Monday, November 8, 2010

Preparing the Golf Course for Winter

Most golfers these days have either put the clubs away for the winter or are hanging on the get in the last few rounds. For the Golf Course Superintendent this means preparing the course for the winter months. To learn what this entails check out my article in Inside Golf at

Monday, September 20, 2010

Course Maintenance and Speed of Play

These days people are extremely busy with work, family and other commitments that leave little time to enjoy hobbies such as golf. One of the main problems with golf as a hobby is the time commitment required to play a round.

There are several things that can be done maintenance wise in order to ensure rounds are kept below 4 1/2 hours. Check out my latest article from Inside Golf call "Course Maintenance and Speed of Play" at

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Dog Days of Summer

I am a little late posting about my latest article regarding golf course maintenance in August but better late than never. To access the article "The Dog Days of Summer" go to

Monday, August 2, 2010

Two New Inside Golf Articles

As I have mentioned in many of my previous posts I firmly believe that educating ourselves and golfers about what it takes to maintain a golf course is the key to helping the industry to survive the future. Two articles I have written for Inside Golf magazine can be read online. The first one is "Education is Key to Survival of Golf Industry."

"Green Speeds a Slippery Slope"

Skins Game at Bear Mountain

Once I returned from a business trip to the Okanagan I quickly did a landscape job here on the island before working at Bear Mountain for 3 weeks to help prepare for the Skins Game.

After 20 years of golf course construction and maintenance I was suprised by how much I learned in 3 weeks preparing for a such a large event. For the most part I was simply a part of the maintenance team but I made sure to learn as much as possible along the way.

I think that what I gathered the most was from Superintendent Darren Burns about water conservation and how to irrigate for an event like a Skins Game. In the weeks leading up to the event Burns watered very little in order to make the track fast and firm for the PGA players.

Any Superintendent could certainly learn a lot about water conservation and the ability to produce world class conditions using very little water from Darren Burns.

Anyone who was able to attend the event or watch it on TV must have been extremely impressed as the course was in fantastic condition. In 25 years of playing golf and working at some of the best courses in Canada I can comfortably say that I have never seen a golf course in better condition than Bear Mountain was on June 21 and 22.

To read more about my experience at Bear Mountain see my article in Inside Golf at The article is entitled Bear Mountain Maintenance Staff Ready to Host the World.

Interior Trip

Man, time sure flies when you are having fun or are busy or both. I have not posted a blog since the middle of May so I have some catching up to do.

As many of you may already know I help golf courses with certfication in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. Along with this I also do some landscaping as well as contract work with local (Vancouver Island) golf courses.

Since I last posted I spent some time in the Interior of BC. My first stop was to visit Jeff Bennett at the Okanagan Club to help him get his Audubon program moving along. Two things were evident to me when I arrived at the OGC. One, the spring was not kind to the golf courses in the Interior. Unfortunately, the OGC lost a lot of turf over the winter and from what I could gather it had a lot to do with ice formation on the greens. There is not a lot that a Superintendent can do about that other than get the ice off as quickly as possible in the spring.

The second thing I realized was the professionalism and committment to excellence that Jeff Bennett brought each day to the maintenance department at the OGC. Maintaining 36 holes and a large staff is no easy task yet Jeff does it with the calmness and care that is demanded of him. In all the course was in great shape despite the damage from the winter.

My second stop was to visit Frits Verkerk at Gallagher's Canyon. Again, the spring was not kind to Gallagher's. Like his colleque Frits exemplifies professionalism and care about what he does. Both are well on their way to Audubon certification and with some changes to infrastructure and administration should have little problem achieving it within a couple of years.

My third stop on this trip was to Predator Ridge where I presented to the National Golf Course Owners Association on the Business Value of Environmental Programs. The facility was spectacular and the presentation went well. Unfortunately there were not as many people there as we had hoped.

NGCOA Regional Director Doug Ferne and the people at Predator were great hosts and I enjoyed the stay all the same. The highlight of Predator for me was the opportunity to tour the course, new 18 recently opened. The course is awesome! I took the chance to stop by the makeshift maintenance facility to congratulate Superintendent TJ McNamara on a job well done and was pleased to be able to shake his hand and tell him personally how great the place looked. Buffer zones and wildlife habitats were certainly abundant. I see Audubon certification in the future for TJ and Predator Ridge.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Taking On the Road

I am very excited to be doing my first road trip of the year into the Interior of BC. First stop will be on Wednesday at the Okanagan Club then Thursday at Gallaghers Canyon. I will be helping these golf courses to attain and demonstrate environmental excellence by offering certification aid in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses.

On Friday I will be going to Vernon to speak at the National Golf Course Owners Association meeting at Predator Ridge Golf Club. The presentation will be on the Business Value of Environmental Programs. Most superintendents I speak with tell me that they would like to go for certification but ownership does not see the value in it. Hopefully I can sway the thinking of some people. Oh ya and drum up some business as well!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Show Must Go On

Check out my latest article about Bear Mountain and the fact they will be hosting the 2010 Telus World Skins Game despite the recent financial problems they are facing. To view the article go to

Get The Good Word Out There

Amongst a host of other issues facing golf course superintendents and the golf industry these days is the negative stereotype that many people have about the golf industry. I would have to say that the majority of the population believes that golf courses are bad for the environment. Those who are involved with the industry, particluarly on the maintenance side know that this type of blanket misperception is not only wrong, it is detrimental to the good things we are doing.

