In my last post I talked about my preparation for a speaking gig to The Mile High Club Managers Chapter. And it created some good discussion and allowed me to enhance my talk, based on the input of my peers and fellow Turfheads. And if you haven't read that post, you probably should to get proper perspective.
I don't always like linear history blogging, but in this case, I think it's worth an update.
I really didn't know what to expect the morning I walked into Cherry Hills CC with my laptop containing a Keynote presentation. It seemed like I was prepared, but I am an over-prepper, so my perspective is a little skewed. As per usual, I'd been up half the night before practicing my brand of pre-game mental yoga, also known as torture. But again, that's my creative process and it's an old friend.
The CMAA group was well prepared. About 60 in attendance. Mark Condon, GM at The Ranch CC is the education chair and he had a great group of speakers lined up. I really liked how he broke up the morning with a well done panel discussion with PGA Pros from Denver CC, Frost Creek CC and Cherry Hills. I don't always like panel discussions, but this one was really great and that had to do do with Mark doing his homework as the MC and asking good questions. It also had to do with great questions coming from the floor.
I was last. Batting clean up after the Golf Pros and Ed Mate from the Colorado Golf Association. I had heard about Ed. But it was great to see him in person. His passion for the game is incredible and him being a former Evans Scholarship winner doesn't hurt. So in the last spot before lunch, the grass guy comes up. And as I hook up my laptop, the familiar feeling of peace after a week of torturing myself preparing for this is a welcome feeling. Again, this feeling is also an old friend and it tells me that there is nothing to do but be Dave Wilber and deliver the goods. A couple of small jokes and other stupid speaker tricks and I feel like I own the room and its time to rock and roll. My Powerpoint and Keynote skills are on point. My visuals are good. The room, like most country club settings is too bright, but I expected that and have visuals that will work. Throttles to the firewall.
Forty-five min later, I was at the end of the presentation. And during the talk and then again at the end, this group had some good questions. I don't remember them all. When I'm in the flow, I don't often have recall. I own cameras and recorders and you would think I would set one or two up and capture the moment, but I just don't think that way. I need to travel with my Tech Monkey.
But I do remember the discussions and questions that were most powerful.
College Graduation Numbers: I fielded several questions based on my comments about not being able to fill the multitude of assistant and second assistant jobs out there. As well as the changing job of equipment technician. It was clear to me that there was much concern in the room that we may not be graduating and training qualified candidates to fill all the positions out there. And one of the Head Pro's in the room was very quick to talk about the fact he has the same issue. Lots of open slots in the Assistant Pro ranks. For me, I always want to be clear that when we are in a shrinking environment of golf courses closing, we cant expect the same number of Superintendent jobs to exist. There's nothing wrong with being an assistant Super. There's nothing wrong with doing that for a long time, perhaps as a career. But for sure, the way we pay our long time support crew is wrong. And everyone in that room understands that.
Is All This New Tech Too Expensive?: I didn't spend long on this. Because to me, calculating ROI is easy. And if we can't do that or cant show returns on investing anything, then we are just getting stuff and doing stuff just because. Which doesn't pay.
Bunkers: There was a lot of head nodding about cost of bunker maintenance and construction and that maybe we have lost the plot as it came to a bunker being a hazard. Ed Mate, a rules expert, was quick on the draw from the floor to refute that calling a bunker a "penalty area" is wrong. It's a bunker.
The Environment: The CMAA Chapter is really excited about working with the Colorado Golf Association in regards to Economic and Environmental Impact of golf. That's good. I think we all want that. And I will be sure that those who need to know hear that Turfgrass side of the golf world has a lot of data and a lot to say in this area.
So, did I deliver an Anthony Bourdain style ass whipping to them? Not really. Thats not me. Well, it can be. But this wasn't the time or the place. However, I'm sure there was some eye opening things that this group heard. I was super happy to hear the PGA Pros being really strong about the fact that while they know they want to get golfers to the game, the idea of keeping them there was much more on their mind. I think one of their stories about the club's most popular event being a Night Golf event was telling in the fact that there is nothing traditional in that, but it was all about the fun. Fun. What a thing. Golf really can be fun.
As far as anything I said that drew the biggest reaction, someone in the audience decided to pontificate a non-question question about the number of courses, golfers and handicaps. He wasn't making any sense when he got to the slope rating part and before Ed Mate could jump in, I simply said that I don't have a handicap. Don't care about having one. Refuse to play stroke play when I play and that match play with my friends is my favorite thing. And I even went on to say that I prefer that to be with Hickory clubs and demand to be walking. Yeah. You can imagine the chuckles that got. But it did get the Pope in the back of the room to be quiet.
Is The Golf dying? No, don't be silly. Is it going to be what it was? No, don't be silly. It's always evolved. Should every 18-hole course that has had any economic trouble turn itself into Top Golf. No. That's absurd. Should we be worried? Hell yes! Falling asleep at the wheel didn't and never will do anyone any good. Should we, as Turfheads be carrying a better message of Econ and Enviro? If you aren't you will definitely be a statistic. Definitely.
But carrying is one thing, living it is even more important.
I believe wholeheartedly in sustainable landscaping. Despite the definition of sustainable landscaping being subject to many interpretations, for me it simply rests on several key premises. Does the management of the landscape seek to decrease resource consumption? Will the landscape continue to grow as we (the organization) need if we decrease intervention? Lastly, does the particular iteration of grounds management meet the long-term goals/needs of the parent entity? If these questions are answered positively, I am at a loss as to why a person or organization would not want to pursue sustainable landscaping. In an effort to see this issue from another perspective, I would like to put forth some reasons I believe cause sustainability reluctance.
Sustainable Landscapes are Messy
This may be the biggest misconception about sustainable landscapes. Most people will equate sustainable with wild and this is not always so. Sustainable landscapes need not be rambling plantings run amok. I suggest this misconception arises due to a confusion of objectives. Often when seeking to restore or support an ecosystem, gardeners will utilize native plants which co-exist well within a given ecosystem. In these habitat and organism-focused applications, “wild” plants provide shelter, food, and ecosystem services when left to grow “naturally”. Many restorative plantings are sustainable when left alone, but not all sustainable landscapes need be maintained in this manner. Landscapes exhibiting traditional design/maintenance attributes can be sustainable as long as they seek to meet the aforementioned criteria.
Sustainable Landscapes can adhere to traditional design and are not necessarily "wild".
Sustainable Landscapes are for Eco-Crazies
Evaluation of anything new or different frequently results in assumptions and stereotyping. A conclusion is reached about an idea before it is even given a hearing of objective evaluation. This can be the case with sustainable landscaping. People may conjure up images of long hair, Birkenstock wearing grounds people sabotaging mowers and growing corn in the front yard. This isn’t the case. Nor is it accurate to think that all the landscape will look like tallgrass prairie, or if a tree falls, it will be left lay to decompose to enrich the spirit of the earth. Sustainable landscaping is a management philosophy that draws on the same organizational and operational imperatives as any other landscaping. Funny I rarely (never?) hear people question the underlying assumptions about the dominant unsustainable landscaping methods.
Some sustainable landscapes follow the stereotype, but may still accomplish organizational goals.
Sustainable Landscape Changes Everything
If an organization chooses to pursue sustainable landscaping, it should be the overarching principle determining grounds management, but not necessarily in a prescriptive manner. Sustainability is about seeking to diminish resources consumption (time, money, materials, etc.) but this aspiration will not result in identical results for every organization. Consider chemical use in the landscape. One organization may seek to diminish chemical use as a way to contain costs, and market an environmentally conscious landscape approach. Another may choose to continue utilizing chemical interventions but explore ways to decrease frequency. A third may need to hold the line on current chemical use, knowing there is not organizational support for a changed approach, but seek to slowly introduce alternative groundcovers/designs that will not need chemical intervention. Being appropriate in how and where you pursue or initiate a more sustainable approach sustains progress. Everything need not change to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability.
Sustainable Landscaping Doesn’t Matter to Our Organization
If you have, or are an organization, sustainable landscaping should matter to you. Sustainable landscapes contribute many benefits more than just a pretty, environmentally focused campus. Consider these questions when evaluating sustainability. Do I want my organization to sustain? Do I want my assets/resources to sustain? Do I want my position/livelihood to sustain? Do I want my company’s reputation to sustain? Likely, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes. Sustainable landscaping has a positive effect on all facets of an organization. In addition, taking a cue from natural ecosystems, a sustainable Grounds Manager balances the individual needs against the collective, always understating that the success of the whole is paramount.
Sustainability Is the Way of the Future
Rarely does sustainability reluctance debate on the science and vocational merits of sustainable landscaping. Prejudices and stereotypes come to the fore when naysayer’s pushback against a sustainable landscape. This does our organization’s a great disservice. Evaluation of the value of landscaping should weigh the positives it brings to its parent, and at what ROI. This is a harsh truth, but a good grounds operation does not flinch from close inspection. Delivering expectations while staying within resource limits is the bottom line premise of sustainability. Drawing a straight line between these two aspects requires accurately defining, and agreement of, what constitutes a sustainable landscape. Sustainable landscaping can be adapted to any application and is greatly beneficial when it is.
Truly sustainable landscapes blend organizational goals and landscaping while also seeking to decrease resource consumption.
Last week, we loaded our gear and then fought through the horrible Atlanta traffic to shoot a short film with Mark Hoban of Rivermont CC. It was the usual debacle, with us wandering around lost in Doolooth and Akworth. At one point, we entered “The Buford Triangle”, a place where road names change instantly and people vanish. Relying on business signs as landmarks is impossible, because they are written in other languages than whatever it is we speak. Never trust those fantasy maps on The Google.
