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From the TurfNet NewsDesk


  • John Reitman
    News of the departure of Keith Ihms, CGCS, from the Country Club of Little Rock does not affect his tenure as president of the GCSAA, at least not for the near future.   The GCSAA announced today that Ihms left his position as director of grounds maintenance at the Country Club of Little Rock on March 1, just 23 days after he was named the association's president at the conclusion of this year's Golf Industry Show in Orlando, Fla.   It was unclear from the communique from GCSAA why Ihms, who has served on the GCSAA board as an officer or director since 2006, left the position in Arkansas he has held since 2005.    According to Article VI, Section 1 of the GCSAA bylaws, only Class A members who are actively employed as golf course superintendents are eligible for election as officers or directors. In the event of job loss, a sitting officer or director can continue to serve for up to six months.    If in six months Ihms must resign as GCSAA president, vice president John O'Keefe, CGCS, would replace him, according to Article VI, Section 5 of the bylaws. O'Keefe, who was elected to the board in 2007, is director of golf course management at Preakness Hills Country Club in Wayne, N.J.
    In a letter published by GCSAA, Ihms wrote to members: "Per GCSAA bylaws, I will continue to serve as your national president during this time of transition. I want to assure you that while I am exploring new opportunities in my career as a golf course superintendent, the duties and responsibilities that come with the presidency of GCSAA will never be far from my mind and will continue to receive my full attention and focus during this period."   Click here to read the full text of Ihms' letter to GCSAA members.  
    According to GCSAA, no sitting president ever has surrendered his seat due to an interruption in employment.  
  • #WorstWinterEver

