Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Nick Christians
February 22, 2011

The following is part of an internship by undergraduate student Jared Olsen, who spent the summer at Interlachen CC in Edina, MN.

Interlachen Country Club is located near downtown Edina in the Twin Cities. Interlachen was founded in 1909 when a few members of the BrynMawr Golf Club met to discuss the possibility of founding a new golf club. They took an option on three farms for a total of 146 acres. The terrain had rolling meadows, good wooded areas, and adequate water development. With the final purchase, work was begun on the grounds in March of 1910, and on the Clubhouse in November of 1910. The Club had nine holes and the course was formally opened on July 29, 1911. The course was designed and laid out by William Watson, the noted golf architect of that time, and with the exception of a few minor changes, remained as originally designed and built until 1919. During those earlier years it was rated, as it is now, one of the best courses in the country. In 1919 a new school of designers, brought about by the ever-improving conditions of play, caused the Board of Governors and the membership to call in Donald Ross, one of the best golf architects of this time. Mr. Ross was asked to submit a completely redesigned layout. Work started in 1919 and was completed in 1921. The course, with minor exceptions, remains his design today and is a Golf Digest top 50 private course.
I took this summer job at Interlachen to gain some valuable experience from another midwestern golf course. I have worked at three Iowa golf courses over the past four years, but I really wanted to broaden my horizons and see how things are done at high dollar private courses. I also saw this as an opportunity to broaden my horizons in the turf industry and to meet some new people. I started my internship on Monday May 17th. Overall, it was a great experience. The people and the staff are great and the membership is very laid back. The internship was a great learning experience and also came with some other great benefits. They provided free housing, free meals, uniforms, golf privileges, and had very good pay including a bonus program. As an intern, I was introduced to almost everything that a superintendent might encounter. I mowed, sprayed, did irrigation work, and helped with many other projects.
I would highly recommend this internship to any student who is eager and willing to learn hands on at a great facility. I am very pleased that I had the opportunity to work at the Interlachen. The experience helped me realize that I am on the right career path and I enjoyed seeing how a course of this stature operates behind the scenes. I felt that my past work experiences assisted me in many ways at Interlachen, but I also learned many new thing by being in a different region. of the country. I had a very positive performance review at the end of experience which helped boost my confidence. I lived, worked and breathed the course while I was there. Staying in the on-site living quarters with six other interns who worked in the clubhouse was also a very good learning experience. The entire summer internship was a very valuable experience for me.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spring Fever in February

Ty McClellan, USGA Green Section Record Mid-Continent Region Agronomist, weighs in with his thoughts on the warm winter weather.

Only a week ago a whopping 49 of the 50 U.S. states had snow cover. This was the after-effects of one of the worst winter storms on record that hammered much of the country with ice, snow and sub-zero temperatures. In the upper Mid-Continent region, some were buried beneath nearly 28 inches of snow.

Fast forward to last week, and temperatures climbed into the 50’s and 60’s. In fact, a few parts of the region have experienced record daily temperature highs for February. It’s hard to imagine it, but areas in the Great Plains that saw temperatures dip to -35°F two weeks ago, reached close to 65°F last week. That’s a 100-degree turnaround in a week!

Keep in mind that it is times like these where golf courses are most vulnerable to traffic damage. Even when air temperatures rise to a comfortable level to play golf, soils may thaw near the surface but will remain frozen several inches below. Subsurface drainage is impeded, which causes water to dam at the surface. Soft and wet soils are extremely prone to compaction damage from any sort of traffic, and rutting is possible with heavy-tire traffic. Either will require significantly more aeration in the spring and summer to correct the damage that has been done, and spring green-up will be slowed considerably. Play should never be allowed during such conditions!

It is likely that much of the snow and ice covering putting greens has melted. For superintendents, it is important that water can freely exit the green so that it does not puddle and refreeze on the surface. It takes just a few freeze-thaw cycles and there is sure to be winter injury by way of crown hydration injury. The common question of whether to remove snow and ice from greens, or not, is never easily answered and it depends on many variables, including site conditions and weather forecasts. Regardless of the decisions made, there is sure to be some degree of second-guessing involved. Even the best laid plans may fail. To a large extent, winter injury remains one of the unsolved mysteries in our industry.

For golf enthusiasts and anyone experiencing the winter blues, the recent warm-up is only temporary. Another winter storm is expected in a few days. In fact, winter is still some six weeks or so from being over. So, continue utilizing all-season driving ranges to keep your swing sharp and rely on your superintendent and knowledgeable course officials for the green light as to when it is safe to tee it up for real.

If you would like more information about a Turf Advisory Service visit, do not hesitate to contact either of the Mid-Continent regional offices: Ty McClellan at tmcclellan@usga.org or (630) 340-5853 or Bud White at budwhite@usga.org or (972) 662-1138.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Meet the 2011 Turf Bowl Champions

Fresh off their big victory I was able to catch up with the 1st place team members and get their take on the entire experience.

