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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Just how long had it been since the GCSAA Conference and Show had visited Phoenix?
    Before this year's show, the last time the event was held in the Valley of the Sun, Ronald Reagan was president, construction on Disneyland Paris was just getting under way and The Simpsons made its TV debut.
    After this year's show, held Jan. 29-Feb. 1 at the Phoenix Convention Center, it might not be such a long time between visits.
    The show attracted 11,000 attendees (about 1,000 fewer than last year's show in Orlando), and a sold out book of 6,600 education seminar spots was the most since the 2008 Orlando show. That schedule also included classes specifically tailored for assistant superintendents, equipment managers and university turf students in classroom and field settings at more than a half-dozen Phoenix-area golf courses.

    A total of 470 vendors covered 352,000 square feet of exhibit hall space, a number that also includes all common areas, including networking areas, meeting and networking lounges, the GCSAA store as well as any demonstration space.
    While the numbers are positive for the GCSAA moving forward, there is little doubt trade shows have lost some of their steam since the pandemic era. Attendance in the 11,000-12,000 range has been the norm for several years, and down from an average of 13,000-14,000 a decade ago.
    The 2008 Orlando show set records with 25,737 attendees and nearly 1,000 vendors. That show was held with the Club Managers Association of American and the National Golf Course Owners Association. The following year's show in New Orleans, a GCSAA solo affair, still boasted 665 exhibitors.
    Some of that attrition can likely be attributed to metrics in the golf market. Since 2001, more than 3,000 golf courses have closed. When figuring new construction into the equation, there has been a net loss of 1,436 courses during that time.
    Next year's show is scheduled for Feb. 3-6 in San Diego.
  • Nos. 10 (left) and 18 at Booone's Trace National Golf Club. Photo courtesy of Chris Rutherford
    Some people upon retirement are content to kick back and wile away their golden years playing golf or fishing. Others are hard wired to do more; to take up a second profession or Plan B, or to undertake something they are passionate about as an occupational pursuit rather than a mere hobby.
    Before "retiring" a decade ago, Chris Rutherford and wife Kelly had been working for Tower Communications Group, the Lexington, Kentucky, technology company started by Chris's father, Lee. Tower Comm was known for, among other things, providing retail vendors with point-of-sale credit card processing systems.
    When the family cashed out of the business in 2014, Rutherford took a year off to play golf. Not content with just playing golf every day, Rutherford had another itch to scratch. 
    The Rutherford clan, to a man, or woman as it were, share a common passion — golf. Multiple generations of the family are lifelong players. Chris and Kelly's son, Cameron, was a four-year player at Lexington Christian Academy and a multiple high school state champion before playing collegiately at Indiana Wesleyan. 
    When the course now known as Boone's Trace National Golf Club near Lexington went up for sale in 2018, Chris and Kelly, with golf coursing through their veins, decided to buy it.
    "I was 47 and retired. I wasn't ready for doing nothing," Chris said. "I have to have a purpose, and I felt like I was just blowing in the wind. My wife and I thought this was a good opportunity."
    The operation truly is a family affair. Cameron, a graduate of the Golf Academy of America in Florida, serves as director of golf, and Kelly acts as general manager. As business owners, all do whatever needs to be done, from riding a mower for superintendent Vince Amonett, to helping in the restaurant and everything in between.
    Kelly said operating a business in something everyone in the family is passionate about felt like a higher calling.
    "We've just always been glass-half-full kind of people," Kelly said. "We're that way with everything.
    "I think if He brings you to it, He will bring you through it."
    Under the Rutherfords' leadership, Boone's Trace has made the transformation from a struggling and neglected daily fee to a vibrant and successful club.
    That has been no simple undertaking.

    No. 11 at Boone's Trace. Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography Kentucky is not the first place that comes to mind when someone mentions high level, private golf. In some ways, Boone's Trace defines life in Central Kentucky. 
    Located 20 miles south of downtown Lexington in the middle of Kentucky's horse and bourbon country, Boone's Trace is accessible from the north only by a one-lane bridge spanning the Kentucky River, and it is just a few miles downriver from the site of Fort Boonesborough, the settlement founded in 1775 by a 20-year-old frontiersman and pioneer named Daniel Boone.
    It does not get much more Kentucky than horses, bourbon, backroads and Boone (the man).
    But Boone's Trace the golf course is more than just 18 holes of golf tucked into an area that is not known much for golf.
    Boone's Trace sits high on a bluff above the river surrounded by a few hundred high-end homes and breathtaking views in all directions. 
    When the Rutherfords bought the course, it was a daily fee with only a handful of memberships. If the dog days of summer were especially hot and play was slow, it could be hard to make ends meet.
    The Rutherfords realized the facility's future was not in daily fee golf. Since going private in January 2023, Boone's Trace has grown from 67 memberships to more than 350 and counting.
    Going private and undergoing a successful membership drive alleviated the challenges associated with cash flow. 
    "If you have three months of drought in summer, the public is not here and there is no revenue," Chris said. "You don't have that problem when you are private."
