In this episode of Frankly Speaking, I chat with Brian Winka, CSFM, about the benefits of "Bluemuda" vs the "insanity" of the traditional process of overseeding Bermudagrass on sports fields and golf courses in the south and transition zone.
Presented by DryJect/Maximus and Civitas/Intelligro.
Guest post by Greg Wojick
In the first part of this series posted last month, we covered the obstacles that contracts can encounter. So just how do you go about selling the idea of an employment contract to your green committee and board? As the other industry experts and superintendents I spoke to will agree: Its all in how you market yourself and the mutually beneficial rewards of having a contract.
Approach the idea of a contract when the course is at its best.
If you have been employed at your club for a number of years, remind them of any and all of your noteworthy accomplishments, from money-saving measures and agronomic improvements to personal accomplishments, such as achieving certification.
Then go on to explain that a contract is useful in:
Defining expectations. If your employer defines in a contract exactly whats expected of you, you will spend less time second-guessing your employer's goals and more time accomplishing them. No guesswork; greater efficiency.
Protecting the club's most important asset, the golf course. The last thing a club wants is to jeopardize the quality of course conditions by losing a superintendent in the throes of the season or just before a major club event. A contract can guard against inopportune resignations.
One club member I spoke to pointed to this very reason for offering a superintendent a written contract. "The contract can lock the employee into a specific term (for example, two years)," he said, "or require the employee to give the club enough notice to find a suitable replacement (for example, 90 days notice). While a club can't force someone to keep working for them, an employee is likely to comply with the agreements terms if there is a penalty within the contract for not doing so," he noted.
Ensuring consistency. Procedures and expectations for ongoing and future projects can be easily specified in a contract. This leads not only to better planning, but also the added assurance that long-term projects can be carried out as defined even if the committee heading up a project changes.
Making compensation predictable. Employment contracts define compensation and benefits, leaving little open to interpretation or negotiation more than once a year.
Building trust. Clubs entrust the care and management of the golf course to you. You want to trust the club to treat you fairly and equitably. A contract lays the groundwork for that trust by defining everyones responsibilities: your responsibilities to the club and the clubs responsibilities to you.
As Peter McCormick of TurfNet confirmed, "everyone works better in an environment that provides assurances. Contracts minimize question marks and gray areas," he said, "and avoid issues of trust. Both parties know what to expect so they can get on with business without having to look over anyone's shoulder internally -- which is energy misspent."
Be aware, however, of the harsh reality that many clubs are going to be looking after their interests more than yours. In fact, according to one club member I spoke to, "The club can view an employment contract as a tool to maintain tighter control over an employee. If the contract specifies standards for the employee's performance (a detailed job description) and grounds for termination," he noted, "a club may have an easier time terminating an employee who doesn't live up to the club's standards." A perfect reason to have a lawyer review your contract before signing on the dotted line!
What should I include in a contract?
When you get the go-ahead on the contract, your next step is to be sure that it covers all the bases. In the final part of this series, we will outline each aspect of what to include in the contract with pros and cons to each.
Sections of this blog post were originally created by Greg in a survey for the MetGCSA. That content is courtesy of the MetGCSA.
There is an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry takes his car to his mechanic for a knocking noise. After the mechanic determines the problem with the car, he tells Jerry the adjustments the car needs in order to operate at its maximum level. Jerry thinks these repairs are overkill and tells the mechanic that he will take the car elsewhere. At this point the mechanic steals the car rather than let it continue to be operated by an owner who does not value it adequately. He rebukes Jerry, "You don't even know your car!" While this isn't exactly the way I see myself regarding the property I care for, it does speak to the deep bond that many groundskeepers form with our landscapes.
Professionally and Conscientiously Bound
Groundskeeping is not a profession many of us got into because of the monetary compensation or the accolades. This in no way prevents us from performing with a deep commitment to excellence. Additionally, some of our professional certifications carry an ethical requirement to do what is best for the environment and our responsibilities. This is no trivial oath. Our self-respect and the respect of our peers requires we do our utmost.
Many of us have found that groundskeeping provides us an opportunity to play a role that makes a difference. By being dedicated to our landscapes or golf courses, we are fulfilling a drive that seeks to give back to our organizations and communities. Whether we enhance the happiness of a golfer playing nine, an athlete on a pitch, or a student strolling a campus, we know the work we do is significant.
Another reason groundskeepers are so fervent about their grounds is we know the work that has gone into them. Landscaping a course or campus, and then maintaining it, is no small undertaking. Even at its most basic our work is physically demanding and takes place in frequently challenging environmental conditions.
Grounds men know the work it takes to beautify the landscape.
The tasks and projects we accomplish can be small or large. They may take minutes or weeks. Regardless of the intensity or the particulars of a job, our work builds over time through a continuum. Landscaping is never done, but is a journey that creates experiences either satisfying or stressful. The result is our grounds reflect the magnitude and quality of our investments of knowledge and effort. As groundskeepers we have shepherded our courses and fields over time and cannot help but see the massive determination we have invested.
