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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • Peter McCormick
    What started for Jason Podris as a one year trial of living in Ireland has evolved into an extended career and family track with a focus on work/life balance. A 2000 Rutgers graduate originally from the Poughkeepsie, NY area, Podris married a woman from Ireland and in 2005 the couple embarked on their trial run living in her home country. After several intermediate stops in the Republic of Ireland — including The K Club and Galway Bay Golf Resort — Podris in 2012 accepted the position of course manager at Fortwilliam Golf Club in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he and his family relocated.
    As his wife Catherine is an Irish citizen, living and working legally in Ireland was not an issue for Podris. His visa applications were easy and straightforward until he applied for permanent residency in Northern Ireland. That application involved a test that included much of the history of Great Britain. After intense study he was approved for long term residency.
    Fortwilliam Golf Club was established in 1891 and moved to its present-day site in 1903. The club has approximately 1100 members, 500 of whom are golf members. Podris manages the property with a year-round staff of only five people, which expands to seven during the summer months — paltry by American standards.

    When comparing expectations of his membership to golfers in the States Podris explained, “Both groups want fast, true greens, but the membership here understands the limitations of having a small staff as it relates to the other areas of the course. Slight imperfections and an occasional trouble area are accepted without complaint."
    At his previous two positions (The K Club and Galway Bay), Podris brought the intense American superintendent work ethic and thought nothing of being on the job 60-70 hours per week.  Since his move to Belfast, his work week is typically in the 37-39 hour range. The only exceptions are a few weeks with major club events when he might work 45-50 hours. 
    Podris and members of his team routinely take their vacations in season, when children are out of school and families can get away together. With coordination of duties and tasks, the course is still maintained to the same standard. Weekends are also rotated so that staff can have that time to be with their families.  

    Flanking Jason Podris (c) are Fred Turkington (30+ years at the club) and Owen Eggelston (3 yrs). One adjustment Podris had to make was the limited availability of products from suppliers in Ireland compared to the United States. There are fewer chemicals available to golf courses there but thankfully there are fewer pests overall. 
    While there are dealer and distributor networks in Ireland, they tend to be much smaller and farther afield than in the States. It’s not unusual for Podris to wait a week or more for a part that would arrive the same day or overnight in the States. “Growing up in an environment where everything is needed ‘now’ it took a long time – easily years – to get over that expectation,” Podris said. He keeps internal communications open and his management team in the loop.
    The maintenance budget at Fortwilliam Golf Club is small by US standards. His entire budget is £225,000 ($271,000). Of that, £60,000 ($72,000) is budgeted for supplies and materials. The rest is allocated to labor. 
    To say the irrigation system there is antiquated is an understatement. The club only needs to irrigate for three or four weeks a year. A system of pipes and hoses delivers the water where it is needed and an upgrade to the system isn’t in the cards for the future. 

    The irrigation system is rudimentary at best but only required 3-4 weeks of the year. Another challenge for Podris is course drainage. The course is built on a heavy clay soil which doesn’t drain well, especially in the winter months. The club’s solution is to take a few of the worst holes out of play for much of the winter to preserve the turf there.
    As for limiting the incidence of turf disease, Podris explained, “It all goes back to the basics, about making sure your soils are healthy. Aerify and use fertility products that promote plant health. The goal is just to keep your plant healthy throughout the year.”
    Podris encountered several practices in Ireland that he didn’t see as often in the States – scarifying and fairway topdressing. He explained that even the smallest clubs topdress fairways and have for twenty or more years. Each year Podris applies over 300 tons of sand to the Fortwilliam fairways. The club employs an outside contractor who completes the job in one day. 

    Some golf holes at Fortwilliam Golf Club look across the Lough of Belfast to the east. As for professional development, Podris can rarely get to the industry conferences so instead opts for keeping up with current information from TurfNet and other online media. “Between running the golf course and having two teenagers and an eight-year-old the time for offsite professional development has been kind of taken away. I’m not saying it’s not important, it’s just not a top priority for me at this time.”

