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December 2013

As I write this, it is truly winter in our province, cold with a wind.  Also, we have plenty of snow making travel anywhere a real journey.  However our season is over, we can relax a little and gradually prepare for next year.  You can certainly have a rest from member complaints or their constant suggestions about how to maintain a golf course.

I haven’t any idea what I’m going to write about.  At this time of year we must prepare for Christmas and the New Year.  I leave notes all around our house what I need for Christmas and my Birthday coming up just after Boxing Day.  Sometimes I do good, sometimes I get surprised, and other times I strike out.

Some of the worlds most successful people in the 19th century went insane, broke, committed suicide or went to jail.  However at the same time, the PGA champion and the winner of the US Open was Gene Sarazen.  He played golf umtil he was 92, died in 1999 at the age of 95.  He was financially secure at the time of his death—the moral—to hell with work, play golf.

My Uncle Jake is loaded with a ton of useless information.  His latest is the largest snowflake ever was supposed to be 38 centimetres across and 20 centimetres thick.  He says that this giant snowflake was found in Montana in January 1887.  I think Uncle Jake is either nuts or has drank too much of his sippin whiskey.

Just read in a recent Greenmaster, Canada’s newest sport—foot golf is a combination of golf and soccer and originated in Europe.  The game is simple—you kick the soccer ball from a tee into a 21 inch cup in the least number of kicks.  This game is a growing sport across the world, and sooner than later, players will find something wrong with the course.

Another interesting article was one penned by Architect Ian Andrew.   He writes “Are your bunkers too perfect?”.  Bunkers in North America are almost perfect and he gives credit to superintendents, staff and the near perfect sand used today.  With this our bunkers here are hardly a hazard.  Mr. Andrews goes on to say bunkers are still considered a hazard in Great Britain.  These bunkers are not consistent, use sand native to the area, and in their view, should be hard to play out of.  They are truly hazards.

Eddie Konrad is a regular contributor to the Greenmaster.  Also, he is a contract professor at Seneca College in Ontario.  He is a former head mechanic at the Ladies Golf Club in Toronto and currently he teaches reel technology.  His writings are all excellent reads, as well as informative.  His last two articles “Hydraulic Safety” and “A Battle Plan to reduce Hydraulic Leaks” are excellent which every mechanic should not only read, but study.

Many years ago, I visited a friend’s golf course in the Toronto area.  It was March, so I didn’t see much of the golf course, but was able to visit his maintenance shop.  What a place this was! It had a couple of hoists, a paint room, his office, his assistants and the mechanics office—all state-of-the-art in the 1970’s.  One particular item caught my eye in the welding room.  It was a workable hot air popcorn popper full of welding rods.  It’s steady flow of hot air removed moisture from the rods.  By the way, moisture laden rods will sputter and pop, producing an unacceptable porous weld.

Paul Voykin from Saskatoon and a retired Golf Course Superintendent in Chicago isn’t in very good health.  He was in Saskatoon this summer getting around with a walker, but has taken a turn for the worse.  Really, he is getting older, being in his mid-eighties.  He’s tough however, and will fight old age with everything he’s got, and probably try to convince himself he is getting younger.

In August, grounds keeper Patrick Walker found a 10 pound tooth on the golf course at the Morrison Lake Country Club in Saranac, Michigan.  Paleontologists confirmed that it belonged to an 11,000 year old mammoth.  Probably a relative of mine, or maybe even the wife.

Camp Bonifas Golf Course right on the border of North and South Korea is said to be the most dangerous golf course in the entire world.  It has a single hole, a 192 yard par 3.  If you drift your tee shot too far in one direction or the other it lands amidst land mines.  If you try and retrieve it, you could get blown to smithereens, so you’re wise if you consider it lost.

The famous Merion Golf Club has hosted many big name tournaments like the US Open has flags on the property, but not on the greens.  The holes are topped by bulb shaped wicker baskets, red on the front nine and orange on the back.  The origin of these baskets is unclear, but the result is that players will take extra time to study the trees and flip blades of grass into the air to gauge the wind.  This appeared in the Sport section of the Chicago Tribune.

When was golf invented?  Some say in Scotland over 500 years ago, but others say in China as far back as 943 AD.  The first golf balss used were made of wood, followed by feathers, which were boiled and placed or stuffed into a leather pouch, which was then sewn up into a ball shape.  Present day golf balls don’t have the same number of dimples, however the ideal golf ball will usually have between 380 and 432 dimples.

Dr. Robert Carrow, turfgrass research scientist at the University of Georgia, offered the following comments in a Green Section Record article regarding the importance of sound basic agronomic programs.  He says Golf Course Management is a combination of art, science, and common sense.  There is no need to get too tricky.  It is important to keep the emphasis on basic agronomic programs rooted in good science and common sense.  The foundation of all excellent golf facilites is solid, basic turfgrass management.  This starts with priority attention given to the basics—good fertilization, irrigation, mowing, pest control and cultivation programs.

