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January 2015

I hope everyone had a great Christmas with lots of presents and especially good cheer.  All the best to everyone for a successful 2015 and this summer be a happy one with great conditions and above all, lots of golfers.

As for me, I didn’t have a happy festive season.  I caught the flu December 19th even though I had a flu shot in early November.  I was sick, believe me and still haven’t recovered.  I missed the Christmas festivities, my birthday, New Year’s Eve and my wife’s birthday.  It certainly hasn’t been a fun time.

One thing about being sick, I was able to read a number of golf magazines and books related to Turf Maintenance.  I read a great article on a common topic and that is regular staff meetings.  If you insist on having one, say, once a month, it was suggested a couple of things that could make significant improvements to your meeting.  Firstly, set an agenda that can be handled in an allotted time.  Secondly, eliminate any discussion that doesn’t include everyone at the meeting.

We always hear a lot of negative comments about the impact of golf courses on the environment.  If those people would only look at the active role superintendents play in conserving water through efficient irrigation, recycling green waste and grass clippings, and increasing course areas devoted to native vegetation and wildlife habitat.

The public does not have a very good grasp of the relationship between the dose of a toxic substance and its risks to human beings.  Their information comes from those who revel in using scare tactics instead of science to warn the public about the dangers in the food supply.  These scare tactics lead us down the wrong path. We end up creating concern where it isn’t necessary and ignoring concerns that are real.

And here is an interesting fact I just read.  Agriculture is the biggest user of water and golf course irrigation is one of the smallest but still gets hammered in the media, even though Turf Managers manage and recycle water much better than John Q. Public.  In Florida for example, the public sector uses 30% of the water available – golf courses use a little over 3%.

We are looking for a venue to host the 2015 STA Research Tournament.  Last year it was held at Ken Lintott’s Evergreen Golf Course in Nipawin.  This year we want it to be in the south.  This tournament is essential so we can reach our mandate to help fund turfgrass research in our province.  If your club is interested please contact me by either e-mail or phone.

People who worry about pesticides fail to realize or even want to believe that cancer rates have actually dropped over the past 50 years.  Stomach cancer and rectal cancer has dropped significantly in this period.  Also there are 2 billion more song birds now than there were in the late 16th century.

Golf course maintenance is a pressure-packed profession.  Soon the profession will be on the top 10 list for “the most stressful jobs in North America”.  The pressure and stress is directly related to golfers increased expectation for courses to be wall-to-wall manicure without any brown patches.  It seems to happen after golfers watch Tour events on TV where everything looks like the golf course was manicured with scissors and a barbers comb.

Has anyone ever figured out that golf balls can have a heavy side along with a light side?  They say even the most expensive balls aren’t perfect.  When golfers read this they’ll have another excuse why they miss those 5 and 6 footers.  This will easily go along with the multitude of other excuses.

The Canadian goose is in the news again.  Everyone knows they produce about half a pound of fecal matter per day, which is a lot of bubble gum.  These droppings include parasites that cause gastrointestinal illness.  These infections can be fatal particularly among the elderly.  People working on golf courses in particular should wash their hands regularly because the illness is spread hand to mouth.  Another way is to shoot the geese.

I recently read an article written by Geoff Shackeford for Golfdom titled “Fairway contours provide quick fix by avoiding straight lines”.  This doesn’t mean you need to make your fairway lines look like they came off a landscape architects drawing board.  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 with rough because few hazards are more appealing than a tightly mown mound.

More on fairway contours – If your Board or the powers that be nix an upgrading to your course, do not forget the most important playability aspect of any golf course – fairway contours.  They are the cheapest and the easiest way for a quick fix, and key to the long-term appreciation of any layout.

Few people worry about health threats posed by insects.  That’s because pest populations are held in check by pest management programs, which include responsible use of specialty pesticides.  A pest-free living environment protects the food supply.  Without pest control rodents and insects would dine on much of the food meant for human consumption.

The word “tee” originally meant the striking off place – not the pinch of sand or the wooden peg.  It came from the Gaelic word “tige” – a house.  Curlers use the same word.

