Jump to content

From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Imagine being under the threat of flooding and drought — at the same time.
    Such a paradox sounds impossible, right? Well, welcome to California, where, when it comes to water, seemingly anything is possible.
    After three years of drought, California faced a barrage of atmospheric river storms throughout the winter that have left reservoirs filled and the Sierra Nevada range covered in snow that is more than 200 percent of the historic average. 
    About six of every 10 Californians and many of the state's golf courses get water from the State Water Project, a 700-mile system of canals, aqueducts and pipelines that convey water from 34 reservoirs to more than 25 million users statewide. Three months of constant rain and snow have left many of the state's reservoirs filled, and melting snowpack in the higher elevations brings with it the promise of flooding in towns and cities below. All the while, history says the country's most populous state is a mere step away from yet another period of prolonged drought.
    "The State Water Project is at 100 percent capacity for the first time in many years," said Craig Kessler, director of governmental affairs for the Southern California Golf Association. "The Sierra Nevada snowpack is at more than 100 percent. We are under a flood watch and a drought watch at the same time."
    In early December, nearly half of California was in extreme drought or worse. By late March, none of California was under such status, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
    Although California's seemingly all-or-nothing affair with water has provided golf courses with temporary relief from a shortage of irrigation water, the industry cannot afford to let down its guard now, according to Kessler.
    "Superintendents have done a lot to save water in California," Kessler said. "And I think they will continue to do that.
    "My sense is that we will continue to move forward on all fronts to continue to reduce our water footprint."

    Superintendents across California have been wise water users for years, a trend that will have to continue into the future, despite the rain and snow that fell there through the winter. SCGA photo Other sources of water in California include groundwater and the much-maligned Colorado River that provides potable water to parts of six other states besides California. The past three months of rain and snow have had little impact on the Colorado, while helping partially replenish some, but not all, aquifers. One such underground water source that remains in peril is the Central Valley aquifer that has been ravaged by the country's largest and most fertile agricultural area.
    "It depends on where you are," Kessler said. "Where I live (in Southern California) is in the desert, but the aquifer is in replenishment. In other areas, most notably the Central Valley has been way overdrafted and one year of rain is not going to do a lot to replenish that."
    Another year of drought would have spelled doom for many golf courses in California, Kessler said, and would have seriously impacted this year's U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club.
    "If the drought had gone into a fourth year, I know the U.S. Open would have been irrigation on greens and tees only," Kessler said. "No exceptions."
    Drought has been a common occurrence in California during the past few decades. Prior to the most recent three-year dry spell, the state also was under drought from 2014 to 2016, which resulted in mandated water-use restrictions for users across California from Oregon to Mexico, including golf courses.
    Many superintendents already had begun conserving water long before then-Gov. Jerry Brown told them to. The current relief coupled with the impending unknown presents yet another opportunity for the state's golf industry to be leaders in stewardship.
    "Over the years, golf has been slow to change. When it came to recycled water, at first they didn't want it. Now, they're desperate for it," Kessler said. "Since then, golf has accomplished a lot of things to be proud of while reducing our water footprint over the last quarter-century, and I think we will continue to do that.
    "What happens after this year remains to be seen. This is not a do-good or a feel-good story. This is about survival."
  • The USGA says it will invest $30 million during the next 15 years to help golf courses save water. USGA image The U.S. Golf Association is accelerating its work toward a more sustainable game with the deployment of a multi-year, multi-million-dollar investment toward reducing golf's use of water.
    The organization's $30 million commitment over the next 15 years will advance underutilized strategies and technologies that golf courses can use to economically reduce their use of water, a vital and increasingly regulated natural resource with near- and long-term cost and availability concerns. The work will focus on irrigation optimization, advanced conservation innovation and water sourcing and storage.
    "The long-term economic and environmental sustainability of green-grass golf courses – where more than 25 million people enjoy the game and millions more are employed – will be challenged in certain regions if the game doesn't advance this critical work now," said Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA, in a news release. "We are enthused and impressed by the reductions golf course superintendents have pursued over the past decade, and even more optimistic about the future. The USGA is ready to not only contribute our voice, but also our resources and expertise, to help our golf course partners and ensure golf's future."
