GOLF & THE ENVIRONMENT

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GOLF & THE ENVIRONMENT

October 08, 2009

It made headlines recently when state officials in Georgia, Nevada and other drought-plagued states turned to golf-course superintendents for advice on how to conserve water. That news astonished some golfers, too, but it shouldn't have.Superintendents long have been some of the best conservationists in the nation. They handle the toughest job in golf, providing members and customers with the same playing conditions in August that they get in April, and in recent years they've done it with fewer chemicals, less fuel, less water and even less manpower.Superintendents know their turf, and all of us -- not just state officials -- ought to listen to their advice. When they tell us we need a new watering system, it's not because it would make their job easier; it's because the more irrigation heads they have, the more water they can save, by directing it only where it's needed.When they tell us they need to aerify more often, it's not because they enjoy punching holes in front of our putting strokes; it's because loosening compacted soil helps get roots deeper, and that means healthier grass.When they tell us we should expect uniform greens but not uniform rough or uniform bunkers, it's not because they want weekends off; it's because they recognize the difference between a playing surface and a hazard, and trying to make hazards flawless gobbles up considerable cash for no good reason.On the following pages we speak with superintendents from a dozen of the nation's leading courses. We need to listen to these guys. There's a reason each is called a super. -- Ron WhittenIt made headlines recently when state officials in Georgia, Nevada and other drought-plagued states turned to golf-course superintendents for advice on how to conserve water. That news astonished some golfers, too, but it shouldn't have.Superintendents long have been some of the best conservationists in the nation. They handle the toughest job in golf, providing members and customers with the same playing conditions in August that they get in April, and in recent years they've done it with fewer chemicals, less fuel, less water and even less manpower.Superintendents know their turf, and all of us -- not just state officials -- ought to listen to their advice. When they tell us we need a new watering system, it's not because it would make their job easier; it's because the more irrigation heads they have, the more water they can save, by directing it only where it's needed.When they tell us they need to aerify more often, it's not because they enjoy punching holes in front of our putting strokes; it's because loosening compacted soil helps get roots deeper, and that means healthier grass.When they tell us we should expect uniform greens but not uniform rough or uniform bunkers, it's not because they want weekends off; it's because they recognize the difference between a playing surface and a hazard, and trying to make hazards flawless gobbles up considerable cash for no good reason.On the following pages we speak with superintendents from a dozen of the nation's leading courses. We need to listen to these guys. There's a reason each is called a super. -- Ron Whitten

TOM BAILEY

AGE: 34Director of Golf-Course OperationsWade Hampton G.C., Cashiers, N.C. | No. 17*"We put in almost 15 miles of drainage: and new irrigation that allows us to direct water where we need it. We saw a 40-percent decrease in water, irrigating more areas more efficiently. And our power bill went down."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 34Director of Golf-Course OperationsWade Hampton G.C., Cashiers, N.C. | No. 17*"We put in almost 15 miles of drainage: and new irrigation that allows us to direct water where we need it. We saw a 40-percent decrease in water, irrigating more areas more efficiently. And our power bill went down."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

GARRET BODINGTON

AGE: 37Golf-Course Superintendent and Construction ManagerSebonack G.C., Southampton, N.Y. | No. 39*"Getting fast greens you see on TV at your club every day is a tall task. Shotmaking and creativity are being lost. The experience should be about what the architect wanted, not about what the superintendent is told to do."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 37Golf-Course Superintendent and Construction ManagerSebonack G.C., Southampton, N.Y. | No. 39*"Getting fast greens you see on TV at your club every day is a tall task. Shotmaking and creativity are being lost. The experience should be about what the architect wanted, not about what the superintendent is told to do."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

BOB FARREN

AGE: 52Director of Golf Course and Grounds ManagementPinehurst (N.C.) Resort & C.C. | No. 32*"Too often we're were trying to respond to the customers' desires for more lush and green. I think that pendulum is changing now. We need to embrace the perception of course conditioning being more brown, less green. The smoothness of ball roll won't be compromised by using less water. This next generation of golfers will become accustomed to it."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 52Director of Golf Course and Grounds ManagementPinehurst (N.C.) Resort & C.C. | No. 32*"Too often we're were trying to respond to the customers' desires for more lush and green. I think that pendulum is changing now. We need to embrace the perception of course conditioning being more brown, less green. The smoothness of ball roll won't be compromised by using less water. This next generation of golfers will become accustomed to it."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