    The transition has not been an easy one. 
    Covid struck shortly after they bought the facility, and restrictions in place throughout Kentucky forced the Rutherfords to innovate just to survive. Cameron took check-ins for the golf course through a half-open office window from golfers waiting outside to tee off.

    No. 12 at Boone's Trace. The food and beverage operation survived by offering meals for curbside pick-up and even home deliveries to members living in the community.
    "I can tell you, we've never worked harder," Chris said. 
    "We've put a lot of personal funds into this. When you take on something like this, you have to be vested in its success."
    The Rutherfords hardly are satisfied with the status quo, and are committed to making Boone's Trace even better.
    The club has outdoor event space, a renovated restaurant and lounge and future plans include a coffee bar adjacent to the golf shop.
    "What do we have to do to take it up a notch?" Kelly asked, referring to the club's future. 
    "You just do whatever it takes. We didn't have a whole lot handed to us. We've worked hard for everything we have."
  • Editor's note: I wanted to link to a video depicting the fan experience at Philadelphia Eagles games, but couldn't find anything that was free of inappropriate language.
    Apologies to Philadelphia Eagles fans. You once wore the title of worst fans in all of sports. And you wore it well.
    After all, pelting Santa Claus with snowballs, holding drunk court - and operating a jail - on Sundays in the bowels of old Veterans Stadium, firing a flare gun at fans of the opposing team and 9-year-old fans flipping the double-bird to former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (right)  is championship-level tomfoolery that goes unmatched outside of Philadelphia.
    Until now.
    It is time to move over, Eagles fans. When it comes to being the drunkest, most obnoxious and rudest sports fans on the planet, there is a new sheriff in town. That title of champion drunkard and poor sport now belongs to the gallery at the Wasted Management Phoenix Open, where the stadium seating on the infamous par-3 16th hole looks (and sounds) more like a scene out of "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome."
    I appreciate alcohol-induced fun (in moderation) as much as the next person, and goodness knows tour golf is in need of a little fun to broaden its appeal to new audiences, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
    When fans threaten the safety of others by storming the turnstiles to get to No. 16 like it's the 1979 Who concert in Cincinnati (left), you've reached the point of diminishing returns. (Note: I was a high school junior and lived 5 miles from the arena in 1979, had friends at the concert and remember it vividly first hand, so don't @ me on this one.)
    When fans who have no business being partially clad in public start stripping off their clothes and sliding, belly first, downhill on the turf like sled riders on a golf course in January, you've reached the point of diminishing returns. 
    When golfers are jawing on camera with drunk patrons who talk through backswings or feel the need to heckle players over Ryder Cup roster selections, you've reached the point of diminishing returns.
    When the PGA Tour has to close the gates at TPC Scottsdale because the number of crazed drunks on the grounds has become too great, you've reached the point of diminishing returns.
    When the winner of the tournament takes a back seat to the sophomoric antics occurring outside the ropes, you've reached the point of diminishing returns.

    Crews cleaning up so play can resume on No. 16 at TPC Scottsdale. Waste Management Phoenix Open photo When the venue has to suspend alcohol sales because of all of the above, you've reached the point of diminishing returns.
    The atmosphere on No. 16 at TPC Scottsdale is legendary and has become more relevant than the tournament itself for everyone except the players in the field. Drinking to excess is not only tolerated on 16, it is encouraged. Cheering or booing players depending on their score at 16 is good-natured fun that golf needs. It's just one hole, get over it and move on. The celebration that takes place there for the occasional hole-in-one that includes everyone in the 85255 zip code getting a beer shower is good for the game. 
    What is not acceptable is turning every hole on the course into an extension of the 16th hole where bad behavior is not only tolerated, but encouraged and celebrated. That's not good for golf, or any sport for that matter. 
    The future success of golf depends on facilities promoting and ensuring a fun, family friendly atmosphere. The Tour has an opportunity here to help promote this family atmosphere by by playing an active role in dialing back behavior at its tournaments that would likely result in people being charged with public drunkenness and/or disorderly conduct if they occurred outside the gates.
    Where do you think you are anyway, Philadelphia?
  • During the past generation, few names have been as synonymous with high-level championship golf as Bob Farren, CGCS.
    For his accomplishments and contributions to golf and the turfgrass maintenance industry, Farren has been named the recipient of the 2024 USGA Green Section Award.
    Farren's career in turf management has spanned 45 years, including the past 32 at Pinehurst Resort where he has been director of golf course management since 2001.
    At Pinehurst, Farren oversees agronomic conditions for all of the resort's nine golf courses, as well as a par 3 course and 43,000 square foot putting course.
    During his time in the North Carolina Sandhills, Pinehurst No. 2 has been the site of nearly a dozen USGA national championships, including the U.S. Open in 1999, 2005 and 2014; the 2008 and 2019 U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Women's Open in 2014.
    A native of Tornado, West Virginia, Farren grew up working on a golf course alongside his father, Bob Sr. in his hometown.

