January 2010

  • January 3, 2010
  • Written by Don Campbell

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas season, with lots of presents, good food, and lots of family around you. Our house was a beehive of activity from the 23rd of December until January 5th. With all the food still around, we could have continued for another two weeks.

At this time of year there isn’t much happening in the turfgrass business. I haven’t even heard any good rumours but no doubt there are some out there. So far we’ve had a cold stormy December. January hasn’t improved much either. With no news to this point I haven’t heard of any complaints about the conditions of golf courses.

It’s old news that golf course maintenance is a pressure packed profession. Soon the profession will make the top 10 list for the most stressful jobs in the country. The pressure and stress is directly related to golfer’s increased expectations for courses they play to be wall to wall green without a smidgen of brown. Bunker complaints are right up near the top too.

The first book I studied was published in the 1950’s by the late Burt Musser of Penn State University. It was called “Turf Management” and was the first textbook devoted solely to turfgrass management, and is still considered by many to be an excellent reference source.

Managing people involves building relationships with fellow human beings. It means getting work done, motivating the workers and often delegating certain tasks to the assistants. One should always remember that workers are often not very well rewarded for the work they do on the golf course and, when they perform extraordinary well, it may be because they are treated with respect and kindness by the greens superintendent.

Both foot paths and cart paths need to be maintained on a regular basis.
Asphalt needs to be patched before potholes develop. Cracks need to be sealed to prolong the life of the paths. Paths need to be swept and the edges need to be trimmed on a regular basis. Poorly maintained paths are a blemish on the face of a golf course and inevitably lead to untidiness elsewhere.

How about this one - all the energy expended to maintain fast greens has resulted in a decrease of one stroke per round for less than 1 percent of the world’s golfers. The rest of us sub-golfers have not improved our scores at all. This comes from Jim Connolly’s article “Building the Imperfect Golf Course”. He also says “we need more tracks with slow greens and bunkers that yield fried egg lies.”

Who rents a golf cart? The lazy and hurried golfer, those who only rent the machine because they are unable to tote a couple of six packs, 5 lbs of ice, a golf bag and three dozen golf balls. Often the very people who could benefit the most from walking are the most adamant about riding. A long walk outside produces a pleasant feeling of fatigue, enhances sleep and improves the appetite. There are, however, golfers who must take power carts to play ... generally due to health problems or disabilities.

Did you know a golf course is the fifth most likely place
where cardiac arrests may occur; almost 20% of all golf facilities will have a cardiac emergency and it is now the number one cause of death at golf facilities would wide. When you consider hospitals and home are numbers 1 and 2, the golf course’s number 5 ranking is surprising.

This is a quote which originated from a speech given by a past president of the United States Golf Association and appears as a forward from a book on turf management authorized by Dr. James Beard. “Golf is unique in many respects. Certainly, no other sport requires so many skills for the development, preparation and maintenance of the surface on which it is played. Consider, for example, what the golf course requires as compared to a football field, a tennis court, a baseball diamond, or a bowling green. There is no other sport on which effective maintenance matters most than it does in golf.”

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

When it comes to tees surfaces, they must be perfectly flat. The tee may tilt slightly forward, but much depends on the architect’s specifications. The tee itself must be flat and even ... no bumps or hollows are permitted, no sudden grade changes are allowed. The reason is obvious - the golfer needs a level stance to make a perfect shot.

I remember years ago when I was a young greenkeeper
we had about 3 different formulas of chemical fertilizer to work with. The most popular was 27-14-0. Then Milorganite came along. I tried it on six of the worst greens at Riverside in Saskatoon, after aerating with a pig of a machine call a West Pointe Aerator. Following the application instructions on the back, the results were outstanding and led to a program that lasted into the 1970’s.

Recently I was watching this on my Christmas present ... a new high definition TV. It was, of course, on the Golf Channel and was about a certified superintendent who was being interviewed about pesticides. He said “Most of the pesticides we use today are safer than Aspirin.” He was talking about today, not 30 years ago. Suffering from heart disease I take Aspirin along with Warfarin every day. Would a 1/2 an ounce of Killex do the same thing? I doubt it.

Most superintendents love working outdoors
and love the culture of fine turf. Most, however, dislike coats, ties, meetings and spread sheets. The superintendent of the future will need business and communication skills in order to keep their jobs and remain the key member of the golf facility team. Working hard and growing grass alone just won’t cut it in the future.

Here is a tip for next summer ...
treat collars like greens. Maintain the collars with the same program you use on putting greens. When the greens are aerated, aerate the collars too. Do the same with topdressing, verticutting, pest control, wetting agents and fertilization. Adopting this philosophy will usually thwart many turf problems common to collars, including the development of puffy turf, disease activity, reduced density and otherwise poor playing conditions.

If you have some old equipment that needs some repairs and you don’t want to spend a ton of money on the parts, try this. There is a company in Calgary that salvages turf equipment and can supply you with parts at a reasonable cost. The company is T.E.R.F. Co. Ltd., R.R. #6, Calgary, Alberta, T2M 4L5. The phone number is 1-888-383-3132. I received this from Terry McNeilly, the very good superintendent at the Saskatoon Golf and Country Club. Check it out!

In the December 2009 STA Newsletter
, I enclosed a questionnaire that dealt mainly with golf course remuneration. While I received a solid response from those attending the Fall Wind-up, the same can’t be said about the mail out. Only six have been returned. Let’s just take a minute to fill it out and mail or fax it to me. It is strictly confidential. Regardless of what happens, the results will be in the March newsletter.

I’m really sick of this cold weather which affects my knees to the extent I’m using a cane most of the time. It make me cranky. Oh well, that’s the beauty of getting older. Having said that, I’m out of here until next month.

More in this category: « December 2009 February 2010 »

About Don Campbell

Don CampbellG. N. Don Campbell,
1933 –2016

S.T.A. Executive Director, 'Turf Tips' writer and editor of our 'TURFTALK' newsletter, Don Campbell has been an asset to our industry for decades!
A member in the turfgrass community for more than 57 years, Don started his career at Riverside Country Club in Saskatoon as a caddy, eventually becoming the course Superintendent. He finished his career as the General Manager at the very same course.

In 2004, Don was awarded the CGSA John B. Steel Distinguished Service Award, recognizing his lifetime commitment to turf care.
Don is survived by his wife Marie have three children: Sherril, Glen and Doug. 

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.