Due to the success of our inaugural/trial trip to BTME in 2017, TurfNet will again host a delegation to BTME in January, 2018! Download the pdf for full details.
Dates of the trip are Thursday, January 18 (overnight departure from USA) to Friday, January 26 (morning/afternoon return flight).
We have a housing block booked for 16 people at the Harrogate Lifestyle Apartments across the street from the conference center. No shuttle busses!
Cost is $1750 double occupancy or $2300 single occupancy (only four available), plus airfare and incidentals.
Our housing block guarantee expires November 1. Firm commitments need to be made before then, on a first-come/first-served basis.
TurfNet trip brochure
BIGGA membership application
Continue to Learn conference application
Continue to Learn brochure with seminar descriptions
Questions? Contact Jon Kiger or Eleanor Geddes. Ready to book? Contact Eleanor Geddes at 404-461-9602.
Most of the education at BTME ended Wednesday and that left a final day for us to visit the trade show in Harrogate's Exposition Centre. As mentioned before in this blog, the BTME show is on a smaller, more manageable scale that the GIS.
We decided to visit a few familiar companies as well a few companies that may have been new to the group. Visits to both Bayer and Syngenta were the real eye-openers as we learned how relatively few chemicals European greenkeepers have to work with. Bayer's UK Head of Sales for Turf and Amenity products in the UK, Neil Pettican, explained that there are virtually no insecticides available to superintendents there.
The group with Bayer's Neil Pettican.
The group visited STRI the primary research agency in Europe. Their main testing facility is nearby.
We stopped by the Aquatrols booth and learned from Paul Lowe about the products that are in use in the UK and other areas of Europe.
STRI's Scott Allen tells the group about the types of research done on turf in the area.
Paul Lowe shares details on the European market for Aquatrols.
Terry 'Red' Plemons showed the True-Surface line of rollers. Also in the booth was Arjen Spek, European specialist for Foley United, who showed the group some features on the Foley line of products.
Terry "Red" Plemons at True-Surface
Foley United's Arjen Spek shows of some features of their latest grinder.
In the "new to us" category we learned about many of the features of the Baroness line of mowers from Adam Butler their UK Sales Manager. The manufacturer has greater penetration in Europe than in the US.
Adam Butler introduces the group to features on the Baroness line of mowers.
After visiting Baroness we caught up with Royal County Down's course manager, Eamonn Crawford. Royal County Down is a favorite during TurfNet trips to Ireland and Eamonn shared some background on what he does to maintain the No. 1 ranked course in the world.
Visiting with Eamonn Crawford of Royal County Down.
Before leaving the exhibit hall we stopped by the Better Billy Bunker stand to say goodbye to our St. Andrews host Andy Campbell. Andy is already working on the arrangements for TurfNet's Members Trip to Scotland in October.
We stopped by the Better Billy Bunker booth to say our goodbyes to our St. Andrews host Andy Campbell.
After a quick lunch at Harrogate's Five Guys (which is exactly like any Five Guys in the US) some of us took a short taxi ride to the Moortown Golf Club near Alwoodley. An Alister Mackenzie design, Moortown was the first European location to host the Ryder Cup which it did in 1929.
Ben Leeming, one of the deputy greenkeepers, showed us around the course and Secretary Peter Rishworth showed us the club's extensive collection of Ryder Cup memorabilia. There is also a little-known second Ryder Cup that was presented to the ladies of the club by Samuel Ryder for providing the catering for the event.
Peter Braun and Matt Gourlay chat with John Greenwood, Michael Joyce and Ben Leeming from Moortown Golf Club.
The Ryder Cup at Moortown Golf Club.
The evening was somewhat understated as many of the UK-based attendees had already headed home and we had to pack up for early flights out of nearby Leeds. We reflected on our time together over dinner at Montpelier, a traditional UK pub.
I would be remiss at this point if I didn't give a shout out to the St. George Hotel our home base for the week in Harrogate. Friendly, helpful staff, comfortable rooms, a nice lobby bar, and an overall "can do" attitude made for a great home away from home. The only question is how many more rooms we'll need for next year's conference.
