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Creating a New Model -- Northern Exposure

Written by Steve Eubanks

Multi-course management companies have been around for decades, so long in fact that most owners look at them with a jaundiced eye and ask, “What can you do that the other guys can’t?”

For New Jersey-based Applied Golf, the answer is simple: They don’t send minions to manage your problems. You get the owners of the company, who swarm your operation and make changes and improvements personally.

“The key to it is being on the ground,” says principal partner Dave Wasenda, an industry veteran who has been in the golf business for more than two decades. “It’s one thing to be the manager of a manager who is on the property. But the horsepower of our principals is the game-changing element. When we say we’re coming in, we’re not sending a regional manager to your property—you’re getting us. We’ll come in, be at your facility, and use our experience to change things on the ground.”

That specialized approach limits Applied’s geographic reach as well as its ability to take on too many new projects. The company currently manages 12 clubs, primarily in New Jersey and surrounding areas with a few outliers. But Wasenda views those limitations as assets. He’d rather make his existing customers happy than take on too many projects and leave someone unsatisfied.

“The owners are ecstatic that they have a business they can count on,” he says. “We have some huge benchmark successes—golf courses that were losing $400,000 a year a few years ago that are now cash-flowing $300,000 a year. That’s a big thing for this industry during this time.”

How did they do it? Wasenda likes to reference the “four buckets” of a golf course operation: revenue, sales, payroll and other expenses.

“We drill down into each bucket and do a forensic analysis of the business, then we present opportunities to make improvements on all the buckets,” he says. “[With] some, you’ll hit a single or a double, and some you’ll find a home-run by streamlining expenses, improving quality or service at the facility, or by using expertise and relationships to market correctly.”

It’s a decidedly different approach than some management companies employ, to be sure, yet it’s a strategy that’s working for Wasenda.

“Anybody can come in and slash expenses,” he says. “We believe in enhancing service and revenues by keeping the customers and the owners happy. It’s hard work, and you have to be there on the ground to do it.”

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