2019 State of the Industry report

By , and |  January 10, 2020 0 Comments

Red, white and blue tees (Photo: AdShooter/Stock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Photo: AdShooter/Stock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

2019 was a year of many successes, multiple challenges and happily, a few near misses.

An inaccurately forecast hurricane saved a lot of superintendents some trouble (but not the unnecessary prep work), while floods and drought were common themes in this year’s report. The labor challenge? We had to laugh when Daniel Francis, president of the Cincinnati GCSA, said, “I’m not going to talk about labor. Everyone knows labor is a problem.”

For our 2019 State of the Industry report, sponsored by Nufarm, we once again embarked on a journey to learn what the golf season was like across the country. We talked to GCSAA chapter presidents and representatives to learn about regional weather, disease pressures, challenges and successes. This report, surveying 13 different states, covers a lot of ground.

We’re happy to see that many of these reports are positive. It seems that — despite some challenging weather conditions and the omnipresent labor issue — superintendents had a lot to be proud of in 2019. But that doesn’t mean they are celebrating just yet. Like TPC Louisiana Superintendent Brandon L. Reese reminds us, “Our business never stops. It’s a little bit of a slowdown, but not much. The grass has slowed down, but things don’t slow down a ton.”

We talk with 19 superintendents around the country in this report. To jump to a specific interview, click on their name below.


Brian Benedict, CGCS

President, Long Island GCSA
Superintendent, Seawane Golf & Country Club, Hewlett Harbor, N.Y.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

It was pretty normal. Rounds were slow in the beginning because it was a little wet, but then it picked up. April, May were a little light, and then the weather turned for the better. I would say we were down in the beginning of the year and then picked up to normal.

How was the weather for your area this year?

It was kind of a wet early spring, and then it basically stopped raining.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

Not bad, maybe two weeks all summer were kind of sketchy. We dealt with Pythium and brown patch during those hot spells. During the heat and humidity, those are typical.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

Labor, by far. Finding either qualified assistants or even qualified crew members, which is getting to be more and more difficult every year. I started using a lot more part-time summer help. We began employing more women this year. Right now, I have a couple women this fall who will get their kids off to school, then work 8:30 to 1:30 every day. That seems to be the possibility moving forward, is having more females who’re looking for part-time work during the day.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

We had a great turnout for membership and our local chapter at the PGA Championship at Bethpage since the PGA was on Long Island.

What are your expectations for 2020?

It’s supposed to be a cold winter, so superintendents in our area, the No. 1 thing on their minds is, “Are we going to make it through without any winterkill or damage?” We certainly don’t want to go into spring with any turf loss, but like the old saying goes, “If Mother Nature wants it, she’s going to take it.” Hopefully, member participation and member rounds will go up. Hopefully, we’ll be able to grow the game a little more than we are right now, trying to come up with ways to get people more involved in the game.

— As interviewed by Sarah Webb

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Golf course beauty shot (Photo: Willowdale Golf Club)

Rick Lewis, president of the Maine GCSA, is superintendent at Willowdale Golf Club. His chapter experienced a wet spring and cooler-than-normal temperatures. (Photo: Willowdale Golf Club)

Jimmy Rodriguez

President, Rio Grande GCSA
Director of golf course maintenance, Towa Golf Club, Santa Fe, N.M.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

It was much improved overall. The courses in the state generally all received good moisture in the winter, meaning we had more snow than we had seen in the previous three to four years. Course conditions were a lot better going into the spring.

How was the weather for your area this year?

Moisture was a little more than what we (normally) see. For us, moisture is very precious, unlike in some parts of the country. I think the weather pressure played a good and bad factor. Because of the moisture, we did lose some rounds because it rained. We’re very much like Colorado, where we can boast 300 days of sunshine, but when the rain comes, sometimes it comes all at once when the monsoons hit. The moisture overall for the year was continuously good. We didn’t have big stretches where there was no moisture at all, like we’d had in previous years.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

Disease pressure is fairly low for us in the state in general due to the dryness. Most of the diseases are fungal diseases. Not that guys don’t spray, we do, but we’re not battling things like the East Coast often has to do.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

Generating consistent rounds overall is always an issue. We’re in a situation where rounds aren’t increasing really anywhere in the country, and in our area, when you have a downturn, it’s hard to fight back.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

In the area, Black Mesa had some issues with enough water and better-quality water. In the last two years, they got their water issues worked out, and their conditions greatly improved. It was a course that was in the Top 100 courses in Golf Digest. During those years when they were going through those issues, it affected a lot of us in this area. We’re very grateful that they’re doing better and helping everyone at the same time with their reputation as a Golf Digest Top 100 club. As for the chapter, we are very close to having our Best Management Practices (BMP) project done. I’m guessing we’ll have that published within the next six months.

What are your expectations for 2020?

Going into this winter now, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be as good of a moisture winter for the entire state. I think some pockets of the state will get normal moisture, but others will get less than normal. The winter is the big trigger on how next year will start out for us.

