Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A story of winter recovery

We are well aware of the brutal conditions that the Mid-Atlantic region experienced this past winter. Horror stories of devastation on greens swept through the grapevine. Undoubtedly, turf kill was widespread. These situations require a lot of hard work and patience for recovery, and often times our golfer clientele do not fully understand the unpredictability of winter kill, nor the time and effort it takes to recoup putting surfaces. However, sometimes they do understand, and it's always nice to hear positive feedback from our customers during testy times.

That's why we were delighted when we got a phone call from Valley Country Club member Larry Klemow, praising the work of his superintendent, Eric Reed, CGCS. Eric has been busy babying his greens back to health after a challenging winter. Larry said of Eric's hard work, "There's a whole bunch of people who like you, and a whole bunch who don't. I'm one of those on his side. It's because of how much he respects his golf course."

Eric had nearly 20 percent damage on his greens coming out of winter, the worst he has ever had. He and a group of industry friends (volunteers) replaced approximately 8,000-9,000 plugs by taking live turf from the edge of greens and replacing it with the damaged plugs. This method allowed him to complete the work as quickly as possible since he eliminated the travel time of hauling plugs from another location. In working through restoration, Eric said communication to his greens committee was important for setting realistic expectations of recovery time.

As is typical with winter kill, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what caused the damage, but Eric believes it was a combination of crown hydration and ice cover. In preparing for next year, he plans on being diligent with his K fertility, as well as improve surface drainage by stripping and lowering the greens' collars.

Eric was also quick to acknowledge those who loaned a helping hand, and wants to recognize those individuals: Brian Bachman, Genesis Turfgrass; Charlie Miller, CGCS, The Springhaven Club; Patrick Knelly, Sugarloaf Golf Club; Matt Kuchta, Sugarloaf GC; Joe Horan, Sugarloaf GC; Chris Snopkowski, Wyoming Valley Country Club; Scott Kotula, Wyoming Valley CC; Chuck Usher, Blue Ridge Trail Golf Club.

As the saying goes, "a picture says a thousand words," so take a look:

Best of luck to Eric for the 2015 season!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Pennsylvania Golf Day rendered a success

On Tuesday, June 9, we made golf history in the Keystone State. This date marked our first ever Pennsylvania Golf Day hosted in Harrisburg, the state's capital.

What's Pennsylvania Golf Day? It's an opportunity. An opportunity to tell golf's story. An opportunity to build relationships with the legislators who govern the land where we reside and work. For superintendents specifically, an opportunity to promote ourselves as professional land managers and stewards.

We had seven participating organizations from around the state, including the CMA, two PGA sections, Pennsylvania Golf Owners (PGO), Western PA Golf Association (WPGA), Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP), and, of course, the PGCSA.

Throughout the day, participants engaged in about 80 meetings with state legislators and/or their staff. We talked about golf's economic impact in Pennsylvania – almost $2 billion annually. We talked about the number of jobs golf creates in the state – about 30,000 with a payroll approaching $500 million. We talked about the charitable contributions of golf – almost $4 billion annually across the U.S. We also met with chairmen of the committees that are responsible for fertilizer and drought legislation in the state, both of which impact the way we do business.

By cultivating these relationships with our state government, it improves our chance of having a "seat at the table" when new bills are proposed, or existing legislation is reviewed. If we can establish the trust that empowers our legislators to seek our opinions, then we are doing ourselves and our industry a great service.

In addition to the meetings, we had a large exhibit set up in the East Wing rotunda of the main capitol building. Imagine a trade show. There was a hitting simulator (huge draw), a putting green and booths for each participating organization. At our table, we promoted our BMP manual, multiple irrigation technologies, different types of turf plugs and anything else that highlighted water, fertilizer or environmental management. Anybody – including legislators – coming through the rotunda that day could stop and talk with us. The traffic was steady.

Everyone that participated found the day worthwhile and educational. Not only does this day help us promote the industry we love, but there is a great deal of learning that takes place simply by engaging. I think it's safe to render Pennsylvania Golf Day 2015 a great success. We look forward to building on that momentum in 2016!
Superintendents promoting our profession.
Left to right: Chase Rogan, Micah Lowell, Senator Vulakovich and  Tim Fitzgerald.
Our state's great capitol building.
A patron steps up to hitting simulator.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

MAAGCS receives 'Circle of Friends' award

GCSAA chapters across the nation are dedicated to supporting and serving their local universities. Recently, the Mid-Atlantic Association of Golf Course Superintendents was recognized for their exceptional achievements in doing just that. 