    The effort will integrate the longstanding industry leadership of the USGA Green Section – composed of agronomists and turfgrass experts – with university researchers, golf course owners, superintendents, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), regional golf associations, architects, industry partners and water agencies.
    Over the next 15 years, the USGA, along with industry allies and practitioners, will:
    > Launch and continuously update a water-resilience playbook for the game of golf.
    > Demonstrate underutilized and emerging, research-based practices.
    > Understand and break down barriers to adoption of proven strategies (including financial barriers).
    > Continue to support water resilience research and turfgrass breeding programs.
    The work toward greater water resilience propels many of the current and emerging practices employed throughout golf, which have already contributed to a 29-percent reduction in golf's use of water from 2005-2020 (Golf Course Environmental Profile, GCSAA, 2022). The USGA's initiative will build on that benchmark, with the goal of more widespread adoption nationwide.
    "The move toward greater water resilience requires everyone in golf to actively participate and bring their best efforts forward, with golf courses utilizing the assets available to them within their geographic region," said Matt Pringle, Ph.D., managing director of the USGA Green Section. "Importantly, this is not about mandates, but an important call to action to the golf industry to work together towards a common goal."
    The proactive planning process is being led by Cole Thompson, Ph.D., who leads the USGA's Davis Grant Program via annual research grants, and Matteo Serena, Ph.D., a leading expert in water conservation in the Southwest who joined the USGA last summer.
    The USGA is partnering with golf courses on numerous field projects that are designed to show where and when the water conservation potential of a strategy outweighs the investment and disruption required for implementation. For example, research supports that drought-tolerant grasses use approximately 20 percent less water than commonly used varieties, depending on location and grassing scheme, and installing them typically pays off in five to 10 years.
    With a goal of identifying early adopters, the USGA will continue to collaborate in a series of water summits in several states (three have already been held in California) along with its Allied Golf Associations, as it seeks to draw the best talent and innovations toward the program's goals.
    The organization will also work together with golf courses on sharing best practices and innovations that could be more widely adopted to advance program goals.
    — USGA
  • For superintendents seeking to maximize irrigation efficiency, Rain Bird Golf has introduced its new 952 series rotors. With Rapid-Adjust and MemoryArc technology, the 952 rotors can be set at a full-circle 360 degrees, or part-circle arcs from 30 degrees to 345 degrees with the turn of a screw.
    "Combining full-circle and part-circle capability results in less maintenance, more versatility and ease of use – all in one rotor," Jeff Lawson, Rain Bird Golf's marketing manager, said in a news release.

    Rain Bird has integrated multiple design improvements into the 952 series, including improved distribution uniformity, reduced dwell time and a crisp edge performance to help maximize playing conditions and turf health. 
    Simplicity is built into the 952 rotors with a self-adjusting stator and a single nozzle. Consistent rotation speeds maximize performance, while the rotors' wide range of throw provides greater installation flexibility with fewer parts to stock. Because the 952's internals are designed with Rain Bird's Timeless Compatibility, these rotors are a no-hassle, no-dig upgrade for courses where Rain Bird's 900/950 series rotors already are installed.
    "The improvements we've made to the 952 Series also maximize the potential of Rain Bird's new CirrusPRO central control system," Lawson said. 
    The 952 series includes three models, including an IC version compatible with the Rain Bird IC system which connects irrigation central control directly to every rotor and valve for optimal water and energy efficiency. Electric and Stopamatic models also are available. All 952 rotors are top serviceable with a snap-cover design that allows for quick access to internal components.
  • This screen grab from televised Masters coverage shows the moment patrons scattered after trees fell near the 16th hole Saturday. One of the more spectacular scenes during this year's Masters Tournament occurred during second round play on Saturday when three large trees fell near the 16th hole.
    What was just as miraculous, and at the same time not surprising, was the way in which the crew at Augusta National cleaned up the site, removing any hint of the trees' existence. 