Travelling a Long Road Together
I came to Drury University as a student in 2006. While working at another position, I happened to meet and talk with a DU professor (who has since moved on). While we were discussing sustainable landscaping and groundskeeping in general, I said working at Drury was exactly the type of job I hoped for. Well, in 2011 I started as the Head Groundskeeper at DU.
This is the first tree i planted at Drury. We have travelled a long way together.
In the years since, we have made many changes to our campus. We have planted hundreds of trees and shrubs, and thousands of flowers and bulbs. We have installed dozens of new flowerbeds through which we have articulated a native, low resource paradigm, even while continuing to maintain a high threshold for aesthetic design. I have now seen many students, faculty, and even groundskeepers come and go. When I think back to the campus that was, I am keenly aware of the long road the campus and I have travelled together.
We Deal With Life
One of the fundamental facets of groundskeeping is that we are managing living organisms and ecosystems. While this factor adds some stress to our work, it also is the source of much of our greatest satisfaction. Regardless of the life form that we tend to, seeing these entities thrive is rewarding. When you consider that grounds managers watch over soil (yes, it is alive), turf, flowers, shrubs, trees, etc. we have a lot to keep healthy.
The life of the campus never ceases to amaze us...
Since our landscapes are also parts of larger systems, we also have impact over animals, insects, streams and lakes. Our cultural management approaches can provide significant health benefits to the parts of the systems. But the greatest potential for satisfaction is the wellness and enjoyment the landscape can impart to our human patrons. Humans are hard-wired to connect with nature, and for many the landscape is a primary opportunity to engage with it.
Thinking Beyond Myself
Here at Drury, our landscape is shared by thousands of people. All of these people have a story, needs, and aspirations. Most often they do not center on the campus grounds (unlike the groundskeeper). But this does not mean that they don't care, or invest in some small way. When a visitor asks a gardening question, or a student relaxes in a shady spot, when anyone appreciates the landscape, they are getting a small taste of what us grounds managers experience nearly all the time. Because for most of the time we love our campuses and are thoroughly attached to them. They are our babies.
A few years back my wife and I attended the annual dinner meeting of the Passamaquoddy Yacht Club, of which we were new members. Sounds kind of snooty, doesn't it? Ahhh, names often belie the true nature of things.
The Passamaquoddy Yacht Club is half sailing organization and half social club. Its locale is a triangle of ports (Eastport and Lubec, Maine, and Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada, where our summer place is located) near the entrance to Passamaquoddy Bay, off the Bay of Fundy, home of the highest tides in the western hemisphere.
Ironically, there are some sailboats but no yachts in the area other than perhaps a "lobster yacht" or "picnic boat" visiting from Mount Desert Island -- home of Acadia National Park, Martha Stewart, the Millikens and the Rockefellers -- about 100 miles to the south. FYI, lobster yachts were originally working lobster boats converted to recreational use so the moneyed gentility of coastal Maine could use them for picnicking on board or on the out islands. The early converted working boats have yielded to custom picnic boats crafted by Maine artisanal boatmakers such as Hinckley or Ellis, and available to anyone with a half million or more in folding cash. That is not us.
A Hinckley picnic boat. As the old saying goes, if you have to ask how much, you can't afford it.
We were encouraged by some friends and neighbors to join the PYC even though we don't own a boat..The joke is, when asked what kind of boat you have, you simply reply "gravy". Everyone understands.
In any case, I was enjoying a beer and snacking on some appys prior to dinner when I turned and came face-to-face with an obviously free-spirited woman ten years younger or so than myself. It was one of those semi-awkward things that occasionally happen at cocktail parties or when browsing the groaning table. She was with a dapper fellow about 30 years her senior.
Since part of the initiative was to meet new people, we both took a half-step back to regain some personal space and said hello.
"So what's your story?" she asked.
Huh? Say what? I guess I gave her a blank stare and 'hominy-homonied' a bit, because she then said, "Yeah, who are you? What do you do? What are you all about?"
I first thought that was a fairly frontal question from a near-bumpee, but recognizing her free-spirit and happy smile, I played along. It was a curious exercise.
Put yourself in that position. On the spot, with no forethought, distill yourself down to a couple of sentences that would capture your essence and convey it to a stranger. I guess I'm still trying to fine-tune what I should have said, since I still remember the incident and reflect from time to time.
Of course I had to return the question, to which she didn't hesitate in responding. "I'm 49, single, a writer, renting for the summer down the road a bit, and my friend here is gay and a lot of fun." Okay. Obviously she had rehearsed.
It has since occurred to me that we go through a similar exercise when deciding what to put on our social media profiles. Are you a spouse/parent first and foremost, or does your career identity take precedent? Dogfather? Foodie?
My Twitter profile states: "TurfNet founder, Boston Bruins fan, bucket list guitarist, family man, dog-father, foodie, craft beer lover, Kubota jockey and man of Stihl."
