The PGA of America is championing a new initiative to grow the game called Golf 2.0. The concept, which targets the new era in golf, (thus 2.0) aims to substantially boost the number of golfers and much needed revenue.
Is Golf 2.0 a plan for our game's future or a well-conceived prayer?
We are all painfully aware golf is in a skid. According to the National Golf Foundation, the number of golfers declined by about 1 million from 2009 to 2010. The NGF recently posted, "Since 2001 golf rounds have declined 12 percent nationwide, which is the equivalent of 60 million rounds."
I was not familiar with Golf 2.0 until I attended a recent Colorado Golf Summit and heard a presentation by Darrell Crall. Crall is the PGA's Senior Director for Golf 2.0.
According to Crall, Golf 2.0 is envisioned as an industry-wide effort to increase the number of players and the revenue generated by the golf industry. Specifically, the Golf 2.0 vision is to go from 26.1 million golfers and $33 billion in consumer spending in 2011 to 32 million golfers and $35 billion in consumer spending by 2016. The 2020 vision is 40-plus million golfers and $40 billion in consumer spending. (To view Crall's entire presentation go to www.coloradopga.com and click on Golf 2.0)
Based on golfer and non-golfer focus groups and other research, various key demographic and consumer megatrends were developed. In addition the following Golf 2.0 action plan tasks were identified:
According to the PGA, to meet the goals of Golf 2.0, the industry needs to implement a strategy which:
The PGA golf professional is positioned to take the lead in this initiative. To this end, the PGA has made enhanced training for golf professionals in the recruitment and retention of players a top priority. Superintendents should also embrace this effort. By their very nature, superintendents are great problem solvers and foster innovative ideas all the time.
The time for action is now. The success of Golf 2.0 depends on each course or club developing an action plan which includes fortifying the core while extending a welcoming hand to the millions of potential golfers waiting on the sidelines.
In the final analysis, whether Golf 2.0 becomes a viable plan or turns out to be just a prayer is up to all of us.
Our compiled answers don't necessarily tell who's spending the most money on marketing, and definitely don't define total market share or sales. What they do is give us an idea of which companies superintendents think are meaningful to the industry right now.
Providing our customers with the highest quality of service and products has been our No. 1 goal for decades. We remain a global leader in the manufacturing of quality plant protection products for the golf industry with a never-ending commitment to our customers and to the innovations they desire. The widespread acknowledgement by survey respondents to that fact further validates our belief that our efforts to deliver the best overall value and reliability to superintendents help retain our industry leading position.
Our commitment to our customers goes far deeper than the integrated product solutions we provide. Syngenta product purchases give superintendents access to agronomic technical support that is "second-to-none," as mentioned in the survey. Syngenta also strives to understand the superintendents' non-agronomic needs. As such, we partnered with the Wake Forest University School of Business in 2009 to develop the Syngenta Business Institute -- an intensive, two-day educational event designed for and by superintendents. We are energized by the results in this survey and will continue working to maintain the trust and confidence of our superintendent customers. Syngenta will continue to listen to the needs of our customers and dedicate the necessary resources to provide innovative solutions today and into the future.
— Scott Reasons, Head, Syngenta Turf & Landscape North America
Which ONE industry company would you love to work for if you could and why?
Top company to work for
So why would so many golf course superintendents, if they had the chance to give up turf, would work for Toro? Here is a sampling of some of the typical answers they gave…
So you've been pondering what kind of sand you should use in the bunkers on your course.
Well, you could visit the USGA's Greens Section (www.usga.org) where there are literally hundreds of articles on bunkers. But even if you ignored all that advice, including the seven factors you should consider before deciding on your sand (particle size, particle shape and penetrometer value, crusting potential, chemical reaction and hardness, infiltration rate, color and overall playing quality), you wouldn't offend Jim Moore.
"The reason is because there is absolutely no decision made on a golf course that is more subjective than selecting sand for bunkers," says director of the USGA Green Section's Construction Education Program, "All golfers are absolutely crazy when it comes to bunkers. What one guy likes, the next guy hates. It's the most difficult issue our staff deals with when it comes to getting golfers what they want. And as a result, it's the most difficult issue superintendents deal with, too. It's like art: what you think looks good, I think looks like someone scribbled a crayon. That's the issue."
The other reason Moore doesn't mind if superintendents don't follow all his tips on choosing bunker sand is because, unlike green construction, it's not as big a deal if they don't follow them to a tee.
