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When he flips on the TV to watch a tournament, or reads about the ratings of televised golf, Andy Mears sees evidence that there are plenty of people who have an interest in the game, but, according to industry statistics, have quit playing or never started. Mears, the president and chief operating officer of Island Hills Golf Club in Centreville, Mich., believes factors such as time, difficulty, cost and a core audience that doesn't take kindly to newcomers all have conspired to divert occasional golfers and would-be players toward other activities.
Mears wants to change that, at least in Centreville.
Since 2011 patrons at Island Hills have had many options beyond playing a traditional 18-hole golf course. Five shorter routings within the 1999 Raymond Hearn layout, called Quick Courses, feature their own scorecard, and are designed to give golfers a chance to play without devoting five hours - or more - to a round of golf. The Quick Course concept is ideal for newcomers and high-handicappers as well as the scratch golfer who is challenged for time, Mears says.
"We have to get people to understand that golf doesn't have to be played in traditional sets," said Mears, 52. "In an 18-hole round of golf, you leave your house, play, probably socialize a little bit, then you return home. Before you know it, you can be talking about a six-hour day.
"During the past several years, there has been a huge adjustment in the way we think about our lives. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but we've changed how we look at what we do in that time. For some people, six hours out of the day to play golf is fine. For most of us, that' s too much time."
Island Hills owner Bob Griffioen came up with the idea for Quick Courses after reading about a seven-hole tournament at Jack Nicklaus's Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. The Quick Course options at Island Hills include a five-hole course, two seven-hole routes and a 12-hole option. All routes, Mears says, begin on Nos. 1 or 10 and end on 9 or 18. Each route was chosen specifically to minimize the distance golfers must travel from green to tee, and all can be played for a fraction of Island Hills' rack rate. For example, the five-hole Quick Course, named Honeybee Cove, includes Nos. 1, 2, 3, 8 and 9, and golfers can play it for 15 bucks. Fees for the other Quick Courses increase slightly depending on the number of holes.
There are few rules regarding the Quick Course program. Those playing the regulation 18-hole course always have the right of way on the tee, and play is not permitted on weekend mornings. Otherwise, ensuring that golfers play only the route they've paid for basically is left to the honor system. Next year, golfers playing a Quick Course will have a color-coded pennant on their golf car so traditional golfers and club employees can easily identify them.
Many players have readily adapted to the concept and appreciate the opportunity to play at least some golf and do so in less time than it takes to play 18 regulation holes, while there are others for whom the idea has been a tough sell, says Mears.
"Golf is a slow-adapting industry, including among those who play a lot of golf," he said. "For hundreds of years we've been playing 18 holes. Anything other than that is a strange concept to people.
"We want people to know they can get their fix in an hour-and-a-half."
Like most people in the golf business, Mears is troubled by the numbers passed along each year by the National Golf Foundation. Trends he finds worrisome include the 6 million people who have left the game since an all-time high of 30 million people played golf in 2002, or the net loss of 516 18-hole equivalents since a steady diet of negative growth in new course construction began in 2006.
Located between Chicago and Detroit in rural southwestern Michigan, Island Hills relies on city-dwelling tourists who are drawn to the region by Lake Templene, a 1,000-acre lake that is popular for boating, skiing and fishing. Although he acknowledges an oversupply of golf courses, Mears doesn't want his course to be the next statistic, so he and his staff go to great lengths to accommodate golfers. The Quick Course system is just one example.
At Island Hills, there is no charge for the use of top-of-the-line rental clubs, nor is there a fee for lessons. And golfers can play for free after 4 p.m. on Sundays. Mears, who took his first job in the golf business at age 13, figures easing entry into the game for new golfers today might lead to loyal customers tomorrow, or the day after.
"All I can control is here at Island Hills and getting people in our community to play and getting people outside the area to come to our course to play," he said.
"We're not trying to make a dent in the bottom line with this. We're trying to get people to realize that golf can be part of their lifestyle, and it doesn't have to take six hours to do it."
Since implementing the system, Mears says he has received phone calls from golf course operators around the country who are interested in adopting similar programs locally to drive interest. Many ask Mears whether the Quick Courses have increased revenue at Island Hills. Those people, he says, don't get it. The goal of the program is to create long-term interest in the game, not short-term revenue at the cash register.
