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About this blog

Randy and the gang at Rockbottum Country Club pontificate on Rockbottum wisdom and skeletal golf, among other madness.

Entries in this blog

Buddy Goes To e-Rehab

Nicholas Carr, a technology and modern culture genius, wrote the book, "What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains".   Although I don't usually quote folks who went to Harvard and got nominated for that Pulitzer thing, I am doing it now.  Why?  Because no matter how hard I work at warning the golf world about tech and AI and microwave signals cooking our brains, nobody listens. So I thought maybe golf might listen to this little gem from Nicholas Carr: For those unwilling to heed the warnings from the brain of an academic intellect, I have provided a short film that explains just what happens when the neural pathways get constipated.  

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Showdown At The Cart Barn

From deep in the Rockbottum CC film vault, we offer this classic short film. Trigger Warning:  This film contains implied violence, stereotypes and blatant anti-screen propaganda.  

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Force Multiplication Through Cross-Training

In what will surely be our last outburst of serious ranting, Rockbottum Country Club offers a Skeletal Golf Theory segment on a tried and true method for adapting to economic changes. It's like Judge Smails said, "I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber.  Didn't want to, but I felt I owed it to them." I didn't want to do this film, but I felt I owed it to you.  

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Why Are You Doing This?

Do you remember the real reason you got into the golf course business? I frequently ask that question and the answers can range from positive outbursts of Pavlovian Pollyanna-isms to covert confessions of discomfiture.  “I don’t know”, is usually followed by nervous laughter.  The recently graduated will go into interrogation mode, searching for the “correct” answer, as if their career is at stake.  A few admit it was to play more golf, while others claim it was the appeal of the science.  I’m not sure about that one.  They could have gone anywhere with that science alchemy, but yet . . . they chose golf.  Maybe they envisioned themselves finding a cure for the Southern Cutworm. But why would normal people choose a life of golf? Could it have been a primeval response to the wide open expanse of golf’s playing field?  Was it to avoid a life of airless cubicle servitude?  Or because all the girls in your high school went crazy for golfers?   Maybe it was because golf was so different from team sports.  Golf is a solo sport, like cross country running, but more strategic.  Golf is the opposite of football; golf’s rage and violence is usually limited to muttered oaths and the occasional hammer throw of a 7-iron.  Sometimes we get a raging TV presser outburst from that British fellow with the tight plaid yoga golf pants and the hairstyle once popular with Alabama cheerleaders in the 60s, but he's probably just copying live rasslin' promos.   Compared to most sports, golf is polite and calm and sophisticated.  You often discover golf by accident; it doesn’t come looking for you, in the form of a bullet-headed coach prowling the hallways.  I was initially drawn to golf because that’s where my Dad could be found, when he wasn’t off doing Army stuff.  Later, I was forcibly recruited into golf, walk-mowing greens and manning the pro shop—all before puberty.  I don’t think Dad—who grew up chopping cotton—gave a hoot about child labor laws. Dad left the Army to pursue golf.  Not the superintendent side--the tour pro side.  Golf was his calling.  As life progressed, golf provided the support that sustained our family.  When something sustains your family, you have a powerful reason to get up in the morning and go do it.  Dad followed the path from pro golfer to golf pro to pro/supt and finally rose above all that to CGCS.  Even without the college, he was very good, especially because of his expertise with bermuda greens.  As a skilled player/superintendent, Dad developed a special intimacy with the course that no amount of time in a college classroom could provide. In those days, golf was more of a rugged contest and less of a beauty pageant.  Dad played a lot of golf, with other pros, fellow superintendents, board members and average golfers.  This helped him to understand the most critical aspect of the job at that time:   The way the course played was more important than how it looked.  (Form follows function.) Oh, sure, looks were important, but playability was the BIG factor.  Looks could trigger complaints, but poor playability would get you fired--real quick.  If you played with the Green Chair and a particular green putted goofy—costing somebody a skin—you knew about it right away.  It wasn’t related third-hand from some whiny gossipy member who wasn’t there . . . it was experienced firsthand.  That issue was the first thing on the agenda the next morning, even before the phone calls began.  When I got older, after surviving the junior golf phase, I slowly became aware that not all superintendents were “serious” players.  This was a foreign concept to me.  I grew up thinking the game itself shaped the individual superintendent’s philosophy and methods.  