Anyway, we managed to arrive on time—because we always allow an extra four hours to navigate the nether world of North Atlanta—and Hoban was nowhere in sight. After some quick detective work, we determined that Mark was being filmed, interviewed and podcasted by Erik Anders Lang, a famous Hollywood producer of golf films on The Youtube.
Mark ignored Momma’s texts, so she grabbed her frying pan and went up to the clubhouse to teach somebody something. But Mark was prepared, having posted Berkeley, his vicious German Shepherd guard dog, at the entrance. (Momma won’t whack a golf course dog.) After an hour of waiting in the hot sun, knowing every minute we delayed meant the possibility of being trapped in the most dreaded rush hour on the planet . . . we left. We weren’t angry, just terrified of the giant four-hour parking lot.
It all turned out positive, even if we got cheated out of a shoot. Erik Anders Lang cranks out highly entertaining golf travel films, from the viewpoint of the next wave. (A refreshing change from us cranky old coffin dodgers of golf.) Erik is that golfer we have been trying to recruit for years. He took up the game late, is highly enthusiastic and has a contagiously positive attitude toward golf. Erik is one of the reasons I recently dragged out my clubs again. Another key point is when EAL visited Rivermont, he spent time with the Golf Course Superintendent. This is a great thing. I’m stoked. (That is the right word, isn’t it?)
Go to The Youtube and check out “Adventures in Golf” on the Skratch channel. Erik and a sidekick visit a golf course, play it on camera and have the kind of fun we all used to have . . . before we got our hineys so twisted up in building, fixing, growing-in and maintaining golf courses. Erik will gleefully play a scruffy muni as well as an old classic, all while making a short film that delivers a strong subliminal argument for what the game needs, not what the Alphabets need.
And that brings to mind a recent Dave Wilber column, “Golf Isn’t Dying, It’s Evolving”, a very timely analysis of the future. He touches on several vital areas, like “Lowering Golfer Expectations” and “The Return of The Big Mower”, along with “Just 3 Cuts”. *
*Note: Every time I bring up these subjects, I am assaulted by those accusing me of “Nostalgia”, so I am grateful Dave hit it with such force. I would also remind those flinging digital road-apples at me of this: “Negative nostalgia is the rewriting of our past to be miserable and broken, because it creates continuity with our present.”
Wilber’s message is the kind of thinking that will help the game in the future, considerably more than complex programs designed to “Grow” golf, as if it were some kind of stock market index dependent upon perpetual growth. We all know how to dial back expensive conditioning, but the question is: How do we get golfers on board? Lowering golfer expectations would have environmental, legal and economic benefits, but we should expect powerful resistance.
Returning the average course to the dialed back conditioning of the 1970s—when the money people first targeted golf for a big boom—runs contrary to what the Great Poobahs of Ever-Increasing Grooming Standards are preaching. They won’t give up power without a knock ‘em down and drag ‘em out saloon fight.
One way to get golfers on board would be through the new wave of golf filmmakers, like Erik Anders Lang and Adventures in Golf. Maybe the next wave of golfers will listen, unlike so many of the current coffin dodgers spoiled rotten by too many 5-Star hotels, gourmet meals and luxury golf carts. Golf was once, and perhaps will be again, an adventure.
Oh, and since I don’t have a new film this week, due to . . . logistics and technical difficulties, here’s an old film that syncs up with Dave Wilber’s message.
I'm speaking next week at a CMAA meeting in Denver. I did a CMAA meeting once a few years ago and they did wine tasting, so I figured it might pay to go to this one. I prefer Single Malt. We will see what happens.
In truth, the program is pretty cool. The Mile High CMAA Chapter is looking to get perspective on the evolution of Golf and has invited some notables from the Club Pro, Turfgrass and Colorado Golf in general. So cool. Had to say yes. If you have been reading my Blog or listening to my Podcast for any amount of time, you probably know that I'm neurotic for preparation. In this case, I cant just stand up, pull a club out of the bag and hit a one-iron. I have to work for this one a bit and do some research and the like.
The Evolution of Golf. Certainly, Golf hasn't been immune to evolution. One must only look at the Golf Ball or the Golf Club to see that. And certainly, there has been plenty of change as it comes to the world of architecture. Even if that change is simply to erase the poorly evolved. Then we come to the 2007-2008 crash. Or "adjustment" as the optimists call it. And from that point on, it's been a crazy world of trying to figure out what golf is and who we all are.
To me, we can't escape a list of facts that is here to stay:
50% of everyone now picking up a club is 55 years of age or older.
77.5% of all golfers are male.
74% of players play less than 10 times per year.
68% of all golfers are married.
$2,800 is the average amount that the average player spends per year.
Great Dave. So you are gonna get up in front of a bunch of club management types and tell them what they either already know, can read in NGF stats or are experiencing while they try to figure out how to get this all to change. And guess what? It's not gonna change. It's not. No matter how much Foot Golf or Jump Houses or 13th Hole Concerts or Bluetooth Speakers or GPS Disney Carts come along... The Golf is The Golf.
But the Agronomy? Just like the equipment and the courses themselves, is dynamic. Here's what I see as the coming trends and the things that we are talking about. Will these things change the numbers above? Again, not likely in my mind. But there is an evolution.
Bunkers. Despite the PGA Tour now calling them Penalty Areas, bunkers now represent at least 50% of the conversations that I have as an agronomic advisor. Be it construction, reconstruction, restoration, daily maintenance or tourney prep, they are a grand topic. And a damn expensive one. The expectations are high and the understanding of what "natural" really takes to maintain is low. At least half the golfers at most clubs don't like the sand or the way the sand is prepped. They are money pits. In a recent agronomy report for a client, I talked about the "gift" a traditionalist architect had given the club in the form of "natural bunkers", proving to double the labor dollars required to deal with them. Here's the quote: "the only way not to spend so much money on these bunkers, is not to have these bunkers". One less architect X-mas card will come to me this year.
Robotic Mowing. Like it or not, robots are coming. In form of Turfgrass Roombas or some such. I don't see them as play-toys and I keep saying this. Those that are using the first generation of the things are seeing what the win will be. Sure, they will require a different kind of maintenance, schedule and some human supervision, but there is no question they will be part of the internal landscape.
Precision Applications. Along the same lines, we will certainly see more and more GPS oriented technology for anything that gets applied. And for sure, this will mean the evolution of sensor technology to make sure that only the overpowering invader gets the treatment and the zones doing great do not. I can foresee an IR scanning drone overflying an area, downloading info to a sprayer and that sprayer applying 10% or less of what used to be applied. Same will go for irrigation. Real time data will be commonplace at tremendous savings.
Large Area Mowers. Gone are the days of multiple heights of cut and a bevy of labor to produce them. 3 heights of cut. And the one that is the largest area will be once again mowed with larger mowers. Will item number 2 play a part. In some way, yes. And if the happens, the equipment may be smaller as an accommodation. The corollary to this simply mowing less grass to begin with.
Short Courses, Par 3's and Whisky Loops. Time is something we can't print more of. So without a doubt, the conversation about shorter, easier, more fun and quicker places to play is going to continue. You wanna go hang out at the 7600 yard battlezone? Be my guest. I like the 5300 yard opportunity not to hate myself.
Great Grasses. In my opinion we are entering into another golden age of plant breeding and turf types will be more unique, site specific and use specific than ever before. With reams of data now at our fingertips about climate and the ability to model the potential growth based on the smallest details, breeders can meet needs. In really cool ways. One only has to look at the amazing Bents and Ultras that we are using on greens now to see there is real movement in this area.
Lowering of Expectations. How hard is it really, for golfers, members and management to get that when they want lower prices they are going to get less. I actually think that superintendents are doing a much better job of talking about this from a less defensive posture. Is this because the "Country Club for a Day" sales pitch is going away? I'd like to think so. And to be fair, Supers are starting to realize they have been their own worst enemies as it comes to inventing stuff to do to make things reach that "next level". The extra 10% can cost another 30%. That's not ROI. Thats just stupid. I'm quick to point this out when anyone says "Next Level" or some version of it to me. Here's the truth. We all want to drive McLarens. And few can afford it. Enjoy your Toyota. Love it.
Chemicals. I talk about this all the time. One day, there won't be any or there will be very little. And so we will have to rely on point number 6 above. What's driving it. Sadly it's not the environmental factor as much as it is the litigation and liability factor. And quite frankly as a recent student of risk management, I don't blame the insurance folks for backing away from the agri-chem coverage. It's a controllable risk.
9. Virtual Golf. I met a gentleman on a plane recently who was wearing a high end resort logo. He told me his story of logo achievement because I was dumb enough to ask. But his answer was facinating. He plays all his golf at Top Golf and at his friend's basement simulator. And once a year, he and his buddies head for the coast, play as many holes a day as the daylight and their sore feel will allow. Eat and Drink to excess. Tell lies. And head home to the Simulators. Now maybe this does say that golf is changing, but then again, no. It just says that once a year, the dudes have dude times with their el dudarino buddies and that's all they get. Actually, sounds pretty good to me.
10. Brilliance. Buh? It's simple. Turfheads are some of the most resourceful people on the planet. And if you ask most of them to sort out something, make something happen, deal with adversity, they will. Over and over again. So the evolution of golf and golf turf is well rooted in the brilliance and testicular thought fortitude of those growing the grass. I know damn good and well that sitting here today, I can not predict the things that will go on in 33 years, just as I couldn't have predicted this blog 33 years ago when I hit the biz.
So, I have parts of my talk for next week. And I can spend the next six nights torturing myself over getting the visuals right and the roadmap right for a decent presentation and wondering why I say yes to these things. I can focus on not sounding like just another Brad Kline or Pat Jones talk. I can actually be me and say it as I see it. In this moment. It's all one can really do, right?