    To the northwest, Fortwilliam GC is surrounded by views of the Cavehill, a rocky hill overlooking the city of Belfast. Note the wet fairway conditions in the foreground, a chronic issue at Fortwilliam. Asked what he would tell other industry professionals who are considering an international career move, Podris replied, “Over in the States you’re always encouraged to move around and work at as many golf courses as you can to get that experience. Why not try to do that in another country? The time pressure here is much less and that translates to more time that you can spend with your family. That has been a great benefit of working over here. If you can figure out that balance and get it someplace else, it’s a great thing to do.”
    — Jon Kiger
    Jason can be reached at jpodris@hotmail.com.
  • With winter all but an afterthought this year in much of the country, one might think such conditions might make a fertile environment for a bumper crop of white grubs. According to former University of Kentucky entomologist Dan Potter, Ph.D., golf course superintendents have little to fear this summer — at least where grubs are concerned.
    According to Potter, unseasonably warm weather throughout January, February and March has nothing to do with how many grubs will emerge to plague golf courses this summer.
    "When they go into winter dormancy, they go down pretty deep," said Potter, recipient of the 2010 USGA Green Section Award. "They might come out a little early, but there is no evidence to suggest we will get a second generation this summer."
    Grubs operate on a biological clock.
    They have what Potter described as a "natural antifreeze" that allows them to survive in frozen soil.
    "They are not going to freeze in cold weather either," Potter said. "They don't freeze at the same temperature as water. You can put them in the freezer and open it later and they will still be alive."
    The average daily temperature in Lexington, Kentucky where Potter is located is 37 degrees Fahrenheit. This winter has been anything but average. The daily high in Lexington exceeded 50 degrees on 22 of 28 days in February and topped 60 degrees on 12 of those day.
    Then what happens in a year like this when temperatures are above normal? 
    "If it's never been cold, how do they know it's time to come out?" Potter asked rhetorically. "That's a really good question. But a mild winter never seems to change their lifecycle."

    Potter, who has been one of the country's leading voices on white grubs, said not much has changed in understanding grubs in the past 40 years.
    "I still follow the 1980s timetables for egg development," he said.
    One thing grubs need for survival is moisture in the soil to ensure the viability of the eggs. If there is not enough moisture in the oil, the eggs might not hatch.
    Soil moisture levels of at least 10 percent in summer when adult beetles lay their eggs will go much farther than unseasonably warm conditions at ensuring a successful hatch.
    Beetles also are adept at seeking out fertile territory for depositing their eggs.
    "They will seek out a moist place to lay their eggs," Potter said. 
    In times of drought, moist soil can be found on irrigated grounds, like a golf course. 
    "I don't make predictions about whether it is going to be a good year for grubs, because you never really know," Potter said. "I might have said that before at a field day in front of a lot of people because I wanted to sound wise.
    "When there is plenty of rain in July and August there is always good egg survival. When there's drought, there is not good survival except on places like irrigated fairways and roughs. The most damage is always going to be in an irrigated rough."
  • Amanda Folck is the new turfgrass extension specialist for the University of Nebraska in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. Her appointment, which began Jan. 1, is 90 percent extension and 10 percent teaching.
    Her appointment at Nebraska will be a new challenge in Folck's career.
    "I am intrigued by the geographical differences between the various environments in Nebraska," Folck said in a news release. "Based on my experience with warm- and cool-season turfgrass and, in extension, it felt like a good fit to come here."
    A native of Wisconsin, Folck grew up on her family's farm in Mechanicsburg, Ohio, where she was immersed in 4-H.
    Even with her background in livestock, Folck grew up with an interest in flora.
    "I have always been interested in plants because of my experience on the farm," she said. "My family planted and grew various fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, watermelons, peas and pumpkins."
    Folck earned a bachelor's degree in sustainable plant systems in turfgrass science with a minor in plant pathology from Ohio State in 2017 and a master's in horticulture from Purdue in 2022.
    Her experience also includes five years as an assistant sports turf manager at Texas A&M and at Purdue.
    At Texas A&M, Folck worked on Ellis Field, the school's soccer field, and assisted with other Aggie athletic fields.
    "I chose turfgrass because there are different types of grasses and cultivars that can work in different environments," she said. "Another benefit is the versatility of using turfgrass for athletic events on television, from soccer games to golf tournaments in the PGA."
    Now, Folck says, she's excited to be part of the turfgrass team at Nebraska and give back, based on her experiences in the turfgrass industry, and help provide outreach to assist turfgrass stakeholders in the state. In addition to her extension role, she will also be teaching the Plant and Landscape Systems 427 Turfgrass System Management capstone course to turfgrass science and management undergraduates.
  • Someone should remind Frank Dobie that he is retired.
    Dobie, 82, spent 60 years as a golf course superintendent, including an incredible 56 years as head greenkeeper and general manager at the same place before he retired (supposedly) in 2020.
    That would be enough work for most superintendents. Dobie definitely is not most superintendents.
    Although Dobie no longer actively works as an agronomist, he stays busy actively promoting the industry he loves. 
    Since 1988, he has been president of the Musser Foundation, which recognizes excellence in turfgrass research, and his next undertaking is to record a biographical history of golf course superintendents - sort of a Baseball Almanac, but for golf greenkeepers.
    "Athletes all have their history recorded by the media," Dobie said. "Nobody is doing that for superintendents."
    Until now, anyway.

