July 2012

  • July 7, 2012
  • Written by Don Campbell

We sure aren’t having a lot of luck with whats supposed to be our Annual Summer Field Day at the Willows here in Saskatoon. Like last year, we were rained and blown out by a vicious storm that came through our province. It wasn’t a nice day, that’s for sure. I felt particularly sorry for the people who came long distances to be here. From Yorkton, Nipawin, Swift Current, Regina, they arrived looking to try out new equipment, view new products on the market, and have a friendly game of golf.

Although we couldn’t do anything outdoors, the Willows provided us with a room where everyone enjoyed coffee, some had a late breakfast, and above all, exchanged ideas about maintaining their golf courses. Especially interesting was how those in attendance migled with the commercial people, mostly about equipment problems. For some Superintendents it was their first day off since start-up in the spring. For a small group of people many ideas were exchanged, some of which will be included in future newsletters.

Our next event will be the Research Tournament Monday, August 20th at the Valley Regional Park Golf Course in Rosthern. Kent Plumer has his course in excellent condition and everyone will enjoy the day because I will guarantee the weather. Rosthern is 40 minutes from Saskatoon, so bring your wife so she can shop while you help us realize our commitment to Turfgrass Research by playing golf. Bring a team from your club for added fun. Fax me your entry as soon as possible so I can let them know how many for the banquet, etc. By the way, if you have a camper or trailer there is an RV park at the golf course.

Here is one to tell your children as told by Bill Gates: “Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.”

Dr. Robert Carron, a turfgrass research scientist at the University of Georgia,
offered these comments regarding the importance of sound agronomic programs: The foundation of all excellent golf facilities is solid, basic turf management. This starts with priority attention given to the basics – good fertilization, irrigation, mowing, pest control, and cultivation programs. The extra 5% to 10% enhancement in quality from the incorporation of new products or technologies cannot compensate for the missing 90% of good basics.

This one is sometimes forgotten –
a good Greens Chairman represents the golf course superintendent and the golf course requirements to the membership, the Board of Directors and Executive Committee. The Chairman carries feedback to the golf superintendent and the maintenance team. The Greens Chairman’s role is a delicate balance between representing the members and representing the needs of the course superintendent.

In 1744, the first record of payment to a greenskeeper by the Royal Burgess Golfing Society amounted to 6 shillings per quarter and a change of clothes, mainly to cut new holes. At some golf courses that remuneration hasn’t changed much. In 1828 Edward Budding invented a machine for cutting nap off wool carpets that becomes a lawn mower and is patented in 1830.

USGA agronomists who consult at more than 16,000 golf courses each year say golfers complain the most about sand bunkers.
Many golfers assume bunkers are among the easiest parts of a course to maintain, requiring little more than a quick run through with a raking machine. That is why they feel compelled to complain about sand depth, hardness or softness. Yet bunkers cause as much or as many headaches for superintendents as for players.

Mosquitoes are here again and attacking people wherever they are.
They particularly like golfers and employers at parks and golf courses. When spraying themselves, people should be remided to do so on a cart path or another non-turf area so as to avoid turf damage. Signs should be displayed at the 1st tee or a strategic area indicating how insect repellent damages the turf and suggest the areas where they should spray.

A long time superintendent and a good friend says that having long grass around trees,
signs and on banks and slopes is an advertisement for incompetence. Regular trimming is probably the most appealing, but could be expensive, labour-wise. You could also try the occasional application of growth retardents. Try this during the summer months.

Now is the time of year to walk around your park or golf course to inspect what trees are potential dangers to your golfers or the public. Falling branches are a real risk and most likely will fall at this time of year. Doing this will express your concern and may get the public involved as well. I say this because this very thing happened in my next door neighbors yeard taking down the telephone line. It happened at night luckily.

Here is a tip from Dr. John Ball about transplanting trees by bare root, container or balled and burlapped
– it is important to construct the planting hole preferrably 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. Planting trees too deep is the number one killer of transplanting trees.

When tending to two-cycle engines, always use the recommended spark plug with the correct heat range for that particular unit.
Refer to the operator’s manual for each model to verify the correct spark plug. Spark plugs considered “hotter” may take a unit past its heat limits and cause major engine damage.

Here is a tip when preparing for a tournament or an important event at your golf course.
If possible, put your last application of topdressing on seven to ten days before your event. This will allow time for the sand to work into the putting surface so the greens are rolling as smooth as possible.

Came across this article in an old CGSA Greensmaster concerning gophers: When I was much, much younger at Riverside in Saskatoon, one of my tasks was to get rid of the gophers that plagued the golf course. This was right after a Board Meeting so I was enthused about the job. I had what I considered a good day when I trapped 22, snared 3, drowned about a dozen and shot about 6. Two days later I caught hell for not getting rid of the gophers. While I was knocking them off, others were reproducing.

Sharp blades on rotary mowers equal sharp looking turf. It takes a bit of know-how and common sense. If you have a good bench grinder you can do a professional job. After removing the blade or blades it’s time for sharpening. The primary goal is to consistently maintain the correct angle on the blade. Manufacturers perform hours of testing to determine the angle that will give the user the best cut with the longest span between sharpening. It’s important to keep the angle as it was intended. Around 40 degrees is typical, but this can vary, so check with the blade manufacturer to obtain the exact figure. It could be in your owners manual as well.

