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No, golfers arent returning to the game in record numbers, but the number of players stepping away from the game has slowed considerably.
According to Jim Koppenhaver, golf industry analyst and owner of Pellucid Corp., there was a 2 percent drop in the golfer base in 2012 of 400,000 players. And while that might not sound encouraging on its face, it is great news compared with 2011 when 7 percent of the golfers, or 2 million players, stepped away from the game.
The number of golfers in the U.S. stands at just more than 24 million, which is down considerably from the all-time high of nearly 30 million in 2002.
All of the players lost in 2012 were male. The female golfer population, one that the industry has been chasing for some time because of growing disposable income, actually grew last year.
The bad news pieces to this puzzle are the losses were juniors as well mid-career males (age 35-54) earning more than $75,000 per year and who were playing 10-39 rounds per year.
It is worth remembering that there was an increase in rounds played in 2012 of nearly 6 percent, much of which Koppenhaver says is attributable to unseasonable weather conditions throughout the winter and early spring.
Those gains, however, seem like a distant memory as cold, wet conditions throughout much of the country took a toll on rounds played in the first three months of this year.
Rounds played in March were down 23 percent compared with the same month last year, according to the Golf Datatech National Golf Rounds Played Report. Year-to-date rounds played through the first three months of the year are down by 15 percent compared to the same period in 2012, according to the report.
Rounds played were down by double-digits in March in 32 states. Some of the hardest hit states were Minnesota, where play was down by 95 percent, Iowa (down 80 percent) and Illinois (down 79 percent).
Much of those losses can be attributed to wet conditions, unseasonably cool temperatures or a combination of both, as was the case in parts of Illinois and Wisconsin.
Only eight states experienced an increase in rounds played, led by Oregon (up 79 percent), Washington (50 percent) and California (14 percent).
The recent trend of a downward spiral in rounds played in 2013 coupled with a continued loss of golfers, albeit a controlled release, is a reminder that a slow and steady decline is likely to occur, Koppenhaver says, until grow-the-game initiatives at the facility or industry level and other efforts address barriers to the game like cost, time and difficulty as well as generational challenges.
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Approximately 60 superintendents from within a 3-hour drive radius rotated between eight stations at the outdoor field day that showcased the latest research and technological innovations in turf agronomy. The event was patterned after similar events held in England over the last several years, also sponsored by Jacobsen/Ransomes, Syngenta and local partners. "We wanted to host a program where new technology and research could be explained and demonstrated in small group settings," said Chris Vernon, VP of Marketing and Product Management at Jacobsen. "The schedule also allowed ample time for questions from superintendents, networking among themselves and product feedback from attendees for us." The eight stations set up across the grounds of Greenville Country Club included: 1. Turf Application On Target - Dan Kidder, Ph.D., Syngenta. Dr. Kidder talked about methods of optimizing turf spray applications through nozzle selection, sprayer pressure, sprayer calibration, mixing procedures, water volume and pH of the spray solution. He also introduced Syngenta XC spray nozzles, which are currently available in the UK but under testing in North America. Syngenta XC nozzles (manufactured by Hypro) are specifically designed with a flexible spray pattern that maintains proper coverage on sloping ground or over contours where boom height may vary from the typical 20". They reduce drift and incorporate a rear-facing spray angle calculated to counteract the forward motion of the sprayer to deliver all-around coverage of the turf leaf. It only makes sense for a plant protectant provider, after jumping through all the hoops and expense of product research, development and registration, to optimize the application process by supplying what they consider the ideal nozzles for each product. 2. Maximizing Putting Green Performance and Stress Tolerance - Lane Tredway, Ph.D., Syngenta. New technologies from Syngenta -- including plant activators, pigments and new fungicide chemistries -- have been incorporated into eight new products introduced by Syngenta over the last year or two. Syngenta has been working with Chuck Connolly and his staff at Greenville Country Club to develop agronomic programs to provide season-long disease control and maximum stress tolerance of bentgrass greens in the transition zone. An example of a plant activator is Acibenszolar-S-methyl, a component of Daconil Action. This "fortified" chlorothalonil formulation increases the turf's resistance to anthracnose, Pythium blight and bacterial wilt, while also increasing drought tolerance and overall turf quality. Dr. Tredway explained the Syngenta Premium Program in use at Greenville Country Club, which includes Headway, Avid, Secure, Segway, Heritage, Appear, Daconil Action, Subdue Maxx and Briskway products at various rates and combinations. Half of the demonstration green was treated with this program and the other half by a similar program of competitive products. Syngenta agronomic programs can be found at greencastonline.com/programs/ 3. The Truth About Hybrid Mowers and What it Means to You - Greg Walker, Jacobsen. The Big Three turf equipment companies have all introduced "alternative" power sources over the past few years, including all-hydraulic, e-reel units, true hybrids and true all-electrics. Each also has their own spin on which is "best". The title of this presentation was a tad misleading, as it thankfully wasn't the to-be-expected pitch for Jacobsen's choice of electric and hybrid systems, but rather a fair and relatively unbiased explanation of the various technologies including an explanation of the benefits of lithium-ion batteries compared to traditional lead acid. Greg Walker, technical training manager for Jake, did a very nice job of explaining some of the little-known nuances of performance and capabilities of the various technologies. 