Jump to content

From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    A bleached water line is a constant reminder of the challenges facing Lake Mead. Arizona Department of Water Resources photo Drought conditions throughout most of the West might be over - for the time being, anyway - but anyone who has seen Lake Mead knows that the western U.S. still faces many challenges where water is concerned.
    The U.S. Department of the Interior announced Monday a voluntary agreement with Arizona, California and Nevada that is designed to save at least 3 million acre feet of water over the next three-and-a-half years. The plan will affect many golf courses, though it is yet unclear just how much, according to one regional association.
    The Colorado River that forms Lake Mead and Lake Powell supplies water to about 40 million people in seven states. 
    The plan still awaits federal review. It is unclear how effective this voluntary proposal will be, but agencies from different states coming together is seen as an important first step, and led to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation temporarily shelving a plan that would have required the three states to save 2.1 million acre feet next year alone.
    Although the water level in Lake Mead is up 12 feet so far this year, it's down 35 feet in the past five years and 172 feet since its highest point in 1983. 
    Water levels in Lake Mead had dropped to historically low levels in 2022, so low that intakes were exposed as were some gruesome findings on the impoundment's bed, including at least two barrels that contained human remains that experts believed were associated with organized crime activities in nearby Las Vegas.
    Just how much each state will have to cut back under the plan has yet to be determined.
    The Bureau of Reclamation issued a challenge in 2022 for the seven states that make up the Colorado River Basin to come together and craft a plan that would save 2.5 million to 4 million acre feet annually.
    The four states that comprise the Colorado River's upper basin, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, have not agreed to such a plan, but are standing by to see how it works.
    California gets much of its fresh water from the Colorado, as well as the State Water Project, which is a system of reservoirs throughout the state that are fed not only by rain, but also melting snow from the Sierra Nevada range.
    Reservoirs throughout the state are full thanks to plentiful rain and snowfall, but golf will be among those that feel the pinch due to the coming loss of Colorado River water. The Bureau of Reclamation has indicated that further use restrictions could be implemented after 2026 if the voluntary cutbacks do not yield the desired results.
  • Good things come to those who wait.
    Five years ago, members of the New York State Turfgrass Association recognized the need to address the labor issue affecting the turf industry.
    On May 9, the New York Department of Labor approved NYSTA's Registered Apprenticeship Program that is designed to help train future groundskeepers and equipment technicians for the golf and sports turf industries in New York.
    The program helps create a career path through a combination of 4,000 hours of paid on-the-job training and classroom instruction that includes 20 hours of credit toward an associate's degree in turf management from SUNY-Delhi.
    The program was developed through a partnership between NYSTA and consultant Tyler Bloom, who has served as program administrator.
    "In 2018, the board decided to create a strategic plan," said Dom Morales, a NYSTA board member who retired from SUNY-Delhi in 2012. "We had a lot of different areas we were focusing on. Career awareness and enhancement was my area. 
    "We started to reach out to high schools that taught agriculture or had FFA programs, and we would bring in superintendents to talk on career days."
    At that time, Bloom was still a superintendent at Sparrows Point Country Club in Maryland, and had been recruiting talent from non-traditional sources, like high schools.
    "We heard the complaints from our members," Morales said. "For every intern candidate there were eight to 10 openings. We couldn't fill them all. University turf schools once were accused of flooding the market with assistant candidates. Now, there is a drought of good, qualified people."
    After a couple of years of working with the New York Department of Labor, certification of the program had stalled, and it was clear to Morales that he needed help. Bloom, who struck out and started his own consulting firm in 2020, was a natural fit to help NYSTA meet the needs of its members throughout New York.
    "He had just started his consulting business, but he had been doing the same thing as a superintendent in Maryland. We clicked. We developed a really good relationship," Morales said.
    "I convinced the board to bring him on as a consultant. Then we started working with the DOL on Zoom calls and it all started to break through. Tyler is the man. Without him, we couldn't have done this."
    Bloom defers credit to Morales, who spent 38 years as an educator at SUNY-Delhi before retiring and taking a position in the sports turf industry.
