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TurfNet on Tour 2017: St. Andrews and BTME

2018 BTME trip announced... details available here.

Posted 09 October 2017 · 1,462 views

Download the trip brochure

Due to the success of our inaugural/trial trip to BTME in 2017, TurfNet will again host a delegation to BTME in January, 2018! Download the pdf for full details.


Dates of the trip are Thursday, January 18 (overnight departure from USA) to Friday, January 26 (morning/afternoon return flight).


We have a housing block booked for 16 people at the Harrogate Lifestyle Apartments across the street from the conference center. No shuttle busses!


Cost is $1750 double occupancy or $2300 single occupancy (only four available), plus airfare and incidentals.


Our housing block guarantee expires November 1. Firm commitments need to be made before then, on a first-come/first-served basis.




Questions? Contact Jon Kiger or Eleanor Geddes. Ready to book? Contact Eleanor Geddes at 404-461-9602.

Thursday at BTME: Trade show and Moortown Golf Club, an early Ryder Cup venue

Posted 24 February 2017 · 1,026 views

Most of the education at BTME ended Wednesday and that left a final day for us to visit the trade show in Harrogate's Exposition Centre. As mentioned before in this blog, the BTME show is on a smaller, more manageable scale that the GIS.


We decided to visit a few familiar companies as well a few companies that may have been new to the group. Visits to both Bayer and Syngenta were the real eye-openers as we learned how relatively few chemicals European greenkeepers have to work with. Bayer's UK Head of Sales for Turf and Amenity products in the UK, Neil Pettican, explained that there are virtually no insecticides available to superintendents there.


The group with Bayer's Neil Pettican.


The group visited STRI the primary research agency in Europe. Their main testing facility is nearby.


We stopped by the Aquatrols booth and learned from Paul Lowe about the products that are in use in the UK and other areas of Europe.


STRI's Scott Allen tells the group about the types of research done on turf in the area.


Paul Lowe shares details on the European market for Aquatrols.


Terry 'Red' Plemons showed the True-Surface line of rollers.  Also in the booth was Arjen Spek, European specialist for Foley United, who showed the group some features on the Foley line of products.


Terry "Red" Plemons at True-Surface


Foley United's Arjen Spek shows of some features of their latest grinder.


In the "new to us" category we learned about many of the features of the Baroness line of mowers from Adam Butler their UK Sales Manager. The manufacturer has greater penetration in Europe than in the US.


Adam Butler introduces the group to features on the Baroness line of mowers.


After visiting Baroness we caught up with Royal County Down's course manager, Eamonn Crawford. Royal County Down is a favorite during TurfNet trips to Ireland and Eamonn shared some background on what he does to maintain the No. 1 ranked course in the world.


Visiting with Eamonn Crawford of Royal County Down.


Before leaving the exhibit hall we stopped by the Better Billy Bunker stand to say goodbye to our St. Andrews host Andy Campbell. Andy is already working on the arrangements for TurfNet's Members Trip to Scotland in October.


We stopped by the Better Billy Bunker booth to say our goodbyes to our St. Andrews host Andy Campbell.


After a quick lunch at Harrogate's Five Guys (which is exactly like any Five Guys in the US) some of us took a short taxi ride to the Moortown Golf Club near Alwoodley. An Alister Mackenzie design, Moortown was the first European location to host the Ryder Cup which it did in 1929.



Ben Leeming, one of the deputy greenkeepers, showed us around the course and Secretary Peter Rishworth showed us the club's extensive collection of Ryder Cup memorabilia. There is also a little-known second Ryder Cup that was presented to the ladies of the club by Samuel Ryder for providing the catering for the event.



Peter Braun and Matt Gourlay chat with John Greenwood, Michael Joyce and Ben Leeming from Moortown Golf Club.


The Ryder Cup at Moortown Golf Club.


The evening was somewhat understated as many of the UK-based attendees had already headed home and we had to pack up for early flights out of nearby Leeds. We reflected on our time together over dinner at Montpelier, a traditional UK pub.


I would be remiss at this point if I didn't give a shout out to the St. George Hotel our home base for the week in Harrogate. Friendly, helpful staff, comfortable rooms, a nice lobby bar, and an overall "can do" attitude made for a great home away from home. The only question is how many more rooms we'll need for next year's conference. 


