Long before the Great Recession of 2007 forced some golf course owners to worry about costs and their operations and maintenance budgets, golf consultant and turgrass expert Tom Mead of Traverse City, Michigan has been preaching and practicing sustainable golf - keeping costs down, preserving the environment, while producing golf courses that are enjoyable to play in the true spirit of the game.
Mead has never wavered in his belief that courses should be designed, built, and maintained as environmentally and financially sustainable as possible.
"Early in my career I learned that the spirit of the game and the financial and environmental aspects of the business are all compatible," he said. "Good economic decisions lead to good environmental decisions and vice versa."
That philosophy served him well during the 15 years he was a golf course superintendent, including a five-year stint at the nationally acclaimed Crystal Downs Country Club in Frankfort on Lake Michigan. Mead also saw that philosophy reinforced during years of association with the award-winning architect Tom Doak, and his Renaissance Golf Design firm.
Now after nearly 40 years in the business, Mead has opened his own firm, Sustainable Golf Solutions, LLC dedicated to helping clients achieve long-term financial viability in their golf operations.
"We will do that by developing financially realistic, sustainable course designs, practices, and standards for clients," Mead said. "The initial focus with clients is implementing sustainable design and maintenance modifications that will enhance playability of courses to reduce costs without interrupting play, or requiring capital expenditures."
His services include both golf and sustainability advice that addresses all of the key elements of a sustainable golf course business model.
"Sustainable Golf Solutions, as the name indicates, provides sustainable solutions and original ideas that save money, improve playing conditions and assure short and long-term financial success," Mead said.
His extensive background, from turfgrass management to planning, design, permitting and construction management services for new and existing courses, for Doak, as well as other nationally known architects, Tom Fazio, Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, and Arthur Hills, has given him invaluable and unique experience to help club owners transform their business.
"Current economic conditions are steering the game back to its origin, more connected to the natural world and local community, which I feel is our best chance for long-term financial viability," Mead said. "The courses that will survive and thrive five and 10 years from now will be the courses that invest in a new business model that is based on diminishing resources and less disposable income for golf."
Mead was a consultant to some of the country's most notable clubs. He was involved in creating fescue fairway and grow-in specifications for the Sand Hills Golf Club, in Mullen, Neb., and Whistling Straits Golf Club at Kohler, Wis. His extensive renovation work is exemplified by bunker restorations at Camargo Club, Cincinnati, Ohio and Inwood Country Club, Inwood, N.Y.
He holds an undergraduate degree from Indiana University and completed the Turfgrass Management Program at Michigan State University.
Sustainable Golf Solutions is represented by Dave Richards from Resort & Golf Marketing of Bloomfield Hills Michigan, a company with 29 years experience marketing and promoting resorts, golf courses, architects and tourism destinations. The company has participated in the development and opening of more than 150 courses, many of which they were involved with from inception to grand opening.