Wednesday, June 27, 2018

My Letter To The GCSAA

To The Board Of Governors,

For the past 15 years as either an assistant or head superintendent, I have been fortunate enough to work with Latinos.  Whether they were from Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, or any other region of Central America, it is my firm belief these fine men and women caring for our courses are the reason our industry has flourished.

Without their sacrifice our already depleted labor pool would be in shambles, and what is happening on the border is beyond tragic.  Not only is the current administration hamstringing our industry of needed labor, but even worse, President Trump is creating a culture of hate by separating children from their families and labeling basically any Latino seeking asylum in our country as, "bad".

As someone who has dug ditches, laid sod, repaired irrigation leaks, troubleshoot turf problems, and most importantly, built long lasting relationships within the Latin community because I am in this turfgrass industry, I cannot accept the immigration policies, President Trump is enacting.  I believe it is cruel, bigoted, and extremely short sighted bordering on the worst hardships minorities have faced in our history.  I loathe to say it, but I am currently very embarrassed to call myself an American right now.

With our current struggles to attract labor, I feel our voice as an association needs to be heard.  But more importantly;y, we should be standing up against this administration and its immigration policies as a show of support to our Latino brothers and sisters.  I am sure each and every greenkeeper that is part of this association has been helped by our friends to the south.  It is time we come together and let them know they are appreciated.

I am asking that the GCSAA issue a statement against the immigration policies of the Trump administration.  I am also asking our association to openly lobby against this terrible immigration policy.


Joseph N. Gulotti, GCS Newark Country Club

Friday, January 19, 2018

Part 2: The Keyboard is Mightier Than the Fist. How MLSN Will Save Middle Class Golf

Near the end of summer last season, John Kaminski fired off a tweet asking if there was a superintendent willing to do a presentation on a relevant topic at the Penn State Turf Conference. Like an idiot, I sent old @iTweetTurf a direct message volunteering to do a talk about how I changed my entire approach to greenkeeping.  I really wasn't sure if, Dr. Kaminski was going to gamble on some nickel bagging superintendent like myself spieling about MLSN and Growth Potential, but surprisingly, this professor, who sometimes moonlights as a photographer, accepted my sword of minimalist greenkeeping, and placed my arse on the docket.

Never having done any sort of public speaking, short of addressing the nine o'clock sweeps concerning the cart rules,  I was fucking terrified.  Plus my only concept of power point was powerfully pointing out tasks to my staff (*1).  The thought of getting up in front of my peers was scary beyond belief, but I prepared pretty tough , and despite my inexperience, the presentation was a smash.

As I was preparing this talk for the PSU Turf conference titled, "The Art of Minimalist Greenkeeping" two very distinct ideas kept coalescing in my mind.  The first thought was motivated by the animosity I felt towards Mr. Armen Suny due to his inexplicable attitude towards the Minimal Levels of Sustainable Nutrition.  His genuine disdain for this simplistic approach to managing soils inspired me to absolutely crush it.  And while honing my presentation in the dark basement of my killer brick ranch house, every time I fumbled, spaced or fucked up, I wouldn't let myself quit until it was totally dialed in.  My sole purpose was to obliterate the old school and antiquated attitudes of the Suny set, and in order to do so, I needed to convince every goddamn greenkkeeper in attendance that what I was talking about was legit.  The chip on my shoulder was strong (*2).

The second idea was definitely more esoteric and comforting than the first.  And it happened so organically, inspired from a place of ease and comfort, it truly was the yin to my anger fueled yang of wanting to camel clutch BCSR into submission.   I realized this minimalist, efficient, optimal, dumbass, or however you prefer to describe the style of greenkeeping I am currently practicing, is having a profound financial impact on the club I work for.  I'm probably writing cover letters and resumes as opposed to blogging right now, because there's a possibility our club doesn't make it another year if I had kept on managing soils the way I had done in the past.

So let's break it down....

When I arrived at my current position during the middle of June in 2016, before I had been turned on to the MLSN guidelines, one of the first things I did was scope out the soil reports.  Then I checked to see if the previous superintendent had been following the recommendations based off the soil tests pictured below.

The previous superintendent had been spot on follow these recommendations, so all I was responsible for was continuing this program throughout the rest of the 2016 season.

Let's break down the cost of this program.  And if you don't feel like delving into the particulars, you're more than welcome to scroll past all this nonsense to see how much money the previous superintendent and myself spent on trying to balance soils during the 2016 season.

Greens (3.5 acres):

To supply our greens with the 1.5 lbs. of granular nitrogen required 32 bags of 19-0-19 (*3)
  • 32 forty pound bags x $51.50 per bag = $1,648.00
Cost of designer spoon feeding program to deliver approximately one pound of N =  $7,345.50 (foliar app: $145.74/acre, soil app: $66.13/acre) (*4)

.75 pounds of Phosphorus (10-50-00)
  • 4 fifty pound bags x $24.50 = $98.00
3.5 pounds of Potassium (0-0-50)
  • 19 fifty pound bags x 25.50 = $484.50
  • pro-mag36, 20 bags for audit rate x $36.00 = $720.00
Calcium, Micro Nutrients & Special Materials: See footnote (*4)

Total Cost Greens: $10,296.00

Fairways (19.5 acres)

To supply our fairways with 2 pounds of granular nitrogen required 110 bags of a 28-0-14 custom blend poly coated material (*5)
  • 110 fifty pound bags x 49.75 = $5,472.50 
250 gallon tote of liquid 30-0-0 to spoon feed 1 pound through summer
  • $1,750.00
.75 pounds of Phosphorus (10-50-00)
  • 24 fifty pound bags x $22.50 = $540.00
4 pounds of Potassium (0-0-50) (*6)
  • 120 fifty pound bags x $22.75 = $2,730.00
  • pro-mag36, 50 bags for audit rate x $36.00 = $1,800.00
Micro Nutrients
  • 11 five gallon cases of micro mix = $2,320.00
Special Material
  • 4 cases of Exalt = $2,100.00
Total Cost Fairways: $16,712.50

Tees (2.5 acres)

To supply our tees with 1.5 pounds of granular nitrogen required 10 bags of a 28-0-14 custom blend poly coated material
  • 10 fifty pound bags x $49.75 = $497.50
35 gallons of liquid 30-0-0 to spoon feed 1 pound through summer
  • 35 x $7:00/gallon = $245.00
.75 pounds of Phosphorus (10-50-00)
  • 3 fifty pound bags x $22.50 = $67.50
4.25 pounds of Potassium (*7)
  • 17 fifty pound bags x $22.75 = $386.75
  • pro-mag36, 10 bags for audit rate x $36.00 = $360.00
Micro Nutrients
  • 7.5 gallons of micro mix = $315.00
Total Cost Tees: $1,871.75

That's quite some loot for a plant nutrient grand total of, $28,880.25 for the entire 2016 season.

And this is how I rolled for ten seasons as a superintendent.  I followed those soil recommendations  pretty tough, and would never think of cutting any of this from any budget I prepared.   It was my firm belief that this was the sole and correct way to produce healthy playing surfaces, despite the financials.  These numbers were non negotiable, and if I was running your greens department, you had better be able to pony up the dough for this specific style of greenkeeping.

But then I got turned on to the Minimal Levels of Sustainable Nutrition and using Growth Potential to time nitrogen applications.  Going into the 2017 season I used the same person who did the soil tests and recommendations for the the 2016 season, and guess what?  His recommendations were nearly identical to the previous season.  But I did not adhere to them like I would have in the past.  Instead, I focused on supplying the plant with only what was necessary, as opposed to a full on inputpalooza.  No longer did I feel it was necessary to balance our growing medium.

Below is a photo of a soil test taken from our 11th green prior to the 2017 season.  Notice the blue bars noting the sufficiency level of each nutrient.  In the past, I would've been tweeking over any nutrient in the deficient, low or high category.  Going into the 2017 season, I couldn't have cared less.  My focus was on ensuring the nutrients in our soils were above the MLSN guidelines.

