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From the TurfNet NewsDesk


  • John Reitman
    Toro has taken its AquaFlow drip irrigation system online, making it more accessible for end users.   AquaFlow 4.0 includes expandable panels that automatically adjust to multiple screen and font sizes, and allow instant visibility of design decision results by scrolling. The upgrade to take the system online was in response to customer feedback, according to Toro.   Pull-down menus allow users to create new customers and projects and select program features, such as Mainline Design, Custom Laterals and Pipes, Options, Common Formulas and Help. In addition, lateral quantity per block, number of laterals per block, submain and mainline irrigation travel time, and submain velocity vs. distance are now reported as well.    AquaFlow supports Toro's Aqua-Traxx and Aqua-Traxx PC premium drip tape, Neptune flat emitter dripline, as well as BlueLine Classic and BlueLine PC premium dripline laterals. In addition, multiple pipeline choices include Toro Oval Hose, Toro Layflat and PVC pipe. As in previous versions, multiple slopes can still be entered for laterals, submains and mainlines; and submains and mainlines may be telescoped with multiple pipe sizes.   AquaFlow designs can be saved, exported and imported. Or, users can print or save to in PDF format. The system can be used in English and Spanish as well as standard and metric units. The user manual also is available in English and Spanish.
  • Jacobsen at the World Cup
      As teams from around the globe compete in the World Cup in Brazil, they will be doing so on turf maintained with Jacobsen equipment.   The venues using Jacobsen equipment include the Arena de Baixada in Curitiba, Arena de Sao Paulo, Arena Pernambuco in Recife, which hosts USA's final Group G game against Germany on June 26 and Estadio Mineiro in Belo Horizonte.    The most prestigious venue at the tournament, the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janiero, which will host the final of the competition on July 13, is being mowed with the Jacobsen Tri-King small area reel mower. The Tri-King is popular with sports field managers because it provides reel-quality results at higher heights-of-cut.    Jacobsen Tri-King mowers are also being used at several national team training venues including the Australian training camp at Vitaria in Espirito Santo, Portugal's training center at Campinas at Sao Paulo and Mexico, who are using the training facilities of Santos, also in Sao Paulo.    In addition to the Jacobsen Tri-King mowers, stadium grounds managers will also be using the Ransomes Mastiff walk-behind reel mower to give the fields a final striping before each game.    The United States team plays its first matches June 16, 22 and 26 against Ghana, Portugal and Germany, respectively.    Grigg Brothers goes Down Under
      Beginning this summer, Grigg Brothers, a wholly owned subsidiary of Brandt Consolidated Inc., will launch its plant nutrition products in Australia through Globe Australia, a division of Amgrow Group.   The brand launch includes Grigg's proprietary liquid organic line of proven foliar nutrients, such as Gary's Green, PK Plus, AminoPlex and Tuff Turf, as well as select granular fertilizers.    Brandt, which provides products and services for the agricultural market, acquired Grigg Brothers in a deal that was announced in January. Amgrow has been a long-term partner of Brandt in both agriculture and turf markets.   Globe Australia is a subsidiary of Amgrow Australia. Amgrow is a market leader in Australia with its NuTurf and Globe business units and is part of the CK Lifescience Group Hong Kong.   Arysta taps Maravich to fill top T&O slot
      Arysta LifeScience North America recently named Michael Maravich (no relation to Pistol Pete) as business manager for its turf and ornamental division.    Maravich has been with Arysta since 2008 as a product line manager, and will be responsible for leading all sales and marketing efforts within the division.   A veteran of the T&O market who also has worked for Lesco, Maravich will be based in La Quinta, California.
  • Wake-up call

    By John Reitman, in News,

    While transition zone golf courses spent the winter in a deep slumber, the sight that awaited many superintendents in the spring should serve as a wake-up call that Bermudagrass in the upper South needs extra care during the offseason.
     
    That's the take-home message from this winter, says Fred Yelverton, Ph.D., of North Carolina State University, as many courses in several states, including Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia that grow Bermudagrass greens continue to struggle into late spring.
     
    During the many site visits he has made this winter throughout North Carolina, Yelverton has seen a lot of winter damage and winterkill. It's the first time since 1995, Yelverton said, that he's seen since such widespread damage in North Carolina. What he hasn't seen much of on those visits, he said, are greens covers.
     
    "I think we have to be careful to remember we are in North Carolina, and winter kill is a real possibility," Yelverton said. "We have to plan for it. If we don't, we're setting ourselves up for disaster.
     
    "We've gotten complacent. Those who think this was some wild, cold winter, that's not accurate. Yes, it was cold if you look at records, but it was reminiscent of what we had in the early to mid-1990s."
     
    In Raleigh, the average low in January was 25 degrees Fahrenheit, which was 6 degrees below the historic average, according to the National Weather Service. February's average low was 33, which is the average. March remained cold, with average lows of 34 degrees. However, the historic average for that time of year is 40 degrees. That didn't come close to the coldest winter in central North Carolina. The record low in January was minus-9, set in 1985. February's record cold temperature of minus-2 was set all the way back in 1899. And the coldest day ever in March in central North Carolina was 11 degrees on March 2, 1980.
     
