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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Repair work to some of the greens at the home of the PGA Tour's Wells Fargo Championship might appear patchy on TV during this year's tournament, but that look should be nothing more than a cosmetic distraction to viewers at home, according to a turfgrass researcher who has spent years monitoring conditions at Quail Hollow Club.   Two of the aging Penn G-2 bentgrass greens at the course in Charlotte, N.C., have been sodded twice in the past three weeks to replace patches of thinned turf. The most recent repair work was performed on April 22, just nine days before the first round of the tournament scheduled for May 1-5.   Since then stories have circulated about the quality of the greens at Quail Hollow, with accounts of club members blaming PGA Tour agronomists for conditions, and a Tour official discounting those accusations. Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour's chief of operations, admitted in published reports that conditions on Nos. 8 and 10 were not up to snuff, necessitating new sod, but went on to say the damage was not the fault of Tour agronomists.   While members take shots at the Tour, Fred Yelverton, Ph.D., professor of crop science at North Carolina State University, said that blame is misguided. The culprit, he said, is a turfgrass variety ill suited for conditions at Quail Hollow.   Yelverton has been working with Quail Hollow superintendents since 1995. He said the two greens in question, as well as the 16 others, should be just fine for the tournament. He and fellow NC State professor Grady Miller, Ph.D., are working with Quail Hollow superintendent Chris Deariso and Tour agronomists to ensure playing conditions worthy of a PGA Tour event.   "All these problems are overstated," Yelverton said. "The greens are going to be just fine."   Although G-2 is a proven performer on many courses around the country for its improved shoot density, overall turf quality and disease resistance, it has been an awkward fit at Quail Hollow, where heat stress prevails for much of the year.    In the 16 years that Quail Hollow superintendents have been growing G-2, segregation has been a consistent problem, resulting in stressed turf, occasional turf loss in random patterns and an overall weakened stand that Yelverton said has become nearly unmanageable. The segregation of G-2 has resulted in contamination from Poa annua, other bentgrass varieties and even some Bermudagrass, and its response to even the most basic management practices has been erratic.   And while some headlines give the illusion the tournament might be decided upon patches of barren soil, Yelverton said conditions could have been far worse if not for the expertise of Deariso and those same PGA Tour agronomists with whom others cast blame.   "They've done an outstanding job," Yelverton said.    "I've been looking at these greens for years, and I've never seen turf segregate like G-2 has at Quail Hollow. And this is key to what everyone with a non-agronomic background is talking about. Because of that segregation, the (G-2's) response to any normal agronomic practice has been unpredictable. I've seen little patches 6 to 8 inches wide turn yellow and die from heat stress while the other 99 percent of the green is fine. And I've never seen that before, and I've never seen it anywhere other than (at Quail Hollow)."   Enough was left from the 42-inch-by-60-foot rolls of sod that some cosmetic work was performed on roll-off areas on Nos. 12 and 13.   Any problems associated with managing G-2 at Quail Hollow, however, soon will be a thing of the past.    Talk of a restoration has swirled for years at Quail Hollow, which last year was named the site of the 2017 PGA Championship. That much-needed restoration will begin later this year and will include regrassing the putting surfaces with an ultradwarf Bermudagrass, probably Champion or MiniVerde, that is better suited for August conditions in North Carolina.    "Everybody involved realized that needed to be done. It was a matter of when it was going to be put on the calendar," Yelverton said. "It wasn't a matter of if, it was a matter of when."   In the meantime, work will focus on rolling the newly sodded greens to ensure a smooth playing surface and minimal sod seams for this year's tournament. Yelverton said Stimpmeter readings for the tournament should be in the range of 10-11 feet, which is plenty of speed for Quail Hollow's undulating greens.   "Everyone needs to move on and enjoy the tournament because it's going to be a good one," Yelverton said. "I'm sure whoever wins on Sunday will think the greens putted just fine."
  • At Grigg Brothers Foliar Fertilizers, they know it takes a community to manage a golf course. Gone are the days when a superintendent could exist on an island. The successful superintendent of today has a vast network of resources to help him get through challenging times. That network includes colleagues at nearby courses or across the country, chapter and association contacts, university extension personnel and online education.   For the past four years, the folks at Grigg Brothers Foliar Fertilizers have recognized the value of distance education for golf course superintendents by sponsoring the TurfNet University Webinar series as well as teaching some of the Webinars.   The Grigg Brothers series of Webinars, all of which are free to TurfNet members and non-members, begins May 30 with Matt Nelson of Grigg Brothers presenting "Managing Soil Chemical Challenges".    In this Webinar, Nelson will discuss the options available to superintendents for managing turf with soil chemical concerns, such as suboptimal pH, high salt content, sodicity, hydrophobicity and nutrient deficiency. His presentation will include solutions for overcoming these issues to produce high quality golf course turf.   Other free Webinars produced by Grigg Brothers this year will include Gary Grigg, CGCS, presenting "Phosphorus Fertilization Strategies and Environmental Fate" and a seminar by Gordon Kauffman III, Ph.D., entitled "Pigmented Produce Use and Current Research" (both TBA, so check back soon for dates).   TurfNet members can click here to register for other members-only Webinars. Or click here to check out our archive page that includes recorded versions of Webinars from 2011-13, including previous presentations from Gary Grigg, Nelson, Kauffman and others from Grigg Brothers.
