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At the turn of the last year, our Superintendent Radio Network featured a single podcast — a single excellent podcast in Tartan Talks, hosted so well by editor Guy Cipriano just about every month for almost four years now, but still just a single podcast.

At the turn of this new year — and the start of a new roaring ’20s — SRN features four podcasts, a new one almost every week, with focuses spread across this great industry. The time seemed right to expand — I am a bit of a podcast evangelist who listens to … a lot of different podcasts — with more than half of all Americans having listened to a podcast and almost a quarter of us listening to something every week, according to the most recent edition of the annual Podcast Consumer report from Edison Research. (And did you know more than half of us have listened to a podcast while driving? The study didn’t differentiate between driving trucks, cars or, uh, mowers, so we’re going to just assume mowers were considered.)

We hope you’ve already dived into some new episodes. In case you haven’t, here’s a quick primer on the roster:

Off the Course

will open each month with one long conversation focused on anything on the life end of the ever-precarious life-work balance. Consider it an escape from the next task at hand. Our first episodes have featured TPC Deere Run’s Alex Stuedemann talking about his skin care regimen, Georgia Southern University’s Patrick Reinhardt sharing the story of his son’s ultra-rare kidney disorder and the support provided by the Wee One Foundation, and Panorama’s Steve Gilley going back to his decade-plus trying to crack the PGA Tour. We hope this podcast adds to the excellent industry conversation about health, both physical and mental, and that it highlights life.

Guy and I visit a lot of golf courses (somewhere between five and six dozen between the two of us just last year, most of them by Guy) and we never seem to have enough time to write about all of them, which is why we launched Greens with Envy. Part travelogue, part buddy comedy, Greens is our opportunity to share our road stories and recap the best about what we’ve seen and heard — and sometimes even played. We’ve already covered courses in Arizona, Canada, Colorado, the Carolinas and West Virginia, which isn’t even scratching the surface. There are so many more great courses we want to check out and talk about in 2020 and beyond.

Beyond the Page provides more context and more details about some of the stories included every month in the magazine — because sometimes even 3,000 or 4,000 words aren’t enough to really go as deep as needed. It won’t be an audio version of each issue but rather a complement to columns, cover stories and other features that we hope stick with you long after you shelve (or, teardrop, pitch) your GCIs. November cover subject Drew Miller joined us for the first episode to talk more about building a great high school turfgrass program, Judd Spicer has shared more Las Vegas stories, and columnists Matthew Wharton and Tim Moraghan have picked up the phone to go beyond the limitations of their single page.

And, of course, the SRN OG Tartan Talks is still running strong, wrapping up every month with a conversation with a member of the ASGCA.

New episodes will drop at noon Tuesdays (occasionally a little earlier or later) on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and wherever else you listen to podcasts — and, always, on golfcourseindustry.com (just click the Media tab). We’re also planning to produce other topical- and event-driven podcasts throughout the year. Our commitment to the printed page remains as strong as ever. The magazine remains our sun, the life-giving globe around which everything else revolves. Our podcasts are like little stars, so bright and unknown, and full of promise.

Matt LaWell is Golf Course Industry’s managing editor.

Tartan Talks No. 42

Crace

Design, economics, coaching, content curation and cookies. A conversation with Nathan Crace includes numerous unpredictable moments.

Crace returned to the Tartan Talks podcast to offer a golf course architect’s perspective on the transition from the 2010s into the 2020s. Crace revealed how his Mississippi-based firm, Watermark Golf/Nathan Crace Design, endured numerous economic and design shifts within the golf industry from 2010-19.

“Whether it’s hairstyles, or music, or clothing, everything is like a pendulum,” he says. “And that pendulum always tends to come back to somewhere around the middle. Golf course design and the golf industry is not immune to that either.”

What will the next decade bring somebody in Crace’s position? He’s already engaged in conversations with a potential client about a bunker-free course. Enter bitly.com/NathanCrace into your web browser to learn more.

All business

Course offerings expand to include work-life balance at 11th annual Syngenta Business Institute

By Matt LaWell

On the last night of the most recent Syngenta Business Institute, more than two dozen golf course superintendents and directors of agronomy huddled up for a trio of roundtable discussions almost as valuable as the three days of education provided by Wake Forest University professors. Some opted to start with a session about recruiting and retaining employees, others with a session about all sorts of communications. The rest headed to the front porch for a conversation about how to manage and motivate their staff.

Ryan Segrue of Shorehaven (Connecticut) Golf Club and Jason Zimmerman of Pelican’s Nest (Florida) Golf Club both detailed how they provide lunch most days, from deli meats to even nicer fare. Ben McNair of Oak Park (Illinois) Country Club shared a story about how, during the most recent World Cup, he set up a screen for his crew to watch a Mexico match when they weren’t working a busy tournament — and how he even donned an El Tri jersey for the occasion. Justin Mandon of Pasatiempo (California) Golf Club detailed how the board at his club dives in to serve the staff at an annual cookout. All help with morale, they said.

It was Scott Rettmann of Walnut Creek (Michigan) Country Club, though, who shared one of the far simpler and time-honored ways to keep your crew tight right now — and for years to come.

At the end of each summer, Rettmann sits down and pens a hand-written thank-you note to each of his seasonal crew members, most of whom are college students home for a few months. He tucks in a crew photo and a gift card — normally about $25 to Amazon — and mails them off. “Goes a long way,” he says.

According to Rettmann, the number of college students who work on his summer crew has swelled from one to as many as eight in recent years, and he thinks the thank-yous are at least part of the reason. “Labor is a $10 problem,” Jason Tharp of Glen Arven (Georgia) Country Club told Rettmann, leaning into the circle, “and you’re putting $10 of effort into it.”

