Jun 21, 2024

Lessons Learned - Turfgrass Leaders

Good people in the turf industry bring expertise, innovation, and dedication.

These are two Q&As  I did with guys in the turf industry that I was going to tie into an article I was writing about Gord, the longtime superintendent where I work who was retiring after many years. I didn't use them then because I felt they were owed more stand-alone opportunities.

You can learn a lot from people in the turf industry, not only if you're in the turf industry but also in life. Turf Today had a great podcast from Jeff Jeffreys, the superintendent at Pinehurst Resort & C.C. (Course No. 2), this week's 124th US Open site. Be sure to check it out as well.

Lee Strutt
Director of Agronomy

How does greenkeeping in Cape Breton, Canada, vary from other parts of the world where you’ve worked? 

Amazing golf locations are often remote, this plays to the magic and atmosphere created when visiting a distant location, but also creates its own micro issues. Due to this remoteness, equipment and regular supplies have to be planned ahead to ensure that the business can achieve deadlines. However, the largest hurdle is recruiting talented people. With so many golf courses looking for talented turf professionals and with a decreasing pool of people to pull from, coupled with our remote location, this is an incredible challenge. 

 I was lucky to have played Cabot Links in 2012 and Cabot Cliffs in 2016. What, in your opinion, makes these two properties so unique? 

 You are one of the few who have enjoyed a visit to Cabot Cape Breton and experienced both golf courses. Both golf courses have phenomenal designs, each creating a unique experience that makes the journey to Cape Breton worthwhile. Both courses have their own character, allowing players to compare, contrast and debate which is better! However, the course designs have a strong feeling of playing links golf, the original game, the ball's bump and run, and the luck and misfortune of every shot played in all weather elements. The feel of being so close to nature and enhanced with the wiry fescue turf is a vital part of the feel of being in Scotland, an essential part of any visit. 

With all the accolades both courses have gotten over the years, is there any pressure for you and the Cape Breton Team to maintain this standard? 

 There is significant pressure to maintain our standards and understand how these can be further enhanced. There is a growing number of talented golf course designers creating new and beautiful properties that Cabot has to compete with, both in Canada and worldwide. As turf managers, we recognize that we are very much in the entertainment business and want to ensure our guests have a positive experience and memory to cherish. So, there is a lot of investment in time and money to ensure our high standards are implemented but still create an environment for our teams to help develop new ways to evolve and improve these standards. 

 What courses, seminars, education, etc., do you have lined up for this year to maintain that edge?

 During the winter months lay host to many of the important turf conferences with our turf association bodies. These are normally held in US, UK, Cananda and Australia, where both the opportunity to learn from peer reviewed research, new product developments, learning new effects of legislation on our properties. But also, a time to network and meet with existing peers and to meet new ones. This generates a very valuable network of growth in knowledge. The turf industry is one of the very few industries where knowledge and ideas are freely shared, allowing others to learn and use at our own properties. I also try to take the chance to visit other properties in season, to see what is being achieved and created and what could I weave into our own operation to improve our own customer experience. 

What advice would you give someone looking to get into the agronomy side of the golf industry, knowing what you know? 

It is one of the most rewarding and exciting professions where knowledge, experience and help is freely available. You will be entering an industry where you will make so many friends and acquaintances that could be spread right across the globe. This industry will stretch your knowledge and imagination covering so many aspects of our role that isn’t just limited to agronomy. People and talent development, environment management, fiscal awareness, project management and construction, chemistry, biology, presenting and sharing experience just to name a few. It simply is more than mowing grass. 