Tip of the cap to this group. The association was acknowledged with the Circle of Friends Award from the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. A fine distinction. Mike Barrett, CGCS and MAAGCS past president, accepted the award at the AGNR alumni banquet on April 16. The award is given to an organization that demonstrates "out of the ordinary service" to the college.
In the presentation, the chapter was recognized for its contributions to research, scholarship opportunities for students, contributions to offset travel expenses for GCSAA Turf Bowl teams and for consistently waiving registration fees for students at chapter education events. You make us proud, MAAGCS. 

MAAGCS Past President Mike Barrett, CGCS, receives the Circle of Friends Award from Dean Cheng-i Wei (left)
and Alumni Association President Robert Morris (right).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Promoting golf during Earth Day

Golf is a game played on earth's great landscapes. A chance to be outdoors, enjoying some of life's finest scenery, golf seems to bring people to a state of serenity and joy. From weather to wildlife, to scents of fresh cut grass and wild plants, what's not to love about the outdoors?

As Earth Day 2015 falls upon us (April 22), it's important that we highlight and share some of golf's greatest attributes regarding environment and sustainability. Below are 10 facts that you can share with others that will promote our sport in the context of Earth Day and beyond.

1.   Golf courses are professionally managed landscapes where environmental stewardship is important – from using water and nutrients more efficiently to implementing more and better methods of erosion control.
2.   In general, the golf industry is striving to deliver firm and fast playing surfaces that are better for everyone and improve the bottom line. More than two-thirds of golf courses report that they keeping turfgrass drier than in the past.
3.   The golf industry is continually investing in research to identify drought-tolerant grasses and improve water conservation through best management practices.
4.   Golf courses use only one-half of 1 percent of all water withdrawn annually in the United States.
5.   Only 14 percent of golf courses use water from a municipal water supply – with most using water from on-course lakes, ponds and recycled water sources.
6.   Golf courses provide environments for wildlife, including protected species.
7.   Updated and targeted irrigation systems and ground moisture reading tools, along with weather monitoring systems, provide the science to water only when and where it is needed.
8.   Golf courses routinely have recycling programs to reduce and reuse, with an ultimate goal of zero waste.
9.   More than 90 percent of a typical golf course is turfgrass, a water body or other natural areas that prevent erosion, serve to filter runoff, and provide for cooler temperatures in urban settings.
10. Through governmental affairs, professional education and public information, the golf industry is striving to make environmental responsibility a basic premise.

Monday, April 6, 2015

GCSAA launches "thank a superintendent" campaign

GCSAA is launching an exciting new outreach campaign, hoping to stir golfer appreciation for the great work of our members. By utilizing TV, radio, print and internet media, GCSAA's new "thank a golf course superintendent" campaign aims to reach the 25 million golfers who enjoy the fruits of our superintendents' labors.

The television spots (15 and 30 seconds long) are headlined by the Golden Bear, Mr. Jack Nicklaus, and feature other marquee names, including Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Michelle Wie and Nick Faldo. These big-name golfers have big-time influence, and GCSAA is using their testimonies to show the golf world why superintendents are a key component of the game's success and enjoyment. These ads will run on the Golf Channel throughout 2015, and you can check them out at http://www.gcsaa.org/thankasuperintendent.

The radio ads, similar to the TV ads, also feature Nicklaus and other brand-name golfers and will air on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio (Sirius 208, XM 93), as well as local golf radio shows throughout the nation. Both TV and radio ads can be co-branded by GCSAA chapters and aired in their local markets. The radio spots can be heard on the same link provided above.

By tracking internet traffic on golf-related websites, these ads will take advantage of dynamic internet marketing to pinpoint golfers' web browsers and lure them in with a chance to win a trip to the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. When golfers view the ad, they are prompted to fill out a "thank your superintendent" form for their chance to win the trip to the PGA Championship. On the back end, GCSAA will then send that thank you note to the golfer's superintendent and the superintendent's employer. Pretty cool.

The project is spear-headed by two new faces to the GCSAA team: associate director of marketing Russell Sypowicz, and director of communications and media, Craig Smith. Both bring great experience to the GCSAA team, and look to continue making headway in future outreach and marketing initiatives.

