Jump to content


Early morning inspiration...

I am fortunate to be able to spend a few months each year on a small island in the lower Bay of Fundy in eastern Canada. (Some would say I'm "lucky", but luck has nothing to do with it.) Our home is almost at the northern tip of this 9 mile x 3 mile island, which narrows down to a 100 yard-wide peninsula topped by the Head Harbour Lightstation, a scenic lighthouse with 270 degree views of the surrounding bays. The lighthouse is a popular destination for seasonal tourists, lighthouse aficionados (of which there are many), and my dogs.  Dawn arrives early here, somewhere around 4:15 AM. That's Eastern daylight time, which we choose to stay on rather than move the clock ahead an hour to the proper Atlantic time in which we actually live. We can see the Eastern time zone in Eastport, Maine, across the bay, so it's no big deal either way... but always a minor source of confusion and calculation when arranging dinner times with neighbors or whale-watch boat reservations. "Island time or American time?" In any case, whether it's 4:15 or 5:15 AM, our dogs start to stir when the sky begins to brighten. They all sleep in our bedroom on their own beds, so even though we take their "jingles" (collars with noisy tags) off before we go to bed, I still hear them. Usually because I've been awake for a while anyway. So our morning drill is for me to get up, turn on the coffee pot that's been readied the evening prior, put their jingles back on and let them outside. Once proper ablutions have been performed, they run back to the house for their breakfast, bowls also filled the night before. I pour a cup of coffee and wander over to my laptop on the dining table, which looks out over the early morning skies. I start to go through my email to the raucous symphony of jingles against bowls, at least for the 15 seconds it takes for two of the three (those with all or some Golden Retriever genes) to suck down their food. The sun will soon burn off the sea fog. After about half an hour, they've had enough waiting around and start to congregate around me. One rubs against my legs, another sits and stares, the third whines. Time to go for our walk. While it would be easy to consider this an annoyance — and I do, occasionally if the weather is foul — I actually appreciate it as a nudge to get outdoors and enjoy the wonders of that early morning walk to the lighthouse. And this epitomizes the old saying of "it's a journey, not a destination". The lighthouse at the end of the island only a quarter-mile away, but often takes us fifteen minutes or more to get there. Between stopping to sniff (both them and me, at different things), squatting or lifting a leg (them, not me), we take our time. It's not a race. Head Harbour Lightstation, our morning (and often more) destination... I try to take my cue from Paul Mac and be mindful, fully present, immersed in observation on these walks. If you allow it, a multitude of sights, sounds and smells present themselves. It rained all day yesterday so there was a lingering humidity in the air this morning. This tends to intensify the fragrances of spruce, balsam, moss, salt water, rockweed, Rosa rugosa or Rosa virginiana... which occasionally amalgamate into what we call "the Smell", a unique, almost intoxicating combination fragrance that's unique and indigenous to the coast of Maine and the Maritimes. if one pays attention, pockets of specific fragrances become apparent. My wife's favorite (even though she's still sound asleep in bed) is the smell of balsam fir (Abies balsamea), which can almost make you dizzy as you walk through it, or stop to enjoy and breathe deeply, through the nose. I wish I could embed a scratch-n-sniff patch here.  I have counted as many as eight different predominant fragrances on our way to the lighthouse.  But you'll miss them if your mind is elsewhere. This particular morning, the sun was just a tad above the horizon and an intense orange in color, casting a long, equally intense reflection on the water. This is fleeting, as within a matter of minutes the color can fade as the sun rises higher, or can disappear altogether if there are striations of clouds in the sky. We walk right toward it, but it still begs a pause in our journey. Which brings me to the sounds, the third component of this sensory extravaganza. A series of "peeps" in the trees alerted me to a group of eight or ten goldfinches flitting about. My favorite bird song here is "Oh-sweet-Canada-Canada-Canada" of the white-throated sparrow, a bird which I hear frequently but have never seen. They are always in the treetops somewhere. Then there's the ding-dong of the black-capped chickadee. Down the road a ways comes the caw-caw-caw of a group of large crows. A croak coming from the tidal flats to the left alerts me to a blue heron, standing in wait for his next meal to swim by. The impatient shriek of a juvenile bald eagle — one of two born back in April in the nest up in one of the black spruces that we pass — is echoed by the staccato cry of one of his parents, probably saying, "You're big enough to start getting your own breakfast". They are usually perched at the very top of one of the spruces. I've often wondered how a 20-lb bird can do that. Defying gravity, from my "office" window last year. Intermingled with all this are ubiquitous calls of the herring gulls, the honk-honk of (what I think is) the black-backed gull, and the occasional osprey mimicking a bald eagle. A lone mourning dove perched quietly on an overhead wire this morning, and a solitary cormorant paddled in the water. Many mornings this summer I've heard finback whales spouting, sometimes very close by. It's particularly eerie when it's foggy. You can hear 'em but you can't see 'em. Either way it's pretty cool. If the wind is blowing from the west and it's close to low tide, I can often hear the barking of seals (gray and harbor) from the colony on the north end of Casco Bay Island. Then there are the wildflowers, adding visual and aromatic texture to the roadsides. The lupines are done by this time of year, but swards of fireweed (often mistaken for purple loosestrife by those who just give them a quick glance) provide masses of color. Devil's paintbrush, black knapweed (with a flower similar to Canada thistle and favored by monarch butterflies), ox-eye daisies, angelica, wild asters, and the low-growing bunchberry (in the dogwood family, believe it or not) are either obvious or require some looking, but they're there, often adorning or framing a lowly guardrail along the road. Above, the opportunistic fireweed, the provincial flower of the Yukon. Below, ox-eye daisies and Rosa virginiana along the roadside. Those seeking McDonalds, amusement parks or miniature golf may say there's nothing going on this little island, just the other side of the eastern-most town in the continental US. But I disagree. There's plenty going on if you stop and observe. By the way, we do have a nice 9-hole Geoff Cornish-designed course on the island, part of the provincial park. Most golf course superintendents hop in the golf car or utility vehicle for their morning ride to inspect the course, for the sake of expediency. Some prefer to walk, however. I believe Chris Tritabaugh at Hazeltine walks his morning rounds. It surely takes longer, but my bet is that the quality of observation is greatly enhanced. In our own ways, we're all fortunate. Not lucky... but fortunate.

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

Chasin’ the Shore

the shore, the shore… forever more   the shore is where I’m bound  ‘cause it’s the closest place to feeling free… that I’ve ever found   those troubles great will have to wait… right now I’m doing fine   in a place that is no place at all   and a moment out of time    “Chasin’ the shore” by Island author David Weale  No matter where you call home, there are special landscapes where the lines between the everyday and “out there” blur a little bit. Whether it’s the mountains, deep in a forest, or resting on a windblown plain we all have our spaces. I am blessed to live on an island. It’s not a very big island, so the shore is never far from where I am, and for me, that’s a good thing because when the weight of life becomes too much, the shore has a way of cleansing me and helping to restore perspective.  A long walk on a secluded beach centers me in a way few things can. Add in an abandoned wharf, perfect for a long sit, and it is just the thing to reset the mind. The edge of somewhere has a way of setting things right by reminding you that the only certainty in life is change.   We live in a world that holds dear to things staying the same. We wistfully hearken back to the way things were, pining after the “simpler times”.  But comfort and simplicity never arise from holding on to the past, or even tumbling headlong into the future. That treasure only reveals itself when you realize that all you have to do is just be where you are. In time all things will change, including the golf courses we spend our days toiling away on to provide a fun palette for people to play the game of golf. But make no mistake, the places we spend so much of our lives tending  will eventually return to whence they came. They began as wild nature and to wild nature they someday will return. The knowledge of this doesn’t negate the effort we put into them at all. It is just helpful at times to take the big picture approach to life. Every piece of art that has ever been created, shared with the world, and touched someone will inevitably return to nothing. That includes each of us as well. This past month our greenkeeping family in Atlantic Canada lost a dear friend. Long time TurfNetter, Nathan MacKay (Glasgow Hills Golf Course, New Glasgow, PEI) passed away suddenly. Nathan was 37 years old and left behind his wife Vicki and their three young children. Nathan’s death was a tough one to process, and everyone who knew him wanted to figure out a reason for his untimely passing. But in the end there simply was no reason.   Appreciating difficult facts of life such as the death of a dear friend doesn’t make the grieving process any easier. Grief has a way of forcing you to pause where you are, whether you want to or not. You can push it away, try to ignore it or even pretend it’s not as bad as you think... but it will get your attention one way or another. For me, the weekend after Nathan’s passing was a hard one. I was both exhausted and devastated. I could have chosen many different unhelpful ways of coping but chose to venture to the north shore of our little island and let the grief wash over me. As I sat on a long abandoned wharf and felt the waves erode the sand under my feet, the grief for my lost friend held court. Sitting with my sadness and seeing it wash in just like the tide beneath me was powerfully freeing. Being present with my own feelings seemed like the right thing to do after so many days of everything feeling so wrong. In doing so I honoured the truth of my friend’s death and the truth of my own confusion and pain at his passing. Honouring truth isn’t always easy but it is always important. I encourage you to take a moment or two this week to pause and appreciate the ever-changing dance of life as it presents itself to you. Even if things are difficult for you right now, take a moment to be grateful for everything you are blessed with. The truth is that all things will eventually change and pass away. Seek out that quiet place which allows you to connect with something deep inside yourself. You needn’t travel far to return to your own sense of personal peace.