    "We tend to have short memories," Yelverton said. "If we haven't seen something in 15 years, we don't worry about it."
     
    The story is a similar one in Arkansas, where Mike Richardson, Ph.D., says the last time there was significant winter damage there was 2000-01.
     
    "This is only the second severe winter we've had in northwest Arkansas in the 16 years that I've been here," said Mike Richardson, Ph.D. of the University of Arkansas. "When you don't experience a problem for several years, people let their guard down and forget those basic practices and fundamentals. When you do that you set yourself up for a bad winter.
     
    "If you're growing ultradwarf Bermudagrass anywhere in Arkansas and you're not using covers, frankly, you're a fool. This year, you could have lost your entire greens complex without covers, and you still could have lost some even with covers."
     
    Equally damaging as winter's cold temperatures was a slow start to the growing season. Although average temperatures were pretty much in line with historic averages, according to the NWS, overnight lows dipped into the low 30s as late as the third week of April. That was 17 degrees below average. Cool conditions persisted into May as well.
     
    "We had winter injury, followed by conditions that were not conducive to Bermudagrass growth," Yelverton said. "What we have is slow grass that is still painfully slow."
     
    Winter conditions also led to a bumper crop of spring dead spot, and the only cure for that is patience, said Lane Tredway, Ph.D., senior technical representative for Syngenta.
     
    "There's really not much you can do from a fungicide standpoint," Tredway said. "You really just have to wait."
     
    As recovery crept along at a snail's pace, superintendents faced one of two choices: repair or wait. Areas left to recovery could take until July or August to fully recuperate. Areas that have been regrassed will be held out of play for almost as long. Which fork in the road each superintendent chose was a decision based on some combination of budget, damage level and golfer patience, Tredway said.
     
    "It just depends on how much damage there is and if it's a private club or a public course," Tredway said. "If the damage is severe, a high-end private club will never have the stomach for waiting. They'll regrass."
     
    There are agronomic practices, such as aerification, that superintendents playing the waiting game can employ to promote quicker recovery. 
     
    "I would suggest aerification, or spiking the greens," Tredway said. "You don't even have to go that deep; maybe an inch or so. Anything to break up that organic matter layer."
     
    Richardson suggests that superintendents and other stakeholders should take a look at the big picture when selecting turf types in the transition zone where the summer growing season is shorter than it is farther south.
     
    "If you go to Bermuda, you have to realize that for some of the traditional golf season you are not going to have green putting greens," Richardson said. 
     
    "For us in Arkansas, four-and-a-half or five months is all you are going to get out of Bermudagrass greens, so we're looking at seven months of dormant, painted Bermudagrass. On the other hand, bentgrass struggles here from July through September, but the rest of the year it looks great. 
     
    Among the reasons so many courses throughout the mid-south have made the switch from bent to Bermuda is cost of maintenance. That is an ill-informed decision, Richardson says.
     
    "First and foremost, Bermuda is not going to be cheaper to manage, so you have to get that out of your head," he said. "You might sleep better in summer because Pythium is not killing bentgrass, but there are still costs associated with it, such as covers, grooming, verticutting. The cost is a wash.
     
    "You really have to decide whether the grass you choose lines up with your playing season. The most important thing in this area is winter survival, because it's not a matter of if you're going to get winter damage. It's a matter of when."
     
    Yelverton agreed that Bermudagrass might have reached or even exceeded its geographic limits.
     


    "First and foremost, Bermuda is not going to be cheaper to manage, so you have to get that out of your head," he said. "You might sleep better in summer because Pythium is not killing bentgrass, but there are still costs associated with it, such as covers, grooming, verticutting. The cost is a wash.

     

    "There is a hard push for Bermuda greens into the northern limits. There are a lot of people in the industry who haven't been around long enough to experience anything like what had this winter. And there are some concerns among some of us who have been around a while that it might be too aggressive in places like North Carolina and Arkansas," Yelverton said. "I don't know how unusual this winter was. It's unusual if you look at it in the context of the last 18 years or so. But winter injury is not unusual for us, and you have to take a broader look at things."
  • We hear the excuses all the time about how rounds played lag because of the weather. It's too hot. It's too cold. It's too wet. It's too dry. In a month that even Goldilocks would conclude was just right, rounds played in April still lagged behind the weather.
     
    According to Golf Datatech's Monthly Golf Rounds Played Report, play in April was down by 1.7 percent nationwide despite an overall increase in the inventory of optimal playing conditions. Golf Playable Hours, Jim Koppenhaver's (Pellucid Corp.) measure of acceptable daylight hours in which one could play golf, factored against climatic influences that are unfavorable for playing golf, were up by 2 percent nationwide for the month. 
     
    According to Datatech, in the seven geographic regions into which it has divided the country, precipitation was up significantly in two, down substantially in two and were insignificant, plus or minus less than 10 percent, in the remaining three. An increase in the availability in dry, daylight hours doesn't always mean golfers are going to play more golf. In fact, it seems those conditions rarely translate into more play.
     
