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!!!!!!!! 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Why I Am The Walking Greenkeeper

"Golf is a good walk spoiled".

Fuck, Mark Twain. Golf makes a good walk better.

Perhaps this should be the USGA's new slogan.

It all started innocently enough when I was around eight years old, and received a set of Junior Wilson golf clubs for Christmas.  It was circa 1980 if my memory serves me right, but what I definitely recollect about that Christmas, is not being too stoked on those golf clubs.  It was a pretty beat present in my opinion, particularly the weak ass canvas bag that accompanied those sticks. But despite my disappointment, I feigned a genuine interest as to not bum out my father, since he thought it was a pretty sweet gift.   And I think we can all agree, the last thing you want to do on Christmas is be a total dick and break one of your parent's heart, because a broken heart isn't really a cool gift to give anyone.....let alone on JC's birthday.


When the cold weather snapped, my dad began taking me to the local public course for these three to four hole evening rounds.  At first I disliked it pretty tough, because golf is really hard and I had some serious reservations concerning the stereotypes associated with the game.  You have to understand, growing up in middle class suburbia, amongst the jerks I associated with, we firmly believed golf was for nerdy guys named Trip or Hunter who sported LaTigre polos and Garanimal slacks.   It was full on mission impossible style every time I ducked out of my front door with that crappy canvas bag of Wilsons slung over my shoulder.  The last thing I really needed was to be seen by one of my boys throwing that crappy canvas bag full of Wilsons in the trunk of my dad's LTD, and forever be labeled, a dork, a spaz or a geek.  But something so unexpected happened as my father and I strolled along those burnt out fairways on those hot steamy evenings which are so prevalent during Delaware summers.  It dawned on me that I actually liked golf....a lot. And even though I had no fucking clue at that particular moment in my life, my father had unwittingly presented me with the best Christmas gift perhaps of all time...the game of golf.

I could go on and on about what I like about golf, but I want to focus on one aspect of the game that in my opinion, has been completely lost over the years.  Back when I started, barely anyone used those awkward three wheeled, motorized Harley Davidson carts with the odd shaped steering apparatus that was perfectly centered between the two riders.   I would notice the occasional golfer using them back in those wild and wacky 80's, but everyone I played with walked.  I actually remember asking my dad during one of our evening rounds why we never used a cart, and although I can't positively quote his exact words from 1981, I'm pretty sure his answer involved cuss words and the term ,"bush league".  When you played golf, you walked is what I gathered from my dad's response, so I just continued slinging that crappy canvas bag of Wilsons over my shoulder and kept on trucking.

But that all changed during the freewheeling 90's, because carts basically became as mandatory on a golf course as flagsticks on putting surfaces.  Golf pros, general managers, club presidents and golf course owners everywhere became overwhelmingly spellbound by the Benjamins generated by the gas fueled caddie.  Walking a round became as obsolete as a fucking persimmon wood, and no longer was it feasible to burn off those two hot dogs at the turn, because let's face're not burning shit for calories on a golf cart.  I wish I could tell you I didn't participate in the golf cart fad, but I totally did.  And to the dismay of all the hardcore golfers in New Castle County, Delaware, my dad totally sold out,  went bush league and became a golf cart user as well.  To be honest, the transition from walking to riding was barely noticeable, and it wasn't until I became a head greenkeeper, that the ill feelings I had towards carts began to metastasize.

Lets's face it, golf carts fucking blow.   Or perhaps the more appropriate statement is the majority of people operating golf carts blow?  For close to twenty years, I've witnessed some pretty unremarkable stunts by  people operating golf carts, and not in the spellbinding manner, of say an Evil Kinevil  jumping over a thousand cars on a motorcycle type of way.  I'm talking about dudes ripping through bunkers, traipsing over native grass areas, mindlessly driving into a water hazard, or my all time favorite, shredding doughnuts on a fairway or even worse....a green.   Honestly, those stunts don't really piss me off nearly as much as how thoughtless we are as humans (me included!) when it comes to going from point A to point B in the straightest fucking line possible, or the unexplained obsession with parking the cart as close as we possibly can next to a green or a tee.  And because of our insistence on taking the most direct route, therefore the fastest route to our next shot, or slapping that golf cart right next to the green,  we as greenkeepers have to tacky up our courses with rope/directional stakes and signage to divert traffic while also keeping carts away from our number one asset....greens.  Moving rope/directional stakes and signage around is totally bunk (and lest we forget about maneuvering equipment around these obstacles) but another thing that really sticks in my craw about carts is making the dreaded, "cart path only" call.  As greenkeepers, we've all been here:

Golf Pro: How much rain did we get?

Greenkeeper: Two and a half inches

Golf Pro: So cart path only?

Greenkeeper: Yes

Golf Pro: Shit.  Mr. Club President has a 10:30 tee time with three important guests.  He's going to be really upset it's cart path only.  Can you reevaluate before he gets here?

Greenkeeper: sigh

Golf Pro: annoyed look because of your sigh

Greenkeeper:  Sure, Golf Pro....I'll reevaluate around 10:00

Golf Pro:  Thanks, Greenkeeper

In all likelihood, it's going to remain cart path only at 10:00 and most likely, all day in the scenario I just laid out.  And before everyone gets their panties in a bunch, yes, I totally understand it's my responsibility to make this call, and I totally get we are a service industry, so I fully comprehend, we as greenkeepers must allow paying customers to "scatter" golf carts by any means necessary.  But in all honesty, it still annoys the piss out of me.

For the reasons I just laid out, wouldn't it be awesome to round up every golf cart in the world, deliver them to a central location, say anywhere along the Tropic of Cancer, stack them in sort of an artistic yet random way, kind of like how they do it at Burning Man,  and have every fucking greenkeeper in the world attend as we torch this mountain of EZGOS, Yamahas and Club Cars,  while also taking aim at the opening act, Jake Trout & the Flounders with X'd out Pinnacles , as we impatiently wait for the  headliner whom I'm hoping is either Slayer or Jerry Garcia's ghost.

Perhaps this could go down the weekend before GIS?

Seriously though, I loathe carts for all the reasons I just stated, but for me, I really believe golf carts on a whole are a detriment to our environment.  I can almost feel your eyes roll at this previous sentence, but I'm going to attempt to shed a little perspective on why I feel golf carts are totally beat  environmentally.

There are approximately 34,000 golf courses in the world.  And although I don't have the exact numbers, I'll safely estimate that around 20,000 of these facilities use golf carts.  Of these 20,000 facilities that use golf carts,  I'll take another safe stab and bet that 15,000 use gas powered carts.  I understand this is a wild guess, but let's roll with it just for fun.

I know for a fact, that our facility used 109 gallons of unleaded gasoline to fuel our golf cart fleet during the month of February. So using 109 gallons as our base, even though we can probably assume that some golf courses used more while other used less during the shortest month of the calendar year, let's multiply this number by 15,000 golf facilities.

109 gallons of unleaded fuel (15,000 golf facilities)  =  1,635,000 gallons of fuel consumed by golf carts.

To me, that seems like quite a bit of fuel, and I wholeheartedly believe burning just a hair over 1.6 million gallons of gas in a month's time isn't really that great for our already fragile environment.  Of course this number is probably way off, but even if it was half as much, I still think we should be concerned. It definitely concerns the hell out of me, and this is why I am the walking greenkeeper.  It's not because of my annoyance with how golfers mindlessly operate a golf cart, or how I have to make the call concerning cart rules when the weather doesn't cooperate.  And even though these annoyances have definitely influenced my decision, I firmly believe the harmful effect golf carts have on our environment is the determining factor as to why I now walk as opposed to taking a golf cart when I play this game I dearly love.  If you haven't walked a round in awhile you should.  And if you want to join me, I have this crappy canvas bag you can totally borrow.

P.S.  Electric carts are off limits too.  Think of all the inputs needed to charge those bad boys.

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