Jump to content

From the TurfNet NewsDesk


  • John Reitman

    Slow and steady

    By John Reitman, in News,

    For most professional turf managers, the question of using irrigation water of poor quality and less of it is a matter of when, not if. Researchers at New Mexico State University recently completed a study aimed at determining whether water-saving irrigation systems coupled with supplies of poor quality water could be an acceptable method for establishing newly seeded turf areas.
     
    Although subsurface drip lines might be an effective way to conserve water, when it comes to establishing turf its hard to be an overhead sprinkler.
     
    That is the take-home message from the study completed in 2011. But all hope is not lost.
     
    According to the study, newly seeded plots of tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass generally showed more cover 30 days after establishment when watered with an overhead sprinkler than those irrigated with a subsurface capillary system.
     
    The results of the study recently were published in Agronomy Journal.
     
    Plots were seeded Sept. 28, 2009 and Oct. 28, 2010 with tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass and irrigated with saline and potable water through both delivery methods.
     
    After the first year of the study, plots irrigated with a sprinkler system showed an average of 4,000 tall fescue seedlings per square meter 30 days after seeding, while there were an average of 2,800 seedlings per square meter in areas watered with the subsurface capillary system. The delivery systems used resulted in more significant differences in coverage than the potable or saline water source.
     
    It also took the plots irrigated with the subsurface system much longer to achieve acceptable turf coverage. On average, plots watered with a sprinkler system achieved 75 percent coverage after 189 days while those areas irrigated with the subsurface system did not achieve 75 percent coverage until 268 days after seeding regardless of which water source was used.
     
    The researchers concluded that subsurface systems are adequate for establishment of cool-season turf, but turf managers should expect a slower grow-in period than if a standard sprinkler system were used. However, they also noted that further research is necessary to determine whether a subsurface system will provide acceptable turf quality over time, particularly with low-quality irrigation water.
  • An ultralight plane made an emergency landing Tuesday, January 1, on the sixth hole of the Viera East Golf Course in Rockledge, Florida, and rolling into this bunker.
    The plane took off from the Rockledge Airpark, but soon after was forced to touch down.
    According to Scott Mosher, superintendent at Viera East, there were no injuries but the bunker had to be dressed up a bit after the plane was removed.
    Photo credit: cfnews13.com.
  • Building on the success of its almost-20 year presence in the golf turf industry, TurfNet will soon launch a companion service for sports turf managers: TurfNetSports.com.  The public and members-only content areas will include news, discussion forums, educational Webinars, blogs, used equipment classifieds, job listings, resumes and video.
     
    We have always had a group of professional and collegiate sports turf managers as TurfNet members, said Peter McCormick, founder of TurfNet.  They and others in the sports turf community have told us that industry segment is hungry for sports turf-specific education, information and collaborative communication which is what we do best. We took a look at the market and saw an opportunity, so we decided to replicate our proven platform and launch TurfNetSports.com.
     
    The new service will include all the improvements of the recently-unveiled upgrade of TurfNet.com, which brought together the Forum, TurfNetTV, TurfNet University, the hugely popular TurfNet Job Board, various blogs and an enhanced user interface and administrative area in a tightly-integrated platform.
     
    TurfNetSports membership will be open to sports turf managers at all levels, from parks and recreation to secondary schools, colleges and professional stadium managers. Crossover access between the two sites will be available for TurfNet and TNSports members.
     
    The current corrective state of the golf market has been mirrored by an upswell in the growth and sophistication of sports turf, said McCormick.  Many of our advertisers have shifted new product development efforts in recent years toward sports turf, which is also an expanding career opportunity for experienced turf managers and recent graduates alike.
     
    In addition to general athletic field information and education, specific areas like baseball infields and synthetic turf will be included.
     
    The new site will launch prior to the STMA conference in mid-January.
  • Virginia GCSA clarifies fertilizer applicator licensing questions
    The Virginia Agribusiness Council has worked with the Virginia GCSA in determining whether golf courses are required to have fertilizer applicator licenses. According to the states consumer protection office: Unless the golf course is a licensee or contractor-applicator who applies fertilizer for commercial purposes or the golf course is owned by a state agency or locality, the golf course does not need to employ or retain the services of a certified fertilizer applicator.
     
    A licensee is a person who received a license to distribute fertilizer. A contractor-applicator is a person required to hold a permit because he applies certain regulated products, including fertilizer, for profit. Golf courses that do not distribute fertilizer or apply fertilizer for profit would not be required to employ or retain the services of a certified fertilizer applicator. If a golf course hires a third party to apply its fertilizer, that third party would likely be required to employ or retain the services of a certified fertilizer applicator.
      
    A golf course that is owned by a state agency or locality is required to employ or retain the services of a certified fertilizer applicator.
     