"We are here to help and to drive interest in the game and hopefully build some customer loyalty along the way," he said.
"The thought process is to get people engaged at some level, then the interest will come. We can't put our needs ahead of the needs of our customers. It doesn't work that way. I see too many who do that, and they can't see the forest from the trees."
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Xzemplar and Lexicon Intrinsic fungicides, both of which are awaiting EPA approval, have been in testing for the past five years, and both offer control over a broad range of turf diseases, according to scientists discussing the new products at the annual American Phytopathological Society conference in Austin, Texas.
Both products contain the active ingredient fluxapyroxad, while Lexicon also contains pyraclostrobin, the a.i. common to all products in BASF's Intrinsic line. Both also are SDHI class fungicides that work by limiting the respiration process in enzymes in the target fungi.
Both products have been field tested by several university researchers.
John Inguagiato, Ph.D., of the University Connecticut tested Xzemplar for control of brown patch on Colonial creeping bentgrass and dollar spot on Putter creeping bentgrass, both mowed at fairway height and both under heavy disease pressure. Xzemplar exhibited control of both diseases in his trial for a period of 21 to 28 days.
"Last year, our dollar spot control trial on fairway turf was supposed to be a preventive fairway trial," Inguagiato said. "But infection occurred the day before we began our treatments, so it sort of turned out to be an early curative trial.
"It provided impressive dollar spot and brown patch control."
According to BASF, trial results for Xzemplar showed excellent control against dollar spot at all rates and timings. And when compared against BASF's Emerald fungicide, Xzemplar fungicide provided faster dollar spot control in the first 14 days of the trials.
In other trials, Lexicon Intrinsic showed 0 percent Rhizoctonia (brown patch) infection after 21 days, compared with the untreated control plot with 70.5 percent disease incidence.
In a trial conducted on Baron tall fescue, Lexicon Intrinsic showed 1.8 percent summer patch infection after 21 days. When left untreated, the turf averaged 58.2 percent disease incidence.
Bruce Martin, Ph.D., turfgrass pathologist at Clemson University, has been working with both products for about four years Crenshaw creeping bentgrass and TifEagle Bermudagrass cut to putting green height.
In his trials, Lexicon Intrinsic and Xzemplar were effective at controlling a variety of diseases in cool-season turf.
"Crenshaw creeping bentgrass is the acid test for dollar spot," Martin said. "When I want high disease pressure if I'm working with dollar spot I always go to Crenshaw.
"I was impressed with the results."
The products' performance in Bermudagrass, at least in field testing, was what stood out most to Martin.
He tested the products for control of diseases such as leaf spot, pink snow mold and pink patch on TifEagle putting greens and also incorporated Lexicon Intrinsic into a Bermudagrass fairway trial that concluded in January. Nearly eight months later he still can pick out the plots treated with the new BASF product.
"Those are the results that surprised me," Martin said. "Those plots were disease free all spring.
"They showed excellent disease control (on TifEagle greens), and that set them apart from anything I'd seen in Bermuda. Now, will it be consistent? I don't know. This is just one trial.
BASF says it expects both products to receive label registration from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency later this year and to be available for sale next spring.
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The course received 9 inches of rain in 2.5 hours on July 27 and was left with severe flooding and damage throughout. The course was closed until Aug. 17, when it reopened as a 16-hole layout until the repairs are completed on two holes, according to a statement on the club's Facebook page.
Two greens the 210-yard, par-3 third and the 405-yard, par-4 fifth suffered significant damage and will have to be rebuilt. Greens and fairways at Nos. 4, 13, 14, 16 and 17 along with the fairway at No. 5 had up to 3 feet water and silt in some areas, according to a letter the Champions Tour sent to players. The Tour's agronomist Jeff Haley has been to Rock Barn to access the damage.
Also, 22 bunkers throughout the course will need to be rebuilt. A bridge from the 13th green to the 14th tee needs repairs, as does a roadway bridge through the housing development.
Plans are still on for the Champions Tour stop, scheduled for Oct. 18-20. (The NGA Tour's Terry Moore Ford Open, scheduled for Aug. 1-4 at the course, was canceled immediately.)
