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November 2013

  • November 14, 2013
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Most golf courses are busy putting their golf courses to bed for the winter.  This is a very important exercise and also difficult because almost all superintendents are short-staffed.  Also, it’s time to prepare you equipment for the winter by winterizing it and cleaning it up.  No doubt most of the smaller clubs have already sent their reels and bed knives in to get serviced and sharpened.

This fall and winter you’ll see numerous job opportunities at various golf courses in the province.  While the golf courses advertising for superintendents will pick who they think is the best person for the job, I would hope they would consider a Saskatchewan person.  Why do I say this?  Because there are numerous knowledgable, hard working and personable superintendents in our province, people who would do any golf course proud.

While on the subject of green superintendents, I would hope the people clubs are happy with provide the Superintendent with a suitable wage.  Remuneration, I find is below the standard compared to other western provinces.  It comes down to proper budgeting and could include a slight increase in playing fees.  Clubs should remember that a happy superintendent will do a better job in maintaining a golf course than a person who is unhappy with his salary.  Guys need a good, liveable wage—it makes a difference.

Did you know—even though plant growth winds down this time of year, diseases don’t necessarily go away.  Many pests and pathogens spend the winter on diseased plant parts, lying in wait for the chance to launch a new attack in the spring.

In numerous surveys regarding the skills golf course superintendents need, better communication skills continue to be mentioned at the top of the list among course officials.  In numerous publications superintendents state that maintaining turfgrass is often the easiest part of their job.  Interacting with members or golfers and club officials is the most difficult.  These two statements provide a great insight into the relationship between members and golfers plus golf officials.

Cleaning out my book room I came across this article in an old publication of Readers Digest about golf fever.  The author talks about how much Mary, Queen of Scots was addicted to golf, so that in 1567 when she was informed of the murder of her husband, she went ahead and played a round of golf.  She was a mean spirited old bag.  Finally cold-hearted Mary was tried for treason, found guilty, and was handed the most severe penalty ever handed to a golfer—one stroke.  Mind you, only for poor Mary, it was an axe.  Wonder if she kept her head down.

Matt Nelson, our Fall Wind-Up speaker says smoother greens are truer.  Nelson says an aggressive rolling provides an extra 6 inches to 1 1/2 feet to a regular stimpmeter reading.  Rolling is also helpful if you have a green under repair or one you’ve recently aerified.  In these cases, one could avoid some golfer complaints by creating a smooth surface for them to putt on.  At the same time, Nelson didn’t expect widespread rolling to catch on.

There will be a lot of suggestions this winter on how to improve ones’ golf course.   One thing that will come up will be a tree planting program.  A word of advice for you is to avoid the temptation to plant a fast grower that will have an instant effect.  This type of tree ususally is soft wooded, messy, has surface roots and a shorter life span.  A better course of action is to choose an appropriate variety for our area that has the proper growth characteristics and few pest problems.  Also, remember that larger trees are more expensive to plant, and the survival rate declines as the size increases.

The Alberta Golf Superintendents Association is presenting their 19th Annual “Golf Course Property Manager’s Conference” at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Centre in Canmore, Alberta, November 24th to 26th, 2013.  They have lined up a great variety of speakers with very interesting topics.  If you are interested in attending, give me a call for added information.

Advances in science and technology as well as legislative changes means that superintendents are constantly updating their education.  These people attend seminars, study online, travel to conferences, and network amongst colleagues just like most other professionals.  It’s not like a lot of golfers think that it’s just a matter of turning on a sprinkler and waiting for the grass to grow.

The first 18 hole golf course in the USA was in Chicago in 1892.  The first in Canada was in Victoria BC established in 1892 also.  Steel shafts were sanctioned by the Royal and Ancient in 1929.  Prior to that, shafts were made from hickory sticks.  This frustrated golfers for at least 2 centuries, which included Jim Cote. Speaking of Jim Cote, he won the trophy at the “Dry Stick Open” in Waskesiu.  This is a prestigious event for only a chosen few—important people in the community.

The 2013 Fall Wind-Up and Annual General Meeting is now history.  Matt Nelson gave an excellent seminar enjoyed by everyone.  His presentation “Renovating Putting Greens” was very interesting and well presented.  One thing I noticed and appreciated was he spoke our language, and was easy for us to understand and take notes.  Almost everyone had their notebooks in hand.  I heard numerous positive comments about this seminar.

It was really nice to see Jim Cote at both the social and the next day at the Wind Up and AGM.  Jim is a long-time member of the STA with a true interest in our Association.  Kevin Bloski provided a nice touch when he introduced Jim to everyone present.  In the last few years Jim has suffered many serious health issues but seems to be back to his old self.  As well, he invited my wife and I to Willow Bunch next summer.

