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January 2013

The Christmas Season is behind us and we welcome in a New Year. I hope everyone had a good holiday and all are looking forward to a new and prosperous New Year. My family had a good festive season and helped celebrate my birthday. The good news is I’m still pushing 80, however next year I’ll be pulling it.

You new Board of Directors headed by President Lach Reeve will have their first 2013 meeting in mid-January here in Saskatoon. Many important items are on the agenda and hopefully the weather will hold so we can have full attendance.

The Manitoba Golf Superintendents Association had an interesting speaker in Dale Overton
of Overton Environmental Services based in Winnipeg. His topic was compost tea for healthier greens at reduced costs. A created compost tea is made up of worm castings, high-grade compost, kelp, humic and fulvic acids with the addition of bio-activator compounds. This sounds very interesting to me.

A well known Golf Professional in Regina during the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s was Fred Fletcher.
He was an excellent player despite weighing around 120 lbs and having a withered leg as a result of childhood Polio. He and his wife Daisy had 4 children appropriately named Par, Stymie, Dormie, and Birdie. In 1926 “The Canadian Golfer” noted he was “a likeable unassuming player, entirely free from the affectations which afflict some of the Pros”. I’d like to find more information about him because I believe he would be a worthy candidate for the Saskatchewan Golf Hall of Fame.

Just prior to Christmas I was asked why must you top-dress greens.
He said he could understand topdressing tees (to fill the divots) but he couldn’t see why greens had to be top-dressed. I tried to tell him topdressing has been employed by golf courses for as long as turf management has been a profession. The main benefit is a more uniform, consistent putting surface. Topdressing also creates a better, less compaction-prone growing medium, which helps turf better cope with stresses brought on by heat, overuse or low cut heights. Good quality topdressing applied frequently will improve green speeds also. Did he believe this—I doubt it.

And this from Joel Jackson as it appeared in Golfdom magazine some years ago. The green superintendent courts Mother Nature and often wins her favour. Yet they have seen her wrath and seemingly capricious destruction beyond comprehension. He is held accountable for the conditions from her torrential rains and unrelenting drought. He is expected to somehow turn clay into sandy loam. The timing of necessary cultural practices is often held hostage to special event calendars.

You will enjoy your golf game if you play from the set of tees that give you the best chance to reach the par 3’s in one shot, par 4’s in two and the par 5’s in 3 shots. You’d be surprised how many golfers don’t know that.

Sorry to hear Mike Wirz has left Oakcreek Golf and Turf. Everyone in the STA wishes Mike luck in his new endeavours. We’ll miss him.

In spite of all the changes that have taken place during the last 100 years or so, there still are golf courses that have not made the quantum leap forward. You can find sheep grazing on golf courses in New Zealand and Scotland. Compost has been applied to greens that have been hand aerated with pitchforks in places like Grenada. And the process of converting sand greens to grass is far from being complete.

Superintendents throughout the province are no doubt working on their budgets for the coming seasons. One of the most important aspects of creating a viable budget has nothing to do with keeping numbers, it has everything to do with being forthright.

How many members know what Distribution Uniformity (DU) is. It’s a measurement of the uniformity of irrigation water application. This value should be near or exceed 80%, but many systems are well below the 80% value, leading to wet and dry areas that are difficult to manage. I didn’t and still don’t know what it means.

Just read that playing good golf is absolutely essential to the superintendents career. People will testify that they came into the golf industry because of contact with the game. It goes on to say few pursue the game with the proper fanaticism. One of the biggest mistakes superintendents make is not realizing how spiritual the game is to serious players. I’ve heard of many superintendents losing their jobs for playing too much golf, yet I’ve never heard of a superintendent losing his job by not playing golf or by playing poorly.

Here is some interesting facts not many people may know.
The biggest selling Christmas song of all time is Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” or the greatest snowfall ever recorded in a single storm was 189 inches at Mount Shasta Ski Bowl in February 1959. Or Canada has more doughnut shops per capita than the United States or any other country in the world. By the way, 189 inches is 480 centimetres or just over 15 feet.

