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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Since it became part of the AT&T National Pro-Am rotation in more than 20 years ago, Poppy Hills Golf Course has faced one stiff challenge after another, not the least of which was eventually getting bumped from its lofty tournament perch.   The greatest obstacles facing the 1986 Robert Trent Jones Jr. design on California's Monterey Peninsula have included an effort to make the routing relevant and navigating a grow-in through significant local water-use issues.   Poppy Hills replaced highly regarded Cypress Point Club on the AT&T circuit in 1991. Supplanting the Alister MacKenzie classic was like an opening act following the Beatles on stage - no matter how good you are, it's not going to be good enough. And Poppy was never good enough.   Other layouts on the three-course AT&T circuit that include Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill are either on or near the Pacific. But the heavily forested and inland Poppy Hills course failed to wow the pros from the start and quickly earned the moniker "Sloppy Poppy" or "Sloppy Hills" from PGA Tour players who bemoaned drainage issues on the course and dogged some holes as being downright "goofy".   By 2010, Poppy was out of the rotation in favor of the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, a 1959 Bob Baldock/Jack Neville oceanfront masterpiece made even better 10 years ago by the late Mike Strantz.   With its high-class neighbors setting the bar higher and higher, the road to relevancy has been a long one for Poppy Hills.   Last spring, construction began on an RTJ II redesign, the scope of which is matched in magnitude only by some of the challenges confronting it. As such, parts of the project have become an exercise in patience and being a good neighbor.   The project included moving a total of 115,000-120,000 cubic yards of earth, taking out trees in some areas and creating new forested corridors in others, raising some areas and dropping others, some by as much as 10 feet.    "This opportunity presented itself as an adventure in renovation and restoration," said Tom Huesgen of Frontier Golf, contractor on the project, during this year's Northern California Golf Association Assistant Superintendent Boot Camp education event in October.   "I still struggle, with all the work that has been done out here, to call this a renovation or restoration," said Huesgen, the former golf course superintendent, whose resume includes a stint at Pebble Beach. "I'd almost categorize this as a new golf course on top of an old site."   Moving earth, filling in ponds and relocating a practice area were only a few of the challenges associated with the project.    Water is a precious resource on golf courses around the country, and nowhere is that more evident than on the Monterey Peninsula where average annual rainfall is a scant 18 inches.   Residents, businesses and golf courses have been asked to conserve water for a long time, about 20 years, according to Poppy Hills superintendent Manny Sousa. In an effort to be a good environmental neighbor, the Poppy Hills project included reducing the amount of irrigated turf from 82 acres to 62 acres. But it also included carpeting the fairways with a 5-inch blanket of sand.   That was a source of great concern for other courses in the area.   Seven courses inside the 17-Mile Drive loop, Poppy Hills included, draw water from the Forest Lake reservoir, a 325-acre-feet reclaimed water impoundment in the Del Monte Forest that is managed by the Carmel Area Wastewater District. There is a finite allotment of water for those courses that is self-managed by the honor system. With rainfall totals for the year running behind already arid historic averages and a lagging tourism industry further stifling the output of reclaimed water, levels in Forest Lake were running low before a single seed had gone into the ground on Poppy Hills' sand-covered fairways. The original plans for the project called for seeding to begin in late May. But the fear was that the grow-in at Poppy would require too much water at a time when other courses needed it most. Not to mention a spike in the cost of reclaimed water.   The price of water also had gone up - a lot - from about $175,000 per year in 2012 to $500,000 for the same amount of water this year, Sousa said.    "How can you grow-in a golf course without water?" Sousa said.    Representatives from all courses drawing from the pipe met to seek a solution.   "The demand for water was higher than what (the wastewater district) was producing. Nothing was going into the reservoir, and it was operating at a deficit for months. It was a panic" Huesgen said.    "We had half the place tore up and no water to grow grass."   The solution included delaying seeding at Poppy Hills by two months and voluntary cutbacks by the other courses.   A mid-summer bump in tourism meant more toilets flushing at area hotels and provided enough reclaimed water to go ahead with seeding on July 27, which also was the first day on the job site for grow-in superintendent Matt Muhlenbruch who will take over for the retiring Sousa next year.    "There were questions about where would the water come from, how much would we have and how much would it cost," Huesgen said.   "We could have seeded earlier, but we waited because there was not enough water for everyone," Sousa said. "This project was not without its challenges."   The new-look Poppy Hills will open in April, and though it is isn't scheduled to return to the AT&T any time soon, it will be worthy of such an event and with vast sandy waste areas will remind players of Pinehurst No. 2 or Pine Valley, Huesgen said.   "The goal there of course is, in the long run as the course grows in and matures, to use less water in the future and maintain a golf course that is still acceptable for this area," Huesgen said. "It's not going to be target golf like desert golf. It will be a target-type, limited turf golf course in a forested area."
  • Turning a snow-covered green into a dry and playable putting surface in a matter of days is no Christmas miracle, but instead the result of planning, science and hard work at one of the country's old golf facilities.   In the past, play at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis had been hampered by poor greens drainage and slopes and swales that moved water from one area only to have it suspended in another.   Last summer, John Cunningham CGCS, who was the superintendent behind the revival of TPC at Las Colinas in Irving, Texas, had a SubAir system installed at Bellerive.   Though use of the system and constant soil monitoring with handheld probes, Cunningham not only was able to identify optimal soil moisture levels, he now had the tools to deliver those sought-after conditions on a consistent basis.   The system, he says, is strong enough to remove excess water while leaving enough moisture in the soil to provide for proper plant health.   In mid-December, the greens at Bellerive were covered in 4 inches of snow. Temperatures that climbed into the 50s a week later left the greens soaked and inhospitable to golfers. In the past, wet winter conditions resulted in volumetric water content on Bellerive's greens, said Cunningham, were 30 percent to 50 percent above normal.   During normal mode, Cunningham runs the SubAir system for 7 minutes every 2 hours. After the recent snow event, he left it on for about 24 hours, which resulted in removal of all excess moisture by Dec. 20. By the time he was able to walk the course the next day, the difference was very noticeable. No sponginess. No footprinting.   In a demonstration video Cunningham posted to , assistant superintendent Chris Fletcher showed how effective the system was by taking soil moisture readings at various points around Bellerive's No. 9 green. And all readings, whether taken from high points or low were in Cunningham's range of providing acceptable playing conditions.   "No Christmas miracle here," Cunningham said. "Lots of investigation, planning, testing, sampling, communicating, meetings, approvals, agronomics and just plain old hard work."
  • Proper context

