In this episode of Frankly Speaking, I chat again with Jim Wagner of the Hanse Design Group, this time about the intersection of golf course design and maintenance in this era of moving targets and shifting requirements within golf.
How critical is the golf course superintendent in a renovation project? Wagner says that the ultimate success of a project can be predicted by gauging the enthusiasm level of the superintendent, and that often depends on their inclusion in early conversations and later in the decision-making processes.
How can superintendents leverage the current and continuing influx of investment money into golf course renovation projects? Listen and find out.
The "Howard Stern of TurfNet?" Really?
Presented by Civitas/Intelligro and DryJect.
Hi everyone! I'm Parker and I'll be your tour guide for today. Today we're taking a little trip to downtown Kerteminde, a normally quiet little town on the island of Funen in southern Denmark. It's my home for the summer.
View of Kerteminde from the north beach.
During the summer months, Kerteminde attracts lots of visitors. The town has a beautiful harbor, clear water beaches, great local restaurants and various events for everyone to enjoy.
I took a quick trip into town and stopped by the beach and found a bunch of youth soccer games going on. The games drew a pretty decent sized crowd. Along with the beach soccer courts, there were some volleyball nets for anyone to get in some fun exercise.
Volleyball and soccer area for the locals to have some fun. As you can see, sweaters and jackets were the order of the day.
Some areas of the beaches are quite rocky, but the areas farther into town are pretty soft.
Down by the beach, there's a little putt-putt golf course for families to enjoy and grab an ice cream cone on a nice summer day.
Not quite the Nicklaus design at Great Northern, but still fun for families to spend time outside.
Walking farther into town, we pass the Kerteminde Kommune. This is their city hall, which is where I had to apply for my 3-month residence permit.
The city hall, where Kerteminde's governmental business takes place.
Beside the Kommune is the Superbrugsen, which is similar to a mini-Walmart. Most of the locals go here to purchase their groceries and other basic items you can find in a supermarket.
Anything I need, within a 5 minute bike ride.
After walking past the Kommune and Superbrugsen, we can get a better look at the harbor. Kerteminde is known for being a fishing village, but there are lots of pleasure craft around.
The harbor is full of boats and freezing cold water.
Given the fact that Kerteminde brings in a good heap of fish, you can also imagine that there's a good bit of fish restaurants. A good one downtown is Rudolf Mathis Fiskerestaurant. It's located along a cool little outlet right in the middle of town.
Nice little local joint on the water.
After grabbing a bite to eat, people enjoy walking around town to see the beautiful architecture of the buildings, homes, and the old-fashioned cobblestone/brick streets.
Interesting buildings, structures, and roads.
When walking downtown, you may stumble across this local ice cream shop.
The local ice cream has my approval!
Tourists enjoy grabbing an ice cream here and sitting down by the outlet where the locals kayak and the kids jump off the downtown bridge.
I saw kids jump in the Scandinavian freezing cold water, but this southern boy is gonna stay dry!
Golf isn't the only place turf is king. There are massive sod farms, residential turf, municipal grounds, airfields and sports turf. There's all that National Park Service turf in our nation's capital that Mike Stachowicz maintains. Joe Fearn--who writes a very good column for TurfNet--is the turf and grounds czar at Drury University.
In the complex modern turf industry, knowledge, multiple skills and specialized training are pretty much mandatory. While none of these turf disciplines can be considered "easy", I've been told that if you can maintain a nice lawn, you can easily succeed at any of these careers. (Our former insurance guy said that.)
Anyway, in case anyone is curious about what a Sports Turf career might entail, we went deep into the Rockbottum vault and extracted a TurfNet Sports Turf film very few people have seen.
Also, if you want an in-depth tutorial on sod farm careers, leave a comment and we'll do that one next.
In this episode of Living Legends, presented by the Nufarm Insider, host John Reitman chats with Bob Farren, director of golf course maintenance at the Pinehurst Resort. With nine courses, seven superintendents and up to 250 full and part-time staff, management of the Pinehurst courses seems a daunting task, but one which Farren takes in stride.
Spend a half hour learning about how one of the most visible people in golf turf management became so, starting with his family involvement in golf growing up in West Virginia and moving along to mentoring and developing an army of former assistants.
Farren weighs in on how the industry and superintendent responsibilities have changed over the years, and if he were King for a Day, what he would do to "fix" golf. For one, he would start by eliminating out of bounds from the game...
Settling into a different country has been pretty easy for me. Thanks to my new friends who live at the employee housing and in various flats nearby, I've had a great deal of fun.
The Greenkeeper house, my home away from home.
Our greenkeeping crew has guys from many different countries, including Lithuania, Latvia, Scotland, Ireland, England, Denmark, Australia, Poland, and more. Many of these international employees have worked in several different countries such as Sweden or the Netherlands before coming to Great Northern.
The crew before the 5am morning meeting.
Everyone here understands how uncomfortable it can be to leave home and settle down in a foreign country, therefore, everyone has been very friendly and helpful since my arrival. Whether the other Greenkeepers have been nice or friendly jokesters, it's been great having them around.
Jokester Jack Smillie (right) messing around with Jack Darling during our lunch in Odense.
Being an American, I'm used to using microwaves and buying fast food to combat my hunger when my parents aren't there to make a home-cooked dinner for me. Cooking has been quite the hassle for the few weeks I've been in Denmark... and the closest McDonald's is 30 minutes away!
I'll have to travel to Odense or Nyborg if I want the easy and very typical American fast-food meal.
Although cooking has been a little difficult, a few of the guys who live with me have shown me a few tips and tricks to get by. During the first couple of weekends I was in town, my new friends spent time showing me around the towns and getting to know me by having cook outs, hanging out, and playing games.
Grilling some steaks, sausages, and more in Scott Dmuirs backyard.