    The next Bandon coming to a course not so near you
    The golf course design firm of Fry/Straka soon will begin work on a new project that its architects believe could be akin to the next Bandon Dunes or Sand Hills. Theres one catch not only will the course be located halfway around the world in China, it will be in the remote reaches of Inner Mongolia.
     
    According to GolfCourseArchitecture.net, Batu Bay Golf Club will be part of a resort overlooking the Batu Bay reservoir, a three hour drive from the regional capital, Ordos. The golf course, along with a hotel, will be built among sand dunes above the reservoir.
     
    According to architect Dana Fry (pictured here), managed turf areas will be about 50 percent wider than that on a normal golf course because of the high winds on the site that is about 100 feet above the lakes surface.
     
    Construction of the course is scheduled to begin in May, with the opening planned for summer 2014. For those thinking of playing the layout, the closest airport is in Yulin City, about an hour's drive away.
     
    Irrigation Association offers online education, too
    The Irrigation Association recently updated online learning tools for irrigation professionals. Online education classes are back up and running, alongside new irrigation seminars, allowing certified professionals to satisfy their CEU requirements.
     
    Six online courses at four CEUs each are available.
    A series of 17 one-hour irrigation seminars videotaped at the 2011 Irrigation Show and Innovations in Education Conference for one CEU each.
     
    Online courses include:
    Agriculture Irrigation Hydraulics
    Agriculture Sprinklers and Precipitation Rates
    Landscape Irrigation Hydraulics
    Electrical Troubleshooting for Landscape Irrigation Systems
    Landscape Irrigation Precipitation Rates
    Landscape Irrigation Scheduling
     
    Lessons are hands-on and interactive, allowing students to assess their performance and move forward at their own pace.
     
    The irrigation seminar videos offer a great opportunity to add to your knowledge base while gaining CEUs. Irrigation seminars address irrigation industry best practices the underlying concepts and implementation of efficient irrigation. With nine turf/landscape and eight agriculture sessions to choose from, the new irrigation seminars offer CEU opportunities across industry segments.
  • As the host superintendent of the 2012 U.S. Open, the past year has been a whirlwind for Pat Finlen, CGCS. As the next president of the GCSAA, the next 12 months could be just as hectic.
     
    Among the items high on Finlen's priority list after he officially is named president in February at the Golf Industry Show in San Diego is the continuation of outreach to chapters by filling the last two field staff positions and advocating on behalf of the golf industry to seek new revenue streams while keeping a close eye on expenses.
     
    The financial crunch of the past five years has hit many entities hard, and the GCSAA is no exception.
     
    Since 2008, association revenue has dropped from $21 million to $15 million, and its paid staff has gone from 125 to 87.
     
    Increasing revenue, Finlen hopes, will mean increasing membership. And that will require the GCSAA to crack a market penetration rate that has historically hovered around 52-54 percent.
     
    "That's always been a challenge," Finlen said. "It's always been a challenge to move that."
     
    Part of that effort includes increasing its number of field staff representatives to nine in 2013 by filling two open positions in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. It also means advocating for the overall health of the game by meeting with legislators in Washington, D.C. Past efforts, such as National Golf Day, have been a way for members of the PGA of America, GCSAA and other entities to educate elected officials about economic issues specific to golf and the impact of decisions in Washington on the roughly 2 million people employed in golf.
     
    "We advocate for all of golf, not just the GCSAA," Finlen said. "We present a unified front, and its important that all of golf is unified.
     
    "We advocate for nonmembers too. There are issues that affect golf that come down to regional levels. There are pesticide issues, water studies. We reach out to golf courses in those areas, and we represent golf facilities everywhere, not just GCSAA members.
     
    "We know things are going to get tougher from a regulatory standpoint. Every course is painted with the same brush. But when we carry a unified message it carries more weight."
     
    Like many, Finlen is optimistic about the game's future. And that optimism is supported by data from Golf Datatech in November indicating that increases in rounds played late in 2012 could indicate record-high growth since the firm in Kissimmee, Fla., began tracking such information in 1999.
     
    "I think weve hit rock bottom," Finlen said. "A lot of courses around the country had a great spring and fall."
     
    Still, sustained growth is going to take a group effort that includes supporting efforts such as the PGA's Golf 2.0 initiative, and facilities maintaining an open mind about more forward tees to make the game easier and more enjoyable for high handicappers and unorthodox ideas such as time-saving six-hole rounds.
     
    "We have to make it fun and encourage more people to play," he said. "It doesn't have to be 18 holes. We have to get more creative in how we package golf. Then people will come out to play."
  • According to a three-year study conducted by researchers at Rutgers University, a program of lightweight rolling not only can help superintendents produce truer, firmer greens, it also can aid in reducing the incidence of anthracnose in annual bluegrass putting surfaces.
     