(PostScript....If you would like to weigh in on the evolutionary path of golf as related to Agronomy, I and many others would love to hear it. Comment below. And remember, no idea is too off the wall)
The practice of yoga has always fascinated me. The breath work, the mind/body connection, and the way it can absolutely destroy you without you leaving your mat. Yoga has had a profound effect on my body and my well being.
A key yoga lesson which has stayed with me over the years is that of support. A wise teacher once explained that when doing a pose, the primary source of strength doesn’t always come from the main body part you would assume it would. Instead, much of the strength and stability comes from the surrounding cast of limbs and muscles. They are the support staff and when you activate these seemingly unrelated parts, the pose becomes achievable.
This key lesson has been on my mind lately when contemplating our lives as Greenkeepers. When you think of your course, or, even more specifically, a green that might be struggling, it can be easy to assume you automatically know the source of the problem. But often the solution to a nagging issue can be a combination of seemingly unrelated factors. Things like air movement, shade, nutrition, compaction relief, or any other of a host of cultural practices can act as supports working together to improve the situation and provide relief.
What if you apply this same idea to your personal lives? If you are suffering, what are the support systems that you can look to that for help? What types of cultural practices can you rely on to help with your personal well being? Do you reach for the quick fix (insert snake oil jug of magical elixir)? Or do you have a dependable network of resources you can call on when we need to?
What does your network look like? Here are a few that have helped me over the years…
Physical Well Being – How are things for you physically? Do you take care of your temple? Exercise of any kind will do, along with getting any nagging issues taken care of. It’s really easy for us to let our physical health slide when we are in the throes of the season, but if our bodies are working properly it can go a long way to helping you deal with the rigors of the gig.
Mental Well Being – Do you make regular visits with yourself? If so, are you good friends with that person? A lot of us do better caring for the physical part, but completely neglect our mental wellness. If we are tending our inner faculties on a constant basis, then we stand a much better chance of living a healthier life overall. If we instead choose to pretend that we are “always fine” then it’s just a matter of time before the house of cards topples.
Taking care of our inner well being can take many forms. We can have hobbies, we can practice some form of meditation or “personal quiet time”, attend to ourselves spiritually, or anything at all that takes us inside and fosters a positive relationship with whom and what we discover.
Family – We can’t always choose the personalities which comprise our families, but we can choose how we interact with them. Taking care to focus on family well being and the quality of our relationships can be a key part of our support structure. Often times our families are unintentionally sacrificed for our courses. No superintendent job is more important than your family. Make it so, and you will be lucky to have them there when you arrive home. This job is a challenging one but having a supportive family unit can make a world of difference.
Friends – Like family, having a network of friends that you can rely on is paramount. Nowhere is this more evident than when you have a solid group of superintendents you can call on when things are tough. As a group, Greenkeepers have an amazing amount of empathy and knowledge to share with each other so make sure you tap that resource. No one understands what you are facing better than a good friend who has been through the same thing. Sometimes a good venting session is all that’s required to set your perspective right again. It’s also very helpful to have a stable of non-turf related friends. Supers have a funny habit of getting completely absorbed in the world of growing grass, so it can be mighty helpful to have friends who bring you back to the outside world from time to time. (See The Zealot's latest post for more wisdom on this topic… "Wisdom in the Craft Brew".)
These and other support systems can go a long way to ensuring that Greenkeepers are not only successful in their workplaces, but also healthy human beings. When you are vulnerable enough to realize that you are not an island, you can develop the courage necessary to ask for help. And before long you will realize that you are holding a yoga pose that you might have once thought impossible thanks to your supports.
Thanks so much for reading.
Last week, a bizarre thought entered my head and I bought my first pair of golf shoes since 1979. Claire dismissed it as a post-midlife crisis and at least two of my extra personalities cried “Foul!” . . . but I did it anyway. I have played for decades without spikes. (Not really played serious golf, just hacked around, not slow and not fast, just sorta half-fast.)
I nurture an intense dislike for 8mm steel, as well as the modern plasticized ceramic Mad Max spikes. The steel, notorious for wear on hard surfaces—like wood and plastic—can leave turf as bruised as a 95 year-old MMA fighter. Steel also hurts your lower back if you walk. The Mad Max Tarantula footwear can seem worse than steel, especially on softer, wetter greens. Since modern golfers don’t get much practice walking, they are unable to lift their feet. They scuff, drag and pivot, all while trying to yank the flagstick out, due to the new rule. This creates a minefield of spike marks that look like mole crickets on meth held a mating ritual around the cup.
But no worries, the Great Alphabet knew this would happen. That’s why they said we can fix spike marks now. (If the group ahead of you resembles a bunch of rice farmers squatting around the flag, be patient, they’re just fixin’ stuff.)
Anyway, I bought golf shoes. I found lots of spiffy shoes, but most weren’t really for walking, they were more for cart golf. Under the “spikeless” tab on the Adidas site, I found the Tour 360 XT-SL. Soft and cushiony, they offered substantial grip and . . . they even looked good. Hey, I know what you’re thinking: Somebody slipped cantankerous old RW a Colorado Gummi Bear. No, that’s not what happened. It’s just that I have always said I would take up golf when I got old and I’m pretty sure that has happened now. The signs are there: I require the double downward karate chop to get off the sofa. I begin most sentences with “Back in my day . . . “ and when I go to the gym, I have become quite popular with the blue-haired ladies.
Now in order to actually play, there has to be an event to train for—that’s just how things work. So, I decided to bring back the fabled Great Gopher Tournament. (See The Greens of Wrath for details.) The GGT has been dormant since the day we sprinkled Dad’s ashes on the 14th tee of Rockbottum CC, but now the time is right to bring the Gopher back. It would honor Dad’s memory—and Uncle Virgil, too—and give my brother Mike and I a reason to come out of golf retirement.
In order to do this right, I have been researching the new rules of golf. At first, I tried to keep my pie hole shut until some actual empirical evidence came in, but I failed at that. While cavorting on a secret golf architecture forum, I provoked a senior Alphabet Rules Official concerning the new “Knee-Drop Rule”. I merely pointed out that my knee could reach all sorts of advantageous positions, from shoulder height to about an inch off the ground. He said I was an idiot and knee-dropping would speed things up.
They also invented a flagstick rule to speed things up. I think a penalty box or a shock collar would work better, but you can’t argue with the genius minds at the top. Looking at things from the GCS side, I am concerned this rule will lead to player demands for softer, thinner flagsticks, with a Remington 700 extractor synched to your smartphone, popping the ball up to chest height. This will stop golfers attempting to “yank out” the ball, because after 15 yank-outs, the cup will come out, too. Then, afternoon players will experience the “Volcano Effect” and lip-outs will increase. Subsequently, the Superintendent will be hunted down and accused of collusion or something.
Anyway, back to the GGT. If you would like to be considered for a coveted invitation to this autumn’s GGT, send us a PM on TurfNet or email me. Include at least one reason you should be accepted into such a high profile event. Don’t worry, you won’t have to play at Rockbottum CC, as that would be unfair. We know most of you have never played an unmaintained course; also, our nearest hotel is a truck stop out on I-75. Perhaps our TurfNet Entertainment Director might jump in here and help, providing he’s not still overseas trying to become Irish.
Tournament Rules: You will need a two man team, the knee drop rule will be suspended, unless you use the Ricky Fowler variation. There will be no steel spikes or “soft and thin flagsticks”. Pre-Shot Routines are limited to 10 seconds. Momma will be on hand to run the time clock and administer penalties, with her ability to correct iron deficiencies.
*Note: All matches will be filmed. No golf pros allowed. Oafs, knaves, varlets, TurfNet members and former Night Watermen will receive special preference. Winner gets a trophy. Losers will receive a signed copy of “The Greens of Wrath” and be forced to state, on camera, “I am an oaf who lost the Great Gopher”.
The first formal invitations will go out to Dave Wilber, Kevin Ross, Mickey McCord, Mark Hoban, Matt Crowther and Frank Rossi. Remember, You can run, but you can’t hide.
I don't like "Birthday Parties".
I like going to them for other people, but I don't like them when they are for me. It has always seemed like a waste of time to celebrate my getting older. Kind of like celebrating something that will happen no matter what, like Wind or Grocery Bagging. Not special.
But this year, for my 53rd, I decided to put out a note to a random bunch of people from different walks in my world and tell them where I would be from what time to what time and tell them to come have a beer with me at a craft brew place that I like. My favorite taco truck was going to be there. Come. Buy your own beer, tuck in to some El Pastor. Simple. And If it was just me there, I'd be fine and if a bunch of people came, I'd be fine too. No cake. No cards. No gifts, Just Beers and Friends.
I always wonder what my Turfhead and Non-Turfhead friends will talk about or think of each other. And I try really hard to keep my grass conversations to a limited level when in company with civilians. I think I am better at it than they are, actually because often golf or grass is brought up by interlopers. I'm also really careful around wives and significant others in keeping the Turfhead spench to a desirable level. What person of a person really wants to hear about Cinchbugs, Manganese and Nitrogen? Yeah. Exactly.
On a Sunday afternoon, Living the Dream Brewing was getting busy. And in true Colorado style, dogs, kids, dreads and guitars started to fill the place. So cool. And then, to my surprise, people who actually knew me started to show up and suddenly we had a whole table. I couldn't put away the smile. Enhanced by a nice ESB, the smile grew.
And the conversation? So cool. On one side, wedding plans. On another side, the grafting of plans for another get together. In the middle the comparison of notes between the 1985 PGA Championship and the 2011 Senior Open. The inevitable weather discussion. Broncos. Snow. Skiing. Avalanches. Beer. Tacos. Tacos. Beer and Tacos. Pumpstations. Long Hours.
