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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Some decisions are as old as time: Coke or Pepsi, salty or sweet, hot dog or hamburger and pull a core or don't pull a core. 
    Disrupting the soil to relieve compaction and introduce oxygen to produce a better playing surface is as common in golf as placing a ball on a tee. But the decision to pull a core in the process or not is as varied as Titleist vs. Callaway. 
    Studies by some of the greatest minds in turf academia support both schools of thought, and researchers on either side of the debate are convinced the other side is wrong.
    Although superintendents might choose one side of the fence or the other based initially on peer-reviewed research, they ultimately settle on hollow or solid tines based on one thing - if it works for them.
    At Mountain Lake, a Seth Raynor design in Lake Wales, Florida, Tony Nysse says the pressures of a year-round golf season are too great to support a core-free cultural program.
    "We pull cores here multiple times a year," Nysse said. "I am not of the school that enough topdressing and enough solid tining can keep up with 12 months of growth in Florida. I have seen many examples where clubs have tried right after a renovation and end up having to core several years later to get the greens back to performing to the expectations of their membership. We put down hundreds of inputs over the course of a year, so we also have to take the time to remove the spoils (thatch) of those efforts."
    Nearly 3,000 miles away in San Francisco, Brian Nettz, CGCS, also sees golfers year-round at the Presidio Golf Club. Like Nysse, he opts for pulling cores to keep up with the rigors of a 12-month growing season.
    "Definitely core," said Nettz. "Gotta bring up that microbe-rich subsoil, or what's the point?"
    As a regional superintendent for U.S. Navy golf courses in California, Austin Daniells once agreed with the pull-a-core argument, and he still does — to a degree. He core aerifies fairways, but when it comes to managing putting surfaces, he's all about solid tining.
    "If we're talking about greens, I have shifted over the last seven, eight years to only doing a solid tine aerification throughout the year," Daniells said. "Typically, we do a spring and fall larger tine aerification and a number of needle tine applications throughout the rest of the year. If I had the equipment, I would also deep tine greens a few times per year."
    His shift in cultural practice philosophy is two-fold.
    "I made the shift due to research," he said. "I have read, as well as through my own experiences and other input from superintendents in the area. I keep a very close eye on our nitrogen inputs as well as use some other products that help with the breakdown of organic matter which has helped to limit our organic matter accumulation."
    Daniells oversees a host of daily fee, military courses in Southern California that see a lot of play, especially during the past two years, and his greens are standing up to the pressure.
    "I felt like we were getting the same amount of sand into the holes with the solid tine versus the core aerification," Daniells said. "And the healing time was a little shorter."

    Since its inception in 2005, the Boeing Classic, a PGA Champions Tour event, has been played at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge in suburban Seattle is the site of The Boeing Classic. Little does defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez, or any of the others pros who play there, realize that superintendent Ryan Gordon manages championship conditions, literally, without pulling a core.
    "We have not pulled a core on our greens since 2013," Gordon said via email.
    He says solid tining is less disruptive, which also promotes faster healing, but it also requires less labor and produces results good enough for the world's best players.
    "Our organic matter levels on greens have remained in the 1.2-1.9 percent range since we began this practice," he said. "I consider anything under 3% to be ideal. That tells me that any thatch production is getting diluted sufficiently. Greens are firm, drain well and play fantastic.  We also see much faster recovery and a higher amount of sand incorporation with this method vs. if we pulled a core. Not to mention, it is much less labor intensive and easier on equipment when solid-tining."
    Gordon acknowledges that coring can be effective at helping manage fairy ring, which, he said, is a common practice at some Seattle-area courses, but the benefits are not enough to convince to go back to pre-2013.
    "I have heard that some guys that deal with fairy ring, or root-borne diseases find that they have better turf health through the season when they pull a core," he said. "The theory is that by mixing the soils via coring, you are keeping the soil ecosystem in balance which allows for root-based disease pressure to be minimized.  
    "We deal with fairy ring on our fairways here and there, but I have found that it hasn't impacted turf health enough for me to want to switch back to the headache of coring."
    With many superintendents firmly entrenched on one side or the other on the pull-a-core debate, one greenkeeper is rethinking his strategy, not based on scientific research but rather unscientific results on the golf course he manages.
    Ryan Cummings at Elcona Golf Club in Bristol, Indiana, pulls cores on collars and tees, but has not extracted a plug from putting surfaces in six years.
    That might soon change.
    "I have not pulled a core on greens or fairways since 2016," Cummings said. "And even though I know all the research points to it not really mattering from a compaction standpoint, anecdotally I am seeing some slower percolation rates by - again, my possibly incorrect opinion - forcing that organic matter down and to the sides of the channel over time. My testing shows a slight uptick in organic matter, which could support my hypothesis.
    "Next year, I will be pulling cores on fairways in the fall given what I believe is happening on my property, while solid tining in the spring to get the course in better condition sooner for play. I have not decided on greens yet besides using a three-quarter-inch Viper tine in June and July that pulls a core, but is quite simple to verticut and clean up."
    Then there are some who alternate between coring and solid tining for a variety of reasons, including the time of year.
    Iowa does not have the world's longest golf season, so making sure the golf course is ready by opening day is important for Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS at Des Moines Golf and Country Club. While solid or needle tining can result in faster recovery in the spring, pulling a core in the fall can help set the course up for the next season while also leading to some level of consistency beneath the surface.