Paul MacCormack

Paul MacCormack

Before closing out the summer... Copenhagen!

Before my time at Great Northern ran too short, I decided to take a little day trip to Copenhagen City, the capital of Denmark. I dragged my buddy, Jack Darling, to Copenhagen so he could see the city as well… and he had a car, so I saved money by not buying a train ticket! To get to Copenhagen, we had to cross the Storebælt Bridge, also known as the Great Belt Fixed Link Bridge. This 6,790-meter-long bridge connects the two islands Zealand and Funen (the island Great Northern is on). It opened in 1998 after a costly price of 21 billion Krone (~3.5 billion USD), and you’re charged 240 Krone (~38 USD) to cross the bridge each way! Headed toward Copenhagen. Don’t be nervous to visit Copenhagen, because no matter where you’re from, chances are you’ll have an embassy to visit if needed! Copenhagen holds embassies for 74 different foreign countries. The Swedish Embassy, one of many within the city. Photo taken out the car window. We drove into the north side of Copenhagen to see the Little Mermaid Statue, based on the story written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It was built in 1913. Sitting at the water’s edge, the Little Mermaid attracts thousands of tourists each day. On the way to the most famous palace, we walked past the Christiansborg Palace. This is home to the offices of Danish Parliament, Supreme Court, and the Prime Minister. Construction began in 1733. A view from the front courtyard. Then we made it to the big Amalienborg Palace, which is a home for the Danish Royal family. Its split into 4 different classic-style palaces around a courtyard. Each of the 4 palaces is named after a previous King. This was built in 1760.  In the courtyard, you can find the Royal Life Guards. They patrol the palace grounds day and night. Super serious. Copenhagen has tons of statues to pay tribute to deceased historical/political figures. This is King Christian the 10th. He was King from 1912 to 1947.  Many statues of different previous Kings stand on blocks all around the city. Close to the Christian X statue, you can find “Nyhavn” (pronounced New-Hown), which means New Harbor. This waterfront district of Copenhagen was established in the 17th-century. The oldest house in Nyhavn was built in 1681. Looking good in my TurfNet hat, probably the first one ever in Copenhagen! Make sure to plan your trips with lots of detail and preparation… you may end up lost like old Spidey here! Our final destination was Tivoli Gardens, the 2nd oldest functional amusement park in the world and gardens that opened in 1843. On average, Tivoli Gardens receives over 4 million visitors per year.  There’s several different roller coasters and tons of booths with carnival-style games and cuisines from many foreign countries.  The “Daemon” towered over us as we first walked in. There are a few different dropping towers, swinging rides, and more all over the park. I managed to convince Jack to try the Demon coaster with me, and it was great!  Going up the Demon! Although it may be scary to some, the views from the top of the Demon are great.   Jack and I enjoying a simple cheeseburger in Tivoli Gardens. Thank goodness we ate after the Demon! Copenhagen was a blast, however, Jack and I could only visit for a few hours on a Sunday. Personally, I’d suggest visiting Copenhagen over an entire weekend, so you can really experience the city and appreciate the crazy new and old architecture up and down every block… and also spend a full day at Tivoli Gardens of course! I want to visit Copenhagen again, and I’m sure Jack would agree with me on that!

Parker Stancil

Parker Stancil

Next-Gen Range Maintenance

It’s safe to say that majority of golf courses around the world have a driving range on property, and this is responsibility for the greenkeeping staff and proshop staff to maintain. It’s very common for the clubhouse/proshop workers to collect the range balls to be reused and allow the greenkeepers to maintain the turf on the range. Here at Great Northern Golf Club, we have a high-tech GPS-based robotic system that can do both! I met up with our club Head Pro, Søren Hansen, to take a look at the part of the system that sits inside our driving-range/proshop facility.  Søren checking out a few range balls. Søren joined the European tour in 1997 and proceeded to win 3 events. He was included in the top 50 professional golfers in the Official World Golf Rankings and was labeled as the best Danish Golfer in 2007… and he’s our Head Pro! I’m very glad to have met Søren, he’s an awesome guy. Thanks for showing me the system! Søren has lots of work to do including giving lessons, proshop business, and more, so he and the other workers don’t have too much time to spare to pick range balls. Therefore, the ball collection system is a perfect fit for Great Northern. Several companies were contracted to put together the mowing and range ball collection system using robots, underground piping, and vacuum systems to handle the aggravating job of driving a cart up and down the range and getting smacked with range balls hit by golfers! The interior portion of the system includes the vacuum, a pump for the vacuum, a collection tray for hand-picked balls, the computer system, and the big steel container that feeds the balls to pipes to be dispersed to the outside ball machines. The inside portion of the system. The tray for loading hand-picked balls. Here is where the balls can be split between the two separate dispensers for the customers. Inside one of the dispensers. The balls are brought up by the flaps of the conveyor system. BelRobotics makes the Bigmow and Ballpicker electric-powered robots that are programmed to mow the rough of the range and collect the balls to be dumped into the designated collection pits. These robots have a width of a meter and can really get the job done! A Bigmow putting in some work. The Ballpicker and Bigmow from Belrobotics.   At these pits, the collection robots can empty their loads of around 250 balls and grab a quick charge to keep moving throughout the day. The mowing robots aren't programmed to go to a collection pit, therefore they have their own charging stations off to the side of the pit. Buried around the perimeter of our 5-acre driving range, lies a cable 30cm under the surface so the robots can sense where they are needed to mow or collect. Our driving range. Even though the robots aren’t too big, with a couple working at a time, they can cover the 5 acres in a little over 24 hours. 5 acres is a lot of ground to cover for a tiny robot, however, the robot can cover the whole area on one full charge. If your driving range aggravates you with the ball picking and extra mowing, take a look at going high-tech!  Another big thanks to my co-worker, Jack Darling, for helping explain the system to me.  

European Cuisine

First things first. I am an awful cook. I belong on the opposite side of Gordon Ramsey and Paula Deen on the spectrum of the culinary arts.  Upon leaving the U.S.A., I realized that my easy days of running to a McDonalds or Chick Fil A for a meal were coming to an end. Within the first couple of weeks, I struggled to feed myself, because I never learned how to cook. I had gotten so spoiled with fast-food and my parents feeding me. I’m embarrassed to say, I may have only used a stove top a couple dozen times before coming to Denmark. But I had to start to feed my raging American appetite.  Over the past 3 months of traveling around, I’ve run across many different cultures. A very important component to cultures are the different foods within.  I live in a house with greenkeepers that come from many different countries. Scotland, Ireland, England, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Latvia, and Poland are all homes to the dozen or more greenkeepers living in the housing complex. Therefore, I get a little experience from several different countries every single day.  Lithuanian, Scottish, Irish, English, and American all in one picture! During my trip to Scotland, my friends, Grant, Jack and Scott, who grew up there insisted I try a few of their favorite foods and drinks.  Of course I had to try the hot tea with milk. The most requested items from the guys were Haggis and Black Pudding. When I say Black Pudding, many people may think of a gooey delicious snack, however, it’s actually a “blood sausage” made from pork blood, pork fat, oatmeal, and a few more small ingredients. I will say that I am not a fan of either of the two. Black pudding is usually paired with this sweet “brown sauce” Haggis is another style of “pudding”, but doesn’t come in a sausage form. It’s made from Sheep’s Pluck, which can contain the heart, lungs, liver, and other organs that are normally disposed of.  The Scottish people enjoy these traditional foods, because a long time ago before meats were easily available, the Scots would try to use as much of an animal for food as possible to avoid wasting meat.  Along with Scotland, majority of the United Kingdom is pretty crazy over fish and chips. This usually consists of fried cod and French fries.  Yum! My Bulgarian house-mate Michail introduced me to Bulgarian cuisine. He made “Musaka”, which consists of mince meat, tomatoes, onions, Bulgarian spices, eggs, yogurt and potatoes.  In the process of cooking. Ready to eat! Thanks Michail! I thought to myself that since I’m trying foods from different cultures, I should introduce my friends to a typical American meal.  A cheeseburger and French fries would’ve been too stereotypical. After the Europeans joked around with me about drinking Coca Cola (typical American), I decided to make my family’s staple Coca Cola Chicken.  The simple recipe of Coca Cola, ketchup, honey, and chicken had a few of the guys foaming at the mouth!  English Jack, Irish Jack, and Irish John chowing down on a taste of America. I’m a pretty picky eater, but I enjoyed broadening my horizons in the culinary world. Not everything you try will satisfy your taste, but you’ll never know if you like it without giving it a go.