    "Dominic is the driving force," Bloom said.
    "It's such a good thing, and (I'm) really proud to see it coming to fruition. It was a challenge working with NYDOL, but persistence paid off."
    Aside from 4,000 hours of on-the-job training as a paid intern, graduates of the program will be halfway to an associate's degree from SUNY-Delhi.
    The Department of Labor eventually was so impressed with the program and its ability to provide applicants with a pathway to a career that those employing participants are eligible for a tax credit of $6,000 per hire.
    "Approval from the DOL gives the program credibility," Morales said. "There is on-the-job training and related instruction, and everything is documented. Graduates get a certificate that proves they have these skills. 
    "It's a new way of educating turf professionals and getting them into the field with the knowledge to move up. We hope that employers see it as having someone on their crew who has potential, but can't go back to college. I think it's a win-win."
  • The average superintendent salary is now more than $100,000 per year. File photo Golf course superintendents are, on average, earning more in salary than ever before. According to the GCSAA's biennial compensation survey, the average superintendent's salary rose 12.6 percent to $109,621 in 2023, up from $97,354 two years ago.
    The survey included responses from more than 3,200 GCSAA member superintendents, and the results compare favorably to other fields. From 2020 to 2022, the average U.S. salary rose by 10 percent from $55,000 to $60,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
    The news was even better for certified superintendents, who saw their salaries rise from $119,558 to an average of $128,731, according to the survey. That is 16 percent higher than the survey's average for a superintendent.
    According to the survey, the average age of a superintendent is 47.1 years, with 16.6 years in the turf industry, including 10.3 years with their current employer.
    Since the first compensation survey 30 years ago, superintendent salaries have risen 146.3 percent from an average of $44,500 in 1993.  
    The average salary for equipment managers climbed 14.2 percent to $60,584, and assistant wages rose 15.3 percent during the past two years to an average of $56,299, according to the survey.
  • For the past two decades, an invasive pest from the other side of the world has been wiping out ash trees across North America. Research being conducted by scientists at Penn State could be key in helping preserve ash tree populations across the continent.
    Since arriving in the United States 21 years ago, the ash borer has wiped out 10s of millions of trees in at least 36 states and several provinces in Canada. A small percentage of trees survive the ash borer and could hold answers about how to preserve the species. 
    Researchers at Pennsylvania State University conducted a study to learn why some green ash trees survived an EAB outbreak. Plant geneticists compared gene expression data for resistant, or “lingering” ash, versus susceptible green ash trees exposed to attack by the beetles, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By comparing RNA-sequence data from stems attacked by EAB to tree tissue under other stresses, the researchers identified the genetic differences tied to EAB resistance. 
    The team is evaluating green ash seedlings from an EAB-resistant parent tree to map the location of genes for resistance among the offspring that survive EAB attack. They also are sequencing the genome of the resistant parent tree to identify specific resistance genes for selection and breeding.
    The research took place at Penn State from 2012 to 2017 on a plot of ash trees established from seed of ash trees collected from 27 states in the 1970s. The plot included 1,762 ash trees. At the conclusion of the EAB study, only 13 trees were unaffected by the pest.

    Researchers concluded that there are genetic differences among trees from different populations and seed parents and that some ash genotypes on favorable sites can survive with lower densities of emerald ash borer populations.
    EAB entered the United States in 2002 aboard a Chinese cargo ship. Since then, it has spread to 36 U.S. states and five provinces in Canada and caused billions in damage, killing trees on golf courses, in parks and on forest land. 
    Native to eastern Asia, EAB burrows into ash trees as an adult where it lays its eggs. The larvae feed on the layer beneath the bark, disrupting the tree's vascular system and its ability to take up water and nutrients and eventually kill the tree. The beetle emerges from tree, leaving a D-shaped exit hole before returning to lay its eggs and starting the process all over again.
    Eventually, say scientists with the U.S. Forest Service, the bug will expand throughout the entire range where all 16 North American ash tree species grow. Penn State is not the only university working to preserve ash species.