  • For the fifth year, Syngenta is inviting a select group of U.S. golf course superintendents to attend the Syngenta Business Institute, a four-day professional business development program that provides attendees with graduate school-level business education in a compressed and interactive format.
    Developed in conjunction with the Wake Forest University Schools of Business, the program supplements superintendents' management skills with a curriculum that includes financial management, personnel management, effective communications and negotiating skills delivered in an interactive series of seminars and workshops conducted by members of Wake's MBA faculty.   The Syngenta Business Institute is scheduled for Dec. 6-9 at Graylyn International Conference Center on the Wake Forest campus in Winston-Salem, N.C.   To apply, superintendents must complete an application that includes an essay on why they believe they should be selected to attend. Syngenta will select 25 attendees from its pool of applicants to attend the event. All expenses, including airfare, hotel and meals will be covered by Syngenta. Application deadline is Aug. 20.   Click here for more information or to apply.
  • Matt Shaffer is not a Washington man, but he and nearly two-dozen other superintendents assumed the role for a day on behalf of colleagues everywhere.
      Shaffer, director of golf course operations at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., was one of many superintendents and other representatives from throughout the golf industry to travel to Capitol Hill on April 16 for National Golf Day. The sixth annual event that includes representatives from the GCSAA, PGA of America, USGA, National Golf Course Owners Association, Club Managers Association and the World Golf Foundation, gives golf stakeholders a forum in which they can discuss with legislators and their staffs issues concerning the game and its future.   That laundry list of topics included educating legislators and others on Capitol Hill about the economic benefits of golf as well as promoting the environmental stewardship efforts and sustainable management practices of golf course superintendents.   "At first, I didn't want to go, but then I thought 'how selfish of me,' " Shaffer said.    "My job is to communicate the premise that the golf course superintendent is responsible for the success of golf."   Shaffer recalled firing back to one lawmaker who asked him to define sustainability.    "I told him to pick up the phone and call a guy who has $400,000 to run a golf course," Shaffer said. "He'll tell you all about it, because he has nothing and still makes it all happen."   Many people, including some in Washington, have shaped their opinions about the relationship between golf course management and environmental sustainability by what they read and hear in the mainstream media. But those perceptions are slowly changing, at least inside the halls and offices of the Capitol, said Darren Davis, CGCS at Olde Florida Golf Club in Naples, who was in Washington for his second National Golf Day.   "From last year to this year, it's improving," Davis said. "Many of them are beginning to get it that we are a business, and they're not lumping us as an elitist activity.   "We don't want special treatment. We just want to be treated like any other industry."   Changing the way some view the golf industry has required a constant drum beat of the game's economic data, including 2 million golf-related jobs and a total economic impact of $176 billion annually, according to We Are Golf.   GCSAA president Pat Finlen, CGCS at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, was in Washington for his fourth visit on National Golf Day. During this year's visit he met with, among others, staffers' from the office of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Cal.), who in the past has spoken unfavorably of golf courses and use of pesticides and water.  
    "I can't say all (on Capitol Hill) are getting it, but some are," Finlen said.   "We're making a lot of headway in helping them understand golf is a business."   As a business, the golf industry has needs, and National Golf Day also gives the We Are Golf contingent an opportunity to lobby for other needs.   Shaffer said he and other superintendents in Washington lobbied for relief funding on behalf of East Coast golf courses affected by Hurricane Sandy. Davis noted how certain tax-relief measures now in place for golf courses likely are a direct result of regular attendance by GCSAA members and others on National Golf Day.   GCSAA members also lobbied for a special use exemption for methyl bromide and for changes to pending legislation that would require a state-by-state interpretation of the need to file paperwork when applying pesticides in proximity to water bodies. Like everything in Washington, decisions on legislation and exemptions come slowly, but you can't get what you don't ask for, Davis said.   "The world is run by people who show up," Davis said. Representatives and senators and their staffs are bombarded by people all day who are asking for something. When they go home, they have to defend their position on things relating to golf. They need answers, and we are there for that. We want to be a resource for them in answering questions, and before National Golf Day, they didn't have that. Before, we were talking about it to each other, but that's preaching to the choir.    "Now, I preach that if we want to keep our jobs in an industry that I love we have to talk about its benefits. We have to go forward with a unified voice and mission, because undoubtedly there is strength in numbers."
  • Long before a bomb attack rocked this year's Boston Marathon, the USGA had a comprehensive security plan in place to help ensure a smooth and safe 112th U.S. Open this summer.