Considering Sand Cost
To flash or not to flash, that is the question. Whether 'tis aesthetically pleasing enough to show golfers some sand, when every superintendent knows that it'll mean more work, especially after a rain event.
More and more, we're seeing superintendents address this question not exclusively via bunker design, or even bunker-lining products like Klingstone or Sportcrete, but with the sand itself. Spending money on sand with enough angularity to hold its shape, to hold its place better on the bunker face, even after a downpour, is ultimately a time-and-money-saver, especially if you've made the aesthetic decision to flash golfers a bit of sand.
We just redid the bunkers at Indian Creek Golf Club in Elkhorn, Neb., where superintendent Jim Nedrow and his owners spent top dollar on some high-angularity sand from Arkansas. This stuff is quite white, though color was a secondary consideration; they wanted to mitigate clean-up after rains. Well, Jim and his team couldn't be happier with the results. He reports no clean-up at all after big rains, whereas pushing the old sand (a less-angular local sand) back up would have taken them a couple days each time.
Chalk up some of that to the Sandtrapper lining, but Jim feels the sand upgrade has also had a huge impact. He hasn't run the numbers yet to see if the cost of the sand will ultimately be paid for by the savings in sand-pushing labor. The new bunker style requires more handwork on the banks, after all, and one must factor in the cost of the liners and transport from Arkansas. But it's been a huge time-saver, and here's an interesting addendum: Jim used to send two guys out, one on a machine and one with a rake, as part of their regular bunker-raking rounds. Now he sends two guys out with rakes only and it takes them less time. They only rake the top half-inch, to keep the sand firm.
And there is an aesthetic payoff: the new bunkers are great-looking and Jim feels the white sand really does set Indian Creek apart from the competition in Greater Omaha.
Different situation at Mt. Hawley Country Club in Peoria, Illinois, where we renovated the bunkers about 7 years ago. We made a conscious decision to flash the sand up, so that golfers could see the bunkers on their approach and tee shots. At the time, the USGA had recommended a variety of sand where the angularity better held itself in place. But Mt. Hawley was not in the position to foot that bill, according to superintendent Pete Clarno, CGCS.
"We actually placed four different types of sand in a test bunker, so that members could give us their feedback," Pete recalls. "Ultimately, the board went with the more economical sand and it's been okay. It's increased our bunker-repair time after rains. Part of me thinks, if we did it again, it would be more economical to roll down the faces on the bunkers and then use the cheaper sand."
I'm not in the habit of quoting people as they paraphrase my own thoughts, but I'll make an exception for Pete: "It's like you've always said, Bob — whatever new sand you put in there, the members seem to hate it. When the silt builds up and the new sand firms up, they love it! Then, over time you get too much silt, they don't drain properly, the bunkers get mucky and they hate it again."
Ain't that the truth.
Bob Lohmann, ASGCA, is founder, president and principal architect of Lohmann Golf Designs and a regular columnist and contributor to GCI.
"If you look at the specifications, they're very wide, and that's on purpose," he says. "A lot of people will read an article like that and say, 'Well, if it doesn't fall within what the USGA says, we can't use it.' That's not the case when it comes to bunker sand. People use sand well outside those guidelines all the time and love it. Then there are people who follow those guidelines that then absolutely hate the end product."
The easiest way for superintendents to avoid all this subjectivity is to simply select the sand that the course owner and/or membership desires, which Moore says is usually what happens.
But there is a disturbing trend going on, he says: the militant pursuit of consistency in bunkers, which he feels defeats the purpose of having these penalizing hazards.
"Every hazard is different on the course I play, and that's okay because they're supposed to be a hazard," he says. "Maybe I'm biased because I'm a decent player and it's an advantage for me. But I think one of the most boring things on TV now is bunker shots because, on the courses the pros play, all bunkers are 100 percent uniform and manicured."
The only way to achieve such consistency and help golfers avoid the dreaded "fried egg" lie, Moore says, is through an inordinate amount of labor and spending a fortune on sand. Over the last six to eight years, Moore says the most popular sand choice has been manufactured sand, or sand that's run through a mechanical crusher to make it less rounded and more angular so it locks together. Problem is, sometimes that kind of sand is not available through a local supplier, so superintendents are forced to seek it out-of-state. Not only is the manufactured sand double the cost of regular sand due to the energy it takes to crush it, trucking it in from out-of-state tacks on more cost. In the end, it costs five times more. Granted, manufactured sand has become more readily available throughout the country due to its popularity, but it still can be looked at as cost-prohibitive.