— As Interviewed by Sarah Webb


Craig Cahalane

Immediate past president, Colorado GCSA
Superintendent, Pole Creek Golf Club, Tabernash, Colo.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

From what I heard, numbers were up, definitely here in my specific region in the mountains. We pretty much lost all of June to weather; we also had snow, but we rebounded in July, August and September. We had a really strong last three months.

How was the weather for your area this year?

We had rain in most of May and then a little snow in June, so it was pretty cold. We weren’t turning on much irrigation in that time. And then it really dried out for us in July, August and September. It was too dry. October was unusually snowy, and now in November, we are back in a dry spell. In Colorado statewide, it was the coldest October in quite some time.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

Our biggest one was coming out of the winter. We had a lot of snow mold because a lot of our courses were under snow for over 200 days. The only one we really deal with otherwise is anthracnose. We don’t get much pressure up here (in the mountains). I think we all kind of spray similar fungicides for anthracnose, and I think it’s pretty common around here.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

I would say the labor. Our biggest challenge up here where I’m located is housing for all of our laborers. Being in a resort town, the housing market is terrible. It’s tough on those who aren’t making as much money.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

Our biggest one is our BMPs just came out. That and we just had our third annual conference, and the numbers every year are growing, so that has been a real success.

What are your expectations for 2020?

Hopefully, to have another successful season on all the golf courses, and hopefully, weather cooperates. That’s the big one, getting weather to cooperate and continuing to have strong numbers.

— As interviewed by Clara McHugh

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Brian Roth, CGCS

Immediate past president, Idaho GCSA
Superintendent, Oquirrh Hills Golf Club, Tooele, Utah

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

I think the season was generally pretty good. Most years, the weather plays a significant part in the success of the season, and that was true for this year. We had a wet spring but pretty good weather the rest of the way. We had a couple weeks of significant cold in October, but it has warmed back up, and we are getting some extra play now in November, which is a bonus.

How was the weather for your area this year?

Overall, we had a pretty good weather year. The spring was wet. We had quite a bit of rain March, April and into May. At my course, we had a year’s worth of precipitation in that three-month period. After that, it dried out for most of the rest of the summer. Many areas went 60-plus days with no rain, but we didn’t get very hot. There is quite a wide variety of climate/temperature/precipitation in our area, from desert to mountain/desert to high-elevation mountain courses.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

This is one area in which we usually do not have too much trouble. Other than snow mold in the winter, not too many problems, other than maybe some localized microclimate issues. Low humidity levels and pretty good air movement seem to keep most diseases at bay.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

I am not aware of anything specific, challengewise. Usually water and water availability are significant concerns, but with our winter snowpack and wet spring, that wasn’t any issue this year. My best guess would be related to revenue, growth of the game and having the funding available for equipment and capital improvement projects.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

We have been spending time working on our BMPs and are looking forward to completing that next year. There were some courses that I know had some success with junior golf programs and introducing young players to the game.

What are your expectations for 2020?

The general feeling that I get from other superintendents and course managers is a quiet optimism. Most courses saw a slight improvement by year’s end with revenue/play, and hopefully, that trend will continue. Several courses are looking at updating some equipment and capital improvements on the golf course.

— As interviewed by Clara McHugh


Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

President, Carolinas GCSA
Superintendent, Carolina Golf Club, Charlotte, N.C.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

Overall, it was another good year for golf in the Carolinas. There were four USGA Championships contested in our region in 2019 (U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Senior Women’s Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Senior Amateur), and I think they definitely raised the level of excitement for golf in North and South Carolina this year.

How was the weather for your area this year?

The weather was definitely a major talking point again. The year started off wet, on the heels of a record-breaking fall the year prior. Summer was excessively hot and dry for some but still wet for others, me included. September saw a flash drought that lasted nearly 50 days, and we still had record-high temperatures in early October. We set an all-time record high of 99 degrees F on Oct. 2 in Charlotte.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

We had some spring dead spot (SDS) like always on our bermudagrass fairways. We’re assisting NC State University with some fungicide trials for SDS this year. I still manage bentgrass putting greens, and the hot and wet combination this summer kept me on my toes treating for Pythium root rot.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

Labor! Finding folks who want to work is a major hurdle.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

There were four USGA Championships conducted in our area this year. Also, our chapter raised a new record amount ($61,000) in the Rounds 4 Research auction.

What are your expectations for 2020?

I’m hopeful after a challenging year like 2019 that there is only one direction golf can go — up! Here’s to a prosperous and weather-friendly 2020, fingers crossed.

— As interviewed by Christina Herrick

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Bill Keene

President, Virginia GCSA
Superintendent, Blacksburg Country Club, Blacksburg, Va.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

The season for playing golf in our region was pretty good. There were very few rainy days and not too many periods of extended heat. Our rounds are up 18 percent over last year, we sold out our large-member tournaments and league play participation was up. I hope this is a trend that others around the state observed as well.