As the growth of the game slows down with the aging baby boomers less able to play golf we must find new ways to attract younger generations to our courses. One of the problems with this being the fact that many younger people believe that playing golf is supporting a degradation of our environment.

Everyone who is employed in the golf industry needs to work together in an attempt to spread the good word about what golf courses do to benefit the environment. In general people do not realize that superintendents these days are using less pesticides than before and the ones being used are of lower toxicity. Water consumption is going down, fertilizer use is declining while organic fertilizer use is on the rise, turfgrass is a tremendous carbon sink with a fantastic ability to provide oxygen (better than trees).

As many of you may know I have been a regular contributor to Inside Golf magazine for about a year and have recently taken on a position as Associate Publisher. To do this I must not only continue to contribute articles but I must also collect articles about golf course maintenance, design, construction and environmental issues.

I am interested in hearing from any of you who would like to contribute an article to be published in the online magazine. If you would like to get your word out about the positives of golf courses please let me know and I will do my best to have your article posted to the Inside Golf website.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pesticide Storage

As I visit golf facilities around BC to conduct site assessments in order to help with certification in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses I am finding a suprising fact' many of the courses I visit do not have proper chemical storage facilities.

Many of the golf courses are storing their pesticides in areas that are wide open for everyone to not only have a gander at but also to access. There are several problems with this type of scenario; not the least of which is the opportunity for anyone to come into contact with these potentially dangerous products. Anyone who is not properly trained on the safe handling and control of pesticides should not have access to them.

Another issue is the possibility of a spill. These products need to be stored in a locked room that has spill containment. If pesticides are kept in an area that does not have spill containment there is a very real possiblity that an accidental spill could wind up in ground water, surface water or other environmentally risky places.

As pesticide bans loom over the golf industry, superintendents are doing their best to fight to keep the ability to use these products. The superintendent fight theme is that we are responsible users of pesticides and as such we should be able to use them as we see fit. The problem here is the fact that many supers are not even storing their pesticides properly. Anyone who is arguing in favour of a pesticide ban merely needs to visit a golf course that is not storing properly and they will have all the ammunition they need to push a ban through to fruition.

Do not be fooled by complacency and thinking that pesticide bans will never happen...they will. Go to the BC government website or the Worksafe BC website and see what is required for proper pesticide storage. Golf course owners and managers must be willing to put the money forward to come into compliance or face the consequences of not doing so.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pesticide Bans Are Threatening Our Industry

As I try to promote my business and influence golf courses to attain and demonstrate environmental accountability I run into a recurring issue. Management/owners/members are not interested in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses.

I understand that times are tough and that a lot of golf courses suffered through a dismal 2009 golf season, but what concerns me is the dismal seasons that lay ahead for the entire industry if environmental accountability is not attained and demonstrated in the near future.

Without action today on the part of golf facilities in Canada, the industry may be forced to deal with legislation that could hamper the way golf courses are maintained. There is a very real threat of cosmetic pesticide bans sweeping across our industry. This would have a dramatic effect on the condition of the golf courses throughout BC.

Although most superintendents use very little pesticides (most just on greens) they are a necessary tool that needs to be available. Without the use of pesticides we could expect most (if not all) golf courses to have dead turf in the spring, particularly following a harsh winter. In regions where snow cover lasts up to 6 months there will be virtually no putting surfaces come spring when the snow is gone.

I have experienced it in the past where a superintendent I was working for decided he was not going to apply pesticides to the greens in the fall thinking he was doing a good thing for the environment. Come springtime all of the turf on the greens was dead. The stink of the dead turf was enough to "knock your socks off".

Instead of the golf course opening in May it did not open until the middle of July. The course lost a lot of money and the super lost his job. Environmentally, the lack of pesticide use in the fall was replaced by an increase in the amount of fertilizers and water used in the spring and summer to get the greens ready as soon as possible. No facility could afford this type of financial hit more than once.

It is imperative that everyone involved with the golf industry understand that in order for the business of golf to continue we must work together to demonstrate the good things that golf is doing for the environment that offsets our mandatory use of pesticides.

Gaining certification in environmental programs such as Audubon will go a long way towards improving the negative stereotypes that are out there about golf course maintenance. Hopefully this will show legislators and the general public that golf course superintendents are highly trained stewards of the land who are doing their best to maintain healthy turf with the responsible use of pesticides.

We need these tools available to us in order to produce turf that can withstand the rigours of a golf season followed by some difficult weather conditions of winter.

If you are a member of a golf course or involved in the industry in any way, try to persuade the decision makers at your facility to see the light and move towards a more environmentally responsible way of maintaining the golf course.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring is Coming and So Are the Golfers

The weather is warming up and golfers are anxious to hit the links. Check out my latest article in Inside Golf magazine about some of the tasks that superintendents must complete in order to get the golf course ready for play. Go to

Friday, March 12, 2010

Integrated Pest Management for New Maintenance Staff

This is the time of year when superintendents are starting to return staff and hire new staff for the upcoming golf season. With these returning employees and new employees comes the opportunity to train everyone for the year. Of course employees are going to be trained how to perform their assigned tasks as well as the protocols of being an employee in the maintenance department.

This time of year also brings a chance for supers to train new and existing staff about environmentally friendly ways to maintain a golf course. The basics of this come in the the form of Integrated Pest Management or IPM.

