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."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pennsylvania considering "amusement and recreation" sales tax

Pennsylvania has a budget deficit, and the golf industry could suffer the consequences. The state's General Assembly is considering expanding sales tax to include "amusements and recreational activities." This would include – you guessed it – greens fees. Other businesses subject to the tax include, but are not limited to: amusement parks, bowling alleys, marinas, car trade-ins, personal care services (what!?), RV and camping sites and movie downloads. In most areas of the state, this tax would total six percent, with exceptions of seven percent in Allegheny County and eight percent in Philadelphia.

So, what does this mean? It means higher costs for our customers. Consequently, the Pennsylvania Golf Owners group is drafting a letter to oppose this taxation, and our PGCSA logo will be included on the letter to support this opposition. Our main argument is that the golf industry continues to struggle for participants and their discretionary income. The addition of the sales tax would make golf more expensive to the consumer and that consumer will play less often, if at all. This is something the golf industry in Pennsylvania cannot afford. Additionally, some courses are already subject to a local amusement tax and the inclusion of a state sales tax would be double taxation.

When opposing such issues, it is important for us to share our industry's positive attributes with our state legislators. For example, Pennsylvania's 663 golf courses employ approximately 30,000 individuals. Likewise, the golf industry is responsible for nearly two billion dollars in direct economic impact in Pennsylvania. 

While there is not an official date set to vote on this issue, you can take action by calling or emailing your state legislators to voice your opposition. To find out who your representative is, please visit the state government website.

Please explain why we oppose this tax, what impact it could have on our industry, and the positive aspects of our economic impact in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, it is always beneficial to drive your point home by bringing it local – share how many individuals your course employs and other pertinent information that could highlight the impact of this change to that representative's district. As the old saying goes, "all politics are local."

Monday, October 26, 2015

A visit from Rafael Barajas

The GCSAA board of directors are working on getting out and interacting with chapters across the country. This past week, as a part of that effort, I was fortunate to host Director Rafael Barajas, CGCS. While the trip was relatively short, we were able to meet and visit with many superintendents of the Virginia GCSA. And although we wish we could have met with more chapters during that time, we hope in the future we can continue this outreach effort to meet with more chapters around the country and within the Mid-Atlantic region.

Rafael is a fifth-year director and has been the superintendent at Hacienda Golf Club in La Habra Heights, California since 1995. Our visit started off when I picked up Rafael at the airport on Sunday afternoon. From there, we enjoyed dinner with a few local superintendents and VGCSA Executive Director David Norman. It was an intimate group and provided ample opportunity for networking, discussion, and simply getting to know one another. 

On Monday, we participated in the Joe Saylor Tournament at Hermitage Country Club, just outside of Richmond. This tournament serves as a fundraiser for the Marines Toys for Tots Foundation, and over 100 toys were donated through the cause. Again, this event provided a great opportunity for Rafael to interact and meet members of the VGCSA. 

On Monday night, the VGCSA hosted their Annual Meeting in the clubhouse at Hermitage CC, where approximately 85 members were in attendance. In addition to a nice dinner and standard annual meeting business, the VGCSA honored three deserving members with awards for their respective career successes. Rick Viancour, CGCS, took home the Presidents Award for Lifetime Achievement, VGCSA's highest honor. Ken Giedd, CGCS, was recognized for his distinguished service, and delivered an eloquent speech that made it hard to believe he had not prepared any words beforehand. Lastly, Dan Taylor, CGCS, was honored for his environmental stewardship at Independence Golf Club. More on those awards here

On Tuesday, we attended the VGCSA annual conference, also hosted in the clubhouse at Hermitage CC. Rafael was part of great lineup of speakers, and he addressed the audience with "The GCSAA Perspective." Through that message, Rafael was able to prompt three new superintendents to sign up for GCSAA's Grassroots Ambassadors Program, which will help our government relations efforts in Virginia and across the country. 

In closing, I'd like to thank Rafael for taking time to visit the Mid-Atlantic region. The visit can certainly be deemed a success and we hope to get out and visit with more chapters in the future!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Where is your water coming from?

Unless you have been living in a hole, you have likely heard that California is in the midst of a historical drought. Consequently, golf courses residing in the state have been under the water-usage microscope. While this certainly presents challenges to our water-dependent industry, the situation also provides an opportunity to self-reflect, learn and try to get better in regards to water management.