How was the weather for your area this year?

The weather this year was interesting. We started off the year like we ended last year, wet. Then in June, someone turned off the spigot. We received 4 inches of rain for the entire summer, half of which fell in a one-week period. That’s about 8 inches below average for that time period. During this time, much of the state was in some level of drought. Fortunately, some timely rains have fallen over the past couple of weeks, but there are still some areas that would benefit from a good rain.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

Disease pressure was low. With a lack of rainfall, extended leaf moisture was not an issue.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

Labor! Finding, hiring and retaining all levels of our team was/is a challenge. As the labor pool shrinks, it has become increasingly difficult. And we are not alone. I have several members who are business owners that specialize in a trade, and they are experiencing the same issues.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

Our chapter has been very active with state government recently. There have been several pieces of legislation introduced during the last couple of sessions that were detrimental to our industry. We have been able to meet with the delegates and present our point of view. Now we are recognized by members of both the House and Senate in the Statehouse.

What are your expectations for 2020?

In 2020, I expect more of the unexpected. Weather is always a crapshoot, and Mother Nature is undefeated. We are going to have to be even more creative to attract and retain labor. Policymakers are going to continue to introduce legislation that is related to our industry. It will be important to stay vigilant and keep an eye on bills coming out of the Capitol.

— As interviewed by Christina Herrick


Lydell Mack, CGCS

Georgia GCSA board member
Superintendent, Big Canoe Golf Club, Jasper, Ga.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?
The peak golf season of April through October was terrific. We beat rounds numbers from last year in every peak month.

How was the weather for your area this year?

After a wetter-than-normal start, the weather was incredible. Average or below-average rainfall in every month after April meant golfers had no excuses to not be out playing. The drought of late August to early October tested our irrigation system, but rains returned in mid-October, and everything is looking good again.

What was the disease pressure like for your area in 2019?

Average. No severe outbreaks that were unexpected. Prolonged heat into September meant we extended our preventive treatments for a month longer than normal.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area in 2019?

Staff recruitment and retention continue to be a major challenge. Unemployment rates continue to be historically low, which is a good thing overall, but has meant fewer job seekers at the entry level. Also, the H-2B visas were tough to get, and that labor group was late to arrive and came in fewer numbers.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

One of the greatest achievements in our chapter this year was (Georgia GCSA Chapter President) Scott Griffith’s leadership in accomplishing the production of our state BMPs. This was a large effort to tailor the BMPs to our state, and Scott was successful in making it a top priority for us as an association.

What are your expectations for 2020?

I foresee a positive outlook for golf courses for 2020. There are ominous predictions for the country’s economy depending on the outcome of the presidential election; some say we’re due for a market correction, and flipping the federal administration might be the catalyst for a market plunge. This will have golf course operators making course improvements and spending what capital they have early next year to pre-position themselves as a strong competitor if demand does dip in 2021.

— As interviewed by Christina Herrick

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Nick Kearns

President, Florida GCSA
Director of greens and grounds, The Oaks Club, Osprey, Fla.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

It was somewhat normal, nothing really out of the ordinary. Really, the big thing for us was when Dorian was predicted to come at or over Florida. I know a lot of guys in the area put a lot of time and effort in to prepping for that potential storm, and then it didn’t end up doing anything. As far as the golf season is concerned, from what I understand and from other superintendents, it’s been a pretty normal year, nothing really out of the ordinary for us.

How was the weather for your area this year?

For Florida in particular, it’s been very sporadic on rainfall. Some areas have received a bit more than other areas. In the Sarasota area, we’re below average by about 2 inches in regard to rainfall. From the month of October, we’ve been abnormally warm for this time of year. Yesterday, I think we had a record high of 91 (degrees F) for Nov. 7. September and October, the temperatures have been much warmer than normal. By now you would see a decline for having to mow as frequently, which hasn’t occurred. So, we’re still in summer mode. It has allowed golfers to play a little more. With the lack of rainfall, there have been not as many rainouts or cancellations. Up North, with it being a little warmer, it’s not driving down the snowbirds from the North. I can’t say we’ve seen the big influx of snowbirds that we usually see at this time. It’s been a bit lagging. We’d typically see a bit more rounds by now.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

For my particular facility, dollar spot and leaf spot are standard issues. Really nothing out of the ordinary; it really comes down to nematode pressure (being) a big one for us in the whole state. With the minimal rainfall, a below-average rainfall, the disease pressure has been a bit lower than what we normally see. Once we move into the cooler months and we have a bit more rainfall, the superintendents throughout the state will have to keep an eye on disease pressure. Cooler weather and rainfall typically can show a lot more signs for developing disease pressure.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

Our biggest challenge really revolves around BMPs and water quality. With the new governor in place, he is focused on the water quality, improving water quality and ensuring certain steps take place. One of our big initiatives with our state is trying to get as many superintendents BMP certified. We’re trying to get as many certified as possible, so we stay off the radar for any potential issues.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

With the month of March being the Florida swing, per se, you have four weeks of Florida courses that are holding a PGA (Tour) event. We continue to see more superintendents strive to be BMP certified. We had a record turnout for a class at Innisbrook. I’m happy to say we had an equipment manager become BMP certified. It’s not just superintendents and assistant superintendents, we now have equipment managers who are taking the course as well. Part of that success is thanks to our executive director, Jennifer Bryan. She is great asset for the state association and for the superintendents within the state.