Our Association is asking for golf courses to come forward to host our 2014 Research Tournament.  It’s in the North this coming year having been in Yorkton in 2013.  We would like at least 2 or 3 courses to choose from so please consider hosting the event.  This tournament helps fund our Turf Research commitments.

And this from Grant Sawchyn, the very good superintendent at the North Battleford Golf and Country Club. Grant learned his trade with the late Bud Johns at the Saskatoon Golf and Country Club.  One spring in the early 80’s Bud and Grant were trying to get a Yazoo started and out of the storage barn.  It was a no go.  Things were getting a little tense when Bud blurted out as only Bud could “the only thing that works the same in the spring as it did in the fall is a bloody potato masher!”

Bud Johns spent his whole life as a golf course  greenkeeper and superintendent.  He learned to love his trade at the Saskatoon Golf and Country Club, Lashburn Golf Club, North Battleford Golf Club, Woodlawn in Estevan, and The Wascana.  He was an excellent, hard working superintendent.  In later years he contracted Type I diabetes which brought on severe complications.  Just as he was retiring, he lost both legs.  He never complained, even though he suffered from unbelievable phantom pain.  I saw Bud going into the doctors office after he got his new sticks (legs).  He got along pretty good.  After a talk, I was getting ready to leave when Bud called me back and asked me if I would like to buy a pair of shoes.

Air movement is very important to a healthy green.  This is particularly crucial during hot summer days when the turfs only method of cooling itself is by evaporating water from it’s leaves which is knows as evapotranspiration.  You just need enough breeze to move the flag on the pin.  Sometimes the reason for lack of air movement is the surrounding terrain, such as greens built in protecting valleys, or at the bottom of severe slopes.  A typical part of a golf course management program is to monitor the growth of trees over years to make sure they do not block good light and air movement.

Professional Golfers continue to say it’s ironic that the most strategic golf course that they have ever played is the only one that wasn’t designed by man.  The were talking about the old course at St. Andrews.

Once considered a costly alternative to establishing turfgrass, sodding is increasingly winning favour as a viable method on new and particularly existing golf courses.  These venues are embracing sodding because it takes less time to establish, allowing them to open the sodded areas earlier.

This is something every golf course should consider.  Ideally, a Greens Chairman should serve 4 to 6 years.  Yearly terms can create problems as well.  A real asset would be to have the next chairman serve at least one year on the committee under the leadership of the existing chairman.  This overlap can improve the transition.  When I was a superintendent, I had the same Greens Chairman for eighteen years.  That isn`t the norm, however, not then or even now.

Good superintendents maintain an inventory of all their equipment.  It is important you record the make, model, and above all, the serial numbers.  Also record the year it was purchased, whether new or used, and the cost.  You should also keep a record of the repairs and the cost, and an estimated replacement cost, which will change from year to year.

In the early days of golf judging yardage was considered a skill and was an integral part of the game.  There wasn't any yardage aids in those days and greens were purposely built without backdrops to provide greater challenge in judging distances.  With the advent of yardage aids, judging distance has virtually become unnecessary.  It is a long forgotten skill.  If backdrops were needed, it has been eliminated with the advent of yardage aids.

Something superintendents should keep in mind.  John LaFay, one-time president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, says I`ve seen more golf courses improved by hurricanes than by Green Committees.``

`What is good Green Maintenance worth?” You will consistently find that better playing conditions increases the desire to play plus higher green fee revenues.  Courses that spend more on course maintenance are those that command higher green fees.

People who worry about Pesticides fail to realize or even want to believe that cancer rates have actually dropped over the last 50 years.  Stomach cancer has dropped by more than 70% while rectal cancer has dropped by more than 65%, and also there are 2 billion more songbirds than there were in the late 17th century.

Dan LeBatard, a columnist for the Miami Herald, wrote this in about 2000.  He said “Tiger Woods is many things—a magnificent champion, the most famous face in sports, the world’s greatest golfer—but this is what he’s not.  He’s not an athlete—golfers are not athletes.  They have a skill like fishermen and brain surgeons.  To be an athlete one must run, jump, catch or at least move.  Golfers—they even need their bags carried for them.  Do you think Tiger really cares what this guy thinks?  My Uncle Jake says I save the damndest stuff.

Speaking of my Uncle Jake, he lives on Kraft Dinner and Corn Flakes.  He is the only person I know that puts 7-Up and 1/2 an ounce of sippin whiskey on his Corn Flakes.  Old Jake pointed out to me that Kraft Dinner is the most purchased grocery item in Canada.  Canadians purchase 1.7 million pounds each year.  1 billion pounds is purchased world wide.

The STA wishes all it’s members and their families a very Merry Christmas holiday, and a Happy New Year.  May Santa Claus bring you many presents, Love and Joy.  May the New Year bring you and your family good health and happiness.  God Bless!

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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.