    Results of the three-year study, which occurred in 2006-08, were posted in mid-2012 in Agronomy Journal.
     
    The objective of the study was to determine the influence of different types of rollers and their location on the green on turf quality and anthracnose development in annual bluegrass. Previous studies have shown a wide array of results, including hampered turf quality under a program of double rolling four to seven days per week, as well as studies showing no negative impact from lightweight rolling programs.
     
    In the Rutgers study, undertaken by Bruce Clarke, Ph.D., Jim Murphy, Ph.D., and Joseph Roberts, vibratory rollers attached to a triplex mower and sidewinder rollers were used along the center and perimeter of each putting surface. The study also included an unrolled control plot.
     
    The plot was initially inoculated with anthracnose two years before the study began and sand topdressing was applied bi-weekly from May to September each year of the study. Plots were rolled every other day after mowing throughout the growing season in all three years of the study.
     
    Disease outbreak consistently was more severe in the center of the plots throughout the duration of the study, and roller type had no significant effect on increased disease severity. In fact, incidence of anthracnose often was reduced due to rolling.
     
    Contrary to some previous studies indicating that lightweight rolling could result in compaction, the Rutgers study showed no increase in soil bulk density. Only location affected soil bulk density, with perimeter plots showing an increase. So, while soil bulk density in the perimeter plots increased, the incidence of anthracnose in those areas due to rolling did not.
     
    The researchers concluded the increased compaction in the perimeter plots could be due to clean-up passes, directional changes and both vibratory and sidewinder rollers can be used to increase ball speed without promoting, and sometimes reducing anthracnose severity.
  • For professional turf managers who want their water, like Maxwell House coffee, to be good to the last drop, Toro recently launched its AquaFlow 3.2 drip irrigation software. 

    AquaFlow 3.2 allows users to design multi-sloped telescoping sub mains, can be customized for English or Spanish speaking users and measures water use in English or metric units. 

    The system also supports Toros latest Thinwall dripline system. It also has an enhanced pull-down menu, offers improved reporting options and can instantly generate color-coded block maps that show system uniformity. 

    The new system, which complements Toros 3.0 system, also offers users the ability to employ multiple sub-main and mainline pipe types and sizes and determine lateral and sub-main flushing calculations. 

    For more information, visit www.toro.com . 
  • For the past several years, there have been hints of cross-pollination among golf industry pesticide producers as they seek answers to the ever-changing demands of their customers and the pressures placed upon them from outside entities. Indeed, the quest for sustainability has resulted in a series of cooperative relationships among companies that are otherwise competitors as they come together to recognize each others strengths and how all can benefit from sharing technologies. 

    The most recent example of this philosophy brings together not two, but three of the green industrys major chemical pesticide manufacturers and includes with Spread it & Forget it controlled-release fertilizer from Agrium Advanced Technologies in combination with one of two herbicide products Barricade from Syngenta or Dimension from Dow AgroSciences . 

    Both combination products are available in a granular formulation that allows professional turf managers can fertilize up to once every six months in a program that also delivers pre-emergent control of grassy weeds such as crabgrass. 

    The Spread it & Forget it label is based on Agriums Duration CR controlled-release fertilizer technology that the company acquired when it bought Pursell Technologies in 2006. Duration features a polymer coating derived from natural plant oils, and the controlled-release technology means less chance of leaching. 

    Syngentas Barricade, with the active ingredient prodiamine, is labeled for pre-emergent control of a variety of grassy weeds including crabgrass in established turf varieties such as kikuyugrass, seashore paspalum, zoysiagrass. 

    With the active ingredient dithiopyr, Dimension is Dow AgroSciences specialty herbicide is labeled for pre-emergent and post-emergent control of crabgrass, goosegrass, spurge and Poa annua on greens, tees and fairways in a host of warm- and cool-season grasses. 

    Although such reciprocal arrangements have occurred with increasing regularity in agriculture, they are less common in the turf and ornamental industry. In 2008, BASF struck an accord with Bayer to supply the latter with the fungicide triticonazole for use in golf, sports turf, landscape and lawn care applications. While such partnerships might seem unthinkable when walking through the delineated trade show floor at GIS, they could be more common as professional turf managers continue to face new challenges brought about by changing management standards, natures self-defense mechanisms and pressure to attain sustainability. 
     
  • With questionable access to adequate supplies of water the new normal or a persistent threat for many in the golf business, being a smart water user is important for todays professional turfgrass manager.
     
    Scheduled for Jan. 24 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center at Michigan State University in East Lansing, the Rain Bird Intelligent Use of Water Summit is a half-day series of seminars for designed to help educate golf course superintendents, sports turf managers and others about efficient water use practices. 