    Retirement is not enough to keep Frank Dobie away from promoting the role of golf course superintendents. GCSAA TV image Dobie has developed a fill-in-the-blank form that superintendents can populate with their professional history, similar to a really in-depth LinkedIn account. It is a project he started in the early 2000s and is focused on today more than ever.
    To date, he has received more than 80 submissions from other superintendents. Recently, he sent a letter to the alumni club at Penn State, his alma mater. So far, 54 Penn Staters have requested the form.
    Dobie's goal is one day to help form a hall of fame for superintendents. The concept has been shot down at the national level, including in Lawrence, Kansas as well as at the World Golf Hall of Fame. Original plans at the World Golf Hall of Fame included a place for superintendents. Today, there is not a single superintendent in the WGHOF.
    Dobie first became a superintendent in 1961. By 1964, he was superintendent and GM at Sharon Golf Club in Sharon Center, Ohio. Fifty-six years later, 2020, Dobie finally retired from Sharon. Today splits time between Ohio and Naples, Florida
    He was instrumental in developing a hall of fame for superintendents at the chapter level in Northern Ohio, and believes that is the model for widespread acceptance. And the biographical histories he collects could play a pivotal role in helping expedite that process.
    "How can we have a superintendent hall of fame if we don't know their history?" said Dobie.
    Quite an undertaking for someone who is retired, or at least is supposed to be.
    "Oh, I'm living my retirement," Dobie said. "But I still like putting together the piece of the puzzle."
    Want a form? Email Frank Dobie and he will be happy to send you one.
  • For those who have been waiting for another level for certifying environmental stewardship efforts on golf course properties, your wish has come true.
    Audubon International, which recognizes environmentalism in golf, has added a fourth level to its Signature Sanctuary Certification program.
    The Signature Sanctuary Certification program was created at the Bronze, Silver and Gold level for golf properties under renovation or new developments committed to sustainable practices.

    Audubon International's new certification level goes off the golf course. The Signature Sanctuary Platinum Certification was created to cover entire resort properties, including golf course and maintenance structures and systems as well as sustainable lodging and sustainable hospitality in the clubhouse.
    "The Signature Sanctuary Platinum Certification level provides an opportunity to have an all-encompassing certification for a property," said Kat Welch, Audubon's Signature Sanctuary Certification director, in a news release. "The nice part about Signature Platinum level is that it is a single title, encompassing multiple certifications, which is easier for the public or the client to understand and appreciate."
    The Green Lodging and Green Hospitality programs currently have 130 full-service certified resort members with sustainability goals that include but are not limited to the golf course.
    "If a resort is established and operating, but undergoing a renovation to only the golf course, it can still be a candidate for Platinum, because the Green Lodging and Green Hospitality Certifications were designed for existing properties," Welch said. "If it's a totally new construction, we look for the criteria to be built into the architectural plan."
    For golf course grounds and structures including cart barns and maintenance buildings, Platinum Certification adds a new level of requirements to the process. For example, native plantings must occupy 90% of out-of-play acreage, compared with 75% on the Gold Level.
  • Smithco recently recognized its dealers across the globe at this year’s GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Orlando.
    Winners were:
    Dealer of the Year: Ladd's, Memphis, Tennessee (above)
    International Dealer of the Year: Trieu Giang, Vietnam (right)
    North American Salesperson of the Year: Jason D'Andrea, G.C. Duke, Ontario, Canada (below in the pink shirt)