Although the less experienced staff will have little decision making power at a maintenance facility it is still important that they are aware of what is going on at the golf course environmentally so they can be sure to make small decisions in line with what the superintendent is thinking.

For example, all staff must be aware of the recycling program, the fueling up procedures and where they can and cannot drive on the golf course. Without proper training, new staff are likely to do what comes easiest to them despite what may be good or bad for the environment.

I think that it is important that all staff are at least somewhat aware of the IPM programs being implemented at their place of business. There are some basic tenets to a proper IPM program and they include: Scouting and monitoring, selecting thresholds, making decisions based on treatment options, proper timing and spot treatment, documenting and evaluating results.

Scouting and Monitoring: This is about maintenance staff being aware of what to be on the lookout for on the golf course. Although not all staff are going to be trained in identifying turfgrass pests (disease, insects and weeds) they should be able to recognize when something on the golf course does not look right. Being able to recognize that the turf does not look healthy is a lot different from identifying a problem. It is the maintenance crew that is on the course every day that must be able to report back to superiors that there may be a problem on the course.

Superintendents and senior staff should take the time in the spring to show new staff members what some of the common turf pests are in the area. This training can be very informal and be done on a piece meal basis by perhaps showing one turf problem per day that is likely to occur at the golf course and what should be done if it is recognized.

Selecting Thresholds: It is the job of the superintendent and his superiors to determine the overall quality of the product that is to be strived for on a daily basis. It must be determined what areas of the property can be left unmaintained and what areas can be left to suffer from a pest invasion in order to save money and reduce pesticide use. For instance it is not uncommon for superintendents to maintain putting surfaces that are to be 100% pest free. This is acceptable as it is the greens that are best remembered by golfers and are to be in top shape at all times.

Tee decks and fairways on the other hand may be able to withstand some pest pressure before action must be taken. Most supers will accept a certain amount of disease pressure on these playing surfaces before pesticides will be used to prevent the death of more grass. Depending on the pest present the super may decide that the tee decks will be covered in 20% disease before they will use pesticides. Again this is a decison that must be made in advance and usually will require input from the super, the assistant super and quite often the director of golf.

Decisions Based on Treatment Options: There is no doubt that the use of pesticides has become a sticky issue in the golf industry today. Unfortunately, they have become a necessary evil in the maintenace of high end turf. If golfers are expecting to play golf on perfectly maincured turf that is maintained at heights less than 1/8th of an inch, they must be prepared to play golf on turf that has been treated with pesticides.

For many turf diseases there are options other than pesticides. For instance there are diseases that can be overcome by changing the pH balance in the soil. Take-All Patch is a turfgrass disease that can be devastating, particularly to new turf. Luckily, this disease can most often be overcome by applying a fertilizer that contains a form of Nitrogen called ammonium sulphate. Applying ammonium sulphate will change the pH balance in the soil and keep the disease at bay.

Other diseases can be overcome by applying fertilizers that will promote a flush of growth to help the grass power through the disease pressure until weather conditions change and reduce the possiblity of further damage to the turf.

Proper Timing and Spot Treatment: When making the decision to apply pesticides a super must be sure that the timing of the application is right. Applying a product at the wrong time can result in wasted product that will be ineffective and possibly cause harm to the environment.

Other timing issues include watching weather so as not to apply during periods of high winds or prior to or during a rain event. Again this will lead to wasted product and a possibility of environmental damage.

Spot treating is about applying product only where there is a pest problem. For instance, if there is one tee deck that is covered with disease there may be no need to apply a pesticide to all of them. In the end this will lead to less pesticides applied resulting in cost savings and less potential for harm to the environment.

Documenting and Evaluating Results: Once a pesticide has been applied it is important that accurate records are kept that will document not only the product that has been applied but also how effective the product was. By keeping accurate records a super will be able to determine pest fighting treatments for the future.

New or less experienced employees do not need to be fully aquainted with an IPM program but should understand the basics of it. Proper training in the spring will give new employees some much needed information to attack their postion with knowledge and confidence. All employees of the golf course should be aware of the environmental postion statement of the facility at which they are employed.

New Opportunities

As some of you may know I have been writing articles for Inside Golf online magazine for a year. I have recently been asked by the publisher at Inside Golf if I would be interested in starting up a new section of the magazine pertaining to golf course maintenance, construction and design.

The new title would be as Associate Publisher for Inside Golf. I see this as a fantastic opportunity to spread the good word to golfers and the public in general about the postive benefits that golf courses have on the environment.

This new job means continuing to write articles as well as collecting articles from others in the golf industry. The articles do no necessarily have to relate to environmental concerns but rather about the industry in general. The online publication will be emailed to subscribers of the magazine and will be used as a trade magazine.

I am looking for contributions from people in the industry who are interested in sharing information about what it takes to prepare a golf course for play. I am talking about everything from taking a raw piece of property and designing a course, to shaping and construction to the day-to-day maintenance that must take place before a ball is ever hit.

I see this as a chance to enlighten golfers about the hard work that goes into a golf course just so they can enjoy (or not) themselves while getting some exercise and fresh air.

If you think you have what it takes to get an article published please do not hestitate to contact me about the topic you would like to write about or put together a 750 word piece along with a supporting picture that can be used for the publication.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

If It's Not Written Down, It Didn't Happen

As the golf course industry struggles to prove to it's detractors that we are doing good things for the environment and creating wildlife habitats on our properties we are constantly being asked one question, "Can you prove it?".

