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From the TurfNet NewsDesk


  • John Reitman
    Bayer Environmental Science has recently retooled and relaunched its Backed by Bayer program that now includes access to a host of tools and resources for superintendents and others seeking solutions to today's most common turfgrass-management challenges.
     
    The overhaul includes an expanded mobile app and a redesigned Web site that features product updates, industry news, sales and technical support and more.
     
    "Our customers need solutions, business tools, and technical support to help them reach higher levels of success," said Jose Milan, head of the T&O business at Bayer. "We are constantly exploring new ways to help our customers accomplish their objectives and grow their businesses. Our vision with this revitalized Backed By Bayer platform is to communicate to our customers the idea that 'we have your back' by providing a highly relevant, robust program that delivers what they need to succeed and uses their input to help shape new and future solutions."
     
    The newly redesigned Web site features information on Bayer herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and plant growth regulators; a video channel; distributor finder; reference library that includes product guides and white papers; links to common turf problems and recommended treatment programs; a link to the My Bayer Rewards program home page and contact information for Bayer's Green Solutions Team.
     
    The Backed By Bayer mobile app is available for Mac devices on the App Store and Android devices on Play Store.
     
    That platform also includes similar tools for landscape management, industrial vegetation management, vector control and pest management.
  • Ignorance is bliss

    By John Reitman, in News,

    I've been duped.
     
    After all these years, I thought those hundreds of golf course superintendents I've come to know were part of a proactive industry looking for ways to reduce water consumption, pesticide use and the overall environmental footprint left by their respective course. Turns out, I've been wrong all this time.
     

     
    All those pesticide programs, those acres of native plantings, that history of leading the way in developing BMPs that other industries have adopted for their own use. It's all been a ruse.
     
    At least that is the conclusion I reached after reading Why the Decline of Golf is Good News for the Environment, which appeared Oct. 12 on a pseudo-scientific Web site called Decoded Science. According to this story, the declining interest in golf ultimately should be good for the environment because superintendents still are wanton polluters, not stewards, of the environment.
     
    I knew superintendents were a clever bunch, but to maintain golf courses so irresponsibly and disguise it as environmental stewardship? I have to hand it to you; that was brilliant.
     
    Tongue, meet cheek.
     
    I hesitate to draw attention to the above-mentioned story, but it is so filled with unsubstantiated claims and errors of fact, and even leans on the anti-golf sentiment of a late stand-up comic to make a point, that it deserves to be called out for what it is - drivel.
     
    After reading this story, it's time for me to throw down the gauntlet. And you should too.
     
    The story takes issue with several common turf maintenance practices to reach the conclusion that "since the goal of golf course maintenance is to have a pristine stretch of grass that more closely resembles Astroturf than anything from nature, best ecological practices are not necessarily a priority.
     
    "Golf courses keep the grass short, well-manicured and free of any living organisms by spraying generous amounts of herbicides, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and mowing frequently."
     
    Specifically, this story calls out the use of pesticides, practices that it says promote runoff and erosion, and mowing frequency as being bad for the environment.
     
    In targeting pesticide use, the story fails to cite specific data other than to say "golf courses are historically known for their overuse of herbicides and pesticides," that is except for a tourism study from Georgia Southern University.
     
    It does mention that the GCSAA has partnered with others to reduce pesticide use, but then discounts any industry efforts by citing a passage from Beyond Pesticides, a not-for-profit entity whose mission is an eventual pesticide-free world, that says the industry isn't doing enough to eliminate (not reduce, but eliminate) its reliance on pesticides.
     
    Golf courses also promote erosion because, and I'll be you didn't know this, "golf course maintenance commonly involves deforestation and clearing native species of vegetation, which in turn causes gullying and soil erosion, leading to sediment runoff into nearby bodies of water." 
     
    Runoff from golf courses, the story says, also "provides excess nutrients to bodies of water that can cause out of control downstream algae blooms." It references iron-clad proof, like last summer's bloom in Lake Erie that contaminated potable water for more than 400,000 people. You might remember that story, it's the one in which scientists placed blame squarely upon runoff from agricultural land surrounding the lake.
     
    According to this story, "another problem not addressed is excessive mowing. ... a typical golf course mows every day and recommends frequent mowing to improve turf quality. Since golf courses tend to use riding mowers fueled by gas, this translates into a lot of fuel burnt to cover massive amounts of land - repeated on a daily basis."
     
    The story even goes so far as to say, as per the late George Carlin, that a better use for golf course acreage would be to build low-cost housing for the homeless.
     
    I don't even know what say about that.
     
    Forget all the strides superintendents, equipment manufacturers and chemical companies have made in the past several decades. Forget the facts. Forget the scientific research to the contrary. Forget that superintendents are educated professionals who know more about pesticide use than graduates of the atmospheric and oceanic sciences department at the University of Wisconsin. Forget that the majority of products used on golf courses, according to the USGA, have sister products also used in agricultural food production. And it's not just the USGA talking. It cites study after study from Iowa State University, University of Nebraska, University of Georgia, Michigan State University and the University of Massachusetts when making its claims. Forget all that, because apparently none of it is enough to satisfy the scientists at Decoded Science, and it has data from a tourism study out of Georgia Southern University to prove it.
     