The St. George Hotel in Harrogate
Ryder Cup Round Table and a Chance to Mentor a Young Greenkeeper from the UK. Not to mention a UK twist on TurfNets Beer & Pretzels
Wednesday brought another full house to Royal Hall with an Opening Session featuring five Ryder Cup superintendents. The group spanned the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor to the upcoming 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris. Participants included Jim MacKenzie (2010 Celtic Manor), TurfNet Member Curtis Tyrrell (2012 Medina), Steve Chappell (2014 Gleneagles), TurfNet Member Chris Tritabaugh (2016 Hazeltine), and Alejandro Reyes (2018 Le Golf National.)
Five Ryder Cup superintendents: Jim MacKenzie, TurfNet member Curtis Tyrrell, Session Host the BBCs Naga Munchetty, Steve Chappell, Chris Tritabaugh, and Alejandro Reyes.
The superintendents shared what they learned from Ryder Cups previous to their own and also gave insight as to how they put their own stamp on the event. These individuals should be familiar to visitors to TurfNetTV as three of the five have been featured in our Ryder Cup coverage: Jim MacKenzie, Steve Chappell, and Chris Tritabaugh.
TurfNet member Curtis Tyrrell (Medina) and Steve Chappell (Gleneagles) during the Ryder Cup presentation
I met young superintendent Michael Mead when he was in Tony Girardi's classes Sunday and Monday. He mentioned he could use some help navigating the trade show so I met up with him and we spent the morning visiting his existing and some potential suppliers. Read the entire story of his experience here.
I spent the morning helping young greenkeeper Michael Mead (left) from Littlehampton Golf Club navigate the trade show. Here he gets some maintenance tips from Chas Ayres of Wiedenmann UK.
Most of the TurfNet group took advantage of the many free educational sessions, and a few even sat in on my presentation on Interviewing techniques.
When we decided to bring a group over to 2017 BTME it made sense to host a reception in Harrogate where our friends at the conference could meet with the assembled TurfNet members. We received excellent service Wednesday afternoon from the staff and management of Henry's Bar at The Crown Hotel. It very much had the feel of an international version of TurfNet's Beer and Pretzels.
We were honored that BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton attended and shared his thoughts on having our group at BTME. "I've truly enjoyed seeing all of you attend classes and get to know your counterparts here. When Jon Kiger came to us this idea last year we had no idea it would be so successful so quickly."
UK greenkeeping legend Walter Woods (left) chats with Eddie Connaughton.
Peter Braun and Tribal Magic's Gregg Patterson chat with BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton at TurfNet's reception in Harrogate
Young greenkeepers Stefan Carter (headed to Augusta National Golf Club in June) and Dave Stewart (BIGGA's Young Greenkeeper of the Year) enjoy a laugh at the TurfNet reception.
Medina's Curtis Tyrrell and Milliken's Cordie Morgan catch up at the TurfNet reception.
The Open Championships were well-represented at the TurfNet reception. Gordon Moir from St. Andrews Links (2nd from the left) Craig Boath (2nd from the right) and Sandy Reid (left) - both from Carnoustie catch up during the reception.
Tuesday in Harrogate started with a General Session in Royal Hall featuring Olympic Golf Course Superintendent Neil Cleverly and International Golf Federation representative Anthony Scanlon on the main stage. The session was moderated by the BBCs Naga Munchetty. Cleverly is no stranger to TurfNet as he was interviewed during the Olympics when TurfNet was the only turf media on the ground during the games. Read the interview here.
Neil Cleverly (left)giving additional insight on Building and Maintaining the Olympic Golf Course
The BBCs Naga Munchetty leads the General Session on the Olympic Golf Course
TurfNet member Rodney Hine of Boston Golf Club (Hingham, MA) was also familiar with Neil from his work with architect Gil Hanse. The one-hour session gave additional insight into the challenges of building and maintaining a golf course in a country with virtually no history of golf.
