Want a compelling reason to believe 2016 will be a better year for the industry than its immediate predecessors?
Study the budget numbers on these pages.
The average non-capital operations budget is increasing from $697,000 to $750,000, a robust and encouraging 13.2 percent increase. For those wondering, the average maintenance budgets in 2012 and 2013 were $651,392 and $622,500, respectively. More than half of superintendents (52 percent) will see their maintenance budgets increase in 2016 while only 16 percent will be forced to trim expenses.
Of the 18 budgetary line items annually included in the survey, 12 will experience spikes in 2016, including all forms of pesticides and fertilizers. Equipment suppliers should be primed for a solid 2016. The biggest budgetary rise will be in mowing/cultivating equipment, with the average course spending $42,800 on iron in 2016 compared to $31,300 in 2015.
Receiving the necessary financial resources to produce a quality product isn’t a major concern among superintendents entering 2016. Forty-three percent of superintendents say they are “very confident” the maintenance department will have the financial resources to succeed in 2016. Only 4 percent say they are “not confident at all.”
Spending on capital projects should be conservative in 2016, with the average facility devoting $94,500 to course improvements, a 31.5 percent decrease over 2015. Only 3 percent of superintendents indicated their facilities will spend more than $500,000 on capital improvements this year.
2015 vs. 2016
Confidence maintenance department will have financial resources to succeed in 2016
Projected non-capital operations budget, including labor and overhead but excluding water costs, for 2016
Projected capital budget for 2016
What lies beneath
Features - Pests
White grub control is key to keeping turf intact and deterring above-ground critters looking to treat your turf like a buffet.
White grubs deliver a one-two punch to superintendents fighting to keep their golf courses healthy and thriving. Initial injury to turf occurs from larval feasting on the roots, which results in infested areas first turning yellow, then brown, and finally dying. It’s the secondary issue, however, that leads to the most damage.
The grubs’ predators are much more destructive than the larvae, itself, says Rob Golembiewski of the Bayer Green Solutions Team.
White grubs are larvae of several beetle species including May-June beetles, green June beetles, masked and European chafers, oriental beetles, Japanese beetles, Asiatic garden beetles and ataenius beetles. They are major pests of higher-cut turf (fairways and roughs) throughout much of the United States, Golembiewski adds, with the greatest occurrence in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. The May-June beetle will have a 2- or 3-year life cycle depending on species, while other significant species have a 1-year life cycle.
“Egg lying can occur at various times during the season depending on species and region of the country, but usually begins in late June or early July and continues for four to six weeks,” he says. “In most cases, adult emergence occurs in mid-summer, often after significant rainfall or irrigation, followed by mating and egg lying. The eggs hatch and the small larvae begin feeding on roots with molting from first to second instar occurring in a few weeks. Most of the feeding damage is done by the comparatively large third instar larvae, and it is this stage that causes visible turf damage.”
Overwintering occurs in this third instar stage with larvae moving downward during late October or November into the soil profile for protection from cold weather. The following spring, the larvae move up to the soil-thatch interface to feed and replenish food reserves lost during the winter before moving back down and transforming into the pupal stage. “A one-year cycle will be completed with beetles emerging from this pupal stage a short time later,” Golembiewski says.
And the damage they do can be extensive. When grub populations are heavy, areas of turf are easily lifted from the soil. “Turf damage from white grubs is much less common compared to the damage that results from animals feeding on the white grubs,” Golembiewski says. “Moles, raccoons, skunks and turkeys are the most common animals that destroy turf when feeding on white grubs. Turf can be severely damaged by animal foraging and usually results in reseeding or resodding.”
White grubs thrive in environments with adequate soil moisture and food. Golf courses provide plenty of irrigated organic matter in the soil profile for both larval development and life cycle completion, says Matthew Giese, field technical manager for Syngenta Turf & Landscape.
The term “white grubs” encompasses a significant number of beetle species that affect desirable turf species on any given golf course. “From the largest white grub (green June beetle) to the smallest (black turfgrass ataenius or billbug) and everything in between, each insect has different preferences in terms of what their favorable environment might be for cover (height of cut) and egg laying requirements (turf species),” Giese says.