This is not the first time flooding has hit a Champions Tour venue. In September 2011, En-Joie Golf Club in Endicott, N.Y., home to the Dick's Sporting Goods Open, was covered in 5 feet of water from the effects of a tropical storm and overflowing of the Susquehanna River that runs along the perimeter of the course. Because of the flooding and to allow the course to recover, the tour moved the 2012 event from June to August. In 2006, the course also flooded, forcing the final B.C. Open on the PGA Tour to move 2 hours north to Turning Stone Resort in Verona.
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Aeration is a necessary evil in maintaining quality playing conditions, but as advantageous as it is, it also comes with plenty of downside. Golfers hate it because it can be messy and it disrupts play. Superintendents don't like it much either because removing them or breaking them up is a long, labor-intensive chore. And just what to do with cores after aerification is one of the age-old questions facing turf managers.
Modern Aerofication Methods Inc. has a solution: Unleash the F1 on them.
With a name that sounds like the Defense Department's latest fighter jet, the F1 is a core-removal tool that attaches to a bunker rake and eliminates the need for raking and hand shoveling of plugs from the putting surface.
According to a
demonstration by Arizona Golf Club superintendent Kirby Putt, an operator using the F1 at his club was able to remove 99 percent of all aerification cores from a 4,000-square-foot putting green in about seven minutes. The F1 collects the cores and dumps them in a pile on the collar for removal.
Developed by former mechanic and superintendent James Hill and distributed by Dynamic Turf, the F1 attaches to Toro's 5000 series bunker rake, the John Deere Hydro 1200 series as well as some Smithco models. It glides safely over the surface and can be used on heavily contoured greens.
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The Buchko Brush, the latest product innovation and introduction from CTRgolf, wasn't ready for this year's GIS in San Diego but has now joined the fray in the greens brush arena. Designed by Jeff Buchko (inventor of the Jacobsen MagKnife) and Kenny Wilson (also a former product designer and engineer at Jacobsen), the Buchko Brush Conditioning System sets itself apart in several ways:
Electric drive enables variable brush speed that can be adjusted according to turf conditions. The brush direction is reversible via a simple rocker switch in the event a counter-rotating (forward) direction is desired. It can be used independently of the mowing reel for use as a topdressing brush, or shut off when brushing is not desired. The brush fits between the front roller and the reel (where a groomer would normally go); the platform and drive system will be adaptable to future attachments like a vertical blade groomer. Three different brush densities are available for cool season, warm season and aggressive applications.
"It's really the grooming brush for all grasses," said Buchko of the patent-pending brush system. "The soft brush is ideal for everyday use on cool season grasses and off-season use on warm-season grasses. The medium stiffness brush and controlled rotation speed is perfect for use on Bermuda or zoysia during periods of heavy growth. The 'Grass Kicker' as we call it is the stiffest brush for ultra-aggressive conditioning of heavy grasses."
The brushes are distinguished by their color (black, white and green, respectively) and can be easily exchanged via a magnetic release on the non-motor side of the unit.
The Buchko Brush Conditioning System is available now for Jacobsen Eclipse walk- and triplex greensmowers, and uses the on-board electrical supply on those units. A model to fit the Toro eFlex electric drive unit is coming soon, according to Buchko.
For greensmowers with traditional mechanical or hydraulic drive systems, a 48-volt lithium ion battery pack is available to drive the Buchko Brush. The battery units must be plugged in to recharge at night, and will last for eight or nine greens when fully charged.
Distribution is still being set up, but for ballpark purposes the Buchko Brush unit for mounting on electric mowers sells for $2000, while the model with optional battery pack will be in the $2500 vicinity.
More info at ctrgolf.com.
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This year marks the third time the PGA Championship has been contested on Oak Hill's East Course. And the club in Rochester, N.Y. boasts of being the only property to play host to the PGA Championship (2013, 2003, 1980), the U.S. Open Championship (1989, 1968, 1956), the Ryder Cup Matches (1995), U.S. Amateur Championship (1998, 1949), U.S. Senior Open Championship (1984) and Senior PGA Championship (2008).
