Electrification is Here Now What?

Over the years there have been quite a few hot topic key words used around the golf industry. Words like sustainability, Tier IV, hybrid, and now comes electrification. These words always end in a new way of doing buisness and some choose to adapt quickly, while others like to wait and see what happens first then adopt or adapt.

Unlike many that write articles these days I don’t get paid to have an opinion and am only influenced by data, things that improve our product that make sense, and the constant need to evolve within reason. I am of the opinion that if we are sitting still waiting on things to happen eventually they will just pass us by and we will find oursleves wondering how we got where we are. It’s how our industry ended up where we were in the 2000’s. We were destined to keep things the way they had always been and not evolve with the times, not look at our buisness and learn from the trends, to not pay attention to what was coming but to wait it out until finally players left the game, golf courses closed, budgets got smaller and we were left wondering what happened. I would encourage us to not make the same mistakes a second time around. Instead of being seen as late adapters why can’t we be early adopters? Instead of reacting to what happens what if we planned and strategized to grow our game? What if instead of waiting for someone else to do it we took those leaps to stay on the forefront?

I could be completely wrong here and I hope I am but I don’t think so. Lets look at a couple of key factors before we get into the reason for my post and I am aware that this will not be popular but it is the reality.

  • Fertilizer costs have risen since 2021 considerably.
  • Fungicides, Insecticides, etc have risen and another price increase is here or coming soon I have heard.
  • Shipping anything is rediculous right now.
  • Turf Equipment has risen by 30 – 40%+ from what it was 4 years ago.
  • Fuel prices continue to be uncertain.
  • Labor market continues to be a challenge and if you haven’t given your team at least a 7% raise you are behind and they maybe looking for other jobs.
  • Parts prices for turf equipment are beyond rediculous and this means we need to be shopping around.

These are just some of the factors that should have you really looking at what you are doing and trying to figure out how to do things differently or at least paying attention to whats coming. The time to do things like this is when no one is asking you to. It’s true most everyones rounds are up, people are spending money, and that is exciting for golf. However at somepoint all that profit or for some courses breaking even is going to come crashing down. It’s because those prices on items I listed above are eating at the profit and that can be tough to see until the next year. Signing the new lease for a 40% increase what happens in 4 years if rounds come down? I am not saying we shouldn’t be buying equipment but what I am saying is we should be picky about what we are buying so that in the next few years the club is in a good spot. Turning a blind eye to where things are certainly isn’t the right approach.

It’s great that the Golf Industry Show is back in Orlando and I am looking forward to seeing what new things have been developed over the last few years as it feels like forever since I have attended a show, while it was just before COVID began. Don’t think I had missed one in 18 years prior to that.

One of the things we are looking at this year is how do we implement new technology, add value and keep the club in a good place going forward and we think that electrification is key. While everything isn’t there yet we have been demoing the Husqvarna Autonomous mowers over the last few weeks and while at first the thought was well it might work good around the hotel and some rough areas around the clubhouse but probably not viable for the course. I have to say I think those initial thoughts are wrong. Having Husqvarna draw up a site plan to implement these mowers to mow just our rough would save us about 50k just on the mowers alone that doesn’t include labor, fuel, repair parts, services, technician time, etc. What I have seen this week, and I laugh because this little mower the 550 EPOS looks like it would take weeks to mow, is impressive but also simple. Here is a list of a few of the pros we noticed from the demo:

Pros

  • Quiet
  • No emissions
  • Can work about 20hrs a day
  • Height range can get down to the high .300’s I believe with their new blade disk but effective height is much lower.
  • Has an app so if something is wrong it sends you a notification.
  • Change the height from your phone.
  • Can mow rough then go mow fairways at different heights.
  • Can schedule when it works both time and day.
  • Members and Guests absolutely love it.
  • Not many moving parts
  • Blades changed every 3 weeks and are cheap under $20 for the machine.

Cons

  • Needs power to setup charging station
  • Needs base stations
  • Ceora model has a tough time with tight spaces
  • They can get stuck on heads and drains that are not leveled properly. (not sure thats a con we probably need to raise them)

So this is just one of the ideas we are looking into and while the stripping is something we certainly want to see on short grass when we spend the money on overseed during the winter maybe it makes sense to manage rough in teh winter and both rough and fairways during the summer so we can reallocate labor to landscape beds, projects, and details during them summer? These are the types of things that could make a big difference moving forward and while electrification is going to be that new buzz word over the next few years it is certainly something everyone should be thinking about now and use GIS to help figure out where we can get better and more efficient. I hope everyone enjoys their time in Orlando and at GIS and look forward to seeing you at the trade show later this next week.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ehYRXFaWcQ[/embedyt]

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