And Grass. But our grass talks are so much fun. Because they envelop our small business but they contain references from all around the world. At a Brewery in Colorado we can talk about our friends in St Andrews and Abu Dhabi. And Iowa and California. We might even text them or tweet about them. I find it fascinating. And I think the non-turfers do too. But at the same time we all have dogs and kids and houses and food to talk about too.
Why am I writing all this? As usual I have a point! And my point is this: We often make getting together with others too hard and too much work. And as most of us come into the busy seasons, we miss these opportunities. We can't. We humans are built for interaction and for face to face time. And while it may seem like a complete pain in the ass to make a meet up happen. We have to. We do. It can't be optional. And I really think that we can invite the Civilians... the Significant Others and the Non-Turfheads like us. They really do!
I am really glad that I put the word out where I would be having a beer. And again, I wasn't attached to any outcome. I just let everyone know and I went. Simple as that. Had I been alone, I likely would have met someone new, learned something I didn't know. I didn't feel obligated to serve everyone or provide the entertainment or the experience. The experience was in the people around me. And I in them. A few hours of fun and smiles all around. Pretty awesome.
So here is my Craft Beer Wisdom to you... Take a moment as you start into the season and gather some people you like or even ones you don't know and have some simple easy hang time. Invite people from different walks of life. Bring your dogs and your kids and your cats if you so desire. Smile. Tell stories. Laugh. Eat. Be Human.
And thanks for all the birthday wishes! What a wonderful thing.
We conducted small sample Clippings Volume research to determine if weighing, measuring and tasting clippings actually helps with calculating nutrient application rates.
You'll be shocked at our findings.
Let's talk about cutting cups.
During The Players' Championship, I discovered even more how much I love and hate Twitter. A tweet from the PGA Tour showed a close up of the edges of a freshly cut cup being scissor trimmed. And a discussion erupted. I was honestly shocked. Because somehow, the notion of a perfectly prepared cup edge was lumped into the idea of tournament golf taking things too far in the way of conditioning. It was compared to all kinds of things that aren't usually done on the daily.
I was astounded. Actually. And, because I am me, I spoke up. I couldn't hold back. Call it addiction or lack of self-control or the need to be right, I don't care. I really don't.
I had to look back to the 80's when I first learned to cut a cup. Like everyone who has ever dropped a cutter and hovered over it, I wasn't good at first. And I took a huge amount of heat from the entire crew for a few poorly selected spots and a few leaning flags. And I learned to get it right, quickly. And then I learned to obsess over it. Because it was clear to me that the golf course could be absolutely perfect, but if the cup was wrong, if that pin was in the wrong place, if that flag stick was less than perfect, it was a huge black mark. Huge.
When I volunteered at my first legit event, The Colorado Open at Hiwan CC in Evergreen, CO, Super Gary Russell asked me if I wanted to be on the setup detail. The answer was yes, but wisely, Gary grabbed a cup cutter and some tools and we went to a nursery spot to see what my skills were like. Gary immediately coached me on stepping up my game. I learned how to use a stand-board. I was taught how to assure a perfect depth. A certain way to pull the cutter. A set of steps for replacing, repairing and watering the old cup were given. I was taught how to paint the edge and scissor cut the edge. He said I was good, but needed to be way better. And so it was. That system was it. There was no negotiation or deviation. Gospel. The Book of Gary. And I memorized every chapter and verse.
From that point on, hole locations on my watch were done with the extreme care of that technique, combined with my obsession for Greenkeeping. It meant that some employees, despite trying hard, just couldn't get it. And when it was event or tourney time at my places, no big deal. We already did that level. Didn't matter if it was 9-hole Ladies Tuesday or US Open Qualifying, our cups and pin positions were immaculate. From my low budget muni first Super job to the climb up to the Private world, all done the same with huge expectations. In 2003, noted Agronomist and Friend Jon Scott gave a group of staff and volunteers a lesson in cup cutting at a Champion's Tour event I was helping with. And even then, I learned something. And at the same time, I recognized the careful perfection and artistry that had been his lesson to all involved. He was quick to say the The Tour expected it, but that EVERY GOLFER DESERVED IT.
As a consultant, often Supers and I were out early with the setup guys and when I saw it going wrong, I always made a point to talk about the importance of perfection. Or at least striving to get it as good as possible, with no low cups replaced, etc.
Ryan Moy and Jake Ryan at The Ryder Cup, Hazeltine National GC
If you have read my stuff at all, you know that I like to live in the real world and that I know what we see on TV on the weekends is not that. I also like competition. I like the spectacle of setting up for any competition. So it creates duality in me. Isn't The Golf a daily competition? Sure, the cameras are here, the circus tents are up, pull out the stops. And when there is no show in town, do your best to be at a raised bar for the day's partaking of a sporting event. Look, I get that things like walk mowing fairways and push rotary mowing roughs and stuff like that happens. I get it. I get that the army of volunteers (read: Free Labor) makes it possible to do this stuff for an event situation. I also get that when you have a limited staff and limited resources, these things not only look inaccessible, they border on the absurd.
However, for me, and this is for me.... No matter how tough it was. No matter how much labor trouble we were in, we still had perfectly cut cups. And yes, that included scissor trimming and usually painting. I did the math and the extra time to get it right and to make it special was minimal dollars and max return on investment. So, while I understand my colleagues and friends giving their opinions on that little video, I couldn't get with the idea that perfection on a cut cup wasn't a good thing.
One day, when I'm just a little older. (and that day isn't far away), my hope is that some young Super will allow me the honor of setting up his or her golf course a few days a week. And when I'm 70, I guarantee you, I will have those scissors in my hands, finishing that hole to the best of my ability of my shaking hands and worn out knees because every golfer deserves to know what a sacred cup means to their game.
Bowing to pressure from a couple of rabid fans of the novel, "The Greens of Wrath", here's an excerpt. For those unfamiliar with the work, all I can say is, "It's not Caddyshack".
Dynamite Whups My . . . Posterior
(Burnt Run CC 1971)
The explosions were blamed on me, even though it was Dwight, Dad’s youngest brother, who produced the dynamite. It was a cold day in March, the folks were down in Florida where Dad was playing a tournament and Momma had gone with him. It wasn’t golf that made them travel, they were just trying to get the hell away from me and another cheap, Pseudo-Country Club with members convinced they rightfully belonged on the roster at Augusta National. Dad had left us with instructions to dig out and hack up—using an axe and shovel—a stump the size of a pickup truck buried nose first. Within the first six minutes, we hit the surrender point and that’s when Dwight, an ingenious type with the mind of an engineer and the physique of an NFL offensive lineman, had an explosive idea.
We practiced on small stumps, wiring in blasting caps, putting a stick of dynamite in a hole dug under the stump and then touched off on a golf cart battery. As we progressed to bigger stumps, we discovered it was necessary to move the cart further from the site of the explosion, in order to prevent an unexpected trip to the dentist. After blowing a dozen small stumps, Dwight announced it was time to attack the big one. I was 15 at the time and totally convinced Dwight was Theoretical Physicist material, so I agreed and helped place three sticks of dynamite in holes tunneled beneath the big stump with a post hole digger, or PH.d as they are known in circles where actual work [redacted]
We backed off 70 yards and touched the battery. The shock wave was visible, screaming across the ground, flattening the dormant bermuda and knocking the air out of my lungs. It would have loosened my dentures, had I possessed any. The stump was untouched. It sat there, wrapped in a wreath of smoke . . . taunting us. Enraged at this inconsistency in applied logic, Dwight made the decision to go with 12 sticks on the next try.
“More dynamite,” I agreed, eager to see the effects of half a case of the stuff. It has to be said at this point, that I was not the most rational thinker, given a number of concussions from running the football and the recent proximity to a number of minor explosions. Dwight probably should have consulted with someone else, perhaps an adult, but we went immediately to work, wiring, tamping and moving the cart way back. Maybe 200 yards? I don’t know for sure. Dwight left to make sure no golfers had slipped out onto the course, as it was Monday. Back in those days, Monday was still a holy day for golf courses, a rest day or project day, in that golden time before accountants took over everything. The only chance that golfers might have snuck out onto the course would have been if a few local pros had decided to take advantage of Dad’s absence . . . and if we accidentally killed a few golf pros, well, what was the harm?
I was given the honor of touching the wires to the battery and before I could look up, the turf rushed up to meet me, knocking the absolute hound out of me. The shock wave did not restrict itself to dormant grass this time, it came straight through the air. Hot, solid air, pushing toward me at warp speed; all the oxygen on the golf course vanished. I couldn’t breathe, see or think clearly. I do remember watching the giant stump leap from the ground and perform a lazy somersault, making a 3/4 flip before hitting the turf with a thud I could feel but not hear. All I could hear was this odd high pitch against that feeling of clogged ears. I then became aware of wood chips flying through the air. All sizes of splinters, flakes and shards of brittle baked oak sprinkled down like hail. Dust floated in the air as if I was caught in a dark snowstorm. We had made a tiny mushroom cloud. I was so proud.
As the smoke and vapor and dust began to settle, I realized a new set of problems: Everywhere, as far as I could see, were splinters of stump shrapnel and along with all the small stumps, we faced a massive cleanup ordeal. The next problem was Dwight disappearing over the hill at high speed. I had skipped school to witness this epic day on the golf course and now, I was alone, with a mess of battlefield proportions, fully aware that Dad would return the next day.
I had to figure out how to get a stump the size of a small camper trailer off the golf course and, without a blower or a vac—just a rake—hide the evidence. It took the rest of the day to drag, push and finagle the massive stump off the fairway and into a ravine. Because it weighed more than our little Ford tractor, it pulled the tractor partway into the ravine and in the dark, I rescued the tractor with the Jake F-10. I camouflaged the stump with pine branches and went home to write my obituary. *
*Note: In the event any statues of lamentations are still in effect, none of this is true.