The time has come where golf course superintendents are not only needing to maintain golf courses in a an environmentally sensitive way but we must also be able to prove it. The easiest and most effective way of doing this is through documentation. Similar to the health and safety movement in the 90's where documentation is the only way to prove you are in compliance the environmental movement is going along those same lines.

I understand that superintendents are extremely busy but the reality of the situation is that everything that you do on your golf course must be documented or it will not count. For instance you must record all fertilizer and pesticide applications in a chart that can be easily retrieved if required by an officer of the Ministry of the Environment.

You must also keep accurate records of any calibrations done to fertilizing and spray equipment. This is all part of Integrated Pest Management. It is a forgone conclusion that accreditation in IPM will be mandatory for every golf course. You might as well get on board now and start recording everything you are doing on the golf course.

Along with records of fertilizer and pesticide applications you must also keep written records of your evaluation of the efficacy of the application. Scouting and monitoring records must also be maintained. Each time you apply a pesticide to your golf course you will need to have a small booklet of the application. The booklet must contain the information that led to the spray decision including the scouting and monitoring that alerted you to the problem, the weather conditions that prevailed and the damage done prior to the application. You need to have thresholds identified to prove that they were breached leading to the application decision.

After you apply you must fill out on a daily basis the condition of the damaged turf as it recovers due to the application.

I know this all sounds very labour intensive and maybe even over the top but it will be required in the near future. We must conform to these rules if we want to keep pesticides in our tool box.

Start now with your IPM programs so that it will be easier to adapt when it becomes law.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sometimes Just Mowing Seems Pretty Attractive

A lot of golf course maintenance staff members get the idea that the superintendent is the ultimate boss. This could not be further from the truth. Check out my article from Inside Golf magazine to learn a little about what a super must go through on a daily basis.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Protecting Wildlife Habitats

As golf course superintendents create new wildlife habitats on golf courses it is extremely important that these areas be protected from human interference. Human interference will generally result from golfers or maintenance staff entering into the area and causing damage from simple foot traffic.

There are several ways in which golfers can be prevented from entering into wildlife habitats that need to be protected. Probably the easiest and least expensive although least effective method would be simply telling golfers where the habitats are and asking them to stay away. This message can be verbally communicated or shown on the scorecard. The problem however is when their golf ball enters into the area and they feel it is their right to go after and play the ball "where it lies."

Convincing a golfer who has spent their hard earned money to play golf that they cannot enter into an area because it is protected for wildlife can be easier said than done. There should be physical barriers that protect wildlife habitats from golfer interference. These physical barriers can be in the form of fencing, tall and prickly shrubs or bushes or some other object that will make entrance into the habitat difficult.

Along with a physical barrier should be a sign explaining to golfers the purpose for the barrier and some information on the habitat and why it is important that the area be protected. For the superintendent who is trying to do the right thing it is all about educating people about the need for environmental protection on the golf course.

Wildlife habitats need to be protected from maintenance staff as well. Golf course employees who do not understand the need for environmental protection must be educated about the harm that can be done by not respecting the club and maintenance department rules when it comes to protecting wildlife habitats.

Maintenance staff need to be made aware of areas that are not to be mowed, fertilized, watered or interfered with in any way. Human entrance into wildlife areas can frighten the inhabitants of these areas that are looking for a place to rest, feed or live.

Possibly the greatest and most frequent maintenance staff error is the dumping of grass clippings into the banks of water bodies. Grass clippings contain many substances such as fertilizer and pesticide residues and hydrocarbons that can cause serious damage to water bodies once entered.

Clippings should be collected and stored at a compost site somewhere on the golf course. If clippings must be dumped they should be spread out on flat areas of the property and not left in a pile that can be seen. Not only will the pile be unsightly but it could also do damage to the turf that it is covering.

Creating and protecting wildlife habitats on golf courses is an important part of being environmentally responsible. Once areas have been created they will likely be utilized by wildlife as long as they are protected from human interference. We must work hard to protect environmentally sensitive areas on the golf course if we are going to prove to our detractors that golf courses are not environmental wastelands but are in fact valuable green spaces that should be respected and enjoyed by everyone and everything.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Alternative Wildlife Structures

There are many golf courses out there that have chosen to erect nest boxes or bird houses in order to attract wildlife to their properties. While this is definitely a viable option for providing sanctuary for wildlife it is certainly not the only option.

In fact, there are a number of wildlife enthusiasts, birders in particular, who would rather not see artificial bird houses. The main reason for this I have been told is that bird houses can create unfair hunting ground for birds of prey, who simply need to stay near the house and wait for their dinner to arrive.

One option for creating homes for birds is to leave dead trees standing otherwise known as tree snags. Dead trees provide homes for many different species of birds, insects and mammals. Of course the most important aspect here is to ensure the tree does not pose a safety hazard to humans.

Trees that fall in out of play areas of the golf course can also create excellent wildlife habitat for birds, insects and mammals.

Another form of wildlife habitat that can be created on the golf course is brush piles. Each year golf courses collect huge amounts of branches, sticks and other forms of brush from windstorms, tree pruning or other maintenance activities. Instead of burning the wood golf superintendents should consider building brush piles in out-of-play areas of the property. Brush piles are easy to build as the material simply needs to be piled up in an area that is frequented by wildlife. Again, these structures provide homes for different species of wildlife.