Turfgrass areas with higher thatch levels are generally preferred, as this provides a significant food source for larval growth, Giese says.
“While it is not always the case, golf course greens tend to have less thatch and therefore, to a lesser degree, lower incidences of white grub infestation,” he adds. “Roughs, fairways, tees and approaches are common desirable areas where adult beetles will mate and lay eggs for optimal larval development and eventually pupation into adult beetles.”
However, Giese reiterates grubs will infest greens. For example, the green June beetle grub – the largest grub species infecting turf – can be found in greens and cause a fair amount of surface damage.
“The bottom line is that if the adult beetle’s basic environmental preferences are met, it’s possible white grubs could be found almost anywhere on the golf course,” he says. “In most cases, the damage is root loss and the inability of the plant to absorb moisture and nutrients for its survival. This type of damage typically results in the visible plant tissues turning yellow or necrotic, and can be mistaken for disease symptoms or even drought stress.”
If the turfgrass is growing vigorously, then it may withstand root system damage and no visible symptoms will be apparent, Giese says. In this latter scenario, where no surface symptoms are visible, indirect damage may occur – critters digging for a meal.
White grubs management strategies on the golf course are unique from other type of pests a superintendent encounters, Giese says. “Disease and weed-control management will typically require multiple applications for control of these pests,” he says. “Most basic grubs can be controlled with a single well-timed application. The exception here might be billbugs and annual bluegrass weevils, both of which have multiple life cycles that may require more than just a single insecticide application. The key is well-timed.”
Different preventive insecticides have different application timings. Not following the specific recommendations will result in less-than-desired outcomes. Giese says. However, he adds preventive applications are the most effective for season-long control control.
The introduction of the neonicotinoids (Meridian, Merit, etc …) for grub control was seemingly a silver bullet. Make one application prior to egg hatch typically in June or July and expect season-long control.
“If grub breakthrough does occur late in the season, some contact type insecticides are useful, albeit short lived, to suppress white grub feeding,” Giese says. “Within the last five years, the introduction of the anthranilic diamide (Acelepryn) chemistry has provided longer soil residual than the neonicotinoids and a broader spectrum (cutworms, sod webworms, billbugs) of pests found in turfgrass. In addition, this chemistry characterizes a friendlier environmental profile, especially around beneficials and pollinators, and as public and regulatory pressures mount for increased pollinator safety and habitat, it offers an attractive option for preventive white grub control.”
And, unlike other pests, resistance hasn’t been an issue.
“There has never been a confirmed report of neonicotinoid resistance amongst any grub species in turf,” Golembiewski says. “Reduced control is most likely the result of excessive thatch, low use rates, improper application timing, insufficient watering in of applications and/or poor environmental conditions. The impact of thatch on insecticide performance should not be underestimated. A turf stand with thatch layers of 0.75-1 inch may prevent 50-80 percent of any insecticide from reaching the soil.”
I started sprinting and leaping like Sergio Garcia in the 1999 PGA Championship when my bosses told me to write 2016’s first “Teeing Off” column. You should have seen the expressions among other GIE Media “Green Team” editors when I attempted a running scissors kick inside our intergalactic headquarters.
We are using this space to introduce the 2016 Super Social Media Award winners. I like to write. I like to tweet. So, I’m writing about tweeting – and blogging, Facebook posting, Instagram sharing and video producing – in the same column.
We like to think of our GIS gathering as something bigger than just handing a few excellent communicators jazzy plaques.v#GCITweetUp16, which will be held at 3 p.m. Feb. 10 at Aquatrols Booth #3132 inside the San Diego Convention Center, is about leaving your comfort zone. It takes courage to share your work on social media, where anybody with a username and password can see it. Stop by the booth and you will meet people who once harbored similar trepidation about mixing work and social media. These are the same people who now consider Twitter as valuable of a job tool as a rake or shovel.
More of you are taking the bold step of using social media for work purposes. How do we know this? GCI’s legion of Twitter followers has increased from 4,300 to more than 9,400 in the past 18 months. If you know of somebody in the industry thinking about starting a Twitter account, tell them to do it immediately. We’ve set high goals and we want to reach 10,000 followers by the end of GIS.