Morgan Stephenson 
Golf Course Superintendent 
Methodist University Golf Course
What is your background/history? (your present position and previous positions) 
I grew up outside of Raleigh NC and began working on a golf course at the age of 15. My uncle was a superintendent and that was my first job. I attended N.C. State university and got a degree in Turfgrass Management. I took my first Assistant Superintendent position at Dunes West Golf Club near Charleston, SC. From there I moved to Williamsburg, VA to help in the construction and grow-in of Royal New Kent and Stonehouse golf courses. Both were designed by Mike Strantz, who I had met and befriended during my time in Charleston. From there I went to Tobacco Road Golf Club an assistant superintendent and eventually superintendent. I remained at Tobacco road from 1998 until May of 2023. I am now currently the golf course superintendent at Methodist University. 
What challenges do you face as a golf course superintendent? 
I think our biggest challenge agronomically is always the weather and the unpredictability of it and being able to adjust accordingly. However, like all businesses we are all challenged with finding and retaining good help. Keeping up with golfer expectations with fewer people and a busier golf course is definitely very challenging. 
Having the only private golf facility/golf course for PGA Golf Management students, how does that differ from other places you've worked? 
It is definitely very different from most golf courses. The course is essentially closed from early May when the students head home to early August when they return. I don’t have the pressure of preparing the golf course for 200 people every day, but I still want the students to have a good experience. There are no tee times unless they have an event of some sort, so they pretty much have the course at their disposal. It’s also interesting to get to know some of the students and helping them get started with their careers.
Are there any significant projects this season for you and your staff at Methodist University? 
There is a lot of potential for improvements on the golf course. The first thing that can be done would be a tee leveling and enlarging project. Long term plans would include irrigation upgrades and a potential greens renovation. 
What advice would you give someone looking to get into the agronomy side of the golf industry, knowing what you know? 
I’ve always encouraged people in the golf industry to go through a construction or renovation. I feel you can learn so much from this experience that it will help you be a better superintendent. Also you’ll never quit learning in this profession so be ready for continuing education. 
What are your interests outside of the golf course?  
I enjoy playing golf with my wife, travelling, and spending time with my family.

Apr 19, 2024

Farewell to the Fairways: Thanks, Gord - Longtime Greenkeeper Hangs Up His Spikes

When I found out Gord MacMillan, the longtime Superintendent at Rideau View Golf Club, was retiring, I was upset and surprised. I've worked part-time at Rideau View, and for the last 10 years, I've listened to Gord start out each morning with our assignments with his rye sense of humour and candour. How could Gord be retiring? I have always associated working at Rideau View Golf Club with working with Gord. How could this be happening? 

A few weeks later, after absorbing the news, I sent Gord a text, wishing him all the best. That I would miss him and that I was happy he'd be able to actually do some fishing now. His response:

"I'll be 65, so I think it's time to enjoy the sunshine"

For 36 years, Gord has been at Rideau View, 34 of which has been spent as the Superintendent. When I asked Gord about what advice he would give someone looking to get into the agronomy side of the golf industry, knowing what he knows. His response was all Gord:

"I think the best advice I can give a young person is to ask themselves if they enjoy the outdoors, like the early morning and love the game of golf than you will never work a day in your life"

I loved talking to Gord each day working at Rideau View. An agronomist, scientist, and even a meteorologist rolled into one. Golf course superintendents are truly special people.

The next time you step onto a perfectly manicured course, take a moment to appreciate the unseen efforts of the golf course superintendent. Their dedication and expertise are what allow golfers of all levels to enjoy the game on a beautifully crafted stage.

Tim Moraghan sums it up beautifully in an article he did for Golf Course Industry, thanking golf course superintendents. 