MLSN Guidelines        11 Green
pH: > 5.5                      pH: 6.4
Potassium: 37 ppm      Potassium: 79 ppm
Phosphorus: 21 ppm    Phosphorus: 82 ppm
Calcium: 331 ppm       Calcium: 531 ppm
Magnesium: 47 ppm    Magnesium: 90 ppm
Sulfur: 7 ppm               Sulfur: 9 ppm

So according to the MLSN guidelines this putting surface was supplied with enough of any one nutrient to perform.  But I have to take into account that the plant is going to use what is there so I applied Potassium sulfate in small doses to ensure the K levels on this particular green did not fall below the MLSN guidelines.  The other greens I had tested pretty much mimicked these results with slight variations here and there, but no putting surface showed any nutrient falling below the MLSN guidelines. 

Here is a photo of the soil test results of 10 fairway prior to the 2017 season.

MLSN Guidelines        10 Fairway
pH: > 5.5                      pH: 6.1
Potassium: 37 ppm      Potassium: 144 ppm
Phosphorus: 21 ppm    Phosphorus: 47 ppm
Calcium: 331 ppm       Calcium: 1050 ppm
Magnesium: 47 ppm    Magnesium: 167 ppm
Sulfur: 7 ppm               Sulfur: 15 ppm

Again, none of the nutrients fall below the MLSN guidelines, and with the exception of Phosphorus, it looks like I have a well stocked reserve of nutrients for seasons to come.

This next photo is of the soil test results on 10 tee prior to the 2017 season.

MLSN Guidelines        10 Tee
pH: > 5.5                      pH: 6.3
Potassium: 37 ppm      Potassium: 34 ppm
Phosphorus: 21 ppm    Phosphorus:39 ppm 
Calcium: 331 ppm       Calcium: 328 ppm
Magnesium: 47 ppm    Magnesium: 45 ppm
Sulfur: 7 ppm               Sulfur: 7 ppm

This test result really shows off the simplicity of the MLSN philosophy pertaining to managing soils.  The nutrients supplying the turf on this specific tee fall below the recommended guidelines so the decision to add Potassium, Phosphorus, Calcium and Magnesium was fairly simple (*8).  And that's exactly what I did!  The other tees tested were all well above the proposed MLSN guidelines, so in theory, I did not have to add any inputs on these tees.  It simply was my choice to add or not to add.

So what did I do in 2017?

The first decision I made was to eliminate the use of granular based sources of any kind, while choosing to melt down ag grade materials, like feed grade urea, and potassium sulfate in an effort to feed our turf in small doses.  I stopped placing a target on pounds of Nitrogen applied throughout a season, and based Nitrogen applications on Growth Potential, measuring the clipping yield on greens, and observation.  With the exception of iron, supplementing with micros was no longer in play, and that costly designer spoon feeding program applied on putting surfaces, along with that special material was deemed totally unnecessary (*8).  By taking this simplified approach I was able to dramatically reduce costs.  Again, if you don't feel like plowing through the breakdown, feel free to scroll past this nonsense to the good part....the cost savings!

Greens (3.5 acres):
  • 46-0-0 feed grade urea (10 lbs./acre to deliver 1/10th of a pound of N)
  • Potassium sulfate (10 lbs./acre to deliver 1/10th of a pound of K)
  • Ferrous sulfate (2 lbs./acre)
Cost per acre: $11.16
Cost to treat 3.5 acres: $39.06
Cost for 11 applications 2017: $468.72 

Fairways/Tees (22 combined acres):

  • 46-0-0 feed grade urea (10 lbs./acre to deliver 1/10th of a pound of N)
  • Potassium sulfate (10 lbs./acre to deliver 1/10th of a pound of K)
  • Ferrous sulfate (2 lbs./acre)
Cost per acre: $11.16
Cost to treat 22 acres: $245.52
Cost for 8 applications 2017: $1,964.16

Plant Nutrient Costs 2017: $2,432.88
Plant Nutrient Costs 2016: $28,880.25

Total Savings: $26,447.37

If you don't think this is a significant savings, then I'm sorry, but you're a full on knucklehead. And perhaps you're thinking, "how did the surfaces perform" which is a very logical question to ask.  In all honesty, they performed remarkably well, and it seemed like the less we messed around with things, the better the plant reacted.   This is why I firmly believe MLSN will save middle class golf.  A hair over twenty six grand is quite the chunk of change, and it is my honest opinion that this savings helped our club survive. 

By implementing MLSN to manage nutrient levels in the soil, along with using Growth Potential and other tactics to time Nitrogen applications was certainly a game changer for me.  It reinvigorated my interest in greenkeeping like you wouldn't believe, and improved my mettle as a turf manager.  For the first time in my career, I honestly feel like an environmental steward, and not some poser that produces green playing surfaces for the sole purpose of keeping my job.  I took a calculated risk, and it paid off.


1)  I snaked this power point bit from The Office.

2)  I want to make this absolutely crystal clear that I appreciate Mr. Armen Suny and the contributions he has made to our industry.  I have called Mr. Suny about job positions on a few occasions, and he has always taken the time to respond while giving me sound advice.  If you have not listened to the podcast where he and Dave Wilber discuss resumes and job interviews, you definitely should.  It's worth a listen.  But what bums me out about Mr. Suny is his opinion concerning MLSN.  I just wish he was more open minded about it, because he does hold the purse strings for some of the most coveted positions in our industry.  Which I realize, I have totally screwed myself out of scoring any of these jobs, and I'm totally cool with this.  

3) This application also supplied 1.5 pounds of K

4) Designer spoon feeding program supplied calcium, micros & special material

5) I inherited this crap, and even before I was turned on to less expensive N sources, I was still appalled at the price of this product.  Couldn't believe it!

6) No foliar K was applied to fairways even though it was recommended.  All supplemental K was applied in granular form.

7) Same deal on tees.  No foliar K was used even though it was recommended.  All supplemental K was applied in granular form.

8)This tee still looked pretty awesome despite its nutrient levels being below the MLSN guidelines.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Part 1: The Keyboard is Mightier Than the Fist. How MLSN Will Save Middle Class Golf

Throughout my entire career as a head greenkeeper, I've worked for middle class clubs with the exception of my first gig, which wasn't a club per say, but a daily fee joint built smack dab in the middle of six hundred middle class shitboxes and townhouses.  The middle class isn't foreign to me, and being a product of middle America, it seems fitting I manage turf for those golfers working tough to earn that middle class wage.   On more than one occasion, I have tried to land a job at one of those upper echelon clubs where the majority of the male members sport Brook Brothers slacks and Salvatore Ferragamo loafers without socks (*1).  And if you have read my blog, or know me personally, you may question why I would desire to work for a club where the one percenters rule. Perhaps it was driven by ego, and my wanting to prove I can grow grass with the best of them.  But honestly, I know I can hang, so this rationalization of wanting to prove myself, was in reality, just a cruel mind trick where I was only trying to justify the real reasons of wanting to schlep it up at some high class joint.  The true reason for desiring a position of this stature was fairly simple. Money.

At my first gig, I made a pretty decent salary, and the annual operating budget was just under seven hundred grand.  Because it was surrounded by a zillion craptacular shitboxes, each person living in one of these homes had to pay an annual fee that contributed to the course's operating budget which, in my opinion, was pretty ingenious.  This annual fee pretty much guaranteed that the course was always going to be there no matter how good or bad the receipts were at the gate.  This set up definitely gave me a sense of security, particularly since the mortgage bubble had just burst, and people weren't playing golf all that much.  But I fucked up, got on the bad side of the pro, lost some grass, got backdoored by another greenkeeper and was fired (*2).

Fortunately, I wasn't unemployed too long and was able to secure a job at what I thought was a stable private club.  They had just received an influx of members from a club that had just shit the bed so things seemed to be looking up.  My annual operating budget was just a hair over a half mil, with promises of improving, and everything went really well those first two seasons.  Season three is when this club, "shit the bed" as members left in droves, and the operating budget was slashed by nearly a hundred grand (*3).  Although the reduction in my budget did annoy the shit out of me, it was the non payment to my vendors which genuinely pissed me off.  It's pretty fucking tough going into a season when you're thirty thousand deep to your vendors from the previous year, so I quickly surmised this particular situation wasn't ideal.