I always kept notes in journals regarding course conditions, employee performances, maintenance practices and the list goes on and on. One such entry caught my eye, one that I didn’t follow very well. Turf managers arrive at work before most people crawl out of bed. This means in order for Superintendents to shine at work they must get a good night’s sleep. Here are a couple of tips:

  • Avoid smoking anything close to bed time
  • Don’t drink coffee or tea within 6 hours of bedtime
  • Avoid eating big greasy and spicy meals before bedtime (It may be a good idea not to eat them at all, but especially prior to bedtime)
  • No booze within 3 hours of hitting the sack. A couple of beer may help you fall asleep, but it will cause a poor quality of sleep. This has been medically proven.
  • Don’t nap in the late afternoon or evening. Try and do it after lunch and limit it to about 30 minutes. It may be a good idea to find a place wehre you can’t be found.

I’ve heard that morning sunlight is better for turf than midday or afternoon sunlight. The general consensus is that morning sunlight is not better than light at other times of 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 the sunlight into usable forms. Also, turfgrass requires at least eight hours of sunlight per day to sustain growth and recuperate from moderate wear.

Most golf courses in our province are in good playing condition. There are, however, some that are having their problems due to winter injury. They are improving but with the wet, cool weather, superintendents are having a tough go. This has to aggravate Turf managers.

Here is one you may want to know, it is recommended that generally the green flag be located at least five paces from the edge of the green. If a bunker is close to the edge or if the ground slopes away from the edge the distance should be greater, especially if the shot is more than a pitch.

Do you have a member or golfer that complains about everything? Whiner, I used to call them. I had great success with this comeback “How would you like to see this resolved?” or after listening to them until they were talked out “What would you do?” Most of the time this nailed them good by putting them in a position of responsibility for solving their problem. This kind of shut them up for a month or two. Whatever you do, don’t smack them. That would get you in big time trouble.

Ball marks, those indentations caused by when a ball lands sharply on a soft green, have been ruining good putts since the days of Old Tom Morris. Unrepaired ball marks take two to three weeks to properly heal, leaving behind unsightly, uneven putting surfaces. On the other hand, a repaired ball mark only takes ½ that time to heal. Beginner, pro or low handicapper, it is the responsibility of the golfer to repair their own ball marks. If the golfer is really a steward of the game, he will repair any others he sees while his partners are putting. There really isn’t much to it if the golfer does it right.

Bayer Environmental Science says Superintendents could make a difference in their community
by giving examples in which our population beenfits from the use of pesticides in everyday life without even thinking about it. Examples include fungicides in our wall paints (in many cases the same ones used on our golf courses) to protects against mildew and moulds; insecticides in our flea and tick collars to protect our pets from aggravating insects; the use of insecticides to maintain health standards in our restaurants, homes and work spaces; chlorine in our pools; and finally the use of insecticides to protect our populations from diseases such as the West Nile virus.

People have asked if “left handed people have the advantage in sports”.
Lefties are wired differently, wide spread speculation is that they inherently excel in sports. Statistics seem to show that the number of left-handers in sport closely reflects the 9 to 10 percent found in the general population, but in some sports – especially those that require quick reflexes, such as boxing, fencing and tennis – there regularly are a much higher percentage of lefties found among the top ranks.

The condition of some golf courses this spring has caused a lot of worry among green superintendents.
Worry causes problems instead of solutions. It leads to procratination instead of action. After my first heart attack some 25 years ago my doctor gave me some solid advice which was “Instead of worrying about everything, be concernced.” By being concerned you will go into corrective action much quicker and more effectively.

In recent years we’ve seen an overpopulation of ticks – they are not insects, they are parasites and members of the Arachnida class, which includes spiders, scorpions, and mites. There are “deer ticks” the cause Lyme disease and the much larger dog and cattle ticks that we see here. Embedded ticks should be removed using fine tweezers with a fine tip, not by a hot match, nail polish or petroleum jelly. Another effective way to remove them is with a soapy swab – put it on the tick and they’ll want to get out of there as fast as possible.

I have a feeling we are going to have many squadrons of mosquitoes this summer.
I say this because of the many sloughs and standing water, especially in the bush. With this, everyone should be aware of West Nile virus. Don’t take chances, cover up and use insect spray. There are many good products on the market. Spraying yourself in a non-turf area could save you from a very serious illness. Another precaution you can consider is to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. I like the spray.

At a well-known Private Golf Club in the United States,
a questionnaire was emailed to it’s members wanting to know what their expectations were on the conditions of their greens. They received a tremendous response, with number one being smooth greens with adequate pace. Those that said the club should have ultra-fast greens were single digit players – all 22 of them.

I recently read this in one of my old day-timers.
The date was 1979, but still holds true today. It says 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 and (3) hurt others badly in the process.

Scottish golf has a deep respect for those who care for the grass,
whether it’s on the great courses that host “Opens” or layouts whose biggest event may be the Club Championship. The Scots see golf superintendents as craftsmen. In our province golfers view green superintendents as little more than guys that mow grass.

And this one to end it: Superintendents and their greenskeepers
– I can recall the memory of thousands of sunrises and far too many sunsets. In the twilight of dawn I leave my tracks in the silvery beads of morning dew along with my dog and the deer. I play hide and seek with the owls and hawks. I listen to the robins and meadow larks singing. I watch them in fascination. This is nature at it’s best.

Remember, fax me your Research Tournament entry as soon as possible. I want this event to be a good one.

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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.