I'm not here to sound the panic alarm, or shame our industry for using water. After all, in actuality, golf courses only use one half of one percent of all water withdrawn in the United States annually. And only 14 percent of golf courses use water from a municipal water supply. So you may be asking, "who cares then?" Well, a lot of people do, just read the news. I could go on with numerous anecdotal facts that support golf's claims as responsible users of water. And believe me, I buy into all of them. But that still doesn't mean that we can't improve.

Golf course irrigation can actually be mutually beneficial for golf, the environment, and other water consumers. How so? By using recycled water. In this story published by the Napa Valley Register, golf receives some positive PR as we learn about Napa Valley Country Club's conversion to recycled water. Sure, the upfront cost associated with installing the required infrastructure is certainly notable. But given the current state of water access in the state, I believe this is an investment well worth it. And as General Manager Todd Meginness points out, "aesthetically, environmentally, everybody wins. We'll be recharging the water table at the same time." Now that brings the initial point full circle.

Certainly, here in the Mid-Atlantic region, our weather conditions are quite different. We receive more rain, we experience a little season called winter when there is no need to irrigate (most of the time), and I would argue that public pressure for reducing water usage is not quite as high. But we still have a responsibility to do our due diligence and evaluate our current water management plans.

  • Do you have the ability to use reclaimed water? If so, what are the costs/benefits long-term and short-term?
  • How efficient is your current irrigation system? Have you audited recently?
  • Do you have a drought management plan in place?
  • Is there opportunity for irrigation reduction by replacing plantings with more drought tolerant plant species? 
  • Is your club or association part of a water conservation task force? Should it be? 
  • Do you have a relationship with your local water authority? Should you?
  • Do you use soil moisture meters to determine irrigation requirements?
  • Ever thought about building a retention pond and capturing runoff to use for irrigation?
The list goes on. As an industry we have more work to do with developing drought tolerant grasses, salt tolerant grasses, etc. A project that likely will never end, nor should it. Likewise, we are continually developing our BMPs, and water management is a key section. 

Similarly, water quality is not too different from water usage. Cue the Chesapeake Bay. Have you heard there is a water quality issue there? That is why I really like the idea of using recycled water, if at all possible. Not only does it benefit us, but it benefits everyone, and it is a great PR move for our industry. Maybe there are grants available. Maybe you and a local club could cost-share to get the appropriate infrastructure in place. Maybe the sanitation plant would cost-share. Maybe there would be tax write-offs. 

I don't know your specific situation. But I do believe it is our responsibility as an industry to evaluate our water management practices annually, and ask ourselves the question, "how is my water management, and how can I improve?"

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Turfgrass research at Virginia Tech University

This blog post is the final installment of a mini-series highlighting university turfgrass research around the Mid-Atlantic region. For this entry, we turn our focus to Virginia Tech University, a key contributor of turfgrass research for the golf industry and a valuable resource for superintendents. Like all university conducted research, many look here for unbiased information regarding new products and practices.

On August 26, nearly 100 individuals gathered to learn more about current research being conducted at the Blacksburg,Virginia-based university. The field day got started at 8:00 AM and was split in to two separate tours: one for the "golf" contingent, and another for "lawn care, sod, and athletics" folks. Among those two tours, a total of 19 stations were displayed and described by the researching faculty member and/or their graduate students. Throughout the tour, attendees listened to presentations about NTEP trials, fungicide evaluations, herbicide assessments and more.

One of the early presentations by David McCall talked about how drones will and will not change our management strategies. Interestingly, Mr. McCall believes that drones will be able to disseminate great information for turgrass managers, but there is a long way to go before we can maximize the potential of this technology. Ideally, one day we would be able to learn what areas of the golf course need special treatment, simply by looking at data collected by drones.

Another study, which measured the impact of annual bluegrass on golf putt trajectories, used a pretty interesting tool (pictured below) called "PendulumPerfect." The tool essentially mimics a perfect putt, with the most consistent ball-striking possible. In any research project, repeatable experimentation is a key component.