I suffered through three seasons of slow pay bullshit before landing my current position at another mid tier club.  They're not quite as bad off as the previous shit show where I was the MC of green, but the financial struggle is definitely real.  Which gets me back to my point.  Money was the sole reason driving my desire to keep greens for the Salvatore Ferragamo set, and it wasn't because I was looking for an improved salary (*4).  I just wanted to work at a joint where the vendors didn't cut me off in August, the fuel tanks remained relatively filled,  and making payroll was nary a concern (*5). It's pretty frustrating working at a club that resembles one of the many flop houses I lived in during my early twenties.  I honestly thought my days of suffering through stretches of no electricity, cold showers, and using crumpled up pages from the phone book as an alternative to toilet paper were way behind me (*6).  It's not too bad when you're twenty something, but at forty, it's pretty beat shivering your ass off in an office because the club hasn't paid the goddamn heating bill (*7).

Since 2014 I've blasted off my resume to all the up scaler job postings within a fifty mile radius of my killer brick ranch house and haven't even received one interview request.  And I know my cover letter and resume are strong because I listened to that Turfgrass Zealot podcast with Armen Suny, where they specifically discuss resume writing, a million times..  My shit was definitely dialed in,  but for some reason, I was never chosen for an interview.   And here's the catch.  Armen Suny has held the purse strings for three really terrific gigs in my region.  Three positions I have applied for sending him resumes and cover letters concisely tailored in an effort to impress him!

On the third try I actually received a phone call from Mr. Suny and as we were discussing my credentials, which by the way, hit on every bullet point of the posting, he basically called me a jumper.  I really couldn't argue his point, because I had been jumping from gig to gig the past couple of years, but I explained how I just wanted to work for a club with some sort of stability.  His response,

"I don't care how good the story is, you still look like a jumper".

His advice was to stay at my current gig another year.

I was bummed, because I honestly felt I would've been a pretty good fit for this club despite what Mr. Suny described as my jumpiness.  This particular job seemed right in my wheelhouse, so in a last ditch effort to attempt the dissuade I asked,

"Are you going to the Penn State Turf Conference?  I'm doing a presentation."

"You are?" was his response. "What are you talking about?" he then inquired.

"The art of minimalist green keeping," I replied.

"Oh." he said. "I've heard about some superintendents that have stopped core aerating."

In hindsight, I probably should have steered him toward my epic blog post, "Cussing Down Core Aeration", but I needed to convince this guy I was a solid greenkeeper, despite my penchant of jumping from job to job like a left handed reliever with mediocre stuff (**8).  So I immediately delved into what I know best, and mentioned how I began implementing MLSN this past season with excellent results.

And this is when things got real uncomfortable.

Let's just say, Mr. Suny is not a fan of MLSN.  And I wish I could recall his exact words, but he growled something along the lines of, "if anyone doesn't think the balance between Calcium and Magnesium percentages isn't important, than that person needs to get back to college and take an entry level soils class."

I was fucking stunned.  Because here's a guy, who uses the word, "anarchist" in the title of his blog and specifically states in his job postings that he desires a, "creative turf manager with strong agronomic skills that stays current with advances in turf technology."

Well, I really don't know what's more creative and current than MLSN! And growth potential, and flexible fertilizer systems, and measuring clipping yields, and using growing degree days to time plant growth regulator applications, and bio char, and....

This is how I assumed our conversation was going to progress after I mentioned MLSN, figuring he would be so impressed with my knowledge about the latest in turf management trends, I was guaranteed at the very least, an interview.   But old Armen wasn't hearing shite, and he immediately pretended (I allege) to take another call.  Before hanging up, he did say he was going to call back, but never did.

I was pissed, but not because I got screwed out of an interview.  It was Mr. Suny's utter angst towards MLSN that aggravated the hell out of me.  I just couldn't fathom, a person of his stature, pretty much a pillar of our trade,  totally disregarding the people who developed this alternative approach to managing soils in an effort to make our jobs as greenkeepers less burdensome.  Even though I do not know Dr. Larry Stowell, Dr. Wendy Gelertner or Dr. Micah Woods personally, I took it personally, and honestly felt like Mr. Suny had full on dissed my good friends.  This anger lingered for days, and obviously it's still hanging, but I have since cooled off a bit realizing the broader scope of this drama.

I'm really not meant to manage turf for the one percenters.  My greenkeeping path lies with the middle class, because these are the people I am most familiar with, and in all honestly, where I belong.  Stumbling upon the MLSN guidelines was not a coincidence.  It was totally meant to happen, and I can honestly say, by implementing this approach to managing soils, it probably helped our club survive at least another year, but more importantly, kept me in a job!  I saved our club a shit ton of cash, because I made a decision not to manage soils the, "Armen Suny" way.  If Mr. Suny wants to continue hiring greenkeepers that waste time, inputs, and most importantly, money because he firmly believes interpreting soil data in a way that agriculture has disregarded since the early eighties, then have at it.

The Minimal Levels of Sustainable Nutrition Soil Guidelines are a, "more sustainable approach to managing soil nutrient levels that can help you decrease fertilizer inputs and costs, while still maintaining desired turf quality and playability levels" (*9). But to me, MLSN is more than sustainability, reducing costs, inputs, and making sure your soils are supplied with the adequate levels of nutrients.  For me, MLSN is about getting my environmental compass pointing north, and contributing to saving middle class golf.  In part two of this blog,  I'll explain how I'm going to pull this off by showing the significant savings I made by using MLSN (*10).

1) Obviously, they can afford socks, but choose not to sport them for some reason.  Rich dudes must have smelly feet.

2) I did get hosed pretty tough.  And for years I placed blame all over the place.  I blamed the pro, and the dude who really did snake my job.  But after years of reflection, I realized something.  Bottom line....I just did not do a good enough job, and deserved to be fired.  Getting shit canned is tough to accept, but in all honestly it was good thing.  I am a better greenkeeper for it.

3)  Members didn't roll because of playing conditions.  Despite my abuse of inputs, the membership loved what our staff was accomplishing.  Greed was a the main reason members left in droves. Coupled with the total ineptness of the board of governors.  That place was a shit show!

4)  Not that I would mind a bump in pay!

5)  I remember vividly taking a two ton jack and lifting up the back end of the fuel tank to get those extra gallons of fuel leaning towards the front end where the intake pipe was situated.  What a pain in the ass, but shit, we had to fuel our fairway mowers somehow.

6)  One of our favorite bits when using the pages from the phone book as shit tickets was telling whomever, that I looked up your name in the phone book, tore out that page, and wiped my ass with it.  As I reflect back, I realize I was a total degenerate.

7)  The heat was shut off regularly at my prior gig.  It has not happened at my current position.

8) In my opinion, "stuff" is a lazy word, and the word itself, kind of annoys the shit out of me.  I think the word, "stuff" is only appropriate when describing a pitcher's repertoire of pitches.  For example...."Jamie Moyer has good stuff".

8) Check out my epic blog, "Cussing Down Core Aeration". Perhaps my greatest hit!↓

9)  How Pace Turf describes MLSN ↓

10)  I have to write a column for the February issue of Golfdom, before I begin writing part 2 of this blog.  Can you believe I got a gig writing a column for Golfdom because of this blog?  So stoked they took a chance on me.  Seth Jones and Buddy Gannon rule (Buddy was the one who stumbled upon this piece).  My goal is to have part 2 of this blog published around the middle of January.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Desperate Plight for Skilled Labor

Back in the day, it seemed like you could snag people off the street to fill vacant greenkeeping positions , like picking crabgrass off untreated plots of turf.   At least once or twice a week, it was pretty much guaranteed some joker would pop in asking for a job, so I have to ask.....what the fuck happened?

For the past year I've attempted to fill our, "spray tech" position to no avail.  The first kook I hired texted me the evening before he was scheduled to start, talking some shit about a doctor's appointment.  For a little perspective, his start date was the day after America's birthday, so my immediate thought was, "this is totally sketchy".   Now I'm no, Jimmy McNulty, but it certainly didn't require the instincts of a homicide detective to figure out this wanker was most likely tipping back a few beavos with his boys and definitely wasn't feeling a 5:30am start.   And to say I haven't been in this similar situation back when raising hell was my primary gig, and weedeating pond banks was basically a secondary responsibility of mine would be a gross understatement.   I knew the deal, but letting this clown get away with such a weak ass excuse just didn't seem copacetic.  Bring a doctors note on the sixth or don't even bother showing up is what I instructed him via text, and not even an hour later, this moron comes back at me saying how he was able to go online and reschedule his appointment (*1).  Go figure.  The next morning, this patriot comes sauntering in ten minutes late like everything is cool, and had no idea his future at Newark Country Club had been decided six minutes prior to his late arrival.  Perhaps if he didn't attempt to weasel out of his first day on the job, I might've overlooked him being late, but things weren't really jumping off to an ideal start.  Letting him go seemed like the logical choice, so I politely told him to hit the road.  Surprisingly, he didn't seem too pissed.