4. Frequency of Clip, Height of Cut and Ball Roll on the Green - Chris Fox, Jacobsen. This demonstration utilized a Pelzmeter to measure ball roll distance on plots mowed at various heights and frequency of clip settings in an effort to show how superintendents can utilize FOC settings and adjustments to increase ball roll distance without lowering the height of cut, or maintain current BRD with a higher height of cut in stressful situations. (photo at top of page) 5. Precision Topdressing - Scott Kinkead, Turfco Turfco launched the new WideSpin 1550 topdresser at the recent GIS in San Diego (see our coverage here), and Scott Kinkead used it at Turf Science Live to highlight the new capabilities its technologies bring to topdressing. By integrating an electronic controller (similar to those on sprayers) with hydraulic spinner drive, the WideSpin 1550 enables the superintendent to identify specific, quantified rates (rather than guessing by number of hoppers used, etc) then them dial in for different applications (greens, tees, heavy/light, wide/narrow swath). The operator has to only throw one switch on the handheld controller to start/stop the conveyor and spinners, and cannot start the conveyor before the spinners. Width of swath and application rates can be changed on the fly with no manual adjustment on the machine itself. 6. Increasing Seeding Success - George Kinkead, Turfco. Turfco showcased their recent improvements in overseeding technology at Turf Science Live. George Kinkead gave a rundown of the technologies incorporated into the Turfco TriWave seeders to optimize seed-to-soil contact, increase germination rates and speed, reduce cleanup and turf disturbance, and reduce the amount of seed used. The solid 'wave' blades on the TriWave units create square, flat-bottomed slits that capture and hold seed better than traditional v-shaped slits. They also enable double- and triple-cross seeding without tearing out "pizza slices" of turf as happens with notched blades. Floating heads on the TriWave units enable seeding on a curve and avoid damage to sprinkler heads and high spots. The 'hook up and go' capabilities of the tow-type TriWave 40 enable the unit to be quickly dispatched for spot seeding on a regular basis without exchanging attachments. No tools are required to adjust seed rates and depths so changes can be made in the field as required. 7. Make Spraying More Efficient, Convenient and Accurate - Doug Colley, Smithco
Technologies new to the professional turf market have been available and proven in agriculture for some time now. Smithco has incorporated multi-nozzle "Blended Pulse Technology" (BPT) of the Capstan Sharpshooter system to unlock the relationship between ground speed, rate, tip size and pressure, basically creating a situation where "speed no longer matters" as a discrete function of chemical delivery. Don't confuse "multi-nozzle" in this case with turret-type nozzle heads. Multi-nozzle means two nozzles operate simultaneously at each position on the boom to allow the operator to spray at speeds of two to ten mph and at rates of 0.4 to 5.0 gallons per thousand while maintaining a constant operator-set pressure. Solenoids are located right at each nozzle assembly so spray material and pressure are maintained to the tip for instant on/off capability. The operator can invoke "on-demand drift control" when required by reducing the pressure for bigger droplets and fewer driftable fines. Application rate is maintained independent of this pressure change. 8. Using GPS Satellites to Guide and Control the Spray Vehicle - Emil Miller, Smithco The Star Command spray system from Smithco couples the Sharpshooter BPT system to a Raven Envizio Pro II advanced rate controller which incorporates GPS technology to identify and monitor the location of the sprayer and each spray tip, and where it has been already. The system automatically controls spray application coverage down to the individual spray tips, which are turned on and off to avoid pass-to-pass overlap errors or skips. GPS technology enables "defined boundary" applications to eliminate overspray or drift into non-target areas. By automatically shutting off nozzles that would otherwise apply material to non-target areas, significant reductions in chemical use and subsequent cost savings can be achieved. The Star Command system records all application functions and exports it easily to a desktop computer for record-keeping, planning and analysis. The superintendent will know exactly what has been applied, where it has been applied, how well it has been applied and how long it has taken. * * * Conversations with various Syngenta and Jacobsen personnel after the Turf Science Live event indicated a good probability of proceeding with future events around the country. Attendees had the option of playing golf today at Greenville Country Club to wrap up the event.