I theorized that those who didn’t play “serious” golf were more like technical caretakers than golf course superintendents. I was shocked by how many superintendents didn’t play the game . . . and then I fell into that trap myself.  I had all the excuses:  I stopped playing because after all the time spent trying to resurrect a Lazarus golf course, staying late to play was more like unpaid overtime.  I was sensitive to members who resented seeing me on the course with a club in my hand, rather than shoveling sand where I belonged.  I used the family excuse, too.  (Although that didn’t stop me from spending every waking minute away from the course out hammering my bicycle down country roads.) Eventually, I realized not playing was a bad thing.  Really bad, especially since I had descended from the old line of pro/supts.  Dad and Uncle Whip were both great examples of that early form of head greenkeeper/pro/GM.  A SHORT GOLF LESSON FROM THE WILSON BROTHERS First, if you did play--back before the job became so demanding--give it another try.  Golfers are part of a tribe, a cult, and if that cult has bestowed upon you the responsibility of taking care of their sacred tribal lands, it’s a good idea to be part of the cult, too.  No matter how polite they are, if they suspect you are merely a hired fixer, well, you’re not really one of . . . them.  They might even suspect you don’t care.  Or worse, that you don’t understand why they are so traumatized by a putt that changed direction just at the moment they stood a chance to break 80. During my most productive years, I had a ritual that involved walking nine holes with the golf pro every Tuesday.  We went out roughly two hours before quitting time—I carried a radio—and we played for an iced tea.  Sometimes we talked business, sometimes we just played golf.  It created a strong teamwork mindset and eventually, board members asked to join in.  That gave me a chance to explain why we did what we did, to recruit them to “our” side.  Also it allowed me to crush my enemies, drive them before me and hear the lamentations of their women. (Sorry, got off track there, that belonged in my New Year’s Resolution column.) During his many years as a superintendent, my brother Mike made sure the membership knew he was part of the cult.  He regularly outplayed the golf pro and on occasion, even competed for the club championship.  (I wouldn’t recommend that last one, unless you’re like Mike.) Mike understood another important aspect of the superintendent who played the game.  The average golfer has great respect for the club’s best players.  In fact, during the beer-fueled post round discussions in the bar, the club champion often has more credibility than the golf pro, the USGA and Dwight Eisenhower—especially when it comes to turf, golf course architecture and whether or not the supt is any good.  Once, while Mike was laying sod around a green—repairing one of those cow paths caused by ignorant architects who insist on placing a bunker between the green and the closest cart path—a very influential member was experiencing one of those humiliating moments when his ball refused to leave the bunker. Of course it was Mike’s fault.  The sand was inconsistent, the wrong color, and hadn’t been raked toward the hole, making a sand save impossible.  Mike listened to the golfer yell and moan about the sand and then calmly took the man’s wedge, dropped a ball in the bunker and hit it to within two feet.  He handed the wedge back and returned to dropping sod. Complaints about Mike’s course conditions dropped to minimal levels for years. If you have a strong background as a player—college golf, high school golf team—but haven’t played in a while, get back out on the range.  Hit from the back of the range early in the morning.  During your morning inspection, carry a strip of artificial turf, a 7-iron, and hit a few, just to feel the spirit of the game.   If you don’t have the player’s background, go find a pro you trust and get a few lessons.  Get some of the modern game improvement clubs.  (They’re like steroids . . . if everybody else is using them, you should, too.) Ask your pro for a player’s discount and get him to fit you to new clubs.  If he refuses, start parking the backhoe really close to his Porsche. Play a few holes several times a week.  Get a feel for the pure joy of walking alone on the back nine.  If that won’t work in your particular situation, play the local public where nobody knows you.  Get a set of used clubs.  Study the golf teachers on The Youtube. Find your way back home.  Try to reconnect.  Ask yourself why you are part of the game of golf.   If all you want to do is be a golf turf scientist, well, fine—but you’re missing the real magic of golf.  And that’s a shame, because a lot of people are depending on you to lead the way.      

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson: Prophecies for the Next Decade of Golf (REQUIRED LISTENING)

Time for the last and final "Rockbottum Prophecies for the Next Decade of Golf". This is required listening for all those with a stake in the future of golf. Also... ANTIGOLF protesters show up to riot and protest at Rockbottum CC... The gang figures out what's been digging up #13 green and organizes a posse of vigilantes to hunt it down, Momma handles a customer complaint in a new way and Booferd resists Third Wave Feminism by telling Momma that dishwashing is woman's work.  Finally, Ludell installs a new hi-tech customer service facility in the clubhouse. Presented by Vinylguard Golf.