That has been tweaked a couple of times over the years, and is really in need of further adjustment. I used to have "Golden Retriever snob" in there but since our pack of Goldens has dwindled to one and our most recent canine acquisitions are rescues of other breeds, the snob thing really doesn't apply anymore. We are EODLs, or Equal Opportunity Dog Lovers.
I must have written that profile blurb in the winter or spring due to the prominence of the Boston Bruins fan thing. That would have likely been farther down the list in summer, but it's in prime time right now!
"Foodie" and "craft beer lover" probably wouldn't make the cut if I were to write or revise it today. I still enjoy good food but a real foodie loves to cook, and while I do at times, I simply don't do it that much anymore. It's not as big a part of me as it once was.
Same goes for craft beer. As many craft beers have eclipsed the 8% ABV mark, and given my propensity to consume more than one ("The first is mouthwash," I would say), I have realized that 16 oz 8%+ beers are not my friend. 12 oz cans of Founders All-Day IPA at 4.7% ABV are just fine, and don't blow my head apart should I choose to drink more than a couple... which I also rarely do anymore.
The periodic exercise in introspection is what is important here. Does your career come first, or your family? Dog before spouse? Hobbies? "What hobbies?" you say. Tsk, tsk. Everyone should have a hobby or diversion.
Since Twitter is mostly a business thing or me, "TurfNet founder" takes top placement as there is only one, and that's me. No ambiguity there. "Husband of 40 years to the same woman" and "proud father of two great daughters" should be up at the top, although I somewhat vaguely covered that with "family man".
Bucket-list guitarist has to stay, as I've only been at it less than four years and it has changed my life. We are never too old for a new challenge.
The Kubota/Stihl thing still applies, but to a lesser degree. I enjoy my time in the woods, but after ten years of it and hundreds of trees felled my muscles and joints ache more and my stamina suffers with age.
Mickey McCord also constantly admonishes me to not work alone with a chainsaw. After having a close call with my foot a few years back, and with the guitar causing a newfound appreciation of my fingers, Kubota and Stihl have also taken a step back among my priorities.
I recently realized that "voracious reader" and "Jack Reacher wannabe" never made the list. They should. I average about one novel per week. I don't read non-fiction as there's too much of that in real life these days.
Part of the take-home here is that things change over time. Our lives and priorities change. Our jobs change. Our outlook on life changes.
I often encourage people to look back five or ten years years and see how their lives have changed. Could you have predicted where you are today? Many of us could not.
The flipside of that is to be aware of the rate of change as it accelerates into the future. In my opinion it's naive, if not downright impossible, to plan more than five years ahead, 'cause it's a crapshoot beyond that. I'm not recommending not saving for retirement and things like that. Rather, stay flexible and go with the flow without too much predetermination.
Back to my Twitter persona to close this out. I have been chastised for using salty language about hot-button topics on my @TurfNetMaestro Twitter account. I suppose they are right, to a degree. I should separate that out.
One of my fellow turf media folks referred to me awhile back as a "grumpy old prick". Hey, I like that, I thought. So I went ahead and registered @GrumpyOldPrick as an alter-ego Twitter handle. Seriously. I did.
I haven't resorted to using it yet, partly because I'm working on that 'grumpy' thing. And that's a benefit of this whole introspective, who-am-I, what's-my-story exercise. A problem recognized is half-solved.
In this episode of Rockbottum Radio, live from somewhere in the TurfNet Zone, the Gang makes a field trip to one of those newfangled bowling alley honky-tonk disco pinball golf places, while attempting to answer the question of how much PGR is required to shrink a green chairman's ego.
After a lesson in General George S. Patton tactics, and an interruption from the seniors group playing 2-Man Worst Ball, and before announcing the winner of the Turpentine Corncob Award, the topic of how wrestling fans infested golf galleries is pondered.
Rockbottum Analytica, the common sense golf data mining sector of Rockbottum Country Club, finally settles the bentgrass vs 'muda debate before tackling digitoxicity in kids.
In Storytime, Randy tells the long suppressed family story of Uncle Jelsik, the first Wilson to work in golf, Stoddard, his talking dog, Broderick the mule, Moby the hog and several other embarrassing moments.
In this episode of Living Legends, presented by the Nufarm Insider, host John Reitman has a wide-ranging chat with Matt Shaffer, recently retired from Merion Golf Club, host of the 2013 U.S. Open.
Matt's retrospective includes his Penn State education and mentors there... the Latshaw Connection interwoven through his career... pushing the agronomic envelope and living on the edge... the cost of obscurity and value of a pedigree... doors that exceeding expectations will open... having money and resources at your disposal, or not... learning from defeats and charging on to your next victory... how a great club membership makes a huge difference... never holding a grudge.
The compensation/aggravation ratio of being a superintendent... the physical toll of hosting a Major... finding work/life balance.
Spend 45 minutes with Matt Shaffer, who pulls no punches. A fascinating conversation.
I don't know what "Gird Thy Loins" actually means, but I think I read it in an ancient text, the context being "Don your metal jockstrap, lest ye be kicked in the sensitives".