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Venturi's son, Matt, broke the news of the death to the San Francisco Chronicle, Venturi's hometown newspaper.
Venturi, who turned 82 on Wednesday, had been hospitalized for several months in Southern California. His son said he had developed an infection and pneumonia. Venturi had been unable to travel across country to attend his induction ceremony into the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla., on May 6.
Venturi's U.S. Open victory at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., has long been celebrated for the odds he overcame. On a day when temperatures soared above 100, Venturi survived a 36-hole pressure-cooker and limped home as the champion of the tournament he dreamed of winning all his life.
Venturi led one of golfs most fascinating lives: tutored by Byron Nelson, a regular golf companion of Ben Hogan, pals with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and the man whom Gene Sarazen asked to deliver his eulogy.
Born in San Francisco on May 15, 1931, Venturi learned the game at Harding Park, where his father worked in the pro shop. Venturi became an amateur sensation with a swing to die for and an ego to match his talent. When he bragged of winning a junior tournament, his father shot back, "When youre as good as you are, you can tell everybody. When youre really good, son, theyll tell you."
Labeled the next "Cant-Miss Kid," Venturi suffered three heartbreaking losses at the Masters, in 1956, 58 and 60. Then, injuries sustained in a car accident in 1961 started a three-year slide, which had him on the brink of giving up. Venturi might have quit, if not for his fathers tough love: "Son, thats the easiest thing in the world to do. Anybody can give up. It takes no talent."
When Venturi's final putt fell at Congressional, he dropped his putter, raised his arms, removed his trademark white linen cap, and said, "My God, Ive won the U.S. Open."
It was his finest hour as a golfer.
"If I could choose to be anyone in the world, Id choose to be me," he said in an interview in 2012. "Ive been very fortunate. The only thing I think about is, I wonder what I couldve done if I hadnt lost the use of my hands."
Venturi won 14 times, but his playing career was cut short when he was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists. A year after winning the Open in '64, Venturi had an operation on his left hand. In his final trip to the winner's circle, in 1966, he won on the same golf course, Harding Park, where he had learned the game. In 1970, he had surgery on his right hand. The surgery was risky, he explained to his father. "The doctor told me I may lose three fingers," Venturi said. "My father said to me, It doesnt make any difference if you ever play golf again. "
Venturi asked, "How can you say that?"
"Because you were the best I ever saw," father told son.
At last, Venturi had received the parental approval he so deeply desired.
After the surgery, Venturi asked the doctor if he would ever be able to play golf again.
"Yes, but never to your standard," he said.
Even in retirement, Venturi continued to make an impact on the game. He overcame a childhood stammer to broadcast the game for 35 years as a television commentator and analyst for CBS Sports. To a younger generation, Venturi is better remembered as the CBS analyst who sympathized with Greg Normans collapse at the 1996 Masters and delivered an endless array of "Strokesaver" lessons.
"He became the voice of golf in America's living room," said his broadcast partner, Jim Nantz.
Venturi also served as the captain of the 2000 U.S. Presidents Cup team, and could hardly restrain his joy when he was finally selected for the World Golf Hall of Fame, in the veterans category.
"Jack Whitaker was introducing me once at the Waldorf Astoria," Venturi said. "And he said the most beautiful thing: Fate has a way of bending a twig and fashioning a man to his better instincts. I wouldnt trade my life for anything in the world. I know they make a lot today, but Id never trade my era."
- Adam Schupak, Golfweek
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Jon Kiger won two first-place awards for video work and Peter McCormick took first place in the Writing for Media Kit category.
Kiger's winning entries were in the categories of Best Short Video/DVD (Superintendent's Best Friend Calendar) and Best CD/Audiovisual Presentation (Rossi on Location in Las Vegas).
Hector Velazquez, equipment manager at Walnut Creek Country Club in South Lyon, Mich., won first place in the Best Instructional Video/DVD category (Daily Setting of Jacobsen Trueset).
TurfNet also took second-place or Merit awards in three categories.
Kiger claimed a Merit award for Best CD/Audiovisual Presentation (2012 TurfNet Outtakes), and John Reitman won a Merit in the New Media category for Water Week 2012.
Kevin Ross, CGCS, also won second place in the Best Instructional Video/DVD category (Return of the Rock Sled).