    The interactive summit will consist of a series of three moderator-led panel discussions on water quality and turfgrass science, irrigation technology and sports turf design, and golf and the environment. Each topic will include two parts, and moderators include Kevin Frank, Ph.D., of Michigan State, Paul Roche of Rain Bird, Ken Mangum of Atlanta Athletic Club, Shawn Emerson of Desert Mountain, Ali Harivandi, Ph.D., of the University of California Cooperative Extension, Stacy Bonos, Ph.D., of Rutgers University, Mitchell Langley of MDL Consulting and Mike Boekholder of the Philadelphia Phillies. 

    The event also will include a keynote address by Charles Fishman, author of The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water (Free Press, 2012). 

    Click here to register.
  • Although most products that will be on display at the upcoming Golf Industry Show either in a booth or a catalog have been subjected to rigorous independent testing long before they made their way to market, its important for superintendents to make sure these products work on their respective properties before adopting them wholesale. 

    Thats the advice of USGA Green Section regional agronomist Todd Lowe in the most recent edition of the Green Section Record. (Click here to read the full text.) 

    Chemical products typically undergo years of university testing to ensure safety and efficacy under a variety of conditions, there are many products that promise not to harm turf while improving its health, vigor and appearance, such as bio-stimulants, soil microbes and other amendments that are not required to go through similar testing, Lowe wrote. 

    Lowe and his colleagues at the Green Section recommend that superintendents establish on-site test plots to make sure any new product that is to be applied to golf course turf works as promised and does not harm the turf or pose a threat to those who apply them or those who play on them. With budgets under increasing scrutiny it is important that turf managers spend dollars only on products that work as advertised 

    Nursery greens are ideal for studying products, Lowe wrote.. If the product is for tees, fairways, or roughs, then an out-of-sight location on the practice area or driving range might be suitable. It is imperative to include untreated check plots by covering an area of turf during application. This can be as easy as laying down a sheet of plywood on the turf prior to application. Make sure to mark the corners of the untreated area with turf paint so that treatment effects can be evaluated. 

    Be aware that some products contain fertilizer, and make sure that the transient improvement is not simply a reaction to additional nitrogen. Evaluate the color, but also turf density and rooting as well. 

    PHOTO BY TRAVIS MOORE, CLUB AT SONTERRA VIA USGA GREEN SECTION 
  • James Watson, Ph.D., a former agronomist with The Toro Co., will receive the Don A. Rossi Award from the Golf Course Builders Association. 

    Watson began his four-decade career with The Toro Company in 1952 as director of agronomy. He continued on as a vice president of customer relations, serving as an advisor for both the company and the turf industry. 
     
    In his 46 years with Toro, Watson pioneered important turf and water management research and was often called upon for advice and counsel by many of the worlds leading golf courses, parks and sports facilities. He was also influential in Toros entry into the commercial and residential irrigation business, constantly promoting conservation and more efficient use of water resources. With Toro, he led a team of 25 researchers, conducting studies on a variety of grasses and soils to ensure best management practices in fertilization and water usage, as well as approaches for controlling unwanted grasses, turf diseases and pests. 

    Since his retirement from Toro in 1998, Toros research grounds have been designated as the Dr. James R. Watson Research and Development Proving Grounds. During his career, he also participated on a number of prestigious turf and water management boards, organizations and research efforts. Watson was the inspiration behind Toros cutting-edge turf and water management agronomic research, and development of the companys Center for Advanced Turf Technology. 

    The Rossi award is given by the GCBAA to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to the game of golf and its growth and who have inspired others by example. It is named for the former GCBAA executive director Don A. Rossi, who also served as executive director of the National Golf Foundation from 1970 to 1983 and was instrumental in forming the National Golf Course Owners Association. 

    Watson will receive the award Feb. 5, at the Golf Industry Show in San Diego. 
     
  • Bucking the trend

    By John Reitman, in News,

    For superintendents managing cool-season grass, seeking advice from university researchers on the best ways to treat for or prevent anthracnose often has been like a trip to the doctor: "Take a dose of a fungicide, put it into a rotational program and call me in the morning." 

    Not one to shy away from challenging the status quo, Michigan State University turfgrass pathologist Joe Vargas, Ph.D., says that implementing a rotational program for diseases such as anthracnose are exactly what you shouldnt do. 

    "I hope before I die, because it won't happen before I retire, that I never hear another person stand up and say don't forget to practice resistance management by rotating chemistries," Vargas said during the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Conference and Show earlier this month in Columbus. 

    According to Vargas, a fungus eventually will become resistant to whatever is being applied to it for control. If that treatment is a rotation of multiple chemistries, once the fungus becomes resistant to one product it becomes resistant to everything else in that program even if those fungicides represent separate classes of chemistry. Contrary to some information available in the field today, Vargas said turfgrass managers will get control for an extended period of time if they use just one fungicide at a time.
     