The next evening Neil Cleverly joined us for dinner for more behind the scenes stories on his experiences in Rio.
After another full day of education, BIGGA brought everyone back to Royal Hall for the Opening Reception. The fast-paced ceremony included many award-winners from around the UK, but we were especially pleased to be on hand when TurfNet member Matthew Wharton (Carolina Golf Club, Charlotte, NC) received his Master Greenkeeper certification.
TurfNet member Matthew Wharton receives his Master Greenkeeper certification
The group was quick to congratulate TurfNet Member Matt Wharton on his BIGGA Master Greenkeeper certification.
Neil Cleverly and Stefan Carter (seated next to Rodney Hine) join the TurfNet delegation for dinner Wednesday night.
Rodney Hine of Boston Golf Club and Neil Cleverly catch up over dinner. Rodney knew Neil from his work with Gil Hanse.
Some members of the BIGGA staff outside the Royal Hall (below) preparing to welcome attendees to the daylong Turf Managers Conference.
Monday morning saw many more UK-based attendees in the education sessions. Most of the TurfNet group attended the Turf Managers Conference in the historic Royal Hall. The Turf Managers Conference is an all day session with three technical (turf) sessions and three management sessions. Lunch and two coffee breaks facilitated additional networking.
One of the most popular and energetic presenters on the day was Gregg Patterson President and CEO of Tribal Magic! Gregg spent many years as General Manager of The Beach Club in Los Angeles. His presentation dealt with Forging the Greenkeeping Team.
Gregg Patterson presenting Forging the Greenkeeping Team at the Turf Managers Conference.
Tony Girardi had another all day class with Lorna Sheldon. This one involved Delivering Your Message With Impact. With only one other attendee in the class they both received plenty of individual help and guidance.
Matt Gourlay asks a question during Mondays Turf Managers Conference in the Royal Hall.
With the trade show opening Tuesday morning, the exhibitors were in the final stages of load-in. Given the smaller halls and narrow streets of Harrogate, special care and attention were needed to accommodate all the exhibiting companies.
One thing that stood out (in a good way) about the preparations for the trade show was the policy that ANYONE inside the trade show had to wear a high-visibility vest or jacket. Given the number of near misses with forklifts and the like that Ive experienced during the pre-opening hours of our trade show, I would agree this is an excellent idea to consider in the US.
Given the intense amount of education on Monday we met for a relaxing de-brief in the bar of our hotel before heading out for dinner at an American-themed diner called Damn Yankees. (You cant make this up)
The TurfNet group comparing notes and "rinsing out" after a day of education at BTME.
After our tour of Scotland and Ireland and the trip to Harrogate, it was time to get down to the business of learning.
It's only been a few years that BIGGA has offered education on Sunday. The thinking was that by extending the education into the prior weekend that attendees could get some education on a day that doesn't take them away from their home course.
Approximately 200 attendees (including the TurfNet delegation) started classes that day.
The six of us split up and took a variety of courses. I took a half-day session on Time Management from Shona Garner.
Shona Garner leads her class on time management.
Peter Braun took a bunker course from our St. Andrews host Andy Campbell.
Ryder Cup/Hazeltine reunion: Peter Braun, Ryan Moy, Brian Horgan, Chris Tritabaugh and multi-Ryder Cup volunteer Lee Strutt.
Tony Girardi took a full day session on Delivering Your Message with Impact with Lorna Sheldon. The class was very small just four participants including Natasha Repinskaja whom we met at St. Andrews Links and fellow first time BTME attendee Michael Mead (more on our activities with him in a future post.)
Lorna Sheldon helps Tony Girardi "deliver his message with impact" in Sunday's session.
At the end of the first all-day session, Tony Girardi dubbed it, "The best educational session I've been to in my career."
I was set to attend the Speakers Dinner at The Crown Hotel so the group was left to find a suitable place for dinner with the hopes of finding some coverage of the NFL Playoffs.
The Den seemed to fit the bill and even allowed us to catch up with two Carnoustie team members that we hadn't met during our visit to the course the previous Friday.
