Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Turfgrass research at Penn State University

We all know how important university research is to the vitality and future success of our industry. This post will serve as the first feature of a blog mini-series highlighting the research being conducted around the Mid-Atlantic region. Next time, I will take you inside the research programs at the University of Maryland and Virginia Tech. To get us started, here is a little bit of what's going on in Happy Valley.

Dr. Max Schlossberg's research trials on Kentucky bluegrass are evaluating efficiency and recovery of controlled-release granular nitrogen fertilizers. These studies involve weekly measures of canopy color/density, growth, and fertilizer-N recovery. Field trials investigating organic N fertilizers and liming agents are also underway. Lastly, the Turfgrass Nutrition team is repeating several flux-chamber studies measuring ammonia volatilization (loss) following foliar and granular applications of urea and stabilized-urea fertilizers. The outcomes of this N-fertilizer research include guidance on fertilizer selection, rate(s), and cultural practice that support resilient golf course roughs, sports fields, and lawns; while limiting non-point N loading of water resources.

Dr. Ben McGraw and his team are working on interesting research involving turfgrass ants. Some believe that turfgrass ants are major predators of Annual Bluegrass Weevil (ABW) eggs, and Dr. McGraw wants to learn more. By monitoring these ant colonies using pit-fall traps and ABW egg stations, the entomology team hopes to gain insight into the impact that ants have on ABW populations. In answering this question, Dr. McGraw would gain insight on whether conserving these ants on fairways may actually help reduce ABW populations in the future.

Speaking of ABW, Dr. McGraw’s graduate student, Ben Czyzewski, is researching how different greens cultural practices (mowing height and N fertility) affect ABW survival rates, egg laying, and larval development. Since ABW damage is rarely reported on greens, this research helps gain insight into whether or not ABW can lay eggs on greens-height grass.  Furthermore, Ben is learning more about ABW foraging activities using a time lapse camera – pretty cool. He actually marks the adult ABWs with a UV pen, and then can easily pick up their activity on the camera. 

Dr. Kaminski and his research technician, Tim Lulis, are embarking on a long-term study looking at how to maximize playability without compromising plant health. In short, what is the point of diminishing returns when it comes to high intensity management and the expected gains? The idea is to come up with a sort of mathematical equation that can be used to attain maximum playability with the fewest necessary inputs. Think: Is that extra roll or cut necessary to attain speeds of “X”? Or, given “X” weather conditions, your greens can only attain “Y” speeds, with “Z” inputs. Complex, yes. But they hope this information is useful for tournament preparation in the future.

Some of the influencing factors include mowing frequencies, mowing heights, etc. As far as data collection, there is a ton, including thermal photography, ball roll, and plant color and quality. They are currently working on a bentgrass green, with plans to replicate the study on a fine fescue green as well. Pretty interesting.

Dr. Landschoot is working on some research that aims to control poa annua within a Kentucky bluegrass stand. While controlling poa is hard enough, controlling poa in a stand of Kentucky bluegrass is even harder, since both grasses are in the same genus. His research is showing a positive response to an Exonerate and Tenacity mixture. In this case, the exonerate kills the poa, and the Tenacity serves as a pre-emergent. While there is some phytotoxicity associated with this treatment, the results are pretty promising. 

Lastly, Dr. Andy McNitt and Tom Serensits, manager of Sports Turf Research, are working on a project looking at the playability of warm season grasses on athletic fields in northern climates. The trial is evaluating three bermudagrasses up against new Kentucky bluegrasses. Some of the evaluation parameters include traction and divot resistance. In other work, the McNitt group is experimenting with fraze mowing and various sodding techniques for NFL fields. 

In closing, I'd like to thank all of the Penn State Turfgrass Faculty and Staff for presenting their research, and the hard work they continue to put forth to serve our industry. 

A view of Valentine Turfgrass Research Center
Dr. McGraw's pitfall traps placed around a turfgrass ant colony
A look at Dr. Landschoot's poa control study

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

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

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!