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Forest Therapy

Our favorite method for suppressing "The Noise" is Forest Therapy.  You can practice Forest Therapy with a simple, short hike, or go on an epic adventure lasting several days.  At Rockbottum Country Club, we self-medicate with Forest Therapy when we've had too much holiday feasting or too much family togetherness or too much screen time. We just grab a pellet rifle or a slingshot and go into the forest for some big game squirrel hunting.   It's similar to raccoon hunting; if you come home empty-handed, nobody cares, and you still get the benefits of Forest Therapy.  

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

The Dangler Will Get You!

Warning!  We’re about to go all Mickey McCord Safety Meeting on you, so pay attention and learn about one of the most dangerous things on your golf course.   No, it’s not a chainsaw, the dimpled projectile, nasty, slippery restrooms, hovering mowers or crocodiles.  It’s THE DANGLER. The Dangler has caused several of those injuries that still reside in my gray matter hard drive, no matter how often I delete them. (That’s saying a lot, because I have witnessed quite a few injuries.) During my unsuccessful training period as a Special Forces Medic, I saw all kinds of trauma.  Before the Army realized I was incapable of medical competence, they ran me through a variety of training, ranging from combat medic to 90 days in an Emergency Room.  (There was also that period referred to as “Goat Lab”, but I will not speak of that.)  My first night in the ER, the radio popped and crackled, warning us that five Navy Seals were coming in on a Huey, apparently blown up in a demo accident.  I handled that poorly, rousting everyone out of bed, merely because I had no idea what to do. After that, I saw parachute accidents, burns, a couple of gunshot wounds and a battered husband.  One night, the ER was inundated with 82nd Airborne types who had been injured while  attempting to occupy a local honky-tonk.  The indigenous personnel, armed with tire irons, had vigorously resisted and the result was several paratroopers with impressive lacerations.  The doctor, nurses and the real medics were busy sewing up tire iron wounds, but were falling behind.  The doctor yelled, “Wilson, suture that leg wound!” It was a hideous gash from just below the knee, extending several inches alongside the shin and terminating in the lower calf region.  As I think back on that incident, I shouldn’t have said, “Yes, sir, but I’ve never sewed anybody up before.” The trooper in question, a rather stout fellow, screamed and tried to escape—the technical military term is “un-ass the area”—but was gleefully restrained by several Military Police intent upon helping me accomplish my mission.  I comforted the patient by telling him that I had successfully sewn up several oranges and then I demonstrated my nimble dexterity by fumbling the fish hook shaped needle used to close wounds.  By the time I got through, the wound was worse than when I started, but the patient had a very impressive Frankenstein scar that he could make up all sorts of war stories about.  On the positive side, the MPs had enjoyed a wonderful evening of wrestling inebriated paratroopers and I had learned the medical field did not need me.  Years later, while coaching high school football, I saw a compound femur fracture.  During my bicycle racing phase, I witnessed several broken clavicles.  These featured bones sticking out of skin, accompanied by lots of blood and hysterical shrieking.  (The paramedics said shrieking unnerved the victim, so I quit that.) On the golf course, I saw all kinds of chaos:  Chainsaw accidents, partial amputations caused by hovering mowers, a hand trapped under an engine when a hoist failed . . . and an old fellow pinned in a bunker by an aerifier from the Jurassic period.  (You remember, those exposed crankshaft models?)  Since we didn't have cell phone cams in those days, instead of taking his picture, I hastily got the monster off of him. I’ve seen golf ball impacts produce knots the size of apples, watched lightning explode a tree beside a golfer, who mentally destabilized and provided the afternoon's entertainment by running in circles and howling about Judgement Day.  Once a week, I watched Buddy spill enough blood on the shop floor to shoot a chainsaw maniac horror movie.  (Tara, Buddy’s bride, warned me not to give him access to sharp objects, but I thought she was kidding.) But it was THE DANGLER that stands out in my tiny mind.   It was '93, when a course marshal--who had ignored my warnings--drove past me dangling his left foot from his golf car.  Suddenly, the old fellow was tossed from the cart onto the hard, cold asphalt of the parking lot.   His foot was almost completely ripped off, barely holding on by a single thread of soft tissue; blood pumped out like a broken 3” main.  Golfers immediately circled around like vultures, trying to help by yelling things like, “His foot is gone, his foot is gone!” I radioed for help, put on a tourniquet and treated the old guy for shock.  The only thing I could remember from my medic training was to lie about how bad the injury was.  “You’re gonna be fine, don’t worry.” Next, I had to disperse the onlookers, because my patient became distressed when he heard a golfer puking.  Fortunately he didn't see the golf pro faint. The lesson here is, golf cars and utility vehicles are dangerous--and it’s not just The Dangler.  Just watch The Youtube and stare in awe as hundreds of imbeciles jump bunkers like Bo Duke, run over each other with golf cars and spin 360s down slick, grassy, wet hills. The Net says there are 15,000 golf car accidents per year, possibly more, with 10% of them being rollovers.  I suspect most of those are not golf related, but The Youtube is heavily weighted toward golf idiots.  Most of these numbskulls are unaware of the Law of Skateboard Injury, which states “Just because it heals up and you feel better, doesn’t mean it won’t come back when you’re 40 and hurt like hell forever.” Golf course veterans all know that golf courses are inherently dangerous, with wild, irregular surfaces lying in ambush just off that path.  We know a tractor will roll on a steep hill—isn’t that what those rollbars are for?  We expect spray rigs to get hinky with the slightest weight shift . . . we’ve seen machines flip into those bunkers put too close to the green by architects with no superintendent experience.  We’ve watched a lake grab a slick-tired triplex, we've ridden a rough unit as it bucks and spins downhill into the trees and calmly observed golfers launch a golf car off a bridge at full speed.  We know how to handle this:  Crews need constant reminders to drive in a cautious manner, especially the newer crew members.  They all need to be told about The Dangler, even if they think it's a myth. As for golfers?  They won’t listen.  They can’t read signs.  Golfers think the golf course is a magical theme park where Driving Under the Influence and gravity does not exist.  At best, all we can do is repeatedly tell them, “Keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times.”

