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.