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There are few courses in the world that get the opportunity to host major golf championships. Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield, Michigan, is among the elite. With over 200,000 square feet of bunkers and greens, Oakland Hills has the bones to host the biggest championships. But in recent years, the South Course began to experience slow drainage on the native push-up greens, leading them toward a renovation. The club also wanted to reconstruct the course back to the original 1918 Donald Ross design that could challenge professional golfers but remain playable for members.
SELECTING THE RIGHT PRODUCTS
Oakland Hill’s director of agronomy, Phil Cuffare, consulted grounds crew team members at top courses around the country for help developing a greens mix that would have great physical properties and produce firm, fast conditions. He was introduced to John Maeder, Profile Golf™ business manager, who advised employing Profile® Porous Ceramic (PPC) Greens Grade™, an inorganic soil amendment that allows for deeper rooting, increased drainage, nutrient retention and better water management.
“In the past you always had to rely on Mother Nature to produce firm, fast playing conditions and now with tech advances in agronomics, rebuilding the greens with PPC allowed us to take Mother Nature out of the equation,” Cuffare said.
Oakland Hills began the renovation in October 2019. Contractors installed the greens mix with PPC over the next year. Prior to the installation, Oakland Hills push-up greens drained just 4 inches per hour. Today, the greens drain at 46 inches per hour.
“What we’ve created is consistent, firm, fast playing conditions instead of hoping for a dry stretch of weather. Anytime we would get anywhere from a half inch of rain or greater, the playing conditions became very soft and weren’t championship quality,” Cuffare said. “With the new greens mix, we got an inch of rain and we didn’t lose any firmness. It was incredible to see how fast they maintained after an inch of rain.”
A GREENS MIX FOR THE FUTURE
The course reopened to the public in July 2021 to favorable reviews and predictions that the South Course will be in discussions for upcoming major tournaments. While time will tell if Oakland Hills is named among the elite, Cuffare feels the renovated course is in excellent shape and ready to take on the challenge, in part because of the enhanced greens mix.
“What PPC has done for Oakland and the rest of the great clubs in the country is unbelievable,” Cuffare said. “It’s created consistency and uniformity on a daily basis, our plant health is at a premium. We’ve created a greens mix that will withstand the test of time for the future.”
- Oakland Hills Country Club
- Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Director of Agronomy:
- Hanse Golf Course Design, Architect ISTRC, Soils Lab
- Osburn Industries, Sand Blender
Profile® Porous Ceramic (PPC) Greens Grade™
I loved growing up in rural, southwestern Virginia. Castlewood was nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and the rolling terrain stretched as far as the eye could see.
I was fortunate enough to visit Scotland and the home of golf, St Andrews, in January 2019 and I was immediately enamored with the landscape. I could easily recognize why emigrated Scots would choose to settle in my neck of the woods centuries ago.
When I received an invitation earlier this year to return to Scotland, I did not hesitate to ask my wife for permission. It had been 20 months since I last traveled to the 2020 Golf Industry Show, and those 20 months had been filled with the pandemic and my wife’s battle with breast cancer. Perhaps she needed a break from me as much as I just needed a break!
In 1964, famed golf writer Herbert Warren Wind penned North to the Links of Dornoch for The New Yorker. Golf has been played on the links land in Dornoch since 1616. The golf club was formed in 1877 and in 1886 Old Tom Morris was “invited to survey the links and lay out a more fully planned golf course!”
Also, Dornoch is the birthplace of Donald J. Ross. Born November 23, 1872, Ross was nearly 14 years old when Old Tom improved the links, and he would go on to apprentice under Old Tom in St Andrews before emigrating to the U.S. and becoming our most prolific golf course designer of the Golden Age. I had to make this pilgrimage.
Now, with this much build-up prior to arriving, I had the highest of expectations I have ever had for a golf course. Many times, I have walked away unimpressed with other highly touted courses simply because my expectations were too lofty.
But not this time! My first round at Royal Dornoch was played in a steady rain. Course manager Eoin Riddell messaged me: “Think you’re going to get wet! 14 mm” — a little more than half an inch — “in the last couple of hours and not stopping, welcome to Scotland!” At least Eoin was kind enough to include a laughing emoji.
The rain stopped and we had a couple hours before dinner, so three of us went back out and walked the course. We walked to more closely inspect the landscape, turf, conditioning and architecture.
It was cloudy and cool as we made the trek past the second green and through the gorse to the third tee. Holes 3 through 6 continue outward and then we made the climb up to the plateau where No. 7 resides.