    "If you rotate chemistries, the fungus will become resistant to everything you put in that rotation. It's called population pressure. What survives depends on the pressure put on the population," Vargas said. 

    "You're far better off using one until it doesn't work any more and then switching to the next until it doesn't work any more and then the next one. You will increase the life expectancy of all of those chemicals."

    He is referring mostly to chemistries such as QOI-inhibitors, thiophanate-methyl and DMI fungicides. Diseases like anthracnose already have developed varying levels of resistance to those chemistries depending on location. 
     
    "If it was me, and it wasn't too late," he said of the chemistries thiophanate-methyl and azoxystrobin, "I would choose a fungicide and use it, use it and use it until it doesn't work any more. Then I would go to the other one until it doesn't work any more. If you put them into a rotation, the fungus quickly will be resistant to both, because the survival of the population depends on the pressure you put on that population." 

    Although Vargas discussed chemical alternatives for preventive and curative control of troublesome summer diseases such as anthracnose, brown patch and take-all patch, he also offered options that relied on cultural practices alone or in concert with a fertility program. 

    Those diseases, said Vargas, often lie in virtual dormancy waiting for the opportune moment to pop. Often, the trigger is saturated turf when soil temperatures are high in July and August. 

    Periods of deep, infrequent irrigation coupled with regular fertility can help prevent summer patch on annual bluegrass, take-all patch in bentgrass and anthracnose, which affects annual bluegrass in northern climates and bentgrass in the South. 

    "You can't do much about the rain, but (when its not raining) you can avoid saturated soil with deep, infrequent irrigation program," he said. "You'll have a lot less summer patch and take-all patch."

    Summer patch is an effective biological control for annual bluegrass, but is not one Vargas recommends for those for whom job security is important.
    Summer diseases in cool-season turf often go misdiagnosed and improperly treated by turfgrass managers, Vargas said. He urges superintendents, when submitting soil samples for analysis, to include a digital image of the damage at the surface. Often times, he said, a turfgrass manager will treat for what he believes is one of summers major turf disease threats while awaiting results of a soil test only to have the problem officially diagnosed as something else, such as nematode damage or the result of poor drainage. 

    "Take a picture of the damage with a digital camera and submit that with the sample so we know what it looks like," he said. 

    Several research projects, Vargas said, show that a regular nutrition program that includes monthly feedings, regular topdressing (to the point where the crown is covered in sand) and frugal water use can effectively curb anthracnose and other summer diseases. Foliar fertilizers used in combination with chlorothalonil also have been effective, he said. 

    Vargas cited research by Bruce Clarke, Ph.D., of Rutgers University that showed that use of plant growth regulators also can help reduce the potential for anthracnose. 

    Summer patch is an effective biological control for annual bluegrass, but is not one Vargas recommends for those for whom job security is important. 

    "If you can get enough of these patches on your greens," he said, "the superintendent who replaces you will have nice, creeping bentgrass greens."
     
  • The International Golf Course Equipment Managers Association is accepting nominations for its Edwin Budding Award . 

    Sponsored by Ransomes-Jacobsen, the award recognizes golf course equipment managers who have made significant contributions to the golf course equipment industry and who have dedicated themselves to improving the industry and their facilities. The award is named for Edwin Budding who invented the reel mower in 1832, as well as the adjustable spanner/crescent wrench. 

    The Award Committee is made up of industry leaders and a member of the IGCEMA. Once nominations are sent in they will be submitted to the committee for review. We would encourage those who wish to nominate someone for this award to be very detailed in describing why you feel this individual should receive this award and what measurable attributes set this individual apart from their colleagues. 

    Click here to nominate a tech for the award. Deadline for nominations is Dec. 31. 

    In other association news, the IGCEMA has named founder Stephen Tucker as its chief executive officer. This will be the second stint as CEO for Tucker, the golf course equipment manager at TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas, who founded the association seven years ago. Since then, Tucker has been the driving force behind an educational certificate program that allows equipment managers to test on and earn certificates in six disciplines. 
     
  • Set yourself apart

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Being thought of as a number is not an enviable position, but its a reality in todays economy. That is especially true for golf course superintendents, says Tim Moraghan. 

    Moraghan, the former superintendent and USGA Green Section agronomist-turned turf industry consultant, told an audience at this years Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Conference and Show, said greenkeepers today should be focused on how stay relevant in an industry where the mantra appears to be out with the old, in with the new. 

    Remember, people dont care about you personally, Moraghan said. Because of the economy, to your members you are a number. You dont want to be a number that is erased.
     
