Wednesday, July 27, 2016

July weather in the Mid-Atlantic

It's hot out. Like, really hot. And typically, mid-July is the toughest stretch of weather for golf course superintendents operating in the Mid-Atlantic. While most everyone seems to be holding strong, the weather has certainly been a topic of conversation as we grind through July. And here in the Mid-Atlantic, we have what's known as the transition zone where superintendents are tasked with growing cool-season turfgrasses in a climate akin to sitting in a hot tub on a 95-degree afternoon in the middle of the rain forest.

So that got me thinking: has it really been hotter than usual? I evaluated the July weather over the past three years. In a nutshell, yes, according to the Weather Underground website, the average maximum temperatures during July have been higher than two years previous in nearly all cities throughout the region. The only exception being Richmond, Va. In most cases, the temperatures are up 2-5 degrees. And although 2-5 degrees may not seem like a lot, when temperatures are this high, every degree makes a difference. Please see the first graph below for an illustration. 

Secondly, I took a look at average precipitation for the month of July (2nd graph). While both these graphs only evaluate July 2016 weather to date (July 26th), we can still make a fair assessment of where we are relative to past years. This time of year, the weather is such a delicate balance. The heat is a given. But with regard to precipitation, too much can be problematic when soils approach saturation (wet-wilt).

Likewise, when precipitation is too scarce, irrigation only gets you so far. There is nothing quite like a good rainfall. While we like the precipitation to fall somewhere in the middle, you can see by observing the graphs below that multiple cities have experienced well above-average precipitation (Philly), or well below-average precipitation (Pitt, DC, Baltimore, Ocean City).

So while we can't control the weather, we can certainly react. Employing best practices is crucial to surviving these tough stretches. Best practices include raising mowing heights, reducing mowing frequency, encouraging air movement with fans and needle-tine aeration, and maintaining diligence with fungicide programs, to name a few.

Stay patient, stay cool, and good luck!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

More on Department of Labor Overtime Rule

This is why GCSAA has active involvement in government affairs issues across the country. On May 18, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced the final ruling that increases the salary threshold at which employees must be paid overtime. To learn more about this rule and how it affects your course, sign up for the June 29 webinar, , "Getting Ready for the New DOL Overtime Rules."

In the meantime, here is some background information:

Under the new rule, individuals who earn salaries of less than $47,476 a year will automatically qualify for overtime pay of time-and-a-half if they work more than 40 hours a week. Previously, those who earned more than $23,660 were exempt from overtime pay. The new rules will go into effect Dec. 1, 2016.

This change dates back to last summer when the DOL announced the original version of this rule, allowing an open comment period to hear the public’s thoughts on said rule. Along with other allied organizations, GCSAA submitted a letter (collectively submitted as the ‘golf industry’), that expressed our concerns with this new rule. Along with other concerns, one thing the golf industry addressed in that letter was that the wage increase was too steep and the financial implications of this increase could cost others their jobs. Originally, the proposed rule offered a minimum salary of $50,440.

While the DOL slightly decreased that minimum salary, this new rule will certainly create some tough budgeting decisions for much of our industry, not just our maintenance departments. One other positive to take away is that, for the first time, employers will be able to use non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments including commissions, to satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary level of $47,476.

The golf industry talked to members of Congress and their staff about the impacts of the overtime rule during National Golf Day. Members of Congress were asked to support H.R. 4773 or S. 2707. The Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act would ensure the DOL pursues a balanced and responsible approach to updating federal overtime rules.

As stated, the new rule will go in to effect on Dec. 1 of this year. At this time, it doesn’t look like anything is going to change that. So, please plan accordingly and communicate with your business about this rule’s effects on your department. And again, please participate in the webinar for more information. Contact me with any questions.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Inconsistent spring weather ushers in summer

There is an old saying that goes, "April showers bring May flowers." Well, those April showers seem to be arriving a month late. And where are the warmer temperatures? Superintendents around the region were charging up their irrigation systems in late March, but I'm not sure they anticipated utilizing them more than usual throughout April.

Many superintendents have testified that April was indeed so dry that it required supplemental irrigation to keep the course looking like a spring course should look — green. And, as we roll in to May, we are now seeing many of the showers that failed to arrive throughout April. Sure, there are always positives to experiencing a dry spring month — efficient spring aeration, easy spring clean up, completing winter projects, and in many years, even being able to consistently mow the golf course would be considered a win.