    These types of stories occur too often, go unquestioned, facts go unchecked and people believe them. And that makes it more difficult to communicate the real truth about the state of the golf industry.
     
    I, for one, am tired of reading opinion-based nonsense like this from those who don't know the difference between a niblick and a mashie passed off as real journalism. As a member of the profession being attacked, you should be weary of it too.
     
    To quote Howard Beale from the 1976 Hollywood film Network:
     
    And neither should you, so get up from your chair ... .
  • A fire that started on a Southern California fairway is a reminder that a golf course's responsibilities for ensuring the safety of others might not end at the ropes.
     
    A lawsuit filed Oct. 10 in the San Diego Superior Court blames the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad for a fire that burned about 600 acres, destroyed 25 structures and damaged 26 more.
     
    Fire officials determined that the May 14 blaze, dubbed the Poinsettia Fire, started on the La Costa's No. 7 fairway, though the cause of the fire was not determined. According to reports, the fire destroyed 18 condominiums, five houses and two commercial structures. Another four houses and 26 homes were damaged in the incident that is blamed for causing $12 million in private property damage. It also is estimated that it will cost another $8 million to restore native habitat destroyed by the fire.
     
    The lawsuit blames the golf course for not taking the necessary steps to prevent fires when high winds and a heat wave that sparked nine wildfires throughout the rain-starved San Diego area this year.
     
    Plaintiffs, including homeowners, business owners and renters, are seeking unspecified damages for the loss of property, businesses, mental anguish, cost of temporary housing and unspecified injuries. A homeless man also was killed in the blaze.
     
    The attorney for the plaintiffs alleges that a spark from a gas-powered utility vehicle might have started the fire.
  • The numbers 94, 39, 50, 88 and 96 are not this week's winning lottery numbers. Instead, they represent a much safer bet.
     
    The numbers represent the percentage of Global Soil Survey participants whose potassium (94 percent), phosphorus (39 percent), calcium (50 percent), magnesium (88 percent) and sulfur (96 percent) inputs fell below the levels proposed in conventional soil nutrient guidelines for turf. The survey shows they saved money and increased environmental sustainability without compromising turf quality.
     
    The Global Soil Survey for Sustainable Turf is a collaborative effort of turf managers and researchers whose goal is to refine nutrient guidelines so that turf managers can apply precisely the nutrients the turf needs. To accomplish that goal, turf managers from around the world joined the survey and collected soil samples of healthy turf and submitted them for analysis in 2013. The results were evaluated by scientists at the Asian Turfgrass Center and PACE Turf, who compared them against both conventional soil guidelines, as well as against the newly developed Minimum Levels for Sustainable Nutrition guidelines.
     
    "The first year of results from the Global Soil Survey (GSS) have broken new ground," said Larry Stowell, Ph.D., of PACE Turf. "The data shows that good-performing turf can be produced at nutrient levels much lower than conventional guidelines suggest."
     
    Stowell said the survey data have been added to the database of thousands of soil samples that were used to create the MLSN guidelines. 
     
    "The addition of the Global Soil Survey data to the large database that derives MLSN makes us even more confident that the MLSN guidelines are robust and can be used successfully under a wide variety of conditions, said Micah Woods, Ph.D., of the Asian Turfgrass Center. "We are also very proud that the survey is an open science project. In other words, we don?t only share the charts, tables and reports with the public, but we also share the underlying data analysis scripts and code involved. This allows anyone who is interested to check out what we have done, how we have done it, or to even to use the data for their own purposes."
     
    The Global Soil Survey will continue to run for at least another year. 
     
    "Our current conclusions are based on almost 4,000 soil samples from good performing turf, but we hope to increase the number of samples even more with the help of additional Global Soil Survey participants," Stowell said. "We will constantly improve the MLSN guidelines based on the data we receive."
     
    The Global Soil Survey will continue soliciting turf manager participants for the foreseeable future. Soil survey participants receive a kit that contains all of the materials needed to package and ship three soil samples from their facility. The samples will be analyzed by Brookside Laboratories, and the data will be interpreted by Woods and Stowell. 
     
    "Each person receives a full report on their results, as well as an analysis of where each of their nutrients falls on the sustainability index," Woods said. "Turf managers have found the index to be really useful, because it gives them a numerical way to monitor where they are now and to track how they are improving over time."
     
    - Gilliam and Associates and PACE Turf
  • It's not uncommon for golf courses to turn to municipalities for supplemental water when supplies are running short. Cities turning to golf courses for water under those same circumstances occurs with far less frequency.
     
    In drought-stricken Southern California, the city of San Juan Capistrano has been pumping water from wells that supply San Juan Hills Golf Club, and it's going to court to protect what it says is its right to do so. The golf course, however, believes the city taking water from underneath the course infringes on its rights as cities and businesses scramble to find and secure enough water to function at even the most basic levels.
     