What are your expectations for 2020?

A big thing for the state chapter, the Florida GCSA, with the BMP certification, is trying to get at least 65 percent of the state’s superintendents certified. Another big one is increasing our overall membership of the chapter, really trying to emphasize the benefits that we as a chapter provide to the superintendents of the state. We’ve incorporated a couple of new research projects. (We’re) trying to make sure we’re fully aware and provide our members with as much data to make data-driven decisions for their facilities.

— As interviewed by Christina Herrick


Brandon L. Reese

President, Louisiana-Mississippi GCSA
Superintendent, TPC Louisiana, Avondale, La.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

The golf season in the Deep South was a lot drier than it’s been in the last several years. Everything I’ve seen, I would think, there were definitely more rounds being played. It’s a little bit different story for us. We’ve been closed all summer doing a renovation project. Rounds of golf were way down for us because we were closed. We closed down right after our PGA Tour event in April and we opened Nov. 1.

How was the weather for your area this year?

Over the past couple of years in the Deep South, especially south Louisiana, we’ve had anywhere from 80 to 95 inches of rain in the last three years. This year, we’re more on par with what our historical averages would be, 60 to 65 inches. It’s really a breath of fresh air, not having constant rain. We dodged all the tropical weather in this region. It was nice. It was perfect for us, because when it’s raining all the time, you can’t get a whole lot done, whether you’re in operations or you’re doing a renovation project. It worked out well for us, but I’m sure it’ll start back up at some point.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

We’re so steadfast in our programs; I think that a lot of people stayed the course. They were probably able to skip an application or two, just due to the dry weather. It was a very hot summer, too, historically probably one of the hottest on record in south Louisiana. I’m sure some guys probably called a few audibles here and there, just looking at some long-range stuff. I know a lot of people — because it can jump up on you quick — stayed the course, especially with their greens programs. We were on an accelerated growth program here, and it didn’t affect us a whole lot. We didn’t have putting surfaces for probably 60 to 80 days until we got them sprigged, then we dropped back in with the plan and moved forward once we got them grassed.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

Our biggest challenge was doing the amount of work that we had to do in a very tight time frame. We essentially have to come out of a renovation ready to host a PGA Tour event, (then) we go into shoulder season. Essentially, we’ve gone from summer to winter. It was 90 (degrees F) three weeks ago, and it’s 50 today. There was no fall. We knew going in we needed to be ready because there wasn’t a whole opportunity for growth with the construction schedule. The labor market is a very difficult thing. I think it’s the same for everybody, the labor market is just very, very difficult.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

From our standpoint, we had a really successful renovation project. We were on budget and on time, which is what you want. We turned out a product that we’re proud of. I’m the president of Louisiana-Mississippi Superintendents Association, and I feel like we had a productive year. We’re working on growing our membership. We’re a very spread-out chapter with Louisiana and Mississippi. The golf course density across those two states is not something you see in Arizona or Florida. I thought we did a better job as a chapter of spreading for opportunities throughout our geographic region to all of our members. A lot of the golf course density in our chapter is in the Gulf Coast. That’s where the majority of our group is.

What are your expectations for 2020?

Our goals for 2020 as an operation are to try to build upon what we’ve done renovationwise. We’re working on another project for the coming summer to continue to improve our property. We just need to continue to put one foot in front of the other and continue to work our master plan. We’ve got a good golf course that is constantly capable of holding a PGA tour event. As a chapter, we’re constantly working on getting our BMPs complete for Louisiana and Mississippi. We’ve got a good group of guys who are working on that with cooperation from Mississippi State and LSU. Our goal is to get that wrapped up in 2020, and it goes along with GCSAA and its goal to get that wrapped up as well. Everybody is ready for a little bit of downtime, looking forward to the holidays and looking forward to spending a little more time with my family. Our business never stops. It’s a little bit of a slowdown, but not much. The grass has slowed down, but things don’t slow down a ton.

— As interviewed by Christina Herrick

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Daniel Francis

President, Cincinnati GCSA
Superintendent, Wildwood Golf Club, Middletown, Ohio

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

If 10 was great, and 1 was not great, I would give it a 7. Mediocre at best. I’ll get to the why with your next question.

How was the weather for your area this year?

