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July 2013

The STA is holding it’s Annual Research Golf Tournament at Deer Park Municipal Golf Course in Yorkton, on Monday August 19th, starting with a shotgun start at 8:30 am. On Sunday, there will be a skins game starting at 3:00 pm.  The players in this event are responsible for their own green fees, carts, and food.

The golf season is in full swing and with it I’m hearing complaints about green speed, sand traps, slow play, and the maintenance of the golf course by staff, player etiquette (divots, ball marks etc.).  The one that upsets me is course maintenance by staff because some golf courses in our province are grossly under-staffed, leaving a lot of superintendents to spend 24/7 at work.  Most of those are under-paid also.

And sand-traps—Many golfers assume bunkers are among the easiest parts of a golf course to maintain, requiring little more than a quick run-through with a raking machine.  That’s why they feel compelled to complain about depth, hardness or softness, or even sand colour.  Bunkers, however, can cause just as much headaches for superintendents as for players.  Weather affects sand in bunkers more than almost all golfers realize.

And while I’m on the subject of sand-traps, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that they had rakes.  In those days they were true hazards and certainly they didn’t have to be consistent throughout the golf course.  We groomed them by hand twice a week.  Now the cost of maintaining bunkers is as much as any other maintenance on the course.

A tip for all superintendents—make sure water coolers on your property are cleaned regularly—at least on a weekly basis.  Clean up the area around the water cooler especially discarded cups, every day.  Also, it is a good idea to check ball washers regularly and change the water.  I say this after visiting a golf course in Alberta just recently.  Their house-keeping practices left a lot to be desired.  And by the way—forgetting isn't an acceptable excuse.

Speaking about Alberta, I picked up my grandson in Calgary to bring him to Saskatoon to spend a month with us.  The trip was great, visiting some golf courses and enjoying the scenery on the way home, that is until we reached Saskatoon, the Canadian capital of bad drivers.  Just in the city, a fellow with a learners license went through a stop sign and I nailed him with my “Venza”.  I hit him with my right front bumper—bent the frame, that shifted everything over to the right.  The other driver in an old car faces numerous charges.  He did $12,000 damage.  My uncle Jake would have been proud with the language I used—for 4 days!

Please take time to think about what precautions can be taken to minimize the risk of West Nile virus for not only yourself, but your staff.  Measures include eliminating areas of standing water; applying insect repellant to your skin and clothes; wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants whenever necessary; consider wearing mosquito netting head gear.  Almost all the good and responsible clubs supply spray repellant to their employees.  They also explain how to apply the “juice” and more importantly on the facility—not over turf so as to avoid damage.

My grandson is not only an avid golfer, but a good one as well.  He is thirteen years old, regularly breaks 80, and when he isn’t playing, he is practising.  Needless to say, he spends most of his day at the golf course—we know where he is and really don’t have to worry about him—golf is a great game.

At a golf course recently they were having problems with poplars growing in the fairway sand trap—the poplar tree was removed 2 years ago and the roots were still trying to produce trees.  The superintendent found the root and pulled it out of the trap, all 25 feet of it.  They found another in the trap, not as long, mind you, but was still causing problems.

At a seminar I attended some  years ago about transplanting trees by bare root, container, or balled and burlapped—it is important to construct the planting hole so that it is wider than the roots.  The planting hole preferably should be 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 on killer of transplanting trees.

My uncle Jake always said this when anyone talked about golf or golf courses: “ Never have so many poorly skilled people spent more money on an activity that makes them swear and hate themselves”.  Uncle Jake was pretty smart, you know.  Mosquitos never bothered him—he said it was the home brew he drank.  He even put it on his corn flakes when he couldn’t find his cows.

In the early days it was common for a greenkeeper to push a wheelbarrow loaded with tools and topsoil over the golf course.  When the crew increased in size, supervision became paramount and it was not uncommon for the greenkeeper to ride a horse across the links.  Next came bicycles on flat courses and motorcycles on hilly terrain.  After World War II, Jeeps were used, followed by utility vehicles and golf cars.

I’ve said this before, but you are going to hear it again.  A golf course in the USA recently honoured their retiring green superintendent.  He spent considerable time paying tribute to his mother, and crediting her for helping with his chosen profession and helping shape his life.  The fellow was married and had grown children.  I must have missed something but what about his wife?  No mention was made about her sacrifices she had to make.  Being married to a golf course superintendent is a tough chore.  I’d say it’s like being married to a drunk.  Superintendents wives are special people and should be credited for helping to create a successful green superintendent.