    By John Reitman, in News,

    When golfers walk off the 18th green at La Rinconada Country Club in California's Silicon Valley, superintendent Kevin Breen wants them to be able to say three things: that they had fun, that the golf course is well maintained with an attention to detail, and that it presents a fair test to players.

    A lifetime of playing golf has helped Breen view the courses on which he has worked from the eyes of a player more than a grass-grower.

    "I think that is imperative that you play golf. If you're not playing, you should walk the golf course and walk in all of the places the golfer walks," said Breen, superintendent at La Rinconada in Los Gatos, Calif, for almost two years. "Start on the teebox, walk down the fairways, look at all those areas, bunkers and greens, and go at a slow enough speed so you can take it in slower than you would if you were on a golf cart. You'll notice things you never noticed before."

    It took a while for Breen, 51, to realize it, but he was destined for a life in golf. His parents even bought his first set of clubs before he was born, and he became an accomplished player in the junior ranks. After years of competitive play, frustration took over and Breen, still playing junior golf, walked away from the game. At the time, he thought he might be stepping away forever.

    Although Breen eventually returned to golf as a greenkeeper and not a player, the route he took to get there was a circuitous one that at one time included aspirations of monitoring and forecasting weather.

    Breen graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1987 with a degree in meteorology and envisioned a career with a federal agency like the National Weather Service as a forecaster or researcher. Colorado, Breen said, was "ground zero" for meteorology and a move to the Rockies meshed well with his other love, skiing.

    "My plan was to work in a field office doing research or forecasting," he said. "I didn't have much of an interest in being on TV."

    But this was during the Reagan administration, Reaganomics and small government, and federal jobs were difficult, and in some cases impossible, to come by.

    Rather than pursuing his dream, Breen was far from home, fresh off a failed marriage and in need of work.

    He found a job at the ski operation at Keystone Ranch, a golf and ski resort in Dillon, Colo., because it offered an opportunity to be outdoors. It was only when he listened to tales spun by Jack DeRyk, who doubled as Keystone's golf course superintendent and ski lift operator, that Breen entertained the idea of a life in turf management.

    "Jack was an amazing man. He had so many stories," Breen said. "He worked alongside us every day telling us all of these amazing stories. I immediately fell in love with the place and the job."

    Soon after, Breen, who by this time had remarried, enrolled in the turfgrass management program at Colorado State University in hopes of parlaying his new passion into a career.

    "I grew up on a golf course," said Breen, who played extensively as a junior at the spartan Elks Golf Club in Salina, Kan. "It fit my personality perfectly."

    He paid his dues at other places such as Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Golf and Tennis Club and Pagosa Springs (Colo.) Golf Club until finally landing his first job as a head superintendent at Los Alamos Golf Course in New Mexico.

    During the early stages of his career two decades ago, Breen picked up invaluable tips at each stop, including knowing when to talk less and listen more and that it was OK not to be perfect all the time.