Let’s Do This!

Welcome to the TurfNet Members Trip to Ireland blog for 2018. We’re starting early to allow the blog to explain the details of the trip. We also want allow for additional participants/sign ups in the wake of one of the most difficult seasons in which to maintain turfgrass. Have a look and consider joining us on a “trip of a lifetime.” Dates: Thursday, October 11th (Leave the US) and return Saturday, October 20th, 2018. You are welcome to extend the trip on the front or back end on your own. History: This is the tenth TurfNet members trip overall and our fifth visit to Ireland. Trip Philosophy:  Relax, enjoy yourself, have fun, get along. You’ve earned it. Especially this year… Links Courses to be played (year established):  Royal Portrush Golf Club (1888)  - Host of the 148th Open Championship in 2019 The Island Golf Club (1890) County Louth Golf Club – Baltray (1892) Rosapenna Golf Club (1893) – Laid out by Old Tom Morris Portmarnock Golf Club (1894) Castlerock Golf Club (1901) Ballyliffin Golf Club (1948) Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links (1996) You will find virtually all these courses in the rankings of top courses to play in Ireland. We will also meet our superintendent/greenkeeper hosts at each course and when possible meet their staff and tour their facilities. Test your bunker shots with the many revetted bunkers on Ireland’s links courses (photo: The Island Golf Club) Where we stay: We plan our hotels so they are evenly distributed around the areas we are playing. This means we never have a really long bus ride to get to or from the golf course. Specifically, we’ll stay in the following hotels/towns: Dublin: Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links and Grand Canal Hotel Carlingford, County Louth: Four Seasons Hotel & Spa Derry, Northern Ireland: Bishop’s Gate Hotel Rosapenna, County Donegal: Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort Aerial view of the stunning Rosapenna Golf Club - laid out by Old Tom Morris. A lucky rainbow over the Rosapenna Hotel - our home on Thursday night. Wake up and tee it up on Friday. Ground Transportation: We will once again engage Matthews Coach Hire to provide our daily transportation around Ireland. The coach bus is leather-trimmed and has a bathroom on board. They did an outstanding job ensuring our comfort, safety, and enjoyment when we were last there in 2015.  Are non-golfers or partial golfers welcome? Yes! If you’re first reaction when you look at this trip is, “there’s no way I’m going to Ireland and leaving my wife at home” we’re happy to explain that there is a separate program for any non-golfers on the trip. We have the coach bus all day so while the golfers are on the links, the non-golfers use the coach to visit local historic and heritage sites.  These side trips are flexible and the driver will take cues from the group as to the number of places to visit and the pace of the trip overall. If there are specific interests for any non-golfers (shopping, art, history, gardens, etc…) we are happy to work those stops in as well. If someone would like to play some golf but not every day, they are welcome to sign on to the Tee/Tour package – roughly half the golf and half the tours. Any golfer is welcome to join the daily tour due to fatigue, rain, injury or other considerations. The quaint village of Carlingford in East Ireland. Flights: Since participants are attending from different parts of North America, we don’t have a set pair of flights for the group trip. The package rate for the trip doesn’t include airfare so you are free to book your own best deal with the airline you prefer to use. Just make sure you arrive into Dublin Friday morning October 12th no later than 10 AM and don’t plan to leave Dublin before Saturday morning October 20th.  A number of discount carriers have entered the US to Ireland market, which has generally brought prices down in recent years. Pay attention to additional charges for checked luggage and sporting equipment/golf bags. Package price: Golfer Double Occupancy: $2600; Non-Golfer Double Occupancy: $1700. Other prices are on the attached flier: ireland_2018_v2.pdf Other expenses: You are responsible for lunches, most dinners, optional caddy fees ($60-$80/round), evening beverages, and any souvenirs you want to buy. $100-$150 per day is a good range depending on your caddy use and the amount of items you plan to bring home, but everyone is different in that regard. Final opening thoughts: We’ve designed this trip to make it especially memorable on many levels. The golf is first rate, the pace is reasonable but not exhausting, and the hotels are very comfortable. By playing these courses you’ll likely gain insight as to how you may wish to tweak the way you manage your course back home.  The trip is turnkey. Like what you see? Sign up, book your flight, show up and enjoy! No need to confirm hotels, tee times, car rentals (other side of the road!) etc…  I can’t tell you the number of people who see our trip blog and tell me, “I wish I had gone on that Ireland trip!”  We hope you’ll consider joining us and bringing a friend or relative! Special Thanks to Syngenta and IVI SandTrapper for their sponsorship and support of the trip.  Have questions? Contact me at JKiger@turfnet.com or 1-770-395-9850.  Old Tom waiting for your photo op at Rosapenna.

Jon Kiger

Jon Kiger

Ydnar's Tales of Golf Course Vengeance

August's Guest Columnist is Ydnar, Randy's dark side Doppelganger with a penchant for payback.   In the olden days, before the cult of Customer Servitude came to power with their warm fuzzy fantasy seminars, customers were dealt with according to their level of honor and integrity.   Then, things changed.  A new CS doctrine emerged, born in a classroom environment, with an eye toward making money off of big corporations for social engineering training sessions.  Over-complexified and heavily laden with psycho-jargon and cryptic language, the early re-education camps were blended with Mary Kay style corporate pep rallies and subtle shaming techniques. The cryptic language probably dates back to just after we touched the monolith, when the tribal shaman developed mysterious chants and indecipherable phrases to make their job seem amazing and vital.  (You know, like . . . Latin and economics.) In the primitive Honor & Integrity CS method, the “good” customer received a quick response to concerns, combined with concessions like apologetic behavior, rain checks and freebies.  The “bad” customer, however, was ignored, ridiculed and banished from the village.  Yet, somehow, the new wave of CS prevailed, due to weakened educational standards and diets based entirely on corn syrup.  The next generation of customers were taught that “kicking up a fuss” would produce success in their retail adventures.  Soon, the Pavlovian response kicked in and customers were wailing, complaining and shrieking like they had been harpooned.  The instant ticket to free stuff was addictive.  Just like the modern methods for raising children, all this New CS did was reinforce terrible behavior with rewards.  (Much like if Pavlov had given his dogs sausage and biscuits for biting him.)   By the late 80s, customer boot licking had become widespread, and that’s when the “Unintended Consequences” surfaced.  “Good” customers were often ignored in favor of a policy of appeasement directed toward silencing the loud, obnoxious customers, the very ones we didn’t want anyway. It was sort of a squeaky wheel gone Mad Max result. We secretly practiced a form of selective CS, in which we differentiated between our reactions to the complainant, based on past encounters with the individual.  If the customer was new, we allowed more leeway for the individual to display true colors; then we took positive or corrective CS action. For example, if a fine, upstanding member of integrity and honor accidentally stepped over the line, we smiled, waved and offered assistance.  Like the time Mr. Chedwell, a retired spook, decided to avoid buying range balls and used the 17th fairway as his own personal driving range, complete with enough divots to give that chicken pox on turf effect.  Rather than screaming at him, we smiled, waved and turned the irrigation up on him. Dealing with scoundrel customers required a different approach.   Bubba Poltroon, a Top Tier Scoundrel, had a habit of bullying the pro shop personnel into letting him go off the back, regardless of the maintenance operations in effect.  Mowing, spraying, top-dressing . . . none of these made any difference to Bubba.  He was entitled to play when and where he wanted, without encumbrance from staff.   Bubba was even immune to frost delays. One morning, as I made the turn with a four hole gap to the nearest golfers, (in the days before LEDs gave us a bigger head start) I saw Bubba already teeing it up on #10.  He demanded I turn off the mower so he could hit and then he instructed me to hurry up, as he had things to do.  I did hurry, but on #11, Bubba and his toadies hit into me, forcing a mower dismount to remove two balls from the putting surface.  I used a gentle foot-putt and put both into the nearest bunker, but by their reaction, you would have thought I had stomped a fluffy little kitten with a logging boot.   With unrestrained fury, Bubba yelled “Man-made obstruction!” and hit another range ball at me.  Sensing Bubba had very little Honor & Integrity, I unsheathed my 6-iron (Wilson Staff Tour Blade) from its special scabbard on the Toro, dropped Bubba’s ball beside the bunker and hit it right back at him. This resulted in a short firefight of dimpled projectiles, and although I was outnumbered, my fire was more effective than theirs.  Most golf bullies have never experienced return fire, especially the kind where you hit one high and one low.  (They can’t watch both balls.)  As a reasonably experienced veteran of golf firefights, I took advantage of their failure to spread out and practiced basic fire and maneuver until they hastily withdrew. I was forced to attend a week long CS course—which gave me time to catch up on paperwork— but Bubba learned his lesson.  He never again attacked a crew member; for a while, he had to play alone, as being his playing partner was deemed “unsafe”. Over the next 14 years, I would be sentenced to ten more weeks of CS, but with each exposure, my immunity grew.  Yours will, too.  