    The USDA confirmed EAB in Oregon in July 2022 and believe it probably has been in the state for as many as five years. The Oregon ash, the state's only native species, plays a critical role in bank stabilization in streams and rivers. The trickle down caused if those trees are lost could be widespread. As they have watched EAB spread across the country the past two decades, forestry officials in Oregon have harvested and stored more than 1 million Oregon ash seeds to try to preserve the species for replanting.
    Researchers with the Oregon Department of Forestry are testing seeds to determine whether any have resistance to ash borers and if so, they might be able to breed resistance into local strains and replant them.
  • Image reflecting Donald Ross's original plans for Tumblebrook Golf Course. During the past two decades, golf has shed more than 2,000 courses from its supply since the boom of the early 2000s. Many have been converted into farms, others have become the site of retail outlets, high-density housing or some form of mixed use property.
    Among those losses was Tumblebrook Golf Course, a nine-hole municipal course that was designed by Donald Ross with construction overseen by design associate J.B. McGovern in 1931 in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley. Critics say that through the years, the course near Allentown had lost its Ross influence, leading writers and raters to opine that there was no hint of the acclaimed architect's work when it closed four years ago.
    The course that closed "permanently" in late 2019 is set to make a comeback as a community-focused golf campus centered around a Ron Prichard-led restoration designed to bring the layout back to what Ross intended but was never fully realized when he designed it more than 90 years ago.
    "What's really exciting about this is that, although the course was designed by Ross and built by his key associate, his design was never fully executed," Prichard said in a news release. "Effectively this will be the first time Ross's finishing touches have ever been built at Tumblebrook."
    Tumblebrook was founded in 1931 by Harry Holscher, once the manager of nearby Lehigh Country Club. Holscher's family continued to own and operate the course until 1994. It began operation as a Upper Saucon Township-owned municipal facility in 2001 under the guidance of a handful of management companies, the last of which ceased operation after the 2019 season.
    The rebirth at Tumblebrook is thanks to the vision of two golf enthusiasts and entrepreneurs who formed a new company with the sole purpose of operating the property.
    Upon shuttering the golf course, township officials considered repurposing Tumblebrook into a collection of athletic fields. That's when local golfer Josh Woodward and filmmaker Vaughan Halyard teamed to form Tumblebrook Golf Campus LLC. 
    At a May 8 meeting, the Upper Saucon Township board of supervisors voted to approve an agreement with the newly formed Tumblebrook Golf Campus LLC to operate the property as a golf course.
    Halyard and Prichard have been working together on a master plan. 
    "Ron will base the plan on Ross's original design of the Tumblebrook course," said Halyard. 
    "Josh was able to obtain the original drawings of the course from the township's archives, and Ron is going to use those to guide his work." 
    Prichard, who is a partner in the new venture, has recruited golf course architects Jeff Mingay and Christine Fraser to help with the project that will include construction of a second nine, driving range and practice area to help promote the game.
    "Included in the project are 90 acres of additional land alongside the course, and we plan to use that for a second nine hole course, to be designed by a world-class golf course architect," said Halyard. "The extra land will also support a range and learning facility. These are critical in support of our plans for a golf-forward community environment. We are resolved to deliver the kind of golf that should keep kids active outdoors for hours. We are in the early days of our project as our current plans are dependent on a number of factors such as zoning and other approvals."
  • For professional turf managers who need long-lasting outdoor power equipment, the Kress line of trimmers, blowers and chainsaws are now available from dealers throughout North America.
    The Kress line of equipment, which has a long history in Europe, made its North American debut late last year with commercial-grade equipment powered by the 8-Minute CyberSystem. The Kress CyberPack batteries, 4 Ah and 11 Ah back-pack, can charge from 0% to 80% in as little as five minutes, or from 0-100% in eight minutes. Advanced cell technology allows the batteries to stay cool, so they do not have cool down prior to charging.

    The company's newly available 40- and 60-volt lines of outdoor power equipment provide users with a combination of long-lasting power and quiet performance.