PAT FINLEN

AGE: 51Director of Golf-Maintenance OperationsThe Olympic Club, San Francisco | No. 26*"Clubs are going to have to make reductions in maintenance budgets to survive. I think golfers will come to appreciate that brown is firm and, typically, fast. It can be exciting to play."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 51Director of Golf-Maintenance OperationsThe Olympic Club, San Francisco | No. 26*"Clubs are going to have to make reductions in maintenance budgets to survive. I think golfers will come to appreciate that brown is firm and, typically, fast. It can be exciting to play."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

TIM HIERS

AGE: 55Senior AgronomistOld Collier Golf Club, Naples, Fla."Good business sense says you should always look for ways to improve efficiency. Whether that means reducing water, fertilizers, pesticides, electricity, fuel, even your labor, that's just good stewardship. But golfers have to understand, this is different than agriculture. Farmers let the plants grow to maturity; we're basically trying to kill the plant everyday while golfers play on it."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 55Senior AgronomistOld Collier Golf Club, Naples, Fla."Good business sense says you should always look for ways to improve efficiency. Whether that means reducing water, fertilizers, pesticides, electricity, fuel, even your labor, that's just good stewardship. But golfers have to understand, this is different than agriculture. Farmers let the plants grow to maturity; we're basically trying to kill the plant everyday while golfers play on it."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

MARK D. KUHNS**

AGE: 54Director Of GroundsBaltusrol G.C., Springfield, N.J. | No. 30*"My members like to play a course where the ball sits up nicely on the fairway yet isn't so tight that they can't hit the ball with their amateur skills. Even better players don't want to play U.S. Open conditions day in and day out."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 54Director Of GroundsBaltusrol G.C., Springfield, N.J. | No. 30*"My members like to play a course where the ball sits up nicely on the fairway yet isn't so tight that they can't hit the ball with their amateur skills. Even better players don't want to play U.S. Open conditions day in and day out."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

KEN LAPP

AGE: 73Director Of Course OperationsCog Hill G. & C.C., Lemont, Ill. | No. 45***"Back when I started, we didn't irrigate fairways, didn't change pins every day. All of a sudden, we're doing this, spraying that, and it cost more and more money. So they had to raise the green fee. Well, that's got to stop."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 73Director Of Course OperationsCog Hill G. & C.C., Lemont, Ill. | No. 45***"Back when I started, we didn't irrigate fairways, didn't change pins every day. All of a sudden, we're doing this, spraying that, and it cost more and more money. So they had to raise the green fee. Well, that's got to stop."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

PAUL B. LATSHAW

AGE: 44Golf Course SuperintendentMuirfield Village G.C., Dublin, Ohio | No. 19*"At times we all get caught up in the idea that everything has to be green, pristine and perfect, with checkerboard mowing patterns or busy stripes on the fairways. A visual aspect is important, but what you really want is playability, making sure everything is firm and fast, which is the original design intent of every golf course I've been at."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 44Golf Course SuperintendentMuirfield Village G.C., Dublin, Ohio | No. 19*"At times we all get caught up in the idea that everything has to be green, pristine and perfect, with checkerboard mowing patterns or busy stripes on the fairways. A visual aspect is important, but what you really want is playability, making sure everything is firm and fast, which is the original design intent of every golf course I've been at."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

RYAN MCFARLIN

AGE: 33Golf-Course SuperintendentThe Estancia Club, Scottsdale | No. 82*"If we didn't overseed Bermuda grass with ryegrass in winter, our cart traffic would create unplayable lies. IN May or June, we back off the water, and back comes the Bermuda grass. It's a natural process."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 33Golf-Course SuperintendentThe Estancia Club, Scottsdale | No. 82*"If we didn't overseed Bermuda grass with ryegrass in winter, our cart traffic would create unplayable lies. IN May or June, we back off the water, and back comes the Bermuda grass. It's a natural process."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