Here is a heartfelt thanks for all you do. Which includes …

  • Getting the golf course prepared and ready every day. Rain or shine. Hot and cold. Sunup too sundown. 
  • Braving the elements and all the surprises Mother Nature has in her bag of tricks. 
  • Serving as your club’s Mr. Fix It. From turf to patio furniture, pump stations to driveway plowing, if it needs fixing, cleaning or tending, you do it. Big problem or small, you take care of it, which is a credit to your resourcefulness. 
  • Marrying an understanding spouse, someone who tolerates your late arrivals and early departures, and the last-minute realization that the family’s afternoon picnic will have to wait. 
  • Willingly sharing ideas, knowledge, and expertise with other supers, wanting nothing more than knowing you’ve helped make someone else’s course better. 
  • Accepting unjustified pay cuts to keep your job and keep the course open in the face of a wide range of economic woes. 
  • Being able to laugh when someone quotes – for the 5,000th time – a line from “Caddyshack,” even though it’s the worst possible representation of our profession. 
  • Forgiving the incredible stupidity, ignorance and selfishness of golfers. As evidence I offer: Unraked bunkers, unfixed ball marks, carts off paths, carts on tees, carts on greens, multiple divots, an aversion to filling those divots, leaving broken tees strewn over tee boxes, dragging their cleats across greens, driving over (or kicking and even club-smashing) sprinkler heads, pulling out plantings, breaking tree limbs, running over bunker rakes (as well as “No Carts” signs and ropes), using the course as a garbage can, and thinking that we’re nothing but overpaid lawn mowers. 
  • Listening – and smiling – while someone suggests a better way to do anything connected with course maintenance. 
  • Putting in hours of study, going to seminars, meeting with sales reps, sitting in board meetings and volunteering at any level. 
  • Remembering – at all times – that what we do is part of the great natural cycle, and taking extra caution not to harm the only environment we have. 
  • Being dedicated to your families (despite the demands of the job) and introducing your children to the golf course environment. 
  • Adhering to, recognizing and supporting the traditions of this wonderful game. We are the one industry that is not afraid to learn from those who have gone before us 
  • Fearing nothing. The golf course superintendent is always ready and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Tim Moraghan, Principal, ASPIRE Golf (tmoraghan@aspire-golf.com). Follow Tim’s blog, Golf Course Confidential at http://www.aspire-golf.com/buzz.html or on Twitter @TimMoraghan

Apr 14, 2024

Hitting the Green with Wisdom: A Review of Life on the Green by Ann Liguori

Ann Liguori's new book, Life on the Green: Lessons and Wisdom from Legends of Golf, is a delightful read that transcends the world of golf. While golf fans will undoubtedly relish the anecdotes and insights from legendary players and Masters Champions like Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw, and Bernard Langer, the book's true strength lies in its universal themes.

I chose Hall of Famers, old and wise enough to share lessons they learned from golf that they use in day-to-day life.

 Ann Liguori

Liguori, an award-winning sports journalist, skillfully weaves together interviews with these golfing greats, extracting life lessons learned on the course that resonate far beyond the fairway.

With chapter titles such as:

Embrace Fear and Nerves
Goal Set Your Way To Success
Put Family First
Have a Lifelong Passion For What You Do
Treat People Well
Have Faith and Treat People Well

You can see where this is going.

Readers are treated right from chapter one, where Padraig Harrington (one of my favourite golfers) gives us glimpses into the world of professional golf, all with a bit of Irish humour. Liguori ensures the book remains engaging for even casual sports fans by infusing it with golf and life wisdom.

Depending on who it is, I still get nervous before doing an interview. But I come in over-prepared and ready! 

Ann Liguori

My favourite chapter was Jan Stephenson's interview because of Ann's skillful storytelling interwoven with Jan's triumphs and struggles. I not only learned about Jan's life on and off the golf course but also took away valuable insight.

The book delves into the personal journeys of these 12 golfing greats, exploring how the game shaped their lives and the timeless principles they learned on the course. Themes of perseverance, goal setting, and sportsmanship resonate throughout, offering valuable takeaways for readers of all backgrounds. 
Something we can all use in this day and age.

"Life on the Green" isn't just about birdies and bogeys; it's about navigating life's challenges with focus, grace, and a touch of humour. Whether you're a golf enthusiast or simply seeking inspiration, this book offers a rewarding read. 

It would have been cool to have interviewed the legendary Babe Zaharias and Babe Ruth—two icons who must have been fascinating! They were way before my time but huge figures in sports history!

Ann Liguori

Apr 7, 2024

Ottawa Valley Eastern Ontario and Area Golf Course Openings - 2024

With what looks like Winter behind us, I've compiled a list of golf course openings for Ottawa and surrounding areas. Like most golfers, we want to get out there and play. Most golf ranges are open, including Kevin Haime in Kanata, but here's a list of golf course openings. LMK at birdiegolf@gmail.com if you know of any others.