The second person I hired actually lasted longer than four minutes, but he wasn't all that great. Out of the three people I scheduled to interview after the patriot debacle, this kid won by default.   But is it truly a, "victory" when one of the candidates doesn't even show, and the other rolls up sporting his fanciest Lee dungarees and a Bud Light t-shirt? (*2)  Fortunately, the kid who scored the job seemed genuinely into it and excited to start.  Unfortunately, he was perhaps the biggest space I ever met in my life.  And being a person who toured with The Grateful Dead in my late teens, it's definitely not a stretch for me to say I know spacey when I see it, and this kid ranked right up there with the spaciest of the spaced out wingnuts I ever encountered while galavanting around the United States following The Dead.  Although this kid was very likable, "spacey" certainly isn't a characteristic you desire for a spray technician.  He lasted just over a month.

It's been quite the ordeal, and one year later I still have not found a capable person to fill this position, and I know I'm not alone!  All of my greenkeeper peeps are feeling the labor pool pains, and it certainly is a topic that regularly arises amongst my colleagues.  Personally, I totally get why I attract junkies for this crucial position, because I'm offering junkie wages.  Junkies seem surprisingly attracted to fourteen bucks an hour, with no overtime or health bennies, and getting laid off for two to three months in the winter.  Oh, but they do get free golf and a nifty uniform.  Recently I was chatting with a member of our club about the labor situation, and he came up with the old, "why don't you just hire some Mexicans?"  I didn't know whether to vomit, punch him in his stupid mouth, or play dumb with a phony snicker.  Although I preferred option two, I chose another option.....the truth.  Mexicans or as I prefer, Latin Americans have totally figured out their worth, and they aren't down with junkie wages.  They demand more than what I'm offering, and rightfully so.  My friends from Mexico City, Tenancingo, Oaxaca and Michoacan , along with my amigos from Guatemala and Ecuador have paid their dues in the greenkeeping game and have since moved on.  They're building our houses, paving our roads, repairing our cars, working year round while earning a much better wage doing these trades rather than raking a goddamn bunker edge for nine bucks an hour.  The Latin American labor pool that was so prevalent twenty years ago in our industry has been drained.  And those Latin Americans sill hanging around in golf course maintenance are more than likely Vice Executives of Agronomy and  Head Greenkeepers.  I used to love ripping Spanglish on a daily basis.  Unfortunately the only time I speak it now is at the Taqueria.

The industry of greenkeeping, particularly when it comes to golf courses is full on hurting for qualified people to fill our workforces (*3).   So what in the hell are we going to do to about this incontestable epidemic?   As you can imagine, I have some ideas.....

My beautiful wife, whom I love more than any other person on this earth, teaches in a gifted and talented program for fifth graders in our state.  She's the one who should be writing a blog about her gig, because teaching wickedly smart ten year olds is way more interesting than nitrogen, chinch bugs and manganese.   Pretty much the best part of my day is hanging out with her after work, sipping drinks, while she regales me with stories about her students.   They're usually hilarious, but a couple of months ago she came home with a story that truly pulled on my heart strings.

Immigration is a topic of the fifth grade curriculum, and while my wife was teaching this lesson, a mother of one of her students visited her classroom to recount her story about immigrating from Vietnam to America.  Just prior to the fall of Saigon, her mother, father and seven siblings, ranging from sixteen to a year old, crammed onto an overcrowded fishing boat for the sole purpose of finding refuge from their war torn country.  During the trip the boat broke down and they had to wait for another boat to rescue them.  When this boat finally arrived, all the passengers had to hop from the broken vessel and on to the rescue boat in the middle of the South China Sea.   She explained to my wife's students how she was just five years old, and terrified beyond belief, to attempt what undoubtedly was, the most important leap of her life.  And if you're wondering about the one year old....the mother made this jump while cradling the baby in her arms.  Following this harrowing experience they finally made it to the refugee camp which was located in Thailand.  They remained in the camp for nearly a year, before a family in Philadelphia sponsored them to come to America.   As this family of nine from Vietnam arrived in the states, not knowing the language nor culture, they willingly shacked up with this sponsor family, who also had six kids of their own.  The father eventually scored a job as a janitor at a church just south of Philly in Wilmington, Delaware, and this girl, who fled the communist oppression of her country, jumped from one boat to another in the middle of the South China Sea, lived in a refugee camp for a year, shacked up with six white kids in Philly, went on to become a well respected high school English teacher in our state.

I welled up pretty tough after hearing this story, but my feelings of sorrow soon regressed to anger due to the political climate that is currently permeating throughout the good old USA.  It really got me thinking about the millions of refugees fleeing the terrible conflict in Syria, and how if we were just a bit more empathetic as a nation, we would  be welcoming these Muslims with open and caring  arms, instead of labeling them as terrorists and haters of western democracy, therefore denying them entry into what used to be, the greatest country in the free world.  Why is our buffoon of a president leading this charge?  He is a golf course owner, shouldn't he know better?  Doesn't he realize he is denying us the opportunity to flood not only our industry, but the countless other skilled trades searching for affordable labor?   Instead of lowering the immigration quota, we should be upping it!  And before everyone goes all Breibart news on my ass, please let me ask you this simple, two part question.  Would you rather have some white, junkie ass stiff American who can't make it to work until forty five minutes after staring time because he has to wait in line to score his fucking suboxone, or a refugee from Syria that has fled his war torn nation in hopes of better life?  Who do you think is going to rake that bunker edge, or weedeat that pond bank with more authority and determination for nine bucks an hour?   My well earned loot is on the Syrian, and if he happens to be some goddamn ISIS prick guised as a proponent of western culture, and decides to blow my meaningless life to smithereens with a homemade bomb derived from products he pilfered from our chemical building, I will gladly make this sacrifice.  Because I'll probably have received some quality hours from this guy, and if my fellow greenkeepers throughout the states have reaped the benefits of a Syrian workforce that truly walks the line, then I would totally deem my life expendable for the betterment of our industry.  Most people in this world are good, and I truly believe if we were to allow Syrian refugees into our country, they would work their asses off for us., not blow us the fuck up.  We as an industry should be pushing for this.

Preparing my budget last year was not fun.  Similar to how the middle class of America is vanishing so are the private clubs that cater to the middle class.   I am currently employed by one of these mid tier clubs, and to put it lightly, we're hurting.   It seemed like every time I met with the budget committee they would cue up the Friday the 13th score and slash down my budget pretty tough.  One idea I did propose, and I thought it was truly brilliant, was to use the technological advancements of today's modern equipment to our economic advantage.   I proposed purchasing one of those spiffy new wider than average rollers that basically roll an entire putting surface in a minute instead of hiring a seasonal employee. Because I roll more than I mow, the justification was we could roll greens much faster with this more modern roller than the piece of crap we currently own.  Old roller = 3.5 to 4 hours to complete all  greens while new roller = 1.5 to 2 hours to complete all greens.  The basic gist....Turnover from rolling greens would be much faster, pretty much enabling us to transition more quickly to a second job,  therefore deeming it unnecessary to hire an extra seasonal employee.  The savings wasn't that significant, but it did cut around a thousand bucks from the overall budget, while upgrading our roller.  To my dismay, this well thought out plan was not approved.

Despite my, "L" at the bargaining table,  I did implement some tactics this season to compensate for our labor shortage.  One of the first things I did was reduce the size of the fairways.  I don't know who came up with this brilliant idea prior to my arrival, but all the landing areas on the fairways were like fifty yards wide (*4).  Fifty is probably an exaggeration, but the edges of the landing zones were definitely stretched out to where the last droplet of irrigation landed.  And in my professional opinion, this really wasn't the ideal strategy for a single row irrigation system celebrating its thirtieth anniversary, plus it looked aesthetically whack.    By interstating our manageable fairway acres from 24 to 19.5 you'd have to be a complete moron not to notice the domino effect it has had on our efficiency and costs savings.   Mowing time has been decreased by almost an entire hour which should also equal a pretty nice cost reduction in fuel.  Obviously, our pesticide and plant nutrient  costs have trended downward, but the one thing, I'm totally jacked about is the actual time it takes us to complete spraying fairways.  Last year, our spray rig operated in fourth gear low, creeping at about four miles per hour.  It took us all fucking day to spray fairways, and with myself tasked to this duty, it really annoyed the shit out of me that I could listen to an entire Joe Rogan podcast, and not even finish the front nine (*5).  Over this past winter, I hooked up some new nozzles, and recalibrated that jawn.  Now I'm crushing fairway sprays in second gear high and still have some minutes to spare on that Rogan podcast.  I really loathe self promoting, but I'm going to go there.  I'm super proud of what I did with our sprayer.   Last season I totally dreaded having to spray, only because it took like a million hours.  This season, I'm finished by 10:00am which leaves me a pretty full day to accomplish other things that need to be done.

