October 2013

  • October 7, 2013
  • Written by Don Campbell

The STA’s next event will be the Fall Wind Up and Annual General Meeting on Tuesday November 6th at the Saskatoon Golf & Country Club here in Saskatoon.  We have a very interesting seminar in the morning that will have everyone’s attention.  You will hear more from me in mid-month with an agenda and the bio of the speaker.  Record this date on your calendar.  Make every effort to attend.

On Saturday September 28th, we attended the 2013 Saskatchewan Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Riverside Country Club.  This was a great event with a great group of inductees.  Golfers inducted were Ron Stewart, Jeff Makahon, Ron Dosdall while --------was inducted in the Builder Category.  I would like to thank Ron Dagert and his wife Wendy; Dean and Cheryl Hildebrandt and Lach Reeve and his wife Kim for joining my wife and I for the induction ceremony and banquet.  We had a great evening.

How much people are paid should be based upon two things:  the nature of the work they do and their level of performance in that role.  There should be a direct and easily understood correlation between what they earn and their level of contribution – Leadership requires a serious personal commitment and it really doesn’t make any difference what your business is or where you conduct it.  From the maintenance to the board room, the demand for good leaders always seems to exceed the supply.

It’s just about time to look at your turf equipment and perhaps change the spark plugs.  This is an important task and there are guidelines you must follow.  After the new plug is installed, look at the old plug to get some idea of how the engine may be running.  Wet, oily deposits suggest a problem – the engine may simply be overfilled with oil or it may be showing signs of wear.  A new spark plug has sharp edges on the centre electrode while a rounded centre electrode means the plug is worn.  Deposits, usually carbon, around the centre electrode are normal, providing they are not excessive and are dry.

And here is another – with 4 stroke engines, make sure you check the oil every time fuel is added.  Equipment owners who have the lowest repair cost per hour of equipment operation report they buy the highest quality engine oil available.  They contend that the few cents per quart difference in cost between premium and cheap oil simply helps ensure more trouble-free operating hours.

Aerating is the single most beneficial practice we can do for the grass plant, whether it be on fairways, tees, or greens.  If it is so good, why is it so thoroughly disliked by golfers?  It is because golfers don’t understand the benefits or why it’s so essential to maintain healthy turf.  When I was at Riverside in Saskatoon, and we were aerating, I walked around the clubhouse with a deep scowl on my face for a week.  I did the same thing on the course driving a golf cart.  During this time nobody complained to me about aerating.  Sometimes it pays to be a grumpy old man.

Just read one of Drew Smith’s articles on climate change.  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 5,000 and 7,000 years ago.  A colder period of the Iron Age was most severe between 2,300 and 2,900 years ago leading into a warm period in the early Middle Ages which was at its warmest between 1,000 and 800 years ago.  There was then a colder period, sometimes called the Little Ice Age which was the coldest between 150 and 575 years ago.  We are at the end of this cold period.

The slow play argument.  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, huge distances from green to tee and deep rough bordering narrow fairways make for great sales commissions and four-colour brochures, but result in longer rounds.

Did you know that chlorophyll and the other chemicals that cause the colour in leaves are called pigments?  Pigments are also used to dye thread and fibre that clothes are made of.  The other leaf pigments besides green, come from chemicals called carotenoids which make leaves yellow, orange, and brown.

Just heard that Jim Cote is doing well after his latest bout with health problems, which included a couple of operations.  He recently played in the “Dry Stick Open” in Waskesiu, and played well.  One thing, Jim is one tough sucker.

What is the origin of “Skins” as in Skins game?  There are three possible meanings:  Some aren’t believable but the last is the closest according to Leo Skaluba.  As a format of golf gambling, “skins has been around for decades, but really became popular after the creation of the skins game in the 1980’s”.  In other parts of the country, skins is also known as “cats”, “scats”, “skats” or “syndicates”.  Of all these, syndicates seems to be the oldest term, going back to the 1950’s and possibly earlier.  It has been suggested that “skins” are simply shortened, simplified version of the term “syndicates”.  Leo Skaluba should show this to the “Pro” at Deer Park in Yorkton.  Tell him this came from Jim Cote and Ron Dagert.

There is a Golf Course on France’s west coastline that is the only golf course in the world where nudity is not only allowed, but a must.  Richard Berg can hardly wait to go over there for a round.  Naturally he’d want a practice round – the course is six holes with breathtaking ocean views and impeccable playing conditions.  There are a strict set of rules.  First, nudity is not an option.  You got to be completely nude at the first tee.  Secondly, shyness has no place here, all of which is OK with Bergie!

It’s unlikely you’ll ever get a hole-in-one on a par three hole, but can you imagine making one on a par 5?  Officially it’s only been done four times and it is officially known as a “Condor”.

This one is something Ron Dagert didn’t know.  Phil Mickelson, who plays golf left handed is actually right handed.  He learned to play golf by mirroring his father’s golf swing, and he has used left handed golf clubs ever since.