And there the whole course stretched out below our feet, and it was now basking in the golden glow of the late afternoon sun. I knew then there was not a finer piece of ground for golf anywhere in this world. The beautiful contours are simultaneously unbelievable and indescribable and for the first time in I don’t know how long, I felt at peace.
I Facetimed Mrs. Greenkeeper standing on the edge of the seventh fairway. I flipped the camera and told her you must see this. When my trip was over, I made four trips around Royal Dornoch with golf clubs in tow, but the journey without them will hold memories for a lifetime.
A little more than 16 miles north of Dornoch lies the village of Brora. And Brora is home to a golf course on the North Sea redesigned by five-time Open champion James Braid. The golf course is mostly unchanged from Braid’s 1924 handiwork and my round there was a golf experience unlike any other.
Head greenkeeper James MacBeath and his team maintain the closely mowed areas of the links while nearly 100 head of sheep graze and maintain the rough. Small electrical wires encircle the putting surfaces to keep the sheep and cattle from wandering onto the greens.
As I looked out over the course and the surrounding landscape as far as the eye could see, I could envision the same terrain back home in Russell County, Virginia — minus the North Sea, of course. I felt totally at home on Brora’s links and was overcome with emotion.
I do not believe in reincarnation, but Mrs. Greenkeeper frequently tells me I am an old soul. When I stop to think about the things that pique my interest, I understand what she means. It was a long journey home, and this weary traveler was happy to be back in his bed, but my heart remains in the Highlands.
Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG, is the superintendent at Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte, North Carolina and past president of the Carolinas GCSA. Follow him on Twitter @CGCGreenkeeper.
Union League Liberty Hill superintendent John Canavan doesn’t possess what many of his colleagues consider the backbone of their work history.
“I don’t have a résumé,” he says. “Never did.”
Canavan is the first superintendent I have met who has never put his résumé in writing. I asked him while touring Liberty Hill earlier this year if he knows anybody else in the industry without one. He shook his head. “Different circumstances and situations,” he says. “There are people looking to move on and up.”
Canavan’s relationship with the rolling land started long before The Union League of Philadelphia (See Building something big) purchased the 311-acre property from Chubb Insurance earlier this year and renamed it Liberty Hill. World War II veteran Chuck Cadiz introduced Canavan to the golf industry in 1982 by offering him a job on his Eagle Lodge Conference Center and Country Club crew. Canavan picked rocks from tees on his first day. It snowed two days later.
By the end of that season, Cadiz approached Canavan about attending school for turfgrass management. Canavan enrolled in Penn State and remained close to Cadiz. The pair attended conferences and trade shows together. Canavan enjoyed the work and the people. “It was just the fit for me,” he says.
Cadiz retired in 1994 and Canavan replaced him as superintendent. Ownership changed and Canavan received an opportunity to be heavily involved in the construction of a new Gary Player-designed course on the site in the early 2000s. Eagle Lodge transformed into the ACE Club, a 7,500-yard aesthetically pleasing puncher with five acres of A-1 bentgrass greens, cavernous, white-sand bunkers and dramatic vistas. Regardless of the course’s name, Canavan, who has never worked anywhere else, knows more about the land than any living human.
“I can also tell you a small, little detail,” he says as we ride down the first fairway. “On our summer crew in 1982, we had a guy named Warren Henderson. He was on the crew because he was going to Arizona for golf course architecture and wanted to see as many golf courses as he could. In 2001, we hired Gary Player and who does he bring in as senior designer? Warren Henderson.”
Construction on the ACE Club started in early September 2001. The course opened in 2003. While maintaining and improving the rolling and scenic land, Canavan helped raise two sons, both of whom graduated from law school. He lives just 2½ miles from the course in a scenic suburb less than 15 miles from Center City Philadelphia. He considers himself a “process guy” and he still relishes arriving to work before sunrise and the collaboration required to produce a daily product. Assistant superintendent Alan Surrena has worked alongside Canavan since 2006. Personal connections, like the one Canavan had with Cadiz, are one of the best parts of the job.
“My boss told me, ‘You don’t work a day in life if you enjoy what you’re doing,” Canavan says. “It becomes your hobby and that’s how it has been for me. I’m totally blessed to be a part of it every day. The people I work with, the piece of land … it’s a humble version of God’s work. That’s how I always look at it.”
Some words don’t need to be on a résumé. They mean more through the calming voice of somebody who has lived them.
Guy Cipriano Editor-in-Chief email@example.com
In 2019, I walked into the Golf Course Industry office, met editor-in-chief Guy Cipriano and, in a nutshell, asked him to take a chance. I had never written about golf. I had worked course maintenance in high school, had a background in editorial work, published a children’s book, fell innocently in love with all things
Adam Scott golf and was totally into everything about the game.