One recent trend I have noticed in the golf industry is superintendents building osprey pads on their courses. The osprey pads I have seen have been built on the top of dead trees. The pad is fairly simple as it can be an old pallet that you may have laying around from sod or fertilizer. The pallet is placed on the top of the tree and supported using 2x4's. The trick is to put the pallet upside down so there are sides to the pallet so young birds cannot fall out.

Superintendents I have spoken with have said that the ospreys did not immediately come use the structure, it takes a little time as the birds figure out whether or not the new home is safe to use. They obviously do not trust the structure erected by humans.

I am sure there are many more wildlife structures out there. If you know of any that I have not mentioned please let me know so I can pass on the information and make golf courses a friendlier place for wildlife to inhabit.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Getting Young Golfers on Board

It is pretty common knowledge these days amongst those in the golf industry that the game we love is embroiled in a battle with misconceived perceptions. Amongst the general public it seems that golf courses are deemed to be evildoers that go about their business with little regard for its effects on the environment.

A main part of my business is trying to change these misperceptions as well as to change the attitudes of the few golf industry personal who still believe that global warming and the environmental crisis is a hoax (yes, there are still an ignorant few out there).

For the most part golf course superintendents have gotten on board with the whole environmental movement and they are doing their best to maintain their respective golf courses with care and respect for the environment. The problem is that until golf course owners and golfers understand the necessity for environmentalism it is very difficult for the average superintendent to change the way golf courses are maintained. I am talking about things like buffer zones around water bodies and creating naturalized areas on the golf course.

Which brings me to my point. I am very excited to have been asked by Camosun College in Victoria to speak next week to a class of 2nd year studuents in the golf course management program on the topic of "What it Takes for a Golf Course to Become Audubon Certified". This is a great opportunity to share first hand knowledge with the future leaders of the golf industry.

I will be speaking for approximately one hour on topics such as Wildlife and Habitat Management, Chemical Use Reduction and Safety, Water Conservation, Water Quality Management and Outreach and Education. I feel that getting the up and coming leaders of our industry on board is an excellent way to change the way golf courses are perceived in the public. The more people that understand the issues faced by golf superintendents the easier it will be for the caretakers of the game to perform their duties with environmental accountability at the forefront.

Public speaking is something I enjoy doing and started doing quite a bit of last summer. I think that it is important to spread the good word about what it is that superintendents are doing to create more environmentally friendly golf courses.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Creating WIldlife Habitats on the Golf Course

As I have mentioned in several of my blog entries, golf courses provide fantastic opportunities to create habitat for wildlife. From out of play areas that are left to naturalize to water bodies with buffer zones that are used by wildlife to feed, rest and inhabit, golf courses can be great wildlife habitat.

If you happen to be involved with a golf course that does not have many areas that can be naturalized for wildlife it may be beneficial to create some artificial wildlife habitats. Many golf course superintendents have installed nesting boxes or birdhouses on their golf courses to attract birds to the property.

Nest boxes not only attract birds to the golf course they also add an element of beauty and show a certain amount of respect for the wildlife that live in the area where the golf course is located.

If you should decide that you want to install bird houses on your golf course you must first decide what type of birds you want to attract. The type and size of the birdhouse you build will have a direct effect on the species of bird that will use the house. The are several online sources that can help you to select the type of birdhouse you will choose to build and install.

Once you have chosen what species of birds you would like to attract to your facility you have some options as to how the structures will be built. Some golf courses like to build the birdhouses themselves by doing it during the slow time of the winter.

In my opinion the best option is to recruit the help of a local school shop class who could construct the birdhouses as part of their class assignment. Their are several benefits to having a school do the birdhouse construction. The first benefit being to the students who are able to help out the environmental initiatives at a local golf course while fulfilling their school curriculum.

The benefits to the golf course include having the structures built for them as well as the opportunity to involve some local school kids in their environmental endeavours. If this option is chosen it is imperative that the school not only receives credit for the work performed but they should also have the opportunity to learn the importance of environmental sustainability and wildlife habitats on the golf course.

Once the bird houses have been built I would suggest inviting the builders of the structures out to your course to help install them. Of course the golf course staff will have to the ones who actually do the work, due to insurance reasons, but this is a fantastic opportunity to eduate the kids about your facility and your goal of environmental sustainability.

Once the nest boxes have been installed they must be monitored on a regular basis. At least once per year, preferably in the spring, the nest boxes should be cleaned out to make room for new inhabitants. In the past I have invited local cub scouts out to the golf course and they have helped to clean the boxes and take inventory of the success of the structures. Again this creates a great opportunity to educate some local kids about the environmental conservation efforts of your golf facility.

Throughout the entire birdhouse building process do not be afraid to invite the local newspaper to cover the story so you can gain some positive publicity for the golf course. Local newspapers are often looking for "feel good" stories to cover and if it can include your golf course all the better. This is good for the kids and a great way to change the negative public perception that golf courses have when it comes to the environment.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Greenside Hits the Trade Show Floor

Well, I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about exhibiting at the WCTA Tradeshow next week in Nanaimo. Its not that I am scared to meet and talk to people its got more to do with the fact that I need to drum up some business for Greenside for 2010.