    Bob Farren, CGCS, has overseen unprecedented growth and multiple national championships at Pinehurst Resort for more than 30 years. Pinehurst Resort photo Since deciding to follow in his father's footsteps, Farren has been a regular speaker at regional and national events and has been on the ground floor of helping prepare assistants for jobs as head superintendents through professional-development events such as the Green Start Academy.
    Farren also has overseen tremendous growth at Pinehurst as well as a return to the facility's rustic golf roots that includes a restoration of the Donald Ross-designed No. 2 course in advance of the U.S. Open and Women's Open played in concurrent weeks in 2014. 
    That restoration, led by the design team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, included converting more than 40 acres of irrigated turf to native grasses, regrassing greens with heat- and drought-tolerant Champion Bermudagrass, eliminating overseeding throughout the property and bringing back a vintage appearance that more resembles what No. 2 looked like when Ross built it in 1907.
    Farren learned much of what he knows about agronomy at his father's knee. He did not attend traditional turf school, and formally studied hospitality at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. Thus, much of his professional development advice to superintendents and assistants focuses on customer service as well as making yourself an indispensable asset for the property.
    He spoke extensively about his career and promoting the profession in a TurfNet podcast in 2017.
    He also credits his mother, a former school teacher, with helping instill in him a desire to educate and help others.
    The USGA Green Section Award is given annually to one who exhibits service to golf through an individual's work with turfgrass. Farren will receive the award during the USGA annual meeting, scheduled for March 2 in Nashville.
    USGA Green Section Award winners:
    • 1961 — John Monteith Jr.
    • 1962 — Lawrence S. Dickinson
    • 1963 — O.J. Noer
    • 1964 — Joseph Valentine
    • 1965 — Glenn W. Burton, Ph.D.
    • 1966 — H. Burton Musser
    • 1967 — Elmer J. Michael
    • 1968 — James L. Haines
    • 1969 — Fred V. Grau
    • 1970 — Eberhard R. Steiniger
    • 1971 — Tom Mascaro
    • 1972 — Herb and Joe Graffis
    • 1973 — Marvin H. Ferguson, Ph.D.
    • 1974 — Howard B. Sprague, Ph.D.
    • 1975 — Fanny-Fern Davis, Ph.D.
    • 1976 — James R. Watson, Ph.D.
    • 1977 — Edward J. Casey
    • 1978 — Jesse De France, Ph.D.
    • 1979 — Arthur A. Snyder
    • 1980 — C. Reed Funk, Ph.D.
    • 1981 — Joseph W. Duich, Ph.D.
    • 1982 — Charles G. Wilson
    • 1983 — Alexander M. Radko
    • 1984 — W.H. Daniel, Ph.D.
    • 1985 — Victor B. Youngner, Ph.D.
    • 1986 — James B. Moncrief
    • 1987 — Sherwood Moore
    • 1988 — Roy Goss
    • 1989 — James Beard
    • 1990 — Chester Mendenhall
    • 1991 — Joseph Troll, Ph.D.
    • 1992 — C. Richard Skogley, Ph.D.
    • 1993 — Ralph E. Engel, Ph.D.
    • 1994 — Kenyon T. Payne, Ph.D.
    • 1995 — David Stone
    • 1996 — Robert M. Williams
    • 1997 — Paul Rieke, Ph.D.
    • 1998 — B.J. Johnson
    • 1999 — Noel Jackson, Ph.D.
    • 2000 — L. Palmer Maples Jr.
    • 2001 — Patricia A. Cobb
    • 2002 — George B. Thompson
    • 2003 — Houston B. Couch, Ph.D.
    • 2004 — Monroe S. Miller
    • 2005 — Peter Cookingham
    • 2006 — Robert C. Shearman, Ph.D.
    • 2007 — Joe Vargas Jr., Ph.D.
    • 2008 — Ted Horton
    • 2009 — Terry Bonar
    • 2010 — Daniel A. Potter, Ph.D.
    • 2011 — Dennis Lyon
    • 2012 — Wayne Hanna, Ph.D.
    • 2013 — Victor Gibeault, Ph.D.
    • 2014 — Peter Dernoeden, Ph.D.
    • 2015 — Patricia J. Vittum, Ph.D.
    • 2016 — Bruce Clarke, Ph.D.
    • 2017 — Norman Hummel, Ph.D.
    • 2018 — Tim Hiers
    • 2019 — Michael T. Huck
    • 2020 — William Meyer, Ph.D.
    • 2021 — No Award Given (COVID-19 pandemic)
    • 2022 — Frank Dobie
    • 2023 — Roch Gaussoin, Ph.D.
    • 2024 — Bob Farren
  • Foley's 642 Quick Spin grinder offers easy-to-use controls, counter balanced spin drive and a front and rear clamping system for quick, touch-up spin grinding. Foley Co. photo For golf course equipment managers who need an easy solution for quick grinding projects, Foley Co. has introduced the 642 Quick Spin reel grinder.
