The Sandpaper Washcloth

(this was published in the Sierra Nevada GCSA Chapter Newsletter this February. In light of some of the current discussions on the TurfNET Forum, I thought it might be good to port over here. Many thanks to Jim Alwine, the Sierra Nevada’s superior newsletter editor for asking me to write something for the chapter—DW)

Go ahead. Wash up. Just make sure you use that 80 grit sandpaper to get all the dirt off. That’s how a lot of us feel, when we talk about finances as it comes to the business of growing grass—like we’ve been scrubbed by sandpaper to be left with no dirt, or skin.

In my family, growing up, we didn’t talk about money much. My parents were kids of the Great Depression and to them, money wasn’t a subject that they wanted to engage in because they had been steeped and tea stained in an era of constant conversation about saving. They were frugal, not in debt and never did anything beyond their means. It was, actually, a pretty simple formula. So now that I find myself in the clutches of the Great Recession (not my term, I read it on Yahoo News), I don’t like it. And as I travel and visit with Turfheads, they don’t like it either. But, not liking something or being uncomfortable about something is no reason not to talk about it. I wish my parents would have understood this…but that’s the Personal Therapy article and I doubt I’ll write it for Turfheads alone.

Here’s the deal. If all of us are going through something, then it can’t be a bad thing to join hands and sing Kumbya about it. Right? Seriously, there isn’t anyone that I come in contact right now that isn’t saying something, in some way about the economy and the current economic crisis. It’s everywhere. It can’t be avoided. And for those of us in the recreation oriented business of Golf, there has been a dramatic impact. Let’s not get into Golf’s mistakes—Supply and Demand. The National Golf Foundation’s Storytelling. Revenue Projections Made up by Promotional Monkeys.  That stuff is just the used playdough of the blame game. Let’s spend a minute talking about the moment.

If I look at the reality of agriculture and horticulture—outspending hasn’t always meant better. My favorite organic strawberries are grown for very little. The best wines, come from poverty grapes.  My favorite golf courses in the USA and the World, spend less per acre than their numbered competition.


Reality of the current moment dictates one thing. That all of us do more with less.
Really. That’s what it comes down to. And if you look at that through the lapping compound of grinding it down to our level, it means that we are right in the middle of a version of Turfgrass Survivor—Outwit. Outplay and Outlast. This might be a better tactic than the previous strategy of Outspend, Outdo and Outbrag. If I look at the reality of agriculture and horticulture—outspending hasn’t always meant better. My favorite organic strawberries are grown for very little. The best wines, come from poverty grapes.  My favorite golf courses in the USA and the World, spend less per acre than their numbered competition. I visited a named and numbered “Top 10” facility once and the volume of the waste I was seeing was so distracting that it was hard for me to really see anything else. So we are fortunate, that growing things, doesn’t always stack exactly with the amount of money being spent.

Here’s what will happen to true Turfhead Survivors:

  1. They will learn to separate “wants” from “needs”.
  2. They will learn that when a need arises that some non-turfhead doesn’t understand, it’s time to educate and even use “the S word”….Sell.
  3. They will do cost/benefit analysis on every single thing that they do. Everything.
  4. They will learn and understand that Cost is a function of Price versus Value. Paying a low price for something and getting less from that purchase in return means that your cost just went up. And paying a little extra and getting a great result means something may not have cost as much. You can apply this to Labor, Consumables and even…Your Time.
  5. Survivors will, have a great product. A super I worked for as a young Turf Turk, always said that not having the basics done was no excuse. “Mow, Mow and Mow some More”, was but one of his mantras of not forgetting the basics.
  6. Necessity is the mother of invention. Find a way. If the price isn’t right, negotiate. If the job needs to be done quicker, find the right tool or person for that speed. If you can’t convince the powers that be to spend a little to protect their asset, get some help with your presentation. Be creative.

Would I choose a different economic climate? Sure. But would I miss the opportunity to learn, grow, invest and be stronger at the end of this? Never. The sandpaper hurts, but man, do I feel clean. And the skin will eventually grow back. And we will all be in better shape for it.

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