    According to the Orange County Register, a judge recently rejected the club's motion to prevent the city from taking water from wells underneath the golf, saying the city's actions did not adversely affect the golf course.
     
    The decision is a reversal of the judge's initial decision to side with the club and prevent the city from pumping from the two wells.
     
    Most of California is in the throes of a drought that is at least three years long and that some experts predict could last for decades to come. In an attempt to recharge the San Juan Basin that feeds water to the area, the South Coast Water District on Sept. 8 closed a groundwater recovery plant, and the San Juan Basin Authority then closed two wells in mid-September because they weren't producing water.
     
    The case is scheduled to go to trial next Aug. 31.
  • Confounding critter

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Scientists have learned a lot about annual bluegrass weevils since they first were reported on managed turfgrass more than 80 years ago. But researchers admit there still is much to learn.
     
    Growing to only 3 or 4 mm in length in the adult phase of its life cycle, this minute pest causes big problems in managed cool-season turf in the northeastern quadrant of the country. And unlike other turf pests, ABW follows few patterns of predictability. 
     
    Overwintering adults die and give way to a new generation of adults in late spring or early summer. In some years there are just two life cycles, while in other years there might be three. What sparks an early reproductive cycle from the season's new adults is unknown.
     
    "They're hedgebetters," said Ohio State University entomologist Dave Shetlar, Ph.D. "Some years some go for an extra generation, while others hang onto their eggs and wait until next season."
     
    Likewise, populations in some parts of the northeast have developed resistance to common chemistries, including bifenthrin, while turf managers in other areas still enjoy a full complement of management tools.
     
    "With white grubs, there is one cycle a year, and we always know when it's coming," said Steve McDonald of Turfgrass Disease Solutions. "With annual bluegrass weevil, there might be multiple life cycles in a year, or there might be one, and we don't know exactly when they're coming. 
     
    "And there are other chemical pesticides out there that control other pests that are not effective against annual bluegrass weevil. It's a very dynamic pest and there are no absolutes. It breaks all the rules."
     
    According to Cornell University research, ABW first was recorded as a turfgrass pest in 1931 in Connecticut, and its range was limited to metropolitan New York City until the 1990s.
     
    Today, it is considered a turfgrass pest as far west as Ohio and southward to North Carolina. It has been found as far away as Colorado and Oklahoma, but doesn't pose a major problem on golf courses and thus is not considered a nuisance in those areas, said Shetlar.
     
    Emerging typically in late winter or early spring, ABW can persist well into autumn, making it a season-long problem on many golf courses.
     
    The overwhelming percentage of adults overwinter in woody areas, with a smaller number spending the winter in the thatch layer of high-cut turf, says Ohio State's Shetlar.
     
    Historically, they first appear when forsythia are in bloom, but Shetlar said watching for daffodils to burst from the ground might be an even better indicator of ABW activity.
     
    "It can be 40, 45 or 50 degrees," Shetlar said. "It doesn't have to be warm. Sunlight is enough to keep them warm, even if it's still cold out."
     
    Once active, ABW migrate into shorter cut turf, and they prefer fringe areas, such as where fairway meets rough and where collars meld into putting greens. Leaf blades in those areas are thicker, and that is believed to be their preferred meal, Shetlar says. There, they lay their eggs, usually between one and four, in the leaf sheath. 
     
    "There is something about the way Poa is managed that they find highly attractive," Shetlar said. 
     
    Egg-laying adults soon die, and by the time the newly hatched larvae reach the third instar stage they are too large to stay inside the sheath, and move to and eat around the crown, eventually resulting in the plant's death. Symptoms typically manifest as yellow or browning turf that Shetlar says resembles anthracnose to the untrained eye. 
     
    In Ohio, larvae typically develop into adults by late June or early July. In New England, a third generation, if there is one, might appear by late July or early August.
     
    Given the irregular nature of their behavior it's not uncommon to see adults and larvae at the same time, and that can make controlling them a challenge.
     
    "Superintendents panic when they see adults and spray like mad," Shetlar said. 
     
    "Some years they double-pump it and there is another generation. No one really knows why it is one way one year, and another way another year."
     
    McDonald recommends scouting weekly during times of potential activity, including use of soap flushes to detect adults. He also recommends online tools like Syngenta's Weevil Trak, that uses real-time updates from superintendents to monitor weevil activity.
     
    Several products are labeled for ABW control. Shetlar said the pest has developed resistance to bifenthrin in the Northeast with some locations also reporting resistance to chlorpyrifos. Combination products containing chlothianidin and bifenthrin, however, have proven to be very effective, Shetlar said. 
     
    "The reality is when you combine two modes of action, often regain efficacy of both molecules, even if there is resistance to one alone," he said.
     
    Shetlar said that legendary Ohio State professor Harry Niemczyk, Ph.D., has conducted research that shows early insecticide applications before the reproductive cycle begins in the spring have been shown to be an effective method of control overwintering adults before they lay their eggs.
     
    "The success rate is about 70 to 80 percent, which is very good control," Shetlar said.
     