Q: Tell me a little about each of you. Where are you from? What’s your background in turf?

A: Nick Dunlap – I’m from North Liberty, Iowa. I worked at Quail Creek Golf Course throughout high school and worked at Ames Golf and Country Club before starting as an undergraduate research assistant for Dr. Christians. Last summer I interned at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia and plan to return to Virginia to work at Kinloch Golf Club before starting graduate school in the fall.

A: Quincy Law – I’m from Clear Lake, Iowa and my first golf course experience was at All Vets Golf Club. I’ve also worked at Saratoga Country Club near San Jose, California and Coldwater Golf Links in Ames. Last summer I worked at the ISU Horticulture Research Station assisting with research and helping to maintain the grounds.

A: Zach Simons – I’m from Quincy, Illinois. I started in turf in August 2007 when I got a job at Westview Golf Course in Quincy and I worked there for a year and a half. The summer of 2009 I completed an internship at Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club in Arcadia, Michigan and last summer I interned with the Iowa Clubs ground crew.

A: Jason Van Engen – I grew up in Primghar, Iowa. I started mowing lawns at the age of 11 and worked at Primghar Golf and Country Club throughout high school. I worked at Emerald Hills Golf and Country Club in Okoboji, Iowa my first summer in college. Last summer I interned at Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata, Minnesota and this summer I am headed to Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois.

Q: What made you want to compete in the contest?

A: Jason Van Engen – The history and tradition that Iowa State has in the Turf Bowl made me want to compete. Another source of inspiration came from watching the awards ceremony the previous year in San Diego. To see and hear the excitement of the winners as they were announced really inspired me. It was this inspiration that motivated me for a victory this year.

Q: What did you do to help prepare for the contest?

A: Zach Simons – I wrote and rewrote the scientific names of the grasses and worked quite a few math problems until I felt comfortable going into the test. I was also responsible for the weed section so I made a powerpoint presentation of weed pictures. I even studied weeds that I had never heard of but wanted to account for every weed listed on the study guide.

Q: The winning team receives a traveling trophy and is presented with an oversized check for $4,000. The trophy is mailed back to campus but how is it traveling home with the big check?

A: Nick Dunlap - I asked a representative from the GCSAA if they had any large envelopes so we could mail the oversized $4,000 check back home, but she informed me that they cost $4,000, so that was pretty much out of the question. Unable to mail the check home, we had to bring the check on the plane as a carry-on item. The reaction we got was not really surprising. What would you do if you saw someone walking through an airport with an oversized check? We experienced everything from odd looks and double takes to strangers clapping and flight attendants gloating saying that they wanted a big check too. Actually, I think I’m going to miss traveling with a large check.

Jason trying to navigate the big check through the isle.

Q: What does ISU's success in the Turf Bowl say about our Horticulture Department and the type of instruction you have received during your schooling?

A: Quincy Law – The Turf Bowl Competition is a national event and Iowa State’s success demonstrates the high quality education we receive. The test covers such a broad range of topics it’s very difficult to prepare for. Dr. Christians and Marcus Jones do a great job preparing us, along with the classes we take in agronomy, business, entomology, plant pathology, and other disciplines.

Q: Who was the first person you contacted after you found out you won the Turf Bowl?

A: Zach Simons – My mom actually texted me right after the awards ceremony asking me how I did in the Turf Bowl. She was the first person I told and from there the news spread and I kept on receiving texts congratulating me the rest of the night.

Thanks guys for your time and congratulations again on the Big W!

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

GIS Paints Optimistic Picture for 2011

Here’s an article that came across my e-mail yesterday regarding the most recent GIS and the “outlook” for the golf industry as we head into the 2011 season.

Attendees and exhibitors alike gave a big thumbs up to the 2011 Golf Industry Show, conducted Feb. 9-10 in Orlando, lending support to the growing wave of optimism that the golf industry is beginning to shake out of its doldrums.

"Coupled with what we saw at the PGA Merchandise Show in January, there is definitely a different feeling than what prevailed last year at this time," Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) Chief Executive Officer Rhett Evans said. "From a qualitative and quantitative perspective, the Golf Industry Show was quite successful."

Total attendance for those utilizing the two registration portals – either GCSAA's or that of the National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA) – was 14,781. That represents a 4 percent increase over 2010 (NOTE: because the CMAA was not a partner in the Golf Industry Show this year, 2010 CMAA attendance figures were not included as a means for comparison). In terms of qualified buyers – those who are involved in the purchasing decision – attendance increased 11 percent for a total of 5,752 qualified buyers.

"The numbers reaffirm the value of the show," NGCOA Chief Executive Officer Mike Hughes said. "Coupled with the feedback from exhibitors, there is reason to be optimistic."

The Golf Industry Show attracted 551 exhibitors spread across 180,000 net square feet of exhibit space over the two-day event at Orange County Convention Center. That represents a 4 percent decline in exhibition space from last year in San Diego (comparing GCSAA and NGCOA exhibitors).