    The Kress 40-volt line of outdoor power equipment is powered by the company's 20V Kross Pack lithium-ion batteries, designed to maximize power and runtime. The 40V line includes:
    15-inch line trimmer 14-inch chainsaw 24-inch hedge trimmer  The Kress 60-volt line consists of:
    850CFM axial blower 750CFM axial blower 16-inch line trimmer 16-inch carbon Fiber Line Trimmer 16-inch chainsaw 18-inch chainsaw 21-inch push mower All Kress 40V and 60V prosumer products are equipped with Kress-built brushless motors and can be customized to fit a variety of needs.
  • Sod grown on plastic produces a healthier plant faster because the roots are not cut at harvest. West Coast Turf photo In the quest to develop a stronger grass plant for customers managing turf on athletic fields, West Coast Turf has been growing sod on plastic for most of the past decade.
    This practice prevents cutting the roots at harvest, thus providing a stronger, healthier plant, says Jay Danek, chief executive officer of Palm Desert, California-based West Coast Turf.
    "The No. 1 reason we grow sod on plastic is we don't cut the root system off," Danek said. "When you go out into the field and it's 110 degrees and you cut off the roots, the grass can go into shock."
    Now, West Coast Turf offers that same stronger, healthier turf to golf course superintendents with what it calls Ready Play Grass.
    Once the plastic-grown sod is laid, the full roots that have balled up tamp down and quickly begin to migrate down into the profile saving precious weeks, Danek said.
    West Coast Turf has been growing sod on plastic for at least seven years for use on sports fields, and other growers have been doing the same with cool-season turf for twice as long, Danek said. Currently, West Coast Turf is growing several varieties on plastic, including Tahoma 31 and Tifway 419, as well as Zoysiagrasses and paspalum.
    Ready Play Grass starts as a sod product that has been through its growing cycle for eight to 12 months, and then another six to 15 months growing on the plastic. It is grown to sod strength and weight so there is no movement, and the way the company harvests allows for tight seams so the rolls mesh together perfectly.
    "Right now, some golf courses in Northern California are using it on driving range tees and greens," Danek said. "A lot of courses change out every two or three years, and then you have to stay off the tees for two or three weeks. Or at least you should in a perfect world. 
    "This way, you never cut the roots and there is no lost time."
    According to WCT, it now is in the ground in various applications at many golf courses in California, including Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, Valley Club of Montecito and Lahontan, as well as TPC Scottsdale in Arizona.
    West Coast Turf's sod on plastic has been grown on several high-profile athletic fields, including Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Rose Bowl, Sun Devil Stadium at Arizona State University, Dodger Stadium, Anaheim Stadium and more.
  • The USGA has added 17 new sustainability projects this year as part of the Mike Davis Program for Advancing Golf Course Management.
    The program invests approximately $2 million in grants annually and includes more than 70 new and ongoing university research projects at more than 25 universities and other entities making it the golf industry's largest private turfgrass and environmental research effort.
    These research investments, as part of the USGA Green Section, total nearly $50 million since 1983. The subsequent sustainable management practices have contributed to a 29 percent decrease in water use since 2005. The Davis Grants engage university researchers and scientists in the effort to optimize natural resource use and playing conditions. Research from the program has helped to deliver stress-tolerant and higher quality turfgrasses and has enhanced all aspects of holistic management – from constructing and managing putting greens to monitoring for and controlling troublesome diseases.
    "It's not enough to simply love this game and celebrate its current growth," said USGA CEO Mike Whan in a news release. "We've got to respect the game enough to truly care about how we leave it for the generations that will follow us. We all need to appreciate the importance of improving golf's sustainability footprint and be committed to identifying new ways to reduce golf's resource consumption."
    Some notable projects being funded in 2023 include an effort at New Mexico State University to validate soil-moisture prediction with strategies such as satellite-based sensors, which could eventually reduce manual collection of soil-moisture readings. A new study at Rutgers University is evaluating the feasibility of using warm-season grasses in Northern regions, including the financial implications. The USGA is also working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to further characterize the drought tolerance of native grasses that also tolerate salty irrigation water.