  • A pre-packaged test kit developed by researchers at the University of Florida is designed to make taking, submitting and getting results on soil samples easy for homeowners, lawn and landscape operators and maybe even sports turf managers. One day, such a kit might also help make life easier for golf course superintendents.
    The UF/IFAS Soil Test Kit Powered by SoilKit was developed in cooperation with AgriTech Corp. of Foley, Alabama. For $29.95 per kit, users get everything they need to properly take and submit a soil test, including a prepaid shipping label, soil bag and a QR code to an instruction video. The cost also includes results and recommendations from a lab in Alabama.
    Within one or two days of receipt, users will receive an email with a link to results. Kits are available at extension offices in Florida or online.
    What seems like a simple concept actually was five years in the making.
    "We started working on this in 2017," said Bryan Unruh, Ph.D, associate professor with the University of Florida.
    "We are in the crawl, walk, run stage."
    The test was developed primarily with the residential lawn market in mind. Although it also can be used on sports fields, the kit is probably not a realistic fit for the golf market. At least not yet.
    Athletic fields that are pretty much a single stand of turf vs. golf courses that could require multiple tests from many locations two or three times a year could get costly. Today, many superintendents get soil tests conducted free of charge with the assistance of a fertilizer rep.
    "Three acres of homogenous turf vs. 30 acres of greens, tees and fairways," Unruh said. "At that price point, one test (in sports turf) vs. multiple tests (in golf) make it cost prohibitive for golf."
    Unruh and colleagues at UF have spent the past several years developing BMPs for golf courses, so a simplified test kit for superintendents seems like a natural extension to those efforts. 
    "Definitely," he said. "We're not there yet."
  • In what might come as a shock to his colleagues, Scott Griffith, CGCS, has never really known what it is like to struggle to find labor in nearly two decades at the University of Georgia Golf Course. 
    Every year for 16 years, Griffith gets anywhere from 20 to 30 UGA students who join his team as part-time employees on the crew. Most years at least a couple are turf students, but the overwhelming number are students studying for a life outside of turf.
    "I know a lot of superintendents struggle with labor. I've been blessed with it," Griffith said. "I just have to deal with the challenges of hiring student employees."
    Those challenges have everything to do with training and scheduling a team of part-timers who have to manage changing cups and mowing fairways with attending Calculus and chemistry classes.
    Most of his part-time team works about half a shift and is back on central campus by 11 a.m.
    "We might have 25 or 30 people, but because they are part time, it's like having half that many," Griffith said.
    Just because Griffith's student staff must prioritize their time in the classroom, it does not mean they are limited to edging and blowing.
    "We train them to do most everything on the golf course," Griffith said.
    "The acceptance rate here is low, so the kids here are smart, they're intelligent and they're motivated."
    Griffith can't take credit for this business model. Someone else put it into place, but he has maintained it.
    "I've been here 16 years, and it's been like this since Day 1," he said. "It was put into practice before I got here."

    University of Georgia students make up the bulk of workers at the school's golf course. Griffith does have a few full-time employees, including a golf course superintendent, an assistant, an equipment manager and an assistant, spray tech, irrigation tech and one longtime member of the crew.
    Griffith takes pride in the conditions he and his small but mighty team of six full-time employees and about two dozen half-timers. But golf at the University of Georgia is about so much more than duplicating the private club experience.
    "We're not a huge money-maker for the university; we're a place of recreation," Griffith said. "
    "We are about providing faculty, staff and students with a place to recreate, a place to work and a place to conduct research. Anything we can do to reach that goal, we're going to do it.
    "With that said, we do get about 40,000 rounds a year."
    The Covid pandemic threatened to derail Georgia's longstanding employment model, but the disruption was only temporary.
    Given what typically is a 12-month golf season in Georgia, Griffith sometimes has to get creative, and that means offering incentives at certain times of the year.
    "We've started increasing pay at certain times," he said. "I'll offer them an increase of $4 or $5 an hour during aerification, holidays or to get some employees to stay over the summer. 
    "This system works. I don't have to advertise; 80 percent to 90 percent of the people we get come by word of mouth. 
    "It's a neat experience to be part of their lives in this way."
  • Erik McDonald (left) and his brother, John (right) are officially taking over day-to-day operations from their father, Chip (center) at McDonald & Sons. It is difficult to imagine a company that has had a larger footprint in golf course construction and renovation during the past four decades than McDonald & Sons.
    During the past 38 years, the Jessup, Maryland-based construction company founded by Chip McDonald has been involved in nearly 2,000 golf course projects, including new construction and restorations.
    The "sons" part of the family business is now taking over with John McDonald II recently being named president and chief executive officer and Erik McDonald named vice president and chief operating officer. Chip's wife, Betty, will continue in her role as the company's secretary and treasurer.
    "The time was right," John McDonald II said in a release announcing the change. "Dad has been wintering in Florida for the past few years, so Erik and I had already been running the business side while Dad managed our equipment fleet. The construction business has become more complex and it's a lot to handle. He was ready to get out from underneath that."
    Chip McDonald began working in golf course maintenance in the 1950s and built his first course, Hobbit's Glen GC, for the City of Columbia, Maryland, in 1967. He stayed on there as superintendent for more than 15 years before starting his own company.
    Since the company was founded, McDonald & Sons has completed construction or restoration projects ranging from bunker renovations to full restorations to new course construction. Its client list reads like a who's who of golf, including names like Winged Foot, Oakmont, Oakland Hills, Congressional, Pine Valley, Olympia Fields, Card Sound, Inverness and Butler National to name just a few.
    "We were in the right place at the right time," Chip McDonald said. "Golf had its ups and downs along the way, but we did good work and built great relationships with clubs over the years and that made all the difference."  