    Monthly rounds played have risen only twice in the last 28 months, with the last increase coming in October 2013 (3.7 percent). Before that, one has to go all the way back to November 2012 when the industry was bolstered by a whopping 2.6 percent boost in rounds played.
     
    According to Datatech's April report that measured rounds played at 3,705 facilities in 49 states (all but Alaska), rounds played were down in 27 states, up in 21 others and flat in another.
     
    The greatest gains were in Minnesota, where rounds were up by 51 percent. Double-digit gains were realized in 10 other states: North and South Dakota (27 percent); Colorado (23 percent); Indiana (16 percent); Idaho, Montana, Wisconsin and Wyoming (14 percent); Louisiana and Oregon (11 percent).
     
    Double-digit losses occurred in 14 states: Maryland and Rhode Island (23 percent); Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont (18 percent); New York (17 percent); Arkansas (16 percent); Hawaii (15 percent); Delaware and Maryland (14 percent); New Mexico (13 percent); Ohio and Virginia (12 percent); 
     
    The silver lining is that rounds played, while still down, were not down as much as they have been earlier this year. As a result, year-to-date rounds played, which were down by 4.8 percent through March, improved slightly in April to 3.4 percent through the first four months of the year compared with the same period in 2013.
  • When it comes to professional development, John Cunningham and Scott Abernathy see the big picture associated with devoting resources to staying abreast of the latest information available. Both know that continuing education, networking with peers and learning their tricks are tools that can help produce the best possible playing conditions on the home front.   "Continuous education is really important," said Abernathy, superintendent at the TPC Four Seasons in Irving, Texas, home of the PGA Tour's HP Byron Nelson Championship. "Our industry is only getting more and more technical."   Said Cunningham, superintendent at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, site of the 2013 Senior PGA Championship: "It's only going to filter down and ultimately make the golf course better."   Oh, and by the way, they are talking about professional development for equipment managers, not superintendents.   By supporting their respective technicians and their need for ongoing education, both played a key role in helping develop the International Golf Course Equipment Managers Association's first-ever regional meeting. Held May 27 at Bellerive, the meeting was held in conjunction with the Mississippi Valley GCSA chapter and was the result of eight months of planning by equipment managers Chris Rapp of Bellerive and Cunningham. It provided nearby equipment managers with an opportunity to convene for a day filled with education by industry leaders and networking opportunities in which they were able to learn from each other.   A total of 32 equipment managers attended the event that was supported by a host of industry vendors.    "The attendance and interaction at the first MVGCSA Technicians Meeting held at Bellerive Country Club obviously uncovered a need in our industry," said Ed Eschbacher of MTI Distributing, a Toro distributor with seven outlets across four Midwestern states. "Providing pertinent education, information, and exposure to new equipment technology was certainly a successful format."   It was so successful that organizers are hoping to conduct the meetings twice a year with a second slated for this fall at Sunset Country Club in St. Louis. IGCEMA founder Stephen Tucker also believes the meeting provides a blueprint for equipment managers in other parts of the country.   "It's been a long process, but we wanted to make sure we got it right the first time," Tucker said.    "The idea is to make a model that can be moved to other superintendent chapters. Our goal is to see more meetings start up over the next few years. We wanted to make sure this first one sticks so the model can be transferred to other chapters around the country."   And Bellerive proved to be a perfect location given Cunningham's long record of support for equipment managers. Cunningham was superintendent at the Four Seasons in Texas when his equipment manager there, Doug Johnson, won the 2009 TurfNet Technician of the Year Award, presented by Toro. The event would not have been possible without Cunningham organizational skills and support as well as support from other superintendents throughout the Mississippi Valley GCSA.   "His support has been awesome," Rapp said. "He's very analytical and has great communications skills with members and people on his staff. That is the key to making this work. I've been in this business for 30 years, and I remember when you couldn't get a superintendent and a technician in the same room together. That's changed, and it's because of people like John."
    Mobilizing equipment managers in the past has been a labor of love for Tucker, who started IGCEMA in 2006. And combining the meeting with a superintendents chapter event makes the most sense logistically, at least for now.   "There are just a few key people that keep (IGCEMA chapters) running, and when that guy loses interest or changes jobs, often the chapter falls apart," Tucker said. "We've seen that in Florida. Some years it does well, some years it struggles, some years it just falls apart."   That wasn't a concern at this inaugural meeting as nearly three-dozen equipment managers gathered at Bellerive to pick each other's ideas and listen to seminars on Tier 4 regulations.   Rapp said the session was especially helpful because Boyd Montgomery of Toro tailored the presentation to technicians, not superintendents.   "I've heard a lot of Tier 4 talks over the past year," said Rapp, also an IGCEMA board member. "But this was the first one that was directed to me as a technician."
  • Dead bodies . . . dozens of 'em . . . buried beneath a golf course . . . in Georgia. Sounds like a movie, or the gruesome end to  Atlanta's latest crime spree. Instead, the remains of more than 80 people detected underneath North Fulton Golf Course at Chastain Park on Atlanta's north side have been there since the early part of the 20th century when the land was used to house the city's indigent elderly population.
     