    "Brian Heywood, my superintendent at Jackson Hole, told me that making mistakes is OK, just don't make big ones," Breen said. "That takes a lot of pressure off a young person. Mike Kosak (then of Lahontan Golf Club) told me that he taught by osmosis.

    "I'm still not sure exactly what that means, but I think part of it is learning by watching.

    "Everyone who I ever worked for or was in a classroom with I learned something from. The best people gave me room to make mistakes and learn from them."
  • The fifth annual Syngenta Business Institute is taking place December 9-12, 2013 and TurfNet will once again be there.
    Among the 25 superintendent participants are TurfNet members Ralph Kepple, CGCS (East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta), Eric Frazier (Willow Oaks Country Club, Richmond, VA) and Rob Williams (Stockton Golf & Country Club, Stockton, CA), who will be blogging for us from the event.  Our own John Reitman will also be there, supplementing the blogging effort.

    The Syngenta Business Institute is a professional business development program developed in conjunction with Wake Forest University School of Business, specifically for the golf turf industry. 
    The four-day program focuses on financial and human resource management, delegation skills, effective communications and negotiation skills, and more. The program will supplement and complement superintendents existing knowledge base, allowing more productive and efficient golf course management.
    Check out the SBI blog here.
  • After decades of service to the golf industry, Lloyd Clifton Sr. might best be remembered for his footprint felt throughout Florida.
    A founding member of the golf course design firm Clifton, Ezell, Clifton Golf Design Group, Ezell died Dec. 10. He was 89.
    Clifton designed nearly two-dozen courses throughout the Southeast, most of which are in Florida, and the Deland, Fla. firm that bears his name has its stamp on more than 600 golf holes at The Villages, making the retirement community north of Orlando the world's largest golf community.
    A former golf course superintendent, Clifton played football and baseball at Stetson University in Deland before enrolling in the horticulture program at the University of Florida.
    According to the firm's Web site, his first superintendent's position was at Daytona Beach Country Club, and he was the construction superintendent at Rio Pinar Golf Club in 1957, a role that whetted his appetite for golf course design.
    Clifton's first design, West Orange Country Club in Winter Garden near Orlando opened in 1964, and he designed nearly two-dozen other layouts until expanding his firm in 1987. Other layouts he has designed include Grey Oaks in Naples, Hunters Creek in Orlando, Debary Plantation near Orlando, Plantation Bay in Ormond Beach and Highland Creek in Charlotte, N.C.
    Survivors include his wife, Bonnie Jean; sons Lloyd Jr., George and Craig; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
  • Form follows function