As the Green Bay/Dallas game went on past "last order" a few more "bob" in the tip jar kept the game on the TV and the bar open.
Our pre-trip excursion was back on track with two planned visits on Friday... until we woke up to three inches of snow and ice that fell overnight.
Our driver for Friday and Saturday was well-equipped for the weather with winter "tyres" so he arrived as scheduled. We took a quick spin for a view of St. Andrews Links under snow cover and proceeded down the road to Open venue Carnoustie.
Our hosts for the morning were Carnoustie Links Superintendent Sandy Reid and Craig Boath, the Head Greenkeeper of the Championship Course. We enjoyed tea and coffee in the staff canteen and learned about the unique challenges of hosting The Open at Carnoustie.
After touring their maintenance facility we took a walk down the 17th and 18th fairways. Carnoustie is home to French golfer
The site of his collapse is scratched into stones.
The Royal & Ancient Golf Club
Gordon brought us back to St. Andrews and it was time to dress up (coat and tie) for our pre-arranged tour of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.
Steve Isaac, the R&A's Director of Sustainability took us through the trophy room, the main members room, the balcony overlooking the first tee, and finally a stop to view the original Claret Jug trophy. As you can appreciate, photographs were restricted, but trust us when we say it was a once in a lifetime experience to have such access.
Andy Campbell invited us to join him at his club, The St. Andrews Club. We had a quick tour there before returning to the house for dinner.
We were joined by Andy and his wife Claire, Neil and Susan Ballingall (Billy was holding down the homefront), and Graeme Lennie and his wife Katie. One of the benefits of staying at the St. Andrews Golf House is the availability of the house kitchen. A chef was brought in to prepare a four course meal which we all enjoyed.
The entertainment on the night was provided by Jim Malcolm from nearby Perth. Jim is a friend of mine and has performed a number of times in Atlanta. In addition to singing many popular songs, he provided background stories on all aspects of the music. Jim enlisted the TurfNet delegation for one push down the ice to get him on his way. After such an entertaining night, we were happy to oblige.
The side trip to St. Andrews was a great way to spend a few days together before the main event at BTME in Harrogate. With our members taking their own set of classes we could very well be separated for most of our days at the conference.
Saturday morning we checked out of the St. Andrews Golf House and are on our way to Harrogate
Late nights at a pub can still be followed by early mornings and Wednesday morning was no exception. The TurfNet delegation left the Portmarnock Hotel and Links at half four (4:30AM) for the airport to catch the short flight to Edinburgh. Despite higher than average winds, the flight went off without a hitch.
The second travel snag of the trip (the first being snow in the US) came on the ride from Edinburgh to St. Andrews. Overnight a 40 tonne lorry (that's a big-ass truck in American English) ignored warning signs and tried to cross the Forth Road Bridge in Edinburgh a major thoroughfare that carries over 70,000 vehicles a day. His lorry blew over the divider of the bridge and onto the other side.
This meant our host Scottish host Andy Campbell took four hours to get to the airport (normally a 45 minute spin) and we took another three hours to get out to St. Andrews.
The smart ones were Rodney Hine and Bryce Fischer from Boston Golf Club who arrived in Edinburgh Tuesday for a visit with friend Graeme Lennie Head Professional at Balconie Links in Crail. (BTW, "Edinburgh" is properly pronounced "Edinburruhh" or more casually just "Edinb'ruh"... not "burg" like Pittsburgh.)
Upon arrival in St. Andrews we settled in to the St. Andrews Golf House a custom-built four bedroom home designed specifically for golf groups. It would be our home for our three days in Scotland.
In true TurfNet fashion, the group enjoyed these nice digs in St. Andrews. Beats the heck out of a hotel!
Our planned visit to Kingsbarns had to be postponed due to the late arrival so after a quick lunch Andy joined us for a walk around town. Andy led us into the cemetery that includes the Morris family memorial. Paying our respects to Old Tom was a fitting end to our first day at The Home of Golf.