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Rockbottum Radio: The Noise (and how to get rid of it)

In this episode of Rockbottum Radio, the usual cast of idiots, oafs and varlets keep interrupting me as I try to pass along my proven techniques to skirt The Matrix and suppress the stress-inducing Noise in our lives. Most are simple, easy to do, and... cheap! The TurfNet Maestro has proclaimed that this is me pontificating at my finest. Maybe he found that the shoe fit a little bit.

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

The Demise of Ludell

Last week, somebody demised Ludell on the practice tee and police suspicion immediately fell upon the various Alphabets.  (They had the strongest motive to see Ludell silenced.) A huge mob of Ludell's betrothed (all three of them) formed outside the courthouse and demanded justice.  Minutes before the Sheriff boarded the Greyhound bus for Kansas, a shocking video surfaced, claiming to show what really happened. We will show you the footage, but keep in mind, a skillful editor can twist reality . . .    

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Workplace Therapy?

Everyone should read Paul MacCormack's "Afterglow".   It's a new direction in dealing with life on turf.   It also proves TurfNet is still the leader in adaptive metaphysical approaches--and just plain leading from the front.  Great minds like Peter McCormick, Dave Wilber and the big names who gathered with Paul MacCormack at the Mindful Leadership and Wellness Retreat have been pushing us in this direction for years.  But way out front, so far ahead that they got a little behind--except for Momma--is Rockbottum CC . . . especially Buddy.  Not convinced?  Here's an old film that proves we pioneered metaphysical healing in the high pressure career of turf.    