The tournaments, the tours, the history, the architecture, the courses, the equipment, the global appeal and even the sometimes-confounding rules. I wanted to justify my golf habit and I wanted to do something beyond volunteering as a marshal (though I enjoy that, too — hello to the crew on Firestone South, Hole No. 6!). I wanted to somehow give back to golf.
Fast forward a few months and I’m sitting at Buffalo Ridge at Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Missouri, meeting with three outstanding professionals — Steve Johnson, Todd Bohn and Curtis Keller — who were beyond kind and patient with my questions during my debut Golf Course Industry interview. I stuttered, stumbled and blushed. I really tried to understand “the grasses” and their work. Even though I had done my research, it would be impossible for me to match their expansive agronomic knowledge and I knew their time was valuable. My connection with Golf Course Industry could have been brief. But being born in Springfield, Missouri, and raised as an adoring fan of Payne Stewart, I really wanted to write about Payne’s Valley, and they helped me.
My father has always enjoyed golf, various members of our family play and my paternal grandparents were charter members of a nearby club. So, I fished for information and put something together. It turned out OK and next I wrote about industry authors and the turf program at Brenstville High School, where there are students who are young, eager and thriving. Then I wrote about the joint internship at Sand Hills and Ballyneal, and turf education options. I was learning about the labor supply, recruiting, and the pros and cons of working in turf management.
I continued covering various topics, including fitness, tees, turf selection and course renovation, and spoke with industry leaders. Big thanks to all of them. People respond quickly to calls and emails. I ask everyone to please volunteer some time to answer a few questions and maybe to send a few photos because I want to learn more about their work. They tolerate my curiosity and, at the risk of conveying a low sense of self-esteem, I find it remarkable that everyone makes time for it. The people I have worked with in this industry are incredibly giving, hard-working and justifiably deserving of praise.
Technology and advances in the field never stop and they fascinate me. There are hydronic systems to adopt and GPS machines to test. The benefits of biochar and nanowater are being researched in conjunction with universities and new cultivars are being created. Pollinator gardens, bioswales and even a farm and apiaries are all topics I have had the pleasure of exploring. I have three sons and I show them photos of a green struck by lightning, sunblock footprints, drainage line patterns in melting snow and healthy environmental indicators. It’s interesting, scientifically, and a joy to discuss. There is always something. They ask questions and we figure out the answers.
But what I started to learn while working on that first story, and what has become apparent in the time since, is that the people leading these maintenance teams are even more intriguing than the agronomic conditioning I was writing about. There are common characteristics you all share, and possibly a few imperfections — you know you have a hard time stepping away — but blended together, they are endearing and inspiring.
I love hearing about your day. I love hearing about what you do. I love your passive-aggressive Twitter threads and your adorable dogs and even the occasional slow-motion coring or time-lapse construction video. I love the way you solve problems and help each other.
This is your work and it is a privilege for me to learn about it. I relish the opportunity to cover this industry more than you can imagine and I can’t do my work without you being willing to share yours. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for welcoming me and working with me, thank you for being you, thank you for all that you do for golf and for all that you do for those enjoying your properties. Your work may not always be appreciated or respected in the way that it should be, but you are accomplishing amazing things.
Please know that every single day, I very much appreciate working with you.
Lee Carr is a Northeast Ohio-based writer and frequent Golf Course Industry contributor. No, this isn’t her last article. She’s still just getting started!
TARTAN TALKS No. 64
Hills, deserts, flatland, wetlands. Bentgrass, Bermudagrass, zoysiagrass.
Trey Kemp finds an abundance of divergent work projects and golf experiences in his home state. A native Texan based in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Kemp joined the Tartan Talks podcast to discuss life as the newest ASGCA member. In Kemp’s case, it means constant visits to Texas golf courses.
Kemp estimates he’s played or visited around 400 courses in the state. Texas supports 834 courses, according to the National Golf Foundation’s 2021 Golf Facilities in the U.S. report.
“I have a long way to go, but I have seen quite a few,” Kemp says. “Texas is such a big state. Some people have asked, ‘Where are most of your projects?’ And I’ll say, ‘90 percent of the work is in Texas.’ But one job can be in Amarillo and one can be in McAllen, and that’s a 13-hour drive to get between those two spots. It’s a big space. The variety of terrain and climates in the state just make the golf courses unique and different.”
The ASGCA elected Kemp to become a member earlier this year and he attended his first annual meeting last month in Cleveland. He describes the experience on the podcast as well as the encounter that inspired him to pursue a career in golf course architecture. Download the episode on the Superintendent Radio Network page of Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other popular podcast distribution platforms.