A few pints at The Keys Pub (one of four pubs in town that let owners bring their dogs inside), a quick dinner at a local seafood restaurant and we were ready to call it a day.
Gotta stay hydrated! The entire group together in St. Andrews.
Next up: The Home of Golf and the R&A
Thursday morning we walked into town and were met at the first tee of the Old Course by Gordon Moir, Director of Greenkeeping for St. Andrews Links Trust. Gordon had set aside ninety minutes to give us an overview of the operations there. It was a sunny but cold and windy day on the links.
Once you get past the history, mystique and aura of the fact that he and his team are maintaining the hallowed Old Course, you find that their concerns are very much in line with other multi-course shops around the world. Staffing, equipment, renovation projects are all approached on a day to day basis. While many courses recruit volunteers, Gordon finds that more than a few volunteers typically aren't needed when hosting events due to the size of the staff from the other courses and their familiarity with the operation.
Gordon Moir addresses the group on the first tee at the Old Course.
While there were many memorable comments during the presentation, one that particularly stands out was this reply when we asked Gordon about fertilization:
"We don't fertilise much at all here because we found out that when you do that the grass grows faster, then you have to cut it and it leaves less time for playing golf."
Gordon was especially generous with this time and the original ninety minute visit extended to three hours with a tour of the primary courses nearby.
Fairmont Hotel courses
We then went from the oldest course in the area to two of the newest courses: The Torrance and Kittocks courses are part of the nearby Fairmont Hotel, just a few miles out of town.
The courses are managed by longtime greenkeeper Neil Ballingall, but the real stars of the visit were Neil's two dogs Billy and Honey. Billy is active on social media and maintains his own dog's view of life in the Ballingall household with his very own Facebook page. Check out his page and you might just get added as a "friendly hoomin".
Neil Ballingall holding Billy, with Honey in the background.
Neil shared an overview of the courses from the panoramic windows of the clubhouse, again a dog-friendly zone due to being closed for the day.
The group was feeling a bit peckish so lunch at the Golf Inn back in town was in order. We were exposed to the Scottish sense of humor when one member of the group asked if the fish and chips were any good and the waiter replied, "They're dreadful".
We spent a few hours back at the house - kicking back before a late dinner at Forgan's, another short walk from the house. Forgan's was in a building that housed a golf club maker and a few club heads are on display.
Former TurfNet Intern-in-Ireland Peter Braun and TurfNet Superintendent of the Year 2015, Matt Gourlay, CGCS, arrived in Dublin on Monday morning to spend a few casual days prior to the "official" pre-BTME visit to St. Andrews. After Jon Kiger and Tony Girardi "collected" them at the airport, the group headed south toward the town of Callan in County Kilkenny, in the Southeast of Ireland.
The first stop was to The Steppes Bar to meet up with Kiger's friend Eddie Kennedy, who looked after Peter Braun during his 2014 internship at nearby Mount Juliet Golf Club. They also toured a workhouse which was built in the early 1800's as a means of housing the destitute, and was filled to many times its projected capacity during the Irish Famine years.
Tony Girardi, Matt Gourlay, Eddie Kennedy and Peter Braun outside Steppes.
After leaving Callan, they took the short drive to Kilkenny City, where they met up with Catherine Higgenbothem and her young son Ben for dinner. Catherine housed both Peter Braun and our 2013 intern Carson Letot so she was eager to learn about Peter's (and TurfNet's) activities since he was in the area for that summer.
With Catherine Higgenbothem and squirmy son Ben, who hosted Peter Braun in 2014.
One can't visit Ireland without taking in some traditional Irish music, so the group wandered over to Cleere's Bar. Mick Walsh has hosted the music session at Cleere's every Monday night for almost 35 years.
At Cleere's Bar, Matt Gourlay, Peter Braun (light blue), Eddie Kennedy and Tony Girardi enjoy the traditional Irish music session.
A short drive up the motorway Tuesday morning brought the TurfNet group back to County Dublin and the two courses in Portmarnock. Course manager Fintan Brennan, his son Mike and James Brennan (no relation) hosted the group at Portmarnock Links and showed off the winter season work on some of the 27 bunkers that will be renovated by the end of March.