"It's not uncommon at all for me to see courses spending more money per ton for sand in bunkers than they do for greens," says Moore. "That's just as crazy as it is to spend more on maintaining bunkers than maintaining greens."
This aside, superintendents still have to pick the sand they feel is right for their courses. Moore says the first step would be to make sure it falls within the limited guidelines the USGA has. Once they find two to three potential types, then it becomes a matter of getting member feedback. He advises that they create test bunkers for each type of sand they feel meets their physical and agronomic needs and have members vote on which they like best. But there is still potential for dispute.
"If one-third of your membership likes Sand A, one-third likes Sand B, and one-third likes Sand C, and you pick Sand B, you still upset two-thirds of your membership," he says.
Did you hear that word, "agronomic?" Yes, there is an agronomic discussion here when it comes to sand selection. As superintendents know, a lot of bunker sand ends up getting thrown onto a green. If it drains more slowly than the sand in the greens, then it can seal off the top of the green and cause drainage problems.
"If the owner tells the superintendent that that's the type of sand he or she wants, then I would make an extra pass or two with my aerator on that portion of the green and pull as much of that sand out as I could, then backfill the holes with sand that drains better," says Moore.
Playability seems to be the main concern for most superintendents when it comes to choosing bunker sand.
"Price is always a consideration, but playability always wins out at the end of the day," says Pat Gradoville, director of golf course and grounds at Palos Verdes Golf Club in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. "The sand reacts differently with each season. We rely on irrigation for most of the year, but we use much less water from November through April. During those months, the sand tends to play much drier, and member comments are much more positive. But during the summer when irrigation runs almost every night, we hear the sand is always wet and difficult to play from."
The issue with moisture levels in bunkers, Moore says, ties into maintaining them with the goal of avoiding the fried egg lie.
"In order to get a one-inch layer of sand on a face that might have a 45-degree angle, somebody has to fill the sand there and pack it down pretty much on a daily basis. But then on the bottom, you want the sand to be deeper," says Moore. "Irrigation systems are designed to apply water evenly to turfgrass, not bunkers, and one inch of sand holds a lot less water than six inches … but it holds it much closer to the surface. Therefore, you will have varying moisture levels in bunkers."
Gary Myers, manager of golf course maintenance operations at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., echoed Gradoville's comments that pricing is a consideration but playability is king.
"Playability is the main component, and a supply that isn't going away," Myers says.
|5 tips for sand selection
Myers says his choice of sand is guided by neither the ownership nor membership but rather the USGA recommendations. When he started working at his multi-course facility, different courses were using different sands. Two of the courses had changed from the original sand, but after some testing, he concluded that the original sand was the best product, so those two courses reverted back to the original sand.
In Gradoville's case, the membership was the primary driver of the sand decision. Several clubs in his area had had good success with sand that was 50 percent crushed marble and 50 percent desert tan.
"The sand plays well, and we tried it in a few bunkers. Our members liked the way it played, so we installed it in all 75 of our bunkers," he says.
Gradoville often hears from members that "the sand across town is better than ours," and Moore says that's not uncommon. In fact, it's evidence that you just can't please everyone.
"You're the owner and you play somewhere else and you like their sand and you come back and say, 'I want their sand.' The end user golfer bases their decision not on technical data but on the sand they played somewhere else," says Moore. "But when sand goes into a bunker, it evolves. It will play differently that day than it will a month later or six months later or two to three years later. It gets contaminated with stuff from the air, mixes with the underlying soil, etc. So it's almost impossible to buy exactly the same sand someone else has unless you buy it a few months after they did."
Still, Gradoville lends a respectful ear to members and tries to adjust his maintenance based on their comments.
"Many times, it's just a matter of moving sand or adding new sand to high-play areas," he says. "The bottom line is that we normally hear that the sand across town is better than ours, and when the members of those other courses across town play our course, they like our sand better than their own."
|Using the same brand of power equipment can end up saving money by reusing parts from old machines to extend the life of a newer one.|
Commercial-grade or consumer-grade?
This is the most basic choice when deciding to purchase handheld power equipment for golf course maintenance. As every maintenance property is different, it is important to first evaluate which type of equipment will better fit your operation to determine the best buy.
At Kansas City Country Club, spending the extra money upfront to buy commercial-grade power equipment is the best choice since we are a park-style golf course that has approximately 2,500 trees on the property. As a result, a large amount of time is spent on leaf clean up, trimming and maintenance of our tree inventory. Having a reliable and durable fleet of handheld power equipment is vital to completing the day-to-day maintenance at our club.