One day several of the crew members took me to the beach in Kerteminde to play a friendly game of volleyball.
Volleyball on the beach at Kerteminde.
Vadims Arakejevs, one of our greenkeepers from Latvia, built a makeshift ping pong table out of a picnic table and some plywood to have an extra game at the house for passing the time.
Handyman Vadims with his top-of-the-line ping pong table.
Not only have my new friends invited me to play sports and relax at cookouts, but they've also invited me to tag along to Odense. Odense is the 3rd largest city in Denmark and is home to around 200,000 residents. The downtown areas are always very busy and attract many tourists with the different pubs, stores, restaurants, and more things it has to offer.
The streets of Odense have amazing architecture and small touches of design from different countries all around Europe.
Dave, Jack D., and Jack S. strolling down the streets of Odense with me.
A bunch of the guys grabbing a bite to eat at Café Siesta in Odense.
One of the fundamental truths of life as a human being is that, no matter what, we all suffer. Whether physical fatigue, mental exhaustion, anxiety or another factor... episodic or chronic... some measure of it is unavoidable. The level or degree ebbs and flows, but at some point we all encounter it. How we engage and relate to this inevitable suffering can be one of the keys to living a balanced life.
As golf course superintendents, our jobs require total immersion if we are to be successful. Pitfalls and traps such as long hours, pressure from members and management, and unrealistic expectations result. These can infringe on our quality of life at the minimum, and add up to burnout if we are not mindful of our condition and responses.
This suffering takes on a much deeper meaning when mental illness enters the room. We have all had an experience with mental instability, be it anxiety, discontent, apathy or simply a short fuse. If you tell people otherwise, you are simply lying to them and worse, to yourself. That lie is the greatest trick that mental illness pulls. Not only do those affected suffer with the actual disease or condition, but then most feel the need to hide it. The stigma or shame of dealing with mental illness in a culture that considers it a sign of weakness can be crippling in and of itself.
The ripple effect of this type of suffering can be extremely difficult for families and friends. They also feel the stigma first hand, and will often go to great lengths to protect and shelter their loved one. The affliction not only affects the direct sufferer, but also goes a long way in governing the lives of those that love and care about them. It becomes a tiring cycle of adaptation, frustration, advocacy, and compassion.
Thankfully there are signs that things are slowly changing. There are movements afoot to unlock doors and shine a light on the stigma attached to mental illness. For those who live this struggle every day it cannot come fast enough, but the tide does appear to be slowly turning. As superintendents and members of our broader communities as a whole, what can we do? How can we help?
I have experienced anxiety, depression, and panic attacks first hand. My lovely wife Jill has had to learn to cope with her anxiety and sensitivities over the years. My amazing oldest daughter Maria battles severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). These are struggles that our entire family deals with every day.
From that standpoint, here are a few tips
Help is available. If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out and get help. No one deserves to suffer alone. Please reach out to anyone you know who might be suffering in silence; your help can literally change a life.
Vulnerability does not equal weakness. Those who deal with mental issues on a daily basis are some of the bravest and strongest people I know. The internal struggles they live with could cripple even the strongest of people. Allowing people the space to be open with their pain moves us closer towards being a healthier, more caring society.
Shine a light. The irony of mental illness is that it only gains power over us when we hide it. By keeping it locked away it only grows and becomes a far bigger problem in the long run. Bringing it into the open and letting people know that it's ok to have issues may actually go a long way to preventing more issues down the line.
Compassion is key. Those who suffer from one of the various forms of mental illness need helpbut they also need our compassion and our kindness. Care and love go a great deal further than shame and guilt.
Advocacy and education. If someone close to you suffers, educate yourself and then go to bat for them. Spread the word in an effort to change the perception of mental illness. Those who live with these diseases must have resources to learn how to manage their illness and regain their lives. Nothing changes unless those who can speak up do so.
We are all in this together. Many of the most highly intelligent, creative and thoughtful people throughout history (including those you know) have suffered from or are suffering from mental illness. High mental acuity and sensitivity can produce wonderful art, music, dance and writing. But the flip side is that many of these same people are prone to stimulus overload, anxiety and depression. Giving creative people enough space to be who they are helps us all.
Take care of yourself. No one is immune to mental illness, but taking good care of ourselves can go a long way to keep us mentally well. Study after study shows that self-care is vitally important to overall physical and mental health. Mindful meditation, whether through breath work to relieve anxiety or simply taking time to be truly present in life as it unfolds, can be a wonderful, life enhancing management tool once acute symptoms are under control. Making self-care a top priority can go a long way towards healing mental trauma and also lessening its impact in the future.
Thanks so much for reading...
In this episode of Rockbottum Radio, Randy explores Skeletal Golf Theory (SGT) and why it's important (think "Contingency Plan").
Also, Rockbottum gets a corporate makeover, the truth about collecting and weighing clippings, and that "new" spray out there.
Finally, a consultant story, the winner of the Turpentine Corncob Award, and in Storytime, a tale from the days when golf courses were closed on Mondays.
Be sure to check out this jam-packed podcast and catch up with all the latest Reality Philosophy, Business Genius and other cut-through-the-smoke-and-mirrors Common Sense from Rockbottum Country Club... where Stark Reality reigns.
In this episode of the TurfNet Renovation Report, host Anthony Pioppi chats with Michael Vessely about the 2016 renovation of the long-fallow William Langford/Theodore Moreau 9-hole golf course at Culver Academies in Culver, Indiana.
Vessely, now golf course superintendent at Culver Academies, explains how the "Picasso was discovered in their attic" and Bobby Weed and Chris Monti brought in to spearhead a complete recovery/restoration project. And there's a Dye connection as well!
Listen in as Tony and Mike dig into how the Langford/Moreau classic was brought back to life as a rustic, classic early 20th Century golf course with 2018 conditioning.