    Rumors of human remains under the course have been the subject of speculation for years thanks to a 1920s-era map of the property, and Ray Mock says he's known about it since he was named Chastain Park Conservancy director in 2003. And now, thanks to the latest in mapping technology, some light is being shed on exactly where this unmarked cemetery is and how many people are buried there. News of dozens of bodies buried beneath the golf course has generated a lot of interest, to Mock's amusement.
     
    "We've known about this for years, we just didn't know exactly where was located. This isn't news, at least not to us," Ray said of the potter's field, a name typically given to unmarked plots of the indigent. "I was trying to scratch an itch. I just wanted to see where they were. Exactly where they were."
     
    North Fulton is a city-owned course in Chastain Park that was designed by H. Chandler Egan and opened in 1935 . Egan, who died the year after North Fulton opened, was fresh off his 1929 renovation of Pebble Beach Golf Links. But long before Chastain Park was built, the area on which it and the golf course no rest once was the site of a public housing project for Atlanta's elderly indigent population. 
     
    The site included two buildings called Alms Houses, one for white residents and one for black that housed the indigent until the early 20th century. Because they were poor, residents of the buildings were buried in unmarked graves upon their death. There was a transition period of about 20 years between the closing the alms buildings and opening the park, Mock said. Today, the black almshouse is home to the Chastain Park arts center. The private Galloway School now occupies the building that once was the white almshouse.
     
    Although the existence of the potter's field might be common knowledge for Mock and others within the park system, its exact size and location have been somewhat of a mystery since the housing development was closed about 100 years ago. Also lost is any record of just who is buried out there, Mock said.
     
    Mock hired Omega Mapping Services to scan the property with ground-penetrating sonar. That revealed 84 separate graves in a field behind the golf course's No. 5 green that should be, for most normal shots, out of play.
     
    "If you skull one from the front of the green, you're going to be playing your next shot from a cemetery," Mock said, detecting the irony in his words. 
     
    "Ever since all this excitement started I've been speaking in puns without even trying. I catch myself saying 'we've unearthed this' or 'we're digging for that.' I'm not trying to do it. It's just how things are coming out."
     
    The cemetery presents no extra management duties for North Fulton superintendent Steve Kovacs, and the site will be left as is, and Mock said planting wildflowers on the site is a possibility.
     
    It was important, Mock said, for someone to speak out for the voiceless and nameless buried beneath the golf course.
     
    "Now we know exactly where this cemetery is," he said. "By preserving this area we know it will never be paved over or disturbed if the golf course is altered. If we don't mark it, it will be forgotten."
     
    Mock isn't stopping at making sure the potter's field is preserved. He wants those buried there to be remembered, too. That is why the park is undertaking the task of pouring over county documents to hopefully some day identifying  those buried there.
     
    "We have 83 more to go because we've only been able to confirm one," Mock said. "We're calling it the forgotten cemetery because no one knows who is buried here. But they are real people buried here. It's time to recognize these poor souls. They were abandoned in their lifetime.
     
    "It's going to take a lot of work on the research end, but we're going to try."
  • Tool or toy

