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April 2013

Just returned from six weeks in North Carolina and Florida, where it was cold, windy and wet. Despite this, we had a few nice days where temperatures reached about 25 degrees C. We were home one day when Mrs. Campbell came down with a horrendous cold. It was so bad she had to share it with me. We were flat out for over a week.

As I write this, we still have plenty of snow, which is going to result in a late start to the golfing season and park visits. The late start will result in decreased revenues, while costs continue to carry on. For smaller clubs, summer staff will be hard to come by. Personally I’ve been through this in 1971 and 1974 when golfing didn’t start until mid-May.

The economic conditions in North Carolina and Florida have not improved and as a result are suffering financially.
They, however are certainly trying to attract players. Among them, reduced green fees at non-prime time hours; power carts at 1/2 price with a green fee; a five dollar credit at the half way house or using the beverage cart on the back nine. Public golf courses in particular are cutting back maintenance costs. If all this is working remains to be seen.

Blair Adams, Editor of the Greenmaster said this in 2008:
For his money and every superintendent that I know, there is nothing like a good scientific study. Adams favourite is one conducted in 1997 by the National Cancer Institute of Canada’s Advisory Committee on Cancer Control. They established a panel to examine the link between pesticides and cancer. Their conclusion? No association was found between pesticide use and cancer.

The New York Times said that the average golf score has not changed for decades. When golf commentator David Feherty read this he went on to say “Maybe we’re all supposed to stink at this….it’s our punishment for playing this insane game”.

Spring time is the most important time of year to aerify, but you must monitor soil temperatures. With bentgrass, the soil should be 60 to 65° F and you have to get the plant actively growing before you aerify by building up the nutrient level supply 10 to 14 days ahead of time. This sounds great but unfortunately superintendent’s hands are forced by the golfers anxious to play. The trend in Canada and the United States is to aerify far too early. I guess to do it right the superintendent has to do a tremendous selling job to the golfers who in my belieft would rather belly ache than accept the right way to aerate in the spring time.

Arnold Palmer complained about slow play at his course during a recent tournament won by Tiger Woods. He said it was ruining golf and suggest Pros could set an example by speeding up. He went on to say amateur palyers emulate the way the Pros play and could be the reason a five hour round is the norm at most golf courses. You will never find a golfer who admits he plays slow.

Speaking of slow play—I read an article in Florida that slow play is driving golfers away from the game. The article said that the reason for slow play is that golf courses are too difficult and lay the blame squarely on golf course architects. These guys should get back to designing a good flow to the course and one where everyone can have fun regardless of his/her ability. A Canadian architect told me this very thing a year ago.

Lets take another look at aerification. If a ball in play comes to rest in an aerification hole, is there free relief under the Rules of Golf? Unfortunately, no. However, the Committee in charge of rules may write a temporary local rule granting relief from aerification holes, as outlined in the rules of golf. Aerification plugs are considered loose impediments consisting of compacted soil, and the rules do permit a player to move plugs away from the ball before making a shot.

A sharp edge on a rotary mower blade is critical for the health of the turf, the longevity of the machines and the convenience of the people who maintain the turf. Sharp blades also reduce the load on the mowing equipment. The engine doesn’t have to work as hard, and the bearings and belts don’t have to transfer as much power. The result is a longer-lived machine that needs less-frequent crisis repair. A mower with sharp blades can also maintain a higher ground speed while producing a high-quality mowing surface, which means less time spent mowing.

After I complete this Newsletter, I will prepare membership fee invoices for 2013. If you missed it, fees will be $100 per member. When you receive the invoice, please submit it for payment. We encourage everyone to do this promptly. We want 200 plus members again this coming year. Thanking you in advance for your attention.

Stimpmeters drew considerable print in Florida this winter. Some of it was good, some not so good, some downright awful. This device used ostensibly to measure speed was invented by Edward S Stimpson in 1935. It was used to measure consistency of ball roll on greens. It told you if the fifth green had the same ball roll on the 16th green. If the device is used properly, you’ll know that each green is rolling a similar distance. In the late 1970’s the USGA modified it and made it available to green superintendents and course officials. If only superintendents had kept it a secret!

When mowing fairways this coming summer, trust your artistic instincts by incorporating some gentle curves, preferably creating contours that accentuate ground features and hazards. Avoid covering interesting humps and bumps in the fairway because few hazards are more appealing than a lightly mown mound. Don’t forget fairway contours, which are the most important playability aspect of the golf course. They are the cheapest and the easiest way for a quick fix, and key to the long term appreciation of any layout.

Do you know a typical gasoline can emits nearly 8 pounds of hydrocarbons through spills and evaporations each year?
Everyone knows hydrocarbons are bad. Compare this to a new car, a portable container emits twice the amount of hydrocarbons that a car does annually.

Communicating with golfers is an uphill battle. Nine time out of ten, superintendents don’t have enough training, the visibility or support from management to truly inform golfers about course maintenance practices. And even if you do have the knack of “schmoozing” and are welcome in the Clubhouse or have a manager who worships you, there is still one obstacle to overcome: golfers don’t give a dam, and worse, they don’t care.

