A recent land acquisition, a visionary management team, an informed membership and the written word are a winning foursome at Crane Creek Country Club.
Perhaps the only thing better than a club or resort property being able to acquire new land is acquiring it and having a management team with the vision to successfully make the most of the added acreage. Crane Creek Country Club in Boise, Idaho, is fortunate enough to have both.
Last year, when Crane Creek acquired an additional 17 acres from long-term members, the staff devised a plan that includes building two new holes on the golf course, doubling the size of the driving range, and expanding the clubhouse and parking areas.
The plan couldn’t move forward, however, without the support of the members. The club’s department heads knew they would need to take every opportunity to keep members in the loop, and found that the best way to get the plan in motion was to provide the details in writing.
Club Name: Crane Creek Country Club
Enter Crane Creek’s Certified Golf Course Superintendent, Adam Bagwell. In February he teamed with the club’s golf course architect to co-author an article, “From the Thick Stuff,” for the property newsletter, Crane Creek Crier.
“We have a preliminary design from the architect, and we wanted our members to be informed about the process,” says Bagwell.
The article promotes plans for the renovation and explains the effects of golf course architecture on golf course maintenance.
“When designing a golf course, architects choose grasses for contrast, build course features for aesthetics and playability, and factor in the size, configuration and number of each of the golf course components,” says Bagwell. “However, superintendents must consider the costs of maintaining the turf with the available resources, so it can thrive in the course location.
‘From the Thick Stuff’ explores the balance. It also lets members know what we considered, and how the architect and I interact.”
A Reason to Read
Crank Creek’s General Manager, Ben Hay, believes that Bagwell’s writing efforts have been vital in helping to achieve the club’s agronomic goals.
“We don’t write about the weather or what flowers are blooming,” Hay explains. “Instead, we offer members information about their club and their course, thus helping to set the stage for possible renovations.”
It also gives Hay peace of mind to see that Bagwell and the golf course architect are in sync. “They will work together to create a maintainable course,” he adds. “And throughout the process, they’ll share their strategies with our members.”
The February article was the first of a three-part series about the club’s long-range plans, says Hay, a Certified Club Manager and a PGA Class A Professional.
“In the first article, [Bagwell] gave the members and the greens committee the information they need to make a strategic decision,” he explains. Moving forward, Bagwell’s articles will not only prime the pump for renovations, but help to keep the membership apprised of the club’s regular course maintenance practices.
“The articles help the membership understand how and why we spend money and do things the way we do,” reports Bagwell, who also plans to start a turf blog on the club’s website. “I do a lot of studying, and I try to relay the information I gather into a format that members find interesting.”
The first article that explained how architectural concepts affect golf course maintenance, he feels, boosted his credibility as a superintendent. “It opened some minds in the membership,” he says. “[Members] don’t always know the thoughts behind the architecture, but we’ve been trying to educate them.
“The Board of Directors sets policy for the golf course, and the greens committee guides the maintenance staff,” he adds. “We have a positive membership in general. They’re open to new ideas, but everyone needs time to get used to changes. We hope they’ll see the benefits.”
Nestled in two valleys along the Boise foothills, Crane Creek’s 6,700-yard championship course features tight fairways, quick greens, and a pesky canyon that meanders through the 18 holes. With the option of playing four sets of tees, it offers a great experience for players of all ages and abilities.
In addition, Crane Creek has a 20-tee driving range that sees a lot of play.
Citing a recent Wall Street Journal article that says some people find golf too hard or too time-consuming, Hay believes a new driving range can offer much-needed services to the membership. “The driving range benefits players of all abilities, which helps our club’s goal of growing the game,” he explains.
Bagwell does not know when renovations on the 17-acre acquisition will get underway, but he hopes the project will unfold in the next two to five years. The renovation as planned will affect five holes on the back nine. The 10th hole would become the driving range; the 13th green would move to the 14th tee; the existing par-4 No. 14 would become a par 3 with a new green and new tees that would be moved forward; the 15th hole would be taken out of play, and the par-4 No. 16 would become a drivable par 4. Even though there are plans for two new holes, Bagwell says, the golf course will still have 18 holes when the project is complete.
When it happens, the renovation will not be the first upgrade to Crane Creek’s golf course. The golf course architect who collaborated with Bagwell on the article has been the property’s master planner since 2001, when the outdated, post-World War II bunkers were renovated and the third and 11th tees were redesigned. Since becoming Crane Creek’s superintendent in 2007, Bagwell has worked closely with the architect on other projects as well.
Education and Training: Bachelor of Science in turf science from Penn State University; currently enrolled in online Master of Science turf management program at Penn State
“I can tell him what needs to be where, so nothing interferes with our irrigation heads or drainage lines,” says Bagwell.
And, as they’ve learned, keeping members in the loop is equally important. “The members have a lot of questions when we do a project, but we’re trying to anticipate those questions and answer them before we even begin,” reports Bagwell.
The Main Attraction
While Crane Creek has an active social membership and other popular amenities, the golf course is the main attraction. “What we’re selling is golf, so we have to have proper conditioning of the golf course,” says Hay. “There are quite a few courses in the area, and I think our conditioning sets us apart.”
Native areas characterize the canyons and the outskirts of the par-71 course. And as one of four certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program courses in the state, sustainability is more than a buzzword at Crane Creek. The maintenance staff relies increasingly on electric equipment. “We use a lot less gas now, with the same performance,” notes Bagwell.
The staff also audits the irrigation system annually, to determine where adjustments need to be made. Maintenance staff members now use more efficient nozzles, and they have changed the way they program the irrigation system.
“We have 167 irrigation programs, so that gives us a lot of flexibility,” Bagwell reports. “We’ve gone from 64-percent to 74-percent distribution uniformity. The more evenly we apply the water, the less water we use.”
Even though the irrigation system and pump houses are 15 years old, Bagwell says the property has reduced water usage by 40 percent since 2008. The crew also limits the amount of fertilizer it uses.
Bagwell doesn’t limit his long-range planning to golf course renovation projects. He also has an equipment replacement plan to meet maintenance needs up to 2017, and has outlined a program to replace cart paths and to improve bunkers.
To keep golf operations running smoothly and long-range plans on track, Head Golf Professional Ron Rawls also works closely with Bagwell and Hay.
“We’re in constant contact about the golf course and member play. We need to make sure we’re accomplishing what we’ve set out to do,” says Rawls. “We need to provide the best member experience possible on a daily basis. This is their recreation and relaxation, and we need to anticipate and exceed their expectations.”
Rawls calls Crane Creek a progressive property that is committed to long-range planning, and in turn the department heads are committed to supporting the club and the Board of Directors. That same dedication spills over to the golf course personnel. He makes sure his staff is aware of the details of any project, from why it is being undertaken to how long it will take.
Bagwell also lets Rawls know how maintenance activities will affect play. “I’m always at the pro shop,” he reveals. “If we have a head leak on No. 17, I’ll let Ron know that there will be someone there to fix it for the next three hours.”
The superintendent is equally dependent on his staff. “We’ve built a good team, which gives me more time to manage,” he explains. “I can look at numbers and develop studies and educational articles.”
The club’s other department heads are also quick to delegate tasks to their staff members, he notes. “By delegating responsibilities,” Bagwell says, “the managers can look at the big picture.”
Annual Budget: About $900,000.