    By John Reitman, in News,

    High-priced toy, or invaluable tool.
      Determining which phrase best describes drones for use on golf courses depends on whom you speak to.   Drones never will displace a greensmower as the most used piece of equipment on a golf course. But for some, drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, have become one of those items that make superintendents ask "how did I ever live without one of these?" For others, they are an expensive toy that at best totes a camera that takes really good photos of the property, and at worst sits in a corner collecting dust.    At the California Golf Club of San Francisco, superintendent Thomas Bastis, CGCS, figures his DJI Phantom, his second drone, paid for itself rather quickly.   He has used it to monitor all manner of agronomic issues, such as how morning shade affects putting greens. With those images, he was able to time stamp photos and present them to his greens committee. The end result was a tree-management plan that relieved shade and the stress it can cause.   "I can take a top-down photograph at 7 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2 p.m., or whenever, and have a real-time image of how shade affects our greens," Bastis said.    Drone use is limited only by a superintendent's imagination and the needs of each property. Some have used them to monitor native plant populations in hard-to-reach areas or algae blooms in ponds as well as the more obvious before- and after-restoration shots of greens, tees and bunkers. Third-party entities such as Turf Scout even can use the imagery to create, for a fee, a map of an entire golf course. It can cost more than $1,000 to get an aerial snapshot of a golf course from a helicopter or airplane flyover, for about the same cost, a superintendent can get top-down images on demand from anywhere on the golf course.   "They're definitely fun, and they are a toy," said Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS at 36-hole Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa. Tegtmeier, not the club, bought a DJI Phantom in December and outfitted it with his own GoPro camera, and is experimenting on ways he can use that combination as he prepares for the 2017 Solheim Cup.   "The cool thing is that it gives me real-time data right now," he said. "It gives me information that I didn't have access to even two years ago."   Tegtmeier hopes his drone will give him an accurate assessment of sprinkler head distribution patterns as well as traffic wear throughout the property, neither of which is easy to detect with ground-based imagery. He even plans to use his Phantom-GoPro setup to provide members with progress reports on Phase II of a four-part master plan restoration that is being led by architect Tim Liddy. Videos posted to his blog would allow members to see what is taking place during the restoration without endangering them on a construction site.   Larry Stowell of PACE Turf owns two drones, a DJI Phantom and an AR Drone, and he offers a list of safety guidelines, some of which focus on the federal government's current and pending regulations of drone use: don't sell images derived from drone use for profit; do not photograph people without their permission; do not fly over personal property without permission; do not fly much higher than treetop level; and always keep the vehicle in view.   These tips are especially poignant after a March 22 incident in which an unmanned aerial vehicle and a commercial airliner nearly collided over Tallahassee, Florida.   "Drones are currently hobby/toys, so we just have to follow the rules governing their use in that fashion. It's the same as other radio-controlled model aircraft," Stowell said. "But with the recent near-impact with an airplane, restrictions might get more intense.   "We really don't want these things flying over about 200 feet altitude. (That is) plenty high for recreational diagnostic work and hobby research at golf courses."   At Coeur d'Alene Resort in Idaho, Kevin Hicks says he's not so much concerned with using the DJI Phantom II he bought in April for monitoring agronomic issues on the golf course, but rather to help market the property to resort guests. As he becomes acclimated with the Phantom II that comes with an embedded camera already on board, Hicks envisions videos highlighting the property that can be posted on the resort's Web page.    "We have a 330-room hotel with a golf course, and I saw the drone right away as a tremendous marketing tool," Hicks said. "I have teenagers, and the only way that generation learns anything is on the Internet. Right or wrong, that is where our business is going to come from in the future.    "If we do this right and integrate video into our Web site that show a flyover of the golf course, and then there is a button that says ?book a tee time', with one click it's paid for.   "This property spends a lot of money on marketing and advertising. This is a pretty small investment, and it's just plain fun."   Hicks eventually plans to show off the resort's No. 14 island green, but only after he becomes a better drone pilot.   "Believe me, (No. 14) is the primary goal, but with 150 yards of carry over water I want to make sure I know how to fly it first. But (No. 14) is the pay back right there."   There definitely is a learning curve to drone flight, and some are easier to fly than others. The Phantom line has become popular because it's relatively inexpensive and the learning curve is not as steep as some others, or as Bastis puts it: "You can slap a battery in it and fly it."   Hicks might argue that point.   "They say it can go vertical to 1,000 feet. I took it to 250 feet and covered almost half the golf course," Hicks said. "But we did have a pretty horrific crash after that flight. We had another crash just a few days ago. It's pretty durable, I will say that for it."   Bastis operates his Phantom coupled with remote control vision glasses from Fatshark that allow him to see the view from the drone in real time. He's used it to monitor weed control and even used it at another Bay-area property to confirm to the satisfaction of a wildlife biologist that a hawk's nest in the treetops was indeed abandoned, and thus allow a tree-removal project to go on as scheduled.   "Is it a tool or a toy? I don't know, but it's on the forefront of technology," Bastis said.    "If I am looking at a green that shows stress, I can easily record that without driving out there and spend 10 minutes with the guys on what we need to do."    
  • Winter might be long over, but its effects are long lasting for northern golf courses.   As if damage caused by severe cold and ice during winter wasn't bad enough, from Chicago to Detroit to Toronto, superintendents continue to struggle as unseasonably cool conditions persist into spring making recovery a long and prolonged experience the likes of which many have never seen before.   "Personally, I've never seen anything like it," said Ed Nangle, Ph.D., director of turfgrass programs for the Chicago District Golf Association.    It's been so bad that Nangle has taken it upon himself to send letters to the memberships at Chicago-area courses on behalf of superintendents throughout the region, calling this year' a 100-year winter.   "I've talked to some long-serving superintendents around here and they said they haven't seen anything like this since 1977 or 1978," he said. "Before this year, you had to go back to 1903 to find a winter this cold, and there isn't anyone around who was here then to ask."   Temperatures in the Chicago area dipped below 0 degrees Fahrenheit on 16 days in January, including a low of minus-16 on Jan. 6. A brief thaw gave some superintendents a chance to break up ice on greens during the second week of January, Nangle said. But temperatures were back below freezing within two days. Poa annua greens under those conditions were hit hard, Nangle said.   "There was turf death then," Nangle said. "Then some superintendents broke ice in February after 42 days, and the damage was significant. There was a lot of death then, and they knew it."   Problems might have started in January when the infamous polar vortex crept into modern vernacular, bringing with it freezing temperatures that dipped southward all the way into northern Florida. But those challenges hardly ended in January. In fact, in some ways they were just beginning.   Folks in the northern suburbs of Chicago awoke May 16 to a light dusting of snow, reportedly up to a half-inch in some spots, marking the first May snow event in the area in nearly a decade. And soil temps have been slow to get to a threshold needed to sustain growth for all the bentgrass seed that has been laid since winter released its grip.   Newspaper reports in the Chicago area have reported significant damage at several courses. Even after reseeding with creeping bentgrass at several places, recovery on the metropolitan area's north side has been slow thanks to unseasonably cool spring temperatures that have delayed the process.   "The northern courses, especially those around the lake are the ones having trouble," said Ron Townsend, the CDGA's turfgrass research. "The lake really keeps everything cooler. Recovery from this winter has been a long, slow process."   Chicago isn't the only area still having problems. News accounts in Ontario tell of a 27-hole facility that is operating on 27 temporary greens.   Research shows that sustained soil temperatures of at least 55 degrees for several days are needed for bentgrass to germinate and begin growing.   Townsend said that threshold has been sustained on Chicago's south side for about a month. But temperatures on the north side are only reaching that mark now.   "We even had frost on Saturday morning (May 17). We haven't had time for bentgrass to start growing. Everyone is so far behind," Townsend said. "It looks like this week we will have some good growing temperatures, but we're not sure if they'll stay there."   Winter was so severe and the spring so cool that even ryegrass has turned up dead around Chicago, Nangle said.   "It's going to be a slow recovery," Nangle said. "We're still waiting on temperatures to pop so the bentgrass can grow. The Poa that is alive is severely stunted. It is taking its sweet time coming back."
  • "The most important job in golf." That's the label often given to golf course dogs.   Each year, superintendents list the reasons their dogs are so important in their quest to manage day-to-day golf course operations. They keep geese and other nuisance animals on the run, provide reliable companionship throughout the day and are effective at running PR interference against overzealous golfers. As one superintendent said of his dog: "My members think more of him than they do of me."    Every year since 2002, the TurfNet Superintendent's Best Friend Calendar has highlighted 14 golf course dogs for their tireless contributions to golf courses across the country and around the world. If this describes your golf course dog, then nominate your canine friend for a place in the 2015 TurfNet Superintendent's Best Friend Calendar, presented by Syngenta.   A panel of judges will select the 14 dogs for the calendar, including the cover and December 2014. Images should be taken horizontally at your camera's highest resolution setting. Also, try not to center your dog in the frame, as left or right orientation often can result in a more dramatic photograph. Nomination deadline is July 31. Each dog submitted will be included in our online gallery.
    Here are a few tips to increase the chances of your dog being selected: All dogs chosen must work or spend a significant amount of time at the golf course, photographs taken on a horizontal orientation rather than vertical work best, action photos are strongly encouraged, do not have your dog wear sunglasses or pose as if driving a motorized vehicle.   To nominate your dog, email HIGH-RESOLUTION photos to Laura Salinas (lsalinas@turnstilemediagroup.com) and be sure to include the dog's name, age and breed; photographer's name; owner's name, phone number, email address; and the name of the golf course where the owner and dog both work.   
  • More business, less agronomics. That phrase sums up in four words the changing nature of the job of a golf course superintendent. For many, however, business played a minor if non-existent role during the formal educational process.    Superintendents who are looking to expand their business knowledge can apply to attend the sixth annual Syngenta Business Institute.   Presented in partnership with Wake Forest University, the three-day event includes graduate-level business instruction from members of the MBA faculty from the Wake Forest University Schools of Business and focuses on management, budgeting and other fiscal matters, communications, delegating, negotiating and more.   "This truly is an eye-opening experience," said Matt Kregel of The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis. "Negotiating has been on of my weaknesses. The techniques we've heard about can be implemented as soon as we get home."   This year's event is scheduled for Dec. 8-11 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.   "This provides a chance to become a better professional," said Rob Williams of Stockton Golf and Country Club in California.   "The opportunity to come here and study business was an opportunity I didn't have before."   To be considered, applicants can apply online at greencastonline.com/SBI/. All applicants must include an essay on why they believe they should be selected to attend.   Application deadline is Aug. 19.
  • Since Calvin Coolidge occupied the White House, the University of Massachusetts has been pioneering turfgrass education.