    "We do not pull a core in the spring; we do in the fall," Tegtmeier said. "We don't in the spring because of disruption to play (and) healing. We do in the fall . . . because of the high salt. It aids in the flushing process. We also have greens that (are at) varying stages in years. Coring allows us to get the same medium in those greens."
  • The Michigan State University Turf School Short Course is scheduled for Dec. 12-15 in East Lansing. The upcoming Michigan State University Turf School Short Course is structured to provide a baseline of information for novice turfgrass managers, or serve as a refresher for seasoned professionals.
    Scheduled for Dec. 12-15 in East Lansing, the MSU Turf School is a four-day program that teaches the basics of turfgrass science as well as the practical techniques of managing turfgrass. 
    The school will be taught by MSU turfgrass faculty and staff and will cover a wide range of turfgrass management topics, including basic soils and soil management, turfgrass species identification, selection and physiology, turf establishment and renovation, fertilization, proper pesticide use and environmental stewardship. 
    A significant portion of the school is dedicated to weed, insect and disease identification and management. The pest management section is delivered in lecture and laboratory settings with hands-on learning emphasized. 
    The program is an excellent opportunity for one-on-one interaction between participants and the MSU turfgrass faculty, including Joe Vargas, Trey Rogers, Kevin Frank, Thom Nikolai, Emily Merewitz-Holm, David Gilstrap and Nancy Dykema.
    The MSU Turf School is perfect for those looking to add to their turf knowledge - the school starts with the turf basics and expands from there throughout the week. Past attendees include golf course employees without formal training, lawn care company employees, turfgrass equipment technicians, industry sales representatives and school employees responsible for grounds and athletic fields.
    Topics that are covered include turfgrass species and cultivars including a hands-on identification lab, establishment and renovation, nutrition and fertilizers, weed, insect, and disease management including hands-on identification labs, turfgrass soils, cultivation and compaction.
    This year's school will be held Dec. 12-15 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on the Michigan State University campus. The school begins at 8 a.m. on Monday and concludes at 5 p.m. on Thursday. Lodging arrangements can be made with the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center online at www.kelloggcenter.com, or by calling 800-875-5090. Reference the group code 2212MSUTUR to get the block room rate of $123 per night for single or double occupancy.
    Cost for the program is $700 and includes all class materials and lunch daily at the MSU Brody Complex. Registration is limited to 100 people. 
  • From parts and components to entire pieces of mechanized equipment, much has been made in the past two years of how supply chain challenges are affecting how golf course superintendents conduct day-to-day business.
    There are other facets of the golf business that are feeling the effects of shortages caused by roadblocks in the supply chain.
    A recent story in the Desert Sun newspaper in California's Coachella Valley, detailed how 27-hole Desert Princess planned to install new sand in 51 hazards after a bunker project. That should have been a routine project, but when a sand supply could not be located, all three nines at Desert Princess were reopened with the only thing in bunkers being liners.
    Eventually, enough sand was located to fill greenside bunkers on one nine-hole layout. With the valley's busy season here, the decision was made to leave the course as - without sand - and complete the bunker project next summer."We are going to write it off this year because of (the upcoming) prime season," DPCC head pro Rodney Youngtold the newspaper. "We can't be doing bunker projects, so we are going to reset and reorganize and see if we can't get it done next July."
    Jason Straka faced a similar situation earlier this year during the highly anticipated restoration of Belleair Country Club in Belleair, Florida.
    The project hit a snag when 1,000 tons of gravel for greens construction went missing at the Port of Tampa Bay while Straka was having it tested.
    Straka did not even know who bought the gravel while he wasn't looking.
    "It's not just golf," Straka said. "Some of it is being lost to road construction."
    He told TurfNet in June that to get what he needed he probably would have to do the same thing - go to the port and buy someone else's gravel out from underneath them.

    Nathan Crace says he has never been busier in his 30 years as a golf course architect. Nathan Crace, principal of The Watermark Golf Co., says he has never been busier in his 30 years as a golf course architect than he is now.
    Crace, pictured above, said he also has had a hard time getting what he needs when he needs it.
    "I haven't resorted to boosting sand," Crace said. "But I am ordering material, like irrigation pipe, way in advance. 
    He has had trouble getting things besides product for irrigation and drainage projects.
    Crace has been retained for a restoration of Colonial Country Club in Memphis that is due to begin next year. A month ago he ordered irrigation materials so he could have it in time for the project to begin in late winter.
    "It used to be when I was hired for a project the first call I would make was to the engineers. Now, the first call is to suppliers to make sure I can get everything I need in time," Crace said.
    "It's frustrating, but that's where we are right now."
    When Bermudagrass sprigs could not be obtained from a supplier in nearby Texas during a recent renovation at Oak Wing Golf Club in Alexandria, Louisiana, sprigs were sent overnight in a refrigerated truck from a grower in Georgia.
    The number of restoration and renovation projects going on have made other goods and services, such as contractors, harder to come by.
    "I'm having to hire contractors a year in advance," he said. "When I hire a contractor, they tell me to send them the plans, and I have to tell them I haven't started them yet."
  • Founded in 2019 by Aquatrols, the FairWays Foundation promotes conservation efforts in the golf industry in the U.S. and abroad. In its third year, the FairWays Foundation has dedicated a combined total of nearly a half-million dollars to a variety of green industry projects.
    The foundation recently completed its third grant cycle, providing $169,000 in awards to a dozen diverse projects, including a Great Salt Lake Field Trip program, the expansion of previously supported Irvine to Girvan Nectar Network, a golf course vegetable garden, the installation of bat boxes, restoring an agricultural field to prairie, phragmites removal, canal bank restoration and more.