Our fleet of power equipment consists of approximately 10 backpack blowers, 10 string trimmers and seven chainsaws. We try to stay consistent with the same brand. Generally speaking, we try to get three to five years of use out of each piece of equipment and replacement is determined by when the repair cost exceeds 40 percent of the equipment cost.
A big key is to have a fixed budget line to replace equipment to ensure reliability of the fleet of power equipment.
Keys to handheld equipment
Evaluate what equipment best fits the requirements of your course.
Will a qualified mechanic be on hand to maintain the equipment? Are parts readily available? If no to either of these questions, then perhaps a one-season, "disposable" unit is more appropriate.
Replace a unit when the repair cost exceeds 40 percent of the equipment cost.
Before disposing a worn out unit, evaluate any parts that can be recycled for future use.
A qualified mechanic on staff at your course is essential when dealing with the preventative maintenance that is involved with keeping commercial grade power equipment working as long as possible. Our mechanic has been in the mechanics industry for more than 30 years; he prefers commercial grade equipment because in general, it just lasts longer than residential-grade equipment. Commercial-grade equipment is built specifically for everyday use where residential is designed for use one to two times per week.
Another plus with commercial equipment is that it often has more serviceable parts and replacement parts can usually be easily obtained through local licensed service dealers. These dealers generally require certified mechanics be on staff to help out with any issues with the brands they carry. Residential grade equipment is often constructed with a lot of molded parts and can be much harder if not impossible to service.
Preventative maintenance for a mechanic is also easier when dealing with commercial grade equipment. The main repairs are usually in two groups, mechanical and operator use. The mechanical portion includes filters, spark plugs and other expendables that will usually last a season with an occasional light cleaning. Blades, bars and chains need to be checked periodically depending on use and replaced when necessary. The second group of maintenance is dependent on the operator. It becomes a struggle to keep equipment running properly if you have an operator who is abusive to and who does not take proper care of the equipment. Examples include a broken throttle cable or deteriorated fuel line, this type of breakdown happens maybe a couple times a year on a 1- to 2-year-old piece of equipment. Costs can be minimized by performing quick inspections during the busy season and more detailed inspections in the off season which will give you a more intense look into your equipment.
When the equipment is no longer economical to use we try and reclaim parts that can be used on our other pieces of equipment. If this cannot be done then the item is recycled or discarded. When your fleet is of the same brand it can be of benefit to save some used parts off of an old machine and also gives the facility the ability to use up parts inventory on the remaining equipment that is still in use. This is another way to keep expenses to a minimum on your inventory.
Andy J. Klein is assistant superintendent at Kansas City Country Club in Mission Hills, Kan., and is a frequent GCI contributor.
|Billbugs feed primarily on fairways and roughs, but are commonly missed in collars of greens and bunker surrounds.|
Get the "BugDoc" – David Shetlar – talking about billbugs and you're apt to learn more in 15 minutes of conversation regarding these nasty critters that feed on turf than this scribe ever imagined he would know.
The professor of urban landscape entomology at Ohio State University knows his bugs; he offers a wealth of information on billbugs for skeptical superintendents who may not realize the fortitude and determination of these subsurface turf critters.
"The key to battling billbugs is to first understand their biology," Shetlar says. "The cool season ones can not overwinter except in the adult stage, so every year they start over again. In the spring, the successfully overwintered adults become active and the females chew a bit on the grass blades and stems to lay eggs. Then, usually about the time the seed head stems start to form, she will pick those stems. It's well known that the female billbug picks the stem that has the largest diameter.
"She then chews a little hole in the stem and sticks what look like little jelly beans – little white eggs – into that hole; one week to 10 days later that egg hatches out billbug larvae, which burrows up and down the stem until it reaches the crown. The crown is big enough to hold it until it grows bigger and then it drops out and feeds on nearby crowns."
Shetlar says here's where the real problems start for superintendents trying to battle these pests. The billbugs reach the crown usually in the first or second weekend in June — right at the same time when normally a Kentucky bluegrass plant or perennial ryegrass plant have made new tillers and superintendents have cut off the head of the seed stem. Here's where the professor proceeds to give me a little turf "sex ed."