Ottawa Valley Eastern Ontario and Area Golf Course Openings - 2024

Stonebridge Golf Club, according to their email, is cutting and rolling the greens and will be open on April 15th. 

Golf Mont Cascades - opening April 16th

Metcalfe Golf Club - got an email they're opening April 16th. 

Emerald Links -  Opened today, April 9th, the West and South Courses. 

Cloverdale Links and Anderson Links - also opened on April 9th

The Homestead at Wolf Ridge - Opens Tuesday, April 9th, at noon. Tee times are available here. It's one of my favourites.

Whitetail Golf Club Will Open on Monday, April 8th. Power carts will be allowed on the course. The course wintered exceptionally well, and all 18 greens are in excellent condition. Book a tee time

Brockville Golf and Country Club - have a call in.

Smuggler's Glen Golf Course will open on Saturday, April 6th. Its Instagram feed shows it looking great.

Marshes Golf Club - opening Apri l9th. Facebook 

Prescott Golf Club opens on Monday, April 8th. According to their Facebook page, "However, due to the wet conditions, power carts will not be available, and the driving range will not be open. As a special treat to those playing on Monday, we have arranged for a solar eclipse to celebrate opening day. "

Manderley On The Green Opening Tuesday, April 9th, still some snow on the course. Instagram

Pine View Golf Course—It looks like the range is open, but the course won't open until April 8th or 9th. Facebook.

Canadian Golf and Country Club - Opening April 11th. UPDATE AS OF APRIL 3, 2024... The driving range and practice facility is opening on Sunday, April 7th. The entire 27-hole golf course will be opening April 11th

Loch March Golf Cub - April 22th - now confirmed - Golf North 

Irish Hills Golf and Country Club—Apparently, from Facebook, it opened Friday, April 5th, but it is now Monday, April 8th, because of the snow. Spring Special Pricing: Enjoy a round of golf for only $35.00 + HST. Great golf at great prices!

Pakenham Golf ClubPer their Facebook page, Pakenham Highlands will reopen on Tuesday, April 9th, 2024. Please book online through our website or tee-on.com to ensure you get your tee times. We hope this is Mother Nature’s last delay in our 2024 golf season!

Madawaska Golf Club is back open today, April 7th, and the Sumac tee Sheet is back open. Today, walking is only allowed. Enjoy that fresh sunshine and a calm Sunday!

Dragonfly Golf Links - they're opening back up on April 9th. 

Oaks Of Cobden Golf Club - opening April 9th from Facebook.

Greensmere Golf and Country Club - tbd

Stittsville Golf Course - opening April 8th - formerly Glen Mar. Eclipse day. Facebook.

Mar 23, 2024

The Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina University Golf Course Review

 The Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina University

Must Play Myrtle Beach Golf 

Finally, I had the chance to play the Hackler Golf Course in the sprawling suburbs of Myrtle Beach recently on a family March break trip. Joey, the golf pro at Hackler, was gracious enough to set up my family and friends a couple of tee times during our stay.

 If you're unfamiliar with the Hackler Golf Course, The Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina University is just a few kilometres inland from downtown Myrtle Beach. Initially designed by Gene Hamm, the course opened in 1968 (love it - the year I was born) as Quail Creek Golf Club. In 2011, Craig Schreiner completed a renovation project, and the course was renamed the Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina University after General James “Jim” Hackler, a longtime benefactor of the university who invented the golf package and was a long-time institution in the Grand Strand golf community. 

I've been following them on Instagram over the years and have always been intrigued by the fact that CCU's PGA Golf Management program is one of only 18 universities accredited by the PGA of America.

We travelled from our little piece of paradise on Topsail Beach, North Carolina, to sunny South Carolina for our tee times. We didn't have time to take in CCU's practice area, but significant changes are coming to the course. Just see the end of my article to see what's up. I can see why students choose CCU for their PGA Golf Management program. Having these types of facilities so close to Coastal Carolina University's campus is a huge plus.

Considering the recent rain in the area, the course was in fantastic condition. The fairways were beautifully green, and with the dormant rough, the course looked terrific for our golf-starved crew.