Let’s talk Agronomic Bravery
brave /brāv/ adjective 1. ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage. "a brave soldier"
synonyms: courageous, plucky, fearless, valiant, valorous, intrepid, heroic, lionhearted, manful, macho, bold, daring, daredevil, adventurous, audacious, death-or-glory.
verb 1. endure or face (unpleasant conditions or behavior) without showing fear. "we had to brave the full heat of the sun"
synonyms: endure, put up with, bear, withstand, weather, suffer, sustain, go through;
When you look at the root definitions of “brave”, it quickly can show that being brave somehow intersects with life choices that are in some way dangerous. Makes sense. It’s that kind of word. It connotes you being in some danger and it also signifies keeping others from harm’s way.
I had a coaching call (I really despise the that phrase, but it is a part of what I do) with a newer client last week. And as Super X laid out plans for the their upcoming season, it all sounded technically sound and I found myself wondering why I was reacting to it in a less than positive way. Aren’t sound, solid, technical well drafted plans supposed to sound good? I guess. But I also know that sometimes a fighter has a plan, until they get hit hard enough to send them to the canvas because they didn’t think about getting really hit.
So I quickly steered the conversation into a “what if” type line of thinking. Something along the lines of, “What if that first aerification event gets rained out?” and “Explain to me your strategy for record heat” and “Where’s your head as far as the janky pump station you have”. As I continued along this line of tough questions, Super X started to lose his cool.
“Dave, I can’t plan for every bad thing that is possibly going to happen”, said Super X. True. For the most part, we can’t begin to predict all the things that can and will go wrong. I agree.
“What if I told you that you lack bravery?”, I said in an abrupt manner. Long silence. Long. Dalai Lama long. And I could hear the anger boiling up.
“Look”, I said, “what you just laid out for me is good. It’s textbook solid. And I’m not impressed. At your level, at your degree of happening that you have to make, I don’t see anything more than you just waiting for… next year”. That did it. A string of expletives blasted thru the phone at me. It was as if I had called his dog a goat. How could I be so wrong?
What’s the point here? My job as an agronomic advisor isn’t just to shake my head yes to cool ideas and usage of the latest and greatest discoveries in Turfgrass History. Quite the opposite is often true. What I am tasked with is getting supers to look at their situation and find the death traps. Find the scary places. Seek out the spots that they really don’t want to shine the lights on.
Let’s go back to Super X. This facility is very irrigation dependent. They have not a lot of storage. They have questionable water supply issues in both quantity and quality. They have older control systems and a pumping station that is headed for it’s last years. It’s a seven figure conversation, starting with the number 2 or maybe even a 3. Yeah. Serious. Super X is super comfortable talking with me about Fertility and Fungicide rotations and all that. He’s got that in the bag. But not a mention of the whole irrigation picture as part of his plan. Sure, he mentioned it in our first session, right along with mentioning that the shop lift was old and that he needs a new set of dew whips.
“Dave, it’s going to be years before they even want to start talking about this. We just finished spending money on trees and bunkers. They are tapped out,” was the story. And I agree. The addition of bunkers of the finest variety and a tree plan with the finest GPS mapping was outstanding. And now it’s time to keep going. And this is the point where I mention I might have fixed that irrigation system before doing the bunkers, but what good is my second guessing, really. Thus ensued the back and forth about how Super X doesn’t love his Golf and Grounds Committee meetings and how the whole thing is hard for him. Yeah, bro. The business is hard.
I am a veteran of 100’s of committee meetings. And I can tell you that at any level, it’s a minefield. With potential to make or break careers in several wrong spoken sentences or misplaced emotions. And I get that we Turfheads love to spout GDD and ET and BMP and all the other cool letter combos. To technically over-wow our audience can be a disease. I get it. I’m a recovering over-explainer. But sometimes, the Brave thing to do is to kick in your own teeth a bit and prepare to deliver some hard news. in very straightforward language. The back of the house, the unseen, is part of their asset too.
Now, there are ways to do this. Being prepared is key. Being completely versed in the subject is key. Being fully aware of the potential questions and who will be asking them is key. But make no mistake, you are a Steward of their property. An expert. And to be one, you have to have all the data. All the info. And MOST IMPORTANT... you can’t hide from the tougher issues.
So now Super X and I are having a legit agronomy discussion. He’s done being mad at me. He’s seeing the light of what happens if the troubles he is used to go on too long. We are talking about the full evaluation of what is in place and making very strong assessment of not only remaining life span but efficiency right now. It’s time to get brave and collect some data. Do some pump testing, do some in-field auditing, dig some holes and look at some old valves that may have failed. It’s time to look at power cost and consumption data. It’s time to consider alternative water sources. It’s time to be brave.
There’s one last point. The very best superintendents that I have ever seen are so good at getting people to follow them into battle. So the tactic here, is to look deep at the data and instead of reporting to everyone about the sky falling, the move is to get a few small squads together and show them the info. To find who is listening and who wants to pick up a weapon or two and join in the fight. And it is also time to help the faint hearted get up to speed and get comfortable. So that they will also support the mission.
Marching orders set. Plan to make a plan in place. Experts' phone numbers at the ready, now Super X can be agronomically brave. He can look hard at his situation and put together a plan that includes not hitting the floor in bewilderment. WHEN the punches come. And they will come.
I’ll write about this more in some future case studies. But I thought it might illustrate for you that our business has a level of competence in planning that includes putting your whole heart and soul into the win.
Most people will recognize the title of this blog as a cornerstone approach to pursuing sustainability. Reduce, reuse, or recycle represents three different approaches for resource management that if instituted wisely diminish resource consumption in an operation or household. In my experience, recycle is the step that seems to get the most attention and is also practiced (considered) more frequently than the other practices. But these “3 Rs” are not just arbitrarily ordered so they roll off the tongue. The ordering represents a hierarchy of benefit whereby reducing resource consumption is most beneficial, reusing resources is next, and recycling is the benefit offering the lowest ranking return when seeking to decrease resource consumption.
Recycling is important, but only one piece of the 3Rs approach.
Drury Reduces & Recycles
Reducing our resource consumption upfront will be our greatest step towards sustainability. In the past several years we have taken the same steps many operations have by reducing water consumption for irrigation and decreasing the amount of chemicals we apply to the landscape. A step that is a little more painful is reducing the frequency of purchasing major new equipment (trucks, mowers, UTVs). We also have changed our maintenance practices and zone expectations to diminish the intensity of operations without decreasing takeaway quality.
Here at Drury University we have a fair recycling operation. In 2006 I was in an Environmental Science class with a fellow student that was single-handedly pushing recycling for our campus. Through her efforts, each building received several receptacles for the recycling of paper, aluminum, and plastic. Until recently Drury partnered with a number of organizations to host a recycling center for the use of the downtown Springfield area. In addition to many single stream dumpsters on campus, Drury also takes recyclables to an enhanced City of Springfield recycling center nearby our campus. We are in the process of evaluating our recycling, so we can increase participation and waste diversion.
A Drury student uses the 3 bin composting near Smith Hall. Photo credit Taylor Stanton, DU student.
Reusing materials is another leg of the 3 Rs that Drury University incorporates into our maintenance. Drury Grounds has several composting bins throughout campus that are used by us and students. These three-bin systems are not only effective for household and yard gleanings but are also good looking enough to place unobtrusively on campus. I have blogged elsewhere about how we use obsolete architectural stone from razed buildings in our gardens. One other way that Drury reuses materials is by using our limb chip as mulch on campus. Because large trees are the signature of our campus grounds, we generate large amounts of chip in just normal tree care operations, not to mention during removals. This limb chip allows us to close our organic waste stream, but also provides “heritage mulch” for us.
Tree Failure Results in Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Opportunity
In July 2018, Drury lost a large oak tree from the heart of our campus. This tree was blown over in a thunderstorm having peak straight-line winds of 74 MPH. In an interesting aside, a post failure autopsy revealed the likely cause of failure was due to damage sustained by the tree during the 2007 Ozarks ice storm. A large wound (see photo below) allowed a column of decay to travel into the root flare where it impacted enough of the buttress roots resulting in instability. Tree physics requires all forces acted upon the tree to ultimately travel to the roots where they are dispersed into the ground. In this case, the torque on the tree caused root failure and the tree toppled.
Despite being greatly saddened by the loss of this tree, we immediately realized we had an opportunity to sustainability efforts into practice. First, we would reduce (to zero) the amount of tree refuse that would leave our campus. All tree branches and major branches would be passed through a chipper to create mulch. Next, we contacted a saw-milling business we had used before to take the large trunk sections and mill them into lumber that we could reuse/recycle. This is a very sustainable step and also generated nearly 1200 board feet of excellent oak lumber. The trunk base/root flare was placed in a native area on campus where it will be allowed to fulfill its life cycle through decomposition.
Instead of being hauled off, large logs from fallen tree were milled and will be reused on campus.
Reduce/reuse/recycle doesn’t solve all our grounds management problems. But it does provide an additional avenue for pursuing a more environmentally compatible operation. It also demonstrates to Drury University associates we take our sustainability charge seriously and are constantly seeking ways to deepen our resource conservation practices. The 3 R’s are a well-known approach to conservation and waste diversion. By practicing these steps in our campus landscape management, Drury Grounds provides leadership and hope to our community and hopefully spur others to greater 3 Rs commitment.
Let's take another post-GIS question. This provoked some thought.
Who are your Turfgrass Heroes?