It was a terrible, terrible spring. We were oversaturated in many areas of greater Cincinnati, and the chapter I represent was under record rainfall. We conditioned, and nobody wanted to play. Surfaces did not perform the way we would like them to as superintendents and the way golfers would like them to. We then experienced a drought. It was the Sunday before Labor Day, so starting around Sept. 1, we experienced a 34- to 40-day drought. That’s during the aerification season, the growing season. Time to renovate the golf course, and we’re bone dry. August was way under as far as precipitation amounts. August was dry and (so was) the entire month of September. We had above-normal temps, wind, all the things we don’t like when there’s no rain.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

In the spring, we were forced to manage our golf course. There were some days when we had to mow when we didn’t want to. Anthracnose was prominent here. Because we were wet and snapped to heat, our backs were up against the wall with Pythium. We’re in the Transition Zone, so dollar spot is always prominent here. Whether high or low pressure, it’s always talked about. Wet mowing was very common this spring.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

Weather, 100 percent weather. I’m not going to talk about labor. Everyone knows labor is a problem. Weather was an issue here, and it’s a few years running now that we can say that. (It’s) more and more a common trend of extremes, no happy mediums. It’s everywhere; it’s becoming a reality. June, July and August aren’t the hard time anymore. It’s June, July, August, September and a splash of October. This spring, we could push that back to April and May because it was so wet. It’s a six-month battle where we used to talk about the 90-day press.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

We had plenty. At least it feels this way in greater Cincinnati. There are four or five clubs making significant capital improvements, mine included. We will break ground at my course this winter for an 18-hole bunker renovation. That shows growth for our club and shows that we are moving forward in order to stay healthy. There’s a club in Cincinnati that is closing for an 18-hole renovation. Another course is in phase one of four of an 18-hole facility of capital improvements. The market is strong.

What are your expectations for 2020?

I will continue to be a superintendent. I will manage the golf course as best as possible, but I will find a way to manage my time and my family better. My golf course will be my golf course, but I want to take care of myself, my staff and my family next year. Though not necessarily always in that order.

— As interviewed by Clara McHugh


Rick Lewis

President, Maine GCSA
Superintendent, Willowdale Golf Club, Scarborough, Maine

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

At our course and some neighboring courses, rounds were up a hair. September was a really busy month here in southern Maine at our course and some of the public ones close by.

How was the weather for your area this year?

I’m in the southern part of Maine by the coast. We had a wet spring. It was kind of similar to last year. Cooler-than-normal temps. Mid-June and on were really good — not too hot. September was good, and we had a wet October. We had a few hot days this summer. It does fluctuate.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

Mild. Some dollar spot, and on my course, we usually have a bout or two with anthracnose on greens. Dollar spot on greens, tees and fairways — especially in the in late summer/early fall — was prevalent.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

I would have to say, as it is throughout the country, labor. Most people offer a golfing privilege, which is pretty standard. It’s the wage. The state passed a law a few years ago; they went from a minimum wage of $10 in 2017 to $11 in 2018. This year, it was $11, and next year it’ll be $12. That’s kind of helped, but when you have landscape companies and general outdoor work paying $15-17 an hour, a lot of courses around here aren’t paying that for seasonal work.

What are your expectations for 2020?

Weatherwise, I’m going to say we’ll stay in the same pattern, maybe a moist spring and fall and everything good in between. Labor, I don’t see changing. Diseasewise, we will probably be the same too — although that’s a hard one to predict.

— As interviewed by Sarah Webb

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Ethan Shamet

President, Heart of America GCSA
Superintendent, Prairie Highlands Golf Course, Olathe, Kan.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

Golf started out a little rough due to the wet winter and then wet spring. (There were) not many days the course was open or had very enjoyable conditions.

How was the weather for your area this year?

We had one of the wettest winters on record, then the wet spring. I believe we broke records for most moisture from Oct. 1, 2018 to Sept. 30, 2019. (The) only good thing was we didn’t have to run the irrigation much or hand water greens. We maybe had one heat wave, but other than that, the temperatures were below average during the summer.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

With the wet year, the disease pressure was high. Zoysia patch on fairways and tees, brown patch and leaf spot in the fescue roughs, and on greens, dollar spot to brown patch to Pythium root rot and on to anthracnose. This area had them all.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

Wet, wet and wet. The zoysia didn’t like the wet, cold winter and then the wet spring. Many courses had winterkill and spent the whole summer sodding out those areas. Any course with bad drainage and shade got hit hard. We all wished we owned a zoysia sod farm!

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

Our local HAGCSA chapter has been trying to host a First Green Program, and we are glad to announce that next April we will be hosting our first one.

What are your expectations for 2020?

Expectations for 2020 is a better start to the golf season weatherwise and more rounds during the year. (We’re) always interested in what Mother Nature has in store for us, but after a drought one year and too much rain the next, we will just have to wait and see!

