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Benchmarking on the R&A website

This article first appeared in On Course - Issue 28

Steve Isaac, Director - Golf Course Management, The R&A and Nick Park, R&A Golf Course Committee Panel Member explore benchmarking on the R&A.

The service

April 2008 saw the launch of a web-based benchmarking service on The R&A site This is considered a significant development in helping those managing golf courses to assess their level of sustainability, how a changing world impacts on costs and playability, and the way in which maintenance practices interact to affect the playing quality of turf.

What is it?

The R&A benchmarking service is available, free of charge, at it lets you:

  • Track your course's progress from year to year to see any trends or changes that occur.
  • Reference your course against similar courses. This is benchmarking in its truest form, with all data secure and anonymous.

How does it work?

If you have not done so already, register your course to the site and use the benchmarking system to collect data in these areas: 

  • Basic information such as weather records, rounds played etc.
  • Property profile (areas of land used for greens, fairways, roughs etc.)
  • Fertiliser use
  • Pesticide use
  • Water and energy use and waste management
  • Machinery, labour, materials costs
  • Playing quality (when tools, under development, become available) 

For those already registered, simply opt in to the benchmarking service once you have logged in.  An hour or two a month should be all it takes to keep your records up to date.

Reports, in the form of charts and spreadsheets, will be available once adequate data has been inputted.  

Why use the system?

The golf course is your prime asset.  Keeping a full record of greenkeeping activity is the first step towards analysing past operations - and getting the best from future decisions and actions.

We are in times of major changes; to the climate, an uncertain economic forecast, the impact of environmental regulations and concern over water supply and pesticide availability.  In order to monitor the effect of those changes, or preferably to assess how adjustments to your maintenance strategy is minimising any impact on playing quality, cost and environmental footprint, you need to use a system of recording information that can produce reports of value in assessing your sustainability. The R&A benchmarking service at will do just that.

What are the benefits for my course?

The major benefits come from being able to benchmark your course and review its economic, playing and environmental performance over time. The service also allows you to compare - anonymously - the performance of your course against similar ones in your own country and courses managing the same dominant grass species to greens.

The outcome of all course management should produce the best possible surfaces throughout the year.  In a competitive golfing market, the use of this service lets you show your members and customers that you are achieving this. 

An educational tool

Greenkeeper training often breaks course management down into individual operations.  The result of a single maintenance operation such as applying fertiliser, aerating a putting surface or mowing to present a tidy finish, may be obvious but there is interaction between all of these operations and the numerous others that make up a maintenance package. The benchmarking service on can be used by training providers to demonstrate:

  • The need to record information
  • The ease of computer input
  • The benefits of reporting from a factual base
  • The effect of maintenance practices, weather and other influences on playing quality.

Benchmark at

The sustainability of any business depends on management having a clear understanding of how they can minimise the risk from future changes to climate, regulations and costs.  Keeping records and being able to draw out useful conclusions from such data is a vital part of this process.  The R&A benchmarking service can be a valuable tool in developing such a risk assessment.

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