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Throughout much of the country, the winter of 2013-14 has been one to forget. Problem is, it won't go away, and when it finally does, its effects will last for months for many superintendents.   Many cities have set or are close to setting records for cold temperatures or snowfall, or both. Partial thaws followed by cycles of refreezing, freezing rain and more snow (often all in the same day) have resulted in turf under ice for up to two months in some areas. In areas where snow has been scarce, freezing temperatures and high winds have created other problems, such as desiccation.   To help superintendents manage through the effects of the winter of 2013-14, TurfNet, Aquatrols and Grigg Brothers are presenting #WorstWinterEver, a three-person Webinar by Kevin Frank, Ph.D., of Michigan State, Bill Kreuser, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska and Frank S. Rossi, Ph.D., of Cornell.    This 90-minute presentation (GCSAA-approved CEUs are pending) will include information on the threat of ice damage and desiccation, why plants die under winter stress, preventive strategies and options for recovery heading into this year's playing season.   Click here for more information or to reserve your seat.
  • Just 15 minutes from Manhattan is a bastion of environmental stewardship that defies is proximity to the world's financial capital. And Matt Ceplo, CGCS, has worked hard to make certain that Rockland Country Club in Sparkill, N.Y., is a place where acting as a steward for the environment and providing a great golf experience for members and guests can work hand in hand.   Over the years, Ceplo has earned numerous awards and accolades for his work synchronizing Rockland and its members with the environment. His most recent honor came when he was elected to serve a four-year term on Audubon International's board of directors.    Ceplo, 54, replaces Dan Dinelli, CGCS at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Ill.   Ceplo guided Rockland to Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Status in 1999. Serving on the group's board of directors is, for him, akin to public service.   "It's an opportunity for me to give back to an organization that helped me learn and grow," Ceplo said. "Back in the day, if anyone had told me to take a class in ecology in college, I would have asked them why. Now, it would be the first thing I'd tell someone. I think it can't hurt to take some classes in ecology and minor in business. What I've always loved about Audubon is that it taught me what to do and what to look for so I could say we were managing the property in an environmental way. And it does so without a set of rules that are so strict you can't work with them. It allows you to do what you can with the property you have and the customers you have, because it recognizes that your first have to keep your customers happy.   "There is no way I can do as much for Audubon as it has done for me."   Since guiding Rockland to status as a Cooperative Sanctuary, Ceplo has expanded his involvement with Audubon International to become a member of the Audubon Steward Network and has been an advocate for various environmental initiatives, especially among fellow members of the Metropolitan Golf Course Superintendents Association and the Metropolitan Golf Association. Rockland Country Club was named a member of the New York State environmental leader's program in 2013.   "Matt is well-respected throughout the golf industry and recognized by his peers as a leader in environmental sustainability on the golf course," said Ryan Aylesworth, president and chief executive officer of Audubon International. "As a superintendent, he was an early-adopter of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, and under his leadership the course earned certification over a decade and has been successfully re-certified seven times. Matt has also generously volunteered his time over the years to mentor other superintendents by serving as a member of the Audubon Steward Network. As a valued certified member of our program, Audubon Steward, and highly regarded golf industry professional, Audubon International has been benefiting from Matt's knowledge and experience for years. It is very exciting to have him join our Board, and I am confident our organization will benefit considerably from the well-informed perspectives he offers in this new role."   Ceplo conducts an annual bird count at Rockland, and recently, with the help of local naturalist and butterfly expert John Lampkin, completed the club's first butterfly count. At least 42 species of birds and 15 species of butterflies have been found at Rockland.   In 2012, two local Girls Scout troops conducted a Monarch butterfly tagging day as part of a University of Kansas butterfly-tracking study, an annual fishing derby not only allows local children to have some fun, but also gives Ceplo a chance to teach others about the importance of water quality.   Those efforts helped him win the 2013 GCSAA President's Award for Environmental Stewardship.   He has installed areas with native plantings, areas he now calls "God's gardens" rather than native or natural areas, that help minimize inputs and also save in labor costs,    A new pumphouse that will open this spring will have a green roof that will be topped with drought-tolerant fescue rather than heat-absorbing asphalt shingles.   Ceplo sees his role as an environmental steward charged with managing a greenspace much the same way an artist would view a canvas.   "You have the ability and the open space to do so many things," he said. "Who has 20 acres top provide a butterfly habitat? How many other businesses can say ?we can help your flooding problems downstream by doing this, or doing that?' Nobody can. To manage this much land and property opens up a huge opportunity that few people or businesses have."   Ceplo spends a great deal of time educating Rockland's members on the possibilities that come with owning such a piece of property. He has formed an Audubon committee at the club, which includes at least one board member as well as representatives from outside Rockland's membership.   "You have to have an allegiance to your members," he said. "It's hard sometimes when you have an idea of what you want to do, but you have to go to the owners and tell them that what you want to do is going to cost them more money.   "But you still work in a profession where you have to have an allegiance to golf and to your profession."   Often education of members also is a refresher in economics.   When Ceplo converts part of the property to a native area, there are those who appreciate and those who do not.   "In fact, there are some who would be happier if you just mowed it all down," he said. "I tell them that's fine, but it's more expensive to do that, and here is how much it is going to cost you. That argument goes a long way. But if someone loses a $2.50 Titleist in an area that we just say is for butterflies, that's a hard argument to make."
  • During this year's Golf Industry Show, visitors to the Direct Solutions booth had a chance to win a prize for shooting "turf monsters" with foam darts. The game was symbolic of a new approach by Direct Solutions, the Colorado-based distribution arm of the Canada's Agrium Advanced Technologies. The metaphor is that Direct Solutions wants to help superintendents slay monsters on the golf course, not just on the trade show floor.   As a subsidiary of one of the world's largest multinational chemical companies Direct Solutions seemingly would have a large enough product portfolio to sell from without leaving the umbrella of its parent company. Instead, Direct Solutions sells from a line up that includes a mind-boggling 3,000-plus agronomic products from multiple manufacturers. And based on customer feedback, it is throwing its weight behind exactly four of them.   "We've received feedback from our customers, and it says ?I need products that help me now, I need a great price and I need after-sale service and support,' " said Rob Stevenson, the company's PR voice. "They're telling us they need a partner."   Based on that customer feedback, Direct Solutions has gone from a product-based approach to meeting its customer's needs to a program-based solution. The approach is consistent with the term "turfonomics" that arose during GIS, a term that signaled an overall, solution-based approach that so many companies are adopting to better help superintendents be successful. And for many of these companies, providing broad-based solutions has been a very new way of doing business.   "It's a different approach for us," Stevenson said. "We've been product focused in the past, but now we are more of a solution-based company. It is all about what is best for the customer."   That program includes exactly four products that Direct Solutions' technical team believes will meet the needs of superintendents during the early part of the upcoming golf season. It's an approach that Direct Solutions launched during the fourth quarter of 2013 and has continued into this year.   