      "I am very confident in our security measures and protocols," said USGA spokesman Joe Goode. "Some of them I cannot discuss, because then our security protocols no longer would be secure."   When spectators arrive at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. For this year's U.S. Open scheduled for June 13-16 they can expect to be subjected to strict security measures that are the result of a template the USGA uses to ensure a safe environment at all of its many national championships.   Typically, the USGA works with local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies on safety protocols. In the case of this year's U.S. Open, that list includes the Haverford Township Police Dept., Pennsylvania State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security, Goode said.   "The safety and security of spectators, 200,000 of them expected over the course of the week, the players and their families, the 5,000 volunteers that come out and help stage the event on our behalf, and our staff we take that very seriously."   Large, walk-through magnetrometers, the same devices that scan passengers at airport security checkpoints, will await U.S. Open patrons at Merion's main entrance, and handheld wands will be used at secondary entrances around the perimeter of the property, Goode said. Items forbidden on the Merion grounds during tournament week will include cell phones, smart phones, personal data assistants, mp3 players, tablets, backpacks, coolers and large bags.   Still, the ease with which something like the Boston bombings - in which three people were killed and 176 others were wounded - can be carried out is a reminder that safety protocols for large-scale events must be continually examined and modified to ensure a reasonable amount of safety.   "In our planning we do take into account many contingencies, including the type of threat and the type of incident that unfortunately occurred in Boston," Goode said. "It's always prudent to continuously review these plans to determine if additional measures are necessary, and we're doing that right now. We do that because we have to consider that we a major championship is being conducted in the outdoors in a largely open environment.   "In light of the events at the Boston Marathon we are reviewing our security measures and partnerships with those state, local and federal authorities. And we'd be remiss if we didn't."   Matt Shaffer, director of golf course operations at Merion said tournament director Hank Thompson and his staff have been busy since long before the Boston Marathon ensuring a safe and secure venue for the Open.   "I'm sure what's happened in Boston doesn't give them any extra level of comfort, but the security already is unbelievable," Shaffer said. "Fifty-seven days out (before the Open) and everyone who is working out here is wearing credentials, the property is fenced off in advance, and every law-enforcement agency is in here. If you're not wearing credentials, you get checked and you have to put it on."   One of the first areas of concern for USGA officials, Shaffer said, was the maintenance facility, namely the fertilizer storage area.   Shaffer's crew moved into their new 26,000-square-foot facility in late 2010. It includes a separate storage unit with locked, explosion-proof cabinets specifically for fertilizer.   "We've explained to them that the types of fertilizers we have constitute minimal volatility," Shaffer said. "And, by then our inventory will be low just because we need the space for other things for the Open.   The maintenance facility also is fenced off from the rest of the golf course for the tournament and armed police will guard two entrances to the building during the Open, Shaffer said.   "This site is already secure," he said. "This is truly a secure compound."   Interns also live in housing units in the maintenance facility and an overnight custodian offers an additional layer of security.   Lefty Fleck, who cleans the maintenance facility from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. daily is not your average clean-up crew. A former gunnery sergeant and boxer in the U.S. Marines during the Vietnam War, Fleck also serves as, according to Shaff, a sort of a den mother to Merion's interns.   "If my mother was like that, I'd have been scared to death of her," Shaffer said.    "If I'd known when we built the place that we were going to hire Lefty, we could've save money on gates, because I dare anyone to come in here overnight when he's here."
  • Recognize your tech

    By John Reitman, in News,

    We hear it all the time: Golf course equipment managers are under-appreciated.
      If that's the norm, Kevin Bauer at Prairie Bluff Golf Course near Chicago is the exception.   There was a time when the Lockport Township Park District, where Bauer is the equipment manager, spent tens of thousands of dollars on outside repair work. Today, that budget line item has been reduced to almost nothing, not because of cutbacks, but because of Bauer who oversees equipment maintenance for the park district and all its disparate parts, including Prairie Bluff Golf Course, 40 square miles of parkland and athletic fields, and a park police department.    Although golf course equipment managers might have a reputation for being underappreciated, that is not the case for Bauer, last year's recipient of the TurfNet Technician of the Year Award, presented by Toro.   Upon learning that Bauer had been named the winner of the Golden Wrench Award, parks director Sue Micklevitz threw an awards luncheon that was attended by the entire park district staff, many of who took to the microphone to express their gratitude to their head mechanic.   If your equipment manager is as valuable to your operation as Bauer is to his, then give your mechanic his due and nominate him (or her) for this year's Golden Wrench Award.    The winner receives not only the Golden Wrench, but also a weeklong training session at Toro University at the company's headquarters in Bloomington, Minn., making your highly skilled equipment manager an even more valuable employee.   Criteria on which nominees are judged include: crisis management, effective budgeting, environmental awareness, helping to further and promote the careers of colleagues and employees, interpersonal communications, inventory management and cost control, overall condition and dependability of rolling stock, shop safety and work ethic.   Three finalists and a winner will be chosen from a panel of judges that include the sitting Tech of the Year winner; Peter McCormick, Jon Kiger, John Reitman and Randy Wilson of TurfNet; Richard McGuinness of Horry-Georgetown University; John Piersol of Florida Gateway College; and former TurfNet contributor and inaugural Golden Wrench winner Eric Kulaas.   Click here to nominate your technician (or someone else's) in 500 words or less. Please provide specific examples of his or her achievements. The nomination deadline is May 1.    Previous winners include Herb Berg, Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club (2010); Doug Johnson, TPC at Las Colinas, Irving, Texas (2009); Jim Stuart, Stone Mountain (Ga.) Golf Club (2007); Fred Peck, Fox Hollow and The Homestead, Lakewood, Colo. (2006); Jesus Olivas, Heritage Highlands at Dove Mountain, Marana, Ariz. (2005); Henry Heinz, Kalamazoo (Mich.) Country Club (2004); Eric Kulaas, Marriott Vinoy Renaissance Resort, St. Petersburg, Fla. (2003). No award was given in 2008.