    Founded in 2019 by Aquatrols president Matt Foster, the FairWays Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes conservation and stewardship initiatives in the green industry in the U.S. and abroad.
    The latest round of grants brings the foundation's total funding to $441,791 for 29 projects in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.
    Past recipients include Cog Hill Golf and Country Club, Salmon Run Golf Course, Hartford Golf Course, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Concord Country Club, Heritage Oaks Golf Course, Cactus and Pines GCSA, Martis Camp, Chester Golf Club, Elcona Country Club and the University of Georgia Research Foundation.
    The FairWays Foundation is seeking ambassadors to continue its goal of championing environmental projects but cannot proceed due to a lack of resources. For more information, click here.
  • The University of Florida Plant Science Research and Education facility in Citra. File photo by John Reitman How many times does one turn 100?
    For the University of Florida turfgrass program, the answer is at least twice.
    Big plans were in place throughout the year to celebrate the UF turfgrass program's centennial anniversary. That all changed in late September.
    After Hurricane Ian ripped through Florida on Sept. 28, creating a trail of death and destruction in its wake, the university turf program 100-year anniversary that includes a golf tournament, research field day and reception will have to wait until next year - when the program turns 101.
    "Everything north and west of Gainesville was untouched," said UF turf professor Bryan Unruh, Ph.D.
    The rest of the state was hit hard. Very hard.
    Ian made landfall Sept. 28 in Lee County in Southwest Florida on a northeasterly track before making landfall again in South Carolina on Sept. 30. Ian has been blamed for more than 100 deaths, and damage in the U.S.  could be as high as $70 billion, according to Forbes. 
    "My sense is that it is postponed and we'll do it next year," Unruh said. "It didn't seem appropriate with so many people suffering."
  • Clean up was minimal at Olde Florida Golf Club in Naples. Darren Davis photo It is difficult to think about the fate of golf courses in the path of a hurricane in the face of so much human suffering.
    Hurricane Ian has been blamed for more than 100 deaths in Florida since it plowed through the state Sept. 28 as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph. Days later, rescue teams were still combing the area for survivors as well as victims. The news reports and videos on social media have been horrifying. Wide swaths of homes and businesses in areas like Fort Myers beach, and Sanibel and Marco Islands have been whisked away by Ian's winds while others have been destroyed by storm surge. Sanibel and Pine Islands have been cut off from the mainland due to bridge damage, prompting evacuations of those who stayed behind. 
    Conditions on Sanibel Island, which was under curfew from dusk to dawn, are so bad that city government has set up shop in a mainland hotel in Fort Myers. Residents have no idea when they will be able to get back to their homes as the state works on plans to construct a temporary bridge followed by a permanent structure.
    Hundreds of golf courses in Florida and South Carolina, where Ian made another landfall on Sept. 30, were in the path of the storm. Some escaped largely unscathed with minor debris clean-up, others sustained major damage while still others were under water.
    Social media is filled with photos and videos of golf courses turned into rivers, including Bonita Bay Club in Bonita Springs.
    Rainfall totals exceeded 14 inches throughout the Fort Myers area, and 17 inches in parts of metro Orlando and 21 inches at the NASA facility on the state's East Coast.
    Even The Villages, which is 50 miles inland, did not escape Ian's wrath. The massive property that spans parts of Sumter, Lake, Marion and Polk Counties, is prone to sinkholes and multiple sinkholes were reported on the El Diablo Golf Course.
    Joshua Kelley, director of grounds at The Ritz-Carlton & JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes, posted images on Twitter showing flooding and debris at the course located just minutes from Central Florida's theme parks.
    The golf courses at Streamsong Resort, which is about 60 miles due east of the Bradenton area, were closed for a week to allow for clean-up. 
    Phone, email and text capabilities in parts of Southwest Florida are, at best, spotty to, at worst, non-existent. Storm surge left places like Sanibel and Marco Island inundated with saltwater, and satellite imagery from the U.S. Geological Survey showed standing water on golf courses on Sanibel. 
    Few places could have been hit harder than Kelly Greens Golf and Country Club in Fort Myers, where drone footage by a local TV news station showed most of the property under water.
    Darren Davis, CGCS at Olde Florida Golf Club, is no stranger to hurricanes. The course in Naples was rocked in 2017 by Hurricane Irma. Davis was lucky this time, and was almost embarrassed to admit he will be able to reopen in just a few days after Ian with minor debris clean-up. 
    "Irma kicked our ass. We had no power, and had to hire a security guard," Davis said, looking back five years. 

    Dead fish littered the bunkers at The Ritz-Carlton & JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes more than an hour from the coast. Joshua Kelley photo "The golf course will be open on Friday, and we're opening the clubhouse Tuesday to get some business in there for anyone who wants to come in, although I don't know who is going to be coming out to eat lunch right now."
    Davis has been posting to his blog about conditions at Olde Florida so members know what is going on, what to expect and when to expect it.
    "If I want my message out in my words, then I better get that blog out," he said. 
    "Again, I'm almost embarrassed that we're able to open so soon, while others are dealing with such severe devastation."
    Hideaway Beach Club on Marco Island was not as lucky. Storm surge reportedly overwhelmed the maintenance shop and its contents. Davis is lending superintendent Tom Ryon two greens mowers and the local Toro distributor is also coming to Ryon's aid with equipment, as well. 
    "He lost all his equipment," Davis said. "He can have those mowers as long as he needs them."