    "I don't know of any program that provides 90 percent control 100 percent of the time."
     
  • IA, Cal Poly team to offer education
    The Irrigation Association has partnered with the California Polytechnic State University Irrigation Training and Research Center to offer a series of online courses.    Each new course qualifies for continuing education units. Topics include: Basic Soil-Plant-Water Relationships (2 CEUs); Distribution Uniformity & Precipitation Rate (1.5 CEUs); Evapotranspiration (1 CEU); Irrigation System Components (3 CEUs); Landscape Irrigation Auditor (4 CEUs); Scheduling for Auditors (2 CEUs); Landscape Sprinkler Design (8 CEUs); Scheduling for Sprinkler Design (1.5 CEUs)   Each course includes interactive videos, reading materials and online quizzes. Users complete courses at their own pace and receive credit after completing each track's online exam. The North Carolina Irrigation Contractors' Licensing Board and the New Jersey Landscape Irrigation Contractor Examining Board have approved these courses, allowing licensed individuals in these states to earn CEUs or CECs.   Visit store.irrigation.org for course descriptions, pricing and to register. It's early order time
    Syngenta
    Syngenta recently implemented its new GreenTrust 365 Rebate Calculators designed to make participating in the company's early order program easier than ever.   The 2015 Syngenta GreenTrust 365 rebate program provides customers with rebates through 2015 of up to 10 percent off qualifying purchases (minimum $5,000) made during the 2014 early order period that runs Oct. 1-Dec. 8.   The new tool automatically configures order quantities and allows users to create multiple GreenTrust 365 worksheets, which are saved for future reference.   The program offers savings on pallet and multipak orders, SummerPay extended terms, GreenTrust rewards points that can be redeemed for gift card options through Syngenta's online catalog, or for GCSAA credits. FMC
    Turf managers can buy FMC turf and ornamental products now and defer payment until late spring through the company's early order program.   Running through Dec. 12, FMC's early order program allows customers to secure current pricing but delay payment on products such as Triple Crown, Solitaire and Echelon until June 10.   The program applies to these FMC products: Dismiss, Dismiss South, Dismiss CA, Blindside, QuickSilver, Echelon, Solitaire, Xonerate and SquareOne herbicides; Triple Crown, Onyx, OnyxPro, Aria and Talstar insecticides; and Disarm fungicides.   The EOP also allows customers to build their own flexible and customizable rebate programs. Nufarm
    Superintendents can earn rewards through the Nufarm Americas early order program. And the sooner they act, the more rewards they can earn.   Qualifying orders on products from Nufarm, Cleary Chemical and Valent USA made through Nufarm distributors through Oct. 31 are eligible for the largest rewards of the season, although superintendents can continue to earn valuable distributor credits through the completion of the program on Dec. 12.   Online registration is required to receive rewards.   Macro-Sorb names new VP
    Macro-Sorb Technologies recently named Michael Kubinec as vice president. He also will serve in the same capacity for Macro-Sorb's sister company, SMS Additive Solutions.   Macro-Sorb is a provider of amino acid-based products, while SMS Additive Solutions offers a line up of surfactants, spray adjuvants and tank mix additives.   With more than 15 years of industry experience, Kubinec will be responsible for all operational activities for both companies, including sales, distribution, marketing, research and new product development. He is based in Pittsburgh.  
  • Bent on success

    By John Reitman, in News,

    During his ten years at Mr. Nicklaus' Muirfield Village Golf Club - including five as superintendent - Mike Takach learned a thing or two about bentgrass.
     
    "The biggest thing I learned about bentgrass at Muirfield is just how far you can push it," said Mike. "The challenge is always trying to keep a balance between playability, aesthetics and the health of the turf."
     
    Mike has been superintendent at the Pinnacle Golf Club located near Columbus, Ohio since it opened in 2005. The course is almost wall-to-wall bent, with L-93 covering everything but the rough. The Ohio climate serves the grass well, except for July and August, when the heat and humidity is especially stressful to the turf.
     
    Click here to read the rest of the story
  • It didn't take long for members at Westmoor Country Club to alleviate Bryan Bergner's concerns about whether raising bees on the golf course was a good idea.
     
    Instead of raising protests, members at this private club in suburban Milwaukee have been overly curious about the bees and, once they learn more about them and why Bergner is raising them, vigorously supportive of his efforts.
     
    "I thought I'd get a lot of complaints and people being concerned about getting stung," said Bergner, who had a custom hive built smack in the center of the golf course near the No. 15 green. "I've heard nothing but great things. The members have been very positive and supportive."
     
    Bergner's curiosity was piqued earlier this year while attending a rooftop cocktail party in downtown Milwaukee. The party went on while bees came and went freely from a large bee-shaped hive on the same terrace. 
     
    "Bees were flying around everywhere," said Bergner. "I couldn't believe no one was getting stung."
     
    The only thing Bergner knew about bees then was that they are threatened by pesticides, parasites and loss of habitat. He thought raising them, to promote their comeback rather than start a second business producing honey, would be a good golf course project that helped the bees, the club and its neighbors.
     