In other news, Jenny Pagel-Guile is the new face of the GCSAA certification program, replacing recently retired Penny Mitchell. Jenny is working to help further develop and grow the CGCS program and wants to hear member feedback in order to provide more directed services. 2014 saw 22 newly certified members, and eight members have started the process in 2015. Please feel free to reach out to her directly for questions regarding the application process or eligibility at JPagel-Guile@gcsaa.org.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Pennsylvania Golf Day taking shape

On April 15, GCSAA and other allied organizations in the "We Are Golf" coalition will unite on Capitol Hill for National Golf Day. We will tell golf's story, promote our economic impact, share our charitable initiatives and meet with legislators who govern the land where we reside and work.

On June 9, the Pennsylvania GCSA will come together with our own statewide allies and follow that same model to promote the game at our state capital in Harrisburg. What is the purpose? We want to let our representatives know that golf is a business; it's a green space; it's a wildlife habitat; it creates jobs; and it's a valuable community asset. We want to establish trust with our legislators. We want to be perceived as experts in land management. And we want to help.

If we can build these relationships with our state government, it improves our chance of having a "seat at the table" when new bills are proposed. If we can establish the trust that enables and empowers our legislators to seek our opinions, then we are doing ourselves and our industry a great service.

We currently have seven allied organizations committed to participating in our inaugural state golf day, including the CMA, two PGA sections, Pennsylvania Golf Owners (PGO), Western PA Golf Association, Golf Association of Philadelphia and of course, the PAGCSA. We'd like two superintendents from each of our six Pennsylvania affiliated chapters to come to Harrisburg to participate in the day. That being said, if more want to come and see the event, you are more than welcome!

In addition to meeting with state legislators, we will also have a large space in the main Capitol building for each organization to set up an exhibit. If you have ideas on what we should include at our superintendent's exhibit table, please let me know! We want to make sure we are representing the industry well. PGA will also be setting up nets and tees so people can hit some golf balls and get some tips from a PGA professional - how cool!

I will update you further as details develop and we get closer to the June 9 date. I hope you are as excited as I am about this very important initiative -- one that we hope to continue on an annual basis. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A new perspective on nutrient management plans

If you follow this blog, you have likely seen me write about the importance of Best Management Practices (BMPs) and the development of statewide BMP models across the country. By now, I hope we understand why these programs are important for advocacy and government relations initiatives. But if not, here is a refresher:

Golf has long been scrutinized as a contributor, even a large contributor, to the deteriorating water quality of the Chesapeake Bay. For that reason, many states in the Bay's watershed have embarked on legislative-driven journeys to create environmental accountability as it relates to golf course maintenance practices. So, how do we create that accountability? We develop statewide BMP models that we can promote to our legislators.

But once we develop these BMP models, how do we validate to our law-makers just how many golf courses are implementing these BMPs? This is where nutrient management plans come into play. Nutrient management plans ARE the validation for BMPs. Last week I had a long conversation with Peter McDonough, superintendent at The Keswick Club in Virginia, about this very topic. Peter has been instrumental in developing BMPs in Virginia, as well as working with the state government to implement nutrient management plans for golf courses.

In regard to the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay, the main "culprits" of interest are nitrogen, phosphorus and sediments. While Virginia state law allows so much of those given nutrients to be applied in a calendar year, the allowable quantity is usually more than what golf courses actually apply. By developing a nutrient management plan for each golf course, it shows that we are staying within our industry's Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). And most of the time, even below the allowable thresholds.

Each golf course in Virginia is required to have a nutrient management plan in place by 2017. And the VGCSA even worked with the state to secure funding assistance. Plans have to be written by a certified nutrient management plan writer and are required to be re-written every five years. Now, while this may sound like a huge expense and burden, the cost really isn't too bad - about $10 per acre. And remember, there is state funding to help aid the financial aspect.

Track with me -- nutrient management plans are a way to validate our use of BMPs, particularly in regard to fertilizer application. But, here is where this gets really interesting -- remember how I said we usually apply less fertilizer than our allowable thresholds? Well, imagine a credit system where we could sell TMDL credits to other industries. That's right, creating nutrient management plans could actually be a revenue stream in the future. And this isn't an outlandish, never-going-to-happen, crazy idea either. Peter McDonough is actually working on the approval of selling these credits in Virginia. And the financial gain could be significant, possibly even in the six digit realm.

So, to wrap this up and bring it full circle: We need to create statewide BMP models to illustrate our responsible use of water, resources and nutrient application. Development of nutrient management plans are a way of validating these BMP models, and possibly a future revenue stream. So not only are we bringing golf into the good graces of our state and federal legislators; these programs also help protect us and give us a "seat at the table" when we face future legislative changes. And last, but certainly not least, we could even make some money along the way.