Golf Course Management

OCT 2013

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

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The newly century-old Dallas Athletic Club is using some decidedly old school course maintenance methods to achieve hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings, to the delight and amazement of their members and leadership. Since 1971, only two men — Clyde Nettles, 79, and his son, Kevin, 48 — have served as the head superintendent at DAC, site of the 1963 PGA Championship and the 1987 U.S. Mid-Amateur. While Clyde "offcially" retired in 1999, he still works with his son on a neardaily basis, as part of a crew who handle much of the course improvement work in-house instead of bidding it out to off-site course consultants. "It's really not very common; you don't see it very often," Kevin says. "This club has been great to allow us to do this. It's given us the tools to stay current with the profession. "Our relationship together and our relationship with the club is very unique. They have always supported us." When Clyde took over at DAC after a stint at nearby Lakewood Country Club, he managed a crew of just eight with a total budget of $120,000. Most course workers were getting just 90 cents an hour. Today, Kevin oversees a crew of 33 and manages a budget of $1.8 million as the club's GCSAA Class A superintendent. That team maintains 36 holes of golf — the Gold and Blue courses — along with the club's practice area, which is used by the college golf team from nearby Southern Methodist University and the club's membership. "This is really the best possible thing that could happen," Clyde says during a break from his regular tractor duty. "When I retired, they kept me on as a consultant, even though they didn't really need me." "I needed you," Kevin quickly interjects. "It's nice to have a little moral support. I know he's doing nothing other than trying to make me better." School of hard knocks Both Nettles men have spent plenty of time trying to improve the club grounds. While neither has a college degree nor any post-graduate training outside of GCSAA education, they have become experts in their feld with Kevin learning plenty from Clyde on soils and how to properly tend the particular turf at their club. "I went to Eastfeld (Community College in Mesquite, Texas) for a couple of classes in business development and personnel, but I learned agronomy from Clyde," says Kevin. "I learned the soil makeup of the course from working here. I learned the soil is a lot different in (nearby) McKinney than here in Mesquite." "I didn't go to college, but I had a lot of Ph.D.s call me and ask me to come over and see courses they were working with," adds Clyde. "I told them to go with the basics, don't make big changes. Too many things are over-promoted these days." Kevin says he certainly doesn't knock his colleagues who went to college or got specialized turf training, but he has been successful going his own, old-style path. "If you're the golf and greens chairman and you have this situation with these guys and this kind of experience, you feel like you've won the lottery," says Dallas businessman and DAC board vice president Don Gaffner. "These guys are straight up, with a strong faith and work ethic. You know you can trust them to do their best for the club. They've been taught their trade on the street, but they produce a quality product 12 months a year." Keeping it in-house Another old school tactic is the amount of sweat equity and in-house work they have put into continuing to fx and improve the club. While outsourced work and consultants are the norm at many private clubs, Kevin, Clyde and 54 GCM October 2013

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