    Oakmont Country Club is one of many clubs restored by McDonald & Sons. Photo by John Reitman McDonald's background as a superintendent gave him a unique perspective on construction and restoration projects and helped him build relationships with other superintendents from coast to coast, his son said.
    "Because dad was a superintendent, we always tried to leave the course's superintendent with something that was maintainable," said John II. "Yes, the club is the client, but we always try to keep the needs of the super in mind. And we think our finished work is second to none. When we leave a project, we want the new features to be the most noticed aspect, not our presence."
    That reputation has made McDonald & Sons a favorite among choosy clubs doing important renovations, preparing for big events, or simply tuning up to keep fresh. The firm's Design Group was launched in 2002 and since then their in-house work and collaborations with many notable architects and designers have yielded spectacular results. At one point their clientele included 25 of Golf Digest's Top 100 U.S. courses and they've done 54 projects at Congressional CC alone. "We've had an amazing run," says John. "We did 90 projects in 2022 and things continue to look very good moving forward."
    In addition to being known for the quality of their finished work, they also strive to give clients open bookkeeping and good communications along the way. "They always know where they stand," says John. "We try to minimize surprises. We don't typically have to do change orders."
    Erik says he is eager to carry on his father's legacy.
    "We're going to continue to provide the kind of high-quality, professional work the company has been known for since he got started in 1984," Erik McDonald said. "My dad's values – quality, trust and professionalism – are why I think we'll continue to prosper. Everything we do goes toward bettering the game of golf and the land it's played on."
    Although Chip is stepping away from McDonald & Sons, his other business, Chesapeake Specialty Equipment, still keeps him busy. The company provides dumpers, forklifts and telehandlers to construction firms.
  • Two resources that are in scarce supply on many golf courses are people and water. Researchers at the University of Arkansas are using drones to one day help superintendents better manage both.
    Unmanned aircraft are being used at Arkansas to monitor turf conditions and help superintendents determine when and where to irrigate without sending people, many of whom might not even be on the payroll anyway, to scout every inch of the golf course to get the same information.
    "There is a lot of great turfgrass research being done, but if we don't get water and labor right, I'm not sure how much we will get to appreciate all of that other great work," Daniel O'Brien, a Ph.D. horticulture student said on the University of Arkansas Extension website. "When it comes to water and labor issues, particularly on golf courses, drones have tremendous potential to help with both."
    Scientists at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station have been using drones to collect data on drought and wetting agent studies and hydrophobicity for the past five-plus years.
    The same thermal and multispectral images that researchers use in drought studies and wetting agent trials in Fayetteville are now being used to scout large areas so superintendents will be able to determine where to irrigate and when and ultimately save water while also maximizing labor resources.
    Drones provide a way to scout large areas in a fraction of the time it would take to accomplish the same job in person, which allows the superintendent, assistant or members of the crew to work on other tasks, thus helping to maximize labor efficiency.
    "I can use a drone and see where the grass is hot, or dry, or weak, and can apply a wetting agent there, but I could also see where things are just fine and we don't need to run any irrigation," O'Brien said. "This can be a big water-saving mechanism with the information that we're getting from the sky.
    "Essentially, what we're asking is, 'what does a problem look like before it's a problem?'"
  • After attendance lagged, understandably, at last year's GCSAA Conference and Show, this year's event promised to show an improvement.
    Once exact with its figures, GCSAA reports statistics such as attendance, number of vendors, rented booth space and education seats in round numbers like about 11,000 people attending this year's show in Orlando. That is an increase of about 69 percent when compared with the roughly 6,500 people who were in San Diego in 2022, which is a bit misleading considering California was still under masking requirements and air travel was plagued with rampant delays and cancellations. 
    Comparing this year's show with the 2022 conference is hardly a fair comparison given the reality of the times from 2020-22. 
    Many superintendents elected to skip the show last year, either because of Covid protocols or potential travel challenges associated with said protocols.
    Measuring this year's show against last year's is not quite an apples-to-oranges comparison, but is more like comparing a bushel of apples to a bag.
    What is clear is that although show attendance was up compared with last year when fewer people were traveling, most metrics are still down compared with pre-pandemic levels.
    In a more accurate comparison, attendance this year was down about 6 percent compared with the pre-pandemic 2020 show in Orlando, which attracted about 11,700, and 8 percent compared with the 2019 show in San Diego.
    About 450 vendors exhibited at the show this year, representing approximately a 50 percent jump from 2022, but a 10 percent drop from the more than 500 companies that showed in 2020 in Orlando and in 2019 in San Diego.
    One area on the increase are education seats sold at the show. About 6,300 seminar seats were filled this year, which was up 70 percent over 2021, 15 percent over 2020 and was the highest number since 2008.
    You might remember 2008. That was the year that 25,737 attendees and almost 1,000 vendors showed up in Central Florida for the mega show that in those days included the golf course owners and club managers associations.
    Since we're comparing apples and oranges.
  • The 30th year of operations for TurfNet kicked off February 1 and will be celebrated with TurfNet@30, a series of retrospective videos, snippets and interviews focusing on the innovations, friendships and industry leadership fostered by TurfNet over the past 30 years.
    The idea for a fee-based information-sharing service for the golf industry jolted Peter McCormick awake in the middle of the night in late 1993.
    "I had a dream, seriously," he quipped. "With input from some friends, my brother Bob, and a couple of local superintendents, we refined the concept over the ensuing two months around my kitchen table in central New Jersey," McCormick reflected. He launched TurfNet at the 1994 GIS in Dallas by handing out home-printed business cards and brochures to superintendents he knew from the NJ and metro NYC areas.
    "It was the scariest day of my life," McCormick recalled. From there it was off to the races.
    "My first goal was to NOT be one of the 90% of new businesses that fail during the first five years," McCormick said. "We made it, and then some."

