Scouting for success

By |  June 25, 2018 0 Comments
Golf course landscape

Scottie Hines, CGCS, is impressed with how far fungicides have come since his early days as a greenkeeper. He’s had success using Kabuto to control dollar spot on his greens at Windsong Farm Golf Club.

Scottie Hines was meant to be on a golf course. Fate wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hines got his start in golf replacing divots and raking bunkers for his father, grandpa and uncles starting at age 5. A few years later he jumped at the opportunity when his father, Scott, the course accountant for Champion Lakes Golf Club in Ligonier, Pa., told him his help was needed at the club. The self-proclaimed golf rat made his first dollars in the game at age 12 by working the golf shop and as the starter at his hometown club.

As if fate hadn’t already provided him an atypical head start in the game, it then sent him a guardian angel disguised in a Boy Scouts uniform. As a 13 year old, Hines’ assistant Scout leader was none other than Mark Kuhns, CGCS, then the superintendent at Laurel Valley GC, Ligonier, Pa., today the director of grounds at Baltusrol GC in Springfield, N.J., (as well as the 2009 President of GCSAA and host superintendent of the 2005 and 2016 PGA Championships.)

Kuhns hired the 14 year old to work for him on the crew, and Hines stuck with Kuhns for most of the next decade-plus. Together they hosted the 1989 U.S. Senior Open (played at Laurel Valley), the 1992 U.S. Women’s Open and the 1994 U.S. Open (both played at Oakmont) and the 2000 U.S. Amateur Championship (played at Baltusrol.)

“There’s a lot of history there between Mark and me, we go way back,” Hines says. “He’s like a second father to me.”

Hines fondly recalls the time when, after being on his own for five years at Riverview GC in Elizabeth, Pa., Kuhns asked him to come back to his team after he got the job at Baltusrol.

“They were 10 months from hosting the U.S. Amateur, and Mark tells me they’re playing 36 temporary greens and he needed a little help,” Hines laughs. “So I jumped ship and took the superintendent position at the Lower Course at Baltusrol and got my certified status while I was there.”

Though Hines learned some valuable skills from Kuhns while a Boy Scout, the lessons he picked up from him on the golf course were even more important. Work ethic, attention to detail and team building were all high on the list, but the number one thing, Hines says, was giving back to the industry.

“It’s a great living, a great office, you have to give back, I took that from Mark on day one,” Hines says. “Whether it’s service on the board, hosting events, volunteering… I’ve taken that to heart.”

Hines family

The Hines family (from left, Kristin, Olivia, Leighton
and Scottie) enjoys Friday evenings at the curling rink.

Pushing the envelope

For the last 16 years, Hines, now a certified golf course superintendent, has been the director of agronomy at Windsong Farm GC in Independence, Minn. He’s been there since before the grand opening in 2004, taking the course from “dirt to grass” and enduring two ownership changes over the years.

“It’s been a great run. The current owner, Dave Meyer, has been a great supporter of me and my staff and of golf in general,” Hines says. “He’s invested money into the golf course. If you’re not making changes and advancing the golf course every day, it’s a mistake. I believe if you’re sitting still you’re really backing up.”

The course, a John Fought/Tom Lehman design, is known for its huge expanses of fairways and how nicely those fairways nestle into the surrounding landscape. Native grasses dot the rough — little bluestem, big bluestem, prairie dropseed and side-oats are the common grasses, with some fescue mixed in.

The crew at Windsong during the summer ranges from 28 to 35 people, depending on how many part-timers Hines can attract.

“Our biggest challenge is people, that’s industry wide right now,” Hines says. “Trying to find people to man mowers is a challenge. (The course has) got to be good from the entrance to the 18th green, as good as we can get it. It’s a challenge, but it’s what I signed up for!”

The course hosts the University of Minnesota’s Gopher Invitational every fall. From the tips, Windsong Farm plays 7,600 yards to a par of 71.

“It can test them. We are big fans of firm and fast, it doesn’t necessarily have to be green, it just has to be alive,” Hines says. “We have a great staff, I have a superintendent under me and two assistants who are all world-class. We have a great irrigation system. We push the envelope every now and then and have a little fun with it.”

A great way to work

The Pennsylvania native loves growing grass in Minnesota. Winters can be rough, but Hines enjoys making adjustments once the snow has melted. Insect pressure is minor — cutworms here and there, he says.

His biggest challenge outside labor is dollar spot, he says. But even that is under control.

“We use a bunch of products (to control dollar spot.) We started experimenting with Kabuto from PBI-Gordon and that is showing some good success for us,” he says. “The nice thing about dollar spot is it’s easily managed, and we know where to monitor to get ahead of it and stay ahead of it. This is my 17th year here; after a while you figure it out.”

Hines is impressed with how far fungicides have come since the days he was slinging Calochlor early in his career.

“To see where we are now with the advancement of chemistries is fantastic,” he says. “Much lower use rates, much more environmentally friendly, much more user friendly. The chemical companies are making mixing so much easier. Everybody is talking sustainability — lower use rates, more environmentally friendly, longer residual, longer intervals between spraying. All that is vitally important to the environment. Let’s face it, if you’re running a golf course and you’re not an environmentalist, you’re in the wrong business.”

Hines and his wife, Kristin, have two children, son Leighton, age 8 and daughter Olivia, age 6. Kristin is an accomplished golfer, having played collegiately for the University of Minnesota. She has a handful of state match play and mixed play championships to her name, and works as a Class A PGA professional teaching at Mendakota CC in Mendota Heights, Minn.

“Kristin is a great supporter of me, and this is obviously a difficult job at times,” Hines says. “With a compressed summer season here in Minnesota, if the sun is shining, I’m here. It’s nice to have someone in the golf industry who understands the business.”

Hines reflects on his years in the business and how his kids are now taking a shine to the game and being on the golf course. He calls his job and the state of Minnesota “fabulous.”

“The people here are fantastic. The staff is great. It’s beautiful here,” he says. “I love being on the golf course, I love bringing my family, I love bringing my two dogs to work with me every day and I love playing. What a great office. What a great way to come to work every day.”

Scottie’s fabulous golf journey

Scottie Hines, CGCS, has been in the golf business since he was 12 years old. His wife, Kristin, played golf for the University of Minnesota and today is a Class A PGA professional teaching at Mendakota CC (she also is an early childhood development specialist in the Twin Cities.) Even his sister married a golf professional.

“I was a golf rat,” Hines reflects. “I was always around the golf course, and when I was away, I couldn’t wait to get back. The golf roots run deep for me and my family.”

Here’s a look at Hines’ fabulous golf journey:

1973-1980 – Raked bunkers and replaced divots for his dad, uncles and grandpa

1980-1981 – Worked golf shop at Champion Lakes GC, Ligonier, Pa.

1982-1990 – Student assistant superintendent under Mark Kuhns, Laurel Valley GC, Ligonier, Pa.

1986-1993 – Earned B.S. in agronomy at Penn State University

1990-1995 – Assistant superintendent under Mark Kuhns, Oakmont (Pa.) CC

1995-1999 – Superintendent at Riverview GC, Elizabeth, Pa.

1999-2002 – Superintendent, Lower Course, Baltusrol GC, Springfield, N.J.

2002-present – Director of Agronomy, Windsong Farm GC, Independence, Minn.
Tournaments hosted: 1989 U.S. Senior Open, 1992 U.S. Women’s Open, 1994 U.S. Open, 2000 U.S. Amateur, 2009 Big 10 Men’s Championship

Photos: Scottie Hines

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