The soiled thoughts of an aspiring superintendent

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h.r. February 17, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Graham J. Wieja @ 12:37 pm

Human Resources Independent Study February 1, 2011

Filed under: Independent Study: Personalities in the workplace — Graham J. Wieja @ 7:00 pm

This semester for my special studies project I have shifted my focus from the golf course and its’ sustainability, to those dedicated individuals who collectively run the course as one unit. My focus this semester will be in Human Resources. Along with the help of long time superintendent Dean Baker, currently at the Club at North Halton, in Georgetown Ontario. I intend to explore and discuss distinct personalities in the workplace and how you can work with and for them.

Studies have shown there are four key personality types: Expressive, Amiable, Analytical and Driving. Each of these four personalities have both their strength’s and weaknesses obviously. But did you know there are distinct tactics and ways to not only co-exist with them in the workplace, but excel alongside them? Now you do! Whether you are in a management position, or working for someone who is, each and every individual can take steps to compliment personality types and excel in the workplace.

The goal is simple. Put the best product out to your customers or membership day in and day out. Easier said than done. Personalities are part of the fun of working on a crew. They can also be the reason why going to work every day is a chore. Stay tuned to the soiled thoughts throughout the semester as I will explore and share my findings about personalities in the workplace and how to co-exist when all hope seems lost!


Sustainable Management Tips for Golf Course Maintenance December 11, 2010

Filed under: Independent Study — Graham J. Wieja @ 12:21 am

Golf Course Fertility Effects and Environmental Sustainability

December 10th, 2010


This independent study began as a goal to learn certain things such as:

· the mobility of certain nutrients in the soil (Nitrogen and Phosphorous)

· effective and efficient management plans regarding providing proper fertility rates for C3 turfgrasses

· the effects the common forms of nitrogen and phosphorous used have on the environment

· the effects the pesticide products we commonly apply have on us and the environment

My goal was to develop a manual for sustainable golf course management, targeted towards lower budget courses, promoting ideas that are both environmentally and budget pleasing. This manual is to include cultural practice guidelines (irrigation, aeration, mowing) as well as integrated pest management strategies.

Throughout my research I have developed an underlying goal which is defining and promoting “sustainable golf”. In other words I am of the opinion that golf course superintendents will need to represent the image of steward of the land. They must accept responsibility for the property they manage. This includes not only the turfgrass, but the eco-system residing within and outside the acreage.

Advancing compatibility with the golf course and the environment is the true test. Superintendent’s responsibilities go well beyond that of the playing surface. I believe sustainability in terms of golf course management is committing to continual improvement of the property. This encompasses the planet, the people, and the profitability. A superintendent must assess the long term importance of all these in order to manage on a day – day basis.

Educating the public about the benefits and positive attributes a golf course can have on not only the economy but the environment will be imperative in this process. There is a negative perception of what golf course management involves. This has lead to government legislation regulating superintendent’s management practices. Superintendents must promote the idea that courses are valuable green spaces that provide entertainment as well as the opportunity to protect and enhance our resources for the future.

What is Sustainable Golf?

Environmental protection and sustainability is now more than ever an important issue in the golf course management industry. In Ontario provincial wide legislation has been laid out and strict enforcement is beginning to come into effect when it comes to pest management. Efforts are being made around the world by superintendents to promote a more ecologically friendly image. This is to promote their property and their passion as well. Focus is drawn on these factors:

· Water

· Energy & Resources

· Environmental Quality

· Landscape & Ecosystems

· People & Communities

Golf courses must be efficient and responsible consumers and conservers of water. This can involve practices such as evapotranspiration and deep and infrequent watering techniques. It is important to minimize water consumption and protect water quality.

Golf management practices will require economical management techniques and a transition to cleaner and cheaper energy to remain environmentally sustainable. Superintendents must enhance landscapes and ecosystems by sustaining and improving what people love about the game, the nature aspect.

Sustainable golf is only possible with the support of the public. Superintendents and golf professionals alike need to remove the negative perception the general public has about golf course management. This can be achieved through hosting open tours and educating them about the benefits and positive attributes a golf course has. This is a game of respect and integrity and superintendents must represent the image of steward of the land to better promote their profession. Sustainability is all-encompassing but it comes down to preservation and promotion of the land.