RUSSEL MYERS

AGE: 37Golf-Course SuperintendentSouthern Hills C.C., Tulsa, Okla. | No. 34*"As clubs are forced to look at their financial situations, we might see a return to less-manicured bunkers with firmer, less-mobile sand. Or the old style, where they were never raked."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 37Golf-Course SuperintendentSouthern Hills C.C., Tulsa, Okla. | No. 34*"As clubs are forced to look at their financial situations, we might see a return to less-manicured bunkers with firmer, less-mobile sand. Or the old style, where they were never raked."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

PATRICK SISK

AGE: 44Certified Golf Course SuperintendentMilwaukee Country Club, River Hills, Wis. | No. 52*"Two points. First, brown is good, to a point. We as superintendents should be the jury on that. Second, bunkers are a hazard and should be treated as such. Believe me, the day I'm asked to reduce my costs, the daily raking of bunkers will be first on my hit list.AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 44Certified Golf Course SuperintendentMilwaukee Country Club, River Hills, Wis. | No. 52*"Two points. First, brown is good, to a point. We as superintendents should be the jury on that. Second, bunkers are a hazard and should be treated as such. Believe me, the day I'm asked to reduce my costs, the daily raking of bunkers will be first on my hit list.AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

DAVID STONE

AGE: 60Golf-Course SuperintendentThe Honors Course, Ooltewah, Tenn. | No. 38*"I'm constantly doing things to the golf course to make the habitat better for birds. Lots of people want tall roughs that are clean, with no weeds. But weeds have seeds, and that's what the birds eat. And a lot of those weeds bloom and add color."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 60Golf-Course SuperintendentThe Honors Course, Ooltewah, Tenn. | No. 38*"I'm constantly doing things to the golf course to make the habitat better for birds. Lots of people want tall roughs that are clean, with no weeds. But weeds have seeds, and that's what the birds eat. And a lot of those weeds bloom and add color."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

PETE WENDT

AGE: 39Golf-Course ManagerKinloch G.C., Manakin-Sabot, Va. | No. 48*"People need to learn to live without green conditions from tree line to tree line. Average golfers look at a course from an aesthetic point of view, when they should really look at it from a playability standpoint."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 39Golf-Course ManagerKinloch G.C., Manakin-Sabot, Va. | No. 48*"People need to learn to live without green conditions from tree line to tree line. Average golfers look at a course from an aesthetic point of view, when they should really look at it from a playability standpoint."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

JIM WHALEN

AGE: 44Golf-Course SuperintendentCalusa Pines G.C., Naples, Fla. | No. 92*"The water issue is never going to go away. Golf courses won't be as green and lush as they were years ago. The great thing we did was modify our irrigation system so we can do a ton of hand-watering out there."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 44Golf-Course SuperintendentCalusa Pines G.C., Naples, Fla. | No. 92*"The water issue is never going to go away. Golf courses won't be as green and lush as they were years ago. The great thing we did was modify our irrigation system so we can do a ton of hand-watering out there."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

MARK WILSON

AGE: 53Golf-Course SuperintendentValhalla G.C., Louisville | No. 95*"I'm at a Jack Nicklaus golf course -- the bunkers have to be just perfect, in case Nicklaus drops in. But if you get so strapped you can't maintain them, you should probably fill them in -- grass over them."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 53Golf-Course SuperintendentValhalla G.C., Louisville | No. 95*"I'm at a Jack Nicklaus golf course -- the bunkers have to be just perfect, in case Nicklaus drops in. But if you get so strapped you can't maintain them, you should probably fill them in -- grass over them."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

JOHN ZIMMERS

AGE: 38Golf-Course SuperintendentOakmont (Pa.) C.C. | No. 5*"If you ask any good superintendent, drier is always better -- better for the golfer and the turf. You can manage: firm, fast, championship conditions and still have quality turf and wonderful playability."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOPAGE: 38Golf-Course SuperintendentOakmont (Pa.) C.C. | No. 5*"If you ask any good superintendent, drier is always better -- better for the golfer and the turf. You can manage: firm, fast, championship conditions and still have quality turf and wonderful playability."AUDIO: PLAY | PAUSE | STOP

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