"It's nice to have the efforts of our staff recognized by TOCA with these awards," said Peter McCormick, founder of TurfNet. "But what is really impressive is that the video work of two TurfNet members -- Kevin Ross, CGCS, a golf course superintendent, and Hector Velazquez, an equipment technician -- was honored with awards after being held up against the work of media professionals."
In its 24th year, the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association is a 200-plus member association comprising editorial, advertising and marketing professionals working in various segments of the green industry.
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When a series of spring showers dumped 8 inches of rain around the city in mid-April, including 3 inches in a 24-hour period, crews at some of the courses relied on the power of teamwork to alleviate flooding. Others waited for engineering and design features to move water off the fairways. And still others, reminded of last summer's lack of rainfall that left courses throughout the Midwest parched, were thankful the back of that drought appeared to officially be broken.
"This spring was unlike any other I've gone through in recent times. It was cool, wet and constantly raining," said Matt Kregel, superintendent at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis., about one hour north of Chicago. "It was constantly raining and we couldn't get out to do much of anything, or not do it well, I should say."
Nearly 3 inches of rain fell on an already soaked Chicago area on April 17-18, leaving many courses under water, including many of the facilities operated by Billy Casper Golf.
The Vienna, Va.-based management company manages more than 20 courses throughout Illinois, including a combined 16 for the Chicago Park District and Cook County Forest Preserve. High water is nothing new at the Chicago Park District facilities that hug the shores of Lake Michigan, or the Forest Preserve facilities located in flood plains near the Des Plaines River. And the superintendents there don't wait for the water to rise before springing into action.
"Our superintendents are used to this, so they don't sit around and wait for it, they prepare for this a couple of days in advance," said Bryan Stromme, regional director of agronomy for Billy Casper Golf.
"We own a lot of pumps. But when we get rain like that we still rent them. Our superintendents are calling two days ahead of time, because if you wait you'll never get one."
The Des Plaines River features a series of locks designed to control high water in Chicago's western suburbs. Once locks open sending water downstream, the pumps go into action to clear water from the golf courses.
Billy Casper Golf also manages the Bridges of Poplar Creek Country Club, a real estate golf course in Hoffman Estates. A recent restoration project there keeps in-play areas on the golf course drier during times of excess rain while also helping to maximize flood control of Poplar Creek, which runs through the property.
Completed in accord with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other local and state agencies, the restoration included raising fairways to help keep the golf course dry while also expanding the water-holding capacity of catch basins on the property. That allows the golf course to retain large amounts of water for longer periods, then releasing the water back into the creek in manageable levels to prevent flooding in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Sopped ground has been a concern at Strawberry Creek in Wisconsin as well. Cold, wet weather that included snow late into the spring left turf soaked and brown well past historic green-up time, and April's constant deluge resulted in parts of four holes under water in mid-month.
"We had all this moisture, the soil temperatures were cold, there was no sunlight. We were dormant for the longest time," Kregel said. "We were playing the waiting game for a while.
"I know the calendar says May 1, but it's more like March 1."
Kregel can't do much to change the temperature, but he is able to manage water movement off the course thanks to features installed during course construction in 2004-05.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, state department of natural resources and civil engineers designed a three-phase flood control system at Strawberry Creek. That system includes several water-retention areas on the course that capture vast amounts of water during rain events to prevent flooding of nearby residential neighborhoods. A controlled-release system that includes drainage pipes of varying sizes automatically removes water from those areas as water levels in the creek that runs through the property subside. During phase 3, which was realized in April, the system automatically pulls huge amounts of water off the course after water levels in the stream have gone down and stabilized.
That means fairways that are flooded one day, often are cleared the next, leaving nothing behind but a thin layer of silt, Kregel said.
"We were flooded one day, and the next day it was gone," Kregel said. "We're lucky. Everything that backs up onto the golf course is released pretty quickly."
Sam MacKenzie, CGCS at Olympia Fields Country Club also counts himself lucky this spring.
This time last year, MacKenzie and just about every other superintendent in the Chicago area was on the brink of one of the worst droughts the Midwest has ever seen.
A little excess water when temperatures are still cool is a minor setback compared to no water and triple-digit heat, he said.
"Since February, we are at or above normal rainfall levels, and April has been double the normal amount," MacKenzie said. "That's been a good thing here. It's broken the back of the drought.
"Excessive rain is more of a positive than a negative in light of how dry we've been."
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Through his career researching turfgrasses that help turf managers reduce inputs, Engelke also has developed a passion for sustainability.
"Water shortages and salinity are things that we are facing in our industry that are going to be absolutely devastating," Engelke said during a presentation the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association annual meeting in Portland, Ore.
