Tools of the trade

I’ve often been asked what is all that stuff I am carrying around with me in my cart. Well I thought this would be a perfect time before we get too hectic with the season to explain what and why I carry what I do.  This isn’t an original idea as the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America through GCSAA TV has shot short vignettes called “What’s in your cart?”.

These tools are used in repairing sprinkler heads. Basically a few screw drivers and a snap ring removal tool. These tools also come in handy removing lids on valve boxes for the irrigation system.

These are temperature monitoring devices or thermometers. The one on the left is a new tool to me and I am still figuring out how and what it does. These are key in determining when certain disease thresholds are met and a fungicide application must be made.

A paint gun and paint comes in handy for a number or functions. I may use the paint to mark outlines on greens, tees and fairways. I will also use to mark areas during renovation or construction projects. And when we do mark hazard lines and ground under repair for certain events throughout the season.

This nice and shiny silver probe is used to measure soil moisture and root depth. This way we can closely monitor when and if we should be watering. A plug removed looks like this:

When I remove this plug I generally only go 3-4 inches deep. Because our greens are composed mainly of Annual bluegrass our roots for the most part even at this time of year max out at 5 inches deep. I am also looking at how wet the sand is below the grass surface and how much thatch is developing below the grass surface.

I also carry a wedge and a putter with me. The wedge is really for seeing how receptive the greens are to a full shot from 100 yards. The putter I use for a number of things. First I like to see how the ball is rolling on a number of greens, I also like check pin positions and their fairness and most important it is used to check speed consistency from green to green.

This lovely green weapon has a reputation that proceeds itself. The Stimpmeter is the most overblown phrase in golf. I use mine not really for public knowledge of green speeds but more for measurement of green consistency. Though don’t get me wrong, if you ask me what their rolling today I’ll tell you but I don’t think the average golfer can decipher between 9.5 and 11 on the Stimpmeter.

These two documents are for the irrigation system. The one on the left is a map that labels where the section valves are located throughout the course. And the one on the right gives actual coordinates where to find those valves. These a very important to carry should a sprinkler become stuck on or should an irrigation leak occur. Sectioning the leak or malfunctioning sprinkler will limit the loss of water.

You’ll likely think I’m crazy for carrying a tennis ball. But I don’t carry it for a dog or any other function but awareness. On many occasions when my crew are focused on their job I will roll the ball past them as to not scare or surprise them as I drive up. I came up with this idea last fall when I just about gave a young lady a heart attack.

And very important to carry water with me at all times. Not only for hydration for me but if I see drying spots on the course I will use it to see how far gone they are and whether hand watering with a hose will be necessary.

So that’s just a short snapshot of what’s in my cart.

Update April 24th

There have been plenty of things going on around Pheasant Run over the past couple of weeks. So I thought I’d take a break since this is what I arrived to see this morning:

So I was really provided the opportunity to catch up on a number of “office” jobs today. With our club-wide course orientation approaching on Friday evening I did have a couple of club policies to complete (I had only been working on them since December… procrastination at its best!!!). But I really wanted to include a new blog post in my day today. Of course my plans were derailed by other things happening during the day. So I am completing this update at home now that my boys are off to bed.

For those of you who have played the Midlands nine of the past week you will notice a drastic change on both #1 and #9. With how wet the last two golf seasons have been we have really faced challenges on a couple of cart paths. The path off #1 tee and the path leading up to #9 green were just too short and waded in wet areas. So we have stripped the sod, improved drainage and gone down into the 4-5 inch depth and then backfilled with limestone screenings. First below is #1 and secondly is #9. 

#1 Midlands tee path

The paths will be completed in June or July based on the availability of the interlocking contractor we have used for all paths on the course. This is truly a welcome upgrade to these two wet areas.

With the early start to the season and the continued decent weather the turf crew have gotten a lot of work done that really falls down on the priority list. This week my crew roughed it out through some terrible weather conditions to complete a total tidying of our clubhouse and on-course garden and mulch areas.

I actually took the time to play 9 holes on Saturday. And I noticed immediately the reduction in height of cut in the rough.

By lowering the height to 1.75″ from 2″ the ball really stands on top of the turf and it should reduce lost balls because of that. I should know because I spent plenty of time in the rough. (still managed to shoot 39 though)

I also wanted to update all of you on the recovery of the first three greens on Southern Uplands. As you may (or may not, I certainly haven’t forgotten) remember these three greens did succumb to a disease called Summer Patch last August and essentially died (there I said it again!!). Below you’ll see #1 first followed by #3:

The greens are slowly returning to top form as we slowly lower the height of cut down to match the other 27 greens on the course. The height is currently at .190″ and the rest of the course is at .140″. As for the sod outlines, well you are going to see them for a while.

Speaking of sod, we also have prepped our greens nursery area for seeding. This “spare grass” has come in quite handy over the years. We use it to plug divots (I’ll never understand why there are divots in greens), small blemishes and other large-scale improvements.