  • Bob Loring is seeing golfers whom he has never seen before sign up for annual passes. The popular head professional at Pompano Beach Municipal Golf Course in South Florida is beaming like a new papa or new grandpa.
    That's because The Pines Course, one of two 18-hole layouts at this 50-year-old facility, has just emerged from a nine-month total renovation by Greg Norman Design. Opening-day festivities drew 300 participants, some of them regular patrons who were part of a committee that worked closely with city officials on the $4 million redo.
    It's the first municipal venture by the Australian-born designer whose worldwide business empire is based in nearby Jupiter. It's also a move by Norman's design firm that reflects the new, more modest, more budget-conscious realities of the national and international golf market. The investment took some courage from Pompano Beach, a city of 100,000 located midway between Miami and West Palm Beach. Residents have had access to affordable municipal golf since 1960, when the design team of Bruce Devlin and Robert von Hagge built the Pines and Palms courses on a flat, 305-acre tract adjoining Pompano Beach Airpark. For years, the airfields chief claim to fame was that it was home to the Goodyear Blimp. Now it'll be known as the airport that adjoins a smartly crafted Greg Norman design.
    Work on the Pines included a partial rerouting of the first few holes, new drainage, significant tree work and removal of the invasive Brazilian pepper plant that seems to be creeping over the South Florida landscape like kudzu in the Southeast or Japanese knotweed in the Northeast. The corridors were nudged wider; bunkers were rebuilt and shifted to add strategy; greens and surrounds were rebuilt from scratch; ponds cleaned up and a new irrigation system put in; and 1960s-style moundingwas removed, with the fill used to shape out chipping areas and build new tee platforms.
    Planning work began two years ago, with construction starting in May 2012. Main builder Quality Grassing worked closely with Normans project manager, Chris Campbell, and his design associate, Tad Burnett. At the opening ceremony last month, Norman likened the job to turning a pigs ear into a silk purse. Creating a course that's playable for everyone, he said, was a marked turnaround from the 1990's, when builders, developers and architects worried less about costs, difficulty or sustainability.
    In every way possible for Pompano Beach, its new municipal Pines Course is a return to sound basics of the game.
  • It's no secret that insight into the latest turfgrass research is invaluable in today's world. Demands placed upon professional turfgrass managers present myriad challenges that are not part of the university curriculum.   However, making heads or tails of the nomenclature in research publications can be equally challenging.   Larry Stowell and Wendy Gelernter, a couple of Ph.D.s specializing in plant and pest pathology respectively, recognized those challenges, and since 1988 as principals of San Diego-based Pace Turf Information Center have been helping turfgrass managers make sense of the information they need to do their jobs in today's high-pressure world of turfgrass management. Even the company's state mission on the Pace Turf Web site says it all: "Dr. Wendy Gelernter and Dr. Larry Stowell translate science into practical information . . . that you will refer to again and again in the development of your turfgrass management program."   Together (after all, they are married to each other) Gelernter and Stowell help turf managers develop complete integrated pest management programs and also provide access to volumes of proprietary information on turfgrass selection, fertilization, insect pest control, irrigation, soil testing and monitoring, disease management and the role of local weather in turf management.   "They are a clearinghouse of information for a lot of the work that is being done out there," said Michael Stachowicz, a former golf course superintendent now working for the National Park Service.    Through the years, their expertise and dedication to helping superintendents make sense of complicated research data have been integral in earning the trust of turf managers around the country.   Pat Finlen, CGCS, most recently called upon Gelernter and Stowell during a renovation of the Lake Course at The Olympic Club in San Francisco in preparation for the 2012 U.S. Open.   "We used them for a number of reasons," Finlen said. "Most noteworthy is credibility, thoroughness and ability to see through issues in a manner that leads to objective analysis and results."   Prior to offering independent analysis of research data and objective agronomic advice, Gelernter and Stowell plied their trades for Mycogen Corp., a biotech firm located in San Diego.   Their Web site contains volumes of information for member clients including localized weather models, disease and insect pest information and predictor models, a photo gallery to help identify specific pests and diseases, and weekly updates on new turf management practices, research, pests and products delivered to members' email boxes.   Until January, Stachowicz spent the past 15 years as a golf course superintendent, and for many of those years he used Pace Turf's services to help develop IPM programs and monitor pest and disease pressure. He also used what he's learned as a Pace member to develop the same protocols in his new position the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., where he serves as turf management specialist for the National Mall and memorial parks.   "What they offer is a very scientific look at turfgrass management that is based in science," Stachowicz said. "But they offer information in a unique and practical way that makes it easy to understand."   Although much of what Gelernter and Stowell offer is reserved for Pace members only, they also offer a great deal of information that is free to non-members, as well, such as the Super Journal, where university researchers and superintendents can upload results of their own research projects for others to see. Pace also offers an annual research seminar and its YouTube channel now includes more than 60 videos designed to help superintendents explain the need for many of the game's agronomic practices to committees, members, chairmen, general managers, owners and golfers in the same easy-to-understand language that has become a Pace trademark.   "I know that their livelihood depends on intellectual property, but they never shy away from helping out anyone when they can," Stachowicz said. "That's pretty remarkable."    Because of their dedication to the industry in general rather than just their customers, Gelernter and Stowell were awarded the 2009 Environmental Communicator of the Year award by the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association.   "They have always been so helpful to superintendents on a number of different levels. Larry replies on forums with answers to questions," Finlen said. "Larry and Wendy help others in the same spirit that superintendents help each other. They truly embody what is good about our profession."
  • As members of the golf industry prepare for another trip to meet with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., superintendents will be well represented at the sixth annual National Golf Day on April 16.
      At least 18 superintendents are scheduled to represent the GCSAA when the We Are Golf coalition meets with members of Congress on Capitol Hill.   Superintendents scheduled to make the trip include members of the GCSAA Government Relations Committee: Charles Wolsborn; Don Naumann; Luke Cella, CGCS; Margo Campbell Szabo; Peter Grass, CGCS; Rafael Barajas, CGCS; Robert  Nielsen, CGCS; Scott Sewell, CGCS; Scott Hines, CGCS, Travis Moore; and Zachary Bauer.    Also scheduled to attend are president Pat Finlen, CGCS, and board members John O'Keefe, CGCS, John Fulling Jr., CGCS, Keith Ihms, CGCS, and Darren Davis.   Other superintendents scheduled to attend are Matt Shaffer of Merion Golf Club and Bob Farren, CGCS at Pinehurst Resort.   Also represented on the trip will be members of the National Golf Course Owners Association, Club Managers Association of America, PGA of America, PGA Tour and The World Golf Foundation.   
    The purpose of the trip is to share information and new data about golf's diverse businesses, employees, tax revenue creation, tourism and charitable benefits, and environmental leadership, according to the GCSAA.   Part of the daylong series of events will include members of the group sharing with lawmakers stories of what golf means to them.     The members of We Are Golf also will present Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) the inaugural Lawmaker of the Year award.   Some of the highlights and data industry representatives plan to cover can be found on the We Are Golf Web site.    Those who work in the golf business but cannot attend still can make their voice heard by visiting twitter.wearegolf.org and using #iamgolf to share why to them golf is more than a game.   For example, Davis, superintendent at Olde Florida Golf Club in Naples, Fla., tweeted "Golf courses increase green space & benefit(s) the environment, making golf more than just a game," and Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) tweeted "Golf has $15.1 billion econ(omic) impact & creates 160K+ jobs in California alone."
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently granted a 2(ee) recommendation for the use of Xonerate herbicide from Arysta LifeScience for control of annual bluegrass in Kentucky bluegrass.
      With the active ingredient amicarbazone, Xonerate is a 70 percent water dispersible granular formulation labeled for control of annual bluegrass in cool- and warm-season grasses.    The new EPA label says Xonerate can be applied twice at the 2 ounce rate in spring at 10- to 21-day intervals, or at 1 ounce every seven days for as many as four applications.   The label also notes that Kentucky bluegrass should be established for at least 12 months before Xonerate is applied.   Xonerate is approved for use in 47 states with the exceptions being California, New York and Washington.   For more information, read the 2(ee) recommendation.
  • Underhill International recently released DrainBlaster, a solid metal, high-pressure hose-end nozzle for clearing dirt and debris from sports field and golf course drains.    Manufactured from heat-treated, grade 303 stainless steel, the bullet-shaped DrainBlaster has a two-stage flushing action. A front jet cuts through blockage at 70 psi-100 psi while eight rear jets propel the nozzle upline.    The DrainBlaster also has a wire attachment connector for mapping underground drain locations. It also can be used to clear catch basins and clean around sidewalks or cart paths. 
