May 2012

  • May 1, 2012
  • Written by Don Campbell

They say spring is here but with the cool winds and in some cases snow you’d have a good argument with “whoever said that is nuts”. Most courses have opened with very little play so far. Some wintered well and others not so well. Poa annua especially on some older courses took a big hit. It will come back but we need some warmer weather to get things going. Your fairways can take a hit and also your tees but golfers get antsy when greens aren’t very good. One thing is certain, greens will improve a lot faster than the golfers playing ability.

On May 1 the Saskatchewan Turfgrass Association Board of Directors will meet in Saskatoon. Among items discussed will be the Spring Field Day, The Annual Research Tournament, our membership numbers and the financial report along with any new business brought forward.

The first Annual Turfgrass Maintenance Seminar held at Parkland College in Yorkton early March was very successful. The instructors Darrell Landels and Dennis McKernan were well pleased with the turnout and are excited about the opportunity to continue to train for the Turfgrass industry in our province. Plans for future seminars are underway and we’ll keep you informed as to the whereabouts and the dates.

Membership fees are due for 2012. Each of you will have received an invoice for the dues.
Please submit it to your Club for payment as soon as possible. To those that have already paid a big thank you. By the way, we accept credit card payments if you so desire.

Thanks to a decades-old agreement intended to preserve urban green space, a handful of exclusive country clubs are permitted to defer annual property tax payments. These private golf clubs have cost the city of Toronto more than 37 million in tax revenue. Negotiations are ongoing for a new arrangement with the club owners which would either see the old agreement scrapped or at least provide more public access. To their credit these very upscale clubs are willing to sit down with the city and debate the issue.

One of Toronto’s most treasured green spaces, St. James Park was occupied for 40 days by Occupy Toronto. Once the protesters were ordered to move they found the park had become a mud pit with little turfgrass remaining. The Nursery Sod Growers Association of Ontario and Landscape Ontario took charge and restored the park to its former splendor. They did this December 7th and 8th all volunteers from the industry. By the way, the city of Toronto removed 30 loads of waste from the site which totalled 22,000 pounds. The whole exercise by these volunteers demonstrated a great community spirit for others to follow.

I sure like reading Mike Jiggens Turf and Recreation publication.
The complete magazine has many interesting and informative articles and is a must read for all turf managers. Subscriptions are available for $53.00 (plus 13% H.S.T). That’s for a 3 year subscription. They are available through Turf and Recreation Publishing Inc. Their e-mail is or mail your cheque to the above at 275 James St, Delhi ON, N4B 2B2.

If your club is planning a new irrigation system, the Board of Director’s first concern will be the cost. The 2nd concern will be the logistics of the renovation. Once the finances are addressed, the conversation quickly turns to the impact that construction will have on the members’ ability to play the course. This is where the services of an irrigation consultant can prove invaluable. Hired early in the process, the irrigation consultant can be a key to effectively communicating with your greens committee and board. This is well worth the cost.

I just ran across the Manitoba Golf Superintendents Association Safety Manual. This was a “Draft Copy” published in May 2001. This is a well prepared safety document covering all aspects of safety. The purpose of this safety manual is an injury and accident free work place. I found it to be a fabulous document.

Read an e-mail message that the Cancer Society is proposing a pesticide ban for the City of Regina. It wasn’t in any of the papers but somehow caught the attention of someone that figured it was an important news event to include it on C.B.C News.

Jacobsen, a Textron company are offering a scholarship in the amount of $500.00.
In order to be eligible for consideration, students must:

  1. Be enrolled full time in a Turfgrass Management (or other related discipline) program, pursuing a 2 year Associates degree or a 4 year Bachelors degree.
  2. Be entering the final year of their degree program.
  3. Submit an application with all information provided, including a short essay.
  4. Provide contact information for the two professional references.
  5. Provide one letter of recommendation. The letter of recommendation may be written by one of the references listed on the application.
  6. Submit all materials by May 1, 2012 to Amanda Bostian at

Scholarship administrators will review all submissions and award one Jacobsen Turfgrass Scholarship in each Jacobsen dealer territory.Recipients will be notified by Jacobsen on July 1, 2012.