    TurfNet Monthly, the print newsletter that put TurfNet on the map with a no-nonsense style that didn't shy away from the tough issues. Noted for many industry "firsts" and innovations over those years — original dog calendar, first graphical discussion forum, first turf media website, Superintendent of the Year and Technician of the Year awards, free webinars and job listings (for members), first dedicated video channel (spearheaded by Randy Wilson, the first to poke fun at the industry), beyond-distributor-territory used equipment listings, member trips and even the Beer & Pretzels Gala — TurfNet@30 is appropriately presented by Kress, an innovative European manufacturer of autonomous mowers and 60v commercial landscape tools that is just breaking into the North American market.

    Golf Car Control, the epic Randy Wilson film that launched TurfNetTV and a new era where nobody -- including "The Alphabets" -- was exempt from Randy's satire.

    The third Beer & Pretzels Gala, held at Bubba Gump's in New Orleans in 1999, is still being talked about 20+ years later. Popcorn shrimp and a Hurricane, anyone? As part of the TurfNet@30 series, TurfNet will be sharing some of the key business strategies employed over the years to accomplish so much with only three people. "The first of those is having no business plan," said McCormick. "While that may fly in the face of business school teachings, we found that keeping our ears to the ground and our thumbs on the pulse of the industry guided us well over the years."