Earlier in this Newsletter I had some calls by phone and e-mail in regards to slow play.  Most of the tips regarding increased pace of play are common sense and are things faster players do without thinking.  One of the big ones is to hit the ball when ready or play ready golf.  Another one is always be aware of the gap between you and the group ahead.   There shouldn't be more than half a hole open between you.  If you fall behind the low handicapper in the group should announce “we need to pick up the pace”.

If I were to build a nine-hole golf course today, I’d have a modest clubhouse, no frills food service, cold beer, and a generous learning and practice area.  I’d make the length of the holes standard with 4500 to 5000 square foot greens, a minimum of sand and grass bunkers.  I sure wouldn’t want the course to be too difficult because I’d want them back to have another fun-filled golfing experience.

Every so often I run across a new product that gets rid of bugs.  This latest is called Shoo, a revolutionary non-toxic pest barrier.  This product is an amazing, safe green, and revolutionary insect repellant more than safe for humans and animal use.  Designed by two sisters, this amazing product  which comes in the form of a small tag—activated by the body’s natural energy, is a green and healthy solution.

The explosive increase in prostrate and breast cancer in North America is probably due to pesticides, so say the activists, or as I call them, the do-gooders or tree-huggers.  They have jumped on this even though there is no scientific data to support such a theory.  The dramatic increase could be due to major improvements in detection, diagnosis, and classification.

I’ve just read an article by Rolf Penner as it appeared in the Brandon Sun, March 10, 2005.  Banning the use of lawn chemicals that control weeds in the City of Brandon, is an idea that councillors should flatly reject.  Despite the assertions of chemophobes and peddlers of herbicide panic, such bans do nothing to improve public health or the environment.  The scientific evidence overwhelmingly confirms their safety.

In previous newsletters I’ve cautioned superintendents to inspect their trees to ensure none are rotten, especially at the base or have limbs that could fall.  The trees and limbs could cause serious injury if they toppled in high winds.  Well it has happened and in the south eastern United States when a tree, rotten at ground level, fell on a golf cart, killing the driver and seriously injuring the passenger.  Workers had to saw the tree off the cart to get to the victims.  INSPECT THOSE TREES!

Did you know there are 89 sand green golf courses in Saskatchewan?  And that Golf Saskatchewan is celebrating it’s 100th birthday in September?  I remember visiting a sand green course and took a little tour, stopping at the clubhouse (an old school) and read an interesting sign “If you are the last one in here, please lock the door on they way out.  If you are a member, take the money”.

We had a great Summer Field Day at the Willows in mid June.  The weather was better than the two previous years and most enjoyed a game of golf.  About 75 people attended and all were impressed with the effort of the exhibitors.  A special thanks to Kevin Bloski and Wayne Sundstrom for organizing the event.

If you are attending the STA Research Tournament and plan on staying overnight, we have reserved 20 rooms with 2 queen beds at Home Inn and Suites in Yorkton.  Reservations are required to be made by August 5, 2013.  Phone your reservations to 306-782-7829 or online at www.homeinnyorkton.ca.  The hotel representative is Jessie Tiefenbach.

Before teeing off Monday morning, you can purchase a traditional breakfast at Deer Park Golf Course.  Remember tee off time is at 8:30 am.  You are responsible for registering for the skins game on Sunday starting at 3:00 pm.  Register by calling the Pro Shop at 306-786-1711.

While writing this newsletter, I received an email from a Director of an STA member golf club, asking if I’d run an article in the publication about increasing pace of play.  He said slow play was a serious problem at their club and read of simple ways to improve the problem in our Newsletter.  Actually it’s appeared twice.  Actually I’m happy the manuscript is read by golfers other than the superintendent, who he said shares it with members.

I know some people were affected by flood waters in late June.  I hope that’s all behind you and the rest of your summer is trouble free.  I just returned from Calgary where a number of high ranking golf clubs were flooded out and when the water receded, it left a mess, making the clean-up a major issue.

Kananaskis outside of Calgary was severely damaged and will not open this year.  What’s worse, it may never re-open.  This proves flood waters are not only dangerous, but devastating as well.  With that I’m gone for this month, and hope to see everyone at the Research Tournament.

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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.