    Superintendents coming to the aid of their colleagues is happening throughout the area, said Ralph Dain, the GCSAA field rep for Florida.
    "A lot of superintendents are pulling together to help those in the hardest-hit areas," Dain said. "That willingness to pull together and help out colleagues is one of the things that make our industry so special."
    As of Oct. 4, Dain had talked to a few superintendents throughout his territory, but has had difficulty reaching those in the most severely affected areas. As a superintendent for 18 years in Florida at places like Sailfish Point in Stuart and Myacoo Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Dain is aware of the drill involved in hurricane response.
    Among the main concerns in areas that have been affected the most are prolonged loss of electricity and damage to irrigation systems.
    Scores of research conducted over decades by names like Beard, Ervin, Bigelow and Huang have shown that use of surfactants and plant growth regulators can reduce somewhat the need for irrigation.
    "If you don't have electricity, or a generator can't get your pump station working, hopefully you have a water tank," Dain said. "That way, you can at least suck water out of the lakes and hand water greens."
    Bryan Unruh, Ph.D., of the University of Florida, said many variables will dictate how and when a golf course emerges from the other side of a hurricane, such as how long a course is under saltwater. Today's Bermudagrasses can withstand several days of submersion, he said, and likely will be fine. Turf might be brown for a while, but it will recover, he said.
    "Because of our sandy soils, we don't see a lot of salt accumulation," Unruh said. "Even if it is underwater for two or three days, it will come back, even under saltwater."
  • After 19 months, the sale of Bayer's turf and ornamental division is finally complete.
    Cinven, a private equity firm based in London with offices in seven countries, reached an agreement in March to acquire the professional business segment of Bayer's Environmental Science division for $2.6 billion. The deal finally was completed Oct. 5 for the agreed-upon amount, according to a news release.
    The business will operate as an independent company known as Envu. Like its predecessor, the new company will be a solutions-based business specializing in pest, disease and weed control in non-agricultural markets including turf, vegetation management, forestry and professional pest management. Almost 900 former Bayer employees will make the transition to Envu, which will do business in Bayer’s former headquarters in Cary, North Carolina.
    The transaction allows Bayer to unload its turf and ornamental division while focusing on agriculture.
    "In Cinven, we have found a strong new owner with a firm commitment to the long-term growth potential of the business and to its people," said Rodrigo Santos, member of the board of management of Bayer AG and head of the Crop Science division. "At the same time, we can concentrate on our core agricultural business and the successful implementation of our growth strategy in the Crop Science Division." 
    Founded in 1977, Cinven is an equity firm that acquires American and European companies in the following market segments: business services, technology, media and telecommunications, financial services, industrials, healthcare and consumer products.
    "We thank Bayer for the trust they have placed in Cinven and plan to build on the strong foundations established by Bayer by significantly investing in it," Pontus Pettersson, a partner at Cinven, said in the release. "Cinven is excited to build an independent, focused company and is well positioned to continue to drive innovation and accelerate growth, including the delivery of digital and data-enabled solutions, and to extend the product portfolio further by creating innovative and sustainable solutions for its customers."
    The decision to divest Bayer Environmental Science included its professional turf and ornamental business, but does not include the segment's agricultural or commercial units, which are among its most profitable divisions. 
    A spokesperson for Bayer said last year that the sale is not related to the company's ongoing challenges associated with settling thousands of lawsuits that blame glyphosate, the active ingredient in Bayer's Roundup herbicide, for causing cancer. The news release detailing the transaction, however, said Bayer will use the net proceeds from the sale to reduce its net financial debt.
    Bayer acquired Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, in 2018. Shortly after the acquisition, Bayer began answering charges filed by litigants that Roundup was responsible for causing their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Since then, the company set aside $15 billion to settle current and future cases.
  • STEC Equipment product offerings will now be available on the West Coast through Belkorp Golf and Turf. STEC Equipment photo STEC Equipment, a leader in specialized turf equipment distribution, and Belkorp Golf and Turf have reached an accord that will make the former's equipment lines available to customers on the West Coast.
    Belkorp Golf and Turf is a Stockton, California-based John Deere dealer that has six locations throughout Central and Northern California. 
    Based in Anderson, South Carolina, STEC Equipment distributes multiple lines of turf care equipment.
    The agreement is a win-win that allows STEC to broaden its reach to the West Coast.
    "Partnering with Belkorp is allowing us to reach our goal of having a larger presence on the West Coast," said David Taylor, STEC's president and CEO. "We look forward to working with Belkorp to introduce new and innovative machines to their customers."
    It also expands Belkorp's product line to its customer base in one of the country's largest golf markets.
    "Belkorp Golf and Turf is excited to partner with STEC Equipment Inc.," said Sal Sorbello, golf sales manager for Belkorp. "We look forward to offering their innovative and specialized equipment to our customers on the West Coast."
  • Aquatrols' CarbN and Brawler both are formulated with UniGrow to promote even distribution. For golf course superintendents concerned with even application of their turf nutritional products, Aquatrols has released two combination fertilizers.
    CarbN with UniGrow and Brawler with UniGrow are the newest fertilizer offerings in Aquatrols' expanded nutrition product category. Each is formulated with UniGrow, Aquatrols' proprietary technology that facilitates efficient uptake by leaves and roots and promotes whole plant translocation, helping ensure even distribution of each application.
    "Our goal is always to offer something not only unique to customers but also effective for common issues they face,” said Robert Wilson, Aquatrols product manager. “We feel that these two new products, along with our new proprietary technology, do just that and more." 