    Described by Foley as the first professional floor-level, roll-on, roll-off grinder, the 642 debuted at the GCSAA Conference and Show and BIGGA's BTME exhibition. The 642 Quick Spin measures 67 inches in width and 41 inches tall. It provides equipment managers with the ability to perform quick, touch-up spin grinding on walk-behind mowers with cutting widths up to 42 inches without removing the bedknife, resulting in considerable time savings with easy-to-use controls, counter balanced spin drive and a front and rear clamping system.
    "(The 642) is a machine that will appeal to all grounds professionals who are looking to improve the performance and efficiency of their grinding programs," said Foley president and chief executive officer Paul Rauker.
    "We have developed and patented simple to use controls to save time without compromising on performance."
    A counter-balanced spin drive makes it easier to position reels as well as transition from one side of the reel to the other while front and rear clamps secure any cutting unit configuration the user needs.
    An adjustable roller clamp can accommodate a variety of rollers and groomers, and the single-clamp design allows for setting the height of the reel using the cylinder height stop.
  • The war on pesticides continues.
    A U.S. federal judge on Tuesday, Feb. 6 canceled the registration of three dicamba-based herbicides used in agriculture and said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency broke the law when it approved them four years ago.
    David Bury, senior U.S. district judge for the District of Arizona, vacated the registrations of Bayer's XtendiMax, BASF's Engenia and Tavium from Syngenta, citing drift concerns affecting non-target crops. All three are key tools in fighting a variety of weeds in genetically modified soybeans and cotton that are resistant to dicamba.
    The registrations of all three products were either granted or renewed in 2020 when the EPA was assured necessary steps had been taken to reduce or minimize the effects on non-target species. 
    In his decision Tuesday, Bury wrote in his decision that before approving the registrations the EPA failed to allow for a public comment period, which is required by law.
    Although the ruling affects only products that include dicamba for use in agriculture, the active ingredient also is the basis for several herbicides in the turf and ornamentals market.
    According to reports, the three manufacturers affected in the Arizona ruling are waiting to see whether the EPA recognizes the decision.

    "The EPA followed a science-based approach to evaluate and manage ecological risks and balance agricultural and societal benefits before granting the current Engenia herbicide registration. Engenia herbicide is generally safe when used according to its label," said a news release from BASF. 
    "BASF is reviewing the Order and assessing its legal options while awaiting direction from the U.S. EPA on actions it will take as a result of the Order.
    "BASF remains committed to working with the EPA and other stakeholders to identify workable, durable weed control solutions for dicamba-tolerant crops and serving its customers by offering effective crop protection solutions."
    In a separate release, officials from Bayer, which  said they were waiting for the EPA to assess the decision.
    dicamba was banned for use in agriculture in June 2020 when an appellate court decided the chemistry was more harmful than stated by the EPA. The agency decided farmers could exhaust existing supplies before the ban went into effect and later reauthorized their use.
    The news is of particular significance to Bayer, which was ordered to pay $10.9 billion in settlements in 2020 to plaintiffs claiming the weedkiller caused their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Bayer, which eventually sold its T&O business in 2022 to Envu, has been ordered to pay an additional $4 billion in settlements since November 2023.
    Like Roundup with the active ingredient glyphosate, Bayer inherited its dicamba-based herbicide when it acquired Monsanto in 2018.
    Other pesticides that have been used in golf, including neonicotinoids, chlorpyrifos, have faced partial or complete bans in the recent past, as well.
  • The man who was indicted for the 2021 murder of a Georgia golf professional and two others in a drug-deal-gone-wrong has pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty.
    On Feb. 2, Bryan Rhoden (below right) was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole after pleading guilty to multiple counts of murder and kidnapping in the deaths of Pinetree Country Club golf pro Gene Siller, 46 (above right), Henry Valdez, 46, and Paul Pierson, 76, at the Kennesaw, Georgia golf course in July 2021.
    Siller was found dead near Pinetree's No. 10 green at Pinetree, when he responded to calls about a pickup truck on the golf course. Police later found Valdez, a drug supplier, and Pierson, his associate, slain in the bed of a Dodge pickup that had been abandoned on the property. 
    Investigators say that during a drug deal on July 2, 2021, Rhoden abducted Valdez, of Anaheim, California, and Pierson, of Topeka, Kansas, in Jonesboro, Georgia, bound them with duct tape and zip ties then drove them to the golf course 40 miles away before shooting them in the bed of the pickup. In his plea Rhoden told investigators he intended to sink the pickup in a pond on the golf course. Siller, who was walking down the 10th fairway to investigate the incident, simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time, investigators said.
    "Detectives have learned that Mr. Siller happened upon a crime in progress involving the unknown suspect and the two deceased males who were found in the pickup truck," according to a 2021 police report. "It does not appear Siller was in any way targeted, but rather was killed because he witnessed an active crime taking place."
      Rhoden initially pleaded not guilty to the charges in December 2022.  Last July, Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady said he would seek the death penalty. 