The current program the company is promoting includes Syngenta's Acelepryn (chlorantraniliprole) insecticide for grub control, a combination of Dow's Defendor (florasulam) and Dimension (dithiopyr) for crabgrass control and Radiate (3-indolebutyric acid and cytokinin), a plant growth regulator from Loveland Products formulated to help strengthen transplanted turf.   Stevenson says that Direct Solutions' agronomic team came up with this list of products to help superintendents this spring based on current weather conditions, historic weather patterns and current turf conditions throughout the eastern half of the country.   "We have more than 3,000 (products). We've picked four. That means we have 2,996 other products, but we're devoting our time and attention to helping superintendents understand why we think these four can help them do their jobs better.   "There is a little prognosticating, a lot of science, a lot of agronomy and a little bit of luck involved."   Direct Solutions sister company, Crop Protection Services, is operating a similar program west of the Mississippi River.   Those who didn't make the current list can take heart that the program-based approach changes quarterly based on changing needs of superintendents. Although some courses still are covered in snow, and thousands have yet to open, Direct Solutions' technical team already is working to identify the best program to fit the needs of superintendents this fall.   Maybe even one day some of the products on the list might be from Agrium.   "We're product-agnostic," Stevenson said. "It's all about educating the superintendent. It's about experience, and it's about confidence."
  • The future is now for those wondering when zero-turn technology that is so popular in landscape mowers finally would get a foothold in golf course maintenance.   The Sand Pro 2040Z bunker rake from Toro, one of many new products on display in the company's booth at this year's Golf Industry Show, has a new "flex" tooth rake system with a patent-pending "lift in turn" feature that lifts the inside rake during a tight turn, leaving no unraked teardrops or tire marks behind. The 84-inch wide flex tooth rake has three reversible rubber trowels that won?t tear bunker liners or turf on bunker edges. Each of the rake?s three sections moves independently.   The 2040Z is powered by a gas-driven 12.2 hp Kawasaki engine. A unitized transmission design  minimizes hydraulic lines and connections. Top transport speed is 12 mph.   Driving the machine is done via two independent control sticks with power steering that operate the 2040Z just like a zero-turn mower. The rear attachment is activated through a thumb switch on the control stick, making full operation safe and easy.   Optional accessories for the Sand Pro 2040Z include an LED light kit; mesh storage bag for tools, trash or debris; Bimini sunshade; seat suspension kit and Turf-Trac tires.
  • By Bradley Klein Golfweek   Behind the hype that we have come to expect from Donald Trump, there a lot more substance and attention to detail than anyone would imagine. He cultivates the bluster for show. Meanwhile, his focus and willingness to spend time and money on projects and his confidence to hire fine people to work with that make him excel at business, and now at golf.   That's also why, despite sitting on a pretty compromised site with little to recommend it for golf other than location, Trump National Doral Miami-The Blue Monster, which Trump unveiled earlier this month, has turned out really well.   The soil is heavy and poorly draining while offering no elevation change, and the 800 acres comprising the Doral resort is surrounded by commercial, residential and quasi-industrial sprawl. At least it has a good location, 13 miles northwest of downtown Miami and six miles from Miami International Airport.   What The Blue Monster also had was an inflated reputation that was wearing thin. Enter Trump, and with him, his unlikely golf counterpart, the modest, soft-spoken Gil Hanse. Gil's the kind of guy whose first instinct at Doral was to go back and study the plans of the original design, Dick Wilson, from 1962. Trump's inclination was simply to turn it into the best resort course possible. "I could have fixed it up and made it work," he said last week at the gala reopening of The Blue Monster following a nine-month renovation. But I thought we have a chance to do something special. His instructions to Hanse were pretty simple, as it turns out. "Let's do it right. Do what you need to do to make this the best possible course."   That meant a total transformation, not some cosmetic fix. And the strange thing is that together, along with $13 million, they achieved what might be the hardest thing to do in golf design ? a complete renovation in place, one that makes the course look totally new and upgraded, and yet one that occupies basically the same routing in place.   As Hanse remembers it, a crucial moment came early in the design process, when Trump and Hanse were walking the property. "We're standing on this unused area behind the 8th green," says Hanse. "We're looking towards the 18th green, the 9th green, the clubhouse. It was the best vantage point for seeing so much but was being wasted. And Trump simply started seeing things, how we could open it up, create this vast spectator amphitheater."   The pieces fell in place. Move the eighth green, put a new ninth tee looking toward that vast open area, move the ninth tee, swing the 10th over, create all of this space for a practice range that would be twice the size of the old one. They took out a boggy area behind the ninth green and created better access, so that now the whole area from the 18th green, across nine and including the tee and drive on the 10th hole, all fall within a massive envelope. The effect is dramatic and makes for great spectating.   It helped having 60-70 unused acres in the middle of the old routing to work with. This gave Hanse room to shift fairways, move greens, expand ponds. The effect is of a whole new golf course, yet it also evokes the basic shape of the traditional course. And to honor the Blue Monster's legendary finishing hole, Hanse basically left the 18th hole untouched. The fairway got the same sand capping for improved drainage as all the other holes. And the green was rebuilt with the same substructure as all the other holes. Other than the addition of a few trees in the left corner of the dogleg and along the right side to block off bailout, it's the same hole, the least changed of any at Doral.   As for the rest of the course, here's a quick run down of the major changes:   ? Expanded green surfaces with new contours designed to tie in better with surrounding bunkers and to create the need for carefully selected angles of approach from the fairways. ? Raised, sand-capped fairways for improved drainage and with more contour to require shot shaping off the tee. ? All new bunkers, with shapes more classically inspired and scruffier in look than the deep, rounded pits Doral use to have. ? A clearing out of the understory and a whole new planting scheme of large palms and live oaks to raise the profile of the course while improving views across the grounds. ? Dramatically expanded lakes. ? Viewing minds for spectators designed to enhance views of the action, often on multiple holes. Fans of Doral who used to be stuck low along the side will gain much-improved vistas of the action. ? A practice range that's more than double in size and has night lights. How cool will it be to see players at the WGC-Cadillac Championship working on their games at 10 p.m.? ? A course that's longer, wider and requires more thought to play. ? The first hole, a waterless, downwind, pushover par 5 of only 529 yards, is now a 578-yard hole with a mid-fairway bunker deep in the second shot landing area that has to be avoided, and a necked-down green perched over a new pond on the right that will combine for a fascinating risk/reward first hole. ? The old short par-3 15th hole has been radically transformed by a tripling of the green's size, with water now wrapping around three sides of it, and surface contours comprising sweeping decks that are hard to transit from one to the next. This green will see more dramatic action than any other on the course. ? The PGA Tour is preparing a detailed memo to WGC contestants that will explain each change and each hole. It will also contain the not-so-subtle proviso to learn what amounts to a new course and not simply criticize the new one for being different.   Some will like it. Others will not. Expect the new Blue Monster to be a hotly debated topic. But there it is, the product of an unlikely merger of two differently talented people. And give Trump credit, he gets things done, on time. Which is not always the case, as Hanse knows full well from the tortoise-like pace of work he's mired in with the 2016 Olympics Course in Brazil ? a year behind schedule. Small wonder Hanse tossed out the line of the day at the Doral opening. "I wish we could bring him [Trump] to Rio," said Hanse. "We'd get a lot more done more quickly."  
  • The enemy below

