Golf course superintendents offer opinions on issues ranging from Jack vs. Tiger to course conditioning to home lawn care

According to a 2003 survey of superintendents conducted by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), 59 percent contend Jack Nicklaus faced tougher competition during his career while 41 percent believe Tiger Woods has the greater challenge. But that does not necessarily mean superintendents think Nicklaus would win a head-to-head match up with Woods conducted when both men were in their prime. In fact, in GCSAA's 2002 survey, 47 percent thought Woods would win such a competition, compared with 41 percent for Nicklaus, with another 12 percent unable to discern a winner.

The Future of Course Conditioning

While golf equipment manufacturers continue to research and produce leading-edge clubs, balls and shafts, those in the golf course management industry also search for better practices, programs and services to condition golf courses. One area of significant study is the playing surface. Researchers are constantly striving to develop improved turfgrass varieties that better withstand weather, traffic and disease and require less water and labor and fewer plant protectants.

Fifty percent of superintendents responding to the survey believe Roundup Ready creeping bentgrass will have the biggest impact on the profession in the next decade. Intended primarily for putting greens, this product is not currently on the market but could be introduced in the next year. It has been bred to withstand the application of Roundup, which would leave the turf unaffected but kill the weeds. The only other turfgrass to receive a significant response from superintendents was Paspalum, which 18 percent thought was the grass of the future. Found in the warmer climates of the United States' Southeast coastline and Hawaii, Paspalum is inviting for a variety of stress environments, including drought, acid soils, high and low temperature, high-bulk density soils and salinity (salt).

"Without a doubt, the golf course management innovations in recent years rival what we have seen on the consumer side with clubs, shafts and balls," said GCSAA president Jon D. Maddern, certified golf course superintendent. "Significant resources have been dedicated to developing resources that advance golf facility operations. Those changes have been across the board in new turfgrasses, irrigation, mower technologies and most importantly, best management practices."

In terms of capital expenditures for the 2003 calendar year, superintendents are largely focused on buying new equipment, as 45 percent said this is the area where most capital expenditures would occur. Upgrading irrigation systems was next at 15 percent, followed closely by the reconstruction of greens, tees and bunkers at 14 percent.

Perception vs. Reality

Perhaps one of the greatest misunderstandings in golf is the impossibility of providing year-round course conditions that rival what is found at major golf event venues. But how well is this understood by avid golfers? Superintendents contend not very well. Half of those queried said that fewer than 10 percent of avid golfers understand that courses hosting majors are brought to peak condition and those conditions are sustainable for no more than a few days. Almost three-quarters (74 percent), said fewer than 30 percent of avid golfers are aware of the fact.

Help for the Homeowner

As the calendar turns to fall, superintendents and homeowners alike turn their attention to their grass and renovation activities. So what do superintendents think are the most important actions to consider in lawn care? Using a scale of one (most important) to six (least important), proper watering was the top choice, with 66 percent listing it first or second. Other activities with a top-two ranking were proper grass selection (55 percent), maintaining proper mowing height (51 percent) and a proper fertilization program (41 percent).

Whether they realize it or not, homeowners face lawn care issues because of trees that block sunlight, reduce air flow and feature root structures that reduce the quality of their turf. Superintendents respond with tree management programs to offset such problems, but such programs are not easily implemented. Almost half (47 percent) of superintendents contend that it is almost impossible, very difficult or moderately difficult to convince golfers of the need to remove a tree(s) to improve course conditions.

Wired for Action

Superintendents find the Internet an important tool for their profession as 99 percent are wired for cyberspace access, including 77 percent that have the capability at both work and home. Almost all those surveyed say they use the Internet for e-mail communication (98 percent), to collect industry information (96 percent), to gather general information (95 percent) and for commercial product research (87 percent). As for the actual purchase decision, 34 percent use the Internet for that purpose. Click here for the complete set of results.

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