So, as we approach mid-May, we are still waiting for spring to gain some consistency and start feeling a little bit more like early summer. With expected lows dipping in to the 30s in coming days, I guess we will have to wait at least a few more before we can experience that early-summer feel. 

And while the temperatures haven't been consistently pleasant, one trend that seems to be pretty consistent around the region is the number of rounds being played. Again, this is another benefit of dry spring weather. While we sometimes wish we had a little more space to complete our work, ultimately it's a positive sign when we see an increase in rounds compared to last year's books. 

Around the region, many chapters have already hosted their first golf meetings for the 2016 season. Early season success at these meetings shows that guys are still interested in spending time with their peers and gaining quality education in the meantime. Other big happenings around the region include National Golf Day on May 18, multiple scholarship events, VGCSA's "Environmental Cup" hosted at Keswick Club on June 13 and Pennsylvania Golf Day on June 22. 

Oh, and let's not forget, the U.S. Open will be coming to Oakmont CC on June 16-19. If you are interested in attending, remember that your Class A, SM, or B membership card will get you free admission to the tournament. 

Enjoy the energy surrounding golf this time of year, and I hope to see you soon! 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Pennsylvania budget update

A recent budget impasse in Pennsylvania had the turf industry playing defense. Penn State extension services — of which the turf industry relies — were in danger of being defunded. Extension agents in the state encouraged industry members to reach out to the state legislator to voice opposition of losing extension, and I’m told the response was tremendous. In speaking with Dr. Landschoot, Penn State professor and extension specialist, he was very grateful for the industry's engagement and believes it made a big difference in the outcome. Not only did extension keep their funding, but they also got a nine percent increase in their budget. Not bad.

Likewise, the state assembly was considering a recreational tax implementation to increase revenues, which would have included taxes on greens fees. Luckily, no tax was ever implemented. While this news comes as a relief for now, the state will still have to pass a budget for the next fiscal year, which turns over in June. Our lobbyist, Malady & Wooten, tells me this will be another challenge facing the industry, as these budgetary topics — extension, recreational tax — could be on the table once again. Stay tuned for more information and action alerts should we need to engage another grassroots effort in voicing our opinions with the new budget. In the meantime, we will have a great opportunity to speak with our legislators face-to-face during Pennsylvania Golf Day, set to be hosted in Harrisburg on June 22. Contact me if you’d like to be involved!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Advocacy efforts heat up

As winter weather breaks and spring heats up, as do advocacy efforts around the Mid-Atlantic. From involvement in government affairs to supporting programs that grow the game, each initiative has a purpose. So, as you choose initiatives to be a part, I encourage you to align your efforts with your purpose. There is no shortage of opportunities to engage.

Pennsylvania is planning its second consecutive Pennsylvania Golf Day set for June 22. Last year was the inaugural venture, as allied industry members from across the state coalesced in Harrisburg to represent the game at our state's capital. National Golf Day serves as the model for state golf days across the country, and we will look to build on last year's success by making the event even better this time around. If you’re interested in participating in PA Golf Day, please contact me!

Also in the government affairs arena, Virginia GCSA continues to build relationships with the state's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) as they work on implementing certified nutrient management plans at all golf courses in the state by July 2017. The Virginia GCSA worked with the DEQ in establishing this nutrient management model, which will help the state stay within Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) recommendations for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Similarly, the Mid-Atlantic and Eastern Shore Associations are working on their respective BMP models, which help position golf course superintendents as responsible environmental stewards.

On the 'growing the game' side of advocacy, interest in First Green is increasing around the area. First Green is an innovative environmental and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education outreach program using golf courses as environmental learning labs. Golf course superintendents host students on field trips where they test water quality, collect soil samples, identify plants, and much more. If you are interested in learning more, please contact me! This is a great program that allows us to promote the game within the context of education.

Rounds 4 Research is entering the final stretch of its donation drive. The live auction will take place on April 1-10, so please get those foursomes donated ASAP! Not only does this program allow us to showcase our golf courses to auction bidders, but also helps us advocate our research and development efforts to the golfing public. Research efforts help us within the game, but also help establish baseline scientific facts that can be leveraged in government affairs.