This year’s Super Social Media Awards nominations tell us more of you are using social media for work purposes. Dozens of qualified candidates from multiple continents made our final decisions as difficult as two-putting from 75 feet on a Pete Dye-designed green.
Selecting award winners represents one of our most difficult annual tasks. That’s a testament to the volume and quality of industry folk using social media. Lots of you bring your “A” games to computers and mobile device before, during and after exhausting work days.
Let’s hope everybody brings their best social media performance to San Diego. Who knows what connection you might make while roaming the show floor or sitting in a conference room? For those who can’t make it to San Diego, we encourage you to follow along @GCIMagazine.
The best sports writers make you feel like you are at the game, even if you are listened to the broadcast while running errands. Turf writers are no different. You can’t effectively do this job anymore without using punchy, colorful, visual and informative tweets. We vow to bring our “A-plus” game to San Diego.
We are also adding a new award to #GCITweetUp16: Megaphone Award for Outstanding Advocacy. Pat Jones described the significance of the megaphone last month. Enter bit.ly/1lXj95n into your web browser for the explanation.
West Coast irrigation consultant Mike Huck is the first winner of the award. He’s a fitting selection for numerous reasons, none bigger than for taking a leadership role as California superintendents handle the politics of a prolonged drought. Huck uses his Twitter account @IrrTurfSvcs to share news related to the drought. He gives the industry a credible and, more importantly, visible presence in a region where it’s often considered safer to keep quiet and hope a few steady rains silences golf critics.
The rest of our winners display similar boldness. They just might be capable of convincing someone to execute a running scissors kick during the middle of a work shift.
Paul Carter The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, Harrison, Tenn.
Best Overall Use of Social Media
Rick Tegtmeier Des Moines Golf and Country Club, West Des Moines, Iowa,
Joe Wachter Glen Echo Country Club, St. Louis, Mo.
Best Twitter Feed
Eric Bauer Bluejack National, Montgomery, Texas
Paul Koch University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.
Patrick Reinhardt Georgia Southern University Golf Course, Statesboro, Ga.
Joel Kachmarek Tacoma Country & Golf Club, Lakewood, Wash.
Brad Novotny Hillendale Country Club, Phoenix, Md.
Graeme Roberts Camberley Heath Golf Club, Surrey, United Kingdom
Megaphone Award for Outstanding Advocacy
Mike Huck Irrigation and Turfgrass Services, Orange County, Calif.
An old Toro irrigation computer using Windows 7 to access the Internet was recycled to operate the job board on a Samsung 55-inch LED TV with multiple HDMI inputs (one for the computer and one for the Apple TV). The computer, keyboard and Apple TV with remote is located next to the TV. Any computer can be used for this application as long as it has HDMI outputs. The job board was created on Google Sheets (similar to Excel) and the categories are limitless because anything produced on Google Drive can be shown on the TV. The job board is used to show the type of tee times (straight tee times, shotgun start, crossover tee times), the first and second job assignments for the day, other projects to be completed, and any other messages supervisors want to communicate to staff – such as safety and quality issues, mowing directions, and perimeter mowing instructions. Google Earth shows the staff specific areas on the golf course they need to be working on. Local radar is displayed in the corner of the screen to alert the staff of potential rain and lightning. Supervisors can also use their iPhones to take photos and videos on the course that can be shown on the job board for employee training. The entire project cost about $1,200 for the TV, mounting bracket and Apple TV, and it took about an hour to mount and hook it up. Michael R. Wallace is the superintendent at the Naples Lakes Country Club in Naples, Fla.
These Standard Operating & Agronomic Procedures (SOAP) pocket guides are provided to each employee to help them do a better job. There are nine different nationalities working at the Desert Mountain Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., on their six golf courses. Each nationality works together on a respective golf course with their interpreters and they have their own pocket guides of specific job duties in their native tongue. College interns observe the existing books and rewrite them as the goals and objectives are updated and changed. The pocket guides, modeled after yardage books, are very durable, as they are laminated and waterproof, the text is well written, the photos are very specific and they last approximately eight months during the entire golfing season. They are now printed in-house, they allow the same operating procedures to be done the same way on all six golf courses and they cost about $1.50 each to produce. The pocket guides were conceived by Shawn Emerson, director of agronomy, and Brad Seiler, former golf course coordinator.