    That is especially critical in the current market that has seen a net loss of more than 300 golf courses and 4 million golfers in the past six-plus years. In his talk, entitled Where Do We Go From Here? Moraghan said there are many resources readily available to help prevent superintendents from becoming a statistic. 

    Every time a golf course closes, that puts somebody out of work, he said. You have to be aware of economics. 

    These are not fun numbers. We, as golf course superintendents always walk around with our heads down (looking at the grass). You need to look up and pay attention to whats going on. 

    Moraghans sobering message was one of many educational seminars at this years OTF show held Dec. 4-6 in Columbus. Other highlights from the annual event included three days of educational seminars by university researchers and industry experts and a two-day trade show that culminated with a keynote address by former Ohio State and NFL player Chris Spielman. His discussion, Living With a Passion, reflected Spielmans own personal journey of self discovery spurred by injuries on the football field and wife Stefanies 12-year battle with breast cancer. 

    Throughout the duration of his wifes fight against cancer and since her death in 2009, Spielman has been an advocate for cancer research, early detection and being passionate about lifes endeavors. 

    Together, the Spielmans founded the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research, which to date has raised more than $10 million. 

    We all have challenges, Spielman said. It doesnt have to be about cancer. It can be about how you do your job. 
     
    That philosophy reinforced Moraghans message as well. Moraghan cited a GCSAA study revealing that conditions are the most critical component in whether a player enjoys a round of golf. Still, with market competition fierce, superintendents must continue to separate themselves from the field to stay employed, he said. 

    The superintendent is the most valuable player in the golf arena. You are responsible for conditioning, Moraghan said. 

    Attitude is everything. You still have to show people that you want to be there. Make yourself the center of the operation. Get involved in everything and make it where everybody comes to you. 

    Get your self in a position where you cant be caught (off guard. Take nothing for granted. 

    Some of the tips Moraghan offered include: 
    becoming involved in as many other aspects of the overall golf operation as possible;  having your resume ready;  being committed to ongoing education;  embracing technology;  taking an honest inventory of strengths and weaknesses.  Becoming indispensable means being an expert and sharing information with golfers about agronomic and cultural practices, what they accomplish and why they are necessary. 

    It also means at times looking at all aspects of the golf course operation from a customers point of view. That can be critical as clubs struggle to retain existing members and attract new ones. What might seem like a small thing to a superintendent could be a big thing to someone else. 

    Try to do something every day to see the golf course in a different way, he said. Members see things differently. We look down; they see 360 degrees. Come in thinking like a member occasionally. Look at the condition of everything. See what needs to be fixed and fix it before they say fix it.
     
    According to Moraghan, a majority of superintendents do not take advantage of the many technological advancements available that can make a greenkeepers job easier, particularly mobile apps, social media and blogs. 

    As a consultant, Moraghan hears many objections from superintendents from sharing information online with members, many of which center around golfers picking up just information to be dangerous at least dangerous to the long-term career goals of superintendents. 

    And while that much might be true, ignoring technology is akin to burying ones head in the sand, he said. 

    Technology gives members tools to embrace and know more about what youre doing. Use it to improve your efficiency, he said. As a whole, our industry is 10 years behind the curve. Thats not good. We need to be 10 years ahead of the curve. 

    Being successful also means being realistic. And the reality of golf is that more courses are closing annually 340 net losses since 2006 according to the National Golf Foundation and industry experts expect that trend to continue for several more years until the industry strikes a balance between supply and demand. That means have your resume ready, and the trend today is short and to the point, said Moraghan, who also is an employment consultant for superintendents and golf clubs. 

    Are you ready for these downward trends? Do you have your resume up to date? he asked the audience. 

    Being a great superintendent today is not enough, he said. We are in a business where we get hired to get fired. Were like coaches. Do we get the buyouts that coaches do? Not likely. A lot of times, were lucky if we get six weeks and a kick in the ass as we get shown the door.
  • Good news often is a matter of perspective.
     
    As industry analysts throw around terms like market correction to rationalize the shrinking supply of golf courses nationwide, there still are some who prefer to think that the game would benefit from more players, not fewer properties.
     
    "We dont have too many courses; we need more golfers," said golf course architect Michael Hurdzan, Ph.D. "When a golf course closes weve lost an opportunity to bring someone new into the game. Weve lost a chance to reach out and touch someone."
     
    While Hurdzan's call to introduce more players to the game rather than cede more golf course acreage to the plow might seem like an obvious philosophy. But the fact is while the golf market is self correcting or at least while industry insiders continue to look for ways to promote the game to new and existing players, golf course architects are, to put it simply, taking it in the shorts. Operations that once boasted of plenty of work and staff members to handle the flurry of activity have been reduced to shells of their former selves. According to the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the number of practicing golf course designers is down 10 percent to 15 percent over the past 10 or so years to about 180 members (ASGCA estimates there could be another 200 or so designers who are non-members) as new course construction projects have all but dried up and the competition for restoration projects intensifies.
     