I am totally prepared with my board all ready, handouts ready to go, and the power point set for the laptop. I think it will be fun and definitely an exciting learning opportunity.

I have never exhibited at a trade show before when I have something that I am trying to sell. Hopefully I will get some good results from the show and can make some sales.

Lots has come up in the past couple of months as I will now be selling a pond product called Aqua Biotic Extreme (ABE) that reduces algae problems in golf course ponds. The idea for the product is enzymes that feed on the nutrients that algae ingest to grow. Basically ABE works to starve the algae so it cannot survive.

I have also taken on a position with Inside Golf magazine as the new associate publisher. The new addition to the Inside Golf website will be a trade magazine for golf course superintendents. For this I need to write and collect articles that pertain to golf course maintenance and construction.

2010 promises to be a new and exciting albeit scary adventure for Greenside as I feel this will be the make or break year.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Provincial Ministries Facing Lawsuits Following Pesticide Bans

On April 22, 2009 the government of Ontario enacted Bill 64, which is an Act to amend the Pesticides Act that will ban the sale and use of pesticides for cosmetic uses. The lawn care industry in Ontario has been severely affected by this decision and is filing a lawsuit against the Ontario Minister of the Environment.

For more details on this, read the article I wrote for Inside Golf at

Monday, January 25, 2010

Environmental Benefits of Dead Trees

Every golf course has the natural ability to provide habitat for wildlife. Even if you do not plan to provide artificial habitat all trees on your property have the opportunity for wildlife to have a home.

When trees on the golf course die they still have the ability to provide homes for various species of wildlife including birds, rodents and certain types of insects. As long as the dead trees (snags) do not pose a safety hazard they should be left standing.

These snags will continue to provide homes for wildlife as long as you let them. Of course once a snag becomes a safety hazard it must be taken down. At this point you should let the snag lay on the ground as it will continue to provide habitat. In this situation playability must be considered first and foremost. If the tree will not interfere with play as it lays on the ground it should be left for wildlife to inhabit.

A big part of maintaining an environmentally responsible golf course is as simple as being aware of the environmental opportunities that already exist without you needing to do any work.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Environmental Attitudes on the Golf Course

There is no doubt that the 21st century has brought many new concerns to many old industries. Golf is one industry that new concerns need to be resolved using solutions based on the ancient traditions of the game.

The general attitude surrounding the golf course industry is that it is unsustainable due to the fact that most anti-golfers view Augusta National as the rule instead of the exception. Unfortunately that perception is followed by many of todays golf club members who expect Masters Sunday type conditions all season long. This of course is not only unrealistic but also environmentally irresponsible.

As I visit golf courses to talk to the superintendent about joining the Audubon Program in order to attain and demonstrate environmental responsibility I get most telling me that members will not go for it because it will change the playability of the golf course.

This may be true to a certain extent but it does not have to be a done deal. A major part of the environmental movement is about educating those who refuse to change.

The biggest concern is buffer zones surrounding water bodies on the golf course. Golfers are concerned that by extending unmaintained areas around water bodies the golf course will become more difficult resulting in higher scores. To this I say "balderdash"! These people are more concerned with whether or not they shoot 100 or 103.

The fact is that extending buffer zones can mean raising mowing heights from 1/2 inch to 3 inches. Golf ball wise the result will mean balls being held up in the longer rough to be played out of instead of balls going into the water and a 1 stroke penalty being assessed.

Golfers who are true students and lovers of the game know that when the golf was first played in Scotland the maintenance was non-existent. Of course these days there does need to be some maintenance performed but to have it manicured wall-to-wall is not necessary nor is it sustainable.

At the end of the day it is golfers that will determine the fate of the game. Short sighted attitudes that superintendents encounter on a daily basis demanding perfectly manicured courses are what is ultimately giving golf the bad rap in the public eye.

Golf is a game that is supposed to be played in the "natural" environment and by definition nature is imperfect; "Not artificial or imitation." Tracks that are maintained wall-to-wall such as Augusta are more like TV studios than golf courses.

The fact of the matter is that as an industry (golfers included) we have set ourselves up for the disappointments that we must now face. In reality we never should have been maintaining fairways down to the water or cutting grass in out-of-play areas such as between greens and the next tee deck. It is a waste of time and money at the expense of the environment.

There is no question that golf courses and the environment can co-exist but it is going to take concessions on the part of everyone in the industry to make it work.

If a golfer hits their ball too far so it rolls into the water or goes too far right so it enters into no-maintenance areas the rules of the game will dictate the punishment.

At a lot of golf courses now, balls that roll to the edge of a water body are played as though they landed in the middle of the fairway. This is not the way the game was ever intended to be played.

If the game of golf is going to survive so our children and grandchildren can enjoy it, concessions are going to have to be made. Respect and care for the environment must come first instead of the ego-centric club level rules that have been adopted by weekend warriors that are more concerned with saving a few strokes than they are about preserving the game and the environment for future generations.

For those golfers who are stuck on wall-to-wall maintenance because it looks pretty it is time to realize the damage that has been done to our environment and accept the fact that unsustainable development and maintenance practices have brought on the environmental concerns we must deal with today. Lets stop the selfish insanity and understand the fact that you're handicap is really a 27 not a 24.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Prepare for Environmental Changes Now

As the end of January approaches spring is just around the corner (bulbs are popping on the island), and golf course superintendents are starting to think about the 2010 golf season and how it can be better than 2009,

I think that given the state of the economy and a difficult summer weather wise many superintendents are probably wondering how it could be worse.