Duininck Golf continues its 45-hole renovation at Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake in Brainerd, Minnesota, where the two championship courses designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. — Bobby’s Legacy Course and Dutch Legacy Course — will be modified as part of the work by Lehman Design and Duininck. “We didn’t take these decisions lightly — to undertake such a major project and, especially, to put it in the hands of PGA legend Tom Lehman and acclaimed builder Duininck Golf,” Cragun’s Resort general manager Eric Peterson says. … Nathan Crace has been commissioned by the Recreation and Parks Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge (BREC) to begin planning renovations at historic City Park Golf Course in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Tom Bendelow-designed nine-hole course will celebrate its official 100th anniversary in 2028. … The Gil Hanse-designed Ballyshear Links at Ban Rakat Club in Thailand opened for member play after local COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were lifted, with a grand opening scheduled for early 2022. The course is an 18-hole homage and near-recreation of the fabled Lido Golf Club, a C.B. McDonald and Seth Raynor design that was considered among the world’s great courses from the time it opened in 1917 until its quiet closure during World War II. … Tripp Davis and Associates completed their restoration of The Oaks Course at The International in Bolton, Massachusetts. The renovation improvements included bunker restoration work with Davis’ signature dripping lines, the regrassing of tees and laser-leveled tee boxes, and the addition of strategic new tees. The result gives the course the ability to play firm and fast. … Troon has been selected to manage both The Golf Club at Fiddler’s Creek, a private club in Naples, Florida, that features an Arthur Hills-designed championship golf course, and the Members Club golf facility at Grande Dunes, a master planned community in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, whose course was designed by Nick Price and Craig Schreiner. … The City of New York selected Bobby Jones Links to manage Ferry Point Links in the Bronx. … KemperSports acquired the Greg Nash-designed Corte Bella Golf Club in Sun City West, Arizona, the 17th club in KemperSports’ private club portfolio.
Comings and goings
Jason Straka was elected president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects at the organization’s recent 75th Annual Meeting in Cleveland. A principal with Fry/Straka Global Golf Course Design with Dana Fry, ASGCA, Straka is devoted to environmental golf course design, his projects with Fry having won many environmental accolades. … Jared Taylor is the new director of grounds at Mountain View Country Club in the La Quinta community in the Coachella Valley. … Clinton Southorn is the new director of construction and agronomy for Troon International, taking over from 20-year Troon veteran Robin Evans. … Landscapes Unlimited promoted Jake Riekstins and Brian Vitek to the senior leadership positions of chief development officer and chief operating officer, respectively. … Brad Davis is Munro’s new regional account manager for the Southwest region.
Aquatrols announced the expansion of its portfolio to include the new pre-emergent herbicide Basilisk UniTech and the new plant growth regulator Griffin UniTech. Both products feature UniTech formulation technology. Griffin UniTech is the company's first PGR. … The GCSAA will seek data from superintendents regarding water use and conservation practices to support the profession and industry as part of the ongoing efforts to maintain necessary golf course management resources. A questionnaire will be sent electronically to superintendents at approximately 14,000 facilities. … Prime Source, a division of Albaugh LLC, announced the EPA registration of its new Quintessential Herbicide. … Profile Products acquired Florikan, a manufacturer, blender and distributor of controlled-release fertilizer to golf, turf, ornamental horticulture, agriculture and professional landscape markets globally.
Are standards for working in hazardous heat coming to your course?
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration started publishing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings on Oct. 27. Currently, OSHA does not have a specific standard for hazardous heat conditions and this action begins the process to consider a heat-specific workplace rule.
“As we continue to see temperatures rise and records broken, our changing climate affects millions of America’s workers who are exposed to tough and potentially dangerous heat,” said U.S. Department of Labor secretary Marty Walsh. “We know a disproportionate number of people of color perform this critical work and they, like all workers, deserve protections. We must act now to address the impacts of extreme heat and to prevent workers from suffering the agony of heat illness or death.”
The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will initiate a comment period to gather diverse perspectives and expertise on topics, such as heat-stress thresholds, heat-acclimatization planning and exposure monitoring.
“While heat illness is largely preventable and commonly underreported, thousands of workers are sickened each year by workplace heat exposure, and in some cases, heat exposure can be fatal,” said Jim Frederick, acting assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings is an important part of our multi-pronged initiative to protect indoor and outdoor workers from hazardous heat.”
Heat is the leading cause of death among all weather-related workplace hazards. To help address this threat, OSHA implemented a nationwide enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards, is developing a National Emphasis Program on heat inspections and forming a National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group to provide a better understanding of challenges and identify and share best practices to protect workers.
Comments must be submitted at www.regulations.gov by Dec. 27, 2021.