The St. George Hotel in Harrogate

Wednesday at Harrogate: Ryder Cup redux, show mentoring and UK Beer & Pretzels

Posted 10 February 2017 · 876 views

Ryder Cup Round Table and a Chance to Mentor a Young Greenkeeper from the UK. Not to mention a UK twist on TurfNets Beer & Pretzels


Wednesday brought another full house to Royal Hall with an Opening Session featuring five Ryder Cup superintendents. The group spanned the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor to the upcoming 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris. Participants included Jim MacKenzie (2010 Celtic Manor), TurfNet Member Curtis Tyrrell (2012 Medina), Steve Chappell (2014 Gleneagles), TurfNet Member Chris Tritabaugh (2016 Hazeltine), and Alejandro Reyes (2018 Le Golf National.)


Five Ryder Cup superintendents: Jim MacKenzie, TurfNet member Curtis Tyrrell, Session Host the BBCs Naga Munchetty, Steve Chappell, Chris Tritabaugh, and Alejandro Reyes.


The superintendents shared what they learned from Ryder Cups previous to their own and also gave insight as to how they put their own stamp on the event. These individuals should be familiar to visitors to TurfNetTV as three of the five have been featured in our Ryder Cup coverage: Jim MacKenzie, Steve Chappell, and Chris Tritabaugh.


TurfNet member Curtis Tyrrell (Medina) and Steve Chappell (Gleneagles) during the Ryder Cup presentation


I met young superintendent Michael Mead when he was in Tony Girardi's classes Sunday and Monday. He mentioned he could use some help navigating the trade show so I met up with him and we spent the morning visiting his existing and some potential suppliers. Read the entire story of his experience here


I spent the morning helping young greenkeeper Michael Mead (left) from Littlehampton Golf Club navigate the trade show. Here he gets some maintenance tips from Chas Ayres of Wiedenmann UK. 

Most of the TurfNet group took advantage of the many free educational sessions, and a few even sat in on my presentation on Interviewing techniques.


When we decided to bring a group over to 2017 BTME it made sense to host a reception in Harrogate where our friends at the conference could meet with the assembled TurfNet members. We received excellent service Wednesday afternoon from the staff and management of Henry's Bar at The Crown Hotel. It very much had the feel of an international version of TurfNet's Beer and Pretzels.


We were honored that BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton attended and shared his thoughts on having our group at BTME. "I've truly enjoyed seeing all of you attend classes and get to know your counterparts here. When Jon Kiger came to us this idea last year we had no idea it would be so successful so quickly."


UK greenkeeping legend Walter Woods (left) chats with Eddie Connaughton. 


Peter Braun and Tribal Magic's Gregg Patterson chat with BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton at TurfNet's reception in Harrogate


Young greenkeepers Stefan Carter (headed to Augusta National Golf Club in June) and Dave Stewart (BIGGA's Young Greenkeeper of the Year) enjoy a laugh at the TurfNet reception.


Medina's Curtis Tyrrell and Milliken's Cordie Morgan catch up at the TurfNet reception.


The Open Championships were well-represented at the TurfNet reception. Gordon Moir from St. Andrews Links (2nd from the left) Craig Boath (2nd from the right) and Sandy Reid (left) - both from Carnoustie catch up during the reception. 


Tuesday: Revisiting Golf in Rio, and Matthew Wharton Receives his MG

Posted 02 February 2017 · 840 views

Tuesday in Harrogate started with a General Session in Royal Hall featuring Olympic Golf Course Superintendent Neil Cleverly and International Golf Federation representative Anthony Scanlon on the main stage. The session was moderated by the BBCs Naga Munchetty. Cleverly is no stranger to TurfNet as he was interviewed during the Olympics when TurfNet was the only turf media on the ground during the games. Read the interview here.

Neil Cleverly (left)giving additional insight on Building and Maintaining the Olympic Golf Course


The BBCs Naga Munchetty leads the General Session on the Olympic Golf Course


TurfNet member Rodney Hine of Boston Golf Club (Hingham, MA) was also familiar with Neil from his work with architect Gil Hanse. The one-hour session gave additional insight into the challenges of building and maintaining a golf course in a country with virtually no history of golf.


The next evening Neil Cleverly joined us for dinner for more behind the scenes stories on his experiences in Rio.


