The Golfdom Files: A glimpse into the future

By |  April 25, 2023 0 Comments

It’s not too difficult to remember a time when cell phones were considered a groundbreaking new technology in golf course maintenance.

But, even then, rudimentary cell phones only allowed superintendents to make phone calls. To get the full suite of amenities we enjoy now on our phones, they needed five-plus devices — including a pager, a camera and more.

Take a look back to 2001 as Golfdom profiled three superintendents who embraced what was new and see how it helped them become better agronomists. Click here for the full article.

Photo: Golfdom Staff

Photo: Golfdom Staff

A glimpse into the future

By Frank H. Andorka Jr., Managing Editor

Chris Sykes runs down a mental checklist of all the technological devices he carries before checking on Cherokee CC in Knoxville, Tenn., where he is the superintendent.

Cell phone: check. Digital recorder: check. PalmPilot: check. Walkie-talkie: check. Pager: check. With the inventory complete, Sykes breathes a sigh of relief. Now he’s equipped to face whatever challenges the golf course throws at him.

“There’s so much to remember every day between taking care of the golf course and managing my staff that I can’t imagine how superintendents used to do it before technology advanced to where it is today,” Sykes says. “I have 500 computer files that I use to help me do my job. Without a way to access them on the course, I’m not sure what I’d do.”

Though technology is only another tool for the profession, it’s streamlining maintenance operations so superintendents can spend the bulk of their time practicing what they enjoy most: the art of golf course management.

Sykes embraces technology as an integral part of his career, and he doesn’t understand why more of his colleagues don’t take advantage of it.

“If you stick yourself in the past, you will be left behind as the industry moves forward,” Sykes says. “The superintendents who learn how to harness the power of technology will be those who progress professionally.”

Perhaps the most important technological innovation of the past 30 years was the introduction of personal computers to the industry.

According to the 2001 GCSAA Leadership survey, 41 percent of superintendents ranked computers as the most important piece of personal technology they use in their work. PCs revolutionized the way superintendents conduct business, says Bob Collins, CGCS and superintendent at Cripple Creek Golf & CC in Bethany Beach, Del.

“Nearly all superintendents have computers now, and with the advent of email and the web, computers are almost indispensable,” Collins says.

Superintendents can save time because they don’t have to recreate routine documents every year, he adds. Having computer files also makes record storage easier, Collins says.

David Stone, superintendent at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn., says he uses his computer primarily for word processing and budget spreadsheets. He also keeps files of the instructions he gives his crew so he can monitor their progress on jobs.

“It’s been an incredible help to me in streamlining the process,” he says.

The prevalence of computers inspired the development of computerized irrigation systems; global positioning system (GPS) maps of golf courses; and the use of websites and email to disseminate turf information to industry colleagues at lightning speed. These technologies allow superintendents to perform tasks, from water applications to staff budgeting, more efficiently and effectively than before.

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