I think the person asking me this was thinking that I would list off a bunch of people that everyone knows thru social media and what not. And well, their may be some recognizable names, there are also some that I know you don't know. I can't name them all here and if you didn't make the list and you know me well, it's not a slight. It's being economical. And it's recognizing people in my world who I have had contact with.
Mike Kosak. The first superintendent that I ever worked for. Still to this day one of the greatest people that I know. He's been like family since I first met him at my high school in 1981. That's 38 years ago, right about this week when he took a chance hiring a cowboy kid who didn't know the difference between a green and a tee. If you'd like to know more about Mike, I did a a podcast episode with him, here. Mike is just one of those people that make our business great.
Me, with Mike Kosak.
The long line of supers and others that he has produced and influenced is distinguished and he'd never say he had anything to do with it. He did. In a major way. You know what's crazy? In his retirement years, he spends his winters in warm climates changing cups. One of the best supers, GM's, Owners and Mentors and he is perfectly happy doing course set up wherever he and his wife decide to park their RV for the winter. So cool.
Walter Woods. You've probably heard my story of my first meeting with Walter in St Andrews, Scotland. Wherein I was puking my guts out right next to the 18th green at The Old Course 10 min before because I was so nervous about meeting him. I hung on his every word. Every one of them. And still do more than 20 years later. Walter's time as Links Manager at St Andrews was a pivot point in keeping with minimalism. He could have taken links golf away from where it should be and he didn't. Modernizing with a strong touch and developing great people around him. He's not one to give out compliments easy. I had to earn those words.
Walter Woods, and me.
Ross Kurcab. The fifth episode of The Turfgrass Zealot Project featured Ross Kurcab. Ross did 30 years with The Denver Broncos, masterfully managing first the practice facilities and then later the Broncos adsorbed Mile High Stadium. Ross handled it well. Really well. And he's got the Super Bowl rings to prove it. I always admired his spirit and his dedication and his ability to make a really tough job look really easy. Now I admire his dedication to helping others in the Sports Turf world succeed. Amazing.
Dave Hensley. Now the GM at Ballyneal, the famed Tom Doak masterpiece in Eastern Colorado, Dave is that guy that I just want to be. While Ballyneal was started on a dream, the construction and grow in were some nightmarish days. It was Dave's first superintendent's gig and he absolutely killed it. But I knew I was in the presence of greatness when, on opening day, he teed it up with Ben Crenshaw, Bill Coore and Tom Doak as his playing partners and never even broke a sweat and didn't shoot 110. I'm not sure I could have hit the ball out of my shadow in that situation. Oh, did I mention Dave probably hadn't slept for three days prior to this? Yeah. Hero.
Kevin Hicks. If anyone had a tougher day in and day out situation than Kevin Hicks during his time at Coeur D'Alene Golf Resort then I don't know who that would be. Tough owner. Floating Green. Insane expectations. Night Maintenance. And that's just the hit list. For 15 years. And before that, Kevin paid his dues, turning around Hillcrest CC and working his way through Arizona and starting in Minnesota and Colorado, all at high demand jobs. What I love about Kevin is his natural chill. It may be affecting him on the inside, but not on the outside. Now as part of the team with Earthworks, he is sure to make a huge impact for Joel Simmons and Company. Oh and his son Michael? Same degree of chill as he will likely be a professional baseball player. Kevin is the tall one in the photo.
Me with Kevin Hicks, Mickey McCord and Thomas Bastis.
Thomas Bastis. Standing next to Mr. Hicks, is Thomas Bastis (and next to me, that's Mickey McCord of McCord Golf Safety). If you don't know this name, shame on you. Learn Google. Now an agronomist with the PGA Tour, Bastis is killing it. And that's no surprise. I've watched him pull the rabbit out of his hat so many times that I now know it's not magic, it's just how it works. His ability to ask me mind numbing questions for hours and fill in the blanks with logic and more Vulcan Science than Spock ever dreamed of would have me staggering to my car, driving to the hotel and curling up in the fetal position having been mind melded to the max. And while I was whimpering he was probably getting in a 12 mile run, just because. You can't imagine.
(Disclaimer. I thought this would be a very easy blog post. Pick a few turfheads that I know and love. Write in Wilber Style. Spread the love. Done. The truth is that this has been agonizing to the point of loss of two nights sleep. For sure, I am missing some people. And so instead of making myself even more crazy, There will have to me more installments of this. Many more.)
Ballyneal Golf and Hunt Club, Hole #7
We are all part of communities. I am a family member, a citizen of my small town, I am an Islander, a Maritimer and a Canadian. You can say similar yet different things about yourself. Whether it’s at the family level, within our surrounding neighborhoods or even based on our geographic locations; we are all part of a something bigger than just ourselves. At the macro level we are also part of the larger human community and even the community of all beings that makes up this planet. We all are inextricably interconnected in this life because we need each other to survive.
Within our turf industry, our affiliations with community can take many forms. We have the TurfNet group, GCSAA, CGSA, BIGGA, and the many other national and provincial/state level associations. Bringing it down to the micro level we also have small groups of Greenkeepers who gather informally or chat frequently by phone or via the occasional visit. Any way you cut it, these communities are essential for our well being and sense of connectedness.
I have been incredibly fortunate over the past year to visit some of these associations, and I can tell you with confidence that despite geographic differences we are not that different at the group or individual level. I have had the privilege of witnessing first hand turf workers coming together, for the exchange of knowledge, support and friendship. The energy and sense of connectedness from such gatherings is palpable. On many different levels there are bonds forged which go far deeper than simply growing grass; and this is a very good thing.
When we gather as a turf community, it also serves to remind us about the wider reach of the industry on the planet as a whole. When one segment of our industry researches or creates something new, it can have far reaching impacts on the rest of the wider turf community and beyond. Many times these repercussions are positive, but not always. Sometimes we can be so focused on the hype surrounding the next emerging technology that we can forget to ask whether we needed it or not. As a community, it can be helpful for us to occasionally step back and critically examine the trajectory of the industry and where it fits into the larger human experience. Is this technology/action beneficial for the wider ecosystem? Am I causing the least harm possible in my agronomic choices? After all, to slightly tweak John Donne’s famous phrase “No human is an island...”, nor is any segment of this industry independent from the world at large.
It can also be helpful as a group to step back and honestly listen to and create space for those who feel excluded from the mainstream community. Often times, through no direct malicious intent by the dominant majority, parts of our community can feel excluded or left behind. Sometimes the exclusion occurs because there are those who cannot afford to attend many of our gatherings due to the financial situations at their facilities. Other times the sting of exclusion is felt by the minorities within our community. Minorities being marginalized due to race and/or gender are the biggest subgroup within the Greenkeeping community, and we need to realize that it’s a real issue that needs to be addressed by the group as a whole. This unintended discrimination can leave these people on the periphery of much of the important decision making that steers the community as a whole. In this regard we can and should do better.
Building on a communities’ strengths is vital. Realizing that we all have blind spots is critical. As a collective we need to remember that our core strength is our ability to support each other. Whether it’s via sharing of knowledge, lending a helping hand in times of need, or simply being a listening presence, our ability to be there for each other binds us in a way that most industries would envy. But we cannot rest idly and ignore those voices from the margins. We need to open our hearts and minds and allow for new ways of doing things to replace outdated traditions and entrenched views.
In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All men (and women) are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality. -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I called a friend/summer neighbor yesterday to reconnect as the long Vermont winter has turned the corner and is inching toward spring. Brian and I email occasionally but hearing the voice (and in his case, the laughter) is good tonic and well worth the effort. The words of my late friend Gordon Witteveen loom large with me: "If you don't work at relationships they soon go away." So I try to pick up the phone when the odds are good that the recipient will be relatively available. Sunday afternoons are a good bet. What turned into an hour-long conversation went by quickly.
We chatted about my progress with the guitar (he's my inspiration), his expanded musical horizons with his new dobro, family, mutual friends, all the usual. He also mentioned that he and his wife are one month into a plant-based diet regimen, a huge change for both. He has educational and professional credentials as long as his arm (PhD psychologist, retired Assistant Surgeon General and Rear Admiral in the US Public Health Service), so he's no intellectual pushover. He attended a seminar on the topic with about 50 medical doctors and came away impressed by the science of nutrient absorption straight from the plant versus pre-processing by a cow.
Knowing Brian has an appetite for a good steak and BBQ, I had to ask how it's going so far. "Well, we both like seafood too much to give that up, and I don't go nuts if a Caesar salad has a bit of cheese on it, but eliminating meat and dairy hasn't really been a problem so far. Donna is a good cook and uses a lot of Forks Over Knives recipes, so it has been OK. My Achilles heel with other dietary programs," he continued, "has been feeling deprived. If I feel deprived or hungry all the time, it doesn't work for me. That hasn't been the case here."
We discussed the challenge of all good intentions lying in the implementation. Take the New Year's resolution thing, for example, of which on average 80% fail by this time of the year. Or the intent to learn the guitar from scratch, starting at age 60 (me, four years ago). Or an accomplished guitar player learning to play the dobro in his 70s (him, now). Trying to lose the 25 pounds most of us could stand to lose. Saving for retirement or a rainy day. Or coming home from a conference or seminar with a concept or idea we'd like to try to implement in our life or turf management program (all of us).
In my mind, successful implementation of good intention is all about realistic goals, reasonable time frames, and baby steps to get there... preferably with mini-milestones to celebrate along the way. Breaking a broad concept or goal into its component parts and starting with those will yield a much higher success rate. After all, eating an entire steak without first cutting it into bite-size pieces would be a little difficult.