No matter your chosen area to advocate, I challenge you to be involved somewhere, in some capacity. Many of us love the game for reasons beyond the weekly paycheck it provides, and those reasons alone merit our involvement in advocacy efforts. So go ahead, and pick your purpose.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Interested in attending 2016 National Golf Day?

Have you heard of National Golf Day? It’s a pretty cool initiative. It’s a day where golf’s leading associations come together as a coalition (known as WE ARE GOLF), to celebrate our industry’s storied lifetime. It’s golf’s chance to shine on Capitol Hill, where our elected representatives are undoubtedly courted by countless industries all looking out for number one. What makes this day pretty cool for our industry is that we have great information to share with our legislators.

Information like our $70 billion economy, our $4 billion annual charitable impact, and numerous environmental and fitness benefits. Industry leaders will meet with members of Congress, the executive branch and federal agencies on Capitol Hill to discuss golf’s 15,000-plus diverse businesses, two million employees, tax revenue creation and tourism value. And this year, National Golf Day is set for May 18.

Having experienced this day first hand, I must say it is an energizing, educational opportunity to not only share what we love about our game, but also valuable time getting further acquainted with our colleagues and the nuances of how our federal government operates. And as the primaries rapidly approach, I understand that many of us may be frustrated with some of the happenings leading up to the election of our new president.

But as Steve Mona, CEO of World Golf Foundation states, it may be more important now than ever to make sure our voices are heard. “With 2016 being an election year, it’s even more important for political leaders to understand the impact our industry has on local communities and millions of Americans,” said Mona. Further stating, “Since our first event in 2008, National Golf Day has educated our nation's lawmakers about the countless benefits of the game and we look forward to continuing this agenda in May.”

National Golf Day has been growing ever since its inception, and this year GCSAA would like to extend an invitation for its Class A, SM, or C members to attend the event and be part of meeting with congressmen and senators to share information about your particular businesses, and what those businesses mean to your employees, customers and community.

As we are still working out the logistics of signing up to attend the event, please be on the lookout for further details that will be communicated through various GCSAA channels. And if you can’t attend in person, you can still get in on the action by participating in the tweet rally by using #NGD16 and @wearegolf to show your support for the golf industry. So let’s gear up for another successful year, and make this the best National Golf Day thus far.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A new year brings new education

It's another winter, another January, and the start of a new year. And in the Mid-Atlantic region, a flip of the calendar signals the ushering in of a new conference season. While there are always a few educational events hosted in late fall, the bulk of these happenings take place between now and the end of March. So, this New Year's resolution aside, it's a good time of year to think about your educational goals for the coming year.

Continuing education is one of our industry's top priorities. While there will always be new pesticides, new techniques, new technology and new equipment to learn about, there will always be an inherent responsibility in the turf industry to stay abreast on the latest trends. And, at least for me, it never fails that what would seem like the most basic review educational talk, I still walk away having learned something.

I kicked off the conference circuit last week at the Eastern Pennsylvania Turf Conference in Valley Forge, just outside of Philadelphia. This two-day conference was complete with a trade show, social mixer, and a wide range of educational topics. Attendees participated in seminars about bee ecology, disease management, weather analysis and water management.

Looking ahead, the Greater Pittsburgh GCSA is hosting their annual education this week, followed by a joint conference in Fredericksburg, Virginia, that will be co-hosted by the Maryland and Virginia Turfgrass Councils. Later in February (post-GIS), we will have the Western Pennsylvania Turf Conference. And while education is the primary component of these conferences, attendees also find value in the networking they are able to accomplish. Heck, this past week I learned as much from talking to a few guys as I had in listening to the educational talks.

Looking beyond the locals, we have the Golf Industry Show and education conference rapidly approaching in San Diego the week of Feb. 8-11. Highlighted by an array of education ranging from leadership to technology, there is something for everyone. And if you are struggling areas in which you would like to focus your winter education, try using GCSAA's self-assessment tool to identify gaps in your educational repertoire. From there, you can hone in your educational goals for the coming year.

Regardless of where you find your education this fall, I encourage you to continue investing in your professional growth through the many educational offerings around the industry. After all, a wise man once said, "if you are not constantly moving forward, you are falling behind."