It takes a hard individual to work Municipal Golf, (MG) but with sufficient preparation, it can be fun. I suggest:
Gird Thy Loins. (Steel cup, fire retardant kevlar underwear, etc.)
Seek counsel from someone currently in Muni Golf.
I spent 15 years working MG and it was great, except for the low pay, skeletal budgets and a work environment rife with constant NSB contact. (Numbskullian Bureaurats)
I began MG life on the crew--rowing in the galley, building pyramids--before ascending to Asst. Supt. and later, to actual GCS. The agronomics were easy compared to dealing with the Overlords who held positions of great power. Some Overlords were without any actual "real world" work experience. They accomplish this through law school, followed by an election and a coronation.
They hate the term "real world" and prefer the phrase "Private Sector". Be very careful using the PS term, as NSBs are sensitive and don't like to hear how things are done in the PS. I learned the ways of MG by watching my Dad and adopting his strategy, known in academic circles as the "Colonel Hogan" method.
There are great MG situations out there and there are some Stalag 13 situations. To help those considering a career in MG, I have included a few entries from my extensive journals, about life in a world overrun with NSBs:
13 March '73. Dad has taken over MV, big muni outside Atlanta. The golf pro thinks he is in command. There is no budget--the course loses money. Might be because Golf pro gets 100% of cart, shop, beer revenue.
15 May '73. Course has 44 acres of hardpan red clay. Dad converts ancient sweeper into sprig-maker by running it too low in fairways. He borrows Hydro-mulcher from Roads and Drainage Dept and Hydrosprigs entire course. Did this by trading free golf to Roads Boss--golf pro reports Dad for illegal deal making.
May '75. Golf Digest ranks MV top 50. Golf pro hailed for miracle turnaround. Movement afoot to name clubhouse for pro.
Jun '77. Terrible winter, greens are dead, lost 40 acres of fairway. Commissioners increase maint. budget by 1%. Clubhouse to undergo extensive renovation. Dad sprigs greens from 419 fairways.
Aug '76. I'm the new asst. supt. at Foul Swamp GC, former Federal prison farm. The builder only cleared fairways, left us to clear woods. It's not woods, it's triple canopy jungle like Malaysia. Saw Komodo dragon on #12.
Sept '76. Not due to open for a year, but new pro arrives. "Poofy" sits in temp pro shop trailer watching soaps while we clear jungle.
Oct '76. After someone complains? Poofy is ordered to help us clear jungle. I put chipper in area with dense hickory population. Poofy attempts to feed hickory saplings into chipper and receives worst chipper whipping we ever witnessed. Unable to take him to clinic because of debilitating laughter spasms.
Nov '76. Eldo, crew worker forced on us by HR Dept, steals our chainsaws to purchase drugs. Our fiscal year is 3 years, so we are down to using axes to clear jungle.
Jan '77. Haven't seen Poofy since Oct. Eldo now robbing crew every payday. Can't fire him due to HR regs.
Feb '77. Eldo carries out mass murder--still can't fire him.
Mar '77. Cops carry Eldo off--still can't fire him.
Jun '92. I have returned to Foul Swamp GC. In first meeting, Parks Director asks if greens need rebuilding. I say yes, greens have been dead for ten years. Director asks Poofy--yep, still here--for his opinion. Poofy says we should just rebuild one green per year. Poofy's advice is accepted, because "He's a golf pro, he understands these things." Someone leaves hickory sapling on Poofy's Mercedes.
Aug '92. Ordered 50 bunker rakes, none left after last flood. Purchasing Dept. intervenes to get better price, explains they are more experienced with procurement.
Sept '92. 50 pitchforks arrive.
Oct '92. Mandatory 40 hours Safety Training. While at training, crew wrecks my truck. Safety officials halt training to give me official reprimand for being absent from work site when accident happened. I refuse to sign reprimand, stating "It wasn't an accident, I did it on purpose, using telepathy." They drop official reprimand.
May '93. Ordered 300 gal. fairway spray rig with special flotation tires, as we flood once a month. Purchasing Dept. intervenes, finds better price on tires.
July '93. Spray rig arrives. Tires are 3" wide, solid rubber.
Aug '93. Ordered fungicide, due to outbreak of Rhizoct.
Aug '94. Fungicide arrives.
Jun '95. Irrg. Tech. has missed 249 days over last 3 years. Can't fire him due to HR regs and his buddies at Headquarters.
Sept '95. Made secret deal--Irrg. Tech promoted to Senior Plumber at Headquarters. HAHAHAHAHA! I'm learning.
Oct '96. Crew worker refuses to ride bunker rake, charges me with abuse. Can't fire him due to HR regs. During aerifying, I tell him to wait in break room until I need him. By 3rd day, he is watching Price Is Right, boasting about "getting over" when exhausted crew comes in. Crew tries to kill him.