Presented by Golf Preservations, offering golf course drainage and full renovation services.
In yet another fascinating discussion, Jim Koppenhaver of Pellucid Corp, brings us up to speed on the current state of the golf industry.
In an era of flat is the new up, 2017 was a "solid sideways" for golf. Some metrics, however, are indicating that the slide of recent years is abating somewhat. How long will it take for supply, demand, playable hours and other factors to reach an equilibrium of health and vitality for the industry?
What can we learn from tennis and skiing?
Spend 45 minutes for a better understanding of where golf is and where it can go... both good and bad.
Presented by DryJect and Civitas/Intelligro.
Several years ago, when I started as the Head Groundskeeper at Drury University, I came into a campus that was one dimensional and lacked meaningful diversity in any terms. The campus was comprised mostly of shade trees and turfgrass. Having recently worked at a municipal Springfield park that was abundantly planted and had been growing in for seven years (post installation), I was taken aback by the stark appearance of the campus. This is not to say it didn't look well-tended or thoughtfully laid out. It just looked plain. While I did note that there was a dearth of flowers and smaller trees, I didn't think of it in terms of diversity. Now, after several years of hard work, I see how beneficial the pursuit of increasing diversity is to a landscape.
Diversity Stabilizes the landscape
Diversity (biodiversity, design diversity, management diversity) is an important objective for the landscape. Increasing biodiversity improves the ability of the landscape to respond to environmental changes. If our landscape consists of only one plant, and we get an unusual weather event, an entire population could be wiped out. Biodiversity also prevents one organism from dominating the landscape to the detriment of others. If a pest outbreak occurs, the susceptible target could be decimated, but unsusceptible organisms will not be.
Design and maintenance diversity also prevents our landscapes from becoming monotonous. Design diversity could be as simple as adding native plants to a landscape. Maintenance variation could be changing mow patterns or employing FRAC codes to prevent resistance.
Planting variety helps improve more than just plant biodiversity.
Even in the relatively homogenous landscape (strategically homogenous, (think golf course or sports field) diversity is sought after. Turfgrass blends/mixes are SOP, and aesthetically designed roughs and landscaping amenities are common management principles.
Here at Drury University a means to increasing both biodiversity and design diversity is through stratified planting. Stratified planting means blending large trees, small trees, shrubs, perennial plants/flowers and turf. Within these plant types a mix of deciduous/evergreen is also beneficial. This increase in plant diversity adds habitat for organisms. There are birds that nest closer to the ground and there are others that prefer elevated tree cavities. Stratified plantings also help to provide a variety of food sources for animals and birds. Providing a range of foods promotes biodiversity. Stratified plant arrangements also capture rainfall which benefits the environment by decreasing runoff and cleaning pollutants.
Stratified planting provides layered habitats for different animals and insects.
Plants, plants, and more plants
A wide variety of plant diversity is important for maximizing the health and benefits of the landscape. An obvious benefit of plant diversity is a rotation of bloom. The aesthetics of a rotation of bloom is a highly desirable aesthetic feature in the landscape. Perennial plants have lower maintenance impact because they are planted once, and can potentially be divided in the future to be planted elsewhere. Early blooming plants are vital forage when insects and animals are coming out of the winter period to replace spent reserves. Some native plants also have a mutualistic relationship with other organisms (Milkweed/Monarchs is one such widely known relationship). Some plants can also be used to help restore the ecosystem (legumes fix Nitrogen) and a matrix of plants can help decrease water runoff and soil erosion.
Dandelions are an important early-season food source for bees.
Birds and Beasts
An indicator of ecosystem health is the prevalence of birds and animals in the landscapes we manage. This is not to say that every landscape must strive to have a menagerie of animals roaming the grounds, but some diversity of animal residents shows you have a healthy ecosystem. On our campus we have groundhogs, skunks, squirrels and rabbits (nothing extraordinary here). We also have a healthy range of birds including a nesting pair of Red-Tail Hawks, nesting Eastern Bluebirds, Kingbirds, Killdeers and Scissortail Flycatchers (again the usual suspects). What is remarkable, though, is that none of these animals and birds were present six years ago. If they were seen on campus, they were only passing through, not calling it home. This is strong diversity for an urban setting. Just this year I saw my first Black Snake on campus and I couldn't be happier.
The Next Steps
Improving the ecological health of the Drury University campus is a worthy goal. A landscape that demonstrates diversity in different forms is pleasing to patrons, plus can help support the organizational goal of demonstrating sustainability and environmental commitment. As green-space dwindles, and development changes the appearance of the landscape, managing our grounds as refuge for plants, animals, birds and insects is increasingly vital. Biodiversity is a key component of nature, and should be a key component for Grounds Managers also.
Diversity is essential in the landscape. Who can really say what is the most important species?
This past week at Great Northern, the talk was all about the aerification and topdressing we've been doing. After a long couple of days of hollow-tining greens, the crew worked really hard all day and got a few essential things done for post-aerification.
A few of the guys were sent out to push-spread Greenmaster Pro Lite 14-5-10 fertilizer with some magnesium. Magnesium is just as essential as nitrogen for turfgrass to produce the chlorophyll molecule.
John Cunningham, from Ireland, wrapping up his final pass on #17 green.
A quick snap of the product they applied.
A light topdress was applied to a decent portion of the golf course this first week. Greens, fairways, and foregreens (a European term for the approaches) all received some sand.
Here's one of the crew members loading fairway sand into a TyCrop, an earlier brandname for the Toro MH-400, to be spread.
After hollow-tining the greens, 30 "tonnes" of sand was applied. Europeans use the metric system rather than the Imperial system that Americans use, therefore, if we used the Imperial system in Denmark, I'd say around 66,000 pounds of topdressing material was applied.