Had I gone into learning the guitar with the expectation that I'd be playing like Eric Clapton or James Taylor within a year, my guitars (now six) would be gathering dust and I wouldn't have a new skill (however limited, still) that has literally changed my life. I went into it knowing that I would be learning it for the rest of my life, and took pleasure in the small victories. Learn the basic open chords, and simple songs to put them together. Traffic/Joe Cocker's Feelin' Alright has two chords; Bob Marley's Three Little Birds has three, with a reggae rhythm. I played the hell out of them in the early months, savoring the accomplishment. A low trajectory takeoff is always smoother than a steep one.
Having played the guitar now for over 50 years, Brian is struggling with the dobro, which also has six strings but a different tuning. That means completely different chord fingerings and picking patterns, not to mention that it sits in his lap rather than held normally. "I work at it for half an hour and then have to walk away, or pick up my regular guitar and play that for awhile," he said. "But I'll get there." I have no doubt.
I have another neighbor here in Vermont who proselytizes the benefits of a plant-based diet, and has been working on me. Having identified by process of elimination that dairy seems to be the root of my joint pain of late, my wife and I have toyed with the idea. We decided that the way to implement that change (if we do ultimately go "whole hog") is with... baby steps. One or two "meatless meal" days a week to start. A low trajectory learning curve for the cook(s) and for the body/mind to adjust.
Trying to put some money away for the future (emergencies, job loss, retirement)? Start with $20 a week, auto-deducted from your pay and deposited in an investment account. You will never miss it. Start that at age 22 and you'll have over $300,000 by the time you're 67. And that's nowhere near enough, but better than the estimated 55 million Americans who have nothing saved. Witness the panic of the recent government shutdown. If you can do $50 or more, do it.
Want to lose 25 pounds in six months? Setting that as your goal is tough. You're better off with a goal of five pounds in a month, then celebrating achieving it in two weeks. And on to the next five, keeping the first five off. Low trajectory.
Same goes with those ideas gleaned from seminars. I have always felt that one good, new idea obtained from a seminar, conference, webinar (or TurfNet Forum thread) and successfully implemented makes the entire effort worthwhile. Doesn't have to be five or ten ideas, just one. Doesn't have to be earth-shattering, either. Take one baby-step now and another down the road. Sooner or later you'll look back with amazement at the progress you've made.
My inbox has been blessed with some really good questions in the weeks since #GIS19. I like this one:
At first pass, I scoffed. Please. Me? Never. And then I considered the source of the question and the context of the conversation. Let's start with context. Because that word, in its wide range, can mean so many things. The author of the question was speaking to me about agronomy. Then to the point of source, we are talking about a Superintendent who has always been a deep thinking thought leader. So I decided that I'd look a little deeper at the whole subject.
In the early 90's my youthful excitement to apply ideas, along with my need to get noticed for those ideas, led me to seek out the emerging culture of eco-agricultural thinkers. This meant taking in writings of authors from Acres, USA Press. It led me to attend local and state anything that had to do with environment friendly agriculture. I got close with the growers and grazers who were using the same water sources as I was. I created a "community compost operation" and lastly, went almost entirely pesticide and salt fertilizer free. Inside of all of this were some pretty amazing people. Wide ranging. From generational Fruit, Wine Grape and Cannabis growers to Beef, Pork and Dairy producers to cool old ladies who just wanted to grow some strawberries to a wide range of specialty producers of just about anything that would grow. I'm a third generation agriculturist myself so in a way, there were as much my people as Turfheads. If not maybe more.
What I didn't grasp at the time is that I was the interloper, because I wasn't producing a "market crop". "It's Golf", they would say, "it doesn't produce anything other than recreation". And quite frankly most of that crowd didn't really get or participate in the sport. I had all the lines that we all say about Turfgrass being a major contributor, and they listened, nodded and held their same beliefs. But I was bound and determined that I was "producing" a "sustainable" product. And my ability to speak a bunch of different agriculture languages made this a fun sell for me. I was trying to be more "organic" more "sustainable" more "eco" so I could be looked at as a participant and not just a tourist.
What I learned was that my passion and my situation was unique and that really, if you want to, you can figure out a way to program a quality turfgrass management program with just about as much or as little input as you want. Really. And I learned that the best growers, producers, agriculturalists were the ones who relentlessly studied, observed, collected data and applied strong logic, while leaving behind the hype.
Lets get back to the original question, "Have you given up on the idea of Sustainability?". The answer is a distinct and strong, "No". I haven't given up on the idea of chemical free management. I lived it as a Super. I live it now as a consultant. I am always looking at ways to reduce inputs of any kind and increase the quality of the product. In some climates, working hard to fool. nature means doing this in some un-natural ways. And yes, that could lead to a use of a pesticide of some sort, or a chemical that overcomes a barrier to producing a playing surface. I'm not as naive as I once was. But in the same way, I am more dogmatic about how to look at the infinite number of choices we now have in our techno powerful world.
My old friend Tom Mead and I were talking about a project years ago. Mead, who was working for Tom Doak at the time and had been a Super himself and I hit it off straight away because we were of a "sustainable" mindset. Meaning we were always looking for ways not to apply chemistry first. This particular conversation has to do with grassing choices. We both knew there were two roads. One road was the higher road. It would fall more to what the "general handbook" would say. It would require some chemical enhancement and it would be understandable to 90% of Turfheads everywhere. The lower road was the road less traveled. It would require more creativity and observation. It may mean a lot of different as less frequently used inputs in the beginning, developing a bank account that would pay interest for a lifetime of less input. Both ways, under capable hands, would produce a playing surface. Both could be talked about at the bar at the end of the day by golfers who don't know any better and be declared a win.
So, what tips the ship? Which wind requires which sail? Or is it lots of fuel and big horsepower engines? That, in and of itself is the eternal and unanswerable question. And to me right there, is why Sustainability, while sailing into and out of storms, fog, doldrums and fair weather is never going by the wayside. Because, clearly, show me an agricultural professional, captaining any kind of ship, who stops looking for the best way to be the operator, master and commander of every tool at their disposal and I will show you a crash of Titanic proportions. Nothing piled against the rocks is any longer sustainability material. What constitutes a ship wreck in the golf world? To me it's the sad sign of golf courses going away. Hitting the rocks for various reasons, but gone none the less.
But if the ship is in the water, making waves, seeking cool ports and using its crew and every board foot of its waterline, it is, indeed Sustainable. Give up on Sustainable? Never. Our precious turfgrass demands it and further requires we don't label it and box it in so that we can claim technique over results.
In the Olden Times, (or “The Good Old Days" for those immune to PC brainwashing) Dad was the GCS at a wonderful muni* outside Atlanta.
*Note: Although Brad Klein has called for a Social Justice Moratorium on the word “muni”, it is not a derogatory term; it simply means a municipal golf facility. Those of us who actually worked on a muni are proud of it, much more so than, say, a CCFAD.
The muni in our story was a Dick Wilson layout called “Mystery Valley” and it became very popular after Dad finished resurrecting it. This was in the era of Arnie, Jack and Lee, when golf was appropriately sized and priced for sustainability. It was prior to the gold rush of golf launched by a foundation, a horde of rabid real estate developers and the legions of propaganda slingers who lived in the great towers of the concrete canyons known as Madison.
The “Good Old Days” are often referred to as Toxic Nostalgia by those trained in academic historical revisionism. Perpetrators of this art like to say things like “The good old days weren’t all that good” just before they cite examples, like how North Viet Nam defeated us and the British at Waterloo, or how great lightweight fairway mowers are now, versus the Jacobsen F-10. I have encountered devout, dedicated historical revisionists who are quite expert at deflating mythic “Good Old Days” beliefs, even though they weren’t on the planet during the period in question.
These folks are skilled in “Negative Nostalgia”, a vicious counter-measure tactic they employ whenever some old geezer goes glassy-eyed and begins a sentence with “Back in my . . . “
This is not a new practice, it happens to every generation; it’s just harsher now, due to the political polarity inflicted on the population. Now that you have been sufficiently immunized against anti-Good Old Days Negative Nostalgia, here is the promised Storytime.
Once upon a time, there lived a Co-Cola machine, in a tiny room betwixt Dad’s office and the tool room . . . in the barn. (I know, that’s two infractions in the same sentence, a trademark thingy and the use of the word "barn", a term that triggers golf's Social Injustice Inquisitors.) But in fairness, it actually was a barn--and down here in the South, we rarely said Coke and while we’re at it, this was before we learned that carbonated water dosed with coal tar and 8 tablespoons of sugar was less than optimum for good brain and organ operations.
Dad had the key to this machine, and he filled it regularly, with those 6.5 oz. bottles of cold drinks. He kept the price at a quarter and the crew loved it. Even the clubhouse cart boys came down to purchase cold drinks at our barn machine, because the Golf Pro charged double. (Yes, I know, the term "cart" is another SJI infraction.) Sorry, but if it can’t merge on I-285 and survive, it’s not a car.
As things are wont to happen in Good Old Days stories, evil entered our little paradise, in the form of greed. In those days, Dad collected the machine's money whenever there was sufficient accumulation and took the whole crew to Granny’s Kitchen . . . usually on a Friday. Granny’s was an all you could eat place, where, for $2.50, we stuffed all sorts of Southern-prepared delights down our neck. Vegetables of every sort, fried chicken, cobbler and every so often, chicken-fried steak . . . then we washed it down with iced tea and waddled back to the truck. It helped to lie in a horizontal position on the return trip, so the truck bed was valuable real estate.
Also, note that I said “Iced Tea”, not “Sweet Tea”, that horrible concoction that is often considered Southern. I don’t know where it came from, but it showed up about the same time as the big corporations started shoving corn syrup down our collective craws in amounts large enough to trigger diabetic comas. ’94, I think.