I could totally add a paragraph here about how implementing the MLSN guidelines has been a gigantic costs savings, therefore giving me some extra dough to throw at labor.   And I really can't wait to figure out this ginormous number, but that'll have to wait (*6).

Pulling little tricks out of my ass definitely has alleviated part of the labor pool issue, but it certainly has not solved the problem.  And what about our association?  Are they doing anything to curtail this lousy labor trend?   You would certainly assume so, but to be completely honest, I personally believe the association isn't doing much.   While attending a local chapter meeting prior to the presidential election last year, a lobbyist from our association was a featured speaker.  He spoke to us about WOTUS, plus the law which would've required any person earning a salary of less than forty eight grand a year to be compensated with overtime pay, if this person were to work over forty hours a week.  Even a hippy like me gets the WOTUS thing, because let's face it; associating the water hazards on our golf course with the Clean Water Act does seem like a bit of a stretch (*7).  But I just could not comprehend why this suit was lobbying against improving wages for our industry?   Isn't it the association's responsibility to have our best interest at heart?  And how is opposing higher wages, particularly for the people who need it most in our trade, the Vice Executives of Agronomy, in our best interest as greenkeepers?   To me, lobbying against higher wages favors owners, and the big Walmart style management companies that operate golf courses, not us!  And if this law had passed, guess who it most likely fucks?   ME!!!!!!  The club I currently work for probably doesn't have a sliced drive chance in hell of surviving if they have to pony up for an assistant super, or an assistant pro, or a sous chef, or any other jamoke earning a salary of forty eight thousand a year.  And again, just as I'd be willing to sacrifice my life to some jihadist asshole for the betterment of our industry, you better believe I'd be more than willing to sacrifice my job if it meant  more cash crammed into  the khaki pockets of my brothers and sisters in the greenkeeping game.  In my opinion, the association needs to step up.

Man I've been going off, and I appreciate you hanging tough up to this point.   This final thought isn't necessarily a popular one (*8), and I don't ever expect what I'm about to propose is ever going to happen, but I'm going to initiate this conversation anyway.  To me, greenkeeping is a skilled trade.  You just can't train any yahoo to lay down a frozen rope on a fairway mower, or hand some random jerk a cup cutter and expect the game's final destination, the golf hole, to be perfectly cut while also placed fairly upon a putting surface.  Then why do we as an industry insist on paying the people who perform these skillful tasks fast food wages?  Perhaps if we were to pay the laborers of greenkeeping a living wage, and offer 401k's , paid sick leave, vacation time , and actual health insurance , as opposed to a free fucking lunch and golfing privileges on Monday afternoons, we might be able to recruit and retain some good people.  It is my firm belief , that if our industry were to come together, organize, and establish the means to collectively bargain, this shit labor situation is solved.  Roll your eyes.  I get it, but the unions of our country used to be the backbone of America.  Pretty much every kid I grew up with had a parent associated with a union, and life was good.   I'm frustrated with giving our club's money to the companies that monopolize our industry.  Why is it that a goddamn fairway mower cost fifty grand and the person operating that piece is making nine lousy dollars an hour!  It's maddening, and I say it's about time we start investing in people as opposed to lining the pockets of shareholders who take advantage of the niche market that is golf.  I know this union idea is unpopular, and totally far fetched, but I'm a very angry hippy that is highly frustrated with the direction our industry is headed (*9).  "Greenkeepers Local".  Lets seriously think about it.  


1) I despise having these types of conversations via text.  If you can't make it into work, please pick up the phone and call me.

2) I probably would've hired the dude in the Bud Light t-shirt.  He had previous greenkeeping experience, but when he mentioned something about wanting to, "fucking kick his old boss's ass", it scared even a hard ass like me.

3) And we're not alone.  All the skilled trades are hurting for workers.

4) Guaranteed it was the Golf Pro's idea.

5)  Joe Rogan podcasts are extremely long, but I Love me some Rogan!

6) Explaining the costs savings of MLSN will be it's own post.  I can't wait to write it!

7) I definitely would not have been upset had WOTUS passed.

8)  Perhaps it's more popular than allowing Syrian refugees to fill our labor needs?

9)  I'm also generally frustrated with the direction of our country right now.   The middle class is vanishing and it is killing me.  No one cares about the hardworking people that make this country go. It seems like the only concern of big business is appeasing their stockholders, and this is sad.  It wasn't always this way.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Process

I love the Philadelphia 76ers.  Arguably more than any other team in Philly.  I could make a case as to why I love the Phillies equally as much (or more) because baseball does rule, and those Fightens' are such lovable losers. (1*)  The Eagles kind of annoy the hell out of me, and the NFL is pretty lame when you truly think about it. (*2)  And hockey.....I think the game itself is pretty awesome, particularly when it's played on a street in a pair of Chuck Taylors and Toughskins, while strapping on those plastic Mylec goalie pads, and attempting to block an orange ball from whistling by you into a beat ass Franklin net.   Unfortunately hockey fans, your sport has always ranked last among the 4 major American sports in my book, and as youngsters growing up in shithole, middle class suburbia, just a hair south of the City of Brotherly Love, we diligently played all four, imagining ourselves as Mike Schmidt during wiffle ball battles,  the Polish Rifle, while chucking the Duke Junior around, and you better believe we all wanted to be everyone's favorite toothless ginger, Bobby Clarke, when ripping wrist shots against the garage door (*3).   But I think the argument that spurned more fights when I was a kid, was who got to be the greatest Philadelphia athlete of all time, Julius Erving, when balling in some kid's driveway.  Despite the fact that we were all lily white, with hair straighter than Joni Mitchell, and no hope of ever growing up to be six foot fucking six with a banging ass afro, we all wanted to be Doctor J.   He was the absolute best, and we were all more than willing to,"drop the gloves" over who got to imagine themselves as number 6.

I was 11 years old in 1983 when Moses Malone came up one loss short of predicting a "fo, fo, fo" through the playoffs, which fitfully ended, with a parade down Broad Street.  (*4) And since that last championship season in, "83", the Sixers have been mired in mediocrity, with the exception of the aught one season when A.I.  carried a bunch of bums all the way to the finals before inevitably losing to the team I hate most in all of sports, those lame ass Los Angeles Lakers. (*5)  For 30 years, the Sixers have totally blew it, although they came oh so close to stealing a dynasty away from the Chicago Bulls during that legendary draft of 84.  My number one team actually attempted to trade their aging superstar, and every kid's favorite basketball player within a 100 mile radius of the Spectrum, Julius Erving, for the third pick in the draft.  And every basketball fan knows who was taken 3rd that year, and if you don't, let me remind was, Michael Jordan, and if you think I'm fabricating this shite hit the link ↓

I can't even fathom the idea of Air Jordans being red, white and blue instead of their patented red, white and black.  And if Chicago would've agreed to that trade, the Sixers still would have kept their fifth pick, which ended  up being that non role model being, husky ass, throwing dudes through bar windows, gambling degenerate, rebounding maniac, Charles Barkley.  Check out this starting five.....

PG: Maurice Cheeks
SG: Andrew Toney
SF: Michael Jordan
PF: Charles Barkley
C: Moses Malone
6th man: Bobby Jones (*6)

I'll make a safe assumption here and guess that Jordan wins more than six championships if he's a Sixer.  Unfortunately, this dream line up never happened, and I , along with all of my boys were stuck watching a bunch of scrubs for the next 3 decades.   All I have to say is, Shawn Bradley.