Jun '98. Hot. Africa Hot. Drought, 100 degrees. County official orders me to stop watering. I explain stopped watering fairways last year, only watering bent greens. He says "NO water means NO water."
July '98. During massive rebuild of course, County Official returns and yells at me for hand watering smoking bent green. I say I'm not watering. He screams "Yes you are, I can SEE you!" I say No I'm not. He leaves in a rage to get a camera and call my boss. I don't care. It won't be his name on the history books for killing 20 bent greens.
Nov '99. Due to successful rebuild/redesign of course, I am offered chance to design and build a course. I accept. Next day, I am offered supt. job at a course close to home. Discover it's a Muni. I change my phone number.
In this episode of Frankly Speaking, I chat with Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation and previously CEO of the GCSAA. Topics include the rebound of the Tiger Effect and it's influence on the "green grass channel"; getting new golfers to the point of playing well enough that they enjoy the game; making golf more accessible (and user friendly) at every level of facility; altering perceptions of the game among potential new golfers; effects of course design and conditioning on the experience of new golfers... and lots more!
Spend a half hour with us and get yourself up to date on where the game is and where it's heading.
Presented by Civitas/Intelligro and DryJect.
How many times have you struggled with a problem only to find that the tighter your grip, the more elusive the answer became? You doubled down, squared your shoulders and refocused, only to find that in your fervor, the problem had resolved itself without your intervention. Lost in the haze of your quest to fix things, doing nothing at all was actually the best course of action.
An old greenkeeping proverb states, "Doing nothing is often the hardest thing to do." But for many superintendents, this is a very uncomfortable prospect.
Our "fixing mind tells us, "If I could only do X, the turf would be better...", "If I could only get through to that staff member they would", or "If I could only convince that board member to see things my way, all would be good in the world. For many of us, doing nothing at all simply does not compute.
Not for fellow TurfNetter Jason Haines (@PenderSuper), of Pender Harbour Golf Club in coastal British Columbia. His blog post a couple of years ago titled, Five things that I dont do anymore and why, highlighted this notion of doing far less to achieve more in the long run. Jason's mantra is to continuously question, examine, and push the boundaries of greenkeeping. In his quest to do less, Jason had found that stepping back and simply observing can sometimes be enough.
Doing nothing is hard work. When there is a problem to fix, our egos tell us to get out there and do something at least! This notion forces us out far too early in the spring to begin overseeding, disturbing our surfaces to alleviate a perceived problem, or needlessly interfering with our staff in order to get the job done right. If we can step back and tolerate a little discomfort for a time, sometimes these issues resolve themselves without our constant meddling.
How often in our personal lives does this same dance play out? We superintendents are fixers by nature and it can be tough to hold back our innate tendency to jump in and save the day. Are you the person who people always look to for the answer? Many times that's fine, but sometimes it is helpful to ask yourself the question, "Is my input really needed?" This thoughtful pause can give us the space to not instinctively move into our reactive "fixing" mode and make room for things to sort themselves out for a change.
It's not to say that intervention is never required and we should always be completely passive about things. We get paid to fix problems on a daily basis; it's kinda what we do. But it might be helpful to evaluate your reaction footprint. Ask yourself if it's more effective to continuously react to problems, or might it be time to start responding wisely instead?
So next time you feel called upon to throw on your cape and rush out there to save the world, maybe pause first. Don't be afraid to question your first instinct that tells you to automatically do something, anything. It's alright to feel a little bit uncomfortable with a given scenario and just observe for a spell. You might be surprised to find that sitting back and letting things be just might be that best thing to do.
Thanks so much for reading.
Armen Suny and host Dave Wilber turn their thinking amps up to 11 and have a session. And you are invited!
From sand-based greens to robotic mowers. From chaining old rollers near golf shops to perfect biology. And more. When Armen and Dave sit and jam, anything can and usually does happen.
Enjoy this episode as a way to get motivated as the Spring of 2018 is upon us!!
The Turfgrass Zealot Project is only on TurfNet.com. And ANYONE can listen!
In this episode of The Ladder, host John Reitman chats with Jordan Kitchen, assistant superintendent at Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Ancaster, Ontario. Jordan relates his experiences with launching a new company and product while obtaining an MBA and working full time to boot.
Surprisingly, he finds the benefits of the MBA program to be as much in personal introspection and development as in broadening his business skills.
Presented by STEC Equipment.
In this episode of Frankly Speaking, Frank chats with Chava McKeel, Bob Helland and Michael Lee of the GCSAA Government Affairs staff about current issues trending on national, regional and local legislative agendas.
Presented by DryJect and Intelligro/Civitas.
In this episode of the TurfNet Renovation Report, sponsored by Golf Preservations, (new) host Anthony Pioppi chats with Matt Powell about the soon to be opened Brian Silva renovation of the Seth Raynor layout at Dedham Country and Polo Club in the metro Boston area.
Thanks, Matt, and welcome, Tony, to the TurfNet team!