    By John Reitman, in News,

    As a blanket of snow begins to melt off in much of the country this week, superintendents are left wondering just what they are going to find underneath.   In some parts of the country, that snow layer has served like a warm, cozy blanket since December. For others, it masks a layer of ice that might be benign, or one that could spell disaster.   Jim Bluck, CGCS at Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon, Mich., says he is expecting to find some of the healthiest turf he's seen in years whenever the snow melts at the course in north-central part of Michigan's mitten. The reason, he says, is timing.   "It got cold fast and the ground just froze. Then, the snow came. It's been like an insulating blanket for the turf," Bluck said.    Located about 100 miles south of Mackinac Island, Forest Dunes typically receives upwards of 150 inches of snow per year and remains covered from early December until early April. The Roscommon area has received about 140 inches of snow so far this winter, Bluck said.   When dry ground freezes rapidly, a lack of moisture in the plant means the snow can help protect the dormant, but otherwise healthy turf, throughout the winter, said Nathaniel Mitkowski, Ph.D., at the University of Rhode Island.    "If there is no ice in the snow pack, particularly at the soil interface, you can leave the snow on the green all winter," Mitkowski said.   Even when overnight temperatures in Roscommon dipped to as low as minus-16 degrees on four occasions in January, and with accompanying wind-chill factors in excess of minus-30, that snow blanket kept the surface temperatures at manageable levels, Bluck said.    "It was 20 degrees at the surface, because we had so much snow," he said. "The cold hasn't gotten to the turf. The wind hasn't gotten to the turf. I expect my turf to come out just fine."   Just to south, however, the news isn't so good.   Snowfall amounts in southern Michigan and other parts of the Midwest are way above normal. But those snow events have been accompanied by freeze-thaw cycles and, in some parts of Ohio, freezing rain followed by snow on at least three occasions.   About 65 inches of snow has fallen since Dec. 1 in the Detroit area, including a record 39 inches in January. The norm through mid-February is 27 inches, according to the National Weather Service.   Ice layers underneath the snow have sent some superintendents out with aerifiers equipped with solid tines to break up the ice, or bags of heat-hugging black sand or Milorganite to expedite the melting Process. Some even are taking blowers to greens to dry the moisture prior to the next freeze cycle.   Others, like Dan Koops at Findlay Country Club in northwestern Ohio, have become innovators at protecting turf from winter conditions.   To date, 63 inches of snow have fallen in northwestern Ohio, and the 42 inches that fell in January was a record, according to the National Weather Service. Like the Detroit area 90 miles to the north, Findlay also was hit hard by sub-zero temperatures, heavy snow and strong winds in early January. When the wind blew snow from the greens, Koops and his crew removed some from the bunkers and anywhere else they could find it and piled it on FCC's annual bluegrass putting surfaces that the superintendent says haven't been renovated since architect Thomas Bendelow built the place 106 years ago.   With temperatures the third week of February expected to climb into the 50s for a day or two, some of the snow and ice is expected to melt off. The question is, what will happen to saturated turf when overnight temperatures dip below 20 degrees by the weekend and into single digits again within a week in areas where snow cover this winter is measured in feet rather than inches.   "The problem arises when you get freezing and thawing cycles and/or rain," Mitkowski said. "When this happens, water percolates to the bottom of the snow pack and inevitably freezes back into ice.    "My guess is that if the snow melted today and the ice went with it, the grass would probably be fine. But if the temperatures get severe afterwards and more snow/ice/freeze/thaw happens, you could still be looking at damage."   At Findlay, ice has been on the course for about 35 days, Koops said. He's unsure of what to expect when the snow melts this week. He is more concerned about damage from the flood-prone Blanchard River that winds through the course. Entering his third season at the club, Koops avoided any flooding events in 2012, but the river ran up on parts of the course three times in 2013. As voluminous amounts of snow begin to melt away, the first event of 2014 is almost a certainty.   Opinions vary on how long Poa can survive under ice, but Michigan State turfgrass pathologist Joe Vargas, Ph.D., says the range typically is 45-90 days before turf death can occur due to toxic gas exchange. Bentgrass, he says, can survive for up to 120 days.   If the ground is frozen when an ice layer is formed, there is less chance for an exchange of turf-killing toxic gasses, Vargas says. The warmer the soil, the faster oxygen escapes the turf, increasing the chances for the exchange of toxic gasses and turf death.   In December thaw cycles, Koops has used squeegees to remove water from Findlay's greens. In January, there often was too much snow, and above-freezing temperatures lasted for a day or less.   "If the Poa annua breaks dormancy and takes up water swelling the crown and the ice melts and refreezes that night wherever there was standing water it will die," Vargas said. "Creeping bentgrass does not break dormancy for a long period of time and is not affected by the reformation of the ice. It is going to be interesting to see what happens with the late winter."   Of major importance, Koops said, is maintaining an open line of communication with the membership.   "I have been warning them that we probably will have some pockets of dead turf in those areas where water settles and ice has been standing," he said. "I haven't seen any spots that are brown. I would like to get a full meltdown and see what's out there. This is one of those winters where you don't know what you're getting out of it. And there isn't anything you can do about it."  
  • There was some encouraging news coming out of this year's Golf Industry Show.   Aside from what appeared to be more new products on display than there has been in some time, this year's show marked the first time since 2008 that attendance was up over the previous year.   According to GCSAA, a total of 14,147 attended this year's GIS, up from 13,192 last year in San Diego. Not since 25,737 showed up in Orlando in 2008 (an increase from 23,099 that attended the 2007 GIS in Anaheim) has there been a year-over-year jump in attendance. The 561 vendors in attendance were the most since 2010 in San Diego (665). The number of qualified buyers, 6,845, also was up over last year's 6,018 and is way up over the 5,752 who showed up in Orlando in 2011. Overall attendance this year, however, lagged behind the 14,772 in Orlando three years ago.    A news release by GCSAA says "the golf industry's journey along the road to recovery continues at a steady and sustainable pace."   Is increased attendance indeed a sign that golf is moving out of the doldrums? Other economic indicators besides trade show attendance say the game is not there yet; not by a long shot. Course closings are up, construction is down, and golfers are fleeing the game faster than new ones are coming into it. Increased attendance could be a combination of location (Orlando always is a popular destination), a focus on education by superintendents driven to the brink by golfer expectations, and a need to find solutions to specific problem.   "Personally, I need to maintain a healthy dose of professional paranoia," said Scott Ramsay, CGCS at The Course at Yale (University) in New Haven, Conn. "If I do not keep up with the industry or my education, I get worried."   Like Ramsay, Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa attends GIS primarily for education as well as the opportunity to network with peers.   "I think in this new era of golf course management for you to survive you have to be the best you can be. I think you need to network with fellow superintendents," Tegtmeier said. "I think you need to see what is working for others then apply R&D.   "I also think you need to be on top of your game, otherwise there are going to be others that want your job. You have to stay educated, take advantage of as much education as you can."   Tegtmeier and his two superintendents also found solutions to specific problems at GIS, like implementing a digital job board for the crew that can be updated on a tablet or smart phone, eliminating the need to drive back to the shop to update the board in mid-day.   He also met with representatives from several companies that that specialize in, among other things, removing muck during pond dredging, a service he will require this year during the next stage of a multi-phase restoration project. He also met a fellow superintendent who had hired one of the companies, a meeting that Tegtmeier called invaluable.   "Had I not attended I would not have had the opportunity to talk to three of those companies," he said. "I would not have met a superintendent from Illinois and talked about the project that he did using one of the same companies. It is all important."   Ramsay, too, often attends GIS on a troubleshooting mission.   Last year in San Diego, he was looking for a solution to an increase in the nematode population at Yale. He met with chemical companies and manufacturers of organic pest-management products seeking answers to this problem. He also met with colleagues who had gone through the same thing, and learned how they dealt with the issue. What he learned more than paid for his trip to GIS.   "Networking at the Beer & Pretzels, on the show floor and everywhere in between, I was able to develop a protocol that ultimately got my nematode counts below a survivable threshold," Ramsay said. "I was able to reduce nematode control costs by more than $10,000 from 2012 to 2013, and more importantly (had) healthy greens.   "I think attendance is up because it's an important event to many superintendents. They can sell it to their clubs as a value-added expense."   Pat Daly, CGCS at Framingham Country Club in Massachusetts, hasn't been to GIS in years. Not because it isn't in his budget. It is. And not because he doesn't value education. He does.    He is able to get all of the education and networking he needs at the annual New England Regional Turfgrass Foundation show.   "If I find that I need to reach someone outside my area for something, I reach out to them by phone or email and do my research online and after speaking to other superintendents who have used there products," Daly said.   Several companies at this year's show seem to have a grasp on the plight affecting golf course superintendents. Job security is low, pressure is high, and superintendents need help as golfer expectations put turf under increased stress each season. Many vendors as well as their distribution networks are taking a broader approach to meeting the needs of their customers.   When visiting booths at GIS this year, words such as "partner" and "consultant" were thrown around with regularity. In fact, it was so common that I refrained from mentioning the compnanies specifically for fear of forgetting one or more of them. Suffice to say, it's a new world for superintendents, and most of the companies that serve them are aware of that.   And it is important for a superintendent to know he has a partner during the 100 days of hell.   "The guys I deal with on a regular basis, I feel give me genuine, honest advice when it comes to their own products - good or bad. They're not just looking for the quick sale," said Jared Viarengo, CGCS, superintendent and general manager at Applebrook Golf Club in Malvern, Pa.   "I'm sure they are working to retain my business over the long term."   Said Ramsay: "I have discarded the folks who only see dollar signs. The relationships that I have developed know my Scottish, value-conscious heritage and always approach it from that point. I generally believe that many suppliers understand the new normal, which is value added with a fair price."   "Knowledgeable, consistent and effective recommendations win out in the end."
  • W. C. Fields once said, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit.  No sense being a damn fool about it."
     