    Miraculously no one was injured as patrons in the area heeded the warning signs and ran for cover when they heard the cracking seconds before the tall loblolly pines came crashing to the ground. 
    Some might wonder how such a thing could happen at a place like Augusta, where every blade of grass is always in place. After all, don't golf courses manage trees and keep an inventory of those that are failing and unhealthy and have to come down? Nearly 3 inches of rain in a 24-hour period and high winds combined to create an ideal environment, making it unlikely that any tree-management plan could have forewarned such an occurrence.
    "When high winds and that much rain converge, there is not a tree healthy enough to withstand that," said Anthony Williams, CGCS at Las Colinas Resort in Irving, Texas, and a certified arborist.
    "Loblolly pines that tall are probably 40 to 50 years old, and they are not heavily rooted anyway. When you have soaking rains and heavy wind, they are going to fail."
    Although it is likely that what occurred at Augusta was unavoidable, the event itself and the way Brad Owen's crew sprang into action to remove the timber before Sunday morning illustrates the need for not just a tree-management program, but contingency plans in the event of unexpected disasters.

    Alan FitzGerald's plan for removing trees that are unhealthy or affect play on the golf course can number from just a few to several dozen, depending on the year. Photo courtesy of Alan FitzGerald "We clean up dying trees or those that are showing signs of stress every year," said Alan FitzGerald of LedgeRock Golf Club in Mohnton, Pennsylvania. "Some years, that's two or three trees. Some years, it's 30, or 40, or 50.
    "We always monitor the trees for stress. We look for the ones that are leafing out, the ones that lose leaves early and we look at what they look like in mid-summer. The ones showing signs of stress we mark for removal in the fall."
    Although some trees are removed for safety reasons, others are taken out because they affect how the golf course plays.
    FitzGerald also brings in an arborist each year to help with some of the more difficult jobs.
    "We took out 60 trees," he said. "And there were another 12 we couldn't manage on our own."
    At Las Colinas, the happenings in Georgia sparked a conversation between Williams and the green committee.
    "We took advantage of it to have a discussion of what a similar situation might look like here, and what would we do to avoid it," Williams said. 
    "What amazed me was the army of people with chainsaws who took care of that. That someone even thought of that and had that many chainsaws ready and chains sharpened. Whoever hit the Seal Team 6 button and said go, putting all that into motion … Augusta has a lot more resources than everyone else. Brad and his crew also have a lot of contingencies in place, and you just saw one of them."
  • Lawmakers in Oregon are proposing converting golf courses like Pumpkin Ridge (above) for industrial use. Pumpkin Ridge photo Pumpkin Ridge has been the site of several championship events. If some lawmakers in Oregon have their way, the 36-hole club outside Portland might never see another one.
    A host site of the U.S. Junior Amateur, U.S. Amateur, and a stop on the Korn Ferry, LPGA and LIV tours, 350-acre Pumpkin Ridge has been tossed around in Salem as a potential site of semiconductor factory. The same fate has been discussed for the Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club in nearby Aloha.
    Both locations are near the town of Hillsboro, which is the home of numerous semiconductor manufacturers and suppliers.
    The proposal is in response to Senate Bill 4, which gives Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek authority to designate farmland for industrial development.
    "Farmland has inadequate protections in the bill," legislators wrote. "Large, open fields in the Willamette Valley are not purposeless. These fields are feeding our families, Oregonians, and the world. A member-only golf course does not."
    Both golf courses are privately owned, and neither owner has expressed any interest in selling, according to the Oregonian, a Portland-based newspaper.
    SB 4 provides $190 million in grants and loans for chipmakers and their suppliers, $10 million for academic research and another $10 million for industrial development. It also gives the governor power through next year to designate hundreds of acres of rural land for industrial development.
  • Superintendents managing cool-season grasses have a new tool in their arsenal for post-emergent weed control.
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has expanded the label for Syngenta's Manuscript herbicide to include use on cool-season turf.