    "I'd say, 60 to 70 percent of the people who once worked in this industry are gone," said architect John Fought. "The architects might be there, but the support staff is gone and business now might be down to one or two people and is being run out of the house instead of an office."
     
    For example, the firm of Hurdzan Fry Environmental Golf Design has produced some of the world's most highly acclaimed minimalist properties, including Erin Hills in Wisconsin, which has been tapped as the site of the 2017 U.S. Open. Earlier this year, however, the team split off into two factions Hurdzan Design and Fry/Straka Global Golf Course Design. Hurdzan, who expressed little interest in the commitment necessary to build a brand overseas, said he will focus on domestic restoration projects, while the team of Dana Fry and Jason Straka will concentrate on foreign construction projects. Still, much of the decision to split the company was due to economics, Hurdzan said. The two companies will work together on some projects, but the difference now is each picks up his own end of the business expenses.
     
    Hurdzan Fry once employed a staff of 10 and spent $120,000 annually in healthcare costs alone. That model was unsustainable in the current economy. Eliminating nearly all of those expenses has been a necessity for many if not all architectural firms.
     
    "These decisions are now being driven by taxes and healthcare costs," Hurdzan said. "It's causing us to cut back. We can do less work and survive doing it at a lower number. There are people in this business living on credit cards and retirement funds just to save face and continue to operate in the business.
     
    "Right now is not a good time to be a golf course architect."
     
    Prior to 2006, golf courses openings outpaced closures every year since the end of World War II. Since 2006, however, a total of 442 courses have been built while 782 have been shuttered for a net loss of 340 18-hole equivalents. The number of new course openings has declined each year, from 119.5 in 2006 to 30 last year. Although the official numbers for 2012 wont be released until some time next year, some architects have said the anticipated number of 18-hole equivalents opening this year could be 10 or fewer.
     
    So, while the chances of landing a new construction gig are practically nil, the competition for restoration projects intensifies. To make matters worse, the stagnant economy coupled with increased competition for work means that the fees generated by restoration projects is a fraction of what it was 10 years ago.
     
    Fought says any golf course designer worth his salt will charge a fee that is about 10 percent of the cost of construction. Some, however, will do the work for less and some will try to get more, and then there are those, he says, who will almost give away their services just to get some work.
     
    Fought is a fan of classic-era, minimalist architecture. However, he says architects can only go so low before the integrity of the golf course suffers. Then everyone involved, architect, owner, superintendent, club pro and customer, loses.
     
    "We love to build player-friendly golf courses with aesthetic value, but if you build one too player friendly, then you might drive away all of your customers," Fought said. "Building a golf course is a lot like buying a car. There are certain things youre always going to want. When you buy a car, you still want electric windows. You just want to pay as little as possible for them. So, do you want a super expensive course that is too long and too hard with 20-foot deep bunkers that you cant afford to maintain, or do you want classic architecture with few bunkers, but that is still strategic and fun to play?"
     
    Architects are meeting these economic challenges in different ways. Some focus entirely on restoration projects or have drilled down to even more specific niche areas, such as focusing on sustainable design, restoring properties that are being prepped for resale, or shifting the bulk of their operations to a more lucrative Asian market. But even the latter has its drawbacks as the government in Beijing has put a halt on new course construction amid growing concerns over the environmental impact of building too many courses too quickly.
     
    While Hurdzan and the team of Fry and Straka will partner on some projects, they will do so as separate entities. Rather than employ 10 people, Hurdzan now has a staff of three that includes himself and son, Chris.
     
    Jim Engh, whose resume includes The Club at Black Rock in Coeur DAlene, Idaho, is focusing much of his attention on what, for some, has been a lucrative overseas market. He also already has the experience needed at working with people from other cultures that Hurdzan and others say is invaluable when tapping into those markets.
     
    The Jim Engh Design Web site has links for information in Spanish and Chinese, and his inaugural design project was Dragon Hills Club in Thailand. But even the Asian market is tightening thanks to a halt on new construction in China and increased competition as other architects head overseas to escape the U.S. golf economy.
     
    "It takes a long time to nurture those relationships. You dont walk in and get a deal," Engh said. "And you dont walk in with a contract in your hand, you go in with a gift."
     
    Some architects also fear that architects from the West might be deemed obsolete when Chinese, South Korean or Vietnamese nationals aspiring to a career in golf course design learn enough to do the work themselves.
     