The R.B.C Canadian Open is looking for volunteers. They are looking for experienced golf course workers to help with mowing, bunkers, divot repair and assorted other chores during the upcoming Canadian Open being held at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, July 2012. You must be able to commit to shifts starting Tuesday, July 24th to Sunday, July 29th. If interested contact Tracy, David or Jo Ann at 905-648-1441 or e-mail at

The City of Vancouver is determined to get the bite on a heavy population of mosquitoes at their 3 golf courses. They are erecting 2 specially built bat houses at each golf course. Each one will hold at least 300 bats. Which apparently love to eat mosquitoes. This could work because their ideal habitat for bats is open space, trees and a water source. If the bats do the trick they will replace dogs as man’s best friend.

The golf market in most of Canada’s provinces and particularly in Ontario is stagnant and consequently the Canadian Golf Academy in Stratford is reviewing operations. The only thing they said about the operation will “be different this summer.” Details of what the changes will be should be known in a couple of weeks.

As the temperature rises this spring, golfers are likely to see their current handicaps do the same. In March Golf Canada introduced changes to the handicap index system – Equitable Stroke Control- mainly to bring it in line with the one used in the U.S.A. The change will provide a more accurate reflection of one’s handicap. If your club wants to know more contact Executive Director Brian Lee at Golf Saskatchewan.

With tighter budgets at all golf courses in our province, equipment maintenance is more important than ever. This starts in the spring with the proper training of your crew, whether it is 3 or 23. By the way, tighter budgets also means postponing new equipment purchases, so maintenance climbs to a new level.

Applying water to a golf course has become incredibly sophisticated in recent years.
This will continue as water is such a precious resource. Managing a water system is an important function for a superintendent and at the same time is the least understood by golfers, because so much of it takes place underground and at night. At all costs try to avoid overwatering as this leaves poor turfgrass quality. The water schedule on greens is most important. They become sparse and pockmarked with ball marks if overwatered.

At an older golf course I visited this past winter, crews were busy removing trees and hedges from around and near teeing areas. Tees and trees are not compatible. Grass on the tee will not tolerate shade or the competition from the tree roots for water and nutrients. Ideally tees should be left in the open. Having said this, some golfers may get upset because their shade has been removed while waiting to tee off.

At this same golf course grass was growing through the seat of a tee bench. This was a terrible site as was the fact the bench needed a good cleaning and a fresh coat of paint. Keep the grass trimmed around benches and also move the benches often so there is no worn grass where golfers place their feet. Also trim grass around any signs or posts. Granted this was a public course with lots of play but it doesn't take long to tidy up an area where players are standing still and pointing out chores that should be done.

I’m often asked the question “What is the rule for the distance a hole must be from the edge of the green?” First, I don’t think there is a rule, but I along with many superintendents used the flagstick as a gauge. The hole location within the length of the flagstick is too close to the edge; a location beyond is acceptable.

If you are planting trees this spring, don’t plant too close to maintained fairways, don’t plant any kind of poplar and be prepared to maintain them - pruning, watering etc. Digging the hole is critical – a rule of thumb is the hole should be more than twice the size of the root ball and always plant the tree at the same depth as it was before. Failure to do this will lead to certain death. Also prune and water on a regular basis, as newly planted trees are very thirsty. Also there will probably be a tree well and it would be wise to fill it with mulch. A local rule would be a good idea if a golfer’s ball ended up in the tree well such as a club length away from the tree well.

By now most of you will have your greens crew in place for the summer. When you manage people it involves building relationships with fellow human beings. Always remember that your workers are often not very well paid for the work they do on the golf course, and when they perform extraordinarily well it may be because they are treated with respect and kindness by their “boss”.

We have found over the years that Green Superintendents rarely lose their jobs for reasons of professional inadequacies. Most often the dismissal reason is a clash of personalities, a failure to communicate or not keeping promises to perform certain tasks. The one big one however is “We want to go in a different direction” a truly gutless reason I’ve ever heard of. Mainly superintendents lose their jobs by forgetting to do the little things in maintaining their golf course.

Here is some advice from an old “geezer”.
Maintain your golf course the best possible way within the limits of your budget. Don’t gripe about the lack of funds but instead find ways of getting the job done anyway. Be active professionally by attending association meetings, seminars and other events like Field Days, research tournaments and above all be enthusiastic about your work.

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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.