    By John Reitman, in News,

    When speaking at the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Conference and Show, Michael Hurdzan, Ph.D., made an admission that must be a difficult reality for a golf course architect.   "Maintenance is more important than design," said Hurdzan.   That's a philosophy he must keep in the forefront when he is hired to restore a classic-era golf course, such as Scioto Country Club, a 1916 Donald Ross design that like Hurdzan Golf also in Columbus.   Never was it made more clear to him how important common sense is in a restoration than when Jack Nicklaus, who was collaborating on the project, stepped into a bunker and asked Hurdzan whether he could play a shot from the hazard.   When Hurdzan replied "no" Nicklaus said "neither could I."   Not that Hurdzan needed a reminder from Nicklaus five years ago, but he did tell a crowded room at OTF that a restoration of a classic-era layout should preserve the original architect's intent while improving playability, not the golf course in its original state.  
    "Maintenance is more important than design..." - Michael Hurdzan, PhD
      "The game changes, and courses are changing as well," he said.    "Golf changes at human speed, golf courses change at Mother Nature's speed, and that is a slower pace and at some point those things get out of sync, and we need to bring them back into sync, otherwise, golf is not as pleasurable as it should be and maintenance is not as good as it could be until there comes a push for change. And when that happens, the questions we have to ask are what are the impacts and how will it change the golf course."   Hurdzan pointed to the original layout at Scioto as an example. There were few trees and even less bunkers when Ross built the place during World War I because players then used hickory-shaft clubs and gutta percha. By the mid-1920s, bunkers and trees began to show up to counteract the effect of improved equipment. Bunkers were strategically placed about 240 yards from the tees, which was fine for major championships such as the 1926 U.S. Open, 1931 Ryder Cup Matches and the 1950 PGA Championship, all of which were played at Scioto.   Further advancements in equipment have since forced further changes, including moving fairway bunkers out to about 300 yards.   "It's still an idea Ross had in mind, but it's been updated to fit the modern game," Hurdzan said.   Hurdzan reminded the crowd that even the Old Course at St. Andrews is being updated in advance of the 2015 Open Championship.   Restoration project might not mean just moving bunkers, it could mean removing some, or adding more.   "If you can accomplish the same thing with more smaller bunkers instead of one large one, then why wouldn't you do that?" Hurdzan said.   "No matter how old, or how classic you think a course is, it needs to change with the game.  
    "No matter how old, or how classic you think a course is, it needs to change with the game..."
      "There is a saying that form follows function. Form is the result of a function it has to serve. You have to identify the forms that need to be changed."   Those forms include things like size and shape of a green, pitch or slope, aprons and bunkers. If those things are changed, they must support the architect's intent, but also improve playability and be cost-effective, especially after the architect is gone and the superintendent is left to maintain the course, Hurdzan said.   For that to occur, Hurdzan said, a written and detailed master plan that includes input from owner, manager, golf pro, superintendent and committee members.    A master plan not only identifies areas in need of improvement, but helps chart a course on how to get there.   Creating a master plan, Hurdzan said allows for the following: identifies areas of improvement and how to get there, shows how changes will impact the game and the golf course, addresses cost, develops a phase-in plan, and allows for input from all stakeholders.   But those changes also have to be made with maintenance in mind, he added.   Changes should be made that allow for 12 to 14 pinnable locations per green, improve drainage, increase traffic lanes on and off greens, include enough pitch to move surface water, yet can still hold a well-struck approach shot. The rules for designing greens, Hurdzan said, also include an 8-foot area around the hole with 2.5 percent slope or less and a minimum of 1.5 percent slope to move water.   "You have to be able to match speed and slope and do it in a way that allows you to maintain the course in a way that fits your budget," he said.    Ross knew those concepts in 1916 when he built Scioto, and it's why his courses, if restored and maintained properly,Hurdzan said, have stood the test of time.  
  • After six years of offering online education to golf course superintendents and sports turf managers, TurfNet held its first live Webinar from a remote location on Dec. 4, when Michael O'Keeffe of Ohio State University presented How to Land That Perfect Internship.
    In a presentation sponsored by Syngenta, O'Keeffe, the program manager for Ohio State University's Global Intern Program, addressed a crowd of about 75 turfgrass management students (and a few superintendents) during the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Conference and Show. The audience included 24 online viewers and a room of 50 that included OSU students, instructors, and other conference attendees.
    O'Keeffe, who willingly stepped forward as our first guinea pig, discussed how to identify the right internship, what students can do to set themselves apart from other candidates in what he called a flooded market, how to write a resume and cover letter that will get you an interview, and advice that will help land the job.
    A native of Ireland, O'Keeffe places Ohio State students in internships and golf courses around the world.
    "Put yourself in a position to be better than the rest," he said. "It's competitive out there. You want the best jobs. And remember we're trying to deal with the best of the best here. You're here for a reason. You have to go out in the world and not be afraid to grab the bull by the horns and try to do this wherever you end up."
    The discussion also includes common-sense advice on managing social networking sites, questions to ask during an interview and the kinds of questions that one should be prepared to answer.
    If you missed the live event, the recorded archive is available here.
  • For professional turf managers who need to clear large areas in a short amount of time, Jacobsen has launched the AR722T contour rotary mower.
    Powered by a 65.2 horsepower Kubota turbo-charged diesel engine, the AR722T is designed for use on intermediate rough cut, green and tee surrounds and sports and recreation fields.
    The AR722T comes equipped with Jacobsen's SureTrac parallel cross series traction system for improved performance on hills and inclines. And the advanced weight transfer system allows for improved balancing of the AR722T's traction units and mowing decks, which results in improved quality of cut. 
    "Golf course superintendents and sports field managers need their rotary mowers to easily handle large areas of grass in a short amount of time," said Bryan Holby, Product Manager for Jacobsen. "The Jacobsen AR722T is all about getting more done in less time. It's the only seven-gang rotary mower on the market with the power to get the job done without compromising speed or after-cut appearance." 
    The TrimTek deck system also features a downdraft blade for greater mulching capability.
    The joystick controls five to seven decks for greater flexibility in mowing width and maneuverability around obstacles.
  • The new patent-pending Roller Tamer kit from Turf Pride takes the headaches and frustration out of cutting unit roller rebuilding.
    One of the biggest challenges in removing and replacing roller bearings, races and seals has been to secure the roller without damaging it... which frequently occurs with conventional vises.
    The Roller Tamer kit includes adapters to secure rollers via a "cradle method" or a "capture method", or a combination of the two.  Once set in place, the roller is properly aligned for utilizing a bearing puller and socket driver.
    Most types of rollers (from 2" to 5" in diameter and from 5" to 30" in length) presently and previously manufactured for the turf industry can be accommodated.  This includes water-pump bearing style rollers, tapered roller bearing type, radial ball bearing type, gang mower, basket rollers and others.

    Three models of "Tamer" are available.  

