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Dr. Frank Rossi: Frankly Speaking


Water is Gold

  Posted in Uncategorized, Frank Talk 17 October 2012 · 1,901 views

All I could think about was water. Everytime Ron Paul would speak about returning the US to the Gold Standard of backing our currency instead of using the full faith and credit of the US, all I could think about was water. Seems odd but if you think about how haphazardly we flood the US economy with printed money expecting some to be wasted, you might see how many golf courses use water. Not precisely and filled with waste.

I would go as far as to say that if you were a good water manager this year, it was an easy year.

All the rage about moisture meters has certainly changed the way many golf superintendents irrigate the golf course and in some small way improved efficiency, but we have a long way to go. This season was a perfect example. Hot and dry for much of the country yet many struggled with problems that could only be brought about by improper irrigation practices. Certain disease and cultural damages can be ascribed to drying things down to far or over-watering. I would go as far as to say that if you were a good water manager this year, it was an easy year.

 

Should you wonder if water is as good as gold, ask the people who pay for it. During my visit to Las Vegas for the GIS last year I learned many golf courses in the desert pay upwards of $1 million per year for water. Of course this is because they have recognized that it is a limited resource. It follows then that the golf superintendents I met during my travels are all very thoughtful, precise and reflective about their watering strategies. They spoke to me about AMOUNTS not MINUTES of water.

Parts of the country that have the water will want to do business with parts that dont.

The future of water use for golf courses is perilous at best. In a recent meeting held at Cornell University about Best Management Practices (BMP) for water quality it was made clear by government and scientists that water will be monetized in the future in a way it has not been in the past. Parts of the country that have the water will want to do business with parts that dont. And the first step in business is knowing your product, where, how much, how good, who uses, etc In this case its water and it is good as gold.




Are You Reliable?

  Posted in Frank Talk 08 October 2012 · 1,376 views

Reliability is defined as the ability of a person or system to perform and maintain its functions in routine circumstances, as well as hostile or unexpected circumstances. I could not think of a more fitting definition for both todays golf course superintendent AND the turf they manage. Facing unprecedented economic, personnel, and environmental challenges golf course superintendents have to deliver a playing surface that functions as expected for every client. At the same time the turf has to overcome a rapidly changing climate, intense management, and new pests.

 Facing unprecedented economic, personnel, and environmental challenges golf course superintendents have to deliver a playing surface that functions as expected for every client.

My only issue with the definition of reliability is that I think there is no such thing as routine. These days golf turf management is hardly EVER routine. The lack of routine is intimately linked to economic pressures in that the competition for the golfing dollar is as intense as it has ever been. Country clubs, daily fee and munis all face the same challenges when it comes to attracting the golfer looking for good conditions. Reliable turf is the cornerstone of good conditioning.

 

Now is the time in northern climates to begin to plan for next years reliable turf.  Any area that struggled start making a list of the low hanging fruit that is an easy fix, such as minor tree and limb removal, irrigation head placement and operation, amend existing soils through core cultivation, etc.

Any area that struggled start making a list of the low hanging fruit that is an easy fix

The larger structural issues should be discussed openly to make more significant modification. For example, do we need a tree removal program, should we add a fan, should entry and exit points be expanded. These improvements in growing conditions will aid with reliability.

 

Finally, the transformational changes that might be needed, such as re-grassing putting surfaces, major bunker and surround work, adding new tees for the play it forward movement. In these cases the investment and inconvenience can be so dramatic that you can market your operation in an entirely new way. Again increasing reliability and investing in retaining existing golfers and attracting new ones.

 

Golf course superintendents need to take a more active role in initiating discussions about the relationship among course conditioning, golfer economics and the time and resources needed to provide reliable conditions. The climate is changing so rapidly economically and environmentally that we can no longer afford to fly by the seat of our pants. If we dont openly discuss and plan for reliable conditions then the unexpected and hostile WILL be routine.




The Roar

  Posted 16 September 2012 · 1,742 views

Many courses in Northern areas have begun their annual rite of late Summer, early Fall-the roar of the hollow tine cultivation unit followed by burying the putting surface, tee or fairway in sand topdressing. Is this a hold-over from a time when we aerified twice per year or is it something we need to keep doing?

Is this a hold-over from a time when we aerified twice per year or is it something we need to keep doing?

In simple terms if you have a sand-based root-zone, i.e., greater than 85% sand, you have a few options. First, if you want to minimize any coring-solid, hollow or needle, then you better be prepared to apply between 17 and 22 cubic yards of sand per year, of once very five days.

 

If you are willing to cultivate regularly during the season with a less invasive method and avoid “the roar” in Spring and Fall then be sure to apply the same amount of topdressing but you can apply it less frequently at 7-10 days. If you want to keep roaring the aerifier and are also willing to make a monthly hole then you can topdress every 10-14 days.