The Dakota Turf Tender 310 that we use to topdress greens.
Head Greenkeeper, Aidan O'Hara, told me, "The sand we used was approved by Thomas Turf Lab in the U.S., which was the best match to be compatible with our root zone."
The Thomas Turf Lab approved topdressing sand.
Aidan is very big on topdressing at Great Northern. Once Aidan inherited a large thatch layer with his position as Head Greenkeeper, he decided his mission was to remove and dilute as much thatch as possible.
Soil profile from 2012. Lots of thatch!
Aidan and I examined profiles on our 12th green and found that his cultural plans are improving the soil quality. Hours upon hours of hollow coring have broken through the thick layer of organic matter that has accumulated on our greens.
Here you can really see the penetration from the hollow tines and the amount of topdressing Aidan has applied over the period of just a year.
Red: Hollow tine penetration. Blue: Organic mat layer. Yellow: Topdressing applications
With lots of topdressing material going out, the outsourced mechanic, Tom, has to do lots of grinding. Luckily, Tom gets to use a great Foley Accu-Master grinder.
Tom and I checking out the grinder.
After lots of hard work from everyone on staff, it's safe to say we're lookin' good! I got to walk away from this week with the confidence to use a Toro/"TyCrop" material handler, a GiANT loader, and a Dakota Turf Tender 310.
My new friend, John, was helpful in teaching me how he does a topdress application, and thanks to him, I am confident that I too can take on this job alone.
John wrapping up #2 on our 9 hole Academy course.
What follows is a classic tale of Cosmic Payback, visited upon the truly deserving. Because my readers are highly educated, I am using the term, Cosmic Payback. If I was writing for golfers, I would use the easier to understand, "Fudgie will get you."
Our story begins with a golfer who was mysteriously inflicted with a demonic obsession to bedevil Winston, a Golf Course Superintendent.
Winston is one of the great ones, a hard working, drive-on kind of fellow achieving legendary status in golf, but somehow . . . he ran afoul of a "golfer".
The "golfer" was not the common garden variety whiner or a 23 handicapper educated by the internet in all aspects of golf, but the worst possible bedeviler of Golf Course Superintendents: The Best Good Player in the club, or BGP. (See your Mystic Order of Greenkeepers handbook for details.)
The BGP often acquires deity status through low scores, which magically imbues the player with a supernatural grasp of agronomy, course setup, architecture and even which piece of turf equipment is either vital or totally unnecessary.
When the BGP speaks, lesser humans are compelled to listen, awestruck, in submissive respect.
The BGP in our story--clearly infected with A.N. Syndrome and unaware of the existence of Fudgie--delivered a fiery and emotional Elmer Gantry golf sermon in the parking lot, from the hood of his 1975 Datsun B-210. "Friends . . . I come to you today, having just experienced the saintly Greener Pastures Social Country Club, where their fairways are perfect and pure in heart, while ours . . . ours are thin and of an ordinary green color."
During the Inquisition that followed, Winston calmly testified, "Greener Pastures Social spent a million dollars on a new turf. It's unfair to compare their fairways to our 419. Also, we didn't spend a million dollars."
BGP countered with putting surface comparison, a favorite strategy among GCS bedevilers intent on GCS impeachment. "Greener Pastures Social has heavenly greens! And isn't it true, Winston, that they have the same Ultra-Dwarf that we do? And isn't it true that we have algae spots on the practice green? Remember, you're under oath!"
Winston wanted to say, "Instead of taking advantage of our nearly free monthly rates, perhaps you should just pay Greener Pastures Social the billion dollars initiation fee and take your contagious negative energy over there."
But he didn't say that.
Instead, Winston said, "Yes, it is true we have the same UD, but when they converted, they had six months of grow-in before they allowed play. We had only 20% of that time to open and combined with the coldest winter since '77, the wettest spring in my memory and very little sunlight, we are doing pretty well."
Not discouraged in the least, BGP waited for the right moment to strike again. During a club event, he pounced upon what he perceived to be Winston's worst mistake ever: A cup placement not moved far enough from the previous spot!
(Never mind the spot had been anointed for use by the tournament setup committee and selected due to their awareness of the effect excessive tournament speed has on greens with lots of architectural movement.)
Grabbing his camera, BGP raced to gather evidence before the wily Winston could contaminate the crime scene; while shooting forensic photos, BGP loudly proclaimed Winston and his crew to be "worthless, lazy bastards".
At that point, Fudgie intervened and a golf ball cold-cocked BGP in the head.
There was lots of blood and screaming. Most of the screaming was from other competitors demanding a quick ruling, as the unconscious body was obstructing a birdie putt.
The moral of the story? If you are a bedeviled GCS, just be patient, for Fudgie and the Cosmic Payback are out there somewhere, waiting to make things right.
Make no mistake, Fudgie will get you.
My official first day of work at Great Northern was Tuesday, May 15th. The first few days that I was in Denmark prior to that got a little boring, considering I had no way of getting around town except walking, and I was eager to get to work. The solution for me was to help out over the weekend before my official start date, so I jumped in with the aerification crew late one evening. I shoveled the cores until 9:00 that night, which isn't as bad as it sounds because the sun sets at 9:30!
Clean green after I volunteered to help shovel cores before my "official" start.
I'm glad I can finally start working as have been waiting several months to get here. My first official days of work were spent mowing tee surrounds with a rotary push mower, and fly-mowing bunker faces the next few. These job assignments may sound a little tedious, but they are a few of the many things we do at Great Northern that makes it a world-class golf course, so I'm glad to do it.
A couple of my co-workers informed me that growth regulators are restricted for turf in Denmark, so we have to mow everything pretty frequently.
With no PGRs labeled for turf in Denmark, there's plenty of grass around.