The financial reference was a callback to a session the previous day about life-work balance and the time-management tip of not spending a proverbial $5 worth of time on a 25-cent problem. Lessons were already being applied nearly a full 24 hours before any of the flights home lifted off.

Now in its 11th year, Syngenta Business Institute aims to pack as much of an MBA education as possible into three days — about financial management and effective negotiations, about leading teams and individuals as well as across cultures and generations, and, new this year, about life-work balance. More than enough of the 260 or so previous attendees had expressed an interest in learning more about the topic that Syngenta worked with Wake Forest to add a couple hours this year.

The program is competitive, with an acceptance rate this year of about 33 percent — two attendees this year finally gained admission on their fifth and fourth applications — and the days are focused and intense.

“It’s important for us to listen to our customers and what their challenges are,” Syngenta turf market manager Stephanie Schwenke says. “They have a desire for personal growth, professional development and skill sets beyond agronomy — because when most of them went to school, this was the kind of education they never received, though many of them spend most of their days managing 10 to 50 people.”

“The more successful we can make them at their jobs and at setting expectations — with their customers, with their board, being able to be better communicators with their local board about things they do on their course and why they do them — the more successful the industry is going to be,” Syngenta communications manager Mark LaFleur says. “Investing in people is going to help everybody out.”

There is still work to do, even now, more than a decade after Ken Middaugh, the retired associate professor, associate dean and director of the Institute for Executive Education at Wake Forest, conceived and designed the program. LaFleur and Schwenke said they would like more women and minorities to apply — each of the 26 attendees this year was a white man, which is the case most years — and they want to help turfheads better tell their own stories. “How will this affect them persondonally? What unique experiences have they had that they can contribute in class? That is helpful to us,” LaFleur says. “You don’t have to be the best writer — we still want to hear what you have to say.”

So apply early for the 2020 program — and until then, maybe write some thank-you notes.

ASGCA announces 2019 Design Excellence Recognition Program honorees

Projects in five states and Mexico lauded for addressing design challenges.

The American Society of Golf Course Architects honored six facilities as part of its eighth annual Design Excellence Recognition Program honorees, all included for their work with ASGCA members in addressing unique design challenges.

Reviewed by a panel of golf industry leaders, including representatives of the Club Managers Association of America, Golf Course Builders Association of America and Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, the recognized courses include:

Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge Short Game Area, Orlando, Florida/Thad Layton, ASGCA and Brandon Johnson, ASGCA

Bay Hill's short game area was small for a large club that plays host to The Arnold Palmer Invitational. To make room for the desired new short game area, the ninth hole of the Charger Nine was shortened from 467 yards into a dynamic, driveable par four of 308 yards. This shift freed up two acres of prime ground adjacent to the clubhouse that was subsequently reshaped into a robust short game practice facility. As a bonus, the short game area is an experimental lab for director of grounds Chris Flynn to test different grass types and bunker liners for future use on the championship course 

The Dunes Putting Course at Diamante Cabo San Lucas, Mexico/Paul Cowley, ASGCA

The course occupies three acres of turf that was formally the second half of the old 18th hole of the Dunes Course. It enjoys some of the best views and setting of the golf complex, and also serves as an event and activity lawn. The putting course has 15 holes consisting of three par 2s and 12 par 3s that vary in length from 14 to 64 yards. The course is 508 yards and is laid out in a continuous loop of grass cut at green height to create fairways and green areas. The surrounding turf is cut at fairway height. There is 25 feet of elevation change and the turf is Seaside Paspalum. Each of the 15 designated “green” areas are big enough for three to five pin locations. The course is designed to be played in reverse on alternate days.

Maple Lane Golf Club, Sterling Heights, Michigan/Raymond Hearn, ASGCA 

The course owners desired a master plan that would best provide future economic, environmental and cultural sustainability while providing new golf and non-golf amenities to a diverse group of customers. A master plan was developed that reduced the course from 54 to 27 holes and includes a new regulation 18-hole golf course with a six-tee system, new turfgrass species, a lighted 9-hole par-3 course, and a storm water retention/detention network that maximizes rainfall capture for irrigation use.

McLemore Club, Rising Fawn, Georgia/Bill Bergin, ASGCA and Rees Jones, ASGCA

Deciding to move the clubhouse to the site of the original 18th hole meant a new finishing hole had to be located and designed east of the original routing on land considered ill-suited for golf. The new 18th hole was shifted east 400 feet and dropped down over 100 feet to the edge of practically a sheer drop above McLemore Cove. Access to the new hole was challenging, and all seven acres of timber had to be burned on site and a new bridge was placed by helicopter. All excavated rock was utilized to build up and level the eastern side of the fairway. 

TPC Colorado, Berthoud, Colorado/Arthur Schaupeter, ASGCA

How do you provide a fun, engaging golf experience for recreational players 51 weeks of the year, and a challenging PGA Tour-caliber track one week of the year? Solutions included providing seven tees setting course length from 4,157 to 7,991 yards, 55 acres of fairway to create fairway width space to play for recreational players, larger and undulating greens, unique bunkering scheme with stacked sod wall bunkers and traditional bunkers, and a diversity of greenside influences to create more angles of approach, strategic variety and interest for all players.

University Club of Milwaukee, Milwaukee/Andy Staples, ASGCA

By capitalizing on a 10-acre parcel of undeveloped forest terrain in the center of the property, modifying the tees of Nos. 13 and 16, as well as completely rebuilding No. 12, the grand vision for the new practice facility came to life. The U. Club now boasts a short, four-hole practice course, a competition wedge range, multiple shot options to include short and long sand and grass bunker practice, uneven lies in fairway and rough, high lobs, low runs, up and downhill looks, as well as a consistently sloped putting green for practice.