It's been tough sledding for the Sixers since that glorious 83 season, but nothing has challenged our mettle as fans quite like when our Dark Lord, Sam Hinkie took over as GM, and began what is known throughout the tri-state area as, "The Process" (*7).  Basically it involved, gutting the roster of the likes of Jrue Holliday, Evan Turner, and perhaps the biggest white stiff in NBA history since Greg Ostertag, Spencer Hawes, in exchange for ,"assets".  Old Hinks got rid of everyone, including Kwame Brown, Swaggy P and the best bowler over seven feet tall the city of Philadelphia has ever seen, Andrew Bynum (*8).  "Tanking" is how the media dubbed it, and those curmudgeon beat writers from the Daily News, and The Inquirer were fucking irate at the Dark Lord.  How could anyone purposely lose they furiously opined ad nauseam.   But despite those grizzled scribes being totally pissed, most fans understood the direction, Old Sam was taking our beloved Sixers.  He inherited a roster, that at best, might squeak into the playoffs every year as a seven or eight seed only to get swept out the building, then be totally stuck picking in the middle of the first round of the draft, which in all likelihood gets you another fucking, Spencer Hawes.  Basically they were mired in basketball purgatory, and our Dark Lord sent us to the outer reaches of hell with lineups featuring, Tony Wroten, Ish Smith, Hollis Thompson and that Turkish sensation, Turkan Aldemir.  They lost, and lost tough, and to be completely honest, it was really difficult to root for a team to actually lose in hopes of lottery balls bouncing our way.  The last three seasons have been pretty rough, but it does seem like the Sixers are finally on the upswing.  Unfortunately, our Dark Lord, Sam Hinkie won't be in the fold to witness, what he coined "The Process" come to fruition (*9).

When I became the head greenkeeper at Newark Country Club last summer, I honestly felt akin to Sam Hinkie.  Much like my boy, Sammy inheriting a roster full of stiffs, with no shot of ever winning a championship, I inherited a course with a roster full of greenkeeping stiffs.
  • aging single row irrigation system with no central computer or radio control ✓
  • craptacular bunkers penally placed without any subsurface drainage ✓
  • invasive plants inundating weak ass flower beds while obstructing crucial airflow adjacent to greens & teeing areas ✓
  • Bountiful species of acer saccharum, platanus occidentalis, pinus strobus , liriodendron tulipifera, and a plethora of awful scrub trees with the only thing cool about them are their killer latin binomial names.  ✓ (*10)
  • Poa annua as the predominant turf type on greens, fairways and tees ✓ (*11)
Green keeping purgatory?  Most definitely, and you better believe I was pointing out the inadequacies like a madman.   We needed to  upgrade the irrigation system, obliterate all the dated flower beds, fell trees like my man Saruman the White, and definitely smoke the hell out of all that goddamn poa annua.  The green committee chairman politely agreed with my aggressive onslaught, but the problem was money.  The club just wasn't too flush with the duckets so none of the shite I suggested was going least anytime soon.

It was frustrating.  So frustrating in fact, I seriously flirted with the idea of, dare I say, "tanking".  The basic premise of tanking for tougher turfgrass was to let everything go to hell, leaving the club no other choice but to pony up some dough for some serious upgrades.  Visions of pallets laden with 007 bentgrass seed waltzed through my head as the idea of purposely fucking up grew stronger each and every time I rolled around setting up irrigation at the satellite boxes (*12).   I figured it would be pretty simple, based on the premise of, "its easier to ask for forgiveness than permission", and lest we forget, that I was totally in the infancy stages of my tenure as head greenkeeper at old NCC.   Would they fire me for tanking tough during my first season?  Perhaps, but despite my wonting of the tank, I just couldn't find the gumption to go through with it.  It just seemed way too sketchy and low brow.  So instead of purposely fucking everything up, I came up with an alternative plan which I have deemed, "The Process".

"The Process" began with coming to the realization that I had been a pretty sorry greenkeeper for a lot of years.  Hit the link ↓for the full scoop.

This season I have simplified things by adhering to the MLSN guidelines, while using Growth Potential to time nitrogen applications.  I am also applying plant growth regulators based on growing degree day intervals, and really trying to manage irrigation, "from rain event to rain event" (*13).  And I must say, the results from implementing these very simple, yet very thought out, greenkeeping fundamentals has produced noticeable results.  For the first time ever, I have greens that are legitimately firm, even during periods of wet because I have purposely held off the water, which in turn, enables our push up constructed greens to accept natural rainfall.  Growth has been stupendous and I honestly feel we are in the wheelhouse of Micah Wood's spot on definition of greenkeeping......

"greenkeeping is managing the growth rate of the grass to create the desired playing surface for golf." (*14)

We're mowing greens way less, and our clipping yield has been alarmingly consistent (*15).  Last year we'd be hurling baskets into the rough after tri-plexing every other green, where this season, we can cruise through an entire cut, dumping clippings like two to three times total.  Black algae has become an afterthought, as well as putting surfaces inundated with spongy footprints.  But more importantly, the performance of our greens has been downright sick.  I kind of liken the conditions of our surfaces to waves when it comes to surfers.  When the swell is kicking,  word gets out, and the line up gets crazy packed.  (*16).  And I can honestly say the word is spreading throughout the golfing community in our small state.  The greens at NCC are rolling like glassy, double overheaders, and it's been tough not to notice the uptick in play.  Particularly amongst the finer players in our area.

And I attribute all of our early success as a maintenance staff to a full on change of philosophy pertaining to the art of greenkeeping.  My wagon is no longer hitched to an insanely cost prohibitive spoon feeding fertilization program where I'm constantly applying either a foliar or soil spray every fucking week.  "The Process" is about control and saving loot.  It's about melting down Ag grade urea and ferrous sulfate, which is costing the club around twenty five bucks per greens spray, and making applications when I deem it necessary.  It's about regulating growth on growing degree intervals, and applying pesticides soley when environmental conditions are favorable for a full on pest onslaught.
"The Process" is about the simplicity of MLSN, and knowing if the soil has enough of any one nutrient, the turf will perform.  "Balanced" soils are all but an afterthought and it's been such a weight off my greenkeeping shoulders knowing I no longer have to worry about having calcium levels in the ballpark of 68 fucking percent.  And water.....I have finally learned that our number one, most precious resource can be used in such a manner that can be beneficial for both plant health and playability.

I'm a competitor.  And just like my boy, Sam Hinkie I want to win.  Unfortunately I don't have the luxury of a fat television contract to back up a three or four year tank job, so I have to make due with what I have.   Sure, our dated irrigation system is a total pain in the ass.   I wish our bunkers drained better, and nothing would make me happier than to throw down, Paul Bunyan style and get rid of all the goddamn trees I deem fit to fell.   It would be cool if money wasn't a concern,  and it would be so rad to slay 007 creeping bentgrass all over the goddamn place.  But in all honesty, fuck all of those lame ass excuses.  Golfers don't really give two shites about budgets, irrigation systems, , and trees that totally inhibit ideal growing conditions.   I can't make our club's budget a million bucks, and a tank job for tougher turf is a novel idea, but isn't really too cool ethically speaking.   I know the upscale club up the way has a budget that's nearly triple mine, but I'm up to task to challenge those one percenters any day of the week.  Why?  Because I'm working, "The Process".....and I'm full on trusting, "The Process".


1) Phillies: W-9,035 L-10,162  World Series Tiltes: 2
    Yankees: W-10,120 L-7,671  World Series Titles: 27
    Puts things into perspective doesn't it?

2)  I could write a whole other blog about how beat the NFL has become, but I'll keep it simple for this footnote.  Commercials out the ass, watered down talent, a domestic violence case involving an NFl player what seems to be like every other day,  fantasy football, and that total jerk Roger Goodell running the entire show.  How would you like to get paired up with that dork in a foursome?  I think I'd die.

3)You probably know him as, Jaws, or by his surname, Ron Jaworski.  But in 1979, he was, "The Polish Rifle".

4) Hit the link ↓ to read about the Moses Malone. "Fo, Fo, Fo" story.

5)  I go back and forth between the Los Angeles Lakers & St. Louis Cardinals as my most hated squad in all of sports.  It's a tough choice but nothing says douche quite like Tony Larussa or Kurt Rambis.

6)  Bobby Jones is the third best white basketball player of all time behind Larry Bird, and Pistol Pete Maravich.