Lastly, I really wanted to update everyone on how our Civitas trials are progressing. We have now applied two half rate applications to greens and tees. And one full rate application to fairways. I cannot explain what or why we are seeing the amazing results, but we are seeing amazing results. The condition of the turf in all these areas is nothing short of stellar. I commented to Director of Golf Mark Sharpe that we are in mid-season condition and its only April.

My staff is slowly starting to arrive and I am looking forward to the season getting in full swing. This coming week our focus will shift toward dead or dangerous trees. This job is far easier done while there are no leaves on the trees. Then we will be shifting into sod mode for a couple of weeks after that. A sure sign of the season is our first members event on Saturday. Good luck to all our members and guests and I hope you get a day of decent weather.

Fairway mowing pattern

This post was my most viewed post in the first year of blogging. So I am re-posting it today.


As many of you may (or may not) have noticed so far this season. I have made a minor tweak to the way we mow fairways. The “Saddle cut” or Classic mowing pattern was a staple in early golf course maintenance. This mowing pattern produces half the fairway looking light and the other half appearing dark. Why the change? Well there were a number of reasons why I looked at this for Pheasant Run.


First, on many of the tree-lined fairways the rough tends to take more time to recover in the spring. Our old mowing pattern of Cross Cutting requires a lot of turns and would cause plenty of tearing and extra wear and tear to already struggling grass. Second, the classic mowing pattern really suits a wonderful, old school property like Pheasant Run. And lastly, the overall saving in cutting time, labour and fuel savings. Studies by universities like Iowa State and Rutgers have shown an overall (labour, fuel and equipment wear and tear) 28% savings to the maintenance bottom line.

Our fairway operators are easily getting each fairway cut three times a week. At some point we will mix in the occasional cross cutting pattern to change the visual appearance.

Lets hope the rain stops and we can get into a good run of golfing weather.

I don’t pee in your pool, so……

Last night I was at the golf course and was surprised at the things that I witnessed. From folks walking in and out of traps and not raking to golf carts in areas we have roped off for a reason. I normally don’t spend much time at the course in the evenings other than the critical hot periods of July and August. Let’s just say I won’t likely spend another evening at the club until July. The fine people who play at our club generally don’t respond well to being corrected on their mistakes.

Areas of the golf course that have been roped off have rope there for a reason. The terrain at Pheasant Run is very hilly and can be dangerous for golf carts under any conditions. Cart paths have been placed in areas for a reason and we would hate for someone to have an incident on a cart. Our club policy sates that damage done to our carts will be paid for by the renter, thus the credit card imprint at check-in. But ultimately you have very little protection on a cart and can be injured when a cart slides or even flips (yes they do flip quite easily in fact). Please stick to the cart paths and please keeps carts away from green sites and if there are signs or ropes please avoid these areas as these indicators are there for a reason.

The maintenance of the course is obviously a huge source of pride to me, its my livelihood. It is a complete sign of disrespect to me, my team and the club itself to not repair divots, rake your footprints in traps and do damage to green whether it be divots or ball marks. One of our long-term members last night argued with me that “he was in a hurry” and that was his reason for not raking 2 traps after walking in and out of them while I was sitting there watching him. The rules and etiquette of golf don’t care about time, it’s ultimately about respect. Respect for me, my team, the golf club, the owner’s and most importantly the game.

I am approaching 20 years working in golf. And it is appalling to me how far pride in one’s club has slipped. Members do pay for their privileges to play and there are very few who spoil for all the rest. The wonderful members like Walter Buchanan, Jimmy Rodgers, Michael Gardner, Rui Rocha, Rick Popp, Morris Miller and Ryan Taylor to name a few should be the gold standard for the others who take less pride in a wonderful golf course. Be an ambassador and take ownership in the course.

Please take the time the rake your prints in traps, repair ball marks and adhere to the cartpaths. And don’t be afraid to educate others on the basic etiquette of this great game. And most of all have fun and enjoy being outside. Have a wonderful season.

Seasonal adjustments

As with any given season in turf maintenance the winter months bring time to rejuvenate and take in some educational and trade show activities. With each learning opportunity you are presented with a number of ideas that fellow Superintendents are using or have tried. From there I basically steal (just being honest) these ideas and bring them to Pheasant Run.

This season we are going to be implementing some minor and other major tweaks to our maintenance regimen. Some of these changes include a new “Green” product added to our spray regimen, change in tee mowing patterns, fairway proximity markers, cart path improvements, hazard stakes and the major change will be with bunker maintenance.

We are starting some trials this season with a product known as Civitas. Which for lack of a better term is a “chemical free pesticide”. Civitas is excluded from being reported in IPM Annual Reports as it is deemed a Class 11 Pesticide. This product will be used on greens, tees and fairways and has shown to reduce synthetic pesticide and fertilizer use. It will be quite noticeable because of the green pigment that is the carrier product for what is Mineral Oil the active ingredient. You can read more about the product and research done with it here:

As you can see above we have altered the tee mowing pattern to match up with the fairway mowing pattern. Early indications this spring have shown a decrease in tee mowing time by shifting to this pattern. I love the look and it will be supplemented with a cross-cut once a month same as the fairways.