Drury University is known to our community and visitors for our many large shade trees. We have been a Tree Campus since 2014 and take appropriate steps to maintain our campus canopy. This hasn't always been the case however. By assessing the appearance of the trees (cultural signs & symptoms) and evaluating tree age/diversity it is clear that for a period of time our precious trees were somewhat ignored -- and possibly impaired -- by less than optimal management.
One of the most important means to help maintain tree health is by decreasing mechanical damage...
But since 2011 Drury University and Drury Grounds have undertaken a significant effort to help our DU trees rebound. One of the most important means to help maintain tree health is by decreasing mechanical damage. If one looks closely at the root flare zone and surface roots of some of our trees, you can see the sign of repeated mechanical damage. Roots were scalped again and again by mowers set too low. Wounded bark calloused over only to be scalped again. This damage is still apparent on both roots and trunks.
These pictures show repeated mower damage to surface roots and flare zone damage from mowers and/or string-trimmers.
Now we are trying a novel approach. Our crew is using the surface roots to describe interpretative, flowing tree rings to cushion and shield the tree roots. Curves are gentle enough that we can mow with larger equipment. The convolutions help demonstrate how each tree is unique, and helps to highlight the roots, making them aesthetically appealing. The large size of the mulch area provides all the routine benefits of mulch rings (water conservation, soil improvement, weed suppression, and of course mechanical protection) without the boredom that can come from endless circles on campus (after all we have over 1500 trees, if not more). These rings have gotten a good reception, and I must say, we like them too.
Letting each trees unique character dictate the shape of tree rings creates artwork rather than just geometry around some of our champion trees.
Guest Post by Greg Wojick
I've been in the industry more than 35 years as both a golf course superintendent and now a principal in Playbooks for Golf, and in that time, I've seen many changes -- in equipment, technology, management techniques, and in the education and agronomic expertise required to do an increasingly demanding job. Despite these advances, few superintendents throughout the country are acknowledged as professionals worthy of an employment contract.
According to the GCSAA Compensation & Benefits Report completed by superintendent members in recent years, only 20 percent of the over 3,000 who responded have a written employment contract. That statistic doesn't seem very encouraging.
So why are employment contracts still more the exception than the rule among golf course superintendents?
The most apparent, long-standing problem I see is that laypeople, i.e., green committee and board members, still don't fully understand what it is that superintendents do, much less comprehend the level of skill and the breadth and depth of knowledge required to manage a golf course operation.
We all have read or heard about the fantastic new contracts that pro athletes/managers/coaches obtain (most always through the negotiation by their agents and/or lawyers). Why? Because in professional sports, owners and boards almost always "get" what the coaches and athletes actually do. Many were former coaches or athletes themselves. What's more, the quality of the work of these new hires can be easily judged by wins and losses and statistics. In other words, there is little mystery to what people in the sports arena do. You can say the same about the golf facility's general manager. Members pretty much understand what's involved. General managers are considered key players in the golf facility's profitability, while the superintendent's essential role in the club's viability often goes unrecognized.
Confirming this great divide in understanding, one industry executive noted, "The club member's general viewpoint about superintendents is that they are analogous to a head engineer. The GM is regarded as more of a CEO. Although these characterizations are changing," he said, "its still the 'CEOs' who get the written employment agreements." In fact, about 75 percent of general managers countrywide are awarded employment contracts according to many in that industry segment.
In the modern-day golf world, many green committee and board members will attempt to grasp what a superintendent does -- and often erroneously believe they know the job better than the superintendent -- as they Google everything from "effectiveness of calcium nitrate" to "growing Bermuda grass in my region."
Unfortunately, even with this drilling for knowledge, a true understanding of the concerns, challenges, and constraints of the job eludes even the most well-intentioned committee member. We have studied this subject thoroughly at Playbooks, and have begun a new software platform that should create a much better environment to combat this critical issue by combining the best features of Twitter, blogs and native apps to let the superintendent control their message from one central location and ensure golfers actually receive it. Its called Conditions App and is fully launching this spring.
Expanding this problem: Then, when it comes to hiring, those entrusted with the super's hire typically just use their intuition or thoughts from grillroom friends to rate and reward or terminate. More and more superintendents find themselves being told the club has decided to go in a different direction. There are no assurances of employment beyond today particularly when no contract is in place.
I spoke several years ago with Peter McCormick, TurfNet founder, about this very issue and he pointed to "employment instability" as the single biggest threat to the golf course superintendent as a career -- and as an industry.
"Underlying 'employment instability' is the flux of personnel over time on the employer side, particularly at private clubs," McCormick explained. "The people who hire a superintendent and are privy to the conversations at the interviews and resultant agreements and expectations -- whether they are a general manager, club official, committee, or board member -- very often aren't around five or ten years down the road. Unless those discussions and agreements are memorialized in a document agreed to by all parties -- in effect, a contract -- it all becomes hearsay over time. And hearsay can lead to potential misunderstanding, disagreement and rancor," he cautioned.