    Model A ($845) accommodates Jacobsen, John Deere, Tru-Turf, and the older style or 2nd GEN Toro rollers as well as many aftermarket rollers. It includes a Water pump bearing puller/driver and a 1.25-1.5 expanding collet puller which extracts the vast majority of outer bearing races.
    Model B ($695) accommodates the new style or 3rd GEN Toro rollers (approximately 2008 and newer with the 1-inch end nuts).
    Model ASP ($685) is the same as Model A but does not include pullers. It will allow you to utilize most aftermarket pullers that you may already own.
    All components are interchangeable between models. Components can be added à la carte if desired to extend the versatility of each model.
    All prices are MSRP, FOB Andalusia, AL, and include a tool box.
  • Many people might associate Gary Grigg, CGCS, with the foliar fertilizer business he owns with his brother, Mark. As Grigg, 72, eyes retirement, the superintendent-turned-entrepreneur knows how he wants to be remembered, and he tells the story of a ridealong with a Grigg Brothers distributor to make his point.   The distributor told Grigg he wasn't much of a salesman, but he still had a profound impact on the buying decisions of superintendents because they trusted him.   "It's because (superintendents) saw me as one of them," Grigg said. "I'm not a salesman. I have salesmen who work for me; I'm an agronomist and a superintendent."   Whether it is has been as a golf course superintendent, turf consultant, educator, association president or board member, or as the face of a fertilizer company that serves the golf and sports turf markets, Grigg has been synonymous with turf management for 45 years.   "Gary Grigg has meant so much to the turfgrass industry, primarily by devoting his career to the education of future golf course superintendents, whether doing so directly as a lecturer or through his investment in energy and resources toward that goal," said Grigg Brothers agronomist Gordon Kauffman III, Ph.D.    "No doubt, Gary will continue to maintain those relationships he has made over the years and always be available should anyone request advice, one of the many traits that has made him a giant in our industry."   But how does one really retire when he is part-owner of the company.   "I don't know what you call it," Grigg said. "I don't know if it's cutting back, or what, but I call it retirement."   As a consultant or superintendent, Grigg's footprint has been felt at dozens of courses around the globe. As the face and co-founder of a foliar fertilizer company that bears his name, Grigg's impact reaches thousands of courses and sports fields around the world.   "Gary has been a leader in this industry in so many ways," said golf course architect Jerry Lemons.   "Gary was so instrumental in instilling in our members that being a golf course superintendent was not just a grass grower, but a professional role in the management of clubs."   With an eye on continuing the family legacy of farming potatoes, Grigg earned a bachelor's degree in agronomy and entomology from Utah State. It was during his days at Michigan State, where he earned a master's degree in agronomy, that he fell in with the school's turf crowd.    "I hadn't thought of turf until then," he said.    He reluctantly took his first job as superintendent at the urging of golf course architect Bruce Matthews, who was building Lake Isabella (now The Pines) in Michigan.   "I didn't know anything about growing grass on a golf course," Grigg said. "Bruce told me it couldn't be harder than growing potatoes."   Since then, Grigg's list of career accomplishments reads like the resumes of two men.   He's been the construction superintendent on several golf course projects and consulted on dozens of others. He was among the first to use fertigation on golf courses when he built his own system and is credited with being the first to use a fully computerized irrigation system when he was superintendent at Ventana Canyon in Tucson, Ariz. He even experimented with flyover fertilizer applications.   It was while building Naples National in Florida that he met Darren Davis, CGCS, who was working nearby during construction of Olde Florida Golf Club. Although they were competing for members, they forged a lasting friendship.   "Gary and I developed a relationship and strived to help each other," Davis said. Gary not only provided me with agronomic counsel when needed, but we formed a strong, lasting personal friendship."   Throughout his career, Grigg has achieved certification through several associations. He has been a certified golf course superintendent since 1977 and earned Master Greenkeeper status 1997 from the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association. He also has been active in more than a dozen regional chapters and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including: GCSAA Distinguished Service Award (2000) and the Florida GCSA Distinguished Service Award (1997). He has been involved in several GCSA chapters, served on the GCSAA board of directors from 1989 to 1997 and was the association's president in 1995.   "Gary has had a long and influential career in the golf turf industry as a superintendent, president of GCSAA and businessman," said Grigg Brothers agronomist Matt Nelson. "He has mentored countless turfgrass professionals, given an extraordinary amount of his personal time to the profession of golf course superintendents, and worked tirelessly toward the advancement of the skills, techniques and science required of golf and sports turf management."   Although he is retiring, Grigg still plans to play a minor role in the Albion, Idaho-based family business and will continue one of his other passions, fishing, spending time with his family and speaking at industry events to help promote the careers of his colleagues.   "To Gary, it is never about him," said Jon Scott, CGCS, agronomist for Nicklaus Golf. "On the contrary, the first question is how can I help you?' and he means it. Gary has given of himself time and time again to further our profession and the success of the people he meets. He has always been there when something needed to be done and never left before it was finished. He has been a terrific role model for countless turf managers to follow and I count myself as one of them."
  • When it comes to describing Tom Hurst, technical specialist for Bernhard and Co., superintendent Dave Delsandro of Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y., had four words: "Tom simply gets it."   Hurst, who has more than 30 years of experience serving the turf industry, recently was named as the recipient of the International Golf Course Equipment Managers Association 2013 Edwin Budding Award.   Sponsored by Ransomes-Jacobsen, the seventh-annual award recognizes individuals for their contributions to the golf turf maintenance industry. The award's namesake is credited with inventing the reel mower in 1832 and the adjustable crescent wrench.   "This is difficult to explain, but you rarely find an individual in any industry that has unprecedented technical knowledge and expertise coupled with an incredible work ethic and the understanding of real-world applications," Delsandro said. "Tom has and will undoubtedly continue to elevate the level of our profession. He has left a lasting legacy on everyone he has worked with throughout his career, and I feel honored to be one of those people."   Other finalists for the award were Patrick Callaby, David Kirschner, Fred Peck and Mark Johnson.   "No job is either too big or too small for Tom," said John Zimmers, superintendent at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania. "Simply put, Tom is a constant professional."   The award will be presented during the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association annual conference scheduled for Jan. 21-24 in Harrogate, England.   Previous winners include Dana Lonn of Toro (2012), Wes Danielewicz of Forest District of DuPage County, Ill. (2011), Vollie Carr of Jacobsen (2010), Eddie Konrad of Seneca College (2009), Eric Kulaas of The Vinoy Renaissance Resort (2008) and Ed Combest of Lake City (Fla.) Community College, now Florida Gateway College (2010).  
  • In the new golf economy, there are two options: get smart or get out. 
    More than ever, golf courses around the country are squarely focused on the bottom line. Many operations, according to industry analysts, don't have the cushion or margin for error to withstand a golf season marked by bad weather, bad luck or bad decisions.
    All too often, decisions driven by the bottom line have included replacing a seasoned superintendent with a less-experienced, cheaper model. The city of Madison, Wis., has taken a different approach to cutting expenses and increasing revenue by eliminating the golf professionals at its four municipal courses. And the move, though initially met with golfer resistance, has proven to be a savvy business decision, the city says.
    In the fall of 2012, the city council, at the urging of the parks and recreation department, opted not to renew contracts with four Class A PGA professionals with more than 100 combined years of experience operating city-owned Glenway, Monona, Odana Hills and Yahara Hills golf courses. The city estimated that the four professionals, who were independent contractors, took in 90 percent or more of the estimated $1 million that went through the four golf shops combined. The pros were replaced by seasonal, unionized assistant pros and concessions workers, the city said.
    The decision to move away from the traditional golf pro model was purely economic.
    From 2008 to 2011, the city said, the four golf courses took in a combined average of $1.14 million annually from food and beverage sales and club and cart rental. The city, which owns the courses and takes the greens fees, got 15 percent of club and cart fees and 11 percent of food and beverage sales at each course, with golf pros getting the rest, which also included all proceeds from merchandise sales.