Maintaining a facility with such a long-standing history is no minor feat. In fact, there are two requirements a superintendent needs to maintain major championship conditions at a course like Oak Hill a great staff and an understanding family. Fortunately Jeff Corcoran has both.
"During the summer, I'm here from 75 to 100 hours per week," said Corcoran, Oak Hill's director of golf courses and grounds. "In the final run-up to the PGA, the hours might ramp up even more."
Corcoran, 40, has worked at Oak Hill since he interned there in 1994. He was hired on the following year after graduating from Penn State, and prepped under Joe Hahn, CGCS and Paul B. Latshaw, CGCS, before succeeding the latter as manager of golf courses and grounds in 2003.
A typical week for Corcoran and assistants Fred Doheny, Phil Cuffare and Charles Zaranac means arriving between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. and staying until 5, 6 or 7 at night depending on daily irrigation needs.
That has been especially true this summer, which has been hot, humid and wet with 15 inches of rain (5 above the historic average) having fallen since May 1 in Rochester. Those conditions have made the run up to this year's PGA Championship particularly grueling for Corcoran and his staff of 65.
"There is never a break during the summer," Corcoran said. "One of the things they don't teach you in college is the hard work and dedication that it takes to maintain a place like Oak Hill to the expectation levels we have."
It also takes an understanding wife.
Over the years, Corcoran's wife, Mary, has grown accustomed to playing roles of both mom and dad to the couple's two young children throughout the summer. Whether it's the mundane daily stuff like shuttling kids to the doctor or dentist's office, or summer getaways, she does it all
"She definitely puts up with the long hours and me working every Saturday, every Sunday and every holiday," Corcoran said.
"She understands what I need to do where my job is concerned. She makes sure the house ticks. She carries the burden of family duties, which allows me to do what I need to do here at the golf course. If I didn't have that support, it would make it tough."
Corcoran makes up for lost time at home once the golf season winds down.
"I try like hell to make up for it in the winter, or if it's a rainy day when we can leave early," he said. "Anything I can do to take over some of the parental duties."
Despite the stress of working nearly 100 hours per week month after month and the resulting strain his schedule places upon his family, Corcoran said he wouldn't trade his job for anything.
"I love it. I can't imagine doing anything else," he said. "Why? It's simple; all those same challenges that make it so hard are what make it interesting. That makes me want to be out there and put in long hours to experience that satisfaction that comes with maintaining a golf course at the high level possible, and then every 10 years or so do it for the best players in the world. There is a lot of pride that comes with maintaining a place like Oak Hill. It's one of the top golf courses in the world because of what we do, and I am proud of that."
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Measuring 5.5 inches by 5.5 inches and weighing 10 pounds, The "Original" is designed to fit walk-behind blowers with rectangular output ports. It delivers topdressing material into the soil profile through a process called air-redirection technology, eliminating the need for brushes or mats. Air-redirection technology forces topdressing material into the desired location quicker and more efficiently than gravity, brushing or dragging with mats.
The "Original" is manufactured from 16-gauge steel and features rounded leading and trailing edges to provide even greater protection for the turf surface.
At 24 inches in length The "Original" is large enough to make quick work of large-volume sand applications and small enough to get into the intricate details of putting greens, tees, infields and targeted micro-environments in a fraction of the time, says Green Sweep Technologies, a company created by turf managers to develop tools and solutions for other turf managers.
For more information, visit greensweeptech.com.
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With overseeding season quickly approaching, Turfco offers solutions to golf course superintendents with two products launched earlier this year. The WideSpin 1550 topdresser offers a new hydraulic system and spinner design, allowing operators to switch between a super light to ultra-heavy applications; instantaneous width and rate control for topdressing tee boxes, greens and approaches; 20-percent larger capacity hopper; an optional electronic controller that automatically calculates the rate of the application and amount of material is needed. The 1550 is available as an engine or hydraulic tow-behind unit or a hydraulic truck-mounted unit. All offer spreading widths from 15 to 4- feet and spreading ranges from as little as 0.08mm to more than 0.25-inches. All units are also available with manual or electronic control. The TriWave 40 tow-behind overseeder offers Turfco's WaveBlade technology that creates clean square slits for optimal germination with decreased turf disruption; the ability to turn while seeding and to seed greens with steep sides and bunker surrounds; one-button control that lifts and lowers seeder so operators can spot seed quickly and move on to the next area; floating heads that follow the contour of the ground for effective seeding and a patented seed-delivery system; an optional electric lift and lower for trucks without hydraulics, allowing operators to hook up to any vehicle. For more information, visit www.turfco.com.
