Golf Course Management

MAR 2019

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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86 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 03.19 If you listen to the national news for more than 15 minutes, you can't avoid hearing legal analysis regarding the ever-changing events swirling around Washington, D.C. We can all pick our favorite source of information and listen as TV and/or radio lawyers give their analyses intending to persuade public opinion and recruit their audience to agree and spread their argument. It can be as intoxicating as it can be nauseating. e past two weeks, I have attended four turfgrass conferences in four states listening to as many presenters as possible. I witnessed some motivational talks from turfgrass pro - fessionals enlightening peers on how they in- teract with their crews and/or upper manage- ment. Several of those talks left me inspired, and I was also delighted to learn about innova - tive research that expands turfgrass manage- ment options. It was a great reprieve from the law — until I attended a presentation given by Michael J. Hurdzan, Ph.D., at the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation Conference. Dr. Hurdzan is a not a lawyer, and he doesn't even play one on TV or radio. Dr. Hurdzan is a golf course architect, and he has recently published the book, "Golf and Law: Golf Course Safety, Security and Risk Management." When he started his presenta - tion, I thought, "Please give me a break from legal matters." Although I have no formal training in the law, I am well-versed regarding many legal issues because of my upbringing. My father was a court clerk, and I spent time as a youth watching court cases, erecting politi - cal campaign signs, and dining with lawyers and judges. From those occasions, I learned enough to be cautious in regard to litigation. For example, in the 1990s, I was engaged in alternative-spike research with numerous start-up companies. As they vied to grab the largest market share of the 8 mm metal spike, many were overly optimistic that their cleat design would be the most green-friendly. All the companies accepted my protocols, certain their design would come out on top. I was more than certain that some would end up at the bottom. For that reason, instead of having Michigan State University employees rate the effects of traffic on MSU research plots, we chose to traf - fic putting surfaces at numerous golf courses, and had golfers and golf course crew rate the plots. e fact is, I never rated a plot. at sim - ple little distinction kept me, and MSU, out of the courtroom on more than one occasion when companies threatened litigation. I thought of those studies as I watched Dr. Hurdzan give a subtle yet strong presentation regarding golf and the law. During his talk, he solicited audience input regarding poten - tial legal pitfalls while displaying a calendar- worthy image of a deep-sided bunker with pic - turesque wooden steps on the screen. He had everyone's attention, and I suspect many in the audience were considering loose boards on wooden bridges, cracks or moss on concrete paths, or maybe even an uncovered wet well. As I write this column, I have not read Dr. Hurdzan's book in its entirety, but so far, it has been an easy read, interesting and thought-provoking. He has been an expert witness in 160 golf course-related trials, which suggests his courtroom experience goes far be - yond the potential liabilities most of us would consider. e back jacket of the book states he has been involved in trials ranging from mur - der to non-payment of vendors. Parents often share words of wisdom with their children based on experiences in their lives. My father had over 30 years of experi - ence in the courtroom, and he always used to say, "Try to live your life in such a manner that you never have to say, 'Let me chat with my attorney about that.'" Dr. Hurdzan's book just might offer enough insights to keep your golf course out of the legal system. Might be a good idea to share it with your green committee. Thomas A. Nikolai, the "Doctor of Green Speed," is the turfgrass academic specialist at Michigan State University of East Lansing, Mich., and a frequent GCSAA educator. On the right side of the law He has been an expert witness in 160 golf course- related trials, which suggests his courtroom experience goes far beyond the potential liabilities most of us would consider. Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D. nikolait@msu.edu (up to speed)

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