— As interviewed by Clara McHugh


Jeff Aldrich

President, Kansas GCSA
Superintendent, Quail Ridge Golf Club, Winfield, Kan.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

Overall, I’d say it was tale of a couple seasons. It started out pretty good. The main topic I’m going to talk about is weather. In (Kansas City) they had a lot of winterkill on their zoysia. We started up in revenue in rounds in April and then went down in May. By the end of the season, we’re down a little, but not as much as we could be. For the most part, the summer was mild; once we got done with May, we didn’t have a whole lot to complain about. There was some residual stuff, but that all goes back to May. We had three floods in 26 days where the river backed up onto the golf course, which is a half mile away. And that wasn’t unique to us. My buddy up in Hutchinson was closed for about a month. Our average rainfall is 37 inches, and we had 30 in May. Anything you had down, preemergence or insecticide, it was gone.

How was the weather for your area this year?

It became normal after May. The summer by our standards down in Kansas was pretty mild. There were very few 100-degree days and we had timely rain. I have cool-season rough, and we mowed it twice a week all year long, which we don’t normally do in July and August here. The fall started out hot. From Labor Day — that’s about the time most guys are aerifying greens ­­— it was unseasonably warm. Then it moderated. There hasn’t been a fall, I guess. We had a couple of weeks of nice weather, and now it’s cold. The weather is something I’ve noticed in the course of my career here. There is no normal anymore. We’ve moved from one extreme to the other.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

Obviously, it was above normal, and I attribute that to how much rain we got. If I could find a market for goosegrass sod, I would be a rich man.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

Weather. The disease pressure too, I guess. It just doesn’t seem like it was that bad because we knew there was nothing we can do about it. We stake our claim on preemergence, and we didn’t have enough money in our budget to address how bad it was.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

There’s one that comes to mind. Several of our courses in the chapter are converting to warm-season roughs and fairways, and they have had great luck with that. With hybrid seeded bermudagrass and zoysia. Meyer Zoysia is what’s prevalent around here, and one of the guys did some research and tried seeded zoysia and it worked, and now three other courses have done it. Everybody’s asking about it and talking about it. And I didn’t hear of any winterkill on that. From Kansas City to Saint Louis, they had winterkill on the zoysia, but I’m in a different climate down here.

What are your expectations for 2020?

I think most guys are optimistic. When you get done with a fight like this year you feel pretty good. It can’t get much worse, can it? We’re optimistic. We can’t do much about the weather. Here in the southern part of the state, another course closed this year, which we hate to see, but it’s the market correcting itself. There are several other courses in trouble, and we’re one of them. But the fact that we’re a municipal course has protected us.

— As interviewed by Clara McHugh

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Tom Height

Secretary, Pocono Turfgrass Association
Superintendent, Frost Valley Resort, Danville, Pa.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

Golf was up slightly for most places in our area compared to 2017. It’s not worth comparing anything golf related to 2018 except for rainfall amounts.

How was the weather for your area this year?

In the beginning, not good. Spring began much like 2018 finished…..wet. The rain didn’t shut off for most of the area until June. Thankfully once that happened, most of the area had a nice dry stretch in July and August.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

Disease pressure was mild for the most part since July and August were on the drier side for most of us. However, there are always some pockets in the region where some superintendents weren’t as lucky dealing with high rainfall amounts. Those big storms along with the heat and humidity caused major disease pressure for those isolated areas.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

It continues to be attracting golfers/members. There are many great facilities in our region, and the number of golfers still isn’t high enough to strongly support them all.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

Mill Race Golf & Camping Resort in Benton, Pa., had a tornado cause significant damage to the golf course and clubhouse back in April. Our regional Pocono Turfgrass Association organized a day where 25 members brought chainsaws, utility vehicles and labor to help Mill Race clean up.

Unfortunately, golf was pretty much a loss this year for them due to the extent of the damage on the property. Currently, the clubhouse is being rebuilt and the resort is planning to fully open in spring of 2020. Our association was extremely happy to help a neighbor overcome such a major hardship. We were thrilled with the turnout of volunteers that we received. This story signifies one of the greatest parts about our industry, helping each other!

What are your expectations for 2020?

With an extended fall with ideal weather, everyone has been able to produce quality conditions heading into the winter. Starting the golfing season off strong and having a weather year void of extremes would really help the game and our industry.

— As interviewed by Sarah Webb


Joshua Kelley

President, Central Florida Golf Course Superintendents Association
Superintendent of Grounds, Orlando World Center Marriott and Hawk’s Landing Golf Club, Orlando, Fla.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

Throughout the central Florida market, golf was up in rounds and revenue but this came with some challenges depending on what type of facility it was. Public courses were running more specials to drive rounds. Private facilities were seeing more play, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more memberships. At resorts, play was up as the travel economy has been strong. We’re all gearing up for our “peak” winter season and I think most courses are very optimistic.

How was the weather for your area this year?