  • With the challenges facing professional turf managers today, selecting the proper turfgrass variety has become more important than ever.   That statement might sound elementary, but stricter maintenance standards coupled with what seems to be more regular patterns of  irregular weather have altered growing environments in many areas making some varieties more susceptible to disease, or even resulting in new diseases entirely. Add in the plethora of ever-expanding choices in turfgrass varieties and picking the right one for a specific environment can be a daunting task.   "There are so many things for a superintendent to keep track of," said Anthony Williams, CGCS at Stone Mountain Golf Club near Atlanta. "The question of do you have the right grass on your greens is coming to the forefront."   A recent trend of warmer-than-average conditions year-round particularly hotter overnight low temperatures in the summer has increased the boundaries for Bermudagrass use. That is especially true in the transition zone, of which it is said conditions are just right to grown cool-season and warm-season grasses equally poorly.   "In a number of situations there is no ideal grass," said Larry Stowell, Ph.D., of PACE Turf, a San Diego-based research and consulting firm. "That is the tough part."    The transition zone is a veritable Heinz 57 of turfgrass varieties. The Cincinnati Bengals recently installed a sodded Bermudagrass practice field adjacent to Paul Brown Stadium, while one mile away across the Ohio River in Covington, Ky., superintendent Ron Freking grows bentgrass greens and zoysia fairways at Devou Park Golf Course.   Karl Danneberger, Ph.D., of Ohio State University says the trend of warmer temperatures is pushing Bermuda use on golf courses northward as well.   "That's been another trend, looking at surfaces as you move further north, people are using ultradwarf Bermudas into greens, and it's up into Tennessee," Danneberger said at OSU's recent Spring Tee Off educational forum. "I'm kind of curious who will be the first golf course (as far north as) Cincinnati to try it."   While the potential boundaries for Bermudagrass use might be edging northward, it also, as strange as it might sound, is creeping southward in areas once dominated by bentgrass putting surfaces.   In fact, converting from bentgrass to an ultradwarf Bermuda species has been a trend on golf courses throughout the southern transition zone since ultradwarf varieties hit the market in the late 1990s. The most public instance of this was at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, where the bentgrass greens struggled under summer conditions considered extreme even by Atlanta standards in the run-up to the 2007 Tour Championship.   After closing for a renovation after the '07 Tour Championship, East Lake reopened in time for the 2008 event with all new MiniVerde ultradwarf Bermuda greens. Not only is MiniVerde better suited for withstanding Atlanta's hot summer months, research shows it is less prone to disease and more tolerant to stress than many other warm-season grasses due in part to its ability to produce rhizomes in high numbers.   Even when converting from cool-season to warm-season (or vice versa), choosing the correct species is not always a clear-cut decision. There are many questions that much be asked and answered before making a choice.   East Lake superintendent Ralph Kepple first began learning about MiniVerde 10 years before growing it when he attended an ultradwarf management seminar by Clemson's Bruce Martin, Ph.D., and Bert McCarty, Ph.D.   According to NTEP trial results Kepple studied MiniVerde ranked highest for overall turf quality, color and summer density. It also outperformed other ultradwarf varieties in the shoulder seasons for spring green up and fall density, which is important even in the southern reaches of the transition zone. Discussions with other superintendents managing turf in a similar climate confirmed those findings, he said.   While at the seminar, Kepple was moved by a slide that showed the root structure of MiniVerde, which was much longer than that of other ultradwarf varieties. He remembered that slide many years later when it came time for the renovation at East Lake.   "This was the one that really jumped out at me since we were in the middle of a drought," Kepple said. "With longer roots I can water less frequently, and I felt it would be irresponsible to plant a variety that would require more irrigation, given the uncertainty of water availability in Georgia."   The East Lake project has touched off a series of Bermuda renovations all across Atlanta, once a bastion of southern-based bentgrass putting greens.   "The summer of 2007 frightened people here in Atlanta," Stone Mountain's Williams said. "It showed us that even with resources, Mother Nature can knock you out of the bentgrass market."   Stone Mountain, a 36-hole Marriott Golf facility northeast of town, is one of the few bentgrass holdouts in the Atlanta area, but maybe not for long.   Located inside Stone Mountain State Park, officials there are considering next year converting the greens on the property's Lakemont Course to Bermudagrass while maintaining the Stonemont Course as a bentgrass facility. Although the bulk of the rounds at Stone Mountain are played in the spring and fall, it also must look lush and green in summer when potential customers scout the conference facilities at the park's Marriott hotel.   "If you would've asked me seven or eight years ago, I never would have broached the subject," Williams said. "But there have been too many high-profile successes to ignore.   "I'm not 1,000-percent convinced, but I'm convinced those we compete with have made it part of our market."   