    Two of the four former pros said their annual take-home pay after expenses was about $30,000 in 2012, figures that were disputed by the parks department and other city officials who told the Wisconsin State-Journal that the men had not been forthcoming with financial information. One of the displaced pros had worked at a city-owned course for 36 years, two others for nearly 30 years and the fourth for a dozen years. Each, according to the city, also was paid a stipend that ranged from $24,000 to $44,500.
    Golfers feared inefficiency and disruptions to play and league activity, and told the newspaper that they would miss the personal touch offered by the golf pros. Instead, they showed with their wallets that they appreciated special deals on green fees and reduced prices in the grill since, discounts the city can stomach since it no longer has to split the proceeds with the golf pro. The result, the city says, is the golf operation's largest profit in several years.
    A total of about 81,000 rounds had been played at the four courses. Even though much of the spring golf season was washed out by rainy weather, that number is about 1 percent higher than the entire 2012 golf season, according to park officials.
    The four courses turned a combined $287,000 profit that included a $150,000 computer upgrade project. That's an increase of 43.5 percent over last year and a 400 percent increase over 2010. The four courses lost a cumulative $71,000 in 2011, the city said.
    The city said it plans to use the profit to make badly needed improvements to the clubhouses at each property.
  • The California Golf Course Owners Association giving out a new award beginning this year - the CGCOA Ted Horton Distinguished Service Award.   Named for CGCOA co-founder and former executive directorTed Horton, the award honors an individual for dedication and service to the golf industry in California. And who better to win the inaugural Horton award than Ted Horton?   Horton, who led the association as its executive director from 2001-2011, is a former superintendent at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., and the Pebble Beach Co., where he was vice president for resource management and oversaw conditioning on five Pebble Beach Resort properties that included Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Links at Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill Golf Course and the nine-hole Peter Hay course in Pebble Beach and Del Monte Golf Course in Monterey.   The award was presented Oct. 17 during the association's annual meeting in Palm Springs.   During his career as a certified golf course superintendent, Horton was the host superintendent for 26 PGA Tour events, two U.S. Open Championships, one U.S. Womens Open Championship and a U.S. Amateur Championship.   Horton, who lives in Canyon Lake, Calif., is a co-founder of the California Alliance for Golf, an advocacy group for the states golf industry, which, according to Golf 20/20, has an overall annual financial impact of $13 billion.
  • Two things make it rather difficult to focus on rounds played in September: 1. winter appears to have made an early appearance this year, 2. the news on golfer participation, as a whole, seems to bad almost every month for nearly a year.   Even with a 1.2 year-over-year increase in rounds played in September, compared with the same month in 2012, golfer participation through the first nine months of the year is down by more than 5 percent over the same period from a year ago, according to Golf Datatech's monthly rounds played report.   The glimmer of good news was that September marked the second straight month of increased rounds played, interrupting a run of nine straight months of decreasing play, a streak that dated to December 2012.   Rounds played were up in 31 states in September, ranging from a bump of between 0 percent and 1 percent in Alabama, Arizona and Texas to 9 percent in Indiana and New Jersey. Rounds played were flat in Louisiana and down in 18 states, from less than 2 percent in Florida, Mississippi and Oklahoma to drops of 18 percent in Oregon, 19 percent in Colorado and 21 percent in Washington.   There was a sharp difference in rounds played at public access facilities, where play was up by nearly 3 percent in September, and private clubs, where play was down by 5 percent. For the year, play is down by 4 percent at daily fee facilities and nearly 10 percent at private clubs, according to the report.   Jim Koppenhaver of Pellucid Corp. notes that demand for rounds played was up 1 percent and actually lagged behind a 2 percent increase in golf playable hours, his measure of the total number of daylight hours compared with factors that influence play such as temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind, etc. That all means the utilization rate, which measures demand of rounds vs. supply of favorable conditions, actually was down in September, which can be the game's last hurrah in many geographic locations.   Koppenhaver, while hinting at what October might hold, went so far as to say "too little, too late" in light of the recent two-month surge, but noted that "... it's better late than never."
  • Out of the ordinary