    Cobb County Sheriff's deputies investigate the scene on the 10th green at Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw, Georgia, after the bodies of three people, including club pro Gene Siller, were found on July 3, 2021. Rhoden was arrested the day of the incident on unrelated DUI charges. At the time he was not a suspect in the incident at Pinetree, and was released July 6. Two days later, he was arrested in South Carolina on charges of trafficking cocaine. That investigation eventually linked Rhoden to the events at Pinetree.
    Rhoden has a history of violent crime, according to police. He was arrested in 2016 and charged with assault, attempted murder and possessing a firearm on campus when he was involved in a drug deal gone bad at Georgia State University, where he was a student at the time, police said.
    Pinetree, a Chick Adams design, opened in 1962. Georgia native Larry Nelson was an assistant pro there before embarking on a Hall of Fame PGA Tour career.
  • Good or bad, records are made to be broken.
    In the golf business, many of the records that have been broken in the past 20 years were record lows, not record highs. Record low rounds played, record number of course closings, record low number of people playing golf. 
    However, in the past few years, some of the benchmarks that have been eclipsed have been on the high end of the scale. 
    On the heels of Covid, nearly a million people entered the game and a record 518 million rounds were played in 2021.
    There is more good news this year, according to Jim Koppenhaver of Pellucid Corp. and Stuart Lindsay of Edgehill Golf Advisors in their annual State of the Golf Industry report delivered Jan. 25 during the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
    The golfer base increased by 4 percent in 2023, from 21.9 million players to 22.8 million. That's a net increase of 2.3 million people since 2019, and is the highest number of golfers in the game since 26 million in 2010. 
    Rounds played reached a record high of 520 million, eclipsing the previous record of 518 million rounds set in 2000 and 2021, and revenue nationwide increased by 7 percent.
    The number of men in the game increased by 800,000 (nearly 5 percent) to 16.8 million, while the number of women increased by about 100,000 (1.9 percent) to 6 million, according to the report. 
    For years, Baby Boomers carried the game on their collective backs, a statistic that is changing rapidly as many in that generation age out.
    The good news is that younger players are picking up the game. The bad news is Gen Xers are not.
    The number of Boomers in the game increased 4.8 percent to 4.9 million players. Those aged 35-54 increased by an eye-popping 8.4 percent to 6.6 million and 18-34s increased by 3.1 percent to 5.5 million. Generation X, or those aged 55-64, however, decreased by 3 percent to 3.7 million players.

    The number of golfers in the game and rounds played were way up last year. File photo by John Reitman "We haven't done a very good job of attracting the generation behind us," Koppenhaver said. "So part of our challenge as an industry is we're starting to age out.
    "We have a big gap in that next generation behind us that didn't take up golf like I did at (age) 24."
    The most-cited barriers to taking up the game and continuing with it have, historically, been time, cost and difficulty. None of which seem to be holding people back now, and Koppenhaver is not sure why.
    "We haven't solved any of the three issues that people said kept them from playing golf," Koppenhaver said. "It still takes four-and-a-half hours to play. It costs more to play today, but we have some cover because everything costs even more than golf. And despite all the equipment we see on the (PGA show) floor and everything else that is supposed to make my game better, I still suck."
    When the number of course closures outpaced openings in 2006, it represented an anomaly that had not occurred since the end of World War II. Since then, a net loss of courses each year has been the rule rather than the exception as closures have outnumbered openings for each of the past nine years - a necessary evil to bring the market toward equilibrium, which is an industry average of about 35,000 rounds per 18-hole equivalent, according to Koppenhaver and Lindsay.
    Equilibrium was reached several years ago, with the average rounds per EHE hovering between 38,000 and 40,000 each of the past four years.
    Last year, a total of 78 courses closed nationwide, with just 26 openings for a net loss of 52. Since 2006, there has been a net loss of 1,436 18-hole equivalents for a total golf supply of 12,783 courses, according to the report.
    With courses, on average, operating above equilibrium, the industry today could tolerate a net gain of another 2,000 EHE's (which is not going to happen) or losing 73 million rounds. Both give the industry, on the whole, with a good cushion.
    Public-access courses led the way, representing 92 percent of all closures. Although closings are trending down, about 80 properties sold last year. That number has hovered between 80 and 110 for the past four years. About 36 percent of those sales were of private clubs, and another 31 percent were considered "premium public" properties.
    That trend, Koppenhaver said, can be attributed to investors seeing little to no return on daily access value properties.
    Another trend that emerged in 2023 is the return of real estate golf that include properties like the Greg Norman-designed Shell Bay course in Miami.
    "There is a place for real estate golf," Koppenhaver said. "But not at the level we were doing it in '05."
  • You too can now have the industry's first smart device designed to test multiple metrics on putting green conditions.
    After bursting onto the scene in the golf industry a year ago, the USGA's GS3 "smart ball" is now available for purchase. 
    Eight 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. The rechargeable smart ball that is the same size and weight as a standard golf ball calculates green speed, firmness, smoothness and trueness.
    Used in conjunction with the Deacon app, the GS3 provides immediate data on key surface performance metrics that superintendents can use to facilitate change more effectively on their course.