    According to the USGA, these funded research projects have combined to save the industry nearly $2 billion annually including $201 million from advancing irrigation with efficiencies in turfgrass water use, $529 million from advancing irrigation scheduling with soil-moisture meters and $469 million from advancing naturalized rough.
  • A gofundme account has been established to benefit Adam Schloer's wife and daughter. Adam Schloer was so passionate about golf and the business world that he bought and ran his own course.
    Schloer, the owner operator of nine-hole Heritage Creek Golf Club in Jamison, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, died April 20 after, according to reports, he was involved in an on-course accident at Heritage Creek.
    Schloer was a native of Norristown, Pennsylvania. He was 36.
    A gofundme account has been established by his brother and sister-in-law to benefit his wife, Caitlin, and daughter, Norella. To date, more than $30,000 has been raised for his family.
    A graduate of Shippensburg University, where he earned a degree in business administration, Schloer had a keen interest in business, according to his obituary, which eventually led him to combine two of his passions when he bought a golf course.
    As a golf course owner and operator with a business degree, Schloer learned turfgrass management on the job.
    According to his memorial, he had a varied array of interests, including spending time with family and friends, camping, canoeing trips, the Philadelphia Flyers, collecting Zippo lighters and playing board games.
    Other survivors include brother, Ryan Schloer (Krista); sister, Katie Schloer (Chris Liptrot); parents, Craig and Felicia Schloer; mother-in-law, Leigh Ann Akers; father-in-law, James Akers (Paula); and numerous other relatives.
  • Kristy Mach of the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association presents Peter McCormick with an award signifying his induction into the TOCA Hall of Fame. Three decades ago, Peter McCormick struck out on his own, starting a business with the basic premise of helping golf course superintendents do their jobs better, faster and more efficiently. That sounds simple enough, but starting a business that centered on sharing information with a finite, niche audience is always a risk.
    Thirty years later, TurfNet is still going. And the media entity that started as a one-man operation with a print newsletter today boasts a library of instructional videos, podcasts, blogs and webcasts; a members-only forum where users can ask questions and get answers and advice from colleagues; and is the golf turf industry's leading portal to help turf managers find jobs and buy and sell used equipment. And it still operates on that same simple mission McCormick adopted when he launched TurfNet in 1994.
    On Thursday, McCormick was inducted into the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association Hall of Fame. TOCA is a trade organization for editorial and advertising professionals in the green industry.
    "As one who is basically humble and prefers staying out of the limelight, as difficult as that may be for some to believe, I was surprised and honored to be inducted into the TOCA Hall of Fame," McCormick said. "The nominations submitted on my behalf recapped many of the innovations and accomplishments that TurfNet has implemented and achieved over the past 30 years, and were very touching for me."
    The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association is a 200-plus member association comprising editorial, advertising and marketing professionals working in the green industry. The TOCA Hall of Fame recognizes the cumulative accomplishments of deserving communicators who have made outstanding contributions to the turf and ornamental industry.
    "Peter McCormick was a man ahead of his time both in his courage to venture into unknown professional territory and do so with a fearlessness that inspires those around him," wrote Frank S. Rossi, Ph.D. of Cornell University in his nomination. "Managing a media group such as TurfNet over the last 30 years has been an exercise in riding a roller coaster! The highest of highs and often the lowest of lows. Peter has a resilience that cannot be taught, it's in his DNA."
    One of the turf industry's true pioneers, McCormick is an alumnus of Rutgers where he earned a bachelor's degree in plant science and business management. A year after starting TurfNet, he took it online where it slowly grew into the media entity it is today. He sold TurfNet in 2001 to its current owner, Orlando-based Turnstile Publishing Co. and has continued to serve as its general manager..