    CarbN is a fast-acting nitrogen and soluble carbon solution with 16 percent total nitrogen that works to help increase micro-nutrient uptake and nitrogen efficiency, resulting in enhanced plant performance, the company says. 
    Brawler is a phosphite fertilizer formulated with 24 percent soluble potash to increase tolerance of biotic and abiotic stresses by promoting plant defense mechanisms, such as systemic acquired resistance.
    The label for each says they are safe for use on all turf types and all areas of the golf course and on athletic fields.
    CarbN and Brawler are currently registered in 39 states throughout the U.S., with registration approvals pending in the remaining states.
    For more information, visit Aquatrols.com/Nutritionals.
  • As the golf business attracted many newcomers to the game during the pandemic, many individual properties did not do a good job at wooing and retaining them, says Jim Koppenhaver. File photo by John Reitman Barely six months ago, just about everyone in the golf business was collectively crowing about picking up record numbers of golfers and rounds played during the pandemic.
    Today, both are predictably down, but there still is room for optimism, said an industry analyst.
    Throughout the pandemic, the game picked up about 2 million new golfers and 25 million more rounds played.
    Rounds played this year are down by about 5 percent, for reasons you might not think, and, according to early research, about 75 percent of the golfers who came to golf during Covid, have left the game as quickly as they arrived.
    "What we've seen in studies we've done is that the majority of the Covid surge was due to existing golfers playing more, not new golfers," said Jim Koppenhaver of Pellucid Corp. 
    "We picked up 2 million new golfers during Covid, and 25 percent of them stayed. That's the bad news. The good news is existing golfers play more and are less likely to flake than those who have not yet honed their skills."
    According to Golf Datatech's rounds played reports, participation is down by 5 percent compared to 2021. However, golf playable hours, a function of golf-friendly hours throughout the day, are down by 8 percent, Koppenhaver said, meaning golf is outperforming the decline in players and weather.
    That is encouraging, said Koppenhaver, considering not only the weather and decline in number of players, but also economic challenges such as record inflation and fuel prices.
    "Most of the golfing population is not as affected by a weak economy as Joe Lunchbucket," he said. 
    But is the industry recession proof? Koppenhaver says no.
    He recalls industry leaders who years ago touted the "build a course a day" philosophy, saying golf was always the last industry to enter a recession and the first one out.
    "Is golf recession proof? I think we've proven that to be categorically false," he said. "I would say it is recession resistant."
    Koppenhaver says it did not have to be this way at all - losing 75 percent of the players picked up during the pandemic. With better customer service, more emphasis on point of sale and collecting contact information in the golf shop
    "Some said it was inevitable that we would give back what we gained. I disagree with that," he said. "We attracted new golfers and we did a crappy job communicating with them and convincing them to come back.
    "We didn't up our customer relations and management skills. We didn't change the way we talked to them. What we did was what we always do - greet them, show them a good time and just hope they come back."
    With just a little effort, things could be different. Much different. In fact, many daily fee operations might be missing out altogether.
    Pellucid's data indicates that greens fees have lagged inflation significantly since the pandemic.
    Does that mean every golf course should automatically increase fees across the board by 10 percent? Probably not, Koppenhaver wrote in his latest newsletter. But the numbers suggest that an increase is warranted, even for those operations who live in fear of losing players over a fee hike.
    "The best-case scenario, with a little effort maybe we lose only 50 percent of the newcomers, but we still let six figures slip through our fingers," Koppenhaver said. 
    "The golf industry is like anything else - we gravitate to what we are familiar with. It is time to 
    Take some of this revenue and put it into customer relationship management. But as an industry did we do that? No. We bought new cart fleets, and we put it into the golf course. We have to have a balanced attack. We should have split 50 cents of every dollar into renovations and 50 cents to building customer relationships.
    "But we're not comfortable with that. We put money into stuff we know how to do. And when we keep doing that, we keep getting the same results."
  • Mississippi State University and Sod Solutions celebrated the release of a new Bermudagrass: Celebration Hybrid. Participating in the introduction of the new turf are Jay McCurdy, MSU Plant and Soil Sciences turfgrass associate professor; Jim Mitchell, MSU Office of Technology Management licensing associate; Scott Willard, director of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station; and Wayne Philley, MSU retired research associate and turfgrass breeder of Celebration Hybrid. Representatives from Sod Solutions include Tobey Wagner, president; Roberto Gurgel, executive director of research; Christian Broucqsault, chief operating officer; and Mark Kann, Florida territory manager. Mississippi State University photo  
    There was a new attendee at this year's Mississippi State University Turfgrass Research Field Day.
    That's where, on Sept. 22, turf breeders from MSU released the first hybrid Bermudagrass out of the Celebration X breeding program. Celebration Hybrid is a result of cross-pollinating Celebration Bermudagrass with numerous other Bermudagrass genotypes collected and maintained over the years at MSU for the explicit purpose of creating new lines that are more cold tolerant, have finer texture and produce less thatch. 
    The Celebration X breeding program started in 2014 as a partnership between Mississippi State and Sod Solutions, a Mount Pleasant, South Carolina turfgrass research, development and marketing company.
    "I first evaluated Celebration Bermudagrass while visiting Australia in the late 90s," said Tobey Wagner, Sod Solutions president. "Since then, Celebration has proven itself time and time again as a beautiful, aggressive and drought-resistant grass. 