On the first day I was partnered with Dave Dusch, who was born and raised in Australia. Dave grew up to be a musician, but he works at Great Northern now. Dave told me, "I love the fresh air, and every day there's something different to do."
Dave, with a few holes on the front nine in the background.
After a few days of working and showcasing my work ethic, the supervisors allowed me to cut cups and mow fairways.
Cutting cups is fairly easy here, because we use a depth gauge and foot board to cut the same depth hole for every day on every green. This job has been my favorite so far because I get to see every hole from tee to green each morning.
Placing the pin in a difficult position for a tournament on the 15th green.
Each day at work is great, then after work I get to wind down and relax in my own mini-apartment.
Most housing accommodations given to interns, that I have heard of, are very simple rooms that are often shared between a couple of employees. In this case, Great Northern provides me with a room that includes a bed, kitchen, desk, wardrobe, and bathroom. I'm livin' like a king!
All settled in...
and livin' like a king!
So far, I've had a great first week here in Great Northern, and I can't wait to see what new things I may see or people I might meet in Kerteminde.
Guest Post by Greg Wojick
In the first two parts of this series, we have reviewed the obstacles to contracts and how you can sell the idea to your club. This final part will provide you with a detailed roadmap on what should be included in the actual contract.
When you get the go-ahead on the contract, your next step is to be sure that it covers all the bases. Here's a basic checklist based on industry standards along with lessons learned and a few cautionary tales from superintendents--and club members themselves--who have been through the process, or have chosen not to.
The contract should define:
Your responsibilities/performance parameters.
Be sure to spell out your duties in detail. "Contracts offer peace of mind to both sides by setting expectation levels," says one superintendent.
Peter McCormick of TurfNet cautions, however, that establishing performance parameters can be tricky. "Out on the golf course, performance in terms of playability and aesthetics becomes very personal, subjective, and not easily quantifiable. The only way to reduce subjectivity," he continued, "is if there is a document of agreed-upon maintenance standards in place. This should be separate from (but appended to) an employment contract so it can be revised as needed and agreed. The document of maintenance standards can also serve as the basis of a job description, which can be either integral or appended to an employment contract," he added.
One club member I spoke to cited what he perceived to be a serious drawback to detailing duties and expectations: "By 'binding' both the club and the superintendent to specific roles and responsibilities, a contract limits everyone's flexibility," he said. "This may pose a problem down the road if the club decides it doesn't like the contract terms or wants to terminate it early. That can't happen without the superintendent agreeing to new terms to the contract."
Moral of this story: Carefully review the responsibilities and performance parameters you agree to put in writing.
The chain of command.
"It's good to have something in writing that identifies not only what is expected of the employee, but also who, specifically, the superintendent is responsible to," said another survey participant, explaining, "The club's governance changes over time. Board members come and go, and at some clubs, general managers come and go even faster. It's important that new personnel understand the chain of command."
Rule of thumb: The fewer people you report to, the better. Best case is only one!
The length of your contract.
It's always best to lobby for a multi-year contract or, better, one that automatically renews at the end of each year. Without a definitive end point, it seems both parties are less apt to think about making changes.
As one superintendent with a short-term contract lamented:"I had a contract at a previous club, and it didn't seem to work in my favor. It always felt like a ticking clock that eventually would stop, prompting the club to take something away from me. When I started, for example, I had full family medical benefits provided by the club. When my second contract was up, they took that opportunity to force me to contribute to my benefits package," he continued. "And the small raise they gave me barely covered the new expense. If I had no contract, it wouldn't have given them a definitive time to make this move on me."
Salary and performance reviews.
Note what your compensation is, when it is payable (weekly, biweekly, or monthly), and when you can expect to be evaluated for a raise. More than half the survey respondents receive annual performance evaluations. Be sure to define a performance review schedule in your contract.
"With a contract, you're assured some sort of financial growth," said one survey participant, adding what he perceived as a downside: "But along with that assurance is the pressure to live up to -- or exceed -- expectations, year after year."
For most of the superintendents I surveyed, having a contract that offered financial security seemed to far outweigh any performance concerns. One of the most favorable stories I heard relating to contracts and compensation came from Peter McCormick. He shared a conversation he had once had with a superintendent who had worked for 10 years or so without a contract at a club that had not lived up to verbal promises of future salary advancement made when he was hired.
Peter explained: "The superintendent looked around casually as jobs came up but was happy where he was, even though underpaid relative to others in the area. He had a frank conversation with his green chairman, who went to the board on the superintendent's behalf. The end result was a 10-year contract with a significant salary increase and retirement contributions," continued Peter. "Relieved of anxiety about his future and the feeling that he wasn't being properly compensated, he was able to move forward reenergized and with a renewed focus and sense of purpose."
Good for both him and the club. This is another example of how contracts can work in everyones favor!
You might consider building in a bonus for such things as becoming certified or maintaining your certification, meeting or exceeding your budget goals, managing a major enhancement project, hosting tournaments, bringing in new members, or any other practice you feel goes above and beyond your everyday job function.
One survey respondent noted receiving a bonus for seeing the club's new irrigation system installation through to completion, on time and on budget. "The club gave me $25,000 and my assistant $5,000," he said. "They recognized that successfully managing a project of that size required many extra hours and superior organizational skills."
Professional memberships and educational seminars.
Don't hesitate to push for funding and time off to attend both professional and educational industry events. Explain how maintaining professional affiliations and attending local, regional, and national conferences, field days, and seminars are essential to staying abreast of industry trends and practices.
Define your medical, dental, life, and disability insurance coverage. This assures coverage for the length of your contract.
As one club member noted, "If the contract promises the superintendent health benefits, you can't decide to stop paying for those benefits as a way to save money. The only way to change the terms of the contract is to renegotiate them."
A perfect example of why a contract is worth pursuing.