These were just some of the comments from our group after the round at Hackler:

"Loved the golf carts, which made it easy with the GPS to figure out which club to hit, especially since I had never played here before."

"Playing my own tunes through the Bluetooth-enabled speakers in the cart was awesome."

"The generous fairways made for a great first round of the year."

"The Hackler helped my fear of the dogleg, lol. It had a lot!!!!"

"I loved how the course was tucked away into people's backyards. Not only did you have students drinking beer on their decks, but you crossed a street, and a kid was learning to ride his bike in his driveway."

Since the 2011 renovations, MiniVerde grass has been the putting surface, and all 18 greens were reshaped. These greens are definitely smaller in size, and most include some subtle undulations. Putting was faster than most of our group anticipated, but that was alright; it was just something you had to adjust to. 

 I'm not always a massive fan of dogleg golf holes. Hackler's numerous doglegs grew on me, which had something to do with playing from the bronze tees (Just under 6000 yards). There are four sets of tees, so the course will challenge everyone who plays.

Customer service was excellent, from paying for golf and grabbing a snack for everyone at the restaurant to the marshall and the cart girl, Shauna. Everyone was accommodating and willing to talk and make recommendations while on the golf course. I also got a great chance after the round to chat with the lad at the pro shop, who is in his final year of his PGA Golf Management Course.

The course was in great shape, from tee to green. 

The pro shop at Hackler is unique. It is stocked with all things CCU. If you're looking for a souvenir of your round at Hackler, you'll be hard-pressed not to find something to take home. Of course, I had to get an official CCU divot repair tool and an excellent putter cover-inspired key chain.

Changes Underway at CCU 

The big news for Coastal Carolina University's golf course includes redesigning the 9th hole, changing and improving the practice facilities, and constructing an 18,000-square-foot clubhouse that will serve as a learning facility.

The CCU PGA Academic Learning Center at the Hackler Course sounds like a needed update for a Myrtle Beach gem. Follow their Instagram feed for all the updates.

Hackler offers dynamic pricing for tee times, which is customer-centric. You can book according to your budget and timing. Perfect for all the options available in the Grand Strand area.

Mar 2, 2024

Jake Knapp Pro Golfer - The Ottawa Connection - Knapp Time

Before a week ago, most golf fans would have yet to learn who Jake Knapp was; for me, it was after round 3 of the Mexico Open at Vidanta that Jake discussed his Grandfather and his impact on his golf career and life. This guy is the real deal, with a sweet swing and a personality.

He managed to grind out a final round 71 and secured his first victory on the PGA Tour.  Hard to believe he's only played 9 PGA Tour events in his golf career.

Perseverance is one word to describe Jake.

Jake Knapp - Emotional Discussing Late Grandfather

“He was the guy I talked to after every single round. Still, text him after every round.” An emotional Jake Knapp discusses his tattoo with his late grandfather's initials.

Posted by PGA TOUR on Sunday, February 25, 2024

The Ottawa Connection 

Jake Knapp's girlfriend is Makena White from Ottawa, Canada. 

She flew in to see him compete in the final round of the Mexico Open. 

Makena, 26, apparently works as a vascular surgery sales rep for LeMaitre, a medical device company, after graduating from McMaster University in 2019.

Jake Knapp Girlfriend Reaction to Win

From one side of the continent to the other 🇨🇦🇲🇽 Jake Knapp's girlfriend flew from Canada to Mexico for his final round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta.

Posted by PGA TOUR on Sunday, February 25, 2024

Knapp is in contention again this week after carding a second-round 66 to slide into a tie for 6th going into the weekend at the Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches. He's liking the Florida swing so far, having played the first two rounds with World number 2 Rory McIlroy.  

“My dad and his buddies came down from Ottawa to watch Jake play,” said White, “and I did not know that these were going to be a thing, and I was looking for them in the crowd on 12, and then I saw a bunch of white T-shirts with beds on them. I couldn’t read it, and I was like, Oh, my, gosh, those are Knapp Time T-shirts, and so, that was them … pretty great.”