One way to make 2010 a better year is to start maintaining the course with more care and respect for the environment. Start naturalizing more areas, expand buffer zones, use less resource inputs (water, fertilizers and pesticides) and really start to consider the effect your maintenance practices are having on the environment.

You will need to start by talking with your full time staff and discussing with them how you can improve environmentally. They are the ones that will support your new environmentalism on the golf course.

Once new and returning staff start work for 2010 they will need to be retrained. Changing over mid-season can be very difficult if not impossible to do.

If you are in the Audubon program take a good look at the requirements for certification and pick a couple of items that you would like to change for 2010. The idea of the Audubon program is not necessarily to do it all at once but to start moving in the "green" direction.

Now is the time to plan for changes, do not wait until its too late.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Supplemental Features For Wildlife

As I have mentioned several times in past postings it is critical that golf courses become somewhat of a wildlife refuge for animals that live in and around the property. The typical golf course consists of 150 acres of property of which only about 80 acres are actually used for golf.

This means that for the average golf course there is approximately 70 acres of property that can be used for wildlife to inhabit. Drawing wildlife to your property is an excellent way to demonstrate not only your concern for the environment but also show that the golf industry and golf courses in general are environmentally friendly places for animals and not the environmental wastelands that they are perceived to be.

Aside from allowing for naturalized wildlife habitats you can also create supplemental features that will act as habitats. Placing bird houses or nesting boxes throughout the golf course will attract different species of birds.

The type of bird that will be attracted will depend on the type of bird house you put up. Different species of birds like different styles of nesting boxes with items such as size of box, size and shape of entrance hole, location of box playing key roles in which species of bird will inhabit the box.

In out of play areas you should create brush piles for small mammals to inhabit. Any branches that may fall or trees that comes down in a windstorm create excellent materials to use to create brush piles. These brush piles should be built in out-of-play areas where they will not be disturbed by golfers or maintenance practices.

Some superintendents have gone as far as to create osprey pads. These wildlife structures can be as simple as a pallet (from fertilizer or sod) or some other type of floor structure. The pallet is placed high atop a (usually) dead tree and left up there for ospreys to use. The tricky part is getting the pallet up to the top of the tree and it usually requires the use of a crane although it can be done using a boom truck.

Another way to attract wildlife to your property is by installing bird feeders throughout the property. This can be quite successful as you will almost be guarenteed some visitors once food has been placed out.

During the winter months you can continue to attract wildlife to your property by placing salt licks that deer will be certain to enjoy. Suet is another food favourite among different species of wildlife.

Any trees that die or fall over in out-of-play areas should be left for wildlife. Dead trees create excellent habitat for many different types of wildlife from birds to insects to small mammals. It is important that these trees are not going to cause a safety concern for golfers or maintenance staff.

Trees that fall over in out-of-play areas also create excellent wildlife habitats. As long as they are not going to interfere with play or maintenance of the golf course, trees that are lying on the ground should be left for wildlife to use as habitat and protection.

There are countless ideas that can be used for creating supplemental habitats for wildlife on the golf course. Checking out different golf course websites or the Audubon International website are just a couple of ways to get ideas about how to attract permanent wildlife residents to your facility.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fairwinds Join Elite Class of Golf Courses

Early in the 2009 golf season Fairwinds Golf and Country Club joined an elite class of golf courses by becoming only the 8th course in BC to gain certification in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses.

I had the opportunity to interview assistant superintendent Rod Siddons about the Audubon program. To read the article that was published in Inside Golf go to

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wildlife Corridors

As I spoke of in an earlier blog the idea of creating wildlife habitats on golf courses is very important if the industry is going to thrive in the 21st century and put some of the negative criticisms behind us.

By creating wildlife habitats on golf courses we are providing homes and shelter for the animals the choose to live on the property. Typically, golfers love to see animals on the golf course, it just seems to add to the enjoyment of the game.

Wildlife habitats are created by taking minimally used portions of the property and naturalizing them by designating them as no-maintenance areas. To help make these areas more useful for wildlife it is important to create corridors where the animals can wander on and off and throughout the property without ever having to leave their habitat.

Connecting areas on the property with areas off the property for wildlife to enter and exit is a great way to attract animals to the golf course. If your golf course has an area that is bordering a forest, a water body or some other habitat make sure that there is an opportunity for the animals to enter onto the golf course without ever having to leave the shelter of the habitat.

In an ideal situation an animal would be able to enter the golf course on one side of the property and walk from one end to the other end without ever becoming exposed. I understand that golf courses are not designed this way but that is the ultimate goal.

Superintendents should be aware of opportunities to create wildlife corridors as they will attract animals from off the property and make the golf course a better place for wildlife and golfers.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wildlife Habitat

For a property to achieve Sanctuary status in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses they must be able to demonstrate that they are providing habitat for wildlife in at least 50% of all minimally used portions of the golf course.

This one should be a no-brainer as it only makes sense that minimally used portions of the property should receive little to no maintenance. Areas such as buffer zones around water bodies, forested areas and sections of the property between the greens and tees do not need to be maintained. As an industry we must give back to nature and allow habitats to be re-created so the wildlife that once inhabited the property can take some of their land back.