Irrigation Irritation!

I don’t mean to imply that I dislike irrigation by titling this blog “Irrigation Irritation.” In fact, I love irrigation. I was introduced to the turf industry at the age of 16 when I helped install an HDPE system at Mountain Lake Country Club in Lake Wales, Florida.  16 year old Parker getting after it on the skidsteer! Here’s me plowing some 6-inch mainline back in 2015. Here at Great Northern, we have a Rain Bird HDPE system. The entire system is high-quality, and the pump house is pretty cool! Interesting pump house design, might withstand nuclear fallout! We have 5 30-kilowatt electric pumps and a jockey pump that’s around 20-kilowatts. Shiny new pumps running at 30 kilowatts each. That’s 150,000 watts total, excluding the smaller jockey pump. I say “Irrigation Irritation” because of the water quality that is used for irrigation at Great Northern. The pH of the water we pump from the lakes around the course is around 9.0. Creeping Bentgrass, like our tees and greens, prefers a soil pH of around 6.5 (6.0-7.0), therefore the 9.0 pH water we use would be detrimental to the various turf surfaces. To combat this issue, we utilize an Acid Injection System.  The water sure is pretty, but not good for the turf. This system analyzes the current pH of the water along with how much water is being pumped through, then shoots little bursts of acid in the mainline to adjust the pH of the water being used. The pump for the acid. We pump a water amendment with Sulfuric Acid (pH of 1.0), which makes up about half the weight of the product, into our mainline to regulate the water pH to a neutral 7.0. The pump for the acid. The product we use is made by Plant Food Company, and it comes in 1000-liter containers. It’s a 15-0-0 liquid fertilizer with 16 percent sulfur. Sulfur is great for lowering your soil pH. I give all the credit to the master of irrigation, Michail Trivonow, from Bulgaria. He’s shown me the ins and outs of the irrigation system, and I’ve been running hose with him recently here at Great Northern. Michail getting ready to handwater 14 green. Water management is arguably one of the most important skills for a turf manager to possess. When it comes to water management, I have learned to address the issues at hand, take my time, and do it properly.

Scottish Open: Experience of a lifetime

I had worked six professional tournaments before adding the recent Scottish Open as number 7. Of them, the Scottish is definitely at the top of my list.  The event was held at Gullane (pronounced Gull'-in) Golf Club on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth in East Lothian, on the east coast of Scotland.  Planted right along the North Sea, the golf course sat upon cliffs overhanging beautiful native landscapes and rocky shores. Gullane Golf Club is home to great links golf, great people, and breathtaking views. Here, a cool view of number 8, the par 3, at Gullane. Coming from Myrtle Beach, I had never seen cliffs like those at Gullane. Many of the tournaments I’ve worked have been really high energy events, so I’m always really pumped up before our shifts that usually take place around 5am. The Scottish Open didn’t quite have the same crazy energy, however. Every morning I was assigned to mow fairways with Kevin from the greenkeepers crew. Kevin fueling up his Toro 7-plex fairway unit, a very efficient machine that cut a lot of grass. In the evenings, I was either put on the divot crew, or did a different special job. One evening, I helped the crew replace the light and loose sand in bunkers with sand that compacted easier to withstand the crazy Scottish winds. The old sand (l) wouldn't compact very well. The new sand (r), with a little added moisture, worked perfectly. Blair Shearer (L) and Dave Thompson, ready to replace sand. Blair and Dave getting after it in the bunkers! Call me the sand man! Another job I did was pulling Ragwort, also known as Stinking Willie, from native areas. This needed to be done for aesthetic and safety purposes. Ragwort control is necessary because wild animals’ digestive systems can’t break down the weed. Ragwort, looks similar to Dandelion, but smells and looks worse. At night I would hang out with my new friends. Everyone had a good sense of humor, and they were all very kind.  Ashley posing with his “soft” lotion that Gary Innes bought him, because Gary thinks Ashley has softy American hands!   Me, Ashley, Dave Angus, Gary Innes, and Baptiste Traineau in the restaurant of the bed and breakfast we stayed in.  Come the end of the tournament, I wasn’t ready to go home or aching to be in my own bed. The relationships I had started with the other volunteers and crew members made me enjoy this tournament so much. Even after I returned to Denmark, some of the crew members, Kevin West and Liam Nicholson, have been on video chat with me for a good laugh and to catch up.  After a great week with everyone, I hated to have to leave. Hopefully I can make it back to Gullane another year for another tournament! Head Greenkeeper, Stewart Duff, saying farewell. I’m going to miss the guys, I hope to see them again someday.

It takes a village... (or a small town, anyway)

