Thursday, April 19, 2012

National Golf Day 2012 Recap

What an honor yesterday to serve the golf industry at the 5th annual National Golf Day!  I served as a GCSAA ambassador in the Rayburn Congressional Office Building Foyer, along with MCG's own Teddy Blauvelt (Superintendent, Hampshire Greens GC), Jay Nalls (Supt, Norbeck Country Club), Mike Barrett, CGCS (Argyle Country Club), and Dean Graves, CGCS (Chevy Chase Club).

The five of us currently also serve or have served locally on the Board of Directors of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Golf Course Superintendents as well:

Jon Lobenstine - Vice President
Teddy Blauvelt - Education Director
Mike Barrett, CGCS - Secretary-Treasurer
Jay Nalls - Government Relations Director
Teddy Blauvelt talks turf!
Dean Graves, CGCS - Past President (1997)
Our group brought a host of turf-related gadgets, technology, and even part of a putting green so we could help explain to Congressmen and other congressional staffers in attendance throughout the day just how we are able to maintain well-conditioned golf courses with the least amount of inputs of water, fertilizer, and pesticides.  For myself, Teddy, and Mike, it was our second year representing GCSAA at this event.

Here's a list of the cool stuff what we brought!
  • infrared thermometer - used to take turf canopy temperatures, especially useful in the summer when we sometimes see the surface of the greens as hot as 110 degrees!
  • soil thermometer -  used throughout the year to monitor the temperature of the soil below.  Different weeds and insects, for example, can lead to turf decline at a variety of soil temperatures.  Also, turf root growth peaks between roughly 52 and 78 degrees, so we can maximize cultural practices, fertility, and biostimulant applications during those times to provide optimal turf performance.
  • computer running irrigation software - shows how we can customize irrigation programs to only water where necessary, as well as maximize water efficiency by varying how much irrigation is applied before pausing to allow for more uniform infiltration into the soil.
  • irrigation map book - laminated 3-ring binder pages showing each hole, location of valves, electrical splices, irrigation pipes, quick-couplers for hand watering, etc.  Also a great tool to take a dry-erase marker to identify specific areas that need work on any given day, or circle dry areas on the map, which can then be put into a "dry" irrigation program to reduce water use and help us get through until the next rain storm.
  • irrigation radio - showing how we can turn sprinkler heads on individually in the field at the touch of a button.
  • one of our displays
  • sprinkler head

the other display
  • pocket anemometer - used to monitor wind speeds, so when we have to make a spray application we are minimizing potential non-target drift and impact of a tank mix.
  • soil probe - used to take a quick look at root length, thatch accumulation, soil moisture, etc.
  • pH meter - used to measuere pH of water in the sprayer before mixing a tank.  Most pesticides are more effective when the water in the tank has a pH of 5.5 - 6.5, so we can adjust pH before mixing to ensure that when we do make an application, it is as effective as possible.
  • stimpmeter - used to measure green speed
  • golf course yardage book - marked in different colors to show target areas where certain insects or weeds are perennial problems.  Instead of making blanket applications of insecticides or herbicides, we can drastically reduce our use of these chemicals.
  • cup cutter - for daily changing of hole location on greens
  • hex plugger - used to replace damaged areas on greens
Hands-on with Jay Nalls
  • 9 plugs from a putting green
  • macroscope - used to take a highly magnified look at turf to identify diseases (such as anthracnose), view quality of cut of mowers, etc.
  • digital macroscope - hooked up to a laptop, so images can be easily saved and used for communication to members, management, etc.
  • Prism gauge - device used to view the surface of the green (or other closely maintained surface) and measure the actual height of cut of a mower.
  • signs to communicate some important points such as benefits of golf courses, variety of skills needed to be a superintendent, and people's perception when they see a spray rig.
  • Flat screen TV brought by GCSAA showing videos from GCSAA TV, including spots by Justin Timberlake, who owns an environmentally-focused golf course in Tennessee.


Besides our exhibit tables, the Foyer was filled with a host of other activities such as two swing analysis stations, a putting green and contest between Republicans and Democrats (Republicans won by a slim margin), and a Velcro target golf game.

We spent the day talking with a LOT of people who were very interested in just how much thought, effort, and technology goes into managing fine turf.  And I think they were also surprised just how focused we are on the environment with all the decisions we make on a daily basis using some or all of the tools listed above.

My favorite conversation of the day was a lengthy one with Congressman Nick Rahall (Dem.-WV), where we discussed at length some of my strategies for conserving water and limiting chemical use.  He was very engaged and promised to spread our good word as he votes on legislation that can impact golf course management.  I also had a chance to meet Congressional Golf Caucus Chairman Joe Baca, who stopped by after a meeting with GCSAA representatives.

Great conversation with Congressman Nick Rahall (D - WV)

GCSAA Board, staff, and Government Relations Committee started the day with a First Tee Congressional breakfast, then we all went to the steps of the US Capitol for a group photo.  After that, they were off to a number of meetings with Tax & Finance Committee members, House and Senate Leadership, Golf Caucus, Black Caucus, Sustainability Caucus, among others, and reports from the day indicated that every meeting was very positive!

Another important part of the day were the storytellers: Kevin Breen, CGCS (La Rinconada Country Club, California), Dan Dinelli, CGCS (North Shore Country Club, Illinois), Mike Hurdzan, American Society of Golf Course Architects), and Peter McDonough (Keswick Hall, Club, and Estate, Virgina).  They each shared their personal stories and accomplishments in Caucus and/or private meetings with congressmen to make an additional impact on the day.

All in all, it was certainly one of the highlights of my professional career.  The event was very well organized, and there were plenty of folks on hand from PGA, NGCOA, We Are Golf, CMAA, and other industry associations and companies to communicate our important message:  Golf is not just a game, but an industry that provides employment for nearly 2 million people, has $76 billion of direct economic impact (bigger than the motion picture/video industry AND bigger than performing arts and spectator sports!).  Furthermore, annually $3.5 billion is generated for charities through thousands of golf fundraiser events across the country!

We are golf!!

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