A great deal of time and money is spent on a lot of golf courses maintaining areas that do no see any golf. Aside from aesthetics there is no good reason to waste valuable resources maintaining these areas.

There are a great many courses out there that are supported by golfers who demand to see wall-to-wall maintenance for the sake of satisfying their own greedy egos. As an industry we must stop this senseless spending of time and money on such frivolous maintenance details.

The time has come to understand that golf is a game that is played within boundaries that are dictated by nature. Encroaching maintenance activities into wildlife habitats is not only selfish and wasteful but it has led to an unsustainable future for our industry.

It is time to change our thinking paradigm when it comes to golf course maintenance. Many people equate golf courses with park like settings which is wonderful, however there are many parks that are nature preserves and this is the direction we should be going.

When assessing maintained areas of the property ask yourself "why is that area being maintained?" If your answer does not involve safety concerns or affecting playability then it is likely that the area should be left to naturalize. If your answer is because it looks good this is probably not good enough cause to maintain it.

The average Audubon certified golf course is able to find 22 acres of property to eliminate from its maintenance schedule. This equates to not only huge cost savings for the club but it also greatly increases the environmental value of the property.

Golf course superintendents need help and support from golfers in allowing the minimally used areas to return to their natural state and start providing habitats for wildlife. It is best for wildlife, the finances of the golf club, the health of the property and the environment.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wildlife Inventory List Offers Many Advantages

As golf courses move towards attaining and demonstrating environmental accountability it is important that they not only celebrate this move but also get everyone involved. One way of doing this is by creating a wildlife inventory list.

A wildlife inventory list will indicate to everyone what type of wildlife can be seen on the property. One copy of the list should be posted in the shop for all maintenance staff to fill out when they witness an animal on the property. The list should contain information about the wildlife viewing including the animal that was spotted, where is was spotted, the date and time of day.

Posting a list in the maintenance shop will help to get all staff involved in the environmental activities at the course. This will give an opportunity to newer staff to become involved in the team building opportunity that can exist with this type of activity.

Another copy of the list should be posted at the clubhouse. Posting a list at the clubhouse for golfers to fill out will allow them to take some type of ownership in your evironmental program.

A wildlife inventory list can be a good way to grow the game. There are many people who do not play golf but whose spouse does. If the non-playing spouse found out that there is an opportunity to view some wildlife at the course perhaps they will come out and play.

Once the list begins to repeat itself and it seems that no new wildlife species are being added to the list, the course should create a poster or a document that shows all the different wildlife that frequent the property. The poster could include pictures of each the animals seen on the property along with some information about the species. By creating a poster and framing it in the clubhouse the course can create a very nice piece of educaitonal art that will show a committment to the environment.

A document such as a brochure that will detail the different types of wildlife that inhabit the course can be used as marketing material for the club. Make sure that a mailing of the brochure goes out to people throughout the community to let everyone know what is happening.

This is another opportunity to market the golf course as well as the environmental benefits provided by golf courses. There are a number of anti-golfers out there who believe that golf courses are bad for the environment and this may be one way to demonstrate the positive attributes of your facility.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Everywhere on the face of the earth lies an ecosystem. An ecosystem can be defined as a biological community of interacting organisms and their environment. Within each ecosystem lives a large variety of native plants that play a key role in the survival of that ecosystem.

Absolutely everything we do as humans has either a positive or negative effect on our ecosystem.

As you may know, golf courses are often regarded as villains for their perceived crimes against the environment. It is now more important than ever for the industry to ensure that maintenance programs take great care to protect the ecosystems in which they exist.

To do this, golf superintendents must first identify the larger ecosystems that their golf course is a part of. By identifying their ecosystem a superintendent will be able to recognize the plants that are native to the area. Native plants that are found on the golf course should be protected from harm caused by golfers or maintenance practices. Native plants are a direct link to the natural surroundings of a golf course that existed before the course was built.

The best part of protecting native plant species is that they require little to no resource inputs (water, fertilizers, pesticides) in order for them to thrive. It is a good idea for a superintendent to create a native garden on the property in an out-of-play area as they are attractive and easy to maintain with limited expense.

Understanding the ecosystem in which a course is located will help the superintendent to create a more natural setting for the golf course. In these times of environmental peril it is critical that golf superintendents take the time to learn about their ecosystem so they can protect and enhance the natural environment in which they work.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Staff Training

From the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses workbook, Wildlife and Habitat Management category: We train staff to understand that management practices may positively enhance or adversely impact wildlife species and habitats on the property.

It is imperative that all maintenance staff at a golf course have a firm understanding of the environmental importance of the work that they perform. Environmentally sensitive areas on a golf course such as ponds or other water bodies must not be adversely affected by maintenance practices.

Entering into or disrupting these areas can have a detrimental affect on the wildlife that inhabit the golf course.

As part of the initial training in any golf course maintenance department new staff must be taught that their actions on the course do have an effect on wildlife habitats. All staff must understand that these areas need be protected in order to preserve their health and integrity. It is up to the superintendent to ensure that staff members understand their duties and how to perform them in the most environmentally sensitive manner possible.

Guidelines should be layed out in the employee manual with step by step directions on the most environmentally sensitive way to perform duties such as :fueling up machinery, dumping of grass clippings and where employees can and cannot drive vehicles on the golf course, amongst other things.

It is important that everyone involved with the maintenance at a golf course understands and abides by rules governing the protection of environmentally sensitive areas on a property.