If you want to keep roaring the aerifier and are also willing to make a monthly hole then you can topdress every 10-14 days.

If you have a good sand-base then as we have said before that a “hole is a hole” and you can save lots of labor by simply solid tining and topdressing behind it. The key to effective surface organic matter management is dilution of the OM with sand. The coring or solid tining or needle tining is nothing more than making room for the sand. Hardly anything to roar about.




The Set-up

  Posted in On the Road 28 August 2012 · 1,684 views

Posted ImageI had the pleasure of working as a volunteer at The Barclays held on the Black Course at the Bethpage State Park. Getting up at 3:30am to assist set-up man" extraordinaire, Rich Roble, now with two US Opens and a FedEx Playoff under his belt.

 

Set-up at this level is a lesson in precision. Cut a level cup to the exact depth and replace the plug so that when passed over by a mower set at 0.085 it is neither high nor low. Any misstep and or inconsistency and you have provided the professional tour player with an excuse why they might perform less than perfect at a game that can NEVER be perfected - it's a set-up.

Any misstep and you have provided the professional tour player with an excuse why they might perform less than perfect

Anyone who paid attention to the tournament this week saw the progression of commentary by golfers. It began with a course record -7  set on Thursday with gentle mutterings of how "soft" the course played to be followed by another -6 on Friday morning. Leaders went into the weekend at -8 and the talk was that a  dozen or more players would be double digit under par. Conditions were perfect for scoring for two days with little wind, friendly pins, 12 foot greens with mid 0.3s on the USGA Firmmeter, by any standard a firm and fast track.

 

With no rain in the forecast for the weekend, moisture meter in hand the course was brought to similar moisture and firmness. Instead of clouds we had a high dry sky, and contrary to Sir Nick Faldo's ridiculous commentary, firmness on some greens made it into the high 0.2s and most greens were in the 13 foot range, hardly beyond what most have played on an average tour course.

 

Sir Nick makes comments like "must be 17-18 feet on the Stimp", "this is reminding me of Shinnecock in '04, "Tiger this and Tiger that" and then I just want to run in the booth and take a three-wood to his head. I don't mind informed criticism but Sir Dufus in his snooty British accent never once spoke to anyone with the Tour or on the Grounds Crew. He was so bad, and I can't believe I am saying this, I was praying for some Johnny Miller "grain-talk".

I don't mind informed criticism but Sir Dufus in his snooty British accent never once spoke to anyone with the Tour or on the Grounds Crew.

Posted ImageBeyond Sir Nick  the whining golfers like Ian Poulter decrying, also in a British accent, the inconsistency from day to day led me to conclude that we are victims of our own success. We set ourselves up for this by delivering conditions in a game played outdoors as if it were played in a dome. It's our fault. The whining that our golfers do at our own courses is because we have given them too much — it's one big set-up!

 

It is a great analogy that I have been part of the "set-up" crew in the golf turf industry for most of my adult life. As a part of a team that delivered tournament quality conditions for a weekend at the end of August in the New York City area I felt the sting of what many of you feel every weekend at your course. I am here to tell you it doesn't sound any better with an English accent. Whining is whining.




Unintended Consequences

  Posted in Frank Talk 03 August 2012 · 1,334 views

The pressure to produce flawlessly consistent playing conditions is stressful on biological organisms, i.e., plants and people. We seek any solution to enhance plant health when backed into a corner with weak turf, poor growing environments, stress from close mowing, etc. Sometimes these solutions help, other times they have unintended consequences.

 

All the rage this year about Bacterial Wilt/ Decline has me wondering about these unintended consequences when it comes to our obsession with plant health. You dont understand, a competent golf turf manager said to me about 10 years ago, I use these biostimulants because I grow grass on the edge.

there is growing suspicion that many of these plant health products might be enhancing the plant all the way to Bacterial Decline.

Today we have all types of bio-stimulants some with good solid research to support use like seaweed and some amino acids, others not so much. Many are concoctions of carbon based compounds, with unproven amino acids, vitamins, and my favorite — Organic Photosynthesis Synergizer! We use these in the name of enhancing plant health but now there is growing suspicion that many of these plant health products might be enhancing the plant all the way to Bacterial Decline.

 

Posted Image

Here is my logic. The plant has many endophytic associations with bacteria, just like we do in our gut. We are applying cocktails of compounds most of which we barely understand whats in them. Next we put the plants under stress or on the edge if you will and the concoctions we are using are stimulating the bacteria INSIDE the plant and sometimes there are bacteria such as Acidovorax that can lead to decline.

 

Now some panic and run for the Mycoshield because a diagnostic technician said they have bacterial wilt. Now raise your hand if you think our society needs MORE anti-biotics introduced into the environment.

 

You think the current palette of  plant health products is causing unintended consequences, stick around for the antibiotic resistant organisms we might create by spraying tetracycline every seven days!








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