The superintendents’ credibility will increase considerably if he has a working knowledge of the Rule of Golf while playing with members.  When these members know the course is being maintained with the Rules in mind, their impression of the superintendent’s professionalism will be elevated.

Equally important to the above, playing regularly allows dialogue and communication about course conditions to occur on the golfers’ level.  This was taken from the USGA Green Section Record written by Bob Frome.

Turf and Recreation says growing natural turf at Rogers Centre will pose some problems.  I guess this will be a major challenge.  The Blue Jays say the centre with natural turf will be ready for opening day 2018.

Had a nice email from golf course architect John Robinson.  He is the brother of Bill Robinson, also an architect who did a lot of work on golf courses in Western Canada during the 1970’s and 80’s.  His work did a lot to improve golf courses here in Saskatchewan in particular.

Recently I read that golf is a game board.  The game was formed around three points – the strategic, heroic, and penal aspects.  The big problem is 95% of golfers don’t know they exist.

For a number of years now, green superintendents have really cut back on machine-raking bunkers.  Instead they are going back to hand raking.  I suppose this has provided more consistent playing conditions from bunker to bunker.

A tip that has been around for a long time:  maintain an inventory of all your equipment.  It is important you record the make, model and above all the serial numbers.  Also, it is a good idea the year it was purchased, whether new or used and the cost.  You should also keep a record of repair costs and, most important, an estimated replacement cost.

Even in the winter, we hear complaints about inconsistent playing conditions.  Nothing is wrong with trying to provide consistent playing conditions, however the golfer, the turf manager, and even agronomists must be reminded from time to time that it is dynamic and always will be.  This is what makes golf great.  It provides a test of golfers’ skill and his ability to adjust to the varying conditions on a golf course.

Remember this one, post it on your course bulletin board in the spring:  Good players have low handicaps, usually hit the ball a ton, and occasionally post low scores.  On the other hand, good golfers fill divots, repair ball marks and practice good golf etiquette each and every time they are on the golf course.

January is usually the coldest month of the year.  Not this year.  It has been one of our better winter months temperature-wise.  In the Saskatoon area what little snow we’ve had is rapidly melting.  One thing that is a little aggravating is the freezing rain we’ve had on a couple of occasions making it dangerous to drive and more dangerous to walk.  Remember how we worried about ice on greens in November?  With these warm temperatures is that still a concern?

In spite of all the changes made to modernize golf courses in the last couple of hundred years, there are still golf courses that haven’t made the great leap forward.  You can find sheep grazing on golf courses in the hinterland of New Zealand.  Where my family comes from off the coast of Scotland sheep maintain fairways, greens are aerated by hand with a special fork and compost applied.  The golf course isn’t very labour intensive.  They cut the small nine greens by a motorized greens mower probably the extents of equipment used for maintaining.

Golf’s a hard game to figure.  One day you’ll go out and slice it and shank it, hit into all the traps and miss every green.  The next day you go out and for no reason at all you really stink.  I got that from Doug Campbell.

I ran across this in a note book my mother kept.  I’ll change it a little by saying if you can read this newsletter and particularly Turf Tips, you just received a double blessing in that someone was thinking of you, and furthermore you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.

It has been said that not being able to keep your mouth shut is nothing but a bad habit.  Not only do you say things you shouldn’t, you also:

  1.      Wreck your reputation
  2.      Are labelled as untrustworthy
  3.      Hurt others badly in the process

At Doug Campbell’s golf course, Riverside Country Club, they expect the highest standards from their staff.  Each person has a job to do, the main one being to ensure that members and their guests go away feeling that the golf experience was the best they have ever had.

In the 1973 Open Championship at Troon in Scotland, two holes-in-one were recorded, both at the “Postage Stamp” hole, the 8th hole in the first round.  They were achieved by Gene Sarazen and amateur David Russell who were by coincidence respectively the oldest and youngest competitors.

Join your colleagues at the 2015 Canadian International Turfgrass Conference and Tradeshow in Calgary, February 2-6, 2015.  Register Now.

STA Director and CGSA Vice President Kyle Kellgren (Jackfish Lodge) will probably be the next President of the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association for 2015 – 16.


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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.