It was nice to see so many young people at the event.  I had a nice chat with Chris Marchiori from the Wascana, Tyler McComas from Greenbryer in Saskatoon.  Josh Siebel from Mainprize was there, and believe me, this young man is going to be a great superintendent.

I recently read this tidbit that Greens Chairmen and their Committees are, in some cases, remarkably effective, while others are just as ineffective.  Mistakes made by Greens Committees often are similar from course to course and decade to decade.  World renowned architect Alister MacKenzie apparently had little regard for committees.  In his 1930’s manuscript “The spirit of St. Andrews” he wrote “This history of most golf clubs is that a committee is appointed, they make mistakes, and just as they are beginning to learn from their mistakes, they resign from office and are replaced by others, who will make still greater mistakes, and so it goes on.”

A recent chore of mine was to get my lawn mower ready for winter storage.   A few years ago I just put it in the shed with a half tank of gas.  In the spring I tried to start it—no dice—it cost me 100 bucks for a tech to tell me the problem—sour gas.  They cleaned her out and gave me a lesson on how to store a mower for the winter.  Empty the fuel tank.  After the tank is empty, replace the cap and start the engine.  Run it at idle until the engine stops.  This is important so there will be lubrication in the system.  Don’t throttle the engine up or rev the engine.  Just let it idle until it stops.  I haven’t had any trouble since.  I doubt if many people do this however.  The tech told me they handle over a hundred of these cases each year.

They say that money does not grow on trees, but it appears that gold does.  Scientists in Australia have discovered gold particles in the leaves of eucalyptus trees that grow above gold deposits.  This may provide a natural detection system for mining companies.  If my wife reads this we’ll be moving to Australia, sure as hell.

I found this in my book of notes I used to write myself attending seminars.  This one was in Regina in 1994 with presenters Mike Bavier and Gord Whitteveen.  Virtually all fertilizers have beneficial properties, but there is great variability in their suitability for grass on greens, tees and fairways.  For those coming up through the ranks with the goal of becoming superintendents, a course in basic fertilizer chemistry is an absolute must.  After that it is a matter of learning in the field, preferably on a large nursery.  An excellent start is to read the fine print on a bag of fertilizer and as a rule of thumb, apply half the recommended rate.

The importance of the pump house on your golf course cannot be overemphasized.  The initial cost of an adequate pump house is a major expense.  The necessity of maintaining the pump house in good operating order is, therefore, obvious.  Yet many a pump house suffers from poor housekeeping.  That is deplorable, because a messy pump house inevitably leads to problems with the water system on the golf course.

My Uncle Jake tells me this one.  He says pine trees will produce a greater quantity of large pine cones than usual before a severe winter.  This is to ensure some seeds will make it through the squirrel and bird feeding frenzy.

Here is a tip on laying sod.  When sodding during the heat of summer, consider syringing the dry earth just prior to sodding.  That little bit of moisture at the interface of sod and soil will speed root formation and prevent the sod from drying out.  Also, rolling sod after it has been laid is essential.  The weight of the roller draws moisture to the surface and makes sure that the sod comes into firm contact with the soil.  Air pockets will be eliminated by repeated rolling.

Another note from the collection, this one about tees.  A tee should be firm, for better footing, but not so hard as to make it impossible to get a wooden tee into the ground.  The tee should also be free of ugly divot scars, especially the first tee for that all-important first impression.  The grass on tees is usually cut somewhat longer than on greens, but it should be sufficiently short to ensure that there is never any grass between the club head and the ball at the time of address.

A golfer once related that if the putting green is cut first thing in the morning, the superintendent cares about the golfers.  It is recommended the putting green be among the first greens cut in the morning.  This would be prior to the golfers arriving at the Pro Shop.

Just read that the Tri-plex greens mower is making a big comeback.  The new models have all kinds of improvements—among them electric reel motors to eliminate the hydraulic lines that burst on a regular basis, leaving an awful mess.  They say their quality of cut is just as good as that of a walk-behind .  I imagine the price tag is up there also.

In 1969, we at Riverside purchased a new, state-of-the-art Jacobsen Greens King.  We had the first one in the province.  After about two weeks things started to come apart.  First, the hydraulic oil reservoir which was in the frame, broke, spilling all the oil, fortunately on the ground near the shop.  At the same time, the tires on the front lost air, and ruined the bead.  Although Jacobsen replaced it, we still had some serious problems which were finally corrected with the Greens King 3.

A number of golf course boards have taken the winter off, leaving some important business until the spring.  Now is the time to look for a superintendent if the course hasn’t got one.  Do a financial plan for the coming year.  Review your equipment inventory to see which units need to be replaced.  Now is the time to do all of this, not in April.

With this guys, I’m out of here.  Besides, I’m out of paper, broken the lead in my pencil and I’m tired.  A big thank you to those that attended our Annual Meeting and morning seminar.

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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.