    "I thought if they could thrive on a downtown rooftop, they'd probably do really well on a golf course," he said.
     
    So Bergner set out to learn all he could about bees with the help of local expert and hive builder Charlie Koenen.
     
    In May, Bergner stocked a hive from Koenen's Beepods.com with 3 pounds of bees. Since then, Bergner estimates, the colony has grown nearly 10-fold. Although the thousands of bees living at Westmoor (Bergner plans to establish two more colonies next spring) help keep wildflowers at the club healthy and vigorous, bees have a working range of up to 7-10 miles, so their benefits are felt well beyond the walls of Westmoor.
     
    Bergner says he has yet to be stung, and insists the bees are more concerned about producing honey and maintaining their colony than they are stinging intruders. While Bergner was conducting a routine hive inspection late on a Sunday afternoon, a half-dozen golf-playing members stopped by to ask questions and learn more about the bees, and all were genuinely enthusiastic of the project. The bees, on the other hand, were content to ignore everyone and while hundreds buzzed about the air, not one sting was recorded. Even when thousands of bees swarmed to follow the queen when she left the hive this summer, onlookers were in awed, not afraid. Instead of asking whether they were in danger of being stung, members visiting with Bergner during his recent hive examination asked him if the bees would survive the winter in the Beepod contraption.
     
    While wild bee populations have survived harsh winters for thousands of years, a manmade hive does not adequately protect the bees from the elements, especially strong winds accompanied by sub-freezing temperatures, so, Bergner soon will transport the hive to the shop's cold-storage room, where they will live until spring.
     
    Together, Koenen and Bergner conduct fear-alleviating educational sessions for members that the superintendent calls beesentations.
     
    He also has reached out to nearby residents, who have responded positively after learning the source of the influx of bees that are helping area gardens to thrive.
     
    The project has proven to have multiple benefits for Bergner as well, including serving as a stress reliever during the rigors of the golf season.
     
    "It's been a lot of fun," he said. "I wish more golf courses would do this."
     
    It also has been fulfilling to know he's doing something to help the local bee population. He's even adopted a nighttime spraying program to prevent drift from reaching the colony, which is not active overnight.
     
    "We're a golf course and we spray pesticides. I spray things that would wipe bees out," Bergner said. "But, I haven't killed any bees yet, so I know I'm doing something right."
  • Autumn is a bittersweet time of year for golfers. Leaves changing color make a great game even more enjoyable, but fall typically means aerification time, a semiannual ritual that golfers everywhere despise yet do not fully understand.   Recent research conducted on bentgrass greens in the Northwest, however, shows that while golfers might not like aerification time, the practice might not as disruptive as they like to think it is.   In fact, researchers came away from the study, the results of which were published in 2013, recommending a combination of pulling cores with quarter-inch tines (at a depth of 3 inches) and verticutting for providing key agronomic benefits and improving putting green playability while also resulting in relatively low disruption.   Conducted from 2008 to 2010 on T-1 bentgrass greens at Palouse Ridge Golf Club and Washington State University's turf research facility, both in Pullman, the study examined the effects of six agronomic programs: coring with half-inch tines (also at 3 inches); venting; verticutting; coring with half-inch tines and venting; coring with half-inch tines and verticutting; and coring with quarter-inch tines and verticutting.   The research team of Proctor, Johnson, Golob, Stahnke and Williams from Washington State University acknowledged that core aerification was disruptive on its face, but recuperation was relatively rapid compared with other treatments. And when coring with quarter-inch tines was followed with sand topdressing and combined with verticutting it resulted in a low number of total days of disruption (35 days in 2008, 38 days in 2009, 68 days in 2010). Coring with quarter-inch tines and verticutting resulted in statistically significant fewer total days of disruption than other treatments on most data collection dates, which occurred on multiple dates each month from April through October. The average daily high in Pullman in October is 67 degrees and the overnight low 25, according to the National Weather Service, and the research showed that turf did not recover from cultivation treatments performed after Oct. 15.   The study also examined whether sand color (tan vs. black) affected the turf's recuperative abilities, but found no statistical difference regarding sand color.   Researchers noted they were concerned with the potential for increased soil temperature with the use of black sand. But the study showed no negative effects in the turf's ability to recover after aerifying and verticutting with the use of black sand for topdressing.
  • Statistical paralysis