Anyway, the Golf Pro got wind of Dad’s Co-Cola machine and since he had a contract with the county that said he got 100% of the golf carts and concessions, the Golf Pro howled in protest. Apparently he wanted that last few cents the crew had squirreled away and within hours, an administrative official showed up. His title was Deputy Deputy Deputy Director of Parks, (DDDDP) and he ranted and railed and declared Dad’s Co-Cola machine a “Slush Fund”. This was during Watergate, so terms like “Slush Fund” were frightening.
Dad’s machine was confiscated and the Golf Pro, in true Carpetbagger fashion, entered into some kind of dark profit-sharing deal with the DDDDP. A new machine appeared, from a supplier of sugared coal tar not even native to Atlanta, and it was met with resistance. Not only was the machine loaded with cans instead of glass bottles, it was priced at twice the previous rate of bubbly coal tar.
After a couple of weeks, the new machine had earned nothing. The County Carpetbagger appeared and accused Dad of intimidating the crew into boycotting the new machine, even suggesting that Dad was illegally selling contraband cold drink bottles from a cooler in his office. Determined to prime the pump, in full view of the crew, the DDDDP approached the new machine and learned the real reason the boycott was so effective.
DDDDP defiantly stormed into the little room and rammed the first of two quarters into the slot. The second quarter never made it, because the sizzling electric shock DDDDP received upon touching the metal coin slot was so fierce that he shrieked, contorted into the leaping fetal position and slipped on the wet concrete floor. (The new machine leaked a little.)
Accusations flew and when the machine’s technician arrived to investigate, it was determined that tampering had occurred with the electrical supply. The machine remained, and to my knowledge, never once sold a drink to the crew . . . only to newly minted sales reps. (Experienced sales reps came prepared with rubber boots and gloves, because after all, this was the same course where a crew worker attempted to put a chemical rep into a box.)
The Friday pilgrimage to Granny’s Kitchen continued, due to Dad’s office cooler, a loyal crew, and some mysterious and diabolical machine saboteur--because after all, these truly were The Good Old Days.
It has been ten or maybe even twelve years since I have been a GCSAA member. Yesterday, that changed.
As a student, assistant and superintendent, membership to the national association made sense to me. And for 15 years of independent consultant status, I paid the dues with not a lot of joy. And one day, after a very disappointing conversation with a GCSAA board member, I decided that there wasn't a benefit to me by belonging. It was, in effect, a silent protest. And a financial decision to take the money my business had budgeted for Dues and make sure that I was a member of several local chapters. And as a way of showing even more local support, I served on two boards as an affiliate (non-superintendent) member. Several terms. Worked hard. Won several awards. Took education seriously. Every year, I would consider national membership and just didn't see why.
On Thursday, last week, I returned from the 2019 GIS and promptly wrote a couple notes to GCSAA staff members about how to go about becoming member number 013641 again. It was easy. David Phipps, GCSAA Field Staff Northwest sent me a note, a form and some instructions. Shelia Finney got involved. On Monday, world came from Anthony Rittof at the Emerald City that not only was I quickly reinstated, but was allowed to rejoin as a Class A member. Didn't expect that. At all. And no, I've been to The Masters, so that wasn't a driving factor.
I don't care to go into the past too much. Lets just say, that as a young superintendent, I was very outspoken as a voting delegate and committee member. Especially as it came to the emerging technology and online interaction areas, where I felt that GCSAA was severely short sighted. For a time, I really wanted to be on the board and then, sand kicked in my face, I didn't. And I'll leave it at that. I spent decades being sour. Probably not helpful.
Let's look at the current and the future. The Positive. And sure, I get that I would be a member for 34 years had I not taken the sabbatical.
Currently, I see the GCSAA as strong and getting stronger. Doing really good things with Chapter Relations and identity. I don't care much about politics, but I guess you can say that we are well represented in the golf world. I mentioned field staff. When this idea first bloomed, my first interaction with someone who filled this job made no sense. But since then, my interactions with the likes of David Phipps and Jeff Jensen have been outstanding. I have watched this program bloom at the hands of Steve Randall and his staff. Working and Winning.
I have good friends and industry contacts on the board in leadership positions. Darren Davis, whom I met years ago and recognized as a real talent. Good old friend Kevin Breen. Eternal good guy Rafael Barajas. The esteemed T.A Barker. And the list goes on and on. Great people. Giving a lot of time and attention to help.
Meeting Jeff Whitmire, CGCS for the first time at the TurfNet Beer and Pretzels Gala.
Help. A key word that I see any association needs to embrace. Maybe a better word is Service. Being in Service to members. Being there to help everyone grow. That to me is the mark of a great association. Otherwise, you just have a big old Moose Lodge. Look, if our profession doesn't get help from as many sources as possible, we run the risk of always being the second class citizens. No one really wants to hear that they need that help, but from my 30,000 foot view, golf is still in trouble.
As I walked around the convention center in San Diego, what I saw were some very happy members. People getting educated. People networking. People involved in trade in a good way. I saw moves to help with inclusion (I'm not gonna talk about Cheerleaders, there are strong women in our association who can do that). I saw buyers on the trade show floor doing business. And I saw leaders and contributors being recognized and awarded. Not just for the sake of mutual admiration.
So, I am proudly, once again, GCSAA Member 013641. And it makes me very very happy to offer up my credit card number to pay for that privilege.
Nicholas Carr, a technology and modern culture genius, wrote the book, "What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains". Although I don't usually quote folks who went to Harvard and got nominated for that Pulitzer thing, I am doing it now. Why? Because no matter how hard I work at warning the golf world about tech and AI and microwave signals cooking our brains, nobody listens.
So I thought maybe golf might listen to this little gem from Nicholas Carr:
For those unwilling to heed the warnings from the brain of an academic intellect, I have provided a short film that explains just what happens when the neural pathways get constipated.
TurfTrainer is a patent-pending turf brushing system designed to improve turf playability, performance and health in a simple, easy to install and operate, low-maintenance package.
Designed by Rodney Hine, noted Boston-area superintendent and TurfNet member, the TurfTrainer attaches to the bucket of a greensmower and is pulled beneath the bucket rather than pushed as conventional brushes are. Once installed, the TurfTrainer can be used on-demand without further removal or installation. A stow and go mechanism allows out-of-sight storage.
No Moving Parts - TurfTrainer attaches to the mowing bucket with no moving parts, minimizing maintenance. Flips up when not in use.
Unobtrusive - Whether stored or in use, operator view is not obstructed and TurfTrainer does not impede routine mower maintenance or adjustments.
Adapts to Surface Contours - The flexible mat follows the turf surface contour efficiently, providing a stand of turf ready for cutting.
In operating position.
Flipped up and out of the line of sight.
TurfTrainer is manufactured using non-corrosive materials specifically designed to withstand the challenging elements found in turf brushing environments.
Configured very much like the old tow-behind Ranger-type fairway gang mowers of yesteryear, the ProRoll from Progressive Turf brings individual unit flotation and contour following to wide area rolling. No longer is the rolling effect lost on dips and magnified on humps in the fairway.
Available in two models -- the Pro-Roll 10 and Pro-Roll 15 - with 10’8” or 15’ rolling widths, each roller unit is able to independently track changing contours. Solid ballast (30# suitcase weights) can be added to or removed from each roller deck to ensure even compaction (between 5.8 and 11.6 psi) across all rollers.
The Pro-Roll has the ability to make sharp turns without scuffing due to the four individually-mounted transport tires, smooth roller ends and Progressive’s Pro Lift-N-Turn system. Pro Lift-N-Turn allows the operator to hydraulically raise the rollers off the ground during a turn, eliminating any chance of scuffing. When the rollers are lifted, weight is transferred to the four wide floatation tires and the tow vehicle.
Each of the 26” long, heavy-walled 6 inch diameter steel rollers are housed in a wrap around frame for protection. No exposed welds and a formed end chamfer provides the smoothest roller drum possible. For durability, the pivots are straddle mounted and an over-sized flanged bearing supports the ends of each roller. Replaceable bushings and pins are incorporated at all key pivot points.
The Pro-Roll 10 and Pro-Roll 15 can be used with either a common compact tractor or a utility vehicle. One remote hydraulic valve is required for operation from the vehicle seat. A self-contained power pack is available for vehicles without remote hydraulics.
If Carlos Arraya’s nomination for the TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award had been judged solely on what he endured while preparing for last year’s PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club, that alone might well have been enough to win the award.
But providing stellar playing conditions for the world’s best golfers was only part of the story at the historic club in St. Louis. How Arraya and his team accomplished that was the bigger story.
In his fourth year at Bellerive, Arraya was named Superintendent of the Year by our panel of judges spanning the golf industry.
Sure, Arraya faced challenges while preparing for the PGA, including hot, humid conditions that nearly killed the greens just months after he started, an iron oxide layer and calcium carbonate buildup that was impeding drainage and trapped methane underground that was killing the grass from the bottom up.
But it was his labor-management style -- largely the result of immense tragedy -- that captured the attention of our judges.
Carlos Arraya, CGCS, with Stephanie Schwenke, turf market manager for Syngenta.
Called pillar management, his management style focuses on employees first with the idea that the best people will produce the best product. It’s a philosophy that Arraya proves to employees how important they are by giving them ownership of the course and conditions.
His focus on people-first is philosophy that was a result of losing his son, Isaiah, in a car accident in 2016.
As the winner, Arraya and a guest will receive two slots on the TurfNet members golf trip to Ireland in the fall.
Arraya was chosen from a field of five finalists that included Brian Conn of Transit Valley Country Club in East Amherst, New York; Dwayne Dillinger of Bell Nob Golf Course in Gillette, Wyoming; Pat O’Brien of Hyde Park Golf and Country Club in Cincinnati, Ohio; and Matthew Wharton of Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Read more about Carlos here.