    "Over the past eight years, the team at Mississippi State has done an outstanding job on the research and development of these new cultivars. Congratulations to former MSU breeder Wayne Philley and everyone involved in the release of this new grass."
    Celebration's resistance to drought and shade made it a good choice for developing the next hybrid Bermudagrass for golf, sports turf, and the residential and commercial markets.
    Philley spearheaded the research and evaluation of this project and believes Celebration Hybrid is an appropriate name for MSB-1017. 
    Philley, a former research associate in the MSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, considers Celebration to be a unique Bermudagrass cultivar, and as a turfgrass evaluator and breeder he's been observing the performance of the grass in university research plots as well as sod production fields since its release more than 20 years ago.
    "Celebration establishes rapidly to form a high-density, full-canopy turf over a range of mowing heights," Philley said. 
    "From a breeding perspective, I became even more interested in Celebration because of its taxonomic designation and genetics (Cynodon dactylon). This means that Celebration is a tetraploid plant with 36 chromosomes.
    "This also implied that Celebration may be a fertile plant that could be used as a parent in a breeding program. Most bermudagrass cultivars that are vegetatively propagated and marketed as sod are triploid (27 chromosomes). These triploid bermudagrasses are sterile and cannot be used in a conventional breeding program."
    Philley explained their goal was to reduce the number of seedheads in Celebration, which are considered undesirable and disrupt the uniformity of the turf surface. Also, the leaf texture of Celebration is coarser (wider) than some widely used cultivars. Celebration Hybrid (MSB-1017) is a fine-leafed, sterile triploid bermudagrass.
    Celebration Hybrid was tested in three trials at Mississippi State against 83 sister or related plants including Celebration. Celebration Hybrid ranked at or near the top in all three trials for each of the numerous performance traits evaluated.
    From these three MSU trials, five Celebration X progeny were chosen to be entered into the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program's 2019 National Bermudagrass Test. This is a five-year trial being conducted at universities across the country. 
    Experimental varieties are evaluated along with commercial varieties. Progress reports for 2020 and 2021 have ranked MSB-1017 at or near the top for fine leaf texture each year when averaged across all sites that reported this trait. Likewise, these progress reports revealed that MSB-1017 is shown to produce very few seedheads compared to all other varieties when averaged across sites in both years.
    "The Celebration X breeding program has required a tremendous amount of effort from many people," Philley said. "It has been a pleasurable and rewarding experience for me. I give God all the credit for the success of this program. When doing conventional breeding that involves sexual reproduction of plants for single genotype selection, one can never be certain of the outcome. God is in control. It is my hope that we captured improved traits in Celebration Hybrid without losing any of the good traits of Celebration. Many attractive, but diverse, genotypes resulted from this breeding project. Much effort has gone into evaluating them. I am confident that Celebration Hybrid is one of the best of the entire group and I hope that it can be utilized by the turf industry throughout its zone of adaptation."
    Celebration Hybrid has been planted in several real-world test applications throughout the Southeast, including three golf courses in Florida: Country Club of Florida in Boynton Beach, Royal Poinciana Golf Club in Naples and On Top of the World GC in Ocala. Several sod farms in Florida have been trialing the grass ahead of its release. Star Farms in Sebring planted Celebration Hybrid plugs in 10,000-square-foot plots in June 2021 before expanding by 3 acres in June 2022. Quality Turf in Avon Park planted sprigs of Celebration Hybrid as a foundation block in May 2022 on a three-quarter-acre plot. 
    Celebration Hybrid is the initial release from the Celebration X Program with more to be released next year. Celebration Hybrid will be exclusively licensed through Sod Solutions for commercial production and marketing.
    Celebration Hybrid will have limited commercial availability by late Summer 2024.
  • Among the members of the GEO Foundation are PGA National Golf Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. PGA National photo Sustainable golf course management has been an industry hot button issue for at least two decades. 
    The challenge has never been the message as much as it has been the messenger, namely because there really has not been one.
    Until now — maybe.
    The GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf is calling Oct. 3-9 Sustainable Golf Week. The foundation based in Berwick, Scotland, is an international not-for-profit founded to "help inspire, support and reward credible sustainability action and to strengthen and promote golf's social and environmental value."
    The foundation claims it is the only entity worldwide dedicated to the mission of working collaboratively with others in and on the periphery of golf to provide strategies and programs to promote sustainable practices on and around the golf course.
    Sustainable Golf Week will promote achievements in sustainability, including the efforts of golf courses and superintendents, developers, architects, tournaments, players and companies, and will address what still needs to be done in the future.
    The initiative will seek to engage the public through a social media campaign under the #DrivingTheGreen theme and will offer stories of success as well as turnkey tips and advice for others to put into practice.
    "Sustainable Golf Week provides an opportunity for people across the sport to connect around a common purpose – to make sure that golf becomes established as a credible global leader in sustainability and climate action," GEO Foundation executive director Jonathan Smith said in a release. "It is about helping to bring some stronger collective focus to the issues, as well as building ever greater energy and momentum to golf’s contribution."
    Founded in 2006, the GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf is hardly a household name in the U.S., but its footprint is growing. Supporters include The R&A, European Tour, Ryder Cup Europe, Ladies European Tour, LPGA, The Toro Co. and Dow just to name a few. Its list of member courses is a who's who of golf and includes St. Andrews, Royal Dornoch and PGA National Golf Resort and Spa.
  • Anticipated wind gusts for Saturday, Oct 1. Hurricane Fiona, at the time of this writing, might be bearing down on Bermuda, but that is not the natural disaster that golf course superintendents along the Gulf Coast and up the Eastern Seaboard should be concerned about.