    Since announcing the product last year, the USGA has focused on quality testing and data validation. The GS3 was used at USGA championships throughout 2022 and 2023 and has been in use in real world conditions by some university researchers and at select golf courses, including Atlanta Athletic Club, Bel-Air Country Club, Longboat Key Club, Merion Golf Club and Pinehurst Resort.
    Priced at $2,750, the GS3 Starter Kit includes the GS3 ball and charger, a Deacon subscription, Stimpmeter, drop fixture, an enkamat and capture tray, clipping yield volume bucket and USGA agronomic support.
  • The turf-breeding program at the University of Georgia has released its latest vegetative seashore paspalum variety that is bred for enhanced resistance to many biotic and abiotic stressors.
    The result of 16 years of R&D, SeaBreeze was developed at Georgia's Griffin facility and can be used on golf courses on greens, tees and fairways. It is the fifth paspalum variety developed by UGA turf breeders and the third under Paul Raymer, Ph.D., professor of crop and soil science at the university's Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics.
    SeaBreeze was bred for improved vigor, drought and shade tolerance, color, turf quality, leaf texture and density, tensile strength and resistance to dollar spot.

    SeaBreeze paspalum was developed by University of Georgia professor and plant breeder Paul Raymer, Ph.D. UGA photo SeaBreeze produces improved quality turf under a range of mowing heights, and can be used on golf courses, athletic fields and lawns. It was tested under the experimental name of UGP 73 and has been evaluated in the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program at eight locations from 2016 to 2020. It also was the subject of a USDA Specialty Crops Research Grant to develop improved drought and salinity tolerant warm-season grasses where it was tested at six sites from 2011 to 2013 and in advanced trials at another six locations in 2016-19.
    "SeaBreeze is by far the best paspalum we've developed. It combines vigor and performance with beauty and toughness," Raymer said. "This grass establishes readily and grows-in rapidly. I think sod producers are going to love it because it cycles quickly and It's fun to grow."
    SeaBreeze is licensed for distribution to two Florida sod growers — Creekside Growers in Arcadia and Sun Turf in Fort Pierce.
  • For the past several years, the TurfNet University "Jump start" webinar series has been presented with the hopes of giving career advice to accomplished superintendents as well as aspiring turf professionals.
    Joshua Ziemba (shown at right) had no idea that sitting in on one of those webinars three years ago would actually be the catalyst that would launch his career in golf turf. But that is what happened when Ziemba sat in on "Jump start your career in 2021" presented by Anthony Williams.
    At that time, both were working in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Ziemba, a Florida native, was a greenkeeper at Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, Texas, and Williams was director of agronomy at what then was known as the Four Seasons Las Colinas.
    Ziemba had no formal turf education or training and was soaking up as much knowledge as could access.
    At the webinar's conclusion, Williams promised to mail a copy of his book "Noble Habits" to anyone who reached out by email. Ziemba, who had lived in Texas only for about six months at the time, asked if he could stop by the Four Seasons, now The Nelson Golf & Sports Club, and pick up the book in person.
    What followed was an eventual job offer from Williams. Since then, Ziemba has been on the career fast track. Today, he is the superintendent of the Nelson's member course at Nelson for director of agronomy Landon Lindsay.
    "I came across TurfNet and the GCSAA, and really dove into webinars trying to learn as much as I could," Ziemba said. "I had watched the recorded version of Jump start in 2020, then watched it live in 2021. It seemed like (the Four Seasons) was hitting on all cylinders, and it seemed like a place I would want to work."
    After spending an afternoon with Williams touring the operation and discussing the latter's philosophy, Ziemba was sold.
    "We talked about turf, life in general, and he asked for my resume. That was in January 2021," Ziemba said. "In May 2021, I came on board."
    Williams was equally impressed by his soon-to-be protegé.

    Joshua Ziemba, right, on the course with The Nelson Golf & Sports Club Director of Agronomy Landon Lindsay (left) and former colleague Cortland Winkle. Photo courtesy of Joshua Ziemba "No one else before or since has taken such impressive initiative," said Williams, now a regional agronomist for Invited Clubs. "He was working on a public local golf course and wanted to find a job at a private club.
    "Josh sold me on his potential, and he certainly was a self starter that stood out from the crowd. I saw a win-win, I knew he would be great for the property and our team, and the property would be great for Josh."
    Ziemba, 32, grew up in Stuart, Florida on the state's southeast coast about 30 minutes north of West Palm Beach, where he was a horticulturist with a landscape background.
    He worked as an estate gardener on Jupiter Island, a posh gated barrier island community south of Stuart, before he and his wife, Devin, moved to Fort Worth in 2020. After Ziemba hooked on as a greenkeeper at Cowboys Golf Club, Dean Miller, the VP of agronomy at Arcis Golf which manages the property, suggested the new Texas transplant should go to turf school.
    "We had to be at work at Cowboys at 3 a.m.," Ziemba said. "I'd come home, study for my turf certificate from UC Riverside online at night from 7 to 11 p.m., get up at 2 a.m., go to work, come home and repeat all over again. I didn't get a lot of sleep for a long time."