    By John Reitman, in News,

    There is a reason Vin Scully is known as one of the best broadcast professionals in all of sports. Known best for his work as the play-by-play man for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Scully dabbled in a host of other sports, including golf, and he has a way with words few can match.   As a sportscaster, Scully often must recite volumes of statistics. He also has a keen insight as to their significance, as he once said: "Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost; for support, not illumination."   The golf business too is filled with statistics on weather impact, rounds played, spending at the golf shop and in the restaurant, and equipment sales, as those who make a living studying these numbers attempt to decipher their meaning and how they are relevant to the state of the industry today and where it is headed tomorrow.   According to the National Golf Foundation's mid-year report card, rounds played in 2014 are up 2.4 percent per day open through July, compared to the same period in 2013. We're not sure how that works, since Golf Datatech, NGF's partner in delivering reports and statistics through the PGA Performance Trak package, reports that nationwide rounds played for the same period are down 1.4 percent. Nonetheless, we actually were a little optimistic about this report until we contacted Jim Koppenhaver, who told a different story.   Granted, an abnormally long and cold winter in much of the country adversely affected rounds played for the first quarter of the year. But that brutal winter and ensuing cool, wet spring eventually were followed by a mild summer that has been quite conducive to attracting golfers and growing grass.   In fact, since closing out that first quarter of the year, rounds played in the following four-month period have been as follows: down 1.5 percent, up 0.9 percent, down 2.8 percent and up 1.1 percent. When one figures that the monthly drop in play during the first quarter was 3.6 percent, 4.6 percent and 4.8 percent, again it's hard to get a grasp on that increase of 2.4 percent per day open.   NGF says its measure of golf playable days was down 4.1 percent through the first half of the year compared with the first six months of 2013. And the foundation is predicting an overall mild autumn that could allow for a late rounds played rally.   Koppenhaver, whose Pellucid Corp. has always played Bear to NGF's Bull, says the foundation isn't far off, but off nonetheless. Koppenhaver tracks golf-friendly conditions down to the hour rather than the day, and he says GPH are flat through July.    NGF and PGA Performance Trak, which utilize Weather Trends International, are predicting an extended autumn with favorable weather conditions. Koppenhaver, who uses Weather Bank Inc., disagrees.   "No major meltdown," Koppenhaver says. "But, according to our crystal ball, we've peaked in the weather comeback and will give a little bit of it back."   That's bad news at a key time of year for an industry that is in need of recovery, yet is projected to shed another 35-75 18-hole equivalents in 2014.   Regardless of what the statistics say, this much we know: no industry growth initiative is worth its salt if it doesn't work for you. It doesn't matter much to you what works for the course down the road. Recovery must happen on a site-by-site basis by implementing initiatives that improve pace of play, make the game more appealing to those who don't have 4-5 hours to spend on golf, and more friendly to those who have been scared off during the past decade.   Early reports indicated that even foot golf is resulting in increased revenues. , and the industry is facing several more years of contraction before this ship is righted, which brings to mind another Scully quote.   "You can almost taste the pressure now."
  • Like pulling teeth