    After a year of disappointing growth and participation, TurfNet has pulled the plug on TurfNetSports as a standalone entity. 
     
    "We launched TurfNetSports in January, 2013, with all good intentions, figuring what has worked well in golf turf for twenty years should be successful in sports turf management as well," said Peter McCormick, founder of TurfNet.  "We have always had a few handfuls of professional-level sports turf managers as regular TurfNet members, and all of them as well as many others encouraged us to take the product to sports turf. We did not fully appreciate how different the two markets are," he continued.
     
    "We quickly found that much of what resonates with golf course superintendents doesn't necessarily appeal or apply in sports turf," McCormick said. "Job listings, for instance, are huge on TurfNet.com, but jobs above entry-level laborers in sports turf are few and far between. Used equipment is also big on our golf site, but most of the municipal or school facilities in sports turf can't buy or sell used items. That was two big strikes against us."
     

    Sports turf education was universally desired, but not without it's challenges... and as long as it was free. 
     
    "Sports turf is very stratified in its levels of competence and education," McCormick said. "You have custodians at the lowest levels who have little interest beyond mowing grass, all the way to highly-trained turf managers (many of whom are former golf course superintendents) at the college and professional levels managing sand-based fields, in some cases with subsurface heat and artificial lighting. It's tough to offer a schedule of Webinars without boring some or being over the heads of others. Arguably the greatest need is at the lower levels, but they have little-to-no discretionary budget."
     
    All paid members of TurfNetSports have been offered a free year of membership at TurfNet.com.  A Sports Turf Management conference has been established in the TurfNet Forum, and at least six sports-turf related Webinars will continue to be offered through TurfNet University each year. Former TurfNetSports members will have access to all TurfNet University webinars, and regular TurfNet members will also be able to attend the sports-related events.
     