I do not know if there is a such thing as “normal” weather anymore as this past winter was warmer than normal and this year’s rain fall has been below average. This is obviously a positive in generating rounds and revenue but can lead to challenges on the maintenance side.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

Most courses have been seeing normal to below-normal amounts of disease pressure because of the warmer, dryer weather.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

There have been two big challenges: staffing and weed and insect pressure. Staffing is a challenge in the market as construction is booming and laborers are easily finding jobs that pay more than the typical golf courses are willing to pay. The courses that are able to keep their staff are the ones that offer great benefits such as health insurance and other perks. The weed and insect pressure has been very challenging this past year thanks to the warm winter. Timing of pre-emergent herbicides, such as RonStar for goosegrass, have been hard to judge and annual weeds like doveweed have been acting perennial. Insect pressure was unbelievable as mole cricket stress has been constant.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

Courses are definitely thinking outside of the box to drive rounds and revenue with offering specials as well as utilizing dynamic pricing. Also, over the last few years professional golf tournaments such as The Arnold Palmer Invitational, PNC Father/Son and Diamond Resorts Invitational have been very strong in Orlando and are helping to re-strengthen the central Florida golfing market.

What are your expectations for 2020?

The expectations in our market is for another very positive year for golf. Many courses are doing renovation work whether just bunkers or greens to a few that are completely renovating. On the negative side is there is increased pressures from communities and municipalities on fertilizer ordinances as well as water restrictions. Luckily, superintendents in Florida are working hard with the Florida GCSA and GCSAA to keep those regulations at bay and many superintendents are becoming BMP certified which helps show that golf courses are committed to the environment.

— As interviewed by Christina Herrick

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Tyler Ingram

President, Middle Tennessee Golf Course Superintendents Association
Superintendent, Bluegrass Yacht & Country Club, Hendersonville, Tenn.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

As far as golf, I feel like our rounds are up. This year felt like we had more tournaments more to play.

How was the weather for your area this year?

Earlier in the year we had record rainfall. It was the second wettest February we had on record. As far as spring green up, we woke up pretty good. Again, we had record rainfall in June. I think we had 27-plus inches of rain in June, or at least we did at my course. As far as some other records, we usually average about 45 days above 90 degrees. This year we had 99 days above 90 degrees. In middle Tennessee it’s about half ultradwarf Bermuda and bentgrass. I’m sure the ultradwarf guys loved it and not the bentgrass guys. We had 95 degrees temps all the way up to the second week in October and then we finally cooled off. It made for a long season. I have bentgrass I was ready for it to cool off. We had about two weeks of fall and this week [second week in November], I think the low last night was 17 degrees. We’ve seen the worst of both worlds; we get the heat and the temps as far as the cold. It makes it fun for growing grass. We set another record; it was the driest September on record. I figured that would happen just because the yearly average, we were 37 inches above yearly average going into September. We’ll catch up eventually. We did and we had a nice long drought. We had low humidity. It wasn’t too rough on bentgrass guys.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

The middle part of summer, early summer, disease pressure was super high just because of how wet it was and how hot it was. But, I didn’t hear a lot from anyone about struggling with disease. We definitely spray preventatively.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

Labor across the board, that hits everybody in the golf course industry. With Nashville booming as it is right now, it’s very tough especially with the amount of construction going on. I’m starting guys at $15 or $16 an hour to run a weed eater. Everybody is struggling with labor. Our region right now is trying to find that number to get guys in a golf course and it’s not going to break us. I ran with a smaller crew because I had to adjust payroll this year. I used to run with about 14 guys and I ran with about 10 because I had to cut positions for payroll to bring up starting wage. Just with national market, construction is paying guys $16 or $17 an hour to hold a stop sign at a construction zone. Lawn care guys are having to pay guys more. I think the labor is there, just what is our starting number? Ten years ago it was $8.50 or $10 an hour and ten years later I was having to pay guys $15 or $16 an hour just to get them on the crew.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

We’re one of the top five in the country as far as raising money for Rounds for Research. Paul Carter, who’s a GCSAA board member, does a really good job with that. Regionally, BMPs are complete. Pictures and online access are being put together now and should be ready by 2020. Brad Marcy and Paul Carter were the main contributors to that.

What are your expectations for 2020?

Continue to grow our chapter. We’ve got a lot of smaller golf courses that we’re trying to get more involved. At the end of the day we’re trying to reach out to them and get them more involved. As far as fairways and tees or fairways and green complexes and warm season on turf. Winter kill is always a subject coming out of the spring. We don’t get the snow cover. But what we’ll battle with is we get the rain and then it’ll freeze. We battle a lot of ice on the turf. It’s never a good combination. Hopefully it’s a decent winter. You never know what we’re going to get. They’re calling for a pretty rough winter this year.

— As interviewed by Christina Herrick


Tim Busek

Vice President, Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association
Superintendent, The Manor Golf & Country Club, Alpharetta, Ga.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

Although starting the year with record rainfall followed a few months later by record heat our rounds played remained the same.

How was the weather for your area this year?

Very wet to start the year followed by very hot with very little rainfall.

What was the disease pressure like for your area in 2019?