How is it there is a ton of money in foundation grants to support environmental activists in their complaints, but there are only a few dollars available for turf research grants to explain to the people why our practices are safe?

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of a superintendents experience and observations
to the maintenance of fine playing surfaces. Without the skills acquired by experience and observation, even the best-educated individuals fail in the development of fine playing greens. Their greens may look great, but the speed, uniformity, trueness and holding ability of the greens may not be acceptable for golf.

Armed with roper grease and clean “zerks”, the skilled mechanic uses his eyes, ears and sense of touch to apply the proper amount of grease to the various fittings found on machinery. The true technician knows that a little grease every day in each joint is the best strategy. The sad fact is that over greasing kills as many turf machines as under greasing. Excess grease blows out the rubber seal on bearings, letting the grease out and the dirt in. This is why many equipment makers have shifted to using permanently sealed bearings that haven’t any zerk fitting. This is from Denis Jeanneau, mechanic at the Riverside Country Club in Saskatoon who gave it to me about ten years ago.

At my son-in-laws’ course in North Carolina, the operators assigned to cut greens also change the hold location before going to the next green. He tells me this process is utilized to help minimize scalping of the freshly changed hole plugs. The green superintendent told him this method increases operating efficiency and because of the additional training and higher skill level of the operators, fewer problems are experienced with changing and location of the holes on the putting greens. If the lack of labour is an issue at your golf course, you might want to consider multi-task mowing. Some courses I know already do this.

Golfers in North America are spoiled,
according to a group of Architects who visited many links-style golf courses in Great Britain. Being spoiled has major ramifications for our game and to future golf course development. This has already happened. As the demand for perfect conditions increased, so did the cost of development of these courses. Unfortunately affordability has decreased thus players have decreased. This tells us we must have simpler golf courses.

Jim Ross have us a real informative talk on Take-All Patch which showed up on golf courses in Western Canada this past summer. Everyone thought it was new to Saskatchewan. When preparing this newsletter I was looking through and old file I had which contained talks, reports and notes from our late friend Dr. Drew Smith. One of the notes caught my eye, on which he mentioned he found Take-All Patch on bentgrass greens in Saskatoon. This was in 2001. Also there were more diseases turning up in Turf, particularly in the Saskatoon area.

Dr. Smith who many think was way ahead of a lot of scientists in his field,
particularly in global warming, offered his prognosis. “It seems likely that as our climate warms up, several turfgrass diseases common in the United States, eastern Canada and British Columbia will gradually move into the Prairies. These include Spring Dead Patch, Summer Patch, and Necrotic Ringspot. Many turf grass diseases are seed borne and may be imported on seed from other countries and regions of North America.

More about Dr. Drew Smith.He once told me he would never be a golf course superintendent.
He said the demands placed on a superintendent are forever changing and many times stand in conflict with each other. A plea for faster greens one day is countermanded the next by golfers who are upset their 3 foot putts rolled way past the hole or off the green. Fairways aren’t cut low enough to get a lot of ball roll, but fairways too low doesn’t give them a good lie to get the ball airborne.

Graham Cooke, who was once Canada’s top amateur golfer, but a top notch Golf Course Architect as well.
He explains as a designer, he has the initial task of creating a golf course that has playability. The course that challenges, but allows for players of varied skills to compete and to derive satisfaction and enjoyment is the goal. To achieve this end, the designer must plan a course with a great deal of flexibility. This holds true for major renovations as well. He goes on to say too many courses are found to fit a limited number of players.

A golfer who walks 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 pre-shot 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 sales commissions and four-colour brochures, but result in longer rounds.

At the end of January, I’m off to North Carolina to visit my daughter and then on to Florida
to visit old friends and take in some warm sunny days. It’s a great place to visit in the winter when it’s cold and snowy at home in Saskatoon. Having said this, there may not be a February newsletter unless I can get one written prior to leaving, and have someone mail it.

With this newsletter you’ll see some job postings. A superintendent at Melville and an assistant at the Mainprize Golf Club in Midale. If you know of anyone that may be interested in these opportunities contact the person available in each advertisement.

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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.