It's a good idea to include in your contract regular contributions to a 401K or other retirement vehicle.
On average, superintendents receive two to four weeks of paid vacation annually. Some reported receiving significantly more time, particularly during the winter months for a majority of superintendents in the country.
Be sure to specify not only the amount of vacation time you want, but also when you would like to take it. If you want a weekend off in the summer with your family and can agree on that arrangement, put it in writing.
Include maintenance, utilities, taxes, assessments, and related upkeep.
Provide for a meal allowance. At least one meal a day is standard during the months of a facility's restaurant operation. A number of the supers surveyed are allowed any number of meals, as long as theyre on the job.
Many clubs provide a vehicle or an allowance to purchase one. Be sure to specify whether gas, insurance, and maintenance costs are included, as well as how often the vehicle will be replaced.
Note any and all club privileges you, your family, and guests might be entitled to. If you're entitled to use the pool, golf, or play tennis, note this, along with any fees that you are exempt from paying as an employee using the facility.
Surprisingly, a number of superintendents surveyed did not have a severance package and longed for a reasonable separation agreement. Others were hoping to improve the package they currently have. Most who commented on their package understandably wanted their severance pay to grow along with their tenure.
"My severance is three months salary," noted one superintendent who would like to negotiate for more. "I have been here for eight years and would like one month for every year of service, not to exceed 12 months," he said.
There are a number of ways to handle severance. Among the most common is to pay all the annual salary that would have been earned from the actual date of termination and/or, as this superintendent noted, one month's pay for each year of service.
Conditions of contract termination.
It's important to spell out how, when, and why your contract -- or your employment -- can be terminated. One super surveyed stressed giving careful thought to the timing of a termination: "I would strongly encourage any superintendent who has club housing and a family in the town's school system to build in a termination notification on or before June 30. This way," he said, "you have two full months to find new housing and a new school system for your children. This was a big issue for me, and the club did agree to the new notification clause."
Including this type of clause in your contract will protect you from claims, lawsuits, fines, etc., that you might incur as an employee of the facility. One superintendent surveyed felt it was more important to have some way to protect himself against "the bad decisions the club ends up making." While still another commented that, no matter what protection this or any of the other contract clauses might offer, his club would always have the upper hand: "If it came to a dispute between the club and me, their 200 attorneys would squish me like a bug," he said. "Basically, my contract is a piece of paper that says my benefits in writing."
Keep in mind, as with any legally binding document, you should always have an attorney look at it -- and preferably one who knows the profession -- to ensure you're properly protected and that the contract complies with federal and state laws.
"Contracts are worthwhile only if the language is properly written, and the only way to do that is to have a lawyer look at it," concurred one of the survey participants who, like many of the respondents, made sure to seek legal counsel.
If you're among the many superintendents seriously thinking of pursuing an employment agreement, remember that you should first be sure your track record qualifies you for a binding contract and then be fair about what youre asking for. If you shoot for the moon, you're likely to turn off an otherwise receptive group. If lobbying for a contract seems like more trouble than it's worth, keep in mind that once you've reached a mutually acceptable agreement with your employer, you can go to work every day confident about your job and undistracted by issues that may cause you to question your future employment. In the work world, there are few feelings better than that.
Sections of this blog post were originally created by Greg in a survey for the MetGCSA. That content is courtesy of the MetGCSA.
To work in Denmark, anyone from another country needs either a work visa or a residence/work permit. As I will be spending only three months overseas, I only need a temporary residence permit. For Americans, these are available only in major cities.
Living in South Carolina, my best option for the mandatory visa appointment was the VFS Global office in New York City. VFS Global is worldwide company that does outsourcing and technology services for governments and diplomatic missions.
In late March of 2018, I made the trip and found the VFS office on the 9th floor of a massive building along with many other companies. A single floor housed enough offices for several separate companies!
A list of a bunch of different companies on the same floor of a single building!
Office selfie! The visa agent lady ran away before I could catch her in the picture.
I stayed the night in a hotel right in the middle of Manhattan. NYC is known as the city that never sleeps, and the name is very fitting. The streets run crazy with traffic every single hour of each day, and customers constantly run through shops on every block.
Times Square was bumper to bumper and shoulder to shoulder.
$170 hotel rooms are super tiny in Manhattan.
The paperwork and appointment process for the permit were quite a hassle, but I had amazing help from Peter Kold and Line Trier, two of the management personnel for Great Northern Golf Club. Line and Peter provided all the necessary information I needed to make the process go as smoothly as possible. This was a great help for me, considering I was unfamiliar with the large city lifestyle.
Line (pronounced like the American Lena) Trier, the backbone of Great Northerns management staff.
My appointment was not what I expected. VFS personnel took my fingerprints and profile pictures for their databases and questioned me about why I wanted to travel to Denmark. After a long wait and enormous amounts of paperwork, I was finally approved by the Consulate General to stay in Denmark for the summer.
This American is DK bound!
With a few hours of free time before I had to head back home. I mapped out out a route around Manhattan to see as much as I could while I was there. I visited Trump Tower (my personal favorite), the Empire State Building, St. Patricks Cathedral, and Times Square.
During my brief trip, I encountered people from various ethnic backgrounds and languages. This was a great eye-opener for me because I realized how much of a challenge my summer may be while living a different lifestyle and dealing with the language barrier between Danish and English.
New York was quite the trip. I'm sad I only spent a day and a half there, but I'm glad I could adventure out into a different part of the country... while representing the one and only TurfNet!
In this episode, my old pal Dr. Bill Kreuser of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln returns for another visit to the Frankly Speaking virtual studio. We have a fascinating discussion about the current knowledge base about measuring clipping yield, GDD modeling, PGR use and managing for consistent turfgrass growth and optimal turfgrass health.