Ewing restructures for improved efficiency
Ewing has restructured its operation, including the appointment of three new vice presidents, to help the company achieve its goals of increased growth and greater efficiency. New vice presidents include J.R. Richards, who will oversee operations in the Pacific Northwest, California and Southwest; Jay Riviere, who will head up the company's interests in the Rocky Mountain states, Midwest, and Texas; and Ray Murphy, who will head up operations in the Southeast, East Coast, and Florida. Along with the vice presidential appointments, Ewing welcomed several new members to the company's regional management team, including Casey McWilliams, Pacific Northwest; Jake Ray, Arizona; Dave Northrup, New Mexico and El Paso, Tex.; Sean Wimble, Central Texas; Leon Garza, South Texas; Aaron Budimlija, Midwest; and Marshall Caudill, Southeast. The appointments for the resulting branch manager position openings were fulfilled internally. The new managers include: Chris Bednarek in Tigard, Ore.; Hunter Williams in Chandler, Ariz.; Jake Sommer in Peoria, Ariz.; Herman Romero in Albuquerque, NM; Ray Salazar in Austin, Tex.; and Greg Stafford in Houston, Tex. Relocations included Ray Espinoza from Peoria to Deer Valley, Ariz.; Mike Falloon from Austin to Cedar Park, Tex., and Mike Alvarado from Houston to Friendswood, Tex. For more information, visit www.ewing1.com.
Bayer offers solutions via Twitter
Bayer has launched a Twitter account for its turf and ornamental business that is focused on solutions for its golf course customers. The site twitter.com/BayerGolf will share Bayer-related news and industry news stories. Bayer also will share with superintendents expert advice to some of their most challenging issues from the company's Green Solutions team. Magro joins Stevens Water
Stevens Water Monitoring Systems recently named Carmen Magro, CGCS, vice president of business development and agronomy. A former golf course superintendent, Magro has more than 20 years in of experience as an agronomist, including serving in a multitude of roles at Penn State University, as well as positions with Floratine, UgMO Technologies and Agronomy Management Solutions, the latter a consulting firm he had founded. At Stevens, he will be responsible for helping the company advance its expertise in water-monitoring technology. For more information, visit www.stevenswater.com.
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John Deere has launched a mobile version of its parts Web site that allows customers easier access to much-needed parts.
By visiting jdparts.deere.com from a smart phone or tablet customers can view equipment parts information from nearly any location.
Like its desktop counterpart, the mobile version allows customers to quickly access parts information, pricing, availability and order parts online. Customers can search by parts catalog, model number, part number or keyword to locate the appropriate parts and attachments.
For more information, visit jdparts.deere.com.
Lebanon tabs Bially as new product manager
LebanonTurf recently named Paul Bially as product manager for its biostimulant division.
Bially brings years of turf industry experience to LebanonTurf, including prior service with Aquatrols and Precision Labs in which he worked extensively with surfactants and other specialty products.
Most recently, he worked as a sales and technology specialist for Lamberti USA managing the company's line of surfactants, polymers and pigments.
For more information, visit www.lebanonturf.com.
Hunter controllers earn EPA nod for saving water
Hunter Industries' AC-powered controllers that are paired with Solar Sync sensors will carry the WaterSense label for professional turfgrass managers interested in getting the most for the least from their irrigation systems.
Controllers to carry the WaterSense label will include X-Core, Pro-C, I-Core and ACC lines. Hunters' controllers are the only in the industry to carry the label granted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Water Sense is an EPA partnership program that recognizes products that perform as well or better than their less-efficient counterparts, are 20 percent more water efficient than average products in their category, realize water savings on a national level, provide measurable water savings results, achieve water efficiency through several technology options, are effectively differentiated by the WaterSense label, and obtain independent, third-party certification.
For more information, visit www.hunterindustries.com, or www.epa.gov/watersense.
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