"We're starting to see it, and we're going to see a whole lot more of it."
Two years ago, Engelke relocated from Dallas to Oregon. Although parts of the state's western corridor receive 60 inches or more of rain per year, rainfall in the Portland area is 8 inches below the historic average, according to the National Weather Service. And some areas of the state, Engelke said, rainfall is off by as much as 14 inches.
"We're in the middle of the rainy season, and we're 14 inches off ourselves, and the snow pack is way off," Engelke said.
"We're going to find ourselves in a drought that the Midwest had last year. And we're not so sure that the Midwest is not going to have that drought again."
Such conditions, Engelke said, are why it is more important than ever to select turfgrass varieties that are best adapted for a specific environment.
In other words, if shade is an issue, choose turf that is bred for shade tolerance. If drought and water restrictions are a concern, choose a variety developed for drought tolerance.
When considering factors such as temperature, moisture and light exposure, Engelke said it is equally important to weigh the extremes of these factors and the duration of these extremes, many of which are affected by shifting climate patterns.
Engelke noted that early in his career the fad in Texas was to install creeping bentgrass putting greens. During the past several years, most of those surfaces have been replaced by one of several warm-season grasses. And that demarcation line is moving farther northward.
"Being green isn't a St. Patrick's Day event," Engelke said. "It's something that is very, very important."
More than 5,000 turfgrass varieties have been developed since the Plant Variety Protection Act was enacted on Dec. 24, 1970 to protect crop species, including turfgrass as intellectual property. With so many varieties bred for specific conditions, Engelke recommends that turf managers examine the most recent NTEP trial results for turfgrass varieties for geographic and environmental adaptability.
"There are a lot of grasses out there that are marketed with a lot of BS," Engelke said.
"BBS is what I support, and BBS is backed by science.' And that's what we want, to make sure we're not promoting varieties based on BS. We want to make sure we have good science behind them."
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Healthy Turf, Healthy Tomorrow is a two-part educational initiative that combines field and classroom instruction all centering around a plant health curriculum designed to provide practical knowledge superintendents can implement on their golf courses.
Attendees will receive instruction on a wide range of topics related to plant health, including how to measure plant health and its benefits, available treatments and preventive products, and issues such as nutrient, water and pest management.
The first phase of the program will include field instruction scheduled for Sept. 25-27 at the Bayer Training and Development Center in Clayton, N.C., followed by two days of classroom training set for March 3-5 at GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kan.
GCSAA Class A and superintendent members who are enrolled in the Bayer Accolades program can apply for one of the 12 slots through June 5 by visiting the Plant Health Academy Web page. Applicants must complete an application and respond to two short-answer essay questions, which will be evaluated by a selection committee of GCSAA and Bayer representatives.
For more information, visit www.backedbybayer.com.
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"The biggest thing is going to be the mapping system and tracking geographic-specific pest problems..." -- John Kaminski
"The biggest thing is going to be the mapping system and tracking geographic-specific pest problems," he said. "That will allow us to crowd source and harness the power of the end user. "We will be able to give them what they want and where they want it." Developed privately by Kaminski, the app (which is not associated with Penn State) is available for the iPhone and Android markets. A version for iPad is due out later this year. It is intended for professional turfgrass managers, such as golf course superintendents, sports field managers, landscape professionals as well as homeowners. "So many people have answers to these problems," Kaminski said. "You don't have to be a university professor to know these answers. Our power is in crowd sourcing our end users."
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George, who was superintendent at the course in Hutchinson, Kan., since 1991, died April 27. He was 57.
A native of Pittsburg, Kan., George developed a reputation for practicing sustainable golf course management long before it became a catch phrase. Prairie Dunes was as much a wildlife-friendly habitat as it was a destination for scratch golfers.
During his time at Prairie Dunes, George was the host superintendent of at least three national championships, including the 1995 U.S. Senior Amateur, '02 Women's Open and the 2006 U.S. Senior Open. He also was a mentor and teacher to dozens of aspiring golf course superintendents.
A skilled golfer, he was being considered for induction into the Kansas Golf Association Hall of Fame at the time of his death.
For all of his accomplishments on the course, George also was a giving member of Grace Bible Church and his community, including serving as a volunteer for the Boys and Girls Club, Toys for Tots annual Christmas toy drive and Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Survivors include wife Debbie, sons David (Birdie) and Chance and six siblings.
Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the Stan George Children's Education Fund, in care of Elliott Mortuary, 1219 North Main, Hutchinson, KS 67501.
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