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April 2014

Finally some warmer weather.  February was brutal with not only cold temperatures but wind almost every day.  This was particularly tough on me because I’m not allowed to travel anymore.  This is the first winter in over 25 years that I toughed out the complete winter.

Congratulations to Don Bilyk, Doug Campbell, and Grant Sawchyn who received their 30 year membership pin from the GCSA.   The ceremony was held at the CGSA Turf Conference in Vancouver in mid-February.  30 years is a long time and I’m sure the CGSA appreciates their ongoing support.

They tell me the Vancouver conference was a good one, and pretty well attended.   I haven't heard anything about the new format, but I'm sure the CGSA will examine the total conference and make any necessary changes to make the event better.

A source of concern for the CGSA is the declining membership numbers since 2009.  It's hard to figure out why this is happening, but I’m sure steps will be taken to stop the slide and a plan to attract new members.

The CGSA new strategic plan includes Vision,  Mission, and Focus. 

1. Vision “The CGSA is essential to success in the golf course management profession”

2. Mission “To promote and support the Canadian golf course management profession”

3. Focus—Membership, Leadership, and Key Initiatives.

I just read an employees handbook prepared in 2013.  It is well prepared and covers all aspects of one’s employment at the golf club.  The staff mission is to provide an exceptional experience for members and their guests through a high level of service.

In mid April, you will receive an invoice for your 2014 membership dues.  Please present the invoice to your club for payment.  I’m hoping we can get back to the 200 plus members we had in 2012.  With this number we can support Turf Research on a greater scale.  We now have the means for people to pay by credit card.  Later in this newsletter I’ll explain what we need for the credit card charge to go through.

I imagine the most popular topic among Greenkeepers this spring will be the weather this past winter and what kind of a spring and summer we’ll have.  The weather is important to green sperintendents as maintenance depends so much on it.  Unlike all other factors, it is absolutely uncontrollable.

I read this winter that golf is a game of inconsistencies.  A player must make adjustments for yardage, the lie of the ball, the direction and speed of the wind, the slopes on the putting green, and so on.  What is consistent about playing the game?  Nothing.  And that is why it is fun to try and get the little white ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible.

Patricia Richardson with the extension division at the University of Saskatchewan tells us trees are a valuable part of the landscape.  Deep watering is essential to their survival, whether they are established or not.  Trees and shrubs planted within the past five years are most susceptible to drought but even well established trees will show injury from very dry conditions.  It is ideal if established trees receive at least 2 to 5 centimeters of water every few weeks.

A number of golf clubs may be thinking about some course changes this spring.  Good advice would be to obtain the services of a qualified golf course architect.  It will be money well spent.  Too many golf clubs go with their best golfers ideas to try and improve their golf layouts.  While these people all mean well, they are not a true representative of the total membership.  A well known nationally recognized golf course architect who is still active told me low handicap golfers have ruined more golf courses with their design ideas than they have ever helped.

Stay away from “Back up Tree Plantings”.  Most backup tree plantings do not benefit playability, aesthetics.  Backup trees usually clutter up the golf course.  They are usually fast growers that one hopes will have an instant effect.  This type of tree is usually soft wooded, messy and has surface roots and, above all, a shorter life span.

Do you believe life exists elsewhere in the Universe?  Jim Cote thinks there is, but he said that when he was drinking.  In a poll with 10,000 people, a whopping 76% said yes.

Some say it's an unappealing chore, but most greenkeepers will tell you the cup cutting is one of the most important tasks in golf course maintenance .Nobody from greenkeepers to golfers wants to see a flagstick tilting one way or the other.  Next to keeping up the greens, it’s one of the most important jobs on the golf course.

Some physical effects of global warming includes changes in the frequency of extreme climate events.  Some of these have already been noted.  Glaciers in mid latitudes and the tropics are retreating, some have already gone.  The arctic permafrost is thawing.  The weather in many parts of the world is becoming weird and very unstable.  Floods, hurricanes, droughts, and snow storms are setting new records.  The global sea level has risen 4 plus centimeters.  Antarctic ice shelves are melting.  Antarctic has 90% of the world’s ice.

Here are a couple of tidbits I’m sure everyone will be interested in.  “The sun’s core releases the energy equivalent of 100 billion nuclear bombs every second”.  Also, “The moon moves 3.8 cm away from earth each year”.  And the last one, “Benjamin Franklin first proposed Daylight Savings Time in 1784”.

What causes the most stress?  Some will say health problems or relationships gone bad, but the threat of losing your job causes more stress than anyone can imagine.  And believe me, the threat is very real.  There’s always a small group of people at every golf club who have the answers to everything, who clamour for the guys head.

