March 2015

  • March 13, 2015
  • Written by Don Campbell

As I write this (early March) the weather has changed for the better.  In Saskatoon the snow is leaving us rather quickly, leaving lots of water on the streets and in some cases, back yards.  I just heard that we get 25% of our total snow fall in March.

Recently I read an article by Scott Nesbill on the importance of keeping rotary blades sharp.  This is important for the health of the turf, the longevity of the machine and for good looking turf grooming.  Mowing slices right through the vital capillary and tissue network of a grass blade.  A clean cut from a sharp blade heals over quickly, with minimal shock to the plant.  A ragged, ripping cut by a dull blade does serious damage.  The wound heals much more slowly, so moisture leaks out.  Also a ragged edge makes it easier for microorganisms to enter the plant, killing it.

My Uncle Jake loves spring weather.  He doesn’t have to chop as much wood, the seat on the outhouse isn’t as cold, and with the melt, bottles of his beloved home brew are poking through the snow – The real clear stuff that burns on the way down.  The big anticipation however is July 1st, when he takes off his long underwear.

At my daughters’ favourite golf course in North Carolina, it becomes a ghost town after 4 pm most days of the week, Sunday and Monday excluded.  The owner decided to try a new idea for this down time.  He came up with “Golf and Dine” for $21.99.  This was a reduced 9-hole green fee and supper that was attractive and plate served.  This idea was implemented for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  After a slow start, a stepped up advertising program was put in place and now attracts on average 100 people per day.  Most, if not all, are hacks and most don’t keep score.  They have great fun.

I read an article written in1999 about the advantages of walking over golf cars.  The main benefit, of course, is the exercise, which improves overall health.  The time it takes to walk from shot to shot is important.  It’s time to prepare yourself for the next shot, plan strategy for the next shot, time to talk to your playing partners.  Also, walking allows you to take in your surroundings.  And finally, you can play a game set in a beautiful landscape.

According to an article written by Patrick Gross, there is no room in a golfer’s vocabulary for the word “BROWN”.  Grass must be green, even if it means over-watering and plugged lies in fairways.  There is nothing wrong with a little tinge of brown.  It’s a good sign that the course is not overwatered.

It is very important to note that fertilizers and pesticides are not used primarily for aesthetic reasons.  They are a tool used to help ensure a healthy playing surface for the game of golf.  They help protect a valuable and ecologically important piece of land.  Green superintendents are considered nation-wide to be among the best-educated and most judicious users of pesticide products.  Also, the vast majority of superintendents are using integrated pest management practices.  These practices make sure the turf and environment stay healthy.

Some mechanical advice from a retired golf course tech – before sending a machine out this spring, change the engine oil and filter to prevent the engine bearings from getting pitted from the acid present in the dirty oil.  Run the engine after the oil change to allow clean oil to reach bearing surfaces.

Bradley Klien writes that golfers see all of the little details and blemishes at their own golf courses, whereas on the road they enjoy the long views and skip over whatever flaws might be there.  Now if only golfers could enjoy their home course as much as they enjoy being elsewhere, some balance and rationality might rule course maintenance.

Another equipment tip – a spark plug that needs to be replaced will have a rounded centre and side electodes.  The insulation on a plug that is light grayish brown indicated that the spark plug had the correct heat range for the engine.

We had a mild two weeks in January.  It was so nice I think mosquitoes came out of hibernation to have their favourite snack, our blood.  Hopefully we’ll get colder weather and the little suckers will freeze.

This summer when using pesticides, always be prepared for an accidental spill.  Have sawdust, kitty litter and paper towels ready, also some plastic garbage bags.  Make sure you’re wearing non-absorbent gloves.  Whatever, avoid using excessive amounts of water, as this may spread the pesticide and could be harmful to the surrounding environment.

In 2013, 14 new golf courses opened for play in the USA, while (get this) a whopping 157 closed their doors.  Most of these were public courses.  That said, golf in the US is losing more players than it is gaining.  4.1 millionpeople left the sport in 2013 – why? – Steve Mona, the chief executive of the World Golf Foundation says the main issues that cause people to leave the game and not to try the game are the same.  They boil down to time, cost and game’s difficulty.  Also, the recession had a negative impact along with a couple of tough winters and bad springs.