"I irritate the agronomists a lot with this," he says. "Because the grass plant says 'I'm going to have sex,' you cut the seed heads off, so the plant says, 'I guess you don't want me to reproduce sexually, so I'll reproduce asexually,' which stimulates more tillering. I call them mother plants and daughter plants. By early- to mid June, the daughter plants are just establishing roots, so they can stand on their own. This billbug then comes in and kills the crown. And, if the daughter plant of the new tillers have not established well enough, you can get Kentucky bluegrass that is three inches in diameter that collapses and dies from all the bugs."
|Mole crickets and white grubs attack quality turf, but go after wet conditions, which are best for egg-laying and survival.|
Billbugs primarily feed on the fairways and the rough. But, Shetlar says one place most people completely miss is the collars of greens — especially sand-based greens where a superintendent is not watching his irrigation close enough or there are water restrictions.
"All of a sudden the collars of the greens collapse because the superintendent did not realize that these billbug larvae had been chomping away at the turf," he says. That said, Shetlar says the bulk of billbug damage on golf courses is on another lesser known location — bunker surrounds.
"Many of the bunker surrounds, especially in the north, don't get irrigation," he explains. "I've had more and more superintendents that are absolutely amazed when I tell them they had billbugs around their bunkers. First, I ask them whether they ever get grubs in those areas and they say no because that area is too dry. So, I reply, 'just humor me and apply your grub insecticide in late May or June when you normally do and put it on those bunker slopes and I'll talk to you later in the season.' When I talk to them in August and ask how their bunker slopes came out they all say their bunker slopes are the greenest and thickest they've ever had."
Rick Brandenburg, distinguished professor and co-director of the Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research and Education in the department of entomology at North Carolina State University, says white grubs and mole crickets attack finely manicured turf, but what they really thrive on are wet conditions.
"They enjoy high quality turf to feed on, but irrigation is also a key," he says. "Good soil moisture is critical to laying eggs and egg survival, as well as to the survival of the newly hatched insect, so irrigation on golf courses makes a great environment for these pests to enjoy."
Superintendents can't stop watering their course, so one wonders what some of the ways are that they can help prevent these insects from causing damage to the turf, even before it happens?
Just like his fellow academic Shetlar, Brandenburg says the key is to have a good database of the species you have as well as knowing their lifecycle.
"These pests are under the ground being very subtle when they first hatch and that's the best time to control them, but this can vary a lot with the species and location," he explains. "There can be significant variation from one species to the other due to location. You must have localized information to use products effectively and get the maximum results and the lowest rates."
Recent research that Brandenburg and his colleagues have done on today's new products has shown that they are a little more sensitive to proper timing relative to the insect pests' life stage.
"That said, monitoring pests, especially the adults prior to egg laying, allows a superintendent to get great results," he adds. "Rainfall patterns can also influence timing. Drier weather usually delays egg laying and egg hatch, while wet weather may speed things along."
In the end, it's all about having a localized database for your pest species and knowing what is taking place under the soil. "Monitoring rainfall and temperature and egg hatch allow the superintendent to stay a step ahead of the pest and allows them to be as cost effective as possible."
Darin Bevard, senior agronomist for the USGA, mid-Atlantic region, says they don't really have a big problem with nematodes in their region. "They seem to cause problems when the grass is cut low or double cut," he explains. "This is not to say that there are not instances where nematodes are not a primary cause of decline. However, it is less common here compared to the southeast and Florida."
Bevard says with the long residual control products available now, white grub control is also less and less of an issue. One insect the agronomist says the golf industry needs to keep an eye out for is the annual bluegrass weevil.
"These little critters have been a problem for a long time, and, as their name suggests, Poa annua is their favored host," Bevard explains. "However, we have seen clear cases in recent years where they have used creeping bentgrass as a host and caused significant damage when Poa annua is not available. When the damage has occurred on bentgrass, the first generation has pretty much avoided detection.
"When the potential damage period of the first generation occurs, the creeping bentgrass is healthy enough (late May into mid-June) to mask any damage that occurs, but populations increase dramatically between the first and second generations," he adds. "The damage period for the second generation is during the July/August heat depending on the location; the grass is already under stress and so the weevils cause significant damage."
The good news is that when it comes to the annual bluegrass weevil, there has been some research conducted recently by Pat Vittum of the University of Massachusetts and Dan Peck of Cornell University on trapping methods to determine insect numbers and also to help determine spring migration timing — both of which help to target insecticide applications and timing.
Often, if these methods are used, targeted insecticide applications on the periphery of fairways and collars can be made which will prevent insect damage as well as minimize the amount of pest control product a superintendent needs to apply.
David McPherson is a Toronto-based freelance writer and a frequent GCI contributor.
For more info...
Visit http://bugs.osu.edu/~bugdoc/ to read more of Shetlar’s latest research on billbugs and other turf diseases.