After another full day of education, BIGGA brought everyone back to Royal Hall for the Opening Reception. The fast-paced ceremony included many award-winners from around the UK, but we were especially pleased to be on hand when TurfNet member Matthew Wharton (Carolina Golf Club, Charlotte, NC) received his Master Greenkeeper certification.

TurfNet member Matthew Wharton receives his Master Greenkeeper certification


The group was quick to congratulate TurfNet Member Matt Wharton on his BIGGA Master Greenkeeper certification.

Neil Cleverly and Stefan Carter (seated next to Rodney Hine) join the TurfNet delegation for dinner Wednesday night.


Rodney Hine of Boston Golf Club and Neil Cleverly catch up over dinner. Rodney knew Neil from his work with Gil Hanse.

Monday Education at BTME

Posted 26 January 2017 · 966 views

Some members of the BIGGA staff outside the Royal Hall (below) preparing to welcome attendees to the daylong Turf Managers Conference.


Monday morning saw many more UK-based attendees in the education sessions. Most of the TurfNet group attended the Turf Managers Conference in the historic Royal Hall. The Turf Managers Conference is an all day session with three technical (turf) sessions and three management sessions. Lunch and two coffee breaks facilitated additional networking.


One of the most popular and energetic presenters on the day was Gregg Patterson President and CEO of Tribal Magic! Gregg spent many years as General Manager of The Beach Club in Los Angeles. His presentation dealt with Forging the Greenkeeping Team.


Gregg Patterson presenting Forging the Greenkeeping Team at the Turf Managers Conference.


Tony Girardi had another all day class with Lorna Sheldon. This one involved Delivering Your Message With Impact. With only one other attendee in the class they both received plenty of individual help and guidance.


Matt Gourlay asks a question during Mondays Turf Managers Conference in the Royal Hall.


With the trade show opening Tuesday morning, the exhibitors were in the final stages of load-in. Given the smaller halls and narrow streets of Harrogate, special care and attention were needed to accommodate all the exhibiting companies.



One thing that stood out (in a good way) about the preparations for the trade show was the policy that ANYONE inside the trade show had to wear a high-visibility vest or jacket. Given the number of near misses with forklifts and the like that Ive experienced during the pre-opening hours of our trade show, I would agree this is an excellent idea to consider in the US.



Given the intense amount of education on Monday we met for a relaxing de-brief in the bar of our hotel before heading out for dinner at an American-themed diner called Damn Yankees. (You cant make this up)


The TurfNet group comparing notes and "rinsing out" after a day of education at BTME.

Sunday at BTME: Early-bird Education

Posted 17 January 2017 · 873 views

After our tour of Scotland and Ireland and the trip to Harrogate, it was time to get down to the business of learning.


It's only been a few years that BIGGA has offered education on Sunday. The thinking was that by extending the education into the prior weekend that attendees could get some education on a day that doesn't take them away from their home course.


Approximately 200 attendees (including the TurfNet delegation) started classes that day.


The six of us split up and took a variety of courses. I took a half-day session on Time Management from Shona Garner.


Shona Garner leads her class on time management.


Peter Braun took a bunker course from our St. Andrews host Andy Campbell.


Ryder Cup/Hazeltine reunion: Peter Braun, Ryan Moy, Brian Horgan, Chris Tritabaugh and multi-Ryder Cup volunteer Lee Strutt.


Tony Girardi took a full day session on Delivering Your Message with Impact with Lorna Sheldon. The class was very small just four participants including Natasha Repinskaja whom we met at St. Andrews Links and fellow first time BTME attendee Michael Mead (more on our activities with him in a future post.)


Lorna Sheldon helps Tony Girardi "deliver his message with impact" in Sunday's session.


At the end of the first all-day session, Tony Girardi dubbed it, "The best educational session I've been to in my career."


I was set to attend the Speakers Dinner at The Crown Hotel so the group was left to find a suitable place for dinner with the hopes of finding some coverage of the NFL Playoffs.


The Den seemed to fit the bill and even allowed us to catch up with two Carnoustie team members that we hadn't met during our visit to the course the previous Friday.


As the Green Bay/Dallas game went on past "last order" a few more "bob" in the tip jar kept the game on the TV and the bar open. 