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Old Roy's Halloween Story

I was working on a piece about how modern country club boards resemble the leadership of Rome in their last days—you know, lounging about in togas, unaware of the reality building outside the wall—when I remembered it was almost Halloween.  So, from deep in the Rockbottum vault, a previously unreleased Halloween story:  Way back in ’73, on a cold afternoon in late October, I was splitting a mountain of firewood with Old Roy—not to be confused with just plain Roy, the AM radio preacher—and we sat down to take a break.  We had a small fire going, not to keep warm—the axe was doing a good job of that—it was more of a keep you company kind of fire.  The previous winter’s ice storm had gifted us with the world’s supply of downed trees and Dad decided that since I was near worthless on the golf course crew, maybe I might be a woodsman. As we sat by the fire, Old Roy pulled out his prized Sherlock Holmes pipe and stuffed it full of a fragrant tobacco I remember as Borkum Riff, lighted it and leaned back to study the trees just beginning to color.  “Boy,” he said through a cloud of smoke that smelled like spilled bourbon, “I reckon you being a night waterman, you seen things out there?” “Yeah,” I nodded, “but not what I was looking for.” Old Roy eyed me like I had said something crazy. “What was you looking for?” “Flying saucers . . . never did see one.” “I seen stuff,” Old Roy pointed his pipe stem at me, “and not just everday stuff like UFOs and little spacemen.” I sensed a story coming, because Old Roy had an amazing talent for delaying work with long, convoluted tales . . .  a skill I was to develop later in life.  At this point, I wasn’t really interested in one of his stories about what it was like to work on a golf course back in 1947 or how he toured with several famous bluegrass bands I had never heard of. “Old Roy, if you’re gonna tell me again how we aerify in the fall to release the evil spirits from the greens, I—“ “Son,” he cut me off, anger in his voice, “you ought not to make fun of stuff you don’t understand.” “I ain’t makin’ fun, Roy, I seen stuff, too, it just wasn’t worth tellin’.” “Like what?” “Well, like one night on Little Mountain, I was sitting in my Cushman waiting for the greens to finish watering and I saw something sitting on a tee and the more I stared at it, the more it looked like a little man about two feet tall, and he was watching me.  When I turned the  Cushman headlight on to look at him—he ran off.” “Hmm.”  Old Roy took a deep puff on his pipe, “you ain’t much good at tellin’ stories, son. See, the Cherokees have a world of stories about the little people that infested these forests back before the white man came and ruined things.  Them Appalachian mountains is overrun with little people. Add that to your story.” I sat in silence, considering if I should pick up that axe again, but it was getting near quitting time, not more than an hour away.  “I suppose you can do better?”  I used my sarcastic teenage tone, which was about like I talk now. “Yes, I can,” Old Roy wriggled back against a log and assumed his storytelling posture.  “Back in ’63, on a real uppity country club north of Atlanta—it was out the woods back then, but now it’s surrounded by concrete—anyway, the club was having a Halloween party, cause they was always havin’ parties, any excuse to dress up, likker up and dance—“  Old Roy stopped to watch Dad’s truck go by on #17, calculating whether we needed to hop back up and axe some, but the truck turned around and headed back toward the front side.  I threw another log on the fire. “So, the Boss Man had already gone home, he was a real religious greenkeeper and he didn’t hold with celebrating devil stuff, and that left just me and Mickey and Roosevelt there to put everything away and lock up.  Mickey was a worthless kid, kinda like you but not as bad, and Roosevelt was about 75 years old and he knew how to work.  He had grown up choppin’ cotton and workin’ the fields and he had no intention of givin’ up half a day’s pay over mindless doings like Halloween, so there we was.” “Where you was?”  My attention span back then was not something to be proud of. “Locking up the barn, don’t you listen?  