    "I can't think of a better individual to receive TOCA's Hall of Fame award in 2023," said Tony Girardi, CGCS MG, at Rockrimmon Country Club in New York. "Peter is one of the classiest, most professional people I know, and I am delighted to call him a close friend. Quite frankly, I do not know where our entire golf course maintenance industry would be today without Peter McCormick and TurfNet in its various communication formats. It is safe to say that Peter is to the golf industry as Steve Jobs is to Apple and Bill Gates is to Microsoft. And that is not an overstatement."
    For McCormick, helping superintendents extended far beyond providing a platform where they can find answers to agronomics' most challenging questions. He also helped many superintendents update resumés and cover letters, build websites and blogs, and mentored many of his close friends as they started businesses of their own.
    "Not only has Peter had a massive impact on golf course maintenance as an industry, but there is no telling how many individual golf course superintendents lives he's influenced in a positive way, either as a mentor, coach, sounding board, or just someone to listen to your concerns and offer an encouraging word," said Mickey McCord, principal of McCord Golf Services and Safety. 
    "A little over 10 years ago, I was a Golf Course Superintendent with an idea for a business and Peter was the first person I talked to. He did not hesitate to say 'yes, this is a good idea, and you can do it.' He then continued to help and guide me, sometimes with a gentle nudge, and sometimes aggressively pushing me forward when I'd stalled and didn't think I could do something. I can say without reservation, I would not be where I am today without Peter McCormick's encouragement, guidance, and support, and I know I'm not the only one.
    "Finally, I think the most telling thing about Peter McCormick is when you thank him, and ask what you can do to repay him for all of his help, all he asks is that you do the same and help someone else when you have the chance."
    Other TOCA Hall of Fame inductees include: Margaret Bell, Debbie Clayton, Cindy Code, Den Gardner, Felicia Gillham, Ron Hall, Dave Hansen, Ed Hiscock, Pat Jones, Bill Klutho, Jose Milan, Doug Obermann, Jerry Roche, Owen Towne, Bob Tracinski, Steve Trusty and Suz Trusty.
  • Maggie Hathaway Golf Course in Los Angeles County will receive $1 million for a restoration project. In advance of the 123rd U.S. Open Championship in June at Los Angeles Country Club, the USGA is announcing its plans to leave a lasting impact in Southern California, connecting its host community with the organization's ongoing commitments to promote the game.
    The USGA is collaborating with the community in four distinct areas, highlighted by a $1 million donation to restore the Maggie Hathaway Golf Course, a nine-hole, par-3 public facility operated by Los Angeles County that provides thousands in the area with affordable, accessible golf. In one of the most significant host community investments in U.S. Open history, the USGA is joining forces with the Southern California Golf Association, Los Angeles Country Club, Los Angeles County and several other organizations and donors. Golf course architect Gil Hanse will lead the restoration project.
    The project aims to improve the experience at the golf course named for Hathaway, the African-American actor, singer and activist who championed equality in golf, while also building a learning center and expanding programming for Los Angeles-area juniors. A fundraising campaign was launched by the SCGA last month to advance those junior programs and facilities.
    "Year-over-year, host communities welcome the U.S. Open, and we recognize the importance of investing back into them to leave a legacy that is felt beyond our game," said USGA CEO Mike Whan. "We are fortunate to have partners like the SCGA and LACC who believe in the power that golf can have on a community and will continue to collaborate on initiatives that create more opportunities for people to work, play, experience and enjoy the game."
    As part of that commitment to collaborate and create opportunities, the USGA will also welcome 20 college undergraduate and graduate students from diverse backgrounds to Los Angeles for the USGA Pathways Internship Program, a weeklong immersive experience that exposes participants to the many career paths in golf. Half of the students will be from the Los Angeles area, helping to foster future leaders in the community.
    Designed to promote inclusion among the suppliers and vendors supporting the championship, the USGA Open Works initiative includes a regional collaboration with the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission's Business Connect Program, which expands opportunities for businesses with diverse ownership in the greater Los Angeles area.
    The USGA will also advance its commitment through the Sports for Climate Action framework to deliver a more sustainable championship with its Reduce, Renew and Reinvest program. The initiative focuses on reducing waste, committing to renewable energy and responsible natural resource use, and reinvesting in projects that propel community sustainability. 