Walking doesn’t slow play as much as architecture and learned behaviours from television. Stalking putts from every angle, pacing yardage, searching for markers as if one could actually hit the shot if only the exact yardage were known, and endless preshot routines consume more time than we admit. Multiple real estate bunkers, huge distances from green to tee and deep rough bordering narrow fairways make for great four-colour brochures, but result in longer rounds. This was written 12 years ago, so it looks like nothing has changed.

It may be ironic, but Pro golfers say the most strategic golf course that they have played, is the only one not designed by man. They are talking about the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland.

I don’t think many superintendents or golfers for that matter like to see ropes, stakes and signs on the golf course, and yet they remain to be an integral tool for traffic control. Ropes and stakes can detract from the golf course’s natural beauty and interfere with maintenance operations and play. The ropes and stakes also require constant attention and can be dangerous. Properly placed cart paths and curbing and the use of painted lines or marker posts can reduce the need for ropes in controlling traffic. Really though, I think it is very likely that ropes and stakes will continue to be used as long as there are golfers.

Here is one way you can be a better boss. Be open to change. The best bosses look for ways to improve and learn from the experiences of others. Pinpoint the successes and failures of others and adapt your own management style accordingly. Another way is to solicit employees opinions and ideas. Build trust and receive respect by asking your employees for their input on issues that concern them.

Another tidbit I learned while in North Carolina, is that drinking water from a hose is not a good idea. Seems that water left sitting in a hose contains lead 18 times above the normal standard. Higher concentrations of lead and other harmful chemicals occur when the hose is left in the sun. After reading this I visisted a “Home Hardware” and noticed that natural rubber hoses were labelled “drinking water safe”.

It wasn’t too long ago that golf was a resource-wasting, toxic polluting, wildlife destroying, even racist and generally pointless activity for the wealthy and uncaring elite. During droughts, misguided “worst first” watering bans killed courses while car washes happily dumped millions of gallons a day in sewers. In the 1980’s it began to turn around. Research found golf courses posed very little threat to the ground waters and especially to wild life. What really changed things around was the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. This enabled a way for courses to toot their environmental horns.

“State of Fear” written around 2006 by author Michael Crichton had interesting things to say about the once popular insecticide DDT. He wrote that arguably the greatest tragedy of the 20th Century was the removal of DDT for control of mosquitoes. DDT was the best insecticide on the market. Despite reviews to the contrary, no other products were as efficient, or as safe. Since the removal of DDT, it has been estimated that 30 to 50 million people have died unnecessarily. Before the removal of DDT, malaria had become almost a minor illness with only 50,000 deaths per year throughout the world. Remember the figures above are from 2006.

I’m sure I’ve written this before, but I think it is worth repeating. We all worry to some degree about certain things—but worrying creates problems, not solutions. Worrying is negative emotion and a destructive habit with no place in our lives. Worrying occurs when you assume certain disasters are bound to happen. It is the helpless feeling of inability and it leads to a perspective of impending disaster. So worrying causes problems instead of solutions. It leads to procrastination instead of action. Does worrying help your operation run more smoothly? No, it never does, so don’t worry, be concerned.

With lots of snow this winter, we will have lots of water around, bringing us mosquitoes and the fear of the West Nile virus. Be careful and protect yourself and your employees with spray. Brian Youell, Superintendent at Uplands Golf Course in Victoria and the CGSA’s 2012 Superintendent of the Year, says it’s important for greens superintendents to further their Turf education by taking part in seminars, conferences, and networking with their peers. This is important whether you are at a high end club or at a nine hole facility or have been in the business for 25 years.

My favourite turf magazine is Turf and Recreation, published 7 times a year. Subscription rates are really affordable at $33 per year or $53 for 3 years. This is a very worthwhile subscription and you will find every publication is an interesting read. Mike Jiggens is the editor.

Although there are no set rules for divot repair programs, the greatest hope of all remains with the golfer himself. If every golfer would only repair their own ball marks and replace their own divots, golf courses would be conspicuously improved and noticeably less expensive to maintain. Proper golf course etiquette calls for this, but too few hear the call.

That’s it for this month. I believe my cold or flu or whatever is getting worse. My head is pounding, my shoulder’s aching, and I’m extremely bitchy. My wife who is also sick says “What’s so different?”


In this newsletter there is an article on Deep Tine Aeration by Chris Marchiori,
Mike Kupchanko’s Assistant at The Wascana. Greens Deep Tine Aeration is Part 1. In the May issue we’ll publish Part 2, Fairway Aeration and Topdressing.

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About the STA

  • Saskatchewan's Turfgrass Association, founded in 1979, is a non-profit organization. The S.T.A. was organized by a group of Turfgrass Professionals which has grown to include people from Parks, Golf Courses, Sod Growers, Cities and Commercial Companies.