, CGCS, MG, is president of Golf Agronomy International. He’s a 41-year, life member of the GCSAA. He can be reached at 757-561-7777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Globetrotting consulting agronomist Terry Buchen visits many golf courses annually with his digital camera in hand. He shares helpful ideas relating to maintenance equipment from the golf course superintendents he visits – as well as a few ideas of his own – with timely photos and captions that explore the changing world of golf course management.
After reading GCI’s October story and listening to the accompanying podcast about Cub Cadet’s RG3 Robot Greens Mower, I wondered if this would be a solution to Crown Golf Course’s growing labor shortage. As equipment manager, I read technical manuals for fun. Each machine has an operator’s manual, a parts manual and a shop manual. These manuals tell me most everything there is to know about the operation, maintenance and repair of the machines they accompany. So, for a new piece of machinery, studying these manuals is the best and fastest way to get acquainted, understand how it was built and how it works.
Unfortunately for me, the manuals for the Cub Cadet are only available to someone who has purchased the machine/system. While not common, suppliers sometimes do this, which puzzles me. Anything patentable would have been patented before manufacturing the machine/system. And if it is all protected by patents, why keep me away from the manuals?
Another way to find out what it is like to live and work with a machine is to borrow it from the dealer for a few days. This common practice is known as a “demo” – short for “demonstration.”
Unfortunately, demos of the RG3 are not only unavailable, they are not possible because it takes a team of 10 people three weeks to “install” the machine and required infrastructure, and to start up the system. I have seen this before; an early version of an automatic floor scrubbing machine I worked with had a similar lengthy install process. The floor scrubber people eventually streamlined the install process down to 30 minutes. Perhaps Cub Cadet will follow suit.
The price of an individual RG3 does not reflect the installed cost of the system. For an 18-hole course with a 19th green for putting, the installed cost of the entire system is about $225,000. Once installed, it requires two full-time employees to operate. While this price sounds outrageous, properly applied the system pays for itself in four years, and then continues to save the course money.
As it turns out, Michigan is outside of their service area and will not be supported until 2017. In a phone conversation, the representative was kind enough to spend time with me and we ran through some of the hypothetical calculations as if I were a customer. He looked over the course using Google Maps images. We plugged some of Crown’s numbers into their return-on-investment calculator spreadsheet which showed the club was not a candidate for installation. It would not make economic sense.
The first strike against us was that we are a six-month course, which would double the time required for savings to offset the cost. The second strike against us was the course, at the moment, is too lean an operation. The fat that installing a system would trim out of an operation is nonexistent. There was also the question about going back to walk-mowed greens after having been mowing them with a triplex. The ideal customer would be walk mowing their greens, rolling them every day and inclined to automate that process.
While I am disappointed the RG3 robot greens mower is not the mower for the Crown Golf Club’s golf course, I did learn a lot about the machine and its operation. It sounds like the RG3 is for about two-thirds of U.S. golf courses, so maybe your course could benefit from the RG3 system.
The other mowers I looked at, a greens mower, fairway mower and rough mower, are stand-alone mowing systems and do not require the installation of any infrastructure. They’re dispatched from the shop storage area, mow and return themselves to their parking spot. Mowing patterns are programmable and selectable so you can put in the seven-day pattern of mowing differently each day. These mowers cost about twice the price of the same mower without the self-driving feature. Just figuring the savings from not having a driver, the guidance system looks like it will pay for itself in about three years.
There is one problem. When I contacted the salesmen for each of these companies to check on price and availability they each said, “what self-driving mower?”
is the Equipment Manager for the Crown Golf Club in Traverse City, Mich., a position he’s held for the past decade. Previously, he spent 8½ years as the equipment manager at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. Prior to that, he worked as a licensed ships engine officer sailing the Great Lakes and the oceans of the world.