I found that many supers don't have a contract simply because they don't ask for one. Some fear a club's rejection. Others told me they're happy to operate without a contract. One superintendent who spoke to me anonymously, like the others I surveyed, was among the many who just didn't think to ask for an employment agreement: "The members who hired me are smart. If they really wanted me to have a contract, they would have offered it to me before I agreed to take the position," he said.
Unfortunately, in today's highly competitive job market, many newly hired superintendents are so pleased that theyve been selected from the throngs of other applicants, that lobbying for a contract barely crosses their minds.
It's understandable, then, that most new hires will quickly agree to a reasonable offer without any negotiation, but many are also overly optimistic about their future with their club. They assume they will always be held in high esteem because, of course, they will always keep the course in top condition and will never make a mistake worthy of their dismissal.
"Everyone loved me at the interviews," said the same super, believing his honeymoon period would never end. Equally optimistic, another superintendent told me: "I feel if I continue to work hard and communicate effectively, I will be able to overcome any tenuous situations that may arise. In other words," he added, "if I get dismissed, it will be my fault."
Despite the club's seeming upper hand during the interview process, there's actually no better time to ask for a contract than at the time of hiring. It shouldn't jeopardize your situation, but rather enhance it by establishing you as a competent professional who, like other industry professionals, expects more than just a handshake when agreeing to accept the job.
AN OBSTACLE CAN BECOME A SOLUTION:
A contract offers superintendents what I call "failure avoidance". It spells out exactly what the employer expects of you and what you can expect of the employer. It basically stipulates the employment agreement and terms of employment. It also protects the superintendent from termination at the whim of an employer, indicating the process in which separation or termination could occur.
Unfortunately, some employers will perceive this as a reason to steer clear of contracts. As one club member admitted, "Employment contracts bring with them an obligation to deal fairly with the employee. In legal terms, this is called the 'covenant of good faith and fair dealing'. If the club ends up treating an employee in a way that a judge or jury finds unfair," he continued, "the club may be legally responsible not only for violating the contract, but also for breaching their duty to act in good faith."
In my opinion, this is all the more reason to lobby for a contract. It can protect both superintendent and employer, which offers an overall talking point for superintendents planning to approach their club about securing an employment contract.
ROADMAP TO A CONTRACT
So just how do you go about selling the idea of an employment contract to your green committee and board? As the other industry experts and superintendents I spoke to will agree: It's all in how you market yourself and the mutually beneficial rewards of having a contract.
In Part 2 of this exploration (check back next month), we will lay out a detailed road-map for a well-written and attainable employment contract.
Sections of this blog were originally created by Greg in a survey for the MetGCSA. That content is courtesy of the MetGCSA.
In this episode of Living Legends, presented by the Nufarm Insider, host John Reitman chats with Dr, Karl Danneberger of Ohio State about his knack for engaging an audience, telling stories, his love of the game of golf, a bit about the challenges facing people entering the industry, the turf team at Ohio State, and his special off-topic interest...
The Rockbottum Gang goes for ice cream while their Milleminial Golfer Study is revealed. After finding out how to prevent Old Man Smell, listen in on the first ever Rockbottum Board Meeting
There's a big accident out on the course... and then in Storytime, Ludell catches RW on tape under the effects of Truth Serum.
Presented by VinylGuard Golf.
I was finally able to attend my inaugural Golf Industry Show a few weeks back. It was a long time on the "to do list" as a Superintendent from the East Coast of Canada, and the experience did not disappoint. As I flew home, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and positive vibes from the whole event.
I would like to take a moment to thank some of the folks who made the trip so memorable.
Chris Tritabaugh, for teaming up with me to deliver my first ever seminar at the GIS. Chris was so accommodating and helpful during the lead-up, and delivered a great seminar.
Frank Rossi, for pushing me to step out of my comfort zone and convincing me to actually do the talk. He was also gracious enough to let me join him on the GCSAA Live broadcast and talk about mindfulness; it was a moment I won't soon forget.
all the participants in the actual seminar. Everyone was so attentive and respectful. It was a wonderful group to share our ideas with, and I'm sure they left with lots to think about. (Or maybe not think about)
all the people who stopped me and thanked me for writing the blog. It was so humbling to finally hear from those people for whom the writing actually makes a difference.
those brave Superintendents who actually took the time to share some of their stories of hardship and difficulty with me. The vulnerability and strength exhibited by those folks was very inspiring.
all the staff at TurfNet. It was such a pleasure to spend time with the Peter, Jon, Kevin and co. The community vibe was on full display at the famed Beer & Pretzels event. What a privilege it is to be a part of such a compassionate, caring group of professionals. It was also awesome to be able to meet so many long time TurfNet members in person!
my wingman and Turfnet member Mark Perry; its always better traveling with a friend.
my wife Jill and kids Maria, Lucas, & Clara. They put up with me working a lot of extra time before the event, and held down the fort while we were away. Simply cannot do what I do without them.
all the people who work in all of the service industries that make a trip like that possible. All the folks in the hotels, the airlines, the conference center, the restaurants, and any other entity that we came in contact with. We were always greeted with a smile and these people often don't get enough credit for the stuff they put up with on a daily basis.