On the fairways we have eliminated the 100 yard Red markers and the 200 yard blue markers. Given the fact we had the yardage’s on the sprinkler heads done last season. We really felt that it was overkill with all the various markings on the fairways. This really fits in well with our “clean” look on the course.

We also have preliminary plans to extend two of our headache cart paths. The paths on #1 and #9 Midlands have been a maintenance pain for the past couple of seasons. Using ropes and directional arrows along with plywood during really wet periods are certainly an eyesore.

Above #9 Midlands will be extended past the pond.

#1 Midlands above will be extended to just shy of the bunker that splits #1 Midlands and #7 Highlands fairway. Given that these paths are going to be done in interlocking brick (to match what we have throughout the course) it is no small expense to carry this project out. We will be starting the excavation next week by stripping the sod and building up the path via limestone screenings. The brick will be laid by mid-summer.

I’m not going to dwell on hazard stakes. We did cut them shorter in length and add a spike to the bottom of them so that mowers and trimmers can easily move them. Again just a cleaner look.

As for bunkers, well the experimentation never seems to end. I find it to be wrong that we spend more time, money and man hours maintaining bunkers than we do on greens. On our end of it greens are the money-makers and are what make Pheasant Run a memorable golf experience not the bunkers.

The USGA deems a bunker as;


A “bunker’’ is a hazard consisting of a prepared area of ground, often a hollow, from which turf or soil has been removed and replaced with sand or the like.

So some of the larger, less in-play bunkers are going to be reverted to waste bunker status. The bunker on the left of #3 Uplands, the large bunker to the right of #6 Uplands and the huge bunker on the dogleg of #7 Uplands will now be considered waste bunkers.

#7 Uplands

Waste bunkers allow you to ground your club and will be maintained less. They will likely be raked once a week or once every two weeks.

As for the rest of the bunkers, they too will be maintained differently this season. For those of you who watched the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne last winter things may look familiar. The bases of the traps will be all that gets rake mechanically, while the sides and edges will be broomed (dry days) or roller squeegeed (wet days).

As with anything that seems to be a great idea in the winter. I will be tracking the time and maintenance with this raking method. But I am hoping that these changes will allow us to do things such as fairway divots, range tee maintenance and many other detail oriented cultural practices.

So the course has survived winter and is in fact in terrific condition right now. Our week of “fools summer” in late March certainly got hopes up for an early summer. But seasonal temperature the last two weeks have slowed things down dramatically. Here’s to spring weather starting in the next week and a great spring of golf.

Awareness promotes contemplation

I generally try not to stray from golf course maintenance as the main topic of discussion on here. But from time to time there are topics that are both relevant and necessary to address.

I would be completely remiss if I didn’t at least mention that today is World Autism Awareness Day. For those of you that know me and/or follow this blog the world of Autism is near and dear to me. My twin sons Liam and Luke were diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum in 2007 and continue to forge their way into uncharted waters each and everyday.

A few weeks ago my son Liam said “Hi” to me for the first time ever. I guess I had taken for granted that he wouldn’t ever talk and yet there he is working his way through a new challenge. My other son Luke has began to mimic many things that I do on a daily basis. Whether it’s a scream or a noise he is seemingly beginning to recognize the world of role-playing I’m trying to bring him into.

The boys are in a government-funded program known as Intensive Behavioural Intervention or IBI. Through this program the boys have learned to use the bathroom, wash their hands, brush their teeth and sit and perform various tasks in the school environment. But most of all they have learned about each other. This intensive programing with just the two of them in a classroom together has taught them the recognize and appreciate one another. They have truly been able to capture the true meaning of a brotherly relationship both good and bad. They have days they love each other and hate each other just as brothers in the traditional sense would, it just took them a little longer to reach that point.

On day’s such as today I also reflect on my other family relationships. Autism has historically been a gateway to divorce or separation for parents. My wife Judy and I have our moments, but our wants and needs always lead back to Luke and Liam and what we can provide to them. We provide a loving family home and we are going to beat the odds even if some days it seems like we can’t. Best friends in the true sense is what keeps our bond strong. She worries, I’m the optimist (totally out of character for me). We find a balance that works for our relationship. Our youngest son Ethan provides what every little brother should to an older brother, annoyance. He absolutely drives the twins crazy and is in their faces on a daily basis. But he loves “the brothers” or “Kook and Miam” as he refers to them regardless of whether they talk or don’t talk, pay attention to him or ignore him.

On days like today don’t feel sorry for families like us. Families affected by Autism have the greatest bond with their children and a level of trust that’s unparalleled. The numbers continue to rise and will continue to do so going forward. Make yourself aware of Autism and don’t be afraid to ask questions. In Canada 1 in 78 children is diagnosed within the Autism Spectrum, 10 years ago it was 1 in a 1000.