The 90/10 rule, which argues that dedicated club professionals (managers, directors of golf and superintendents) along with club boards, spend 90 percent of their time defending themselves and answering complaints of 10 percent of the members.  The resulting paralysis overlooks the fact that the vast majority of the membership is quiet, supportive, and willing to follow if persuasive, thoughtful and accurate can be arrayed on behalf of a sensible plan. But the majority is bullied by the vocal 10 percent.

I’ve heard that morning sunlight is better for turf than midday or afternoon sunlight.  What do you think?  The general consensus is that morning sunlight is no better than the light at other times of the day in terms of light quality.  The morning, however, is an optimal time for photosynthesis—where plants produce their own food by converting energy from sunlight into usable forms.  Also, turf grass requires at least eight hours of sunlight per day to sustain growth and recuperate from moderate wear.

In some parts of Africa, native tribes practice the strange custom of beating the ground with sticks and uttering blood curdling yells.  Anthropologists call this a form of primitive self expression.  My Uncle Jake says in North America its called golf.

Golf Clubs should look at and incorporate frequent light topdressing on their greens.  However, it’s a good idea to stop topdressing programs during the real hot days of the summer.

Backpack blowers are some of the easiest equipment to handle and operate.  Most of them are relatively light weight, weighing in at around 20 lbs.  It’s important to look for models that offer adjustable throttle controls that lock into position for easy starting.  A padded harness will reduce vibration and is a must. Harness design and comfort will vary from unit to unit, so be sure to try on the blower and make sure it’s comfortable to you before you buy it.  I put this in because I watched a landscape contractor going through the above exercise at a landscape equipment store in Saskatoon.  A side note—I couldn’t sell him an STA membership.

Think about this—when your greens are turtle backed and cut short 4 times a day, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why the greens were tricky fast.

Do you know a typical gasoline engine emits nearly 8 pounds of hydrocarbons through spills and evaporation each year?  (This is not a good thing—hydrocarbons are bad).  Compare this to a new car, and a portable fuel container emits twice the amount of hydrocarbons that a car does annually.  There are common-sense tips to avoid this.  Use proper containers; store carefully; fill cautiously; and avoid spills and dispose properly.  I picked this up at the same landscape equipment store as the guy was buying a backpack blower.

With the maintenance season about to start, I remind you that a sharp blade on a rotary mower is critical.  Sharp blades reduce the load on mowing equipment.  The engine doesn’t have to work as hard and bearings and belts don’t have to transfer as much ower.  The result is a longer-lived machine that needs less frequent crisis repairs.  A mower with sharp blades can also maintain a higher ground speed while producing a high quality mowing surface, which means less time mowing.

Augusta National Golf Club in August 2012 invited 2 women to join their Club—Condoleeza Rice, former Secretary of State, and South Carolina financier, Darla Moore.  If they have invited some other females to join, it’s unknown.

As we start our maintenance season, make sure you check the coolant in the radiator.  On top of that, it’s a good idea to check all fluid levels.  Replace any worn or cracked hydraulic hoses.  Another important chore is to grease all zerks to purge any moisture away from any bearing surface.

Something I just found out is there is a hidden risk when chemically killing tree stumps.  Roots of adjacent trees frequently form natural grafts permitting herbicides applied to one to move forward through an unseen root graft into it’s neighbor.  Thus, root grafts have been known to cause the sudden and inexplicable death of a neighbors’ prized tree about a week after the stump next door was poisoned.

It is going to warm up soon and will be planting trees on the golf course.  When transplanting trees by bare root, container or balled and burlapped—it is important to construct the planting hole so that it is wider than the roots.  The plant hole preferably should be 2 to 3 times wider.  It is however, important not to be deeper than the top of the roots.  Make sure the top roots are just covered.  Plating the trees too deep is the number one killer of transplanted trees.  This from Dr. John Ball.

Cutting greens on a golf course is very important in maintaining golf courses to perfection.  Topdressing, spraying, fertilizing, aerifying and watering are wasted unless the green is cut to perfection.  If not, golfers will condemn the green and much work is wasted.

On a weight for weight basis, caffeine is between 25 to 50 times more toxic than some of the most commonly used lawn herbicides.  It's just a matter of time before the tree huggers will start the campaign to ban coffee, chocolate and coca cola.

A study not long ago found that the average golfer walks about 900 miles per year.  Another study found golfers drink an average of 22 gallons of beer a year.  All this means, on average, that golfers get about 41 mile to the gallon of beer.  This will make all golfers pround and also proves 10-20 beer never hurt anyone if it's drunk during a 4-hour round.

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews has about 2,400 members from around the world and dates to 1753.  Pressure has been building in recent years on the R&A to change it's men-only policy.  The members will vote in September on whether to have women as members.  Three links course on the British Open rotation do not allow female members.

Hopefully opening day will be sooner rather than later.  I hope everyone has a great spring start-up with little or no winter injury.  More importantly, I hope everyone is successful in being able to find and hire enough staff for the season!


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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.