The group got a first-hand look at rebuilding revetted bunkers at Portmarnock LInks.
At nearby Portmarnock Golf Club, course manager and friend-of-TurfNet Gary Johnstone jumped off his spray rig to show us around this classic course and clubhouse, which was built on the original Jameson estate. Both Portmarnock courses have been on the schedule during several TurfNet Members Trips to Ireland.
Gary Johnstone explains the covered boom setup to Tony Girardi.
The group stayed at the Portmarnock Links Hotel which positioned them well to easily revisit Gibney's Pub in the village of Malahide. That evening they met up with another long-time friend of TurfNet, Eddie Donlon, retired superintendent of nearby Rush Golf Club. Gibney's was TurfNet's social hub during the Ireland trips that included Dublin.
Superintendents can learn as much from each other over a pint in a bar as they can in a seminar or on the golf course. Here, Tony Girardi (center) holds court with Matt Gourlay, Peter Braun, Gary Johnstone and Eddie Donlon at Gibney's Pub.
Gary Johnstone, course manager at Portmarnock Golf Club, reconnects with retired superintendent Eddie Donlon.
Next up: Flight to Edinburgh and St. Andrews
Tony Girardi arrived Sunday morning and he and Jon Kiger were immediately off to Newgrange in County Meath. Newgrange is a 5000+ year old megalithic passage tomb less than an hour from Dublin. The TurfNet Members Trip to Ireland visited the site in 2015.
Tony G. looking a little jet-lagged on Sunday morning after an overnight flight from JFK.
From there, Tony and Jon drove to Dundalk in County Louth for haircuts and hot towel shaves at Lawless Barbershop and Candy Store, an iconic store with a rich history of serving the town for over 100 years.
Tony's haircut with Ramona, the owner at Lawless Barbers in Dundalk.
Now, he's starting to feel better. Tony G under the hot towels.
Before returning to Dublin, they were invited into the home of JK's friends Tim, Catherine and Helena Mullins for some tea and "other" refreshments. Sunset is at 4:30 PM this time of year but they made the drive safely on the mostly divided M1 Motorway.
Ahh, that's better. Haircut, hot towel shave and a wee nip of Jameson's with the family Mullins.
David Bowie passed away at this time in 2016, and Dublin had a city-wide Bowie festival with a variety of performances, films, and art exhibits. As both Tony and Jon are Bowie fans they attended a sold out performance by Rebel Rebel a Bowie tribute band.
Next up: Gourlay and Braun arrive in Dublin
A small, first-time delegation of TurfNet members is attending BTME (BIGGA Turf Management Exhibition) Jan 12-20 as an extension of Jon Kiger's visit and speaking engagements at BTME last year. Invited back for another go on the podium this year, Jon thought it would be fun and educational to bring a group of TN members along for not only the BIGGA conference, but also for a side trip to St. Andrews and nearby courses.
long-time TurfNet member Tony Girardi, CGCS, of Rockrimmon Country Club, Stamford, CT
TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Matt Gourlay, CGCS, of Colbert Hills, Manhattan, KS.
Rodney Hine and Bryce Fischer of Boston Golf Club, Hingham, MA
former TurfNet intern Peter Braun of The Minikahda Club, Minneapolis, MN
Jon Kiger of TurfNet
The plan was to kick off with a pre-BTME side trip to St. Andrews starting on Wednesday, Jan 11, but everyone opted to arrive early, on their own nickel. Not one to let any trip to the British Isles go by without a visit to Ireland, Jon Kiger took advantage of the free stopover in Dublin that Aer Lingus offers when connecting to the UK from the States, heading over this past Friday. Tony Girardi joined him on Sunday, and Matt Gourlay and Peter Braun on Monday.
Rodney Hine and his assistant Bryce Fischer flew directly into Edinburgh and visited another course in St. Andrews before meeting up with the rest of the group.
Next up: Kiger and Girardi on the loose