7)  I really wish I knew who nicknamed, Sam Hinkie, "our dark lord".  If I ever meet this person, I will gladly buy them many drinks.

8)  Doug Collins who was the coach during that illustrious Andrew Bynum era, had the audacity to ask everyone to, "pray for him" during a news conference.  No wonder he got fired.

9)  I was near tears when my beloved Sixers "forced" our dark lord to resign.....most likely by the NBA.  If you want a good read, hit the link ↓.....warning.....dictionary needed!

10)  Common names of trees in order:  Sugar Maple, Sycamore, White Pine, Tulip Poplar.

11)   I don't mind managing poa annua on greens.  In fact, I quite like it as a surface for greens.

12)  I really shouldn't bitch, but I will.  When I'm out with my boy tipping back a few pints, and a thunderstorm rolls through our area, he can shut off his irrigation with his iPhone.  I can't.

13)  Rick Slattery uttered this line about managing water, from, "rain event to rain event" during a podcast with Dr. Frank Rossi.  It has really stuck with me as well as other things, Mr. Slattery mentioned concerning our craft.  He absolutely rules and if you haven't heard this particular podcast you're totally missing out on getting schooled by one of the all time greats.  I love that man and his approach to greenkeeping.    And If I was a captain choosing a greenkeeping team,  you better believe I'm picking Rick Slattery first!  Hit the link ↓ to listen.  If you don't you're a total kook.

14)  When I picked up, 'A Short Grammar of Greenkeeping', by Micah Woods and first read his definition of greenkeeping, it's really hard to describe how stoked I felt.  Throughout all my years as a greenkeeper, not one single person ever put what we are trying to accomplish in such simple terms.   Not one superintendent, vice executive of agronomy ( title for assistants), spray tech, USGA consultant, golf pro, my dad, Barack Obama....not even any of my instructors from turf school gave me this knowledge.  Thanks, Micah! (**1)

15)  Mowing 3x a week, rolling other four.  Measuring clipping yield off one green and averaging about 2 quarts per mow.

16) I suck so bad at surfing, but have a ton of friends who rip.  That's how I understand the importance of swell.

Footnote from footnotes

1)   I do love, 'A Short Grammar of Greenkeeping' by, Micah Woods, but like surfing, I totally blow at  math.  And converting everything from metric is honestly tough for me.  Even with the help of Google.  With that said, it would be awesome if anyone who posesses an above average skill set in math to translate his awesome work for all of us dumb Americans.   I would truly appreciate it....and if you haven't read Micah's should.  Hit the link ↓ to purchase a copy.  Perhaps the best fifteen bucks I've ever spent.



Saturday, May 13, 2017

Cussing Down Core Aeration

"The process of aerating is just as tough on the crew, as the playability of aerated greens is on golfers.  It takes time to aerate greens because the machines used to accomplish this task run at a turtle's pace. Depending on the size of your greens, it usually takes two operators close to six hours to complete.  And that's if one of the machines doesn't break down, which usually seems to happen.  The machines themselves are not glamorous by any means.  They're basically a 3ft. by 3ft. box on three wheels, powered by a 16 horsepower engine with belts connected to a drive shaft which aggressively move the aeration tines up and down at a frantic pace.  Operating one of these fuckers is like wrestling, George the Animal Steel.  The clamorous nature of the machine makes it painfully loud, difficult to maneuver, a bit spasmodic, and as previously mentioned, slow as fuck.   It's also not a gig where you sit on your ass soaking in the majestic green that is a golf course while daydreaming about how rad Natalie Portman is, because you're constantly stepping with that piece. (*1)   By the time you're finished punching all those greens, you kind of feel like punching your boss in the face for assigning you such a goddamn awful job.  It's a shit job to say the least".

This diatribe laced with some pretty choice cuss words, written close to six years ago, was nearly submitted to my green committee chairman for approval of the club's monthly newsletter.  After letting our assistant proofread, what I deemed to be a full on masterpiece, that was guaranteed to inject some "life" into the already lifeless piece of crap they deemed a newsletter, our Vice Executive of Agronomy, intelligently swayed me not to submit my cynical but honest take on aeration. (*2) Dejected, I went back to the keyboard, and busted out some weak ass piece of shite that I know most of you have written to your constituents, bullet pointing what we greenkeepers totally consider the "pros" of "core" aerating greens.

Most of us are in the know as to why we "core" aerate, and if you happen to be some bumbling hack that just happens to stumble across this blog, which by the way,  Mr. Latshaw recently cited as,"the hot new blog of 17", hit the link ↓. (*3)

Ok.  Now that we're all caught up on why we totally fuck up the putting surfaces twice a year, I'm really beginning to question the entire process of core aerating greens. And throughout my entire existence as a greenkeeper,  I can honestly say that if some moron golfer ever asked me why punching a million stupid holes on a putting surface is absolutely necessary,  I would've given this mindless twat the obligatory tongue lashing as to why, we as greenkeepers, core aerate.  For example my brother-in-law, whom is neither mindless or a twat, but is an avid golfer was going off on how lame it is to putt on aerated greens.  Honestly, I was a wee bit peeved, but I calmly listened to his rant, then attempted to explain why we do this arduous task twice a season. (*4)  Unfortunately, my spiel was pretty much useless, because no matter how tough I attempted to stress the importance of alleviating compaction, enhancing gas exchange, developing stronger roots,  removing organic matter, along with all the other force fed lines we greenkeepers love to vomit from our mouths concerning core aerating greens, he just shook his head in disbelief, while uttering a million times, "there has to be another way."   Despite my informative lecture, while slightly buzzed on Double Duck Pins, my brother-in-law just wasn't buying it. (*5)  And in years past I would've been totally annoyed.  And honestly,  I was kind of annoyed at his stubbornness.  Just accept it, dude.....we have to fucking core aerate greens.  But perhaps I was being a moron?  What if there was another way?

If you had asked me last season what my core (no pun intended) fundamental to greenkeeping was, I most likely would've answered,"core aeration".  However, my tune has changed significantly, and yes, brother-in-law,  I believe there is another way.  If the organic matter or thatch on your putting surfaces is totally manageable , and if you can manipulate the growth in a way where the organic matter remains consistent, then why core aerate?  I am wholeheartedly committed to micro managing growth this season, to the point where I can roll up on my green committee chairman and confidently tell him we are not core aerating greens the Tuesday following Labor Day. (*6) We've already accomplished our "all important" spring core aerification and trust me, I really wanted to skip it.  Unfortunately, at least for me, I just did not have balls to pull a full on skippers, and honestly, I core aerated the greens so I wouldn't have to hear all the goddamn music from the 19th hole.  Those dudes know everything you know, and trying to convince a bunch of golfers who are nearly six martinis deep as to why we didn't core aerate the goddamn greens, would've been miserable.   So I just decided to punch them up, because in my mind, it was much easier to hear them bitch about bumpy putting surfaces than not core aerating at all.  Oxymoron? Definitely!

This isn't to say I'm totally against core aerification.  If the organic matter on your greens are inhibiting performance (both health and playability wise) by all means, have at it.  But for my personal situation, the organic accumulation on our putting surfaces is pretty ideal, so I feel confident I can keep it palpable by micro managing growth.  And this is how I plan on accomplishing this realistic goal.

  • Using Growth Potential to time plant nutrient applications.  (I'll let, Dr. Micah Woods explain. Hit link ↓)

  • Basing my growth regulator applications on Growing Degree Day intervals.  (I'll let Dr. Bill Kreuser explain.  Hit link ↓)

  • Topdressing.  Traditionally, Monday was a day off for our putting surfaces, meaning no mow or roll.  This season, I will attempt to topdress every Monday in an effort to match sand with growth.  This application will be so light!  In fact it will be, "Lighter than a butterfly's wing". (*7)  Dr. Jim Kerns explains ↓

  • OBSERVATION!!!!!!!   I will literally, "look" at the turf and soil to deem if core aerating is necessary this fall.   If  the organic matter is at a level I deem unacceptable, I will core aerate. What a novel idea....observing.
Similar to how I was so regimented with my pesticide and plant nutrient applications in the past, I was just as anal concerning core aeration.  I actually knew of fellas in my network that had not core aerated in years, and personally thought these dudes were a bunch of kooks.  In all honesty. I really believed it was only a matter of time before their putting surfaces were completely obliterated by compaction, root loss, thatch, disease, wet wilt, nematodes,  metal spikes, algae, moss, ball marks, localised dry spot, weak ass gas exchange, Japanese beetles, Donald Trump or any other evil on this earth, that could destroy a green because of refusing to core aerate. (*8)  However, these thoughtful greenkeepers never lost a green as far as I know, and most of them have a reputation for producing some pretty sick putting surfaces. (*9)

Anyhow...that's my deal.  I really don't ever want to core aerate a green ever again, because I'd much rather put that energy into something much more constructive.  Say, renovating a couple of bunkers, adding some drainage, clearing some brush, building a kick ass tee, or maybe even leaving at a reasonable hour to slay some Rockfish on the Chesapeake. (*10)   If I do regulate growth this season to the point where I don't have to core aerate on the Tuesday following Labor Day, the September news letter will be epic.  And I full on guarantee it will be laced with some pretty choice cuss words explaining why we won't be punching a million, fucking, goddamn, bullshit, bitchy ass little holes on our putting surfaces.