Anthracnose was my only challenge. I had excellent control with both Trinity and Velista. I run an almost no nitrogen program on our greens and I believe that also played a role in our outbreaks. I’ll continue to tweak my fertility program to hopefully find that sweet spot of not too much nitrogen but also not so little we become more susceptible to secondary challenges.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area in 2019?

Weather extremes was hands-down the biggest challenge.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

Our state BMPs were completed, held our first First Green field trip. Tommy Hewett, Georgia Golf Course Superintendent’s Association Turf Research & Scholarship chairman, started a high school turf program. I’d like to try to expand [our chapter’s] high school programs and promote the profession of golf course superintendent.

What are your expectations for 2020?

I’m expecting a good year for both turf conditions and play. Our industry has come so far with playing conditions that almost anything is possible. We continue to learn year after year and apply simple tweaks here and there to constantly improve playing conditions for golfers.

With a strong economy and more outreach in place to attract new golfers I anticipate more play in 2020. We just need Mother Nature to cooperate a little after washing out play for the beginning of 2019 across most of the U.S.

— As interviewed by Christina Herrick

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Andy Neiswender

Director of Facilities and Operations, Belleair Country Club, Belleair, Fla.
President, Florida West Coast GCSA and Vice President, Florida GCSA

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

We’ve had a really good year. Weather has been good especially from January thru April which was the end of our main season. No major dips in the market has kept golfers financially positive which helps too.

How was the weather for your area this year?

Fortunately, we avoided any large storms in our immediate area. The last few winters have been pretty mild which helps our play but hurts our weed pressure. Seems like less heavy rains this summer as, at least on my property, we spent less time repairing bunker washouts this year than in the past.

What was the disease pressure like in your area in 2019?

Disease pressure was not a major issue; however, we have had some increasing pressures on the insect and weed management side. We have been hearing more and more instances of bermudagrass mite damage the last 3 to 5 years. This is a new pest at least in our area. The Roundup/glyphosate litigation is beginning to have some effect on area courses as well.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area this year?

I believe the Roundup/glyphosate issue may be our biggest challenge starting this year and moving forward. It is frightening to think that one of our safest herbicides could be taken away not by regulation, but by our own members at our clubs over fear from lawsuits. A few local clubs have already prevented their superintendents from using the products.

What are your expectations for 2020?

Hate to stick to the Roundup/glyphosate issue, but I’m hoping we see a few of the lawsuits go for Bayer/Monsanto. This is the only way I see the relaxing of some of our members to allow us to keep it in our tool box.

— As interviewed by Christina Herrick


Tommy Hewitt

Board of Directors Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association
Regional Superintendent, Windermere Golf Club, Cumming, Ga.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

Challenging between an extremely wet winter and early spring to an extremely dry and warm extended summer. The extended summer did help make up for lost rounds from the first part of the year, so that will help with the overall financial results. In general, I think the wet winter and early spring positively affected rounds over the course of the year as golfers had “cabin fever” and then took advantage of not only the perfect days for golf but also the days that in the past would have kept them away from the club.

How was the weather for your area this year?

Chaotic and relentless was the best way to explain the overall weather patterns.

What was the disease pressure like for your area in 2019?

The weather pattern during our spring green up was perfect for an explosion of diseases, fortunately we believe in preventive applications for our most-common diseases such as leaf spot and dollar spot, which kept our greens healthy. By monitoring the weather and soil temperatures, we correctly timed our fungicide applications for fairy ring, spring dead spot and Rhizoctonia zeae. We also are a firm believer in phosphite applications, so we make weekly applications throughout the year which significantly improves our plant health and disease control.

What was the biggest challenge faced by your area in 2019?

It seems our biggest obstacle this year was weed pressure, due to the early-season rainfall and soil moisture. We have a strong pre-emergent program that is designed for goosegrass and crabgrass control. But our early season pre-emergent applications were only moderately effective in our high-traffic areas. We think the compacted clay soils with excessive rainfall never allowed the preemergents to set up in these areas. It seemed as though we were chasing these two weeds plus kyllinga for most of the summer. We edited our cultural and preemergent plans and will hopefully loosen the compacted soils and have a better approach against the weed pressure from this year.

Were there any notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

I think overall conditions have continued to significantly improve year over year even with the challenging conditions and budgets that have been generally flat over the past few years. I believe this is due to Superintendents being active in their education and being open to change to not only better programs but also understanding the best value for the property. It is the “ownership” of the Superintendent taking the budget that they have and fully utilizing it for the needs and not the wants of their property.

What are your expectations for 2020?

In general, chaotic but planned for, as my belief is to plan for the worst-case scenario. We build all of our agronomic programs based on past history while maintaining a close eye on the 30-year weather averages. We never want to be unprepared in both a resource or plan of control situation. We believe that the success or failure of every year is foremost based on the planning of the prior year followed by the execution of the plan. We also understand that plans are not guidelines, they are lanes and sometimes you have to switch lanes but you have to keep going in the direction of success.

— As interviewed by Christina Herrick

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