    Another tropical depression brewing in the Atlantic that could reach the Gulf Coast by late next week is the real cause for concern, says meteorologist Garrett Bastardi of Turf Threat Tracker.
    Bastardi said most of the models he has been monitoring have the storm headed for South Florida and/or the Gulf Coast then likely taking a turn northward following the Appalachian range or the East Coast, or somewhere in between.
    "It's early," Bastardi said. "But rarely have we seen this much agreement between the major models."
    The unnamed disturbance in the eastern Atlantic could be a tropical storm by the weekend and should be in the western Caribbean by early next week. Most models, Bastardi said, predict eventual Category 4 status. The predicted path includes a likely landfall in South Florida or along the Gulf Coast between the Florida Panhandle and New Orleans, Bastardi said.
    "Looking at the conditions, there is no reason it cannot be a Category 3," he said. "By the time it gets into the western Caribbean, it could develop into a Category 4 or 5."
    With water temperatures in the 80s throughout the Gulf, conditions in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico are perfect for a storm to blow up, Bastardi said. 
    Randy Smith, superintendent at Audubon Park Golf Club in New Orleans, still remembers Hurricane Ida that made landfall in Lafourche Parish in South Louisiana last Aug. 29, 16 years to the day from Hurricane Katrina's landfall 40 miles away in Buras. 
    Eventually Ida, which brought storm surge up to 14 feet, made its way north, dumping rain and toppling trees across New Orleans. The storm was the second-most-damaging hurricane in Louisiana history, second only to Katrina.
    "Bite your tongue," Smith said when asked about the storm in the eastern Atlantic.
    Smith monitors storm tracks, but doesn't begin to sweat until he hears landfall nearby is imminent in three to five days.
    "We think about hurricanes all year, because there is so much at stake," Smith said. 
    "It's troubling, because it adds more to the plate that I don't need to deal with yet. I have too many other things to do this far out."
    When a hurricane is imminent, Smith begins several days in advance to drain some, but not all, of four ponds on the property that also is a flood plain for the surrounding residential neighborhood.

    Total rainfall predicted for the 96 hours prior to October 3. Audubon is located across St. Charles Avenue from Tulane and Loyola universities in Audubon Park in New Orleans' historic Uptown district. The park also includes Audubon Zoo, and all three fall under the Audubon Nature Institute umbrella.
    Because the golf course is part of a not-for-profit entity, heavy tree work after hurricanes is handled by FEMA. Removing debris from the fairways and greens is the most immediate concern for Smith after hurricanes.
    "We had two weeks of clean-up just to get the golf course playable," he said. "Last year, I used a Buffalo blower to remove debris. It blew it all into piles off the golf course that we still had to remove, but it was off the golf course and we could start mowing again."
    The blower is now part of the hurricane plan at Audubon.
    "Over the winter, we rehashed our program and looked at what worked, what didn't work and what we need to change to make it better," he said. 
    Ida knocked out power last summer for eight days at City Park Golf Course in New Orleans. 
    "They were telling people not to come back to the city," said Ryan McCavitt, the former City Park superintendent who recently started a new job at Tchefuncte Country Club across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. "There was no electricity, no gas, no food."
    Because of those challenges, gas, generators and electrical cords are at the top of McCavitt's preparedness list.
    "Then you hope it's enough to power your satellite boxes," he said. 
    Among the many challenges when staff go home or evacuate is if and when they will return.
    So far, it has been a slow hurricane season. Until Hurricane Danielle formed on Sept. 1, there hadn't been a named storm in the Atlantic since July. Weather experts are still predicting an active stretch run of the hurricane season that officially ends Nov. 30.
    "As bad as they can be, I never let these storms get me down," Smith said. "They're just part of our life down here."
  • Kevin Sunderman, second from left, on the golf course in Ohio with, from left, Terry Boehm, Karl Danneberger and Ryan DeMay. Twitter photo When Bob Randquist, CGCS, made the transition four years ago from golf course superintendent to the chief operating officer of his profession's official trade association, it was seen as a home run hire. 
    When Kevin Sunderman, CGCS, was named this week as his successor, the choice was met with equal enthusiasm.
    "Just when you thought Robert Randquist couldn't be replaced . . . Nice job," golf course architect Jerry Lemons wrote on social media.
    "Didn't see that one coming. Congrats, Mr. Sunderman. You'll be great," wrote Kevin Hicks, regional agronomist with EarthWorks.
    Sunderman comes to the job imminently qualified.
    A superintendent with almost 20 years of experience, including 17 at Isla Del Sol Yacht and Country Club in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he held the title of director of grounds, Sunderman has been active in GCSAA including serving six years on the association board of directors. During his time on the board, Sunderman has worked on a variety of projects, including the conference and show, foundation, education, environmental programs and diversity efforts.
    "The past six years serving on the GCSAA board provided me with valuable opportunities to develop relationships with GCSAA Chapter leaders, as well as to meet, listen and learn from many GCSAA members while expanding my knowledge of the great way GCSAA staff serve our members," Sunderman said in a news release. "As COO, I am looking forward to using these insights to guide the GCSAA team in providing benefits that will have a true impact on the lives of our members. I appreciate everyone at Isla Del Sol Yacht and Country Club; they are a wonderful group of people that I will truly miss."