The concern for superintendents in the transition zone is what might happen to those Bermuda greens in the event of a severe and prolonged cold winter, like the one Atlantans experienced 40 years ago.   "Bentgrass, in the day, was a finer grass. Now, ultradwarves measure up," Williams said. "The question is if we have two or three bad winters in a row, then what will that mean? No one has had that yet."   Equal consideration must be given to environmental and other stress factors when selecting a turfgrass in other parts of the country as well.   Along the California coast, many courses with Poa annua greens have renovated in recent years in response to infestations of the Anguina Pacifica nematode.   Prior to restoring the Lake Course in advance of the 2012 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Pat Finlen, CGCS, brought in Stowell's San Diego-based PACE Turf to make recommendations based on environmental conditions that prevail in the Olympic's oceanfront microclimate such as low sunlight, low soil temperatures, low air temperatures, high salt index and excessive moisture.   In the end, Finlen elected for a 70-30 mix of 007 and Tyee creeping bentgrasses, because of the former's cold tolerance and Tyee's ability to thrive in warmer conditions. The mix, Finlen surmised, would provide balanced coverage. He has since regrassed the greens on the Ocean Course with the same mix.   "They have performed well," Finlen said. "In addition, the 007-Tyee mixture has great ball mark recovery ability, especially in the cool climate we have."   OSU's Danneberger likened the turf-selection process to buying a car.   "Don't put a square peg into a round hole," he said. "It's one thing to buy a nice car, it's another thing to pay to maintain it."   It also is important to recognize that after making the right turfgrass selection, there still will be many challenges ahead.   "There's no silver bullet out there," Danneberger said. "Get the best grass that is adapted for your area and recognize the problems you are going to have."
  • The wait (or should that be weight?) is almost over for the Toro Reelmaster 3550-D fairway mower.
    First on display at the 2012 Golf Industry Show in Las Vegas and the centerpiece of the Toro booth in San Diego at this years GIS, the lightweight 3550-D should be available for delivery in late spring, according to Toro.
    Weighing in at 1,985 pounds, the 3550-D is the lightest fairway mower on the market coming in at as much as 600 pounds lighter than other comparable units, meaning less adverse impact on fairway turf during potential stress periods.
    Powered by a 24.8 hp Kubota diesel engine, the 3550-D offers three-wheel drive and smooth, greensmower-style tires for reduced impact on fairway turf.
    The 3550-D has five 18-inch, contour-hugging cutting units for an 82-inch width of cut. However, optional 22-inch rear units are available for additional overlap.
  • Last February 1 was positively balmy in Detroit.
    The daytime high temperature that day topped out at 54 degrees Fahrenheit, while the overnight low was 41. That's downright toasty for February in Michigan, and the effects trickled down to golf courses throughout the state where play for the month was up by 900 percent.
    This year was a different story, with more seasonal low-high temperatures of 15 and 21 in February. The effects, again, were felt on the golf course as rounds played for the month fell off by 97 percent, nearly wiping out all of last Februarys gains. The dropoff symbolizes the cold, brutal reality hitting golf courses around the country, as rounds played in February dropped off by 6 percent nationwide compared with the same month in 2012, and year-to-date play is down by nearly 8 percent through the first two months of the year, according to Golf Datatechs National Golf Rounds Played Report. February was the third consecutive month in which year-over-year rounds played had dropped.
    Michigan was the biggest loser in February followed closely by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where rounds were down by 92 percent, New York (88 percent), Pennsylvania (74 percent), New Jersey (72 percent), Illinois and West Virginia (65 percent each), Ohio (56 percent), and Delaware and Maryland (53 percent).
    Most states that historically see cold winters took a hit in February, but two beat the trend. North and South Dakota saw the greatest increase in rounds played in February at 56 percent.
    The report is a nationwide survey of 2,970 private and daily fee facilities.
    With an 11.5 percent drop in play in February, private clubs saw less play than daily fee properties, where rounds were down by 4 percent. Year-to-date rounds at private clubs are down by 14.5 percent compared with a 5 percent slip at public access courses.
  • Eye in the sky

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Can an airplane flying "low and slow," shooting high-resolution multi-spectral imagery, help with sustainable management of your golf course? Or perhaps assist you with laying out a new facility?
    Steve Apfelbaum, founder and principal ecologist at Applied Ecological Services answers enthusiastically in the affirmative.
    "Every day we realize more landscape management applications of the aerial imagery we can acquire with our defense-grade, high-resolution, multi-spectral camera. From airport wildlife hazard assessments to wildfire risk mapping in remote backcountry, to management and planning in cities, parks, and golf courses the possibilities keep multiplying," said Apfelbaum.
    Much more than just pretty pictures, aerial images produced using this military-originated technology show fine enough resolution to detect objects as small as 9-12 inches in diameter, supporting precise on-the-ground measurements. On a golf course, for example, imagery can be used to keep tabs on spatially specific management concerns such as trespass or illegal dumping.