That’s when Dr. Morlin—he was the club president—Dr. Morlin drove up in his Cadillac and gave us a bottle of Jack, with the seal still on it, and said he didn’t feel right about them havin’ a big party up to the clubhouse while we did all the work and went unnoticed.  So we thanked him and when he left, we sat down on our picnic table by the fire pit and Mickey went and got some Co-Cola to mix with the Jack, and pretty soon, we was havin’ a fine old time.” “I hope something happens soon in this story.”  “Well, about halfway through the bottle, Sammy the golf pro comes running up out of the dark, from the direction of the clubhouse, where he shoulda been partying with the rich folk, and he’s completely out of breath and all white-eyed and he grabs our bottle and takes a big chug without even asking.” “Was he a big drinker?”  It was getting interesting. “Not really, but it pissed Roosevelt off, a golf pro putting his mouth on our bottle and all--but then Sammy says something terrible has happened and he was gonna get the blame.” “Blame for what?” “He said he was sitting out on number #1 tee bench with Mary Jane Brokawski—she was a dentist’s wife, real purty gal—and Dr. Morlin came up and accused him of cavorting with at least ten member’s wives, eleven if you count Mary Jane.  Then Mary Jane slapped Sammy and ran off crying.  Sammy said he didn’t see the problem with romancing lonely women, as Dr. Morlin was also engaged in extra-maritals.  But Dr. Morlin said that it was different, cause Sammy was just an employee and right then, an icy cold wind blew over them and suddenly . . . there was a spook standing right there beside them!” “What kinda spook?”  I was in BS detecting mode, after all, it was a Halloween costume party. “An old gray woman, taller than Sammy, and really thin--lean as a lizard.  She was wearing gray rags that flapped in the wind—no color to her at all—and she reached out and touched Dr. Morlin with a bony hand . . . and he fell stone dead right there.  Sammy like to had a heart attack and ran down number one and he could hear her behind him, rags flappin’ in the wind.  He thought he was gonna die and then he saw our fire and came straight to us--when he got close, he couldn’t hear her anymore.” “Pretty good story.  So Sammy killed Dr. Morlin?” “Naw,” muttered Old Roy, “cause we was sittin’ there lookin’ at Sammy like he was a axe murderer or somethin’, and Abe--that was Roosevelt’s redbone hound--Abe starts growlin’ out toward the fairway, the hair on his back standin' up.  We couldn’t see nothin’, but Abe decided he had had enough and he took off runnin' toward the highway, bawling like he was on the scent of a rabbit.  That's when a cold wind hit us, blew my hat off and Roosevelt says, “I've had enough, too” and he lights out for home. “Standing right there about ten feet away was the same old woman Sammy said killed Dr. Morlin.  She was eight foot tall and her skin was stretched thin over her bony face, especially when she grinned real big—had lots of teeth—and then she reached out with her hand that seemed to me to be more bone than skin and Mickey yelped like somethin’ had bit him and ran right through the fire to get away and that’s when I fell over the picnic table.  Sammy started hollerin’ like he had a siren in his throat and he ran back out on the golf course.  When I managed to get back up, I was alone and the fire had blown out . . . but Sammy was still out there somewhere screamin’ in the dark.” Old Roy knocked his pipe on a log and pointed toward Dad’s truck coming toward us, so we grabbed our axes and went back to splitting wood . . . at least until Dad drove on by.  Old Roy dropped his axe and sat back down.  “Next morning, Roosevelt found Doc Morlin right where Sammy said, and the Sheriff came and talked to us, but we didn’t say nothing about the spook, so the Sheriff allowed as how it was either a heart attack from drinking or his wife got tired of his runnin’ around and that was the end of it.” “But what happened to Sammy?” “Never heard from again,” Old Roy muttered.  “But you know how golf pros are . . . he’s probably out there right now, givin’ golf lessons to other folk’s wives—only I expect it’s really hot there.”