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Whether it was during the 45 years he spent standing over a dentist's chair or the four decades he has been actively promoting golf to his patients, Charles Spragg has always considered himself to be a man of action.    When other dentists in Findlay, Ohio were too busy to take walk-in patients suffering from acute pain, Spragg made time for them. In the meantime he built a lucrative practice because people knew they could depend on him. Likewise, as an avid golfer, he recognized years ago that there was a need to promote the game to area kids as he watched interest in other youth sports soar. So he started a series of clinics and tournaments that got kids off the couch and onto the golf course.   Although he retired and sold his practice four years ago, Spragg still is the defacto Godfather of youth golf in northwestern Ohio. The Findlay Area Golf Association he started for local kids is celebrating its 40th year, and at age 74, Spragg is in his inaugural season as boys golf coach at Findlay High School.    Despite his efforts to promote the game, Spragg has watched golfer participation slip consistently, not only among adults but also in the youth league he founded 40 years ago. Participation at the high school level also is down, and there is a dearth of talent in the junior high ranks. In a refocused effort to generate interest in golf, Spragg, in mid-September, started an after-school program that offers clinics and lessons and a chance to play nine holes on a donation-only basis. No experience is needed, nor are one's own clubs. All Spragg wants in return is for kids to give the game a fair chance and to have fun while they are there.  He solicited his junior varsity coach as well as the girls high school coach to help him teach kids how to hold the clubs properly, how to putt and chip and how to strike the ball.   "We just want campers. No experience, no clubs," Spragg said.   "We don't even want the money. We want the players. At any skill level."    The clinics are held at Shady Grove, a par-3 facility with a large practice area as well as a putt-putt course. Shady Grove owner Scott Malloy, who was a state qualifier on Findlay High's golf teams in the mid 1970s, provides kids with various clubs and more than 4,000 balls to hit from various putting, chipping and hitting stations around the practice area.   "Dr. Spragg and I have been talking for a while about trying to do something to get kids interested," Malloy said. "He told me when he took over the golf team that it wasn't doing well, and there aren't a lot of good players in the pipeline.   "We have to do something to get the kids interested, and this is the perfect course to do it at."   Only six players showed up for the first rain-plagued event, and they were unceremoniously sent home. The next day, Spragg's high school team was en route to a match when he discussed fading interest in the game among children with the driver of the team's van. The driver, who also is a sixth grade math teacher at a Findlay junior high school, drafted a flier and had it distributed to students in three middle schools throughout the city. Since then, the program attracted 61 kids in two weeks. Some are accomplished players, and some never have held a club before.   "You can tell a lot of the kids have never played before, and that's OK. That's who we want," Malloy said. "We've seen some coming back on other days, either on the driving range or even playing golf, and of course, that's what we're really looking for."   As the founder of the Findlay Area Golf Association, which has been providing local children of all ages and skill levels with clinics and instruction, nine holes of tournament play and even a hot dog lunch for less than 15 bucks ($18 for 18 holes), Spragg has had a hand in promoting the game to hundreds of kids with varying levels of interest. The program even provides scholarship assistance for graduating high school seniors who have played in the system for at least three years. And the list of players who have gone through the program includes former PGA Tour player and current University of Cincinnati men's golf coach Doug Martin, former University of Michigan women's coach Cheryl Stacy and dozens of others who have gone on to compete at the high school and even college levels. Despite his efforts, Spragg has watched golfer participation slip consistently, not only among adults but also in his own youth league, prompting him to team with the owner of a local golf course in an attempt to rejuvenate kids' interest in the game.   Why does a retiree, who divides his calendar between northwestern Ohio and Bradenton, Florida and has the time and resources to play as much golf as he wants to, spend his time motivating and teaching other people's children?   Part of it is self-fulfillment. He also figures if he doesn't do something to help revive the game, who will?   "You ask why. I answer why not?" Spragg said. "I'm not knocking those that run, own, teach, or in any way are connected to golf. But, I've been talking to these people all over the country for a number of years. They all want The First Tee or someone else to do the work. If a golf course loses rounds of play as they have; do you just talk about it? If a teaching pro just looses clients/students; do you just talk about it?   "When I was in practice as a dentist, I constantly did things to attract new patients. I took toothache patients when my office was full and found a way to take care of their problem. I had a really good practice and sold it to a young dentist who thinks the same way I did."   His spirit of giving back is something that his parents instilled in him years ago when Spragg was growing up on the family dairy farm in Bridgeport, Ohio.   "I believe that when you get up in the morning you need something that makes you feel needed in this world," Spragg said. "I have never been one to join clubs, hang out with the guys. I was trained early in life to be a doer; to help others; and to make the place you live a better place than when you arrived."
  • If education is power, then learning more about smart water management should wield a lot of clout in the turf business.   From October through next May, Rain Bird Training Services will conduct more than 80 irrigation training events nationwide for irrigation professional from throughout the turf industry.    These classes are open to irrigation professionals at all experience levels, including contractors, distributors, designers or architects. Those who attend Rain Bird training classes are eligible to receive continuing education units from the Irrigation Association.   Rain Bird Training Services offers two primary types of training tracks designed to help irrigation professionals enhance their skills and improve their career prospects. Rain Bird Factory Trained Classes provide comprehensive training on Rain Bird products that help attendees become experts on installing, managing and maintaining Rain Bird irrigation systems. Rain Bird Academy Classes provides best-in-class, general irrigation skills training on products from many manufacturers, as well as courses for Irrigation Association exam preparation.   Golf-specific training classes are scheduled for Oct. 6-10 at The Villages, about an hour north of Orlando, Florida; Dec. 15-19 in Las Vegas and Jan. 12-16 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Several other classes will be available on selected dates throughout the country.   Beginning in December, Rain Bird Training Services also will offer a newly developed preparation class for the Irrigation Association's Certified Irrigation Designer exam.     "We have had a lot of requests from contractors and landscape architects to help them prepare for the IA's CID exam," said Robert Pfeil, marketing group manager for Rain Bird Services. "We listened to those requests, and we've carefully developed a class that we believe will help many irrigation professionals better prepare for this important examination."   The Irrigation Association recently designated the four-part Rain Bird Academy Boot Camp as part of the IA Select program for quality irrigation education, a first for an external training services provider.
  • As water becomes more scarce and users search for more ways to conserve it, micro irrigation in specific areas has become more prevalent.    For those who now use or are contemplating separate drip irrigation systems in problem areas such steep bunker faces, Toro recently introduced its Aqua-Clear fiberglass sand media filter product line for flows ranging from 50 to 400 gallons per minute.   Aqua-Clear filters are corrosion-resistant, designed for drip irrigation systems operating up to 75 psi, and are available in 18-, 24-, 30- and 36-inch systems.    Features of the system include AC and DC options to automate filter backwash on any site; automated systems complete with all valves, controller and hydraulic connections; English and Spanish language?detailed and illustrated operation manual; double-chamber backwash valve for reliable, low?head loss operation; solid-state controller backwashes on both time and pressure differential; and expansion modules for simple addition of a single filter to an existing system.
  • After one of the most daring golf course restoration projects ever and the most ambitious 1-2 punch in the history of major championship golf, Kevin Robinson is reaping the rewards of success.   Pinehurst Resort, home of famed No. 2 course that was rebuilt by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to look pretty much like it did in the 1930s for this year's back-to-back U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open, recently named Robinson golf course maintenance manager and elevated John Jeffreys from assistant to head superintendent on No. 2.   "Kevin and John both have showed tremendous leadership and expertise, particularly in leading Pinehurst through the challenges of hosting two major championships in consecutive weeks," said Bob Farren, director of golf course and grounds at Pinehurst Resort. "We're excited about what they will continue to bring to Pinehurst."   Robinson, who was named superintendent on No. 2 in 2010, will be responsible for the daily golf course management of all nine courses at Pinehurst. A 1992 N.C. State graduate, Robinson has been at Pinehurst since 1992. He first worked as a spray tech on No. 7 before becoming superintendent of Nos. 3 and 5 in 1998 and superintendent of Nos. 6 and 7 in 1999.   Since being named to oversee No. 2, he has guided the course through a major restoration project that included converting the greens from A1/A4 creeping bentgrass to Champion ultradwarf Bermudagrass in preparation for two major championships in two weeks this past summer.   Jeffreys, also a graduate of N.C. State, has been at Pinehurst since 2000, when he served as an intern on No. 7. He was named assistant on No. 6 in 2001 and assistant on No. 2 in 2006.  
  • Rude welcome