So hopefully those who you who attended learned a few things and returned home a bit richer for the experience.
Thanks so much for reading.
In this episode of The Ladder, presented by STEC Equipment, host John Reitman chats with Carlos Arraya of Bellerive Country Club about his career path, team building at Bellerive through Pillar Management, and fostering staff development through one-on-one "weeklies".
Carlos also discusses the benefit of giving up some management control to others and letting them make decisions. "It's amazing how much we can get done, and how much it improves everyones work/life balance."
In this episode of Frankly Speaking, I chat with Ted Horton, CGCS, legendary superintendent at Winged Foot and Westchester Country Club as well as VP of Resource Management at Pebble Beach, and board member of Audubon International. Now living in California, Ted is is currently a Sr. Consulting Superintendent for Brightview, specializing in environmental stewardship; golf course safety, security and risk management; tournament preparations; turfgrass agronomics and the administrative functions of large property maintenance.
In our own "Ted" talk, we chat about the advent of lightweight mowing on fairways back in the mid-'80s, including the economic adjustments and agronomic benefits incurred.
Much of the discussion centers around current and future water use on golf courses.
In our green industry, the jobs we perform are very diverse. Some of us are Golf Course Superintendents; some are irrigationists, others Sports-Turf Managers, Landscape Designers, and even a Head Groundskeeper or two. Likewise, the organizations we participate in are diverse also. There are commercial and residential, public and private, profit or not-for-profit. Drilling down even deeper, our diverse organizations are comprised of sections or units that all have different specialties, united to create some service or product. Given this segmentation, creating camaraderie and a shared sense of purpose can be challenging. Fortunately, our organizational grounds are well suited to making a difference for all our stakeholders.
I say it is obvious the way in which most of us make a difference for our organizations is aesthetically. Regardless of why we landscape, be it curb appeal, landscape contracting, or to maintain a playable golf course, the appearance of our work is on full display. The appearance of our landscapes says something about our organizations. A well-landscaped campus or course shows we take pride in our roles, and respect the people that will be visiting or playing in the landscape. However, the landscape reaches out also. Even if members of our communities just commute past our sites, our landscapes provide a gift to our neighbors and fellow citizens. A nice landscape can increase property values, decrease crime, and improve the visit-ability of an area. These are positive impacts that go beyond just the 'look' of a campus.
Drury University is in the urban center of Springfield, Missouri. What a visitor notices when coming to our campus is the way in which the larger landscape changes on our campus. What I mean is the amount of green space significantly increases compared to our neighboring areas. In addition, even for those of you whose landscapes are not in urban areas, I imagine many of your campuses/courses are now surrounded by increasing development of different kinds. Development in any area means that the environmental and ecological role our landscapes play is becoming more significant, and more important to our communities environmental health. Our landscapes decrease stormwater runoff, increase water infiltration and cleaning, remove pollution from the air and sequester CO2. The green space and plants (even expanses of turf) decrease heat island effects and generate oxygen. These are extremely valuable contributions and should be acknowledged and appreciated by our communities.
The manner in which our sites improve community health is largely based around pollution mitigation attributes, but goes beyond this aspect also. Our sites and the green space they represent go a long way to improving the mental health and wellness of our communities. Green space (especially complex plantings and ecosystems) have a very positive effect on people's attitudes. Green space is soothing and calming and has been shown to decrease feelings of stress.
Our sites and the green space they represent go a long way to improving the mental health and wellness of our communities...
Another important way that our greenspaces can improve community health is by supporting physical activity. Many of our sites our publicly accessible to some degree and provide very nice environments for walking, jogging and other modes of exercise. Even private locations will frequently allow members to use the locations for recreation. Drury University has several walking courses and welcomes activity from our Drury community and our neighbors. This aspect is a welcome contribution given that other greenspaces may not be accessible.
I suggest that Grounds is unique to any organization in the ability to support organizational strategy. Here at Drury University obviously our primary objective is to provide excellent education at an excellent value. Grounds helps this effort by providing a beautiful, safe, functional landscape within economic constraints. For any campus or course, grounds can align easily with any of the strategic imperatives an organization may have. Marketing, outreach, playability, value, environmentalism are easily supported by the landscapes at our sites. The only limitation that a campus or course has for aligning with strategic objectives is imagination. Grounds Supervisors and Managers will be well served to get to know other department staffs and seek to share their objectives. By supporting broad efforts from elsewhere in our organizations, we can become even more beneficial to our teams.
The only limitation that a campus or course has for aligning with strategic objectives is imagination...
The truth is that an organization's Grounds Crew touches all aspects of the group. While most stakeholders know about our efforts to beautify our campuses, or improve playability of our courses, they do not always appreciate how diverse a crew can be in supporting our groups. By taking some time to improve communications between parts of our organizations we might all be surprised at where Grounds may pop up and what they might be able to do to support our mutual success.