience or understanding of golf course construction will want and need three-dimensional models to ‘show’ them what the golf course designer and the builder envision for the golf facility. Note that changing hole counts and courses with various scale will demand sophisticated fiscal management.
  • Financial projection software which enables side-by-side comparative analysis of financial alternatives and impacts. Investors, lenders, and owners will seek ever increasing understanding of their projects and the cash requirements of the builder. Builders who anticipate and serve this new-found need will enjoy continued demand and project capacity.

Enduring Impacts of a Fortified Wheelhouse

Many of the needs and expectations that will be placed before golf course builders will be too much for those who prefer the comfort of familiarity and “doing like we’ve always done it.” Although holding on to outdated practices may feel safe or comfortable, reliance on this approach will serve as a competitive disadvantage to golf course builders.

Next-generation builders will bring new energy, practices, and expectations for GCBAA members. Among the advantages to be gained are:

  • Supply-Chain Advantage – Suppliers have their own pressures so keep your needs highly transparent and time-driven. Advance planning will give golf course builders more reliability within their own supply chains while enabling more gratifying outcomes for all stakeholders.
  • Market Differentiation – Some builders will be slow to adopt new technologies while adapting to the new normal described here. Those who are early adopters will be rewarded with more business through market differentiation and advanced capabilities.
  • Segment Leadership – Changing demands, emerging opportunities, and the passage of time combine to disrupt the business segment overall. Golf course builders who lead the way to embrace new opportunities will benefit.

“That is certainly in our wheelhouse.” A statement made by so many builders will mean vastly different things a few years from now. Developing a more robust range of tools and talents is the key to expanding the influence of your wheelhouse.

This article appeared in the Summer 2023 edition of Earth Shaping News, a quarterly newsletter published by the Golf Course Builders Association of America.