    The hard work paid off for Ziemba.
    "Initially I was hired as a greenkeeper-1 in May 2021, then in May 2022 I was promoted to assistant in training," Ziemba said. "In May 2023 I was made first assistant and just in December I was promoted to superintendent of the member course."
    For Ziemba, among the most important lessons he learned from the Jump start series were goal setting and taking pen to paper to write them down.
    "I liked how there was so much structure to setting goals," he said. "I already had some pretty lofty goals that included being an assistant in three years and a superintendent in five. Those were well beyond what I thought was possible, but I knew that is what I wanted to do.
    "I wrote down my goals and made an organizational chart. That was what was going to get me to those goals."
    Although he left the Nelson before Ziemba was able to realize his goal of being a superintendent, Williams was not surprised by the outcome.
    "When I left Las Colinas, I was hopeful that I had filled the benches with the future leaders of the club and that they were ready to step up," Williams said. "I did not get to promote Josh into his first superintendent job, but Landon Lindsay did, and Landon and I worked together for nearly seven years. And during that time Landon moved from assistant to superintendent to assistant director of agronomy and upon my departure took the reins as director of agronomy at the Nelson. They say it takes a village to raise a golf course superintendent. I am proud that those young men who impacted me so much have continued to meet their goals and will certainly leave their mark on the industry for a long, long time."
    And it all started with a webinar.
    "Three years ago, I was on the outside looking in," Ziemba said. "Now, we get to tell this story. That's pretty cool."
  • A host of improvements are designed to make Toro's GeoLink Precision Spray system more efficient and user friendly. Toro photo Toro has made improvements to its GeoLink Precision Spray system that are intended to improve efficiency and ease of use.
    Updates include a larger display, enhanced cellular connectivity and improved auto-steering technology.
    Since 2015, the GeoLink Precision Spray system has been helping turf managers save by using GPS technology to deliver product where it is needed and minimize overapplication. The GeoLink Precision Spray system also tracks the sprayer’s precise location for repeatable mapping. If an operator covers previously sprayed ground, the sprayer automatically turns individual nozzles on and off to avoid overapplication, helping golf course superintendents save product and money. 
    New cellular technology automatically connects to the best signal on the property, regardless of carrier. The display is 40 percent larger than those on previous models and includes day and night mode for better visibility in direct sunlight. The GeoLink Autosteer feature keeps the sprayer on course to maximize efficiency, and the ExcelaRate control system, which is standard on the Multi Pro 5800 series, lets operators save the two most-used flow rates for repeat use.
    Improved valves deliver even more precise nozzle control. The system also can now track twice as many satellites for improved efficiency and positioning, and also has a fallback feature if real-time kinematic positioning is temporarily lost.
  • The USGA has funded 15 new research projects to advance turfgrass science this year through its Mike Davis Program for Advancing Golf Course Management. This brings the total of ongoing Davis Program-funded projects to more than 60.
    With this latest round of projects, which are taking place at the University of Florida, Kanasas State, New Mexico State, North Carolina State, Rutgers, Texas A&M and Washington State, the USGA has funded more than $50 million in turfgrass research ventures since 1983. 
    The USGA's long-term goal to support research includes a $30 million pledge to reduce water use announced in April 2023. To that end, more than half of active Davis Grants are focused on projects intended to drive water use efficiency and conservation while also maximizing playing conditions. These projects include optimizing irrigation techniques, improving drought resistance and converting out-of-play areas to conserve water and habitat. 

    The USGA has funded more than $50 million in turfgrass research projects since 1983. USGA photo Other notable projects receiving funding this year include a pilot effort at Texas A&M and Tennessee to analyze Google course review data to better understand what improves, and detracts from, the golfer experience.
    The USGA says the Davis Program research projects have contributed to a 29 percent decrease in water use in the past 20 years.
    Additionally, the USGA-says its overall investment in course sustainability saves the turf industry nearly $2 billion per year, including:
    > $201 million from advancing irrigation with efficiencies in turfgrass water use
    > $529 million from advancing irrigation scheduling with soil-moisture meters
    > $469 million from advancing naturalized rough.
    Click here for a list of current USGA-supported research projects.
  • We are excited to announce that GCSAA Class A superintendent Adam Garr (@CourseCares) is joining the TurfNet content team as a blogger, producer and video host.
    Adam burst upon the social media scene with a series of blogs and GoPro videos highlighting golf course maintenance practices while he was the superintendent at Plum Hollow Country Club in Michigan. Adam jumped over to the supply side of the industry in 2015, serving for seven years as a territory manager for Syngenta Professional Solutions.
    Returning to his literary roots and his BA in English from Michigan-Dearborn, Adam left his career in sales to pursue his dream of becoming a writer and producing original content for the turf industry. He has spent the last year back on a golf course assisting with a new golf course construction, and now is eager to spread his wings. His business, Garr Productions LLC, specializes in creating high-quality, educational and innovative video content for the benefit of golf course superintendents everywhere.