    Like Hurdzan, Fought, whose resume includes Pumpkin Ridge in Cornelius, Ore. (which he designed with Bob Cupp in 1991) and a restoration of Pine Needles in Southern Pines, N.C., has shunned the foreign markets. He once focused about half of his efforts on restoration projects. Now, renovations are his firms lifeblood because there are so many uncertainties when working in foreign countries, he said.
     
    "I love designing golf courses. Its the best job in the world," he said. "But I dont want to live in the Far East. Thats not why I got into this.
     
    "Foreign entities, its just so hard to figure out. You dont work with contracts. Its just not what I want to do."
     
    Nowadays, he focuses not only on restoring golf courses, but making them more manageable for superintendents and their budgets. That can be accomplished through a variety of methods, Fought said, including wider landing areas, maintenance friendly bunkers and rebuilding areas with poor drainage.
     
    "By rebuilding, you can actually help a golf course save money," Fought said. "The superintendent spends less time and resources repairing areas than he did before. That is what the market is telling us to do."
     
    He cited an example of a recent restoration in which he replaced steep-faced bunkers with hazards more in line with what the original designer had in mind when he built the course during the classic era.
     
    "Now, when they have a major rainstorm, a couple of guys can have all the bunkers fixed in a couple of hours," Fought said. "Before, it would take the whole crew a couple of days to fix them. Then they couldnt mow, or do other things. Just by rebuilding the bunkers it changed the whole dynamic of the golf course, and the superintendent is spending maintenance dollars on the right things instead of spending time and money on things that wouldnt go away."
     
    Steve Smyers, whose design in Zionsville, Ind., Wolf Run Golf Club, is No. 62 on Golfweek's Best list of Top 100 Modern golf courses, has found an even more specialized niche in preparing financially distressed properties for sale. While devoted to the restoration of financially stable properties, reworking those that are troubled is an admirable feat that is bent on keeping them as golf courses rather than strip malls.
     
    "None of us are as busy as we'd like to be," Smyers said. "Golf course architects are the first to feel the downturn in the economy, and were the first to feel the upswing."
     
    When the upswing will occur, if ever, is anyone's guess. But many architects agree that for them at least, that rebound in the United States anyway isnt coming any time soon.
     
    "In the U.S., until building housing en masse starts again I don't see a lot happening for a while," Engh said. "Were fully committed to Asia at this point."
     
    Recently, Golf Datatech, a Florida-based firm that tracks business trends in golf, indicated that rounds played through September 2012 had increased at what could be a record pace, at least a record pace since Datatech began tracking such figures 13 years ago. Much of the increase in rounds played is attributed to weather anomalies throughout much of 2012 that resulted in virtually an absence of winter conditions and prolonged warmth throughout the fall in much of the country. Severely discounted green fees havent hurt either.
     
    Hurdzan told of a golf course that opened six years ago with $90 green fees, and now charges $29, which includes range balls, lunch and two cups of beer. When revenue falls, it often is the superintendent's budget where further cuts are made.
     
    "There is no way in hell you can make it in that market," Hurdzan said. "I dont care how many rounds you run through it, youre going to wear out the golf course.
     
    "I think its too easy to say this is just a correction of the market. I attend a number of annual summits. At one, I was at a board meeting and I asked how many people around this table have paid for a round of golf in three years. No one raised their hand. Its funny, but I think some of the people who are decision makers in this industry are out of touch."
     
    There are some who believe that an increasing number of people who believe golf is just too difficult, too expensive and takes too long to play.
     
    "The game has to change fundamentally," Hurdzan added. "People wont spend five or six hours for a round of golf. I think change is going to be slow, but we have to reinvent some of these golf courses. We need to stimulate interest in the game. I dont have the answers, but if we get creative people in this industry to think about it, well find an answer."
     
    Smyers, on the other hand, believes advancements in technology have made the game easier than ever. He also recognizes that it might take some radical thinking to get more people into the game and get existing golfers to play more so he and other architects can get busy again.
     
    "I'm not one to fall down on the side that it takes too long or is too hard," Smyers said. "Its probably easier now to play than ever. We used to play with rickety golf balls and persimmon drivers hit off dirt for a tee. And fairways were mowed once or twice a week at an inch. Now, then it was extremely hard to get around a golf course. But, whatever we can do to make the game more enticing, the better we all will be."
     
    Engh believes some compromises will have to be made if the U.S. golf course construction and restoration market is going to rebound.
     
    "The big money is not there. There is a niche out there to build golf courses that win awards and to do it on budgets that are exponentially less than what they once were," Engh said. "But construction budgets will have to come down even more, and so will some expectations. That might mean no cart paths, but then you wear out spots on the fairways. The maintenance budgets to maintain courses the way owners want them built just is not there. We can still build good golf courses, but were going to have to cut out on some of the niceties and cut back on the maintenance. If golf does have a future, I think that's it."
×
×
  • Create New...