When Jason Fawcett, president of Elizabeth River Landscape Management in Suffolk, Va., had the opportunity to get involved with golf course management, he decided to take the leap. He says it has not only been a fascinating learning experience but a division that is a good fit for the business.
“The golf course business is a truly different beast and poses a lot of unique challenges,” Fawcett says. “Only 15 percent of all golf courses in America are profitable so we knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy undertaking. But when we had the opportunity to get our feet wet with a course that’s close to our corporate office, we decided to tackle it. We wanted to see if it was a niche that would be a good fit for our business.”
Although there’s been a steep learning curve, Fawcett says they’ve definitely learned that golf course management is a strong fit for the business. The course that Elizabeth River took over has 36,000 rounds of golf played on it each year. In a matter of only 60 days, Elizabeth River has moved the C-minus graded course forward to the point where it is now a B-plus. “That was working through very hot weather and with very little experience so I believe that by the time we have a year under our belt, the course will be incredibly strong,” Fawcett says.
But that effort was with a lot of hard work – and much to learn. “I’m still learning more about the many facets of the business,” Fawcett admits. “While you can mow any client’s property at three p.m. in the afternoon, you certainly can’t do that with a golf course. You have to learn how to put your mowers through tee times and learn how to accomplish hand-watering greens. All of this needs to be done while they’re playing golf – because if golf isn’t being played, money isn’t being made.”
Fawcett attributes much of the company’s success to having a key employee on board who has worked at Kings Mill Golf Course at Kings Mill Resort in Williamsburg. “Having someone with a golf background has been a tremendous asset,” Fawcett says. “He knows how to prepare a golf course with a golfer’s mindset. There is just so much to manage – from the sandtraps to cutting and rolling the greens. But we’re learning with a lot of his help. We now have three other golf courses that have made aggressive moves to sign up with us because of the work we’ve done so far.”