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Denim-clad golfers, playing under the lights at night, pop-up tees on the practice range, glow-in-the-dark golf balls. It's enough to make Old Tom Morris spin in his grave. Still, in an area flush with golf tradition, Mariners Point Golf Center in Foster City, Calif., has carved out a niche by catering to the game's non-traditional side.   Located on bayfront property in the shadows of the San Mateo Bridge, which links the east and west sides of San Francisco Bay, Mariners Point sits on some pricey real estate. Unlike other courses throughout the San Francisco Bay area that indulge some of the world's most affluent business professionals and retirees, Mariners Point is a nine-holer that reaches to the area's working class. Instead of a membership that costs tens of thousands per year, anyone can walk on at Mariners Point, throw down 16 bucks and go play even.   The Mariners Point clientele includes golfers who are more likely to sport cargo shorts than the latest in logoed attire, those whose main interest is the frequency at which the beverage cart circulates throughout the property, commuters who would rather hit a bucket of balls than sit in traffic and even avid golfers who stop in to hone their skills at the 2-acre practice area.   "We get all different kinds of people here," said Ross Brownlie, superintendent at Mariners Point for the past 17 years.   "East Bay residents will come here rather than sit in traffic on the San Mateo Bridge. We even get a lot of private club members who like to come here to practice."   But it is at night when Mariners Point really comes to life.   Once the sun goes down, rather than lock up until morning, banks of 1,000-watt halogen bulbs are switched on for nighttime golf. More than a gimmick, the concept has broadened the appeal of the game throughout the Bay area. Mariners Point even has a night golf league that plays several times per week under the lights, and lights-out play with golf balls that glow in the dark.   "That's a whole different crowd," Brownlie said. "It's a party atmosphere at night."   Night golf also leads to some challenges that are common at Mariners Point, but unheard of at traditional courses.   One morning, while making the rounds on the course Brownlie discovered a patch of browned turf he thought might be either the onset of disease or the result of a hydraulic leak. Instead, it was a problem he'd never encountered before, but has seen many times since.   "It was vodka-tonic disease," he said. "It burns the grass and looks just like recovering damage from a hydraulic leak."   Owned by Chris Aliaga's VB Golf LLC, Mariners Point has no committees or chairmen, "and no club politics," said Brownlie who also oversees company-owned practice ranges in nearby San Bruno and Burlingame.    "It's just Chris and I working together since Day 1. That's one of the reasons I came here," said Brownlie, superintendent at Mariners Point for 17 years. "It makes my job so much easier."   In this area, just a few minutes from the San Francisco International Airport and a half-hour from the city's bustling downtown, Brownlie is as local as as they come. After all, he's lived virtually his whole life within a 10- to 15-mile radius of Foster City and San Mateo.   Brownlie, 55, was an accomplished high school and college golfer in the area. In fact, it seems the farthest he has ventured from home, other than to attend the Golf Industry Show or play at Pebble Beach with the son of the tournament founder in what then was called the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, was when he went 10 or so miles down U.S. 101 to Menlo Park where he spent 10 years as superintendent at Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club.   "I've always been around golf in this area," said Brownlie. "Whether it's been junior golf, high school or college, I'm sort of known in this area for being around the game."   So does a reciprocal relationship with Poplar Creek Golf Course, an 18-hole VB Golf sister property in San Mateo.   The four properties share equipment such as spreaders and aerifiers as needed.   "Just yesterday, they were aerating their greens at Poplar when the topdresser broke down with four or five holes left to sand, and their mechanic was out sick. (Superintendent) Tim (Sedgely) called asking to use our topdresser.   "You have to be reciprocal in this business. You never know when you might need some help down the road. You know that time is coming. You just don't know when."   That's especially important for someone like Brownlie, who has deep roots in the area.    He played on the golf teams at Hillsdale High School and later at the College of San Mateo where he studied horticulture. During his high school days he befriended a player from rival Burlingame High School who happened to be Nathaniel Crosby, son of Bing Crosby, the singer and actor who in 1937 founded the pro-am tournament that bared his name past his death in 1977 until 1985 when it became the AT&T National Pro-Am.   The two met during a high school match at Crystal Springs Golf Course in Burlingame. They became fast friends and played together in a best-ball tournament in Palo Alto, finishing third.   "Our friendship really started after that," said Brownlie, whose game was so good that the younger Crosby extended a pro-am invitation to him from 1979 through 1983. Some of his fondest memories include bunking with Crosby in a room at Cypress Point and playing in the tournament with the game's best players and some of the biggest acting and recording stars of the day. He remembers as    "It was really special," he said.   Like his more famous friend, Brownlie comes from a golf-playing family. His father, who was an avid golfer, first put a club in his hand at age 8, and brother Alan, a pilot for American Airlines, also is a frequent player. All of which makes his position at a place like Mariners Point all the more poignant.   The 22-acre facility includes a 2-acre practice area that offers grass tees for accomplished players, mats for beginners and automatic pop-up tees for casual golfers into the latest gimmick. Despite nighttime golf, glow-in-the-dark balls and pop-up range tees, Mariners Point has a serious side.   Five teaching pros work out of the facility and instructional bays include the latest in video and swing-analysis equipment.   "It's can be pretty easy for beginners," Brownlie said. "But it can be pretty challenging for good players when it's windy."   And it's windy a lot in San Francisco.   "All in all," he said, "I think it's a pretty well-rounded place."
  • The Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association recognized the accomplishments of several of its members at the association's recent annual meeting.   Mike Crawford, CGCS at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth was named winner of the association's Superintendent of the Year award, and Richard Staughton, CGCS at Towne Lake Hills Country Club received the group's Distinguished Service Award. The association also inducted Ken Mangum, CGCS at the Atlanta Athletic Club, and Mark Esoda, CGCS at Atlanta Country Club, into its Hall of Fame.   Presentations were made at the annual meeting held recently at Atlanta Athletic Club in Jones Creek.   Crawford is the host superintendent of the Greater Gwinnett Championship on the Champions Tour and was host superintendent for the PGA Tour's AT&T Classic from 1997 through 2008.   Crawford led the Georgia GCSA as president in 2008-09 and is secretary-treasurer of the Georgia Golf Environmental Foundation, which he has served as a trustee since 2004. In 2010, the GCSAA honored his leadership on water use issues with its Excellence in Government Relations award. Working with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the University of Georgia, Crawford spearheaded efforts to provide the state with new data on golf course water use leading to science-based policy that improved conservation.   Earlier this year, Crawford hosted a day-long golf course operations immersion for youngsters from The First Tee of Atlanta as part of a new Careers on Course program sponsored by the John Deere Company that introduced two-dozen children (ages 12-17) to the game, including playing the game as well as golf course and clubhouse operations.   In other news, Joe Hollis of the Atlanta Country Club was named Assistant Superintendent of the Year, and Mike Brown of The Standard Club in Johns Creek was elected president. 
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