    "Our decision was based on both the apparent lack of interest at the paid membership level and on the fact that our staff is flat out as it is," McCormick concluded. "Every business today must continually reexamine its offerings and allocation of resources and adjust when necessary. In this case, it was time to 'cut bait' and focus on our core business."
  • Water parks and beaches might be popular winter diversions in Florida, but it was John Deere Golf that made a big splash at this year?s Golf Industry Show in Orlando.   Deere rolled out eight new mowers, two aerifiers and several product updates at this year?s GIS. It was the most aggressive new product introduction since John Deere entered the golf turf business 25 years ago, said marketing manager Mark Ford.   The rollout includes Deere?s new A model fairway, trim and surrounds, and rough mower line. Features consistent across the line include a TechControl display, AutoPedal, LoadMatch, internal wet disc brakes and improved operator stations that are all engineered to provide superintendents increased control, easier operator training and improved quality of cut.   New models include 7500A, 7700A, 8700A PrecisionCut and 7500A E-Cut Hybrid fairway mowers, 7400A TerrainCut (pictured here) and 7200A PrecisionCut trim and surrounds mowers, and the 8800A TerrainCut rough mower.   All A Models feature OnCourse Technology, which integrates electronic controls with mechanical features to deliver improved performance, better diagnostics, and more uptime and reliability. In addition, the complete line is Tier 4 compliant.   The TechControl display provides the operator with easy-to-use operations, onboard diagnostics and password-protected advanced controls.   The AutoPedal system provides advanced automotive-style control of engine RPM via use of ergonomic twin foot pedals. This eliminates the need for a separate throttle making operation and training easy. It also saves fuel and lowers sound levels on the course and around the shop. A popular feature, borrowed from the John Deere Compact Utility Tractor, is LoadMatch technology, which automatically adjusts the speed of the machine to keep consistent power to the cutting units during heavy load conditions, maximizing productivity and maintaining cut quality. The complete line is Final Tier 4 compliant.   Deere also launched the A40 and V40 PrecisionCore Aerators. These aerators were designed with superintendents? feedback in mind, and are engineered to provide increased productivity and efficiency compared to traditional aerators on the market.   The articulating frame hugs green contours for more consistent hole depth, and shift-on-the-fly technology allows operators to change hole spacing while the machine is in motion. The machines also feature a tighter turning radius for sharper, quicker turns.   The hydrostatic transmission can be shifted on the fly to change the hole spacing as conditions require, such as tighter spacing on walk-off areas but wider spacing on less highly-trafficked areas. Coring spacing is adjustable from 1 to 3 inches in quarter-inch increments. Coring depth is also adjustable up to 4 inches deep, in quarter-inch increments.
  • It's a challenge to find anyone in the business today who hasn't recognized that contraction is a necessary evil. It's even harder to find someone who is happy about it.
      After eight years of staring at an evaporating pool of golf courses, declining rounds played and golfers walking away from the course forever, many realize the line between success and failure often can be razor thin, and it takes vigilance to ensure one stays on the right side of the line.   Many of the people walking the aisles at the Golf Industry Show in Orlando, Fla., said growing the game is an effort that must take place at the facility level rather than through industry initiatives to be successful.   "We have to spread and not just focus on the avid golfer and the golfer who is a scratch player," said Ron Jaworski, the former NFL quarterback and owner of five golf courses in New Jersey. "We have to teach people how to play the game and make the game more accessible and easier."   According to the National Golf Foundation, 3.7 million new golfers found their way to a course last year, however, 4.1 million walked off the 18th green and never looked back, meaning the game lost a net 400,000 players in 2013 alone.   Golf Datatech says rounds played fell by 5 percent last year, and a although 14 new courses were built across the country, another 157.5 in 18-hole equivalents closed up. Since 2006, there has been a net loss of 643 courses. The statistics show it's a simple matter of supply and demand. Interest in the game is dwindling and no one has found a cork big enough to stop that leak.   Additional NGF research shows that 57 percent of those 18-34 said they don't play golf because they think it is boring. Other barriers to attracting and retaining new players is the time it takes to play the game.   In her 15 years as a professional golfer, Annika Sorenstam won 72 LPGA events, 10 majors and more than $20 million in career earnings. As a player, she rarely gave much thought to the investment in time required to play a round of golf. As a mother and retired professional, she can't imagine spending 4.5 hours on a golf course.   "Then, I had all the time in the world," said Sorenstam, who was at GIS to collect the GCSAA's Old Tom Morris Award. "Now, there's no way we're going out there for 4.5 hours.   "People have families and other commitments. Where do you squeeze it in?"   Discussions as to how to make the game more inviting to those who don't want to invest four or five hours took place in Orlando just days before GIS at the PGA Merchandise Show. One of the ideas put forth by TaylorMade-Adidas CEO Mark King was 15-inch cups. The oversized cups would be easier to hit than the standard 4.25-inch golf hole, and when coupled with other initiatives such as shorter holes (achieved by moving tees forward into the fairway) and three- or six-hole loops, would make the game much less threatening for beginners or high handicappers.   Although he was not aware of King's 15-inch cup idea, Anthony Williams, CGCS, wasn't opposed to it, either. Stone Mountain Golf Club, a 36-hole state park facility near Atlanta where Williams is superintendent, is reliant on walk-up business for its survival. And with several other public-access courses nearby, he knows golfers have a choice when opening their wallets.    "We're never going to grow the game if people are never converted," Williams said. "Our traditions are intimidating to those fence-sitters we want down off the fence. We have to attract people with discretionary income, and we have to do it in a way that is non-intimidating. If someone who has never played golf has one bad experience on that first trip, they're not going to come back.   "A golf course should be a 300-acre welcome mat."   Sorenstam agreed that 7,000-yard courses are not going to be the ticket to growing the game, something she desperately wants to see happen.   "Those of us in the golf industry should want the game to grow, so we have to be innovative," Sorenstam said. "We need to find a way to preserve golf's history, but we also need to look outside the box to grow the game."   But 15-inch cups? Three-hole and six-hole loops? Rafael Martinez, CGCS at South Hills Country Club in West Covina, Calif., says bring 'em on.   "I think it sounds like a wonderful idea," Martinez said. "We are responsible for setting up the golf course for our members. We also have to be able to set up a golf course to attract new golfers. If that means a little inconvenience for the crew, that's not an issue.   "If it's guest day, we set up as easy as possible. Ladies day ? as easy as possible. There are always those people who want the course to be as hard as it can be, but those people are the minority. If we follow that then we have sacrificed 95 percent of our golfers."
  • You will see the term "Turfonomics" throughout the advertising and marketing campaigns of The Toro Company during 2014. Turfonomics? That's the term Toro trademarked to underscore the importance of economics standing side-by-side with agronomics at all levels of every successful golf course operation in today's golf marketplace.
     
    Indeed, just about every exhibitor we spoke with at GIS2014 mentioned the terms productivity, efficiency, efficacy, capacity, price points, total cost of ownership and their various synonyms. Why?  Because while maintenance budgets continue to shrink, golfer expectations have not... so superintendents have to continually find ways to do more with less, and fiscal responsibility is paramount to the survival of every golf course operation.
     

    That's no big secret to superintendents... but now a mantra and national ad campaign of a major industry supplier have put it in the spotlight.
     
    Toro's Turfonomics advertising campaign kicked off in January with "Chapter 1", to be followed (obviously) with subsequent chapters of the story. Products are featured with emphasis on "Top Line Thinking" (focusing on providing the best course conditions possible), "Bottom Line Thinking" (operator productivity, ease of maintenance, etc) and "Real World Thinking" (meshing course conditioning with cost of ownership of any product).
     
    According to Toro, it all boils down to simple Turfonomics.
     
     
  • In his 10 years as a golf course superintendent, Chad Mark has spent a great deal of time on matters that have nothing to do with turf maintenance. He meets regular with general manager Mark Petzing and managers in other departments through The Kirtland Country Club to help make the private club in Willoughby, Ohio the best it can be for its members.

    "I do it because I plan to be there for a long time," Mark said. "If you don't plan on being somewhere for 10 years, you're not going to be."

    For his dedication to customer service at the 90-plus-year-old club, Mark was named winner of the TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.

