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March 2011

It’s been a long winter and I’m sure everyone is looking forward to spring. One thing is sure however, we will have lots of water around. Some golf courses will have too much, which will delay this spring.

Although I did get away immediately following our Annual Meeting, my plans to get away after Christmas were shelved because my wife ended up in hospital for an operation. Although it was major, she is now on the mend and feeling pretty good. She will have to take it easy until the end of March.

A number of golf courses have called in desperate need of green superintendents. They will have a tough time finding one. One thing is certain, golf clubs must look after the person they have. They can start by making sure the superintendent has a liveable wage. Too many people are moving on for more money at a lesser job.

S.T.A membership invoices will be mailed out in April. Please present the invoice to your club or business for prompt payment. My goal is to reach 200 members again. Last year, we had a shortfall of about 15 members.

Kevin Bloski is busy preparing for a Summer Field Day at the Willows Country Club Practise Facility. The day will, in all likelihood, enable our commercial friends to show off their equipment. There will also be an educational component and golf to round out the day. The date is Tuesday, June 21st.

I read this one this winter. “Everyone is aware of the problems facing the modern greens superintendent. Constantly increasing job requirements, dwindling personal time and greens with the personalities of drug addicts all conspire to keep superintendents from investing time in acquiring golfing skills. Yet, in today’s competitive market, sharpened golf skills strengthen the resume, allow a candidate to stand out in the interview process and increase career longevity.

The recent push toward organic management of golf courses has led to a lot of consternation on the part of superintendents trying to find alternative to fertilizers and pesticides. There is also a movement toward using natural amendments as a source of fertilizer and as a booster for soil microorganisms that can combat nemeses like dollar spot and summer patch. You must consider whether a fertilizer or amendment has a detrimental effect on soil pH or other qualities, how fast it will release and how much to put down in order to satisfy requirements of the grass you are trying to feed. Consider also how much it will stink!

This has always bothered me and, as I get older, it gets worse. There seems to me 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 activists why superintendent practices are safe.

Greg Norman said this in talking about the golf courses he has played on recently. “Grasses are better, the machines they’re cutting with are better and superintendents are better. Conditions on every golf course I’ve played on is phenomenal.”

Treat collars like greens, says Matt Nelson, an agronomist in the U.S.G.A. green section. To as great an extent as possible, maintain collars with the same program you use on putting greens. When greens are aerated, aerate the collars. Do the same with topdressing, verticutting, pest control, wetting agents use and fertilization. Adopting this philosophy usually will thwart many turf problems common to collars, including the development of puffy turf, disease activity, reduced density and otherwise poor playing conditions.

Many years ago, I attended a seminar titled “Leading People The Old-Fashioned Way”. Leadership is the ability to inspire people toward a goal, is something you earn by your actions. Leadership is the art of influencing and directing people in such a way as to obtain their commitment, confidence, respect and loyal co-operation to accomplish the mission. Leadership requires a serious, personal commitment and it really doesn’t make any difference what your business is or where you conduct it.

What is good golf course maintenance worth? You will consistently find that better playing conditions increased desire to play plus higher green fee revenues. Courses that spend more on maintenance are those that command higher green fees.

The 2011 S.T.A. Research Tournament will be held at Richard Bergs Elmwood Golf Club. This event will take place August 22nd, 2011. The skins game will be held at Chinook Golf Club in Swift Current, August 21st, 2011.

Ideally, a greens chairman should serve three to five years. Yearly terms can create problems as well. A real asset would be to have the next chairman serve at least one year on the committee under the leadership of the existing chairman. This overlap can improve the transition.

Years ago, there was a man named Edward Stimpson
who loved golf and craved to create more fairness in the game. To further his passion, he invented a device intended to ensure all the greens on a course had relatively equal speed. The idea was given to give superintendents a way to compare the speed of the 3rd green with the 14th and take steps to equalize them. This was no doubt a sound and noble idea. What happened – a bad thing happened to a good idea. Mr. Stimpson strived for fairness, not fastness.

Climate change or global warming. Earth has a long history of climate changes.
The last Ice Age ended about 10,000 years ago. Then there followed a warm period which peaked between 5000 and 1000 years ago. There was a warm period during the Middle Ages. The little Ice Age was at its coldest between 550 and 150 years ago. We are at the tail end of this cold period. The reasons for this are changes in the sun’s energy output and changes in the earth’s orbit around the sun.

Chris Marchiore, the assistant superintendent at The Wascana, who you’ll remember wrote the article “Life Without Quintozene” for a recent S.T.A. newsletter and for our website. Chris emailed me another article outlining his presentation to the Regina Horticultural Society. His presentation appears in this newsletter. It’s a good read and a big thank you to Chris.

Your Board of Directors met in Saskatoon on January 25th. A number of important issues were discussed and eventually agreed upon. Among them were our contributions to turfgrass research. The Board agreed we contribute to the C.T.R.F. ($2680) and the P.T.R.C. ($4000). Both of these amounts were passed by motions and helped fulfill the S.T.A.’s mission to encourage and promote research.

I attended a meeting in Toronto representing the S.T.A
to discuss a strategic plan for the future of the Canadian Turfgrass Research Foundation. The objectives of the meeting were:

  1. To review the current situation and identify key challenges
  2. To discuss organizational options
  3. To agree on a preferred model for the functions provided by the C.T.R.F.
  4. A frame work for moving forward

Doug Campbell will represent the S.T.A. on the C.T.R.F. Board of Directors.
Slow play is a chronic problem in golf and it is one area which professionals are not necessarily better than the amateurs who so dearly want to imitate them. In fact, you could argue that, on the P.G.A. Tour, the situation is worse. Really, a threesome of pro golfers shooting 70 should not take longer than a foursome of weekend hackers shooting 100 or worse, but it happens not occasionally, but all the time.

They say 3 million people a year in the United States take up the game of golf.
The most common reason for this is the camaraderie followed by a way to enjoy the environment. The big problem is 5 million walk away from the game each year. The difficulty in learning the sport is one of the primary reasons people get disenchanted with golf. The study also shows if players stay in the game for 5 years, they will play for a lifetime.

Graham Cooke, a great amateur player and a top notch golf course architect as well,
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 with 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. Too many courses are found to fit a limited number of players.

I came across this tidbit regarding the slow play agreement.
Walking doesn’t slow play as much as architecture and learned behaviors 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 preshot routines consume more time than we admit. Multiple real estate bunkers, long distances from green to tee and a long rough bordering narrow fairways make for great four-colour brochures but result in longer rounds. I have no idea where this came from but found it cleaning my suitcase.

Take time this summer to walk your golf course. Remember superintendents can’t assess the golf course from your truck. Greens look pretty good from 70 feet away while driving 20 m.p.h. Walk the course and your attention to detail will improve greatly. Areas far from the path literally scream for attention when you stroll by. What about riding a golf cart – park it beside the truck.

It’s time guys – I’m out of here – I hope everyone enjoys this newsletter and you’ll hear from me next month.

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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.