    Kevin Sunderman celebrates earning at MBA last year from Florida Southern College with daughter Elise, son Trent and wife Melani. Twitter photo A graduate of the Ohio State University turfgrass management program, Sunderman also earned an MBA last year from Florida Southern College in Lakeland. He also is a Series 7 licensed financial advisor.
    "When the opportunity arose for Kevin to join the GCSAA team, we knew we had found our next COO," GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans said in the release. "His knowledge of GCSAA and the industry, business acumen and leadership skills provide the association with a speed of transition that will prove advantageous as we expand and enhance the programs and services we deliver to our membership. All members will continue to benefit from his knowledge, passion and dedication."
    A past president of the Florida GCSA and the state's west coast chapter, Sunderman was appointed to the GCSAA board in 2017 and this year was elected vice president. In line to become association president next year, he is stepping away from his role on the board.
    "From the time I first served on a chapter board to the GCSAA Board of Directors, it was always about service and leadership," Sunderman said in the release. "That hasn't changed. This gives me the opportunity to continue to serve the industry that has meant so much to me in a new way."
    Randquist's retirement is effective Oct. 15, and Sunderman will begin his new role in Lawrence on Nov. 7.
  • Drones make it easier to spray hard-to-reach areas. Frost Inc. photo There was a day not that long ago when machines that required minimal human supervision and interaction were little more than an intriguing sideshow on tradeshow floors. Autonomous mowers attracted curious onlookers who admitted to being interested but dismissed the technology as "interesting, but it's not for me." And drone technology for anything other than shooting cool photos or videos was a pipe dream.
    No more.
    Since Covid launched the country, not just the golf business, into a nationwide labor crisis, superintendents, restaurant owners and grocery store managers alike are looking for new ways to conduct business day to day.
    "Covid has changed everything. It has enhanced everything," said Alan FitzGerald of LedgeRock Golf Club in Mohnton, Pennsylvania. "It has really enhanced generational changes."
    Ken Rost, principal of Frost Inc., recently has been tinkering with spray applications on golf courses and farm fields.
    He is starting to get clients in the golf industry who have areas that are hard to reach on foot, who do not have enough help or both.
    "The two areas we get requests for are aquatics, spraying for duckweed, and native areas for noxious broadleaf weeds competing with native grassy areas," Rost said. 
    The biggest challenge for operators is securing all the licenses and permits, which, Rost said, can run three to six months.
    Set up and flying on site is a much easier process, and operators can do in a matter of minutes tasks that one, two or more people a day or more to complete.
    FitzGerald has about 60 acres of managed native areas at LedgeRock, much of which is on hard-to-reach slopes. He recalls looking at a steeply sloped area and coming to the realization that there had to be an easier way to manage those areas than going in on foot.
    "I stared at it and wondered how I could mow or spray it without mowing or spraying it," FitzGerald said. 
    "What would take an entire day or day-and-a-half to do by hand is done in less than an hour by drone."
    Kevin Clunis has used drone spraying services on an occasion or two at Luck Golf Club in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, but does not use it on a regular basis.
    "I don't think it will ever replace spraying by hand," Clunis said. "But it can help."
    Among the barriers to widespread use can be cost and  at Luck are trees.
    When drones get too close to a tre, the vehicle's obstacle-awareness system stops the craft. Likewise, set up and use can cost the end user up to $200 an hour. 
    Superintendents with specific need areas, those with labor challenges or both view that rate as a bargain.
    "They say they don't care about the cost because they can't get to the area, or they don't have enough people," Rost said. "They just say 'get it done.' "
    FitzGerald does not view the cost as much as he does the benefit.
    "It's a safety issue getting in those areas, and it takes more guys to get it done, who we don't have," FitzGerald said. "There are massive savings to be had there."
  • A record amount of square feet has been reserved for this year's Equip Expo in Louisviille, Kentucky. Equip Expo photo A few months ago, there was a question whether the green industry still had an appetite for national tradeshows.
    With more than a month to go before Equip Exposition, the show formerly known as GIE+Expo already has sold all of its exhibit space.
    According to the Equip Expo web site, the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, where the show is held each fall, has 675,000 square feet of exhibit space and room for more than 1,000 vendors.
    "This is a first for Expo: Every inch of exhibit space inside the KEC and outside in the newly expanded 30-acre Outdoor Demo Yard has been reserved," said Kris Kiser, president & CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, which owns Equip Exposition.
    “The sellout shows the vitality and excitement around Equip Exposition.”
    This year's show, scheduled for Oct. 18-21, appears as though it will be a hit with attendees and vendors alike.
    For the first time ever, the show has sold out the entire exposition center and nearly 1,000 vendors have bought space. Sandwiched around a Covid-canceled show in 2020, Equip Expo attracted about 24,000 attendees in 2019 and again last year. With record booth space sales, at least that many are expected this year.
    That is a sharp contrast to this years GCSAA Conference and Show in San Diego where attendance of 6,500 (and reportedly only about 1,000 golf course superintendents) was off by about half compared to historic averages of pre-Covid shows.
    There might be some things that can be learned from the Equip Expo. Travel restrictions, flight delays and cancellations and Covid protocols were cited by many who opted not to attend this year's GCSAA show. In the first half of 2022, 20 percent of all domestic flights experienced delays of 15 minutes or more. That's double the number of delays from 2020. 
    In contrast, the former GIE show is within a day's drive of 70 percent of the country's population.
    GIS and the former GIE are apples and oranges, but there is a big difference between routinely flirting with record attendance and rented booth space and not flirting with anything for more than a decade.
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