Twitter: What the Colonel would want

Columns - america’s greenkeeper

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At the Golf Industry Show, I sat in a seminar taught by Dr. Cale Bigelow (@BIGTurfTeaching) and Dr. Dara Park (@TheMuddyTiger). As I scanned the room, my eyes met those of Steve Wright, CGCS of Pine Tree Golf Club in Florida.

What’s the big deal? Steve is recognizable in the Carolinas from his days at Long Cove Club on Hilton Head Island and as a Carolinas GCSA past president. But I didn’t arrive in the Carolinas until 2005 and didn’t attend my first Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show until 2006. To me, Steve is a South Florida golf course superintendent and @wrightsteve19. (Steve unexpectedly passed away in late 2018.)

When our seminar took its mid-afternoon break, we met in the hall to shake hands and catch up. Steve told me he’d met more industry professionals in the past two years than in the previous 20 years combined thanks to Twitter.

Col. John Morley founded the National Association of Greenkeepers of America in 1926, believing that “no life is, or can be, self-existent. We depend on each other.” Col. Morley knew superintendents needed to lean on each other for knowledge and support. While the tenet remains true today, the world is changing rapidly. Society moves quicker than he could ever have imagined.

I created the @CGCGreenkeeper Twitter account in 2013 and started using it to enhance communication with our membership. I was already blogging and thought Twitter posts could bridge the gap between blog updates for our newer, younger members. Twitter is free. It takes little time to establish an account and even less time to post content. If an old Gen Xer like me can figure it out, I’m sure anyone can.

Determining Twitter-worthy content is up to you. It’s quick and easy to post things like rainfall totals, cart path restrictions and frost delays. I like to post photos of the course and brief video clips to tell the story of what we are doing and why.

But little did I know when I started down this road that I would reap a totally separate personal benefit. I discovered a new world of superintendents, turfgrass educators and other turf industry professionals sharing information and communicating with one another in real time. Twitter is the world’s largest local association meeting.

My wife, Darless, will tell you I love to talk turf. I fondly remember conversations from many years ago in our Blacksburg, Virginia, apartment during my graduate school days. Darless would be incredibly patient while I got down deep in face-to-face turf chats with fellow Virginia Tech alums Rick Henderson (@turfhokie), Andrew Green (@GreenGCA) and Sean Baskette (@hvccturf).

Whether it’s in the office pre-dawn, out on the course or on a sofa in the evening, I’m now only a few swipes from talking turf with professionals from all over the world. I have learned new techniques that I’ve applied at Carolina Golf Club.

In 2015, we began hosing our Bermudagrass collars immediately following Primo applications to our bentgrass putting greens. I learned of the technique from two superintendents, one in Florida and the other in California. The turf on our collars was the best it has ever been. More important, it survived the following winter (albeit a mild one) with no turf needing to be replaced.

I have strived from Day 1 to use my account in a professional manner. Everyone has opinions and Twitter is a prime platform to share yours. Just because you can express an opinion doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

My target audience is our club’s members. There’s no need for me to debate social and political issues. Once you post content, it’s out there for the world to see. Use good judgment because the positive things happening on social media in our profession far outweigh the bad.

If Col. Morley were alive, he’d be happy to see that we still share information readily, congratulate and cheer on our neighbor’s accomplishments, and lend a hand when it’s needed. In fact, I think he would snap up the handle @ColonelMorley and be engaged in the conversation.

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.