Another golf decline tidbit.  In the USA, the number of women golfers declined 23 percent and junior golfer numbers have gone down 35 percent.  I suppose this is also true in Canada.

Just heard PGA golfer Charlie Sifford has passed away at 92.  He was the first black player to become a member of the PGA Tour.  Also, the first black golfer to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.  I had a chance to see Sifford play in the Greater Greensborough Open around 1961, when I was living in Greensboro.  While playing, he received death threats and racial heckling from the gallery while he was walking the fairways.  It was sickening, but he endured, finished the tournament in third or fourth place I believe.  Above all, he didn’t quit.

Here is a couple of myths about golf.  The first is from Steve Otto, Director of Research at the Royal and Ancient in St. Andrews.  He suggests hitting a golf ball with a top spin is a myth.  You hear this the odd time from golf commentators after a long drive from the tee “he’s hit that one with a top spin”.  A well-struck ball off the tee would never have top spin – it would simply not fly or it would fall out of the air.

Here is one you may not know.  One all-too-common golfing myth is that keeping your head down throughout the swing will yield better contact with the ball.  The general belief (at least by some) is that looking down will increase your accuracy and speed by allowing you to create more contact with the ball.  In reality, focusing solely on the ball will restrict your upper body’s normal range of motion, which subsequently throws off your balance and ability to create solid contact.  This is from the Junior Players Golf Academy.

An interesting article in the Western Canada Turfgrass Association’s “Turfline”, written by Brian Whitlark talks about green speed and how golf analysts tell us that because it’s dry and windy, greens will get firmer and faster.  Mr. Whitlark goes on to say golfers, regardless of their abilities will be happy to know that it is highly unlikely that greens will gain speed because of heat, dryness or wind.

I said this one before, that golf tournaments are not only good for golf but are good for golf courses.  They always seem to bring course maintenance to a higher level.  Member or local players see this and want the same conditions.  The trick is to sell them on the idea that stepped up course maintenance costs more.  Also, more people will want to play a well-maintained golf course.

Joe Bloski’s fifty year career at Early’s Farm and Garden has come to an end.  Joe retired in January this year.  Early’s many customers, many of whom Joe attracted are going to miss him, as will Early’s Farm and Garden Centre.  I have a strong feeling Joe will keep busy, because Joe has never found a committee he didn’t like and always worked hard for the betterment of the group.

Recently, tragedy struck an Alberta family trying to get rid of bedbugs.  Their children were exposed to the illegally imported insecticide that was phosphine-based.  The pesticide was brought back to Canada from Pakistan.  As I write this, one child has died.  Phosphine is a clear, odorless gas that is very toxic.  When inhaled, phosphine causes cell damage in lungs and affects the nervous system.  In Canada it is used in grain storage, but must be administered by trained users.

Golfers will soon be on the course and as happens every year, we’ll have thunderstorms with lots of lightning.  Golfers should ignore the dangers here and get to the clubhouse as fast as they can.  Last summer 4 golfers, all in their mid-fifties, were injured by a lightning strike on a golf course north of Toronto.  They were all taken to hospital, one in critical condition.  All other golfers were off the course.  When these storms come up, get your butt off the course.

An interesting fact about manure.  In the 16th and 17th centuries, everything had to be transported by ship.  Shipments of manure were quite common.  It was shipped dry because it weighed a lot less, but once water (at sea) hit it, not only did it become heavier, but the process of fermentation began, of which a byproduct is methane gas.  This started to build up below deck and the first time someone came below at night with a lantern – BOOM – blowing the ship all to hell.  Many ships met their Waterloo this way.  They finally found out what cause these “boom booms” and thereafter had the bundles stamped “Stow High in Transit”, which meant for the sailors to stow the manure bundles high enough off the lower deck so sea water that came into the hold would not touch this volatile cargo.

My Uncle Jake who is knowledgeable about the above, says this evolved into the term S.H.I.T. (Stow High in Transit) which has come down through the centuries and is used every day.  This he says is the true history of the word – I didn’t know this.  I always thought it was a golf term.  I showed this to my wife who always believed I invented the word.


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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.