    The same school that since 1927 has been operating its Turf Winter School program that provides turf managers with an intensive, seven-week education during the middle of winter is now offering a one-day turf disease-identification seminar.

    Scheduled for July 29 at the Joseph Troll Research Center in South Deerfield, Massachusetts, the Identification of Turf Damaging Diseases Workshop is a five-hour program focusing on the identification of turf disease pathogens common in the Northeast, including patch diseases, root diseases, stress diseases, dollar spot, snow molds, anthracnose, red thread and rusts.

    Led by UMass turf pathologist Geunhwa Jung, Ph.D., the program will include a lecture component as well as sessions on microscopic and field identification of common diseases. The program also will include information on IPM development and resistance management. A lecture-only option is available.

    The workshop is approved by GCSAA for education credits.

    Registration deadline is July 25.
  • The saying "less is more" never has been more true than when used to describe the new look at Pinehurst No. 2.
     
    As the finishing touches are applied to the 1907 Donald Ross gem in advance of the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open that are scheduled to be contested over successive weeks, the course will be nothing like the No. 2 on which Michael Campbell won in 2005 or the late Payne Stewart in 1999.
     
    Prior to the 2010-12 Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw restoration, there were 1,150 irrigation heads spread across No. 2. Today, there are 450, only about 70 of which are in the fairways, says Bob Farren, CGCS, director of grounds and golf course maintenance at Pinehurst Resort.
     