    Previously labeled for use on Bermudagrass and zoysiagrass and golf courses, sports fields and sod farms since it hit the market in 2018, Manuscript now is also approved for control of post-emergent weeds on fine fescue and Poa annua.
    With the active ingredient pinoxaden and formulated with a surfactant to maximize efficacy, Manuscript is labeled for control of a host of post-emergent weeds, including bahiagrass, dallisgrass, coastal sandbur, large crabgrass, smooth crabgrass, tropical signalgrass, tropical carpetgrass, kikuyugrass, paspalum, ryegrass and torpedograss.
    Manuscript can be used anytime weeds are actively growing, including in the heat of the summer when desired turfgrass is actively growing and fills in more rapidly.
    Manuscript is formulated with a built-in safener that speeds the metabolism of pinoxaden in desirable turf to help improve turf safety without sacrificing control of mature, difficult-to-control weeds. This allows for effective spot treatments, further improving selectivity against tough weeds.
    Manuscript is packaged with Adigor surfactant from Syngenta, which is custom-built for use with the herbicide and maximizes the quantity and rate of absorption of pinoxaden, as well as the degree of translocation once pinoxaden is in the plant.
    Manuscript should not be tank mixed with phenoxy herbicides, such as 2,4-D, which can compromise its efficacy, but is a safe tank mix partner with sulfonylurea herbicides.
  • Mention the phrase golf course dog, and Toto of Wizard of Oz fame is hardly the first mutt that comes to mind.
    Dorothy's pup might not roam the fairways of Foxfire Golf and Country Club in Jackson Springs, North Carolina, but his bleached lookalike, Chloe, does.
    Chloe is a 5-year-old Cairn terrier (the same breed as Toto) that Foxfire superintendent Mario Copeland inherited when his neighbor, and the dog's previous owner, Maria Lyle-purdy, passed away a little more than two years ago.
    Ever since, Chloe has not left Copeland's side - literally. Despite her diminutive stature, Chloe rides with Copeland everywhere - on a mower or spray rig, and in his utility vehicle. And when Chloe isn't riding, she's usually on the course somewhere greeting golfers.
    "If I don't bring her with me, she gives me that look," Copeland said. 
    "If members don't see her for a couple of days, they think something is wrong and ask me where she is."
    Chloe came to Foxfire five years ago, when Lyle-purdy, an elderly woman who lived next door to Copeland in a condo in the golf community, wanted a companion.
    Copeland, 49, has worked at Foxfire for 27 years, including four as superintendent, 10 as assistant and 13 seasons on the crew. In that time, Copeland, who also lives at the golf course, befriended his elderly neighbor. When the time came to go to Charleston, South Carolina to pick out a pup from a litter of Toto wannabes, Copeland accompanied his neighbor and friend. 
    "She was lonely. She didn't have anyone," Copeland said.
    "When she fell and broke her hip, I took care of her."
    Copeland was out of town when Lyle-purdy died at home two-and-a-half years ago, and the dog was alone in her unit for a week until her body was discovered. Chloe was taken to the pound by authorities, and Copeland hurried to get the dog before someone else did in an effort to make good on a vow he had made to his neighbor.
    "I always promised her that I would take the dog if something happened to her," Copeland said. 
    "When I found out she was at the pound, I rushed right over there."
    Although Copeland has known Chloe since the beginning, the two are now inseparable.
    "Mario lives alone and then this dog comes into his life. Now, he's like a doting father," said Foxfire project manager Rick Tufts. "He was never like that before.
    "They're a perfect match. They feed off each other."
    Copeland describes Chloe as a friendly and fearless beast.
    "The golfers love her and bring her treats," he said. 
    "When a hurricane came through here, I'd been on a backhoe and got on the golf cart to look for her. I found her swimming in the pond. That dog is scared of nothing."
  • Tourney EZ liquid fungicide is labeled for control of several diseases. Nufarm photo For turfgrass managers who want the control of a granular fungicide in a liquid formulation, Nufarm recently launched Tourney EZ.