It's been a tough year or so for my 60-ish friends. Last Thanksgiving long-time TurfNet member and one of my best personal friends, Jerry Coldiron, left us way too soon, at 60, of cardiac arrest. Shortly after Valentine's Day it was an 18-year stalwart on our TurfNet hockey team, Tom Morris CGCS (ret), at 61. They thought it was the flu but turned out to be spinal meningitis, source unknown, four days soup to nuts. Went to bed and didn't wake up. Again, way too young. We just arrived at our summer place in the Maritimes to find our builder and good friend Mark Calder just spent a week in the hospital for congestive heart failure. He's 60 as well, but thankfully still kicking. Good thing, as I have repairs that need attention. 🙂 The reality check for me is that I am older than all of them. The good news (for which I'm ever searching these days) is that sometimes good things happen as a result of tragedy or misfortune. Shortly after Jerry's death we launched the Jerry Coldiron Embrace Life! Fund in his memory, and awarded $10,000 at Beer & Pretzels to four individuals who exemplified Jerry's zest for life, positivity and spreading joy to others. The Fund will continue into the foreseeable future, acknowledging positivity in the turfgrass community. Today I want to talk about Tom Morris. Not THAT Tom Morris (of St. Andrews greenkeeping fame), although we did refer to Tommy as "Old Tom" upon occasion. Tommy Mo was a classic, a one-of-a-kind, broke-the-mold, do his own thing, dance to his own drummer kind of guy. Originally from Massachusetts, he spent most of his adult life and career in Vermont, my  home state for the past ten years. It was a perfect fit for Tom, because Vermont (a long-time bastion of independence) is full of individualists, burned-out hippies, non-conformists and Subaru drivers. Maybe that's why I wound up here and found such a kindred spirit in Tommy. Point of note: Contrary to popular legend, Vermonters don't wear Birkenstocks. At least I don't know any who do. Old Tom wore work boots, wool socks, hiking shorts, and a Hawaiian shirt. Just about every day, year round, no matter the weather. For variety it might be running shoes and a t-shirt in summer. On bright days he would sport his iconic, appropriately crooked Lennon-esque sunglasses to complete the outfit. In winter he would add his trademark tweed driving cap and barn coat. None of this for show, mind you. That was just him. His style, and his alone. He was a hockey player, referee and bluegrass musician. Along with Ken Lallier, CGCS, also from Vermont, Tommy was an original 1999 member of Team TurfNet, our first year playing in the Golf Course Hockey Challenge in Fort Erie and Niagara Falls, Ontario. He missed only two tournaments among the twenty since. Ken Lallier hasn't missed any. Our goaltender all 20 years. Iron Man. Brick Wall. Vermonter. Me with Trevor Clark (l) and Tommy Mo at Music in the Meadow, Chester, Vermont, June, 2017. Tommy was playing with The Bondville Boys in a fund-raiser for the Susan G. Komen cancer research fund. Like a true Yankee (as in New Englander and Bruins/Red Sox fan), Old Tom was frugal. Our first year at the Hockey Challenge, he arrived with his gear in his father's World War II duffel bag. Much of his equipment was almost as old. He had a 1960s-era leather helmet. Gloves with no palms. A t-shirt with more holes than fabric, which he continued to wear for many more years until it completely fell apart. Post-game refreshment, with Brian Goudey (now with Syngenta), 2010. Nobody was thinking about who won or lost. It's all about the friendship. Tom was a golf course superintendent for about 25 years at a handful of courses in Vermont. He was certified, and if my memory serves me correctly, he was president of the VtGCSA around the turn of the millennium when GCSAA was pushing it's dual membership program requiring all members of local chapters to also have membership in the national. Vermonters as a rule don't like to be told what they can and cannot do, or what they have to do. Beyond that, the state has many short-season, low-budget facilities to which the $300 asked for national dues meant doing without something else. So there was a backlash, with Old Tom leading the hue and cry. This of course didn't sit well with some who sip the Kool-Aid. As fate would have it, Tom lost his job at Sugarbush Golf Course shortly thereafter. His few local detractors pored over the chapter by-laws, cited the clause stating that chapter officers must be currently employed superintendents... and asked him to resign as president. I suspect that after 25 years Tommy had one foot out the golf industry door anyway, but he turned around and told them where they could stick their by-laws and everything else... and quit the business. Drawing upon his skills learned as a superintendent, Tommy and his Sweetie (as he called Nancy Jean, his partner for many years before and since) started a property maintenance business servicing second homes and condos in the ski areas of southern Vermont. He refereed hockey games at night, and was a founding 30-year member of the Bondville Boys,  a popular local bluegrass band with which he played banjo and guitar, wrote songs and sang. Tom and Nancy Jean, an item for 27 years. Like many others in rural New England, he cobbled together enough income to get by, played some music, cultivated a little 'Vermont lettuce' for personal use and enjoyed life. That he did. I don't know how many guys have passed through Team TurfNet over the years, but I'd say somewhere between 50 and 75, maybe even 100. I know that if I were to ask any one of them who their favorite teammate was, every one would say Tom Morris. Was he the best player? No, but nobody played harder, even as he got older and slower. In fact, as coach, I awarded him several casual (and often tongue-in-cheek) team MVP awards to recognize his effort and commitment. It was in the dressing room that Tommy was in his element. Oh, the stories, the wisecracks, the memories of zany shenanigans that took place over those 20 years when men become boys again for at least a couple of days. Life-long memories were generated every year, even during those early years when we went winless for five years straight. Tom Morris (r) enjoying a yuck with Joe "Squeak" Kinlin (Bey Lea GC, NJ) in 2005. Must have been the early of the two daily games, judging by the Gatorade. Tom's trademark tweed cap can be seen hanging from the hook at the top of the photo. When Tommy passed away in February, his Sweetie, Nancy Jean, announced that there would be a celebration of his life later in the year.  That turned out to be the first annual town-wide TommyFest, held at their stream-side home in Jamaica, Vermont, on July 7. Jamaica is a classic small Vermont crossroad town of about a thousand people, white clapboard houses, a restaurant or two and a small grocery store. The 237 towns in Vermont don't have mayors; they have selectmen. Cities have mayors, but there are only nine in the state, so not much is thought about them. Even so, Tommy Mo was considered by most Jamaica residents to be the defacto mayor of their town. If he wasn't playing music, he was chatting with people at the general store, bicycling through town or waving to passersby. The entire town was invited to TommyFest, with a simple request from Nancy Jean to bring your love, a dish to share, a perennial to plant in the memorial garden that she had prepared overlooking their stream, and your musical instruments. By my estimate, about 1/3 of the town showed up. It was only proper that TurfNet sponsor the beer, which I had arranged through D&K's Jamaica Grocery. There was plenty of food (including baskets of hand-picked local strawberries), drink, music and love. Thirty or forty people brought their acoustic instruments, an eclectic variety of guitars, mandolins, upright basses, fiddles, banjos, ukuleles... and even a guy with a blue clarinet. What started as a group sing-along of "Down on the Corner" soon broke up into smaller groups of musicians and singers spread out around the property. Tommy would have loved it, and been in the middle of it. Even I answered the call and brought my 12-string to strum a few tunes for Old Tom. TurfNet was well represented, both hockey players and not. Trevor Clark, Tommy's defense partner on Team TurfNet, and his family drove from Toronto to stay with us for the weekend. Mark Fuller, CGCS ret, came from Connecticut. Ken Lallier, of course, was there, along with Jim Gernander, Joe Charbonneau, Chris Cowan and Tim Madden. Me with Syd Clark, Nancy Jean Henry (Sweetie, sporting Tom's #3, backwards), Mark Fuller, Ken Lallier, Jim Gernander and his wife Jenn. Foreground, Trevor and Susan Clark. Many people brought perennials from their garden to help plant Tommy's memorial garden, which was appropriately festooned for the day with some of his instruments and Hawaiian shirts. Tommy's garden. The take-home messages in all this are to spend your life doing things that you enjoy, with people you love. Do for others, lend a hand, pay it forward.  When it's time for a change, draw on your inner strengths and resources and take the plunge, without regret. Keep busy but reserve time to plant a garden, play music, ride a bike or go for a run, sit and splash in a stream on a hot day. Don't sweat the details; go with the flow. The satisfaction for me is knowing that Tommy and Trevor and Ken and the other guys would not have been a part of my life (or each others) were it not for TurfNet. That's pretty cool. We would all do well to live our lives well enough and touch enough others so that so many would want to spend a day honoring our memory. As Tom used to say, "Peace, Love and 3-Part Harmony."