Saturday: St. Andrews to Harrogate via the British Golf Museum and a distillery

Posted 15 January 2017 · 718 views

Saturday was Moving Day.


After Jim Malcolms musical sendoff and saying goodnight to our local guests Friday night, the group turned in relatively early in anticipation of getting on the road to Harrogate in the morning.


Departure was set for 10:30 after a brief tour of the British Golf Museum. The tour started with a nine minute tribute to Arnold Palmer which led to reflection on his impact on the game as well as the British Open. Simply put, the organizers of the British Open were indebted to Palmer when he brought his Army over to the UK for this major tournament. Increased crowds and immense popularity followed.


There were plenty of exhibits about the history of the game and the group took the obligatory photo with Old Tom.



The roughly four hour trip to Harrogate was to be broken up by a tour of the Glenkinchie Distillery in East Lothian, Scotland just outside of Edinburgh.


The production lines were closed for an extended period so they offered the group a new intimate tasting in the actual barrel warehouse. Photos inside the warehouse were restricted so trust us when we tell you it was both interesting and mildly intoxicating.



We arrived in Harrogate just after 6 PM and were greeted at our hotel by Sami Strutt, BIGGAs Head of Member Development. Sami presented the TurfNet delegation with their membership cards, pins and ties!


BIGGA Head of Member Development Sami Strutt, right, greets the group in Harrogate.


After a quick settling into the rooms it was on to find some of the NFL Playoff games. An American BBQ restaurant called The Pit filled the bill.


A special tip of the tweed cap to our driver on Friday and Saturday. Gordon Jenkins of St. Andrews Shuttle provided a luxury 8 passenger Mercedes van complete with a chiller, coffee service, and wifi. His quick wit made the trip fly by.


Gordon Jenkins © with Peter Braun and Tony Girardi.


Gordon also happens to be Scotlands biggest (only?) hockey fan so it only seemed appropriate to present him with a Team TurfNet t-shirt from the Golf Course Hockey Challenge.


Gordon Jenkins, happy hockey fan.


After three plus days of bonding and fun, it was time to get down to the business of the conference education.

Friday: Carnoustie, The R&A and a get-together

Posted 14 January 2017 · 782 views

Our pre-trip excursion was back on track with two planned visits on Friday... until we woke up to three inches of snow and ice that fell overnight.




Our driver for Friday and Saturday was well-equipped for the weather with winter "tyres" so he arrived as scheduled. We took a quick spin for a view of St. Andrews Links under snow cover and proceeded down the road to Open venue Carnoustie.



Our hosts for the morning were Carnoustie Links Superintendent Sandy Reid and Craig Boath, the Head Greenkeeper of the Championship Course. We enjoyed tea and coffee in the staff canteen and learned about the unique challenges of hosting The Open at Carnoustie.



After touring their maintenance facility we took a walk down the 17th and 18th fairways. Carnoustie is home to French golfer Jean van de Velde's collapse on 18 at the 1999 Open Championship. The site of his collapse is scratched into stones.


The Royal & Ancient Golf Club

Gordon brought us back to St. Andrews and it was time to dress up (coat and tie) for our pre-arranged tour of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.


Steve Isaac, the R&A's Director of Sustainability took us through the trophy room, the main members room, the balcony overlooking the first tee, and finally a stop to view the original Claret Jug trophy. As you can appreciate, photographs were restricted, but trust us when we say it was a once in a lifetime experience to have such access.



Andy Campbell invited us to join him at his club, The St. Andrews Club. We had a quick tour there before returning to the house for dinner.


We were joined by Andy and his wife Claire, Neil and Susan Ballingall (Billy was holding down the homefront), and Graeme Lennie and his wife Katie. One of the benefits of staying at the St. Andrews Golf House is the availability of the house kitchen. A chef was brought in to prepare a four course meal which we all enjoyed.


The entertainment on the night was provided by Jim Malcolm from nearby Perth. Jim is a friend of mine and has performed a number of times in Atlanta. In addition to singing many popular songs, he provided background stories on all aspects of the music. Jim enlisted the TurfNet delegation for one push down the ice to get him on his way. After such an entertaining night, we were happy to oblige.


The side trip to St. Andrews was a great way to spend a few days together before the main event at BTME in Harrogate. With our members taking their own set of classes we could very well be separated for most of our days at the conference.