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Rockbottum Radio: The Empire's CEO Makes How Much??

In this episode of Rockbottum Radio -- rated IM for Immature Audiences Only -- the Pro shop gets raided by the Empire's Praetorian Guard, Willy visits with Buddy at the Turf Care shop, and Momma takes the gang to the feed store, leaving Old Booferd in charge of the golf course... and Momma's good Scotch. Presented by VinylGuard Golf.  

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

A Message For Golf From A Last Wave Millennial

A Last Wave Millennial gives a quick analysis of modern golf and answers The Big Question.  You know, the one that upper management and golf writers and green chairs and turf school brass and association bigwigs ask every night, after dessert and before cigars and brandy?    

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Retro-ism: An Experiment in Sustainable Golf Ops

After several years of toiling on bentgrass plantations in Hotlanta, enduring ever increasing grooming standards and shrinking HOC on fairways, greens and tees, I decided what I was doing was unsustainable.  That led me to choose a more sustainable path, something I could maintain for the long run, not just a short burst of intense activity. NOTE:  I am using the word “Sustainable” in the sense of an activity that is capable of being sustained, not as a code word for ecological balance.  More like, “I could not sustain a grapefruit diet or an intense exercise program I ordered off late night TV.” 1991:  In what was to become the early phase of Skeletal Golf Theory, I took over a small golf course with the intent of testing a few methods to counteract the trend of increasing maintenance costs and career stress . . . by conducting an experiment.   The parameters of the experiment were simple: First, go back to bermuda greens.  The Ultra Dwarf bermudas were not to appear for several years, but the plan was to use one of the new PGRs, in an attempt to give 328 more WSR Factor.  (Won’t Stop Rolling)  Also, I wanted to test the new “baked dry sand” top dressing, in light but very frequent apps, and use the new Hydroject to reduce core-yanking events.   The plan would use Poa Trivialis as winter overseed, rely heavily on soil testing—and a soil test cryptographer who could actually interpret the test for me.  I also wanted to minimize wetting agents, as I had detected an increase in disease pressure on bent whenever I upped the usage of wetting agents.  (These were probably first gen agents, so stop your howling.) The other aspects of the plan included mass tree removal, installing wildflower and broomsedge areas to reduce rotary mower hours, and keeping the crew Skeletal:  Just me, an assistant, an EM, one crewmember, and a part-timer of the high school specie.  (That last part was worrisome—I was afraid I might get some kid like me.)  Fairways would be mowed wall to wall at 5/8”—with a five-gang—again reducing the amount of area requiring rotary attention.  Tees and everything but greens, would get the five-gang treatment.  Every unnecessary, high-flashed bunker would be inverted and sodded over. There were architectural adjustments, like widening the landing zones and making the course play dryer, in order to allow for more ground game.  Catch mounds were positioned where balls liked to roll into water, and a few holes were lengthened to get the yardage up from 5200 yards to 5600.  (I also practiced speaking like a long dead Scottish architect.)  Finally, I took over the club’s advertising, running ads in the newspaper, with the magic phrase, “$10 Golf!”  That was the weekday walking rate and I knew not a single golfer would walk, but hey, it was advertising.   We got good reviews, a magazine tagged us "a hidden gem" and the course played pretty well.  Rounds went up 400%, making everybody but the pro shop happy.  (They were used to the Floyd’s Barbershop pace, not something akin to the floor of the NYSE.) After six months, the numbers fell off; when I took a few informal, unscientific surveys, I discovered one consistent golfer complaint:  “The course was too short!”  (Not too short on the ground, just in their heads.) They pointed to that 5600 number on the scorecard and implied the course was somehow weak and pitiful, more suited for unskilled hackers, duffers and beginners.  Of course, that’s exactly what these people were, but some delusional idea planted in their soft skulls by TV, told them they needed 7000 yard Championship golf. I lengthened the finishing hole, a weird par 3, into a long par 4, added 600 mythical yards to the scorecard and 5600 yards became 6200.  Before long, things were rolling again.  The moral of the story?  Golfers enjoy playing a short course where they can score, all while thinking they are playing a long, tough course.  Oh, and as to the success of the experiment?  Tif-Eagle came along and made my PGR Bermuda obsolete.  The Skeleton crew concept worked for a while, but the crew size was unsustainable in the long run.  (Golfers still demanded TV conditions for their $20.) The mowing plan worked great, as did the De-Bunkerizing and the Hydroject concept.  However, my plan was not sustainable because I did not allow for unexpected interactions with an abrasive, fairly combative member of the team of owners.  (Clubhouse dweller.) On the bright side, we did manage to kill off a high dollar competitor who built down the road from us and condescendingly assured us they didn’t covet any of our kinds of customers. Years later, when I built a golf course using all the Skeletal Golf Theory techniques—except for a simple irrigation system—the course worked very well.  It was sustainable, at least until ownership decided they didn’t need a golf course superintendent. That’s one theory that's not sustainable.

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Boombox Golf! Growing The Game!!

Is "Alternative Golf" a shocking de-evolution of the game?  Will the "Grow The Game" evangelists tolerate the growth of blatant golf heresy?  Are the new golf carts equipped with sub-woofers?   https://www.rockbottumfilms.com/