Saskatchewan has 89 sand green golf courses down from the 137 around 1980.  The hotly contested provincial championships always attracted a strong field of 120 to 160 competitors.  Many golfers who got their start on a sand green golf course went on to play in other championships.  Ron Dosdall, recently inducted into the Saskatchewan Golf Hall of Fame was the Provincial Sand Green Champion from 1975 to 1981.

The Poa Annua you find on today’s golf courses is highly variable.  They say it consists of many different strains.  20 to 30 of these strains can grow on a single golf green.  You ever see patchy appearances on old Poa Annua greens?  These different strains are the reason why.  That said, a true Poa green that is well managed is beautiful and rewarding to the Superintendent.

Bob Brame wrote this in 1996 for the USGA Green Section Record.  He writes there are 51 references containing the word “grass” in the bible.  These references cite conditions that range from flourishing to withering.  When studied more closely, the Biblical references to grass underscore something we all know, but don’t like to think about – like grass, our days are numbered.  In 1 Pete1:24, we find the words “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the work of the Lord stands forever.”  Truly life is a precious gift!  A gift we can use either for things that endure, or wither and fade – so remember, life is not about the game of golf or course conditioning.

“What is good 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.  I have always thought golf tournaments are not only good for golf, but are good for golf courses.  They always seem to bring maintenance to a higher level.  Members see this and want the same conditions.  The trick is to sell them on the idea  to up course maintenance costs more – but it goes back – golfers want pristine conditioning, but want fees to stay low.

Golf Course Mechanics have apparent hard case personalities, but despite this, they are a sensitive lot.  This “sensitivity” is often offset by a strong sense of independence.  You may hear them use the possessive adjective “my” frequently.  It is “my shop”, “my equipment”, “my truck” etc.  Don’t be alarmed, it’s been said a mechanic who thinks this way is the best friend you’ll ever have when it comes to taking care of equipment.  The modern mechanic is an anomaly.  For most of us, the only time we think of him is when something breaks and needs to be repaired.  When all equipment is running smoothly, I suppose we take him for granted.

People love to see trees on golf courses.  Trees are beautiful, they are challenging obstacles, and they provide some degree of safety.  However, trees and turf just don’t get along.  Excessive shade, root encroachment, interference with irrigation, and blocked air movement are just some of the problems caused by trees.  When superintendents suggest removing trees to grow healthier turf, they are met with strong opposition.  It’s really unfortunate that courses have suffered with terrible turf at the expense of trees.  After all, the game of golf is played on grass.

It’s that time of year again when you must think about blowing your irrigation lines.  To blow out a water system is a tedious job requiring much patience.  One must make sure that all water is removed from the pipes and only a thin mist comes from sprinklers.  It may be necessary to move the air compressor around to the extremities of the system, thus making sure that all water lines are thoroughly blown out.  Remember your irrigation is the lifeline of the golf course and needs your utmost attention at this time of year.

Armed with proper grease and clean Zerks, the skilled mechanic uses his eyes, ears and sense of touch to apply the proper amount of grease to the various fittings found on machinery.  The true technician knows that a little grease every day in each joint is the best strategy.  The sad fact is that over greasing kills nearly as many machines as under greasing.  Excessive grease blows out the rubber seal on bearings, letting the grease out and the dirt in.  This is why many machinery makers have shifted to using permanently sealed bearings that have no Zerk fittings.

When I was in the golf business, I liked this time of year.  The end was in sight!  After a very busy summer you could relax a little.  This time of year was a busy one for my Uncle Jake.  He not only had to get his crop off, prepare his old shack for winter and bleed off his still, which was deep in his neighbors pasture.  I went with him one time to watch him to his thing.  He bled the copper unit into a three gallon jug and was that a sight!  Crystal clear perfect he said!  What was left he took a cup to clean up the rest – took a swig and immediately spit it out.  Phew!  Too much lye! That jug helped him light his kindling in the wood stove for 2 years.

By the way, my Uncle Jake called his moonshine “sipping whiskey”.  He’s been sipping since his early twenties, well over seventy years.  He’s never smoked because the sipping whiskey would cause an explosion – he chewed instead until his teeth started to fall out.  He has six left.

When soil becomes compacted it must be aerated by a hateful machine, universally despised by golfers around the world.  There are no shortcuts or painless remedies.  There is a price for postponing the inevitable.  It may be summer stress or winter injury.  Greens, tees and fairways must be aerated on a regular basis according to well thought out program.  Healthy turf is the result of hard work based on a plan, and that plan always includes aeration.

My daughter supplied this to me from a class she took at university.  The water on our planet moves in a continuous cycle called the “water cycle”.  Surface water is evaporated by the sun and rises into the air as water vapor, eventually falling back to earth as rain or snow.  Most of this moisture falls into the ocean, but some will fall on land.  Water that falls on land will form into rivers and slowly make its way to the ocean.  About 97% of the world’s water is in oceans.

Wetting agents are here to stay – The University of Arkansas found the applicators of wetting agents did not increase soil moisture values during periods of frequent irrigation.  They also found that the wetting agents Cascade Plus, One Putt and Revolution were the most consistent in improving moisture uniformity in the root zone.  This research found no evidence to support the “myth” that greater moisture levels are retained when wetting agents are applied.

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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.