    Just the three of us! We will be sharing how we do it during the TurfNet@30 series.
  • When the idea of a smart ball bounced around the golf world, one that could transmit data that would make life simpler for its user, it is doubtful that many thought one would be available to superintendents for monitoring turf and soil conditions long before golfers would have one to put on a tee.
    The USGA officially launched the GS3 smart golf ball that measures metrics like green speed as well as surface firmness, trueness and smoothness.
    Seven years in development, the rechargeable GS3 is outfitted with sensors, accelerometers and gyroscopes that collect more than 15,000 data points to provide agronomic benchmarks that superintendents and researchers can use to make agronomic decisions and predict putting surface performance.
    "We are excited to provide a tool that enables the industry to objectively quantify putting green metrics, besides just green speed," said Matt Pringle, Ph.D., managing director of the USGA Green Section. "GS3 can clarify the impact of different maintenance practices, provide benchmarks and communicate to stakeholders how the course is performing." 
    The USGA had a soft launch last fall at the Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show in Myrtle Beach and officially launched the ball Feb. 7 at the GCSAA Conference and Show in Orlando.
    The GS3 operates in conjunction with the USGA's DEACON course management software to help superintendents determine agronomic practices designed to maximize putting green performance. All data is also calculated locally and can be synched to the cloud at a later time.
    The ball has been in use in real world conditions by some university researchers and at select golf courses, including Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles.
    "We have been utilizing GS3 for over two months, and I love being able to compile all of the information it provides in one spot," said Justin DePippo, director of golf course and grounds at Bel-Air "We are using the numbers to chart our green conditions and create benchmarks, which allows me to make course care decisions based on the data. GS3 and DEACON will improve the way we maintain our greens and we are looking forward to seeing positive results because of it."
    The GS3 also was used at USGA tournaments throughout 2022 and will continue to be part of the arsenal used for set up and daily decision making at future USGA championships.
    "This is an ingenious way for collecting tons of data," Cornell University professor Frank Rossi, Ph.D., said in a recent TurfNet webinar. "And that data is powerful in helping us predict what you could expect to happen under certain weather conditions, under certain maintenance conditions and how you could expect your   surfaces to perform."
    The GS3 is available from the USGA for $2,750 and includes one year's free subscription to the Deacon platform. Customers who renew the Deacon subscription will receive a new GS3 every three years.
  • John Deere introduced a lineup of sustainable equipment solutions at this year's GCSAA Conference and Show.
    That lineup includes a greens mower, fairway mower, utility rake and Gator, all of which will be available by Feb. 13.

    185 E-Cut, 225 E-Cut
    The 185 and 225 E-Cut electric walk greens mowers have an independent floating cutting unit mounted on the front and are powered by a 58-volt, 3.56 kwh maximum Lithium-Ion battery. The controllers provide power to the electric motors that control the gear transmission and reel. The near-silent operation opens the operation window where potential early morning or late evening noise is a concern, without compromising performance.
    The 185 and 225 E-Cut can cover about 50,000 square feet between charges. These machines offer an advanced TechControl Display, allowing operators to dial in frequency of clip based on reel and ground speed, 10 handlebar height positions plus a fore/aft adjustment for maximum comfort and ease when operating and turning, as well as Deere's Cleanup Pass Mode. The 185 and 225 E-Cut come equipped with a dual traction drum for ease of control when turning, and use the same attachments as the 180 and 220 E-Cut hybrid walk mowers.

    6700A E-Cut, 7700A E-Cut
    The 6700A and 7700A E-Cut hybrid models have the capability to mow, verticut and scalp. The 6700A is the first three-wheel fairway mower on the market available with 7-inch reels and electric reel drive. Both can reduce fuel consumption by up to 30 percent. Hydraulic leaks have been reduced by as much as 90% by electrifying the reel circuit. An advanced LoadMatch system with a smart alternator prioritizes cut quality in challenging conditions.