Saturday morning we checked out of the St. Andrews Golf House and are on our way to Harrogate

The entire group together; worth the hassle of getting here

Posted 14 January 2017 · 940 views

Late nights at a pub can still be followed by early mornings and Wednesday morning was no exception. The TurfNet delegation left the Portmarnock Hotel and Links at half four (4:30AM) for the airport to catch the short flight to Edinburgh. Despite higher than average winds, the flight went off without a hitch.


The second travel snag of the trip (the first being snow in the US) came on the ride from Edinburgh to St. Andrews. Overnight a 40 tonne lorry (that's a big-ass truck in American English) ignored warning signs and tried to cross the Forth Road Bridge in Edinburgh a major thoroughfare that carries over 70,000 vehicles a day. His lorry blew over the divider of the bridge and onto the other side.


This meant our host Scottish host Andy Campbell took four hours to get to the airport (normally a 45 minute spin) and we took another three hours to get out to St. Andrews.


The smart ones were Rodney Hine and Bryce Fischer from Boston Golf Club who arrived in Edinburgh Tuesday for a visit with friend Graeme Lennie Head Professional at Balconie Links in Crail. (BTW, "Edinburgh" is properly pronounced "Edinburruhh" or more casually just "Edinb'ruh"... not "burg" like Pittsburgh.)


Upon arrival in St. Andrews we settled in to the St. Andrews Golf House a custom-built four bedroom home designed specifically for golf groups. It would be our home for our three days in Scotland.


In true TurfNet fashion, the group enjoyed these nice digs in St. Andrews. Beats the heck out of a hotel!


Our planned visit to Kingsbarns had to be postponed due to the late arrival so after a quick lunch Andy joined us for a walk around town. Andy led us into the cemetery that includes the Morris family memorial. Paying our respects to Old Tom was a fitting end to our first day at The Home of Golf.




A few pints at The Keys Pub (one of four pubs in town that let owners bring their dogs inside), a quick dinner at a local seafood restaurant and we were ready to call it a day.


Gotta stay hydrated!  The entire group together in St. Andrews.


Next up: The Home of Golf and the R&A

The Old Course and the Fairmont Hotel courses

Posted 13 January 2017 · 880 views

Thursday morning we walked into town and were met at the first tee of the Old Course by Gordon Moir, Director of Greenkeeping for St. Andrews Links Trust. Gordon had set aside ninety minutes to give us an overview of the operations there. It was a sunny but cold and windy day on the links.


Once you get past the history, mystique and aura of the fact that he and his team are maintaining the hallowed Old Course, you find that their concerns are very much in line with other multi-course shops around the world. Staffing, equipment, renovation projects are all approached on a day to day basis. While many courses recruit volunteers, Gordon finds that more than a few volunteers typically aren't needed when hosting events due to the size of the staff from the other courses and their familiarity with the operation.


Gordon Moir addresses the group on the first tee at the Old Course.


While there were many memorable comments during the presentation, one that particularly stands out was this reply when we asked Gordon about fertilization:


"We don't fertilise much at all here because we found out that when you do that the grass grows faster, then you have to cut it and it leaves less time for playing golf."


Gordon was especially generous with this time and the original ninety minute visit extended to three hours with a tour of the primary courses nearby.



Fairmont Hotel courses

We then went from the oldest course in the area to two of the newest courses: The Torrance and Kittocks courses are part of the nearby Fairmont Hotel, just a few miles out of town.


The courses are managed by longtime greenkeeper Neil Ballingall, but the real stars of the visit were Neil's two dogs Billy and Honey. Billy is active on social media and maintains his own dog's view of life in the Ballingall household with his very own Facebook page.  Check out his page and you might just get added as a "friendly hoomin".


Neil Ballingall holding Billy, with Honey in the background.


Neil shared an overview of the courses from the panoramic windows of the clubhouse, again a dog-friendly zone due to being closed for the day.



The group was feeling a bit peckish so lunch at the Golf Inn back in town was in order. We were exposed to the Scottish sense of humor when one member of the group asked if the fish and chips were any good and the waiter replied, "They're dreadful".


We spent a few hours back at the house - kicking back before a late dinner at Forgan's, another short walk from the house. Forgan's was in a building that housed a golf club maker and a few club heads are on display.

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