    With the active ingredient metconazole, Tourney EZ is a liquid formulation of Nufarm's granular fungicide. Ready for sale this spring, the new liquid Tourney EZ is a broad-spectrum DMI fungicide lasting up to 28 days for effective preventative applications on more than 16 tough turf and ornamental diseases, including dollar spot, brown patch and fairy ring; ornamental diseases apple scab, anthracnose, leaf spots, powdery mildew and conifer blights.
    Tourney EZ was developed, based on customer feedback, as an alternative to the granular version of Tourney.
    "Our partners and applicators communicated this was a need, and we delivered," said Blaine Pinkerton, Vice President, Turf and Ornamental Sales in the US for Nufarm.
    The new liquid Tourney EZ is a broad-spectrum DMI fungicide lasting up to 28 days for effective preventative applications on more than 16 tough turf and ornamental diseases − including turf diseases dollar spot, brown patch and fairy ring; ornamental diseases apple scab, anthracnose, leaf spots, powdery mildew and conifer blights.
    Preventive and early curative applications of Tourney Fungicide are effective at controlling three tough turf diseases - anthracnose, brown patch and Fairy Ring - when applied as directed.
    It is safe for use by golf course superintendents, sports turf managers, lawncare operators, on sod farms and in greenhouses.
    The liquid formulation has the same low use rate as the water-dispersible granule for both foliar and drench applications, allowing Tourney EZ users to do more with less.
  • Golf course superintendents seeking to enhance their business acumen can now apply for this year's Syngenta Business Institute.
    In its 15th year, SBI is an intensive four-day program designed to grow the professional knowledge of golf course superintendents and assist them with managing their courses. Through a partnership with the Wake Forest University School of Business, the program provides graduate school-level instruction in financial management, human resource management, negotiating, managing across generations and cultural divides, impact hiring and other leadership- and professional-development skills.
    The four-day event is scheduled for Dec. 5-8 at the Graylyn International Conference Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Deadline to apply is Aug. 21.

    Wake Forest's Bill Davis, Ph.D., (left) teaches a session in negotiating at a previous Syngenta Business Institute. "We know superintendents are responsible for not only managing course agronomics, but also being exceptional leaders, which is why Syngenta has been committed to this program for 15 years," said Stephanie Schwenke, turf market manager for Syngenta. "The education by Wake Forest University MBA professors is truly elite. It is refreshing to see the superintendents who complete the program eager to implement the strategies they have learned."
    The 2023 SBI curriculum will feature educational courses designed to teach superintendents critical business leadership skills. Superintendents will also be given the opportunity to build valuable connections with industry professionals throughout the week. Topics to be covered include:
    > Work/life balance
    > Negotiations
    > Leadership/decision-making
    > Tools for managing employees
    > Leading across cultures and generations
    "It's a lot of work, but work that will come back to you tenfold," said Jill Seymour, CGCS, golf course superintendent at Charleston Springs Golf Course in Millstone, New Jersey. "I met three fellow superintendents all within an hour of me who I have stayed in contact with since."
    Class size for SBI is limited to maximize participation. Attendees must be employed as a superintendent, director of agronomy or at an equivalent level in the U.S. golf course industry to be eligible. 
    "2023 will mark the 15th year of the Syngenta Business Institute, yet each year we continue to make curricular changes to better reflect the needs of the participants," said Kerry Shronts, executive director of executive education at Wake Forest University. "For that reason, we worked extensively with Syngenta to integrate additional leadership content into the curriculum to better prepare SBI participants for enhanced leadership roles."
    To apply, visit GreenCastOnline.com/SBI. Superintendents can also contact their local Syngenta territory manager for more information. To be considered, candidates must fill out an application, which includes a short essay on why they should be chosen to attend. 
    Applications must be submitted online by midnight PDT on Aug. 21. Selected participants will be notified in October.
  • Editor's note: This is not a fishing expedition for sympathy - rather just one person's story that hopefully might help others.
    My wife was a woman of deep faith. She always told me "God never gives you more than you can handle." 