    The "multi-spectral" aspect of the Leica RCD30 camera refers to the Red, Green, Blue and Near-Infrared spectral bands the camera is able to image. The near-infrared band allows the formation of spectral signatures, characterizing vegetation types (and other land surfaces) by how they uniquely reflect and absorb light. This information can also be correlated with such attributes as plant stress and health, seasonal growth phases, and long-term ecological changes, allowing a manager to remotely evaluate vegetation over large areas, such as golf courses, efficiently and cost effectively.
    A fast turn-around is typical. An average 200-acre golf course can be flown in a half hour or less. Depending on the level of analysis needed, results can be made available quickly, within days to a couple weeks. Managers can then respond to emerging problems with alacrity, allowing operations to keep moving along smoothly to keep customers happy.
    At the Medallion Club (a golf course near Columbus, Ohio), AES scientists used basic aerial imagery to detect places where fairway construction had inadvertently broken historic farm field drain tiles resulting in unwanted flooding and drainage of adjacent wetlands. The situation had burgeoned to a dispute with the U.S. EPA. Imagery was used to help resolve the dilemma and avoid potential fines for unplanned wetland damages.
    In northern Illinois, failing historic agricultural drain tile lines were contributing to poorly drained conditions, failing lawns, and tree disease at a national historic site and adjacent golf course. Imagery was used to provide early detection and mapping of tree stress. Linked to on-the-ground identification of a fungal disease, the landscape managers of both facilities were able to take prompt corrective actions and forestall a greater calamity.

    One Illinois golf course used imagery to detect lawn areas that were over or under-fertilized, allowing for better targeted applications of expensive fertilizers.
    Encroachments of weedy invasive plant species were also mapped, again allowing grounds managers to selectively focus their use of herbicides. Such targeted chemical applications not only save money; they also cut down on potential contaminants in runoff.
    Golf courses, like airports, attract their fair share of geese, gulls, and deer (and other wildlife), which, in turn pose problems in terms of droppings and damage to vegetation. A golf course owned by the University of Illinois, located adjacent the Universitys Willard Airport, was able to make imagery do double duty. The same imagery that helped the airport understand how to manage vegetation to minimize wildlife hazards was also used by their neighbor, the golf course. Together they are creating compatible and coordinated land management plans that minimize wildlife issues.
    Aerial imagery can also be used to create accurate maps of the effects of rainstorms. A manager can use imagery to detect failing storm water sewers and drainage pipes, informing maintenance and repair activity. In a proactive application, imagery can be used to map erosion upstream and downstream of a golf course. These images, combined with strategic field measurements, can be used by a golf course manager to respond to water pollution accusations that may be leveled at them when pollution problems arise in the watershed.
    Far more than just a striking framed aerial photo on the clubhouse wall, high-resolution aerial imagery makes sustainable golf course management both doable and affordable.
    - Applied Ecological Services
  • The threat of attaching a name to a wild animal is that it can be easy to become too attached to it. For hundreds of followers, that has become the case with Elliott and Eloise, a pair of bald eagles living above The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay golf course near Chattanooga, Tenn.
    Named by Hannah Carter, daughter of Bear Trace superintendent Paul Carter, CGCS, Elliott and Eloise have been nesting at the course located in Harrison Bay State Park for the past three years. And they have gained a throng of followers around the world after a Webcam installed by a park ranger put the pair's parenting skills on display for all to see.
    On March 21, a pair of eaglets hatched from the two eggs that Elliott and Eloise have been guarding for weeks. Click here to view a live stream of the nest site.
    to watch a video of the hatching process. 
    It's the third season two birds have had eaglets hatch at Harrison Bay.  In 2011, a pair of eaglets hatched successfully and eventually left the nest. Last year, however, the news was not as good as two eaglets hatched, with neither surviving the process. The mortality rate for new hatchlings, according to the American Eagle Foundation, is less than 50 percent.
    Elliott and Eloise first were spotted near The Bear Trace golf course two years ago. They gained worldwide acclaim when park ranger Angelo Giasante, a former Army ranger, installed a Web cam so people everywhere could get a birds-eye view of their nesting habits thanks to the efforts of a group known as the Friends of Harrison Bay, a cooperative effort of the golf course at Harrison Bay, Tennessee State Parks and the USGA.
    In 2012, the golf course received a Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam for Carter's work in the pursuit of sustainability. The award specifically mentioned the Eagle Cam project as a factor in the course winning the award. The Governor's Environmental Stewardship Awards program recognizes exceptional voluntary actions that improve or protect Tennessee's environment and natural resources with projects or initiatives not required by law or regulation.
    According to the Web site www.baldeagleinfo.com and the American Bald Eagle Foundation, bald eagles mate for life and both the male and female share time guarding the nest before and after the eagles hatch. Once an endangered species, bald eagles are on the rebound thanks to conservation efforts that have resulted in an estimated 7,000-plus pairs now nesting in every state except Hawaii.
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