*1- If you're a female greenkeeper replace, Natalie Portman with, Bradley Cooper.  If you're a gay male greenkeeper replace, Natalie Portman with, Bradley Cooper.  If you're a gay female greenkeeper, leave, Natalie Portman.

*2-The title of, "Assistant" Superintendent totally blows.  I know I despised the title when I was an assistant because an assistant to me is someone who fetches coffee,  runs mindless errands and fills their boss's ego with complimentary banter.  When I was an assistant I wasn't doing any of that shite. I was applying pesticides, dropping urea bombs, hand watering dry spots, learning how to speak a respectable form of Spanish, while also accomplishing a slew of other craptacular jobs which rarely get recognized nor ever appreciated.  Therefore, I am (un)officially changing the title of, "Assistant" superintendent to the much cooler, and way more respectable sounding, Vice Executive of Agronomy. This title change has been long overdue.

*3-Mr. Latshaw HAS NOT cited, "The Walking Greenkeeper" as the hot new blog of '17'.  I will bet you a sleeve of gently used pinnacles he has no idea who, or what, a "Walking Greenkeeper" is.

*4-I actually LISTENED to my brother-in-law!  My New Year's resolution for '17' is to be a much better listener.  It seems to me, people just can't wait to interrupt with their opinion without hearing out a person's entire thought.  I was a serial offender of this so I am really trying to be a better listener. Perhaps I'll learn something.

*5-Union Craft Brewing, out of Baltimore, Maryland brews this amazing double IPA known as Double Duckpin.  I really have not tasted a better beer in my life!

*6-The only thing I'll ever micro manage is growth!

*7-If you ever rolled cigarettes or another type of tobacco which is green and sticky, you will know that, "lighter than a butterfly's wing" was the motto for the best rolling paper ever made. 

*8-Shout to my peeps across the pond who spell, localized with an, "S".  I love it!

*9-Sick=really good!

*10-Rockfish are Striped Bass

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Insect Armageddon, Hipsters, ABDubs & The Possibility of Tall Fescue?

I had this awful thought on the way into work the other morning.  What if insects were to blame for the end of human existence?  Forget about robots with artificial intelligence taking over Terminator style, the ozone layer breaking down, or God forbid, our dickhead president * and that husky North Korean finally deciding to cross swords and blow our futile lives into oblivion.  If I was a betting man (sometimes I am depending on the game) I'd place my pittance of a life's savings on those goddamn bugs.  Perhaps you think I'm nuts for coming up with such a far fetched notion, but when you're preparing to battle someone to the death over a can of Spaghettios because insects have totally ravaged our planet, I really hope your final thought is, "Damn, the Walking Greenkeeper called it".  

If you haven't already guessed, Annual Blue Grass Weevil season has kicked off in my part of the world, and forming strategies to eradicate these troublesome little jawns is all consuming.  It has consumed me to the point that I actually believe insects might be the death of us all.  Three years ago.....or perhaps four, maybe even's so hard to keep track....these irksome pests were nary a blip on my greenkeeping radar.   But just like skinny jeans, Vneck t-shirts, Sailor Jerry tattoos, and handlebar mustaches finagling there way onto the Delaware hipster scene via NYC (albeit 3 years too late),  so has the annual blue grass weevil.  Hipsters are pretty annoying, but let's face it...would you rather chat with a dude who has the skin color of a wraith about who the better Uncle Tupelo spin off band is (I choose Wilco over Son Volt) or would you prefer suiting up on a cold spring day to apply stinky ass Chlorpyrifos in hopes of snuffing out some ABDubs?  Tough choice, I know, but as much as I'd like to chat you up on how much I love, "A Ghost Is Born", I'm sorry, Magnus, but the spray rig is calling.

I had the unfortunate opportunity of beginning my tenure as the head greenkeeper at Newark Country Club during the start of the summer last season.  Everything was alright until around the mid stages of August.  I'm sure most greenkeepers located on the right coast want to totally forget the epic weather conditions that sometimes miserable broad, mother nature threw at us.   It was a pretty brutal August, and if I was crafty enough, I'd create some sort of killer graph to depict just how tenebrific (thanks thesaurus) conditions were.  However, I'm not so crafty with the graphing, so you'll just have to take my word for it. I don't know how it was for you, but for me personally, the month of August was totally beat.

The odd thing was, I honestly felt prepared, despite coming in on another greenkeeper's program mid season.   We had our share of nicks and scrapes, but nothing major, and as the mercury climbed into the mid 90's (low to mid 30's for you metric nerds)  I wasn't feeling all that bad.  In fact, I felt so confident, I rolled out for an extended weekend to the Finger Lakes region of New York for my wife's high school reunion.  The reunion was a blast, but when I arrived back to work the following Monday, the course looked entirely different from the one I left 72 hours prior....and not in a good way.  Our fairways were obliterated, and as I toured the course that morning, eating white knights* and throwing up coffee in my mouth, I was only comforted by what an old superintendent once told me.....


I'm telling you, if it wasn't for nicotine, and that wise old greenkeeper uttering those words to me during the infancy of my career, I most likely would've resorted to managing a WAWA*.  It was that debilitating.  Eventually I collected myself and began the process of diagnosing what the hell happened, and sure enough, the majority of the damage was inflicted by those pesky ABdubs.

Despite my attempts to be environmentally responsible, I'm not messing around with the annual bluegrass weevil this season.  If applying mercury would kill off generations of these nasty bugs, I'd consider it*.  It was that bad last year, and I'm not getting caught with my khakis down again.  I've already applied stinky ass Chlorpyrifos at 32oz./acre on all fine turf areas, and as I spoke with a fellow greenkeeper in my network about this latest insecticide app of mine,  he mentioned this little tidbit.

In my defense, I did inherit a crap load of this shite from the previous superintendent, and when your annual budget is just a hair over 400k (with 30k of that loot going towards lease payments for equipment)  did I really have another choice?  Anyway, another 13k of my budget is going towards suppressing ABDubs, and honestly....this irritates the shit out of me.

When this season is over,  I will be addressing our green committee with this idea....
  • we are not going to treat for ABW next season
  • we are going to let this ornery bug gorge on all the poa annua it desires
  • when they are finished grubbing down, we are going to seed with a different variety of turf
Basically my thought is to eliminate the host (poa annua), by investing in seed rather than an insecticide program that will continually cost the club 12k to 15k a year.  And no need to use glyphosphate or basamid to smoke the fairways.  I figure just shutting the water off, and letting those ABDuds party all season should do the trick at a substantially lower cost both financially and environmentally.

I haven't quite decided on what variety of turf I'm going to propose as a replacement.  The obvious choice is that old stand by, creeping bent, but I'm not quite convinced.  Bermuda is an option, but definitely comes with some baggage considering our club is in the heart of the transition zone.  But there's one variety I've been thinking on that might just work,  and I've literally been laughed at when I mention this turf type amongst my peers.....Turf Type Tall Fescue.   

Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha!!!!!

I'll explain why I think Tall Fescue might be a viable option on my next post.....

* I've just sentenced myself to Trump's Gulag...aka, Guantanamo with this remark.
* White Knights are Marlboro Lights and "eating" them is chain smoking.
*I would never consider using mercury
*WaWa is a chain of convenience stores in the the tri-state area of Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Go crush a "classic" when you're visiting one of these fair states.

And Ive been ciggy free since December 6th, 2016!!!!!!!!