Is the "one-third rule" valid, or completely bogus? What happens at 50%? Where is the optimal interface of mowing height and frequency? How to use clipping yield to guide fertility and PGR use so you're not "driving down the road with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake..."
How about collar decline... should we be mowing our collars lower? Bill says, "YES!"
Spend a few minutes with Dr. Bill Kreuser and me to expand your knowledge base about managing turfgrass growth.
Presented by Civitas and DryJect.
In this episode of the TurfNet Renovation Report, host Anthony Pioppi talks with golf course architect Ron Forse of Forse Design, Inc., about his restoration of classic (and renovation of some modern) golf courses, and the role of the superintendent in a renovation project.
What defines a good superintendent during a restoration or renovation project? Hint: He or she is the "hub of the wheel".
Tony and Ron wind up chatting about golf course archaeology, including the Seth Raynor Ocean Links course.
Presented by Golf Preservations.
Welcome to the life of Parker Stancil! I am a 19-year-old turf student at Horry Georgetown Technical College in Myrtle Beach, SC. With the exception of living in Florida for one summer, South Carolina has been home to me for my entire life. I'm very proud to be southern, but this summer I'm going Danish!
I am no stranger to golf course maintenance. Since the age of 16, I have volunteered at six professional golf tournaments and I've worked on four golf courses prior to this summer's TurfNet internship in Kerteminde, Denmark
A month after I turned 16, I relocated to Lake Wales, FL to install an HDPE system at Mountain Lake Country Club before my junior year in high school. Working in Florida opened my eyes to a career path that I really enjoyed, so I continued working on golf courses every year after that. The next three courses were Grande Dunes Members Club, Secession Golf Club, and Myrtle Beach National, all in South Carolina.
Just last week I volunteered for the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, NC, stimping greens (above) and testing green firmness (below).
I also volunteered this year at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf in Georgia (below).
After a quick one-day trip to New York City in late March to obtain my Danish work visa, on May 11th I flew from Washington, DC to Copenhagen to begin my internship at Great Northern Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus design located in Kerteminde, Denmark. Kerteminde is about 80 miles west of Copenhagen via train and bus.
My first step out of my comfort zone: a solo trip to NYC to obtain a Danish work visa.
Other than a family trip to Mexico, this is my first experience out of the USA. Initially I was nervous to leave home, but my fellow crew members at Great Northern have been very welcoming. Some of the guys from Scotland drove me around to show me the town and give me a chance to buy groceries and other items to settle in.
Aidan OHara, veteran golf course superintendent, runs the operations here at Great Northern. I'm very excited to absorb every bit of his experience and wisdom that I can.
Aidan has told me how this summer is going to be focused on thatch control. Now in his fourth year here, he inherited an organic mat layer that was a few inches thick. We will be putting a lot of effort into removing this thatch layer from the A4 bentgrass greens.
As the sun rises here at 5:00 each morning, the work begins early. Time to get going!
Thatch attack! My first day at Great Northern was spent with the aeration crew.
Editor's Note: Parker's internship this year is partially funded by a grant from the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) and Bayer Crop Science. Parker wasn't able to attend the annual TOCA meeting in early May but sent along the following comments to thank TOCA, TurfNet and Bayer for their support.
It's growing season and everyone has the throttle rammed to the wall. This is usually when we produce short goofy films with subliminal messages . . . because there is little time for jocularity.
But, as of now, time is critical. This film, "Decomplexification" is too important to hold until the first hard freeze.
*WARNING! This film contains CLASSIFIED golf operations material. Do NOT allow members, clubhouse personnel or architecture forum posters access to this film.
In this episode of The Ladder, host John Reitman chats with Josh Saunders, superintendent at the Longue Vue Club in the Pittsburgh area. Saunders laments some of the challenges of hiring staff in his area: hours, weekends, and opioids... his quests for interns and assistants... tapping into new demographics... putting a hard sell on the industry as a career... the lure of tournament golf on a resume... and how agronomy over time yields to management of budget, membership and assistants.
Presented by STEC Equipment.
Every now and again a book comes along that really connects with people close to you. Originally from an uncle, given to my mother in law, then passed to my son and then my wife, the book by James Rebanks has made the family rounds. As my wife Jill finished reading it, she turned to me in bed and stated, "You have to read this. You will get it. There are so many parallels between his life and yours."
The work tells the story of a forgotten way of life in the Lake District of the northern United Kingdom. James Rebanks comes from a long line of shepherds that have been tending sheep in this area for literally thousands of years.
This book was laid out by seasons and written as more or less as a series of journal entries. With an intimacy that was at times surprising, Rebanks shares the history and deep rooted connections that these folks have with both the land and with each other. Like most things worth doing, shepherding is phenomenally hard work, but by all accounts it transforms those who practice the craft and leaves them tied to both the work and the land in a truly meaningful way.
As I read through this narrative, I couldn't help but be struck by the similarities between the life of a shepherd and that of a greenkeeper. It was as if by living the life of the superintendent, I could completely relate to the lives of these people. By times the similarities were almost eerie.
The Connection to the Land -- The people of the Lake District have a deep sense of rootedness to where they are. The intimacy and depth of knowledge regarding their fells and farms are at times staggering. It is the kind of connection that can only come from spending a great deal of time working the land and understanding its wisdom. As greenkeepers I think we can understand that depth of knowledge. It that sense of connection that only comes from the balance between working the land in a physical way and appreciating it in a deeper, more spiritual way. Tuning into this connection may be the key to returning to a more simplistic, less intrusive version of our craft.
The Connection to Each Other -- The only bonds stronger than that of the land were those that bound their families and community together. Each farm depended on the strength of their families and their workers to see them through. It wasn't always pretty, but in the end the deep respect they had for each other was evident. Greenkeepers are no different in that regard. Our dependence on our family support and the respect and hard work of our crews keeps us grounded and moving forward.