    Mark was chosen by a panel of judges from a field of six finalists that included Matt Gourlay, CGCS of Colbert Hills in Manhattan, Kan.; Brad Jolliff of KickingBird Golf Course in Edmond, Okla.; Curtis Nickerson of University Park Country Club in University Park, Fla.; Josh Saunders of Longue Vue Club in Penn Hills, Pa., and Matt Shaffer of Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. He was nominated by a group that included his club president, grounds chairman, general manager, several members, colleagues throughout the industry and former employees.

    The award is presented annually to a superintendent who excels at one or more of the following: labor-management, maximizing budget limitations, educating and advancing the careers of colleagues and assistants, negotiating with government agencies, preparing for tournaments under unusual circumstances, service to golf clientele, upgrading or renovating the course, dealing with extreme or emergency conditions.

    Previous winners include Meersman (2012); Paul Carter, CGCS (2011); Thomas Bastis, CGCS (2010); Anthony Williams, CGCS (2009); Sam MacKenzie (2008); John Zimmers (2007); Scott Ramsay, CGCS (2006); Mark Burchfield (2005); Stuart Leventhal, CGCS (2004); Paul Voykin (2003); Jeff Burgess (2002); Kip Tyler (2001); and Kent McCutcheon (2000).

    The common thread in each of the nominations Mark received, a devotion to customer service, the golf course and his staff. Mark's 10-year career at Kirtland has been defined by constant enhancements to the course, including ongoing drainage improvements, ushering the 1921 Charles Hugh Alison design through a major restoration and an irrigation upgrade project that, despite a flood event, went on without interruption.

    "Mr. Mark provides, and helps ensure others from his staff provide, only the highest level of service to our membership and our guests at Kirtland Country Club," said club member Andy Sikorovsky. "Each year since his arrival, Chad seemingly gives more and more of his time and expertise to enhancing the client experience at our golf course.  He seeks to understand the various and countless challenges and opportunities to improve the course from year to year. He helps the membership prioritize needs, set expectations, build consensus, and then delivers more than the membership expects within budget.  He is very approachable and communicative. He eagerly welcomes suggestions and seeks critique of his work.  He leads by example and isn't afraid to get dirty. Member satisfaction seems to be the sole point on his compass."

    When the Chagrin River that runs through the course flooded in 2013, it threatened not only to derail Kirtland's playing season, but an $800,000 irrigation upgrade project that included installation of a new pump house.

    Instead, Mark and his crew had the course cleared and reopened in a matter of days while the irrigation project and pump house installation went on uninterrupted.

    "We kept on running," Petzing said. "He did both at the same time without stopping.

    "He's a team player and an integral part of the management team. He is part of long-range planning for the club and sits in on board members with me. He sees the big picture."

    Among those celebrating with Mark after the announcement was 2007 Superintendent of the Year John Zimmers of Oakmont Country Club. Zimmers hired Mark as an intern at Sand Ridge Golf Club in Chardon, Ohio, when Mark was a student at Ohio State.

    Zimmers said it was clear early in Mark's career that he was focused on customer service.

    "You could tell that first year that Chad was driven, focused and had all the talent to be very successful in this profession," Zimmers said. "Chad was very loyal, and dedicated to always trying to do the job right. I got to know his family, and you could tell he was being taught great values. I am proud to say that I had a small part in Chad's successful career to date. I would consider Chad to be one of the best young superintendents in the country, and more importantly, a great friend, mentor, husband and father to his wonderful family."

    He communicates regularly with members via email updates on course conditions as well as by his attendance in committee meetings and entries in the club's newsletter.

    "I cannot imagine any group being better informed than we who are Kirtland members," said Kirtland member Paul Mouguey.

    For Mark, taking on a leadership role at the club reflects his passion for golf and giving back to the game he loves.

    "I feel like I add a lot of value because I love for the club, love for the profession, and I want to see the club sustained for another 85 years," Mark said. "It's important to me to be as involved as I can so it is a well-rounded facility."
  • What started about 20 years ago as a short course for superintendents in the upper Midwest has transformed into an online educational opportunity novice and veteran superintendents from around the country.
     
    The 2014 Great Lakes School of Turfgrass Science is a 10-week program that aims to provide "thorough and practical continuing education in turfgrass management." This year marks the first time the program has been taught online.
     
    Scheduled for March 5 through May 7, the program is affiliated with the universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin and will include curriculum by 10 professors from Cornell, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue and South Dakota State, as well as the two host schools.
     
    The original iteration of the Great Lakes Schools of Turfgrass Science was started as a short course in 1991 by Frank S. Rossi, Ph.D., when he was an assistant professor at Wisconsin. It has subsequently been administered by John Stier, Ph.D., and now Doug Soldat, Ph.D., both of Wisconsin, as well as Sam Bauer and Brian Horgan, Ph.D., of Minnesota.
     
    Classes will convene for two hours each Wednesday throughout the 10-week duration of the program and lessons will be recorded and archived for on-demand viewing for those who want to review the information or are unable to attend the live event. Cost of the program is $395. Those interested in attending can click here to register. Deadline to register is Feb. 28.
     
    "By presenting it live, but recording each session, participants can view the class at their convenience, or watch it again," said Soldat.
     
    "The program will not simply be 20 hours of webinars. The 10 instructors have been meeting regularly to ensure that we provide an interactive experience for the students. While the delivery method has changed, the goal of the Great Lakes School of Turfgrass Science will be to provide a foundation of knowledge for those who are new to the field and as a refresher for those who have been in the industry for quite some time."
     