    At TurfNet, Adam plans to combine his unique industry perspective with his passion for storytelling, history, and life lessons to create thought-provoking content designed to challenge and inspire. In many ways his outlook on life and the turf industry blend seamlessly with the core values of TurfNet. His first video series will be Trailing Thoughts, which combines video "hikes" through various National Parks with narration from his life experience within turf and without.
    Adam lives in Novi, Michigan with his wife Michelle and their blended family of five children.
  • Artificial Intelligence is rapidly creeping into almost every corner of the economy. Many industries lacking sufficient labor could benefit from machines that eventually can do the jobs of people. That certainly would be good news to many, including in the golf industry.
    There also are concerns with AI, and that the prospect of increased efficiency and the allure of bloated bottom lines in free market economies could result in decision makers siding with profit over people..
    In recent months, AI has been the target of Hollywood celebrities and recording artists claiming their work has been pirated without consent, and we've seen it in driverless cars. Just how AI will affect global employment markets and economies is not yet clear, but what is known is that machines that can do the jobs of people is a technology that is growing rapidly and will only move ahead faster
    According to a report by Goldman Sachs, AI could eventually shift as many as 300 million jobs to automation. Conversely, AI continues to create jobs, particularly in the tech sector.
    Golf turf maintenance is a business that in recent years has struggled to attract and retain staff and can potentially benefit immensely from AI. To that end, robotic mowers are slowly making their way into the market after first bursting onto the scene at the GCSAA conference in 2009 in New Orleans.
    Although robotic mowers on greens have been, to say the least, slow to catch on, they are making inroads more rapidly in other capacities, including out-of-play and common areas. And they are showing up at classic-era golf courses, like East Lake in Atlanta, and the Meadow Club near San Francisco. 
    The growing popularity of robotic mowers was readily evident at last year's Equipment Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky, where numerous manufacturers displayed their wares. There promises to be several robotic mower manufacturers, including Kress, Husqvarna, Toro and many others, exhibiting at the upcoming GCSAA conference in Phoenix.
    Longtime superintendent-turned consultant Matt Shaffer recently said he believes the labor situation in golf is at a near-catastrophic level and as such says AI could make deep inroads in golf in the next several years.
    The labor model constructed over the past several decades now is sustainable, he says.
    "Golf has gotten too specialized. When I first came up, most places didn't have all these assistants,” Shaffer said. "Now, everyone has two assistants, a spray tech, an irrigation tech and two mechanics. 
    "This has to change. The reality is this has to go robotic. There's no doubt about it.”
    There are other areas where savings can be realized, and some of that already is occurring.
    Frank Rossi, Ph.D., professor at Cornell University, believes AI will have more of an influence on how turf professionals work rather than replace them.
    "Long range, ultimately because of technology there might be some aspects of the job that require less labor,” Rossi said. "My gut is that won't be more than one-third of the workforce.”
    Those numbers lag just a bit behind economists' estimates that predict AI will affect as much as 40 percent of the overall global workforce by 2030.
    Among the areas where Rossi believes AI can best serve golf is in irrigation and helping turf managers develop spray programs.
    "Irrigation technology is likely the first place to start,” Rossi said. "That is at least as far as superintendents will let technology calculate their water needs.”
    There already are programs available, like Greenkeeper and Syngenta's ChatGTP, to help turf managers develop spray programs. 
    Such platforms will only increase in performance and efficiency over time as technology improves and more data are collected from more users.
    "It's all about interpreting what the machine puts out,” Rossi said. "I am seeing some research now that because more people are putting dumb (expletive) on the Internet, AI is getting dumber, not smarter.”
    As advancements continue over time, so will adoption of AI technology by superintendents.
    "We need a generational shift to occur,” says Rossi. "There are too many people too uncomfortable with how technology has become part of their day-to-day lives. Once digital natives, those who grew up on this stuff, come into leadership positions, you'll see that it will happen really quickly.”
  • Velocity PM is registered for control of Poa annua, Poa trivialis and many broadleaf weeds.
    Golf course superintendents will get a chance to take their first look at the newest tool from Nufarm to manage Poa annua at the upcoming GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Phoenix.
    With the active ingredient bispyribac sodium, Velocity PM is a Poa transition tool for both postemergence control and seedhead suppression to support a transition program that is speedy, gradual or anywhere in between.
    Velocity PM has also been shown to substantially suppress the development and severity of dollar spot for up to several weeks following application.
    Velocity PM is registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for selective management of Poa annua, Poa trivialis and a host of broadleaf weeds in creeping bentgrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, dormant Bermudagrass and dormant Bermudagrass overseeded with perennial ryegrass on golf courses, sod farms and athletic fields.
    It also is labeled for use to control of common chickweed, sticky chickweed, white clover, large clover, hop clover, dandelion, henbit, lawn burweed, parsley-piert, plantain, broadleaf plantain, buckhorn plantain, swinecress, yellow nutsedge and yellow woodsorrel.
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