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

The Noise . . . And How To Stop It

Some of us live our lives bathed in noise, against a soundtrack of frenzied, dissonant pandemonium—and not just the kind measured in decibels. The noise ranges from sub-audible frequencies that we can feel, like jet engines, helicopters and car stereos thumping below 20Hz, all the way to ultra-high radio frequencies we need to “connect” with each other. The young are naturally attracted to noise. It’s exciting — the opposite of boring — it’s where things are happening. As a young person, I was lured toward the wall of sound pumping out of the PA at rock concerts, guitars and bass cranked to 11. The young are enticed by loud cars, the rolling thunder of motorcycles, and the roar of the crowd. I was addicted to the crash of football helmets against plastic armor. The military can take noise to another level. When the doors of a C-130 opened in flight and the cabin filled with the fearsome howling of massive engines, it was impossible not to hop about yelling like an animal about to be released from a cage. Even an ordinary day of training could involve a wild hallucinogenic trip of running, jumping and crawling amidst gunfire, explosions, helicopters, disembodied voices screaming over radios and low-flying jets. Then one day, it’s too much. I returned to the quiet life on the golf ranch, but The Noise had gotten there ahead of me. Somebody — probably that noisy box full of flashing lights in the living room — had raised the bar while I was gone.  Instead of simple external noise, like mowers and chainsaws, now I had internal noise, too. (Shrill voices in my head, urging me to do more and more.)  The Noise didn’t just rent space inside my head, it evicted the other tenants. I sought relief in exercise endorphins and the drug-free release they provided, but I couldn’t just go for a pleasant run or ride my bike around the neighborhood, nooooo... I had to race. I had to “go for it” and “just do it”, as commanded by the aforementioned box in the living room. I took something as fun and relaxing as riding a bike and turned it into an expensive, time-eating obsession. The Noise just got louder. By the late 80s, bentgrass and no rain in the Deep South heat required long hours with no time off,  just to stay employed. Guilt from minimal family time added to the static interference in my head. I wasn’t training hard enough to win bike races and I was lazy in the gym, so I bought a Sony Walkman and attached even more noise to my head. You know, for motivation? I pushed to rebuild bad holes and bad golf courses and eventually pushed to build an entire golf course, all while working at another one. I pushed the crews. I pushed the family. I pushed myself... and The Noise got ever louder. It was like the Twilight Zone episode where the cranky old boss keeps screaming, “Push, Push, Push!” No matter how much course conditions improved, the golfers grew more demanding; they even suggested I had lost “the fire” and — perhaps a younger superintendent was required. The “Cure” first showed itself in my work habits, but I couldn’t hear it. At the Skeletal Golf level, the GCS minimizes the admin work and pitches in with the crew to operate equipment. But I gave the sit-down, riding jobs to the crew and assigned myself tasks like digging up irrigation leaks. The crew was puzzled. One afternoon, while I was wrestling a shovel in a blowout, the fairway guy parked beside me and said, “Boss, how about you mow fairways, let me do that. Manual labor is the crew’s job. Why are you doing it?” “Because,” I answered, “it’s quiet.  I don’t want to hear machines anymore.” I made changes, telling Buddy that talk radio was banned from the shop, he could only play classical music. I spent my lunch period walking in the forest beside the course. Instead of riding the crew about working every minute of the day, I instituted “Frisbee Time” for the last 15 minutes of the day. Just as The Noise was abating, upper management summoned me to an Inquisition, whereupon a poor unfortunate golfer spewed forth his lamentations, describing the agony of being deprived of deep rough. (Not a good idea on a swamp golf course.) They sided with him. I was ordered to provide deep rough. My eyes bugged out, my skin turned a glowing magenta and the veins in my temples pounded like conga drums at a Ricky Ricardo concert. I wanted to turn over some tables, maybe fling a golfer out a window, but a long dormant synapse in my brain fired, and suddenly, I was watching short clips of films from my childhood in my brain theater. I saw myself hiking in the Alps, in a forest of Christmas trees, wandering along with a rucksack stuffed with C-Rations and a sterno stove. A sense of peace flowed over me as I recalled long hikes in the Sierras or the mountains of Tennessee. Even the long ruck marches in the Army seemed more peaceful than my current situation. I remembered how lacing up boots, shouldering a ruck and hitting a trail was always my best escape. I left the building, calm and relaxed, and headed back toward the course. I was thinking about going for a hike instead of devising a new mowing pattern, when I remembered the words of Sergeant O’Neal, a Special Ops legend: “Boots & Ruck can take you places no four wheel drive can go and solve some problems along the way.” From that day on, golf stress had little effect on me. When The Noise showed up, I simply went into Boots & Ruck therapy and wandered off into the forest. (Sometimes, I even took my radio with me, in case Buddy lost his mind.) The quiet of the forest suppressed The Noise. I eventually moved into the mountains where the forest is close, the quiet is strong and The Noise is weak.If you’ve had enough of The Noise, instead of worshipping that box in the living room or that computer in your hand, try Boots & Ruck. It doesn't take much. https://www.rockbottumfilms.com/

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Ydnar's Tales of Golf Course Vengeance

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

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Rockbottum Radio: Momma Bans Chaw After the US Open

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

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Do Not Despise The Days of Small Beginnings

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

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Zombie Greens

A short film about Zombie greens and the unintended consequences of one dimensional golf . . .  also contains proof that Rod Serling took over my brain when I was seven years old.   

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Golf Isn't The Only Turf

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.

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Rockbottum Radio: Rockbottum Common Sense and other good stuff...

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.  

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Cosmic Payback or Fudgie Will Get You

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.  

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Fawlty Meadows Golf Centre

For those too elegant, sophisticated and erudite for Rockbottum CC, we offer "Fawlty Meadows Golf Centre". Starring Basil and Manuel  Randy and Buddy.  

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

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