Turf Talk!

Columns - america’s greenkeeper

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I want to thank all my friends, peers, and colleagues across the country and around the world for their love and support of Mrs. Greenkeeper as she battled breast cancer the past six months. Never in our wildest dreams would I expect her to receive cards, letters, flowers and goodies from so many wonderful people and places!

With chemotherapy in the rearview mirror, I have stepped away to tend to her as she recovers from surgery. I asked my cousin to assist and fill in for me this month. Problem is that my cousin is not a writer, so we decided this might be a good time to have folks call in and she could answer their questions. Let’s see how it went.

Cousin Greenkeeper: Thanks for calling in to Turf Talk. How can I help?

Assistant Superintendent: Cousin Greenkeeper, the members at our course will not repair ball marks and pitch marks. What advice can you give to help us convey the importance of repairing ball marks to help keep the greens the best they can be?

Cousin Greenkeeper: Well, that is a tough one. You see, ball marks and pitch marks have existed since the game’s origin. If Old Tom Morris was not able to get folks to repair pitch marks shortly after he invented topdressing, is it any wonder we still battle this problem in the 21st century? I once wanted to blame the PGA Tour because golfers watch professional golf telecasts and emulate what they see. When was the last time you witnessed a professional repairing a pitch mark on television? It may have been Greg Norman during The PLAYERS Championship in 1994. Heck, there are a lot of golfers today who think Greg Norman is just some shirtless Instagram guy.

Speaking of Instagram, did you see the video Ian Poulter posted where he praised Brandon Richey and the team at Lake Nona and called the golfers lazy for refusing to repair their pitch marks? Perhaps the use of social media might prove to be a way to swing the pendulum back the other direction on the ball mark/pitch mark issue. Next caller.

Golf Course Superintendent: Cousin Greenkeeper, I am afraid to return rakes to the golf course once the pandemic is over. I am afraid golfers will refuse to use them now that they have become accustomed to not having to smooth their own footprints. Any advice?

Cousin Greenkeeper: This is an interesting question because I know some facilities have already returned rakes to the course and others have not. Who would have guessed Pine Valley was so far ahead of pandemic times by not having rakes on their course all these years? I think a full season of golf without rakes has accelerated play, sped up maintenance except for morning prep and perhaps allowed folks to temper their expectations when it comes to bunkers.

Oh, who am I kidding! Golfers do not rake bunkers properly because the last time they saw a bunker being raked on television was the 1988 B.C. Open. That’s right, the PGA Tour used to have an event in Endicott, New York, sponsored by a comic strip. You see, a comic strip was something that appeared in newspapers. Never mind. Next caller.

General Manager: Cousin Greenkeeper, we would like our superintendent to improve their communication skills. What advice do you have to help our superintendent better explain what they do, and why, to our members and guests?

Cousin Greenkeeper: This is an excellent question, and it pleases me to know as a general manager you support your superintendent and embrace the need for them to communicate openly and honestly with your membership. There are many tools to help superintendents and their agronomy teams tell their stories and highlight the work they are accomplishing.

The internet provides multiple platforms for creating blog pages, plus there are numerous social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to name only a few. These outlets provide ways to share pictures, videos and more to help better showcase what the teams are doing on the golf course and why, plus the impact to playing conditions and more.

Also, there are several leaders in the professional turfgrass community who are great examples and can help your superintendent and their assistants get started. Just look at the past winners of the Golf Course Industry TweetUp Awards to see the who’s who of turfgrass social media rock stars.

In fact, the most recent winners were just announced the other day. Hats off to everyone for being wonderful examples to your peers. That is all the time we have for now. Thanks for calling.

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.