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Like many assistants, Pat Smyth waited for years to get the call to become a head golf course superintendent. After six seasons waiting in the wings at Saddle Creek Resort in Copperopolis, California, Smyth was named the facility's head golf course superintendent on June 9. Two days later, the Calaveras County Water District informed him of mandatory water use reductions of 35 percent, proving that the old saying "be careful what you wish for ?" often is true.   After three years of drought, many golf courses throughout California already had adopted voluntary cutbacks and had redefined the meaning of dry and playable. Saddle Creek had cut back its water use by 10-15 percent in that time. With no end to the drought in sight, the 35 percent reduction couldn't have come at a more inopportune time.   "A lot of things went through my mind. I was expecting the worst," Smyth said. "The soils here are rocky already, and there is no water-holding capacity. The front nine greens were shutting down, and it was getting hot.   "You talk about stress, stress, stress. I had just gotten the job, and I was wondering whether I'd be able to keep it through the summer."   Rather than second-guess his career choice, or move in with his parents, Smyth got to work with the help of assistant Brandon Russell looking for ways to reduce water use. The result, he said, is a course that is faster and firmer than ever, it also is in the best condition it's been in since Smyth arrived there more than six years ago.   By diverting labor from detail work like edging bunkers to more needed chores like hand-watering hot spots and incorporating a 30-day surfactant program, low-flow sprinkler heads to irrigate rough areas, converting from full-circle rotors to part-circle and measuring results religiously with soil moisture monitors, Smyth has been able to cut average daily water use by 300,000 gallons.   Success for Smyth depended more on managing water more efficiently than it did cutting its use. Prior to the reduction mandate, it took three or four Saddle Creek maintenance workers all day every day to complete detail work, such as edging cart paths and along the edges of the property's 102 bunkers. That was a drain on a staff of seven full-time employees (including Smyth and his equipment manager) and six seasonal workers. With voluntary reductions of 10-15 percent already in place for the past three years, delivering water only to where it was needed most and ensuring it lasted as long as possible in the canopy and rootzone were critical components of a successful water-management plan.   The first step was educating club administration and golfing members about the cutbacks, what that would mean to the golf course and what Smyth and his crew could do to keep the course alive.   Adjuvants had been used for several years at Saddle Creek, but their use was limited mainly to greens and spot use on fairway trouble areas. This year, Smyth convinced the club to free up more funding for an expanded program to help keep the course alive. His new wetting agent program included applying Neptune, a polyglycol ether ester adjuvant from Loveland Products, on greens, tees and fairways at a rate of 2 gallons per acre.   The impact was noticeable almost immediately.   "It's helped tremendously," Smyth said. "I'm going to fight for that in the budget now every year."   Rather than waste time every day edging bunkers and cart paths, the crew now spends that time hand-watering to make sure every place that needs water gets it, and areas that do not need water don't get any.   "I went to the membership, the men's club, the ladies club and told them what this meant to us, and that edging was very labor intensive," he said. "I was able to convince them that we just couldn't do that anymore, and they allowed me to move our labor to hand-watering to keep the course alive.   "In order to keep course playable and as green as possible, we needed to implement a hand-watering program. Membership was OK with that, and the staff was happy to ignore the detail work."   A series of low-flow, pop-up sprinklers from Hunter that deliver water at a 1.3 gpm trickle now distribute water to areas where hand-watering isn't feasible. And 230 new Toro heads that deliver water in part-circle patterns replace some of the outdated 1,500 or so full-circle heads scattered around the course. That alone has accounted for a savings of 50,000 gallons of water per night.   Smyth and Russell now check soil-moisture readings throughout the course multiple times a day with handheld monitors and for a while were even coming back to the course at night to make sure everything was still alive.   In the end, both the course and its crew were capable of enduring hardships the likes of which Smyth could not imagine.   "I knew I could do the job, but I didn't know if I could under these conditions," he said. "Everyone goes into this stressed, nervous and scared. This opened my eyes and made me realize I can do this. It makes you stronger and makes you realize what you are capable of doing.   "This also opened the eyes of the staff and members and showed that we really can do this with a lot less water if we stay on top of it every day."
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