The Brother/Sisterhood of Shepherds -- This community of people was and is largely misunderstood by most that do not live it. The Lake District is a huge tourist destination in the UK, and most come simply for the scenery and the old world charm. But these shepherds live it, every day. They operate in a world that while governed by modernity, remains quite true to the craft. How many times as a superintendent have you felt misunderstood by those who play the game? How many times have you found a great deal of comfort in the fact that there are other greenkeepers, just like you, slogging it out each day, practicing an age old craft?
The Craft -- These folks take an immense amount of pride in the knowledge and wisdom they have accumulated over the centuries. Breeding sheep that can not only survive, but thrive in these inhospitable fells takes both skill and patience. It takes a lifetime of practice to achieve some semblance of success. There is a great deal of honor and respect that goes with practicing this art. Not so different from managing turf really; those who are patient enough to learn, listen to the land and the plants, try and fail repeatedly, will be the ones at the end of the day that garner the respect of their peers and achieve some measure of success in this game.
The Life -- The level of absorption into the life of a shepherd is full and complete. At times the author blurred the lines between life, and life on the farm. Most times they were as one. Rebanks recalled a stern chastisement from his daughter, telling him that 'all you do is think about sheep'. Unfortunately, as greenkeepers we can relate to that one all too well
Rebanks' writing style gives the reader a deeply personal glimpse into what it means to be a shepherd. It is at times relentless, heartbreaking, and almost mystical. One cannot help but be absorbed into the story of his life and how it continues today. You can even follow him on Twitter, using the handle @herdyshepherd1.
I will leave you with the 3 Rules of Shepherding
It's not about you; it's about the sheep and the land.
Sometimes you can't win.
Shut up, and go do the work.
Thanks so much for reading...
My personal record for running off golf pros is 13, if you count my getting Dad fired twice. The first time was an accident, but the second time was more Dad's fault. He should have run a background check on me. I hit a real winning streak in my forties, with seven pros abdicating their crown during a ten year period.
The one pro I wanted to stay, however, was Larry Nelson and I think he left because of me. (Actually, Larry was a Pro Golfer, not a golf pro.) I had great respect for Larry, and not just because of his three Major titles or going 4-0 against Seve Ballesteros in Ryder Cup play. There was also the fact that Larry had served in the infantry in Viet Nam. When he took over a golf course that we had been trying to resurrect, we enthusiastically followed his lead.
Larry instantly became a major influence on my philosophy of golf architecture and maintenance. His strategy was not at all what we expected of a tour pro. Right from the start, Larry instructed us to make the course less penal. It was a long, narrow hallway of a course with a few too many trees. (About 20,000 too many.) He also told us to abandon the platinum bleached blond bunker sand and replace it with a more natural brunette sand.
Next, Larry ordered the downsizing of a couple of unnecessarily giant greenside bunkers and to reconstruct two high-flashed bunkers that had been carefully designed to wash out in a heavy fog and top-dress the fairway. One penal monster became a grass bunker and a particularly obnoxious twit of a septic sand pit turned into what we would later term "an inverted bunker" or "mound".
We dropped 7,000 trees, widened fairways, reduced rough and generally dried out the course. (Wasn't that difficult in the middle of a three year drought and an irrigation system originally installed by Sumerians.)
Play increased substantially, at least until the acting GM guy pushed through his brilliant plan to double the green fees, en route to going "private" in an area not shown to be successful in that business model. *Note: Acting GM guy was the patient who inspired the original medical diagnosis, "Augusta Syndrome".
Larry Nelson probably thought he would relax from the stress and tension of playing tour golf and run a quiet, calm little golf course. He did not realize he would encounter oddballs like me, always cranking up the stress with comments like "You know, Boss, we don't have a spray rig . . . or a fairway mower. Probably gonna need that stuff."
Things always went sideways whenever Larry went off to play a tournament. Acting GM guy would immediately countermand Larry's orders. "Put that sand trap back like it was or--your little dog gets it!" Operating under those conditions was kind of like getting a substitute teacher with no experience in the subject . . . or teaching.
In addition to Larry and that guy, our chain of command was fortified with a Japanese golf management company. Although it was my first encounter with a golf corporation, it wasn't a problem, as my last employer had been pretty corporate, too. Not long after the corporate folks arrived, I was given the assignment of training a young fellow from Tokyo in the mystical art of golf maintenance. His name was Hiro and we all liked him right away, especially when he confessed his dream was to wear a cowboy hat, cowboy boots and drive an American pickup truck.
Hiro was doing great until the day a triplex sprung a hydraulic leak and heat-striped a bent green. Panic-stricken, Hiro locked himself in the tool room and refused to come out, shouting things like, "I am shamed! Golf course work is too hard! And Mike will kill me!"
Well, Hiro was right. Golf course work was pretty hard, especially that one . . . and my brother Mike, fresh back from four years in the Ranger Battalion, might have given folks the impression that damaging a green could be uncomfortable.
Hiro escaped and went straight to Larry. The next time we saw Hiro, he was on TV, toting Larry's bag. I was furious. Not because Hiro ran off, but because I should have thought of the caddie angle first.
Sadly, we were not prepared when Larry won the '87 PGA. I had never seen him practice, and with his reputation as a range fiend, I just assumed he was easing into retirement. Later on, I realized Larry must have been secretly practicing, in order to get away from running a golf course with a curse on it, the constant bickering between us and the substitute teacher and . . . putting up with me.
The moral of this story? There isn't one, but I can tell you this: Without Larry Nelson, there would be no Rockbottum Country Club, no Skeletal Golf Theory, no cast of goofball characters dwelling deep within the TurfNet Zone . . . and instead of being an international playboy film producer, Ludell would still be just a Night Waterman, howling at the moon.