    Students will be given regular reading assignments and quizzes will be administered weekly. Graduates will receive a certificate upon completion of the program.
  • There was a time when it seemed like nothing could stop the golf course construction juggernaut. Now, it seems as though nothing can restart it. And there are those who say it doesn't deserve a boost until there is, if ever, a seismic shift in popularity of the game.   According to the National Golf Foundation, only 14 new courses (in 18-hole equivalents) were built in 2014 in the United States and another 157.5 closed their doors, for a net loss of 143.5 courses. Declining interest of the current magnitude once was nearly inconceivable in a business marked for decades of slow, steady growth. However, last year marked the eighth straight year that more courses closed than opened, a trend that has become so common it now is known around the industry as "market correction."   But the need for a market correction goes much deeper than real estate golf gone wild. It is the result of a complex relationship of supply and demand and how the game is perceived across gender, age and racial lines at a time in which adults in their prime earning years are more willing to devote time on weekends to getting their children to travel league sporting events than their own R&R. And this correction is taking far too long to occur, said Jim Koppenhaver of Pellucid Corp., during the annual state of the industry address he conducts each year with Stuart Lindsay of Edgehill Golf Advisors during the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla.    According to NGF statistics cited by Koppenhaver, a total of 3.7 million people took up golf in 2013, however, 4.1 million golfers left the game, for a net loss of 400,000 players. A net gain of almost 260,000 women golfers was offset and more by a net loss of nearly 650,000 men. The biggest losses were in the 18-34 age group, where nearly 200,000 people found something else to do with their spare time and their disposable income.   The PGA of America, through its Golf 2.0 player-development initiative, had projected a total of 28.7 million golfers in 2013. NGF estimated there would be 27.1 million players last year, and Koppenhaver's Pellucid Corp. put that number at 25.7 million. All were well off the mark with, according to Koppenhaver, the estimated number of U.S. golfers at 24.1 million. The game reached its zenith in 2000-01 when 29.8 people played 518 million rounds.   "Golfer attrition s the No. 1 problem we have in the market," Koppenhaver said.   Fewer golfers mean fewer rounds played, and rounds played also were down last year to 462 million, according to Golf Datatech. That is the fewest rounds played since 441 million in 1995, according to the report. Last year's number is well off the 10-year average of 492 million rounds played and way behind the record-setting years of 2000-01.   The golf industry began shedding its oversupply in 2006, marking the first time since 1946 that more courses closed than opened. Since this trend began eight years ago, there has been a cumulative net loss of 643 courses nationwide, according to NGF, going from an all-time high of 15,207.5 18-hole equivalents in 2005 to 14,564.5 in 2013. And even more must go, and quickly, Koppenhaver said.   "It's a lot harder to plow a golf course than it is to plant one," he said. "I hope people think about that before they put one in."   Of the 157.5 courses that closed last year, 151.5 were public-access facilities; just the kind that would appeal to those the game needs most, newcomers, casual golfers, women and juniors. A total of 144.5 of the public-access facilities were daily fee and seven were municipal operations.    Course inventory grew by 4,500 (more than 40 percent) in the 20 years from 1986 to 2005, according to NGF. Industry analysts project equilibrium to occur once the industry has shed about 1,500 courses from the 2005 inventory total. To reach that number in a timely manner, Koppenhaver said, courses should be disappearing at twice the current rate.   "It took us five years to get them in the ground. It's taken eight years and counting to get them out," Koppenhaver said. "Supply reduction was about 1 percent. And the thing I keep saying is we need to be losing 2 to 2.5 percent of our supply a year to get back to equilibrium some time in the next three to five years. So, at the current pace of 1 percent we still have probably another seven to 10 years before we get back to the equilibrium we enjoyed back in the mid-1990s when people were relatively happy and prosperous."   Koppenhaver pointed to rounds played at each facility to illustrate the need to reach equilibrium and the snail's pace at which the industry is approaching it.   An average of 31,720 rounds were played per 18-hole equivalent in 2013. That is 1,646 rounds per unit less than in a weather-aided 2012 and represents a steady downward trend that has been in place since Koppenhaver began following the business in 2000. The quicker equilibrium is reached, the better it will be for those facilities that will survive in the long run, he says.   "The average course was healthy at about 35,000 rounds per 18-hole equivalent," he said. "Other than 2012 when we got a nice bump from the weather, the trend here is not looking very favorable."
  • Focus on plant health

    By John Reitman, in News,

    With this year's Golf Industry Show almost here, attendees once again will have many opportunities to learn about one of the most increasingly popular, yet least understood terms in the turf maintenance industry: plant health.   Plant health isn't just about new fungicide products. Plant health is a complex equation that includes new chemistries as well as tried and true agronomic and cultural practices.   Acibenzolar S methyl, the active ingredient in Syngenta's Daconil Action, triggers a plant's natural defense mechanisms to help the plant defend itself against disease pressure.   At BASF, researchers define plant health as the ability of the company's Intrinsic line of products to produce turf that has enhanced root development and is tolerant to disease stress.   Bayer says fungicides formulated with its StressGard are better able to control disease and alleviate stress.   Civitas is a petroleum-based fungicide that like Syngenta's Daconil Action, triggers the turf plant's natural defense mechanisms.   Whatever the definition, most agree that in essence that plant health is the turf's ability to tolerate stress longer before going into decline as well as its capacity to recover from stress.   Promoting year-round plant health also can result in a more consistently healthy plant. That is more important than ever before because of seasonal weather extremes that include heat, cold and drought.   "It results in a more balanced approach to seasonal turf management that is more steady," said James Rutledge, Ph.D., product development manager for Bayer Crop Science during last year's Green Start Academy by Bayer and John Deere Golf. "What we want to do is moderate that undulation throughout the season. And one way to do that is to manage the health of the plant."   Not everything in plant health is about new fungicides. In fact, some factors that influence plant health are more readily controlled by superintendents, Rutledge said.  
    Not everything in plant health is about new fungicides. In fact, some factors that influence plant health are more readily controlled by superintendents..."
      That includes selecting turf plants that are adapted to the geographic area in which they will be grown and managed and altering cultural practices such as mowing height and frequency, aerification timing and depth, and managing air movement and shade.   "You probably inherit what you have. That is more typical. You manage it the best you can," Rutledge said. "Then, the turf is more reliant on cultural management."   Cultural practices aren't always enough when producing a healthy plant. Often, because of limitations associated with such factors as weather, wind, shade and more, it is necessary to use a fungicide with plant health qualities.   "That's the final piece," Rutledge said. "That is where we fit in and tie into the other pieces."
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