"The Golf Industry Show was of tremendous value. It was exceptional," Syngenta Marketing Manager Margaret Bell said. "The attendees were definitely in a buying mood and talking positively about 2011. We are already looking forward to the Golf Industry Show next year in Las Vegas."

To read the rest of the article, click here.

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bringing Home the Hardware: A Review of the 2011 GIS

The 2011 Golf Industry Show is in the books. That’s also been the focus for a group of Iowa State University undergraduate students for the past 3 months who had been preparing for another run at the Collegiate Turf Bowl Competition.

John Deere sponsors the competition and awards a traveling trophy to the winning team along with cash prizes to teams who placed in the top 10. The winning team included Nick Dunlap, Quincy Law, Zach Simons, and Jason Van Engen, all seniors in Horticulture at Iowa State. The team received a $4,000 cash award which goes to the Turf Club. Three other teams from ISU competed and finished 17th, 47th, and 48th. The teams must complete a three and a half hour test on soils, turfgrass species, weeds, diseases, insects, mathematics, plant physiology, human resources, and financial management along with a case study question.

Picture from left to right: Gregg Brenningmeyer, global director of sales and marketing, John Deere Golf; Dr. Nick Christians, university professor and turf club advisor; Zach Simons, student participant; Jason Van Engen, student participant; Nick Dunlap, student participant; Quincy Law, student participant; Marcus Jones, graduate student and turf bowl coach; James Fitzroy, CGCS Wollaston Recreational Facility/Presidents Golf Course in North Quincy, Massachusetts.

The Turf Bowl is a highly competitive event with this year’s competition consisting of 87 teams from 32 colleges and universities. This year’s victory marks the 9th time in 10 years that a team from Iowa State has won the competition.

I have been fortunate to be involved in the contest for a number of years, first as a participant and then as a coach to our undergraduate teams. I want to thank all my “students” over the years that I’ve had the opportunity to work with. Thanks for an amazing experience! 

There were many other activities at the GIS including educational seminars and the trade show. I attended seminars on irrigation water quality and electrical troubleshooting of irrigation systems. Managing turf that receives Irrigation from poor quality water will be an important skill moving forward as water demand and awareness of water usage increases. We discussed the various components of water quality such as salt content, sodium hazard, residual sodium carbonate, pH and ions present is toxic concentrations and how to interpret and adjust management practices to deal with water quality issues.

The electrical troubleshooting seminar was hosted by the Irrigation Association. This seminar covered basic troubleshooting skills such as how to properly use a volt-ohm meter along with many other gadgets in order to diagnose field wiring problems.

Enjoy the "warm" weather headed our way. Maybe that groundhog knows what he's doing after all.

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter Weather Update

On the heels of a major winter storm that just pummeled the state and most of the country it’s fitting that today is Groundhog Day. The crowd that gathered at Gobler’s Knob in Punxutawney, Pennsylvania this morning witnessed Punxsutawney Phil make perhaps the most celebrated weather prognostication of the year.

Phil’s prediction this year you ask? You will be happy to know that Phil is predicting an early spring. Let’s hope he’s right. Now, when I was doing my background work on Groundhog Day, I was surprised to learn that there are other groundhog forecasters all across the U.S. While Phil may be the most notable, other furry forecasters include General Beauregard Lee, Buckeye Chuck, Wiarton Willie, Sir Walter Wally, Birmingham Bill, and Shubenacadie Sam, just to name a few.

Now, onto the winter weather update. A relatively mild fall gave way to snow during November and December. As of the end of January, central Iowa had received 27.5 inches of snowfall. That is 8 inches above the normal snowfall level at this point in the season. The month of January has accounted for 12.8 inches of our total snowfall this year and over half of that fell during a two day stretch during the 10-11th of the month. Although our year to date snowfall totals are above average we have experienced periods of melting in between the snowfall (See the graph below).

Whenever snowcover goes through melting and refreezing our turf can be subject to crown hydration. Crown hydration is one of the winter injury stresses that can damage our turf and unfortunately this process and measures to prevent it are not completely understood. A number of factors combine to cause this type of injury. In my experience shade and drainage are two important factors. There also seems to be agreement that annual bluegrass is more susceptible to crown hydration compared with creeping bentgrass.

If you are in doubt about the health of your turf, try to harvest some plugs and bring them into a warm environment. Incubate them for a week and evaluate the overall turf health. The picture below shows a couple of plugs I brought in from a golf course back in 2008. Notice how the plug on the right responded favorably to proper growing conditions. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the plug on the left. While this was not necessarily the best of news, at least the golf course staff had a better idea what they might expect come spring and was able to begin planning.

Next week I’ll be on the road reporting from the GCSAA Educational Conference and the Golf Industry Show in Orlando, Florida. Hopefully, I won’t have to worry about snow down there.

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant