Ron Morgan of West Bend
operates a lawn mower as he cuts the rough between holes
No. 4 and No. 5 on Tuesday morning at West Bend Lakes
Golf Club. Morgan said he cuts the grass on nine holes
two times a week.
John Ehlke/Daily News
With an average of 150 acres of land and more than half
of that in maintained turf on 18-hole courses, it may
come as little surprise that maintaining a golf course
is the main cost for much of the golf industry.
cost can be broken down into three areas — chemicals,
equipment and payroll.
a year-to-year basis, fertilizer, fungicide and other
chemicals are the greatest cost other than payroll.
though equipment like mowers aren’t purchased as
frequently, it can pose a budgeting challenge for some
West Bend Lakes Golf Club owner Jim Merkel said at his
course he experiences about a 15-year turnover in
equipment, costing a bit more than $400,000.
“That’s basically $30,000 a year,” he said.
Marlene Kell of West Bend transfers hosta plants to a
cart to place elsewhere on the course as a golfer tees
off Tuesday morning at West Bend Lakes Golf Club.
John Ehlke/Daily News
Keeping up with the facilities and golf cart fleet
creates another large cost for many courses, and though
necessary, aren’t as much of a challenge.
According to Merkel and Washington County Golf Course
PGA Professional Clubhouse Supervisor Craig
Czerniejewski, the biggest factor in revenue challenges
less common challenge to a season mentioned by
Czerniejewski was economic hardship. He said the hobby
sport sees a drop in play during those times.
“Your expenses don’t go away when you shut down,” Merkel
said about rain out days. “We sell time.”
Czerniejewski said, “It’s kind of a give and take,”
adding cold and dry weather reduces some costs, but hot
and wet weather can mean more mowing and less golfing.
Even the threat of rain multiple days out can cause a
dip in golfers at the course on the day the rain is
“People made their plans two days in advance,” Merkel
said, adding some rainy days end up busy because of a
change in the forecast.
Some may think a bar and a pro shop could help offset
the cost of lost days, but this isn’t necessarily the
case. This would generally be the same for other revenue
sources like lessons.
Those areas of the business are “directly affected by
the number of golfers you have out there,” Merkel said.
“Usually it’s a spur of the moment thing.”
Weather, however, isn’t necessarily able to provide an
advantage to one golf course over another when they’re
in the same area, which means the courses also have to
compete for golfers.
Merkel said the open play, transient golfer is the
target market. He added they will typically play five or
six courses, but favor one.
This creates a need for marketing, but other than word
of mouth, Merkel said there is little agreement on which
method is best for the golf industry.
With about 15 other courses near his, Merkel said, “You
have to serve the people you’ve got or you’re not going
to make it.” He added this has become increasingly true
since the 1990s. At that time, courses were opening
often, but the trend has reversed in the saturated
This month, courses throughout Washington County will
each have a chance at selling more tee times with the
increased activity caused by the U.S. Open at Erin
With the championship being hosted within at least 40
miles of both the county course and West Bend Lakes Golf
Club, both Merkel and Czerniejewski expect a bump in
activity, at least for a few days.
<<RELATED: The Open is almost here