    I never gave that much thought before. That is, not until Susan, my wife of 29 years, was stricken with an incurable brain disease, signaling the start of a five-year battle she lost on March 14 at the age of 62.
    Let me start by saying that I am an intensely private person, and sharing this story, while therapeutic, is also difficult.
    Throughout all the unknowns of this journey that began in the spring of 2018, as we went from doctor to doctor and hospital to hospital for two-and-a-half years seeking a diagnosis, to the past 27 months of horror as her disease slowly sapped her of her ability to move, my wife fought every day with bravery and dignity even as she lie dying in a hospital bed in our home in Kentucky. Although this rare disease, known as Multiple System Atrophy, took her life, it never took her faith.
    For those who, like me, have never heard of this disease, it is a rare form of Parkinson's disease that affects the brain's ability to control motor skills. For Susan, those symptoms first manifested in difficulty walking, then speaking, then using her hands. By spring of 2018, at age 57, the first signs that something was wrong were changes to her gait as she walked. By 2019, she was unable to write legibly and her speech was slurred. A year later, she had fallen in the house a half-dozen times. All the while, specialists at Ohio State and Cleveland Clinic were stumped. Covid restrictions resulted in canceled or postponed appointments all while this invisible foe continued its work.
    Finally, a fall that ended with a broken hip in November 2020 sent her to a Lexington, Kentucky hospital for a month for surgery and rehabilitation. Although she would never walk on her own again, it was during that stay that another specialist assigned to her case was able to diagnose her condition — an incurable brain disease that would eventually result in death from some other condition, such as a stroke or pneumonia, caused by a weakened immune system.
    There were many unknowns, mainly how long would it take for this disease to run its course. Although the typical duration was about seven or eight years, there were reports of people living 15 years with MSA, so there was room for cautious optimism. 
    Susan's neurologist labeled her case "the most aggressive I've ever seen" so optimism soon gave way to a heavy dose of reality.

    Happier times with Susan and our daughter, Lauren, during our last trip together as a family - a quick jaunt to Pittsburgh in 2021. Throughout the duration of this ordeal, Susan fought every day with unwavering optimism, convinced she would beat her affliction. She proved, beyond a doubt, that even in the face of death there was nothing she could not handle.
    For me, it was a different story entirely.
    There is not a more difficult job than being a caregiver. The ordeal left me drained emotionally and physically, and each night after my wife fell asleep and I finally had "me time" I sought refuge in a bottle. I thought drinking every night would provide an escape, but every morning, after the alcohol had worn off, the same problems were there — a partner who could not get out of bed, who eventually was unable to eat solid food or swallow medication and, without going into too much detail, could not do any of the basic things the rest of us take for granted.
    Almost overnight, I had gone from just being a provider to taking on every task around the house on top of being a caregiver.
    For a year-and-a-half every day I lifted her out of bed, bathed her, got her dressed, fed her three meals a day, and lifted her back into bed in the evening. After 18 months, finally at my wit's end, I bit the bullet and hired a private aide to help out a few days each week. Still, there were nights and weekends and carrying two houses and putting a kid through college. Suffice to say, the stress was off the chart.
    I kept remembering that advice Susan had offered so many times before. "God never gives you more than you can handle." Then I would turn to the bottle.
    She continued to fight each day with courage while I crumbled under far less weight. She never played the victim or felt sorry for herself, although she had earned every right to do so. When she no longer could eat solid food (which occurred the day after Thanksgiving), she was forced onto a liquid-only diet of smoothies, shakes and broth. Hardly enough to sustain any weight. When she no longer had the strength to tilt her head back to drink from a cup, she drank through a straw. When she no longer had the muscle control to draw liquid through a straw, we had to spoon feed her food and drink. Throughout it all, she never showed fear of what we knew was coming. Each day she said, through an assistive communication device, that she was waiting for a sign and was not ready to die. While she kept her faith, I found salvation in bourbon.
    In her final days, after shedding about 50 pounds and her body racked with pain, she found comfort in the same pain-management medication that she had refused for so long. It takes guts to die with dignity.