10 Years Serving You: How Playbooks Helps

2018 marks Playbooks for Golf’s 10th year in business, and it has been my busiest year yet. Through those years, we have morphed from a basic map company to a full-fledged software and website provider. I would like to personally thank all superintendents who we have served over these first 10 years, I am grateful every day that I can be a small part of your operation and this industry. It’s a tough job being a superintendent and I’m glad to assist where needed. While serving you, the consistent feedback I get is that I don’t do enough to help get the word out about everything that we can do to help other superintendents. They just don’t know all Playbooks offers. While I don’t normally post purely commercial things on this blog, I thought with our 10-year anniversary I would try to explain exactly how and what we do to assist your operation, and hopefully save you time and money. That way if any readers didn’t know, now they do.  COVERAGE SYSTEM This is a chemical and fertilizer software solution that actually makes it easy to plan and track. While there are many options on the market, and DIY spreadsheets, you won’t find a more turn-key, limited-effort solution with world-class support.  You can begin using the application log in under 30 seconds and over 95% of the products you use are typically already loaded and ready. Inventory, Cost, EIQ, GDD, AI, Nutrients, etc. -- it just does it all automatically, no work on your end besides filling out your normal log.  I personally support users 7 days a week at all hours. Most users see significant saving in labor in this area, and you should see a reduction in costs if inventory/cost/planning are used. The system is also compatible with third-party labor software like ASB TaskTracker, and governmental agency requirements. EZPINS This is a newer solution I developed in partnership with ezLocator founder, Jon Schultz. It allows you to move hole locations through use of the software, and provide either a daily pin sheet or mobile app with that data to members. As you can guess from the name, it is extremely easy to setup and use. Nearly every customer comments on how awesome it is to have and wishes they knew of it sooner.  This setup is guaranteed to save you labor on course set daily, it takes the guesswork out and it’s like you are setting the course each day yourself. I developed a process to gather all information required without ever visiting your course, which means it is highly affordable and we can usually get you up and running within several days if desired.  As a golfer, I only wish more courses had it installed for less hole location issues and knowing exactly where the flag was when I played. Golfers love it, supers love it. IRRIGATION AS-BUILTS We still do mapping, and the majority of it is for irrigation. We have taken old treasure maps and converted them, while others we have made a lot easier to view on the course. Like ezPins, we never have to visit the course to do the work which means it’s a fraction of the cost of GPS. You can hand-draw or digitally notate any changes you want and send back to us for updates. Over time, we are significantly cheaper than whatever you are doing now for irrigation mapping and updates.  Our maps are compatible with Toro and RainBird central control systems, plus you get easy to use digital copies for phones and tablets. We still do hard-copy laminated Playbooks of hole-by-hole irrigation as well – sometimes old-school is still the way to go when you are out trying to water on the course.  OTHER MAPS While these aren’t created as frequently, we still get orders for them from repeat clients, and would like others to know in case you are in need for a special situation.  Yardage – Send us the data or we can come gather it. We create hole by hole diagrams with all cap yardages for use in replacing them or for actual yardage books. Can order caps for you as well. GPS – We can travel anywhere for on-site GPS of new irrigation, drainage, new features, etc.  Routing Map – Full rendering of your property with each hole easily identified. Golf shop can use it and it can also be used on club website. Great for new employees too.  Base Maps / Notepads – Simple digital renderings of each hole with square footages for communication with staff and club officials. All data is gathers remotely so extremely affordable.  CAREER MATERIALS I am sure all of you know about this as I cover career materials in great detail on this blog. Cover letters, resumes, websites, print portfolios, interview reports and more. If you are not finding the time to do them on your own or want a professional look, I can help. I do limit the number of clients I take on each year though as it is quite time-consuming and try to be as affordable as possible. CLUB PROFILESThese are websites that highlight your turf operation in an effort to attract interns and assistants. It’s a very effective way to stand out from other clubs and really showcase your operation. They also create a very professional image of your operation to club officials and members. Any more to find talent you need to be doing more than just posting an ad, and this is a must-have tool for finding the right people.  ASSOCIATION / BUSINESS WEBSITES We are a full-fledged website development company. With in-house design and programmers, we can build nearly any website needed. In particular, we have started assisting local GCSA associations with their websites. Not only do we rebuild them, we also manage the content for them so those who volunteer their time on the boards can save time and have a great online presence, making members happy with easy to use features for event signups and more. And new to the market this year:COURSE CONDITIONS This is a brand-new platform that we have spent years developing, and I think it is going to be big for your operations. It is an app platform that allows you to communicate directly with golfers. Your patrons aren’t on Twitter for the most part, and they rarely read blogs. Those are great for communicating with peers, but fall well short in member communications. Course Conditions is an app golfers can download for free, and you populate the content with our easy CMS website. It is extremely simple for you and golfers will be informed in a professional format. Conditions works seamlessly with clubhouse/F&B apps too, which are steadily on the rise of implementation.  You can send Push Notifications at any time to all app users to engage with them and generate traffic to your latest updates in the app. It is one central solution for communication, and will make your work life so much easier, guaranteed.  While we announced this platform in 2017, we are finally coming out of our beta testing and development period and are beginning to get the word out about our live version this summer. We have special pricing for early adopters that will be lower than retail for as long as you use the platform. ------- In summary, I hope that if you are in need of any help in these areas you now know of a partner you can turn to for help.  Thanks once again to all who support Playbooks for Golf, and who read this blog. TurfNet has been a great partner for us and I appreciate the opportunity to share information on this blog through TurfNet.  The next blog post will return to offering the latest tips and tricks on careers and technology. 

The Sound of Silence

Most of you know that I am a fan of meditation. We have discussed it here on more than a few occasions (the art of the pause, silence is golden). Recently I passed a personal milestone with my practice: 100 consecutive days. I have been practicing for a lot longer than that but decided to make a conscious effort this year to make daily meditation a habit.  Like any behavioral change a little positive reinforcement can go a long way. There are lots of different mediums and types of meditation instruction one can access. Along with books and talks, I have found it particularly helpful to use an app called InsightTimer (there any number of others that are popular as well: headspace, calm, or aura). They are all similar in nature, with the same end goal in mind; to create the habit of meditation. It’s funny because you wouldn’t think that a few gold stars and bells would help motivate, but at some basic level we humans are fairly predictable animals.   As I reflected on this personal milestone I became curious to explore what it has meant for my life. Has meditation really changed things? Is there really something behind all the books, articles, and science? Here are a few things I have learned over the past 100 days. It takes practice. Like learning any new skill, repetition is your key to success. Whether you are learning to play golf, play guitar or just be kind to yourself, constant practice and repetition are vitally important. It’s hard work and there are times you want to just skip it, but in the long run it’s worth it. Flow. Deliberately making space for quiet time translates into more natural flow in your daily life. Things just seem to move at a different speed. The funny thing is that you still accomplish just as much (if not more) than you ever did before. Opinions. You discover that they matter far less than ever before (especially your own). When you consciously practice silence, you don’t feel the need to interject quite as often. You spend more time listening you come to realize that most opinions are just that, opinions. Clarity. Seeing things with more clarity is always helpful. Situations which seemed huge before, take on far less urgency when you practice meditation. Ease. Similar to flow, life takes on a sense of ease. This doesn’t mean that life gets “easier”; it actually doesn’t change the regular comings and goings one bit. What it does change is your relationship with them. Your ability to side step the trivial things and pay more attention to the present moment creates the space which allows for a better sense of ease. Blind Spots. By practicing meditation regularly, one is better able to see the defaults and blind spots that hamper us on a daily basis. When we can recognize our less desirable habits and apply a touch of self-compassion then we can work with them in a positive way. This also applies to our judgements and interactions with others. We can truly begin to experience the idiom “to start anew” and recognise the potential for life to be new in each new moment that arises. Thanks so much for reading.

Side trip to St. Andrews before the Scottish Open

A little golf trip never hurt anyone. Since my TurfNet internship this summer includes an opportunity to volunteer at the Scottish Open at Gullane Golf Club, my parents decided to fly  to Scotland to visit me, have a short vacation and enjoy a little golf as well. They met me in St. Andrews the weekend before the Open. I arrived in St. Andrews on Friday night and got a chance to play the Old Course on Saturday morning, before my parents' arrival. This was made possible by Gordon Moir, the Director of Greenkeeping at St. Andrews, who guided me through the ballot/waitlist process there. My round at the Old Course, which was built in 1552, was my favorite round of golf, ever. I was paired with three new friends, John Conway, Hicks Layton and Billy Teichman, and shot an 85... which I was quite content with after not playing golf for a good while. The entire course, greens to tees, has crazy undulations that can take your ball to just about anywhere, even when you don’t expect it. View off the 18th tee at the Old Course. The picture doesn't do it justice, but the elevation changes can be taller than the average person! My new friends I played the Old Course with.  (l-r, John Conway, Hicks Layton, and Billy Teichman) Gordon Moir (l), Director of Greenkeeping at St. Andrews, with the Claret Jug from the 2010 Open Championship My parents arrived on Saturday, and we had a nice meal at Forgan's, a "local knowledge" recommendation from a friend and co-worker at Great Northern in Denmark. My mom, Tracy, and step-father Ashley Wilkinson (who also is department chairman of the turf program at Horry-Georgetown) On Sunday morning I played the New Course with my step-father. The New Course is a Tom Morris design that was built in 1895.  Ash-man lining up a putt for par. I whooped Ashley with a 79! But 82 isn’t half bad for the old man. St. Andrews is an amazing little town on the coast of the North Sea and is home to the truest links golf there is. Many hole locations have views of the North Sea, but a lot of views are blocked by the big dunes the course is built on.  Views don’t get much better than this.  Playing the Old and New Course at St. Andrews was a dream come true, and it couldn’t have been done without the help of Mr. Gordon Moir, TOCA, TurfNet, Bayer, and my parents. A quick photo op on the Swilcan bridge. It’s the quickest route for the golfers to cross the Swilcan burn.  

Frankly Speaking with David Bataller of the PGA Catalunya Resort, Girona, Spain

In this episode of Frankly Speaking, I chat with David Bataller, Director of Golf Operations at PGA Catalunya Resort near Barcelona, Spain.   An admittedly bad student who was "fired from high school", David went on to high school and riding BMX bikes in Kansas before embarking on his career at PGA Catalunya. After serving as golf course superintendent for 15 years, he was recently promoted to Director of Golf Operations. David quips that he has never been fired from a golf course.   PGA Catalunya is a GEO-certified (Golf Environment Organization) property. Listen in as David and I discuss that, along with his trials with industrial grade (50%) hydrogen peroxide to dissolve surface organic matter.    

Rockbottum Radio: Momma Bans Chaw After the US Open

Broadcasting from our mountain cabin as we take a break from golf for some trout fishing, we sit around the campfire and learn why Momma decided to ban tobacco at Rockbottum CC. (Something terrible happened at the US Open)   Also, Brandy Chablis, noted turf expert, gets nominated for the Angry Elf Trophy, Ludell explains Toxic Masculinities and TurfNet cyclist Ty Magner wins the National Championship.   Presented by VinylGuard Golf.  

Bees provide educational opportunities as well as honey

For all the years I have been the head Groundskeeper at Drury University there has been a honeybee hive in one hollow Mulberry tree in a section of our campus called College Park. The tree happens to be right along a main sidewalk, one that is used by essentially all the 200 or so students that live in those dorms. Several times over the years, the Facilities Department has fielded calls about the bees being a nuisance, or even a safety concern. However, once we have educated the caller, they usually are accepting of staying a little farther from the tree, and once again the beehive becomes inconspicuous.   Bee Coexistence Any Groundskeeper knows that honeybees are about as harmless as any insect can be. Drury University has added hundreds/thousands of native trees, shrubs and flowers over the last 6 years. Despite this density of bee-friendly plants, I can’t think of the last time any of the grounds crew was stung by a bee, and we are constantly IN the plants. The one adjustment we configured on the “Bee Tree” was to cover the original entry point with heavy mesh and drill a hole higher up in the hollow. This arrangement has suited the bees fine. Their entry/exit is about 10’ off the ground. Most of their traffic is now high above the walkway. Drury Grounds also uses its social media to share info about Bees (pollinators in general) and educate people about their benefits plus how to be safe around them.   Honeybees are harmless and generally do not sting unless provoked.   Entering a New Phase I have always thought about having a functional bee hive on campus, but it never seemed to gain traction. There are so many projects and tasks that are higher priority which meant that beekeeping was low on the list of priorities. That changed about a year ago when Drury’s newest Groundskeeper came to the job as a real-world beekeeper in his own time. Groundsman Leroy has about 10 hives at his house and is able to harvest and sell some delicious honey. Finally, his knowledge, the will of our Grounds Crew, and a donation of bee boxes from a faculty member (DU economist Steve Mullins) came together this spring.    Capturing a Swarm Obtaining bees is not easy. Apparently native bees, caught naturally, are more durable and are more likely to be successful as a hive. This is because they have proven tough and adaptable in the environments they live in. Bees are also available for purchase, but our fledgling effort did not have funding. Therefore, we set out to capture a swarm. This April, the Bee Tree split a swarm. We were able to catch the basketball size ball o’ bees and tried several times to settle them into our bee box. Initially, the queen left the hive and settled nearby. It was only later that evening that we found the box empty and the bee-basketball under a nearby bench. Before sunrise the next morning we recaptured the swarm (AND the queen). This time we sealed the hive for 24 hours and used old frames with wax residue on them. Apparently, this helped make the bees feel more inclined to make this box their new home.  Finding a natural swarm of honeybees is very exciting for any beekeeper. Despite our best efforts, this swarm resisted going into our new box. Eventually they were relocated. Quite a Success Story The Drury beehive is a little over 2 months old now. In early July we opened the hive to assess its status and see how things were progressing. We found a healthy, vibrant colony that was doing just what we (and they) wanted. The Queen was laying eggs and filling frames with brood. Some of the brood frames had an arch of honey over them which is exactly what we want to see. The honey super was almost full too. In fact, the honey storage was going so well, we could harvest our first 3 frames of honey. The full frames were replaced with empty ones which will spur the bees to get busy again. The afore-mentioned Dr. Mullins has recently donated another brood box and honey super which we plan to install soon. The health of #DUbees is obvious through the hive itself, and the HONEY! Plans for the Future Our goal for the bee program at Drury University is still being developed. For us on the Grounds Crew our plan is to build the size of this colony this year, and hopefully have enough of a population that we can split the colony next spring. Of course, if the colony naturally sends out a swarm, we will be prepared and hopefully catch it to add to our program. Grounds will also be watching the “bee tree” to see if it will swarm again also. We also plan on having several capture boxes placed around campus in the hope we will catch a random swarm from nearby. Drury Administration has signed off on the bee program and has given preliminary approval to Drury pursuing “Bee Campus” certification. This program is sponsored by BeeCityUSA organization. The BEE Campus program seeks partner universities to raise awareness of pollinators, enhance habitat, and share success stories.    Drury is “Bee”-eautiful Drury University has been pushing habitat improvement for several years to increase species diversity (birds, plants, insects, etc.) and improve the ecologic services our campus can provide (stormwater management, carbon sequestration, air quality improvement, soil protection, etc.). We have pursed these goals through diversification of the planting regime, repopulating the urban forest, managing water use, and decreasing chemical interventions. Our efforts have resulted in improved habitat for a range of organisms both small and large. The humble honeybee is just one of many organisms that are thriving on our campus. Creating a campus that is appealing to bees will ensure that Drury will be appealing to our human visitors as well. Hopefully Drury will be a “sweet” destination also. 

Aidan O'Hara: World Cup Experience

The World Cup is one of the biggest sporting events there is. Whether you're a European "football" fan or an American "soccer" fan, chances are that you're looking forward to The World Cup... one of the most watched events worldwide.  My mentor/superintendent this summer, Aidan O'Hara, supervised the construction and renovation of football pitches that were done for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg and Pretoria, South Africa. There was a panic with 22 Team Base Camps (football pitches that the teams practice at) being prepared too slowly, so Aidan was hired to take control of the situation 100 days before the World Cup. These pitches were contaminated with Kikuyu grass, which is a very dense and competitive turfgrass. Fun fact: The warm-season Kikuyu turfgrass can produce herbicidal secretions to successfully out-compete surrounding turfgrasses. After enjoying his experiences with the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Aidan decided to do the same kind of work for the UEFA Euro 2016. He worked on an Austrian team base camp that was falling behind schedule, only 8 weeks before the event. Aidan turned all the failed turf around with lots of hard work and attention. Not only did he supervise these pitches, he also did some of the labor himself. He did fertilizer applications, mowing, and more to give his best effort to the pitches.  Aidan really enjoyed the sports-turf work, so he said, "A football pitch is just a small rectangular fairway, so I enjoyed the step away from the golf side." The perennial ryegrass pitches were mowed at 25mm so were nothing Aidan wasn't familiar with.  Aidan O'Hara with me at Great Northern. Aidan told me, "The newer pitches weren't quite ready they would wear easily in the high traffic spots like penalty kicks and so on."  With years of golf course work and World Cup experience under his belt, Aidan has easily impressed me with the wisdom that I've seen working first-hand with him. He was listed as one of The 50 Most Influential People in Irish Golf.  Both Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods have shown great interest in Aidan's work. In 1993, the Irish Open was held at Mt. Juliet, Aidans course at the time, and after experiencing how the putting surfaces rolled, Nick Faldo said "[Aidans greens] are the best I've played on in Europe this year."    

Do Not Despise The Days of Small Beginnings

A few years ago, at a big golf tournament, I overheard a young man explaining the secret of golf career success to anyone within range, myself included.  "First," he proclaimed loudly, "you must only intern at the top courses, the ones that host majors.  Never accept a job anywhere else--and never work for a superintendent that's not famous." I see what I did wrong. His speech reminded me of something deep in my memory banks, back when I gave notice at a low level Skeletal Golf Course and was asked to delay until the New Guy arrived. He was from Big Country Club, or BCC, and according to our Owner/GM/Janitor/Bartender, New Guy would begin to accomplish miracles as soon as I got out of his way.  New Guy had a sparkling pedigree, having worked at BCC since his freshman year of college.  Owner/GM also told me, repeatedly, that New Guy would raise the bar, push the envelope, see things with new eyes and take the club in a new direction. When New Guy rode in, amidst trumpets and a choir, I offered to brief him and give a quick tour, but he waved me off.  Before I made it to my truck, New Guy hollered, "Hey!  Where's my assistant?" "Uh," I may have grinned too big, "that would be you." "Where's the crew?" I pointed at the two old guys sitting on the tailgate of a broken down Ford.  "Fella on the right is your mechanic, at least two days a week.  He's kinda sensitive.  The other guy is your crew.  He's also the owner's personal spy, so be careful what you say." "What about the irrigation tech?  The spray tech?" "Again, you.  Did nobody tell you this was a low-budget club?? New Guy shook his head and glanced over at his car.  His weight shifted slightly toward the parking lot. "Is this the first time you've seen this kind of operation?  Surely you haven't spent your whole career on courses like BCC?" New Guy rattled his car keys in his pocket and I thought I saw a tear in the corner of his eye. "Hey," I said as cheerfully as possible, "it'll be great.  You'll get used to doing all the spraying and mowing and digging holes--you have dug holes before, right?" "No, mostly I just rode around with a clipboard and pointed at things . . . oh, and I went to a lot of meetings." New Guy lasted about a year, I think.  Last I heard he was mowing lawns and the course won the Darwin Award, becoming an apartment complex. In Skeletal Golf Theory, it's better to have a little time on a Lazarus Course before you go directly from college to Top Ten.  You know, have a Contingency Plan.  For instance, what if you got caught in a recession and downsized?  Or what if you were accused of cavorting with the Club President's wife?  It's best to be prepared. It takes years to learn low-budget Skeletal Golf skills; high tech science and the ability to delegate is great, but actual front line experience in the trenches--and I mean real trenches--is critical.  There are no irrigation techs at Skeletal Golf level.  It's just you. Here's a short Skeletal Golf Theory training film on interacting with Boomers at a low level course.  It's different than at BCC.