    TruFinish 1220
    The TruFinish 1220 utility rake helps save time by raking bunkers and field surfaces, reducing labor and ultimately resulting in increased crew productivity. The TruFinish 1220 is equipped with an updated hydrostatic drive with selectable 2-wheel-drive or 3-wheel drive, allowing customers to customize their drive to best suit the job at hand. Customers looking to work in lighter-duty applications can benefit from the 2WD option with higher transport speeds, while those looking to increase efficiency during applications where more traction is needed can utilize the 3WD option.
    Other features include a larger engine and increased fuel capacity compared with previous models. Improved traction speeds and rear attachment system can help save time when changing rear implements. A host of attachments, including brushes, scarifiers and light kits are available.
    Gator GS, Gator GS Electric
    Measuring 49.3 inches, the smaller and more narrow iteration of Deere's utility vehicle, the Gator GS and Gator GS Electric cargo bed allows for tools, equipment and materials to be transported easily around the course, with a 13.1 cubic foot, 800-pound capacity.
    Both versions of the Gator featured high-back bucket seats, two standard USB ports, low-effort steering system design and multiple storage compartments. Protection from the elements for both the operator and passenger is essential, as each machine is shipped with a dealer installed standard canopy.
    The Gator GS features a 14.25 hp gasoline-powered electronic fuel injected engine. The vehicle is easy to operate with a pedal start and infinite speed selection that does not require shifting with the continuous variable transmission drivetrain. The Gator GS Electric also features near-silent operation without compromising payload or towing capabilities. The 48V utility vehicle uses an AC drive motor and controller system to help maintain torque during even the toughest situations.
    The John Deere 185 and 225 E-Cut electric walk greens mowers, 6700A and 7700A E-Cut hybrid fairway mowers, TruFinishTM 1220 utility rake and Gator GS and Gator GS Electric will be available for order starting Feb. 13. For more information, visit www.JohnDeere.com. 
  • Santa Fe Country Club and Golf Association and the city have had a unique water rights agreement in place since 1959. Santa Fe CC photo Water-use issues and how they affect golf courses in locations like California, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado have been making news for years. Issues affected golf courses in New Mexico might not grab headlines like those in Las Vegas, Phoenix or Los Angeles, but challenges associated with water and access to it are just as real.
    Take Santa Fe Country Club and Golf Association for example and its struggle to maintain its unique water rights agreement that has been in place since the Eisenhower Administration.
    The City of Santa Fe gives the club access to reclaimed water to irrigate the golf course as long as the club grants access to the course to nonmember residents of the city. The deal struck in 1959 states the city would give the golf course access to water as long as the property is maintained as a golf course. Now, the city, which also operates its own golf course, wants out of the deal, saying the water is worth much more than the value of reduced greens fees for nonmember city residents. 
    The city has been trying to renegotiate the agreement with the golf course for 25 years and last July filed a 26-page complaint indicating it now seeks a deal that would comply with an effluent management ordinance that limits such deals to four-year terms and prices water at market value.
    The club responded in August with a 44-page counterclaim that says it intends to hold to the deal both sides agreed to 64 years ago. The dispute is set to be settled in court sometime this year.
    The club's attorney says the city is trying to recoup some of the $1 million or so it loses each year in managing municipal Marty Sanchez Links. According to the website for each property, weekend green fees range from $46 at Marty Sanchez to $62 at Santa Fe.
    The club is located on land once owned by the Catron family, which played a key role in development of the city in the early 20th century. In the 1930s, the family conveyed land to the city for use as a golf course. After 10 years, the city leased the property to the Santa Fe Golf Association in 1949 and eventually gave the property back to the Catron family 10 years after that. The family conveyed the property to the golf association in 1959, at which time it entered into the current water deal with the city.
    Through the years, the Santa Fe Golf Association says it has made significant investments to deliver water to the golf course, including constructing a pipeline to a wastewater treatment plant and other upgrades to pump houses and modern irrigation systems on the golf course. The club's attorney also claims that disruptions to service that have limited or cut off water on occasion have forced the club either to close or buy potable water from the city to remain open.
    The city contests such claims and has filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the club's counterclaims, which would threaten the financial viability of SFCC as a golf course. A pre-trial conference is set for March.
  • The Toro e3200 rotary mower can be configured with up to 17 lithium batteries. Toro photo For professional turfgrass managers who need extended power from a large-area rotary mower, Toro recently introduced the e3200 Groundsmaster.
    Powered by Toro's 11 HyperCell lithium battery system, the e3200 can be configured with up 17 batteries for all-day runtime, and smart controls optimize power consumption by continuously and efficiently providing ample cutting power without bogging down. The e3200's reserve power mode allows the operator to set parameters ensuring enough battery power to return to the shop for recharging. The on-board 3.3kW charger allows for overnight recharging.
    Toro's InfoCenter displays battery charge status, hours, alerts and a host of customizable settings for the operator. 
    The e3200 shares the same rugged chassis, commercial-grade mowing deck, and operator controls with our traditional diesel-powered platform.
    With a 60-inch mowing width, the two-wheel drive e3200 has a maximum ground speed of 12.5 miles per hour and can mow 6.1 acres per hour.
    Weighing in at 2,100 pounds, the e3200 has an 8-inch ground clearance and has a height of cut ranging from 1 inch to 6 inches.
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