    Like flipping a switch, my own reliance on liquid salvation ended with her death, for which I am thankful, and today, I realize there is nothing so great that I cannot handle it. The proof was always right in front of me. I just never recognized it.
    Special thanks to my daughter, Lauren; my colleagues at TurfNet - Peter, Jon, Dom and Steve; and my many cherished friends for their continued support through this life-defining journey.
  • A project that goes by the name Trout National and involves Tiger Woods sounds like an Idaho resort that combines a golf course with a scenic, fish-filled stream.
    Instead, it describes a golf course under construction in southern New Jersey that includes not just Woods, but Major League star and Garden State native and resident Mike Trout.
    Trout National-The Reserve, is being built (at right) in the three-time American League MVP’s hometown of Vineland 40 miles south of Philadelphia. Designed by Woods' TGR Design golf course architecture firm, the course is scheduled to open in 2025.
    Trout says he took up golf while in high school in New Jersey. He and wife Jessica, also a south Jersey native, have considered owning a course since just before the Covid pandemic. 
    "I could put down roots anywhere in the country, but Jessica and I make south Jersey our off-season home and always cherish the time we get to spend there," Trout said in a news release. "I love south Jersey and I love golf, so creating Trout National-The Reserve is a dream come true. And then to add to that we'll have a golf course designed by Tiger? It's just incredible to think that this project has grown to where we're going to be working with someone many consider the greatest and most influential golfer of all time."
    When Trout and partners on the project John and Lorie Ruga settled on a location, which happens to be the site of a former sand mine, the Los Angeles Angels star had only one designer in mind.
    "I've always enjoyed watching Mike on the diamond so when the opportunity arose to work with him on Trout National-The Reserve, I couldn't pass it up," Woods said in a statement. "It's a great site for golf and our team's looking forward to creating a special course for Mike, Jessica, John and Lorie."
  • What started for Jason Podris as a one year trial of living in Ireland has evolved into an extended career and family track with a focus on work/life balance. A 2000 Rutgers graduate originally from the Poughkeepsie, NY area, Podris married a woman from Ireland and in 2005 the couple embarked on their trial run living in her home country. After several intermediate stops in the Republic of Ireland — including The K Club and Galway Bay Golf Resort — Podris in 2012 accepted the position of course manager at Fortwilliam Golf Club in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he and his family relocated.
    As his wife Catherine is an Irish citizen, living and working legally in Ireland was not an issue for Podris. His visa applications were easy and straightforward until he applied for permanent residency in Northern Ireland. That application involved a test that included much of the history of Great Britain. After intense study he was approved for long term residency.
    Fortwilliam Golf Club was established in 1891 and moved to its present-day site in 1903. The club has approximately 1100 members, 500 of whom are golf members. Podris manages the property with a year-round staff of only five people, which expands to seven during the summer months — paltry by American standards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Audubon International's new certification level goes off the golf course. The Signature Sanctuary Platinum Certification was created to cover entire resort properties, including golf course and maintenance structures and systems as well as sustainable lodging and sustainable hospitality in the clubhouse.
    "The Signature Sanctuary Platinum Certification level provides an opportunity to have an all-encompassing certification for a property," said Kat Welch, Audubon's Signature Sanctuary Certification director, in a news release. "The nice part about Signature Platinum level is that it is a single title, encompassing multiple certifications, which is easier for the public or the client to understand and appreciate."
    The Green Lodging and Green Hospitality programs currently have 130 full-service certified resort members with sustainability goals that include but are not limited to the golf course.
    "If a resort is established and operating, but undergoing a renovation to only the golf course, it can still be a candidate for Platinum, because the Green Lodging and Green Hospitality Certifications were designed for existing properties," Welch said. "If it's a totally new construction, we look for the criteria to be built into the architectural plan."
    For golf course grounds and structures including cart barns and maintenance buildings, Platinum Certification adds a new level of requirements to the process. For example, native plantings must occupy 90% of out-of-play acreage, compared with 75% on the Gold Level.
  • Create New...