"The American" tackles the Spray Bug

Pesticide, fertility and chemical applications on golf course putting surfaces are easily one of the most important tasks performed in golf course maintenance. Precision, attention to detail, and alertness are extremely critical for these applications. Here at Great Northern we use two Hahn Spray Bugs for applications to our greens.   The Hahn Spray Bug is an electric-powered sprayhawk produced by Hahn Application Products, LLC in Evansville, Indiana. The sprayer has a 15 gallon tank, 80 inch covered boom, and is powered by two large batteries.   Using the Spray Bug eliminates compaction created by driving a full and heavy spray vehicle across the most valuable turf surface on property.   "The American" in action with a Hahn Spray Bug.   The Hahn Spray Bugs in our fertilizer/spray room.   A full 200-300 gallon sprayer can weigh over 3,500 pounds! This sprayer serves as a nurse vehicle for the Spray Bugs and stays off the green surfaces.   The Spray Bug is controlled by the trigger and switch at the end of the steering arm, it can be refilled easily, and doesn't need to be tethered to any spray vehicle during an application. This makes the job easier by eliminating more things to worry about.   This handle houses the trigger for forward/reverse motion and the switch to release the product through the nozzles.   Spray applications are pretty simple when using the Spray Bug.   Our pre-application check list includes: Make sure you have fully charged batteries. Adjust the main sprayers pressure to match your desired spray rate. Check the pressure of the Hahn Spray Bug. Make sure the forward, reverse, spray switch, and trigger are operational. Inspect all of the nozzles. Pre-mix your solution in the side-mounted pre-mixer on the spray vehicle. Fill the Spray Bug to be ready for use. The pressure gauge on the Spray Bug (measured in bars, not PSI)   View of the underside of the covered spray boom.   Initial filling of the Spray Bugs from the sprayer.   The charging station for the Spray Bug batteries.   On our Maintenance Monday (2 hour longer work day), Benny Christoffersen showed me how to make a proper application using the shown equipment. We sprayed TourTurf Bio Active Plus, a fertilizer and microorganism product, on all of the putting surfaces on property.   After converting my Imperial measurements to the Metric system measurements, I was able to fill out this spray log to complete the day.   The spray log: gallons to liters and acres to hectares this isn't normal for the American boy.   With this training in hand, I am now confident enough to use any sprayhawk or the Spray Bug solo.  

Microbes an alternative to (scarce) traditional fungicides in Denmark

By using alternative products and management strategies, a great turf manager can find ways to manage world-class turfgrass with minimal crop protectants... like the broad selection that is accessible in America.   Here at Great Northern, head greenkeeper Aidan O'Hara uses beneficial microorganisms in his preventative fungicide plan. Microbes and soil pH are two of Aidan's many strategies for managing turf diseases.   Only three fungicides are legal to use in Denmark as of June 2018:   The legal pesticides for Denmark (that I know of).   Aidan had me apply TourTurf Bio Active Plus one morning. This product contains 3% nitrogen, 6% potassium, 10% seaweed, 22 amino acids, and a whole bunch of good microorganisms. The TourTurf Bio Active Plus jug.   I had to do a little research on the product, because theres no way Im reading this Danish label!   Listed below are the different microbes/microorganisms in TourTurf Bioactive Plus and their purposes: Bacillus subtilis: Produces cell elongating auxins (growth stimulators), solubilizes phosphates (good for disease resistance), and helps to protects the roots. Bacillus licheniformis: Provides better stress tolerance for the plant, and eats away at the organic thatch mat layer. Bacillus amyloliquefaciens: Helps with disease resistance, and prevents saline/salt and drought stress. Bacillus pumilus: Helps with resistance to the diseases Rhizoctonia and Fusarium. As an American turf manager would spray a fungicide such as Flutolanil (active ingredient in products like ProStar), here in Denmark we regularly use microorganisms to help prevent fungi.   The ProStar jug. (Shoutout to my sponsor Bayer Golf!)   With a very narrow selection of fungicides to use, including beneficial microbes in your Integrated Pest Management Program is the way to go!   I was glad to be using a John Deere sprayer Im comfortable with.   This spray application opened my eyes to using other management strategies for fungi control, and I hope other aspiring greenkeepers are now influenced to learn more about these different methods.

Your legacy is now...

It's Sunday morning, 6:00 AM, Father's Day. Even though the last round of the US Open will tee off at Shinnecock shortly, I'm not going to carry on about the brown greens that were broadcast around the world yesterday. I do feel sorry for Jon Jennings and his staff who have busted their humps for two years only to have it go to shit at the last minute... at the USGA's behest, I'm fairly sure. I guess they didn't learn anything from the wind-whipped forest fire on the greens there in 2004. Moving on... For me, Father's Day has become one of those semi/partly-annual opportunities for pondering the past, reflecting on life and family, what I've done well, maybe not so well, and whether it's time to adjust the rudder for the future. The latter should be a constant exercise, by the way. It occurred to me recently that unless you're a Michelangelo, McCartney or Gretzky, the half-life of anybody's legacy here on earth is about a generation, maybe a generation and a half. Beyond that, you're one of those old farts hanging on the wall. If, that is, somebody had the foresight to print a hard copy of your photo before it got lost in the succession of hard drive crashes that erases so many digital memories today. (Hint: lesson there.) As a kid, I remember a sepia-toned portrait hanging on the wall in my grandparents' home in Jenkintown, PA. I thought it was cool because the guy had a big bushy mustache and looked like a neat guy. His name was Joseph Adam Gehres, my great-grandfather on my mother's side, from Waverly, Ohio. Findagrave.com tells me his time on earth was 1855-1945. The photo on the left below is the one I remember. (Not sure about the look of my great-grandmother on the right. Ugh. But such was the fashionable look of the day. It's a safe bet that I'm the only person on earth thinking about Joseph Adam Gehres today. Most people today don't know their grandparents' or great-grandparents' names, much less remember them or think about them. That's changing somewhat for those who delve into Ancestry.com or one of its ilk. About 20 years ago when visiting my parents in suburban Chicago, I sat with my mother and scanned a bunch of old family photos and had her identify those pictured so I could record them digitally for posterity. Hah. Where are those digitized photos and notes now? On some long-lost hard drive somewhere. So the point here, after beating around the bush and going around the backside of the barn a few times, is that your legacy is today. Don't worry about what the future may think, what the record books will say about you, what you'll look like on findagrave.com. What is important is how you impact and influence those around you now. The Superintendent Tradition has long dictated that for six months of each year, family is put aside to focus solely on the job. Thankfully that's changing, due in part to the influence of those like Chris Tritabaugh at Hazeltine. Chris recognizes that the job is important but only one segment of life. The golf course will be there tomorrow but kids will be of a certain age only once. Unlike many superintendents of the past, he refuses to miss that just to clock more hours at the golf course under the guise of dedication to the job. I don't have any regrets in that regard. I wasn't a superintendent, but I worked many long hours building TurfNet... thankfully with the flexibility to work around family activities rather than miss them. I was there. I showed up. No regrets. That's one reason I don't play golf. I pretended for about ten years, playing six or eight times a year in chapter outings and that type of thing, but I could never justify the six hours or whatever it took door-to-door to play golf on a Saturday or Sunday. Plus I sucked at it. Four hours of frustration and embarrassment for me, so I hung 'em up 18 years ago. No regrets there either. In just a few hours Patty and I will leave the dogs at home and head north to Mallett's Bay for a day on Daughter B's boat (the best kind of boat to have... someone else's!). It has become a Father's Day tradition. Investments made then (above, circa 1987) yield dividends later (below). Long story short: Be a part of your kids' lives during their formative years and chances are they will want you to be part of theirs later on. So show up. Be there. Do for others. It all comes back to you later. Oh, and Happy Father's Day to those so blessed.
  • Blogs