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June 2014

My sources tell me most golf courses in our Province are in pretty good condition.  There are however, some trouble  spots in the north and in the south.  It was a severe winter and spring was slow to come, so some of the turf suffered.  Northern damage was due, for the most part, to an inadequate fungicide program.

I’ve had 2 calls from golf courses wanting to bring their greens back to their original shape.  Over the years they have crept in as much as four feet.  When I got the calls in early May I recommended they can cut the fringe back to its shape using a greens mower of course.  It will look dead at first, but the turf will recover and be part of the green.  Don’t try this now or later because you’ll have dead rings around each green.

STA 2014 membership fee invoices have been in your hands for five weeks.  If you were one of the 62% who have submitted payment, I thank you.  I remind those I haven’t heard from to submit payment as soon as possible.  Remember, it’s to your advantage to belong to the STA.

I’ve always said that golf tournaments are not only good for golf, but are good for golf courses.  Tournaments always seem to bring course maintenance to a higher level.  Members or players see this and want the same conditions to play on.  The trick is to sell them on the idea that stepped up maintenance costs more.  But remember this more people want to play a well maintained golf course, making the extra cost a moot point.

Death, taxes, and turf loss.  One can’t control the first two, but you can the third.  A superintendent with over 20 years experience once said “It’s not if you’ll ever lose turf, but when”.  He followed with a quote “You know the good superintendents are the ones who recover quickly and never miss a beat”.

Greens Superintendents often say the most irksome problems on the golf course are not replacing divots.  In 1920, a New York Commissioner charged a group of golfers by appointing them to the honorable position of divot officers.  They were to warn other players about replacing upturned turf.

Firing people and getting fired are difficult on a person.  Sometimes people who lack intestinal fortitude will email the person telling them they are done, or worse yet, get their secretary to do the dirty work.  Another is “we are going to advertise the green superintendent position to see what’s out there”.  A gutless way to fire a guy.  Another is we are going in a different direction—enough!

Just read there were only 12 men that have walked on the moon.  All were Americans, although my Uncle Jake thinks he was one.  After old Jake drinks a bad batch of his sipping whiskey, he thinks he has done a lot of things.  Another was walking on water.

This call came in recently.  A club wants to know the best way to put a circle around a hole for a competition they were having.  Try cornstarch!  It is very cheap and washes off overnight with the irrigation system.  Use a rope tied to the flag stick, a funnel with a 1/2 inch hole and a metal rod to tap the side of the funnel to get the cornstarch to fall out.  It works well, is highly visible and a player can putt through it without disruption to ball roll.

Preventative maintenance is an important part of successful golf course maintenance.  One important practice, despised by golfers when applied to putting greens is called aerification.  It’s perceived to be an exercise that takes greens out of play for a day.  The holes it leaves can affect putting for many days before healing.  To add insult to injury, aerification is best done in mid-summer when greens are in prime condition.

Preventative maintenance isn’t restricted to only golf courses.  We humans do countless things in our lives that can be called preventative maintenance.  How about those golfers who complain about aerating, yet they exercise regularly to eliminate future health problems or regularly change the oil in their car.

In 1894, the United States Golf Association was formed, including St. Andrews, Brookline, Newport Chicago and Shinecock Hills.  By summer of 1900, just six years later, the United States had 982 courses.  66 were 6-holers, 825 had 9 holes, and 91 were 18 hole lengths.

About fifteen years ago, a friend told me about a golf course in Port Colburn Ontario called Whiskey Run G.C., a nine-hole layout that started “Golf and Dine” for less than $25 of Friday and Saturday after 4:00 p.m.  This is a special for couples that includes nine holes of golf for each person and dinner.  This makes sense because most golf courses turn into ghost towns Friday and Saturday or even Sunday after 4:00 p.m.

Do you know you’d have to drink 96 cups of coffee to deliver a lethal dose of caffeine and with turkey 3.8 tons to deliver a toxic dose of malonaldhyde.  The threats from pesticides are almost nonexistent in our feed supply.

Ran into Jim Cote the other day.  For an old “geezer” he looks pretty good.  He was in town to try and convince his surgeon to delay operating on his shoulders until the fall.  Both have been operated on before, but he is again having problems.  With all the problems he’s had I would have to say he is one tough customer.

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.

A golfer once told me he could tell when he got to the golf club in the morning whether I had the interests of him and his fellow members in mind.  “If the putting green has been cut, it shows that I cared about the golfers”.  I guess he was right and I would recommend that the putting green be among the first greens cut in the morning, certainly before golfers start arriving at the golf shop.

There are basically two types of greens mowers, riders and walkers.  Both have their place and are widely used on golf greens and bowling greens all over the world.  The first reel type mower was patented in England in 1830.  Many changes and of course improvements have been made since then, but the basic principle of having a cutting cylinder with blades shearing off the grass above the bed knife remains the same.

Work on the green includes topdressing, aerating, fertilizing, spraying and watering, and are all essential for green maintenance.  However all the above is wasted unless the green is cut to perfection.  The green can be healthy, be dark green in colour, have a long root system, and be absent from diseases, if the green isn’t cut to perfection, golfers will complain about poor greens.  Your work is therefore wasted.  I suppose a well-cut green is icing on the cake and the satisfying end of all the hard work that has been done previously.

Another tip on cutting greens—Always empty your baskets before they become too full.  Baskets full of wet grass affects the quality of cut more than you think.  By the way, the clippings collected should be composted instead of being spread in the rough or thrown in the bush.

Recently I visited a golf course where they enlarged a tee.  This can be tricky business because it’s almost impossible to match the old and new tee perfectly.  The new tee will settle somewhat and where they join will become clearly visible.  It would be much better to regrade the complete surface and turf it with a good quality grass.

Mistakes I made when I was a greenkeeper was planting shrubs too close the the teeing area, thus reducing the amount of usable space.  Another was stairs leading to the teeing deck.  This restricted traffic and caused ugly wear patterns at the top of the stairs.  It would have been better to have gentle slopes around the tees making stairs unnecessary.

I just learned our Annual Research Tournament  will be in Nipawin at the Evergreen Golf Club.  The skins game will be at Rolling Pines Golf Club in the evening prior.  The dates are Tuesday, August 19 for the skins and Wednesday, August 20 for the Research Tournament.  Entry fee will remain the same at $100 per person which includes green fee, cart, prizes and supper.  Important:  The tournament is limited to 100 entries.  There are some rooms on hold at the Northern Greens Resort.  Rates will be posted later.

Here is one you may want to know.  It is recommended the green cup be located at least five paces from any edge of the green.  If a trap is close to the edge or if the green slopes away from the edge, this distance should be greater, especially if the shot is more than a pitch.  You have no idea how many times I’m asked about this each year.

Do you have a member who complains about everything?  Whiners, 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.  You’ll be in great trouble—more so if he’s bigger than you.

The Saskatchewan Turfgrass Association Summer Field Day will be at the Willows Golf and Country Club on Tuesday, June 24, 2014.  $60.00 will cover lunch and golf.  The registration will be 8:00 am to 9:00 am, Driving Range Trade Show 8:30 am to 11:00 am, lunch 11:30 am to noon and golf—a shotgun start—at 12:30 pm.  Bring your Board Members to look at the latest equipment, and network with suppliers and your peers.

That’s it folks– hope to see you June 24th at the Willows.  You can pay with your credit card.  Email me that you are coming.  It will be a great day off.


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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.