    "We were fully irrigated before the project," Farren said when speaking about the Open and the restoration at an educational event last year in North Carolina. "In 2009, we receive 48 inches of rain per year, we irrigated (No. 2) with 50 to 55 million gallons of water. (In 2012) we used 12 million gallons."
     
    Thanks to a treasure trove of vintage photos, the course has been rolled back to look pretty much like it did in 1936 when Denny Shute won the PGA Championship, the first of many majors to be contested on No. 2.
     
    The restoration, which Farren says redefines minimalist architecture, also meant removing a lot of turf, especially in the roughs. That 5-inch stand of turf outside the fairways that has become synonymous with U.S. Opens, is gone. Those rough areas that have confounded golfers in past Open championships have been replaced by natural sand waste areas and native plants, including thousands of individual wiregrass plants transplanted from nearby woods. Otherwise, those natural areas pretty much have been left to recover on their own.
     
    In all, about 40 acres of turf have been peeled away, along with some 30 years of changes that have taken place during Farren's career at Pinehurst that began in 1982.
     
    "The key to taking away turf was we had to take away irrigation first," Farren said. "The common link to everything we had done all went back to water.
     
    "(Coore and Crenshaw) were sensitive to my emotional attachment to it because my body of work as a professional was going away. At the same time, I bought in 100 percent that what we were doing was the right thing to do. Part of the reason (No. 2) had changed over the years was us chasing the market and providing what clients and members wanted and were used to seeing in the 1980s and '90s. Turning it back in a lot of ways was as simple as turning off the water and removing 40 acres of grass."
     
    With the help of Kevin Stallings, a Ph.D. candidate at North Carolina State University, nearly four-dozen native plant species have been recorded in those natural areas alone.
     
    "When you take away the grass, what is going to grow back?" Farren said. "There is no fertilizer, no herbicides. The only thing we planted was wiregrass. Forty-six plants recovered naturally, and the plant life changes from month to month."
     
    That list includes plants such as morning glory, cactus and portulaca.
     
    "The only plants we have a zero tolerance for are nutsedge, goosegrass and large crabgrass," Farren said. "The others, we like to watch it and see what happens.
     
    "When they're succulent, weeds like henbit have a pretty little flower on it. It's not a weed until there are too many of them, or they are too mature."
     
    Those waste areas will present a U.S. Open venue the likes of which probably have not been seen for decades.
     
    "This is going to be much different than a normal event," Farren said, pointing to the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club as an example. "At Merion, if you step 10 feet outside the rope, you have 5-inch grass and its been walked on so it's laying down. Here, if you go 10 feet outside the rope, it's going to be like a cattle crossing."
     
    This year will mark the first time the U.S. Open, scheduled for June 12-15, and U.S. Women's Open will have been played in successive weeks on the same course. Weather challenges or a 72-hole tie in the men's championship could threaten to undo years of meticulous planning.
     
    "It will either be historical, or hysterical. I'll let you know," Farren said. "I think it will be a mix of both. We are humbled the USGA has recognized our golf course as being a good test for this, and secondly, that the USGA has that much confidence in us to do this."
     
    Much of what makes events in the Carolinas sandhills run so smoothly, Farren said, is community support. With only about 30,000 people in the surrounding area, there isn't a large pool of people from which to draw for help, but the community supports such events here with vigor, to the tune of some 6,500 volunteers from throughout the area.
     
    "They have a strong golf DNA, and they are very involved in the community and give back," Farren said. 
     
    "We're in the middle of nowhere, but in the center of everything."
     
    Within days of the last putt dropping and signaling the end of the U.S. Women's Open, No. 2 will go under the knife again, this time replacing the A1/A4 bentgrass greens with Champion ultradwarf Bermudagrass.
     
    To help the Pinehurst staff prepare for Bermuda, No. 1 was regrassed with Champion in 2012 and Nos. 3 and 8 in 2013.
     
    "We're working on our game with that," Farren said. "For our business model, it's a huge step forward for us. When we have the next U.S. Open here, we'll have great greens in ultradwarf."
  • March might have finally brought the first real break from winter weather, but apparently it wasn't the early season window golfers were looking for.

    Although favorable weather conditions throughout the month gave golfers plenty of opportunity to play, they did not take advantage of those opportunities like they could have in many parts of the country, according to two industry reports.

    According to Pellucid Corp., the number of hours acceptable for playing golf, termed Golf Playable Hours, increased by 2 percent in March compared with the same month in 2013. However, rounds played were down nationwide by 4.8 percent during that time, according to Golf Datatech's National Golf Rounds Played Report.

    Golf Playable Hours is an inventory of all the daylight hours in which one could play golf factored against climatic influences, such as wind, rain, snow and severe cold.

    Rounds played were down in 32 of 49 states in the study that does not include Alaska. The biggest loser was Connecticut where play was down by 70 percent, followed by Michigan (46 percent); New Jersey (40 percent); Massachusetts and Rhode Island (35 percent); Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania (34 percent); Washington (28 percent); New Mexico (22 percent); North Dakota and South Dakota (20 percent); Oregon (16 percent); Louisiana (14 percent); Texas and Virginia (13 percent); Idaho, Montana, North Carolina and Wyoming (11 percent).
    Public access facilities took it hardest, with a 5 percent reduction in rounds play, while play was off by 3 percent at private clubs, according to the report that includes data from 3,280 courses nationwide.