    Embedded into the on-site activation is a continuing commitment to reduce single-use plastics, building on last year's program that eliminated more than 700,000 plastic water bottles at concession areas in favor of more sustainable products. The USGA will also use compostable food-service products and clear recycling and waste-sorting programs to encourage fans to help with sustainability efforts. Partnerships with area vendors will demonstrate the commitment to reinvest in renewable energy and water credits in California. 
    Popular last year with fans at The Country Club, recyclable aluminum cups and products will return to the U.S. Open Championship in L.A. These products can be more quickly and easily converted into new products and greatly reduce single-use plastics at the championship.  
    Bringing to life the USGA's commitment to invest $30 million in the next 15 years, the association is advancing water resilience on California golf courses with university research, demonstrations of emerging maintenance technologies, and consulting and outreach activities. As much as a 45 percent reduction in water usage will be made possible by employing the strategies that will be advanced through the program. This includes continued grant funding to the University of California-Riverside to develop drought-resistant turfgrasses, educational symposiums in the state, and demonstration projects at Los Serranos Golf Club in Chino Hills and other courses designed to encourage the use of water-saving practices.
  • Cart traffic can cause significant damage on dormant turf in winter. USGA photo While many people took time away from work around the Christmas holiday, Mother Nature was hard at work every day making her presence known on golf courses throughout the transition zone.
    Christmas Eve ushered in a week of unseasonably cold weather throughout the transition zone, the effects of which are still felt today in warm-season turf that has been slow to green up and has been susceptible to traffic.
    Early in December, temperatures in Knoxville, Tennessee reached into the 50s and 60s for much of the first half of the month, and lows were in the 40s and 50, both of which are about 10 degrees above the historic average, according to the National Weather Service. 
    The day before Christmas, the low plummeted to 4 degrees, and remained below freezing for a week. 
    Damage did not take out entire fairways, but has taken out significant swaths of turf.
    "This year is the most significant winterkill I've seen in Tennessee in 10 or 12 years," said Brandon Horvath, Ph.D., turfgrass pathologist at the University of Tennessee. "It's concentrated areas that have to be resodded, not whole fairways. But, it's going to take time to come back."
    "In Tennessee, it wasn't on greens, because just about everybody has covers now. Greens where the covers blew off, they're set back."
    Golf courses throughout much of the transition zone manage several turf types in fairways, including newer and older varieties of Bermudagrass zoysiagrass.
    After lows of 40 or more on eight of 12 days in early to mid-December, temperatures in Knoxville dipped below freezing for eight consecutive days.
    Tricking the grass into "thinking" it might be spring, then cratering to single digits helped produce conditions that continue to persist on many golf courses in the transition zone that have Bermudagrass or zoysiagrass fairways. The USGA Green Section also suggests encouraging golfers to walk when playing on fully dormant turf.
    "There is still a lot of 419, and there is a lot of Tahoma and Northbridge," Horvath said. "And we're seeing damage in some zoysias.
    "Turf wasn't fully dormant. It was in an in-between stage, and in some places it got dinged pretty hard. Damage was variable. There were areas where there were no problems, and other areas where the damage was significant.
    "The turf wakes up and then goes back to bed. That takes carbohydrates to green up. Do that three or four times, the turf is weakened, and that can set the turf back."
    Areas showing the most damage are those affected by high cart traffic during winter play, such as exit and entry points on the fairways, or those where other issues, such as poor drainage, persist.
    "There were issues with where the wheels were constantly in the same area, then the areas between the wheels are OK," Horvath said.
    "Weaker areas definitely were more susceptible. Turf in areas where other factors played a role, if it's too wet or too dry, the cold can be problematic."
    Horvath says the best way to manage turf that struggles in spring and minimize damage is to control traffic through tactics such as altering fairway entry and exit points.
    "We play on dormant turf all the time," he said. "But you have to manage cart traffic."
  • 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."
  • Create New...