Golf Course Management

MAR 2017

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

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66 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 03.17 "If you want to know how golf courses were managed 25 years ago, ask the USGA for a recommendation today" is a statement that has been attributed to golf course archi - tect Pete Dye. I don't know whether Mr. Dye ever uttered those words, but I do know that when an audience of superintendents hears it, most chuckle and many nod in affirmation. The Scots invented golf and Scotch whisky — which can't be a coincidence — and they have happily exported the game to the farthest reaches of the world. How - ever, Americans are the ones who sought to perfect playing conditions by initiating golf course research. This was a little bit of a sore spot for Sir Robert Greig, a Scottish agriculturalist and Secretary to the Department of Agriculture for Great Britain from 1928 to 1934. How far has research advanced the game? In 1929, Sir Robert wrote, "Times have changed, and a good player wants now to have a reasonable chance to hole a 10-foot putt, a feat which would have been pure fluke in earlier days." Please sit back and think about how much the game has changed in less than a century. He is talking about a 10-foot putt that is the same length today as it was in 1929. Sir Rob - ert goes on to acknowledge the work of the USGA, which he refers to as both the Golf - ers' Research Association of America and the American Golfers' Research Association. "A considerable body of knowledge has been built up by the Golfers' Research Asso - ciation of America. ... The first problem then is to get together the knowledge that does exist and make it available to all. The second problem is by scientific research to add to the existing knowledge and fill up the blanks in our ignorance. This is an operation that shall never cease, but there is no reason why it should never begin." As I stated, I don't know whether Pete Dye ever said that opening quotation, but if he did and if we laughed, it is because human nature asks us to want more. Being steady, depend - able and reliable are among the greatest of vir- tues, but they are not sexy, and during tough times, they can even be frustrating. Today, we live in a world of instant information via the internet and mediums like Twitter, but a great deal of that information is not scientifically tested or valid. The term "alternative facts" is currently in vogue, but there can only be one set of facts, so alternative facts are lies. As I have traveled the world, it has be - come apparent to me that the USGA is a true guardian of the game. Twenty-five years ago, the USGA was funding, among other things, lightweight rolling, TDR (time-domain re - flectometry) and alternative depth root-zone research. Two of those have become common practices today, increasing customer satis - faction and decreasing disease and water in- puts. The USGA has also supported numer- ous studies proving that many products and methods do not work as promised. Unlike short-term companies, the USGA is not con - cerned with trying to please everyone just to stay on top. The USGA is uncompromising and does not make uneducated, unsubstanti - ated or uncalculated recommendations, and this has led to the long-term success and ad - vancement of the game. I believe Sir Robert's conclusion to his 1929 article rings as true now as it did then: "Judging from the success of the American Golfers' Research Association, the small sub - scriptions required of each club will be many times repaid by the additional pleasure which the game will give when played under better conditions. But golfers must be patient. They must not expect quick returns. Research is slow, but it is very sure, and it pays not in fives and tens but ultimately in hundreds and thousands per cent." Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D., the "Doctor of Green Speed," is the turfgrass academic specialist at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., and a frequent GCSAA educator. Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D. nikolait@msu.edu Slow and steady Being steady, dependable and reliable are among the greatest of virtues, but they are not sexy, and during tough times, they can even be frustrating. (up to speed)

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