    Year-to-date rounds played are down by 4.5 percent.

    There was some good news in March, however, with rounds played taking a jump in 13 states. There were no results to post from four states, so the actual news about rounds played might be worse or better than reported.

    Missouri saw the greatest increase in rounds played (58 percent). Next were Kansas (up 47 percent); Indiana and Tennessee (35 percent); Colorado (30 percent); Nebraska (22 percent); and Iowa (19 percent).
  • Welcome change

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Editor's note: This is the first in a series of occasional articles in which TurfNet catches up with Superintendent of the Year, Chad Mark of The Kirtland Country Club in Willoughby, Ohio.
     
    There is a saying that "stuff" runs down hill. But at the Kirtland Country Club, delivering irrigation water over some 90 feet of elevation changes has meant flying in the face of physics. The recent installation of a new pump house now has Kirtland back in the good graces of Sir Isaac Newton.
     
    Located in the Chagrin River valley, Kirtland's layout is enhanced by glaciers that cut through the land long before Charles Hugh Alison designed the course in 1921. To that end, about 90 feet in elevation change separate the upper 10 holes and the lower eight. Getting water to where it is needed has meant pumping water uphill. Even with the help of a booster pump, the long trek up hill has resulted in a loss of about 40 pounds of pressure.
     
    The challenges associated with maintaining pressure also has meant that superintendent Chad Mark has not always been able to run some heads when he's wanted to and at times resulting in a high-pressure shutdown.
     
    "It is a unique and flawed system," said Mark, who earlier this year was named winner of TurfNet's Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.
     
    Last year, Mark began installation of a new pump house that now sends water up the hill to an irrigation pond near Kirtland's third hole. Gravity does the rest as Mark now can get water where he needs it, when he needs it.
     
    He also is test driving new irrigation software in advance of installing a new system in 2015.
     
    The new pump house and irrigation system all are part of Kirtland's 10-year-old, board-approved master plan designed to help Mark maintain the course as closely as possible to the way Alison intended when he built it.
     
    That master plan also included a restoration led by Ron Force Design, expanding the greens back to their original contours and a tree-management project, all thanks to archival and aerial photography dating from 1929 to 1954. That plan also calls for some updating of the course, namely moving fairway bunkers to reflect enhancements made possible by changes in equipment technology.
     
    "The master plan is a blueprint for our future," Mark said. 
     
    "Our intent has been to go back (to the 1920s) as our guiding point. As a club, you either have a restoration philosophy, or a renovation philosophy. Ours is restoration. We are very much a club of tradition. Generations of families have been members here, and there is a high priority on preserving the past while looking toward the future. We have a classic design that no one wants to see modernized, other than strategic movement of bunkers to keep them in play.
  • Agrium Inc. has agreed to sell its turf and ornamental business to Koch Agronomic Services.   The deal includes assets, brands and product technologies of Calgary, Alberta-based Agrium's former Agrium Advanced Technologies business unit. That includes all rights to all of Agrium's controlled-release fertilizers, including the Polyon brand as well as production facilities in Sylacauga, Alabama, once owned by the Pursell family. The Pursell family sold its fertilizer business to Agrium in 2006.   Koch Agronomic Services, a division of Koch Fertilizers with headquarters in Wichita, Kansas, makes a full line of fertilizer products, including nitrogen stabilizer and slow-release nitrogen products for the turf and ornamental and agricultural markets.   The deal, worth $85 million, according to the Calgary Herald, is expected to close in the second quarter.
  • TurfNet picked up six awards, including five first-place honors, at this year's Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association annual Communication Awards contest.
     
    Jon Kiger, Randy Wilson and Kevin Ross, CGCS each won a first place award in the photography/video category, and John Reitman won two first place awards in the writing contest. Hector Velasquez won second place in the photography/video category.
     
    Results of the contest were announced May 8 during the association's annual meeting in New Orleans.
     
    Wilson's winning entry was for Best Use of Editorial or Opinion in Video/DVD for "October News, Tips and Emails." Kiger won for Best Instructional Video/DVD for "Aerial Reconnaissance," which documented aerial drone use by Thomas Bastis, CGCS, at The California Golf Club of San Francisco. Ross captured first place for Best Long Video/DVD for "Cart Path Renovation," and Velasquez received a merit award in the category of Best Instructional Video/DVD for "Mower Winterization."
     
    In the writing category, Reitman won first place in Writing for Web Site, Original Content with "Meet New Norm," which dealt with the changing face of the Golf Industry Show, and "Powell's Service to Turf Industry Spanned 6 Decades," which was a tribute to A.J. Powell, Ph.D., the University of Kentucky turf extension specialist who died in 2013.
     
    In its 25th year, the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association is a 200-plus member association comprising editorial, advertising and marketing professionals who work in the green industry.
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