Plant hormones highlighted a study by Dr. Zhang that evaluates the effect of adding auxin to trinexapac-ethyl for increased rooting in creeping bentgrass. Can you imagine the possibilities here!? Pretty cool stuff. Similarly, evaluations of plant activators and pigments are looking at these products for increasing shade tolerance.

Other displays throughout the day included discussions on green kyllinga, seedhead suppression programs, moss control programs, and dollar spot reduction with iron sulfate. For more information on any of these studies, please visit for a full VA Tech research publication.

"PendulumPerfect" putting device

Dr. Askew discusses his research

Pylex research by Dr. Askew

A "tethered" drone system mounted on a golf cart

Discussing plant growth activators and shade tolerance

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Turfgrass research at the University of Maryland

The University of Maryland is a key contributor of turfgrass research for golf courses in the transition zone. As an important resource for superintendents around the region, many people look to this university for unbiased information regarding new products and practices around the industry. And with the recent hiring of pathologist Dr. Joseph Roberts, the program shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. On July 15, about 100 folks gathered for the University of Maryland Biennial Turfgrass Research Field Day at the Paint Branch Turfgrass Research Facility.

The field day consisted of 23 stations, each of which was highlighted by a brief description from the researching faculty member. Throughout the tour, attendees listened to presentations about NTEP trials, fungicide evaluations, fertilizer assessments, wetting agent studies and more.

Dr. Roberts' research is cruising already, as he evaluates fungicide programs for the control of dollar spot on creeping bentgrass playing surfaces. He will continue to collect data on these trials throughout the year, and hopes to gain further insight on how to maximize the efficacy of fungicide applications. Looking to the future, Dr. Roberts plans to study microbial populations in turfgrass systems, as well as develop integrated pest management strategies to limit the occurrence of turfgrass diseases. No question that the University of Maryland is lucky to have Dr. Roberts, and his energy and experience will be an asset to the program moving forward.

As I've written numerous times on this blog, BMPs are a big topic around the Mid-Atlantic and throughout the country. Hence, Dr. Mark Carroll and his graduate student, Xiayun Xiao, are experimenting with the implementation of BMPs to reduce runoff and lawn fertilizer use. What is most interesting is that a lot of these plots are used as educational platforms for showing people outside the industry the effects of different management practices. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and these plots give great visual evidence that lawn fertility (applied in appropriate capacities), promotes a healthier lawn, which in turn reduces nutrient runoff and leaching. In this experiment, plots that were mowed at 1 inch and not fertilized or treated with herbicides were almost completely overtaken by weeds. Conversely, plots mowed at 3 and 4 inches, even without fertility or herbicides, showed a greater reduction in weed incidence, given the thicker stand of turf. However, the healthiest of plots were those that had a higher height of cut and received appropriate levels of fertility.

I was especially interested in research evaluating the practical application of using microclover in lawns to reduce nitrogen applications. Clover is a legume, which produces its own nitrogen in the soil. Breeding programs have developed this "microclover" in hopes that it can be implemented in home lawns to reduce the requirement for N fertilization. While you may initially be skeptical, I believe there is a future for it. In my own observation, the microclover sits underneath the turfgrass canopy enough that you really can't even see it while looking over the lawn. And while it doesn't completely eliminate all fertilizer applications, I believe it is a necessary consideration for an industry that is facing a possible county-wide pesticide ban just a few miles down the street from University of Maryland.

In a not-so-dissimilar study, Dr. Tom Turner is evaluating the effects of various nitrogen sources on annual grass and total weed coverage. Again, this research helps support collaborative efforts with the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program and local ordinances aimed at eliminating lawn care inputs. In short, 3 pounds N/1000 square feet per year from urea nitrogen sources proved to eliminate total weed coverage more than the 1 pound rate. Furthermore, urea fertilizers seemed to suppress weed pressure more than organic sources. That being said, N rate proves to have a greater significance on weed pressure than does N source.

In closing, a big thanks to all of the University of Maryland faculty and staff who continue to do great work on behalf of the turf and golf industries. As these ongoing experiments wrap up this fall, I'm sure you will be hearing more about this research during winter educational seminars and beyond.

Dr. Roberts talks about dollar spot research on creeping bentgrass turf.
Dr. Turner presents some of his field research.
Xiayun Xiao explains her graduate research.