Nitrogen and Nitrogen Loss

· Nitrogen is the most deficient macro nutrient required for healthy turfgrass.

· It is responsible for color; growth, density, competition with weeds and overall stress tolerance to factors such as traffic and heat.

Nitrogen can be lost in the soil through these processes:

· Leaching

· Denitrification

· Volatilization

· Crop removal

· Soil erosion and runoff

The major concerns regarding golf course management are leaching and runoff.

· Nitrogen loss from the soil system is greatly affected by soil type and climate. Sandy California composition greens soils are most susceptible to leaching. Leaching is the downward movement of product to ground water

· Leaching is more likely to occur on older, established putting greens as opposed to new ones

· Research at Auburn University has indicated that for new greens, USGA compositions leach more than sand based

· Nitrogen added to the soil has multiple ways of transforming into plant availability

· Inaccurate and negligent applications of synthetic fertilizers, which golf courses often use, can affect the global nitrogen cycle

· Runoff is especially dangerous when Nitrogen enters lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans

· Nitrogen is a catalyst for eutrophication in salt water or in estuaries (where fresh water converges with salt water)

· Environmental fate of N suggests it is better to apply lower rates more frequently to reduce the risk of loss of N to the environment (spoon feeding)

· Water-soluble fertilizers leach more than slow-release because they dissolve quickly

· Slow release nitrogen applications are not ideal for greens. Generally members and customers do not want the “lull” in colour that occurs

The Human Aspect

Over application of Nitrogen can be detrimental to human health. Nitrogen in the form of nitrates, nitrites, or ammonium are especially susceptible because of their capabilities to leaching. Drinking water that is rich in nitrate can cause health issues. The most severe issue is Methemoglobinemia or blue baby syndrome. Methemoglobinemia occurs when nitrates in drinking water are ingested and converted into nitrites. These nitrites promote methemoglobin which is very adverse to oxygen. The infant’s tissues and organs are deprived of oxygen and they develop a bluish coloring. Long term effects include digestive and respiratory problems and can be fatal. Blue baby syndrome is most common in agricultural settings.


· Phosphorous is important for plants because it stimulates early plant growth(germination of new seedlings, establishing new sod)

· Phosphorous promotes plant growth and is generally widely available in the soil

· It is not mobile in the soil

· Fine particles found on or around putting greens are most susceptible to be lost carrying phosphorous from soils and transported via surface runoff

· Loss is greatest (run-offs) in summer during thunderstorms

· Seeding can be dangerous because there is no plant cover combined with loose soils and immobile phosphorous available

· Phosphorous can pose a threat to water quality as it enters through storm drains and sub-surface runoff

· Eutrophication occurs and blooms or flourishes of algae grow rapidly when freshwater lakes and rivers are polluted with phosphorous

· High levels of algae decays and a lack of oxygen results. A reduction in water quality occurs.

Eutrophication promotes excessive plant growth in plants such as algae and plankton. It favours simple life forms as opposed to complex organisms and fish pools. Lack of available oxygen (anoxia) is the cause. In freshwater situations excessive phosphorous that enters the water causes eutrophication. Saltwater eutrophication occurs due to excessive nitrogen. This problem is amplified by residing very close to sea level or near an estuary.

Sustainable Management Strategies

My management plan is broken down into the topics: cultural practices, irrigation, fertility, Integrated Pest Management, and communication/education. It is not a step by step guide but an educational tool. Applying the management principles outlined below should promote a very sustainable golf course through optimizing equipment and management principles and minimizing environmental impact. Promotion of wildlife and re-establishing native species is also a fundamental principle.

Cultural practices touch on thatch control methods and topdressing. Thatch is one of the most difficult management problems superintendents will face. It is such an issue because it increases the instances of issues like: suppression of insects/weeds/diseases, scalping, localized dry spot, soil percolation rates, and pesticide effectiveness. Thatch is a layer between the canopy and the roots. It is the living and dead: stems, crowns, stolons or rhizomes, and leaves of turf.

The proper management of thatch is essential to your turfgrass health as well as your budget. A lot of surface runoff and the contamination that comes with it is directly attributable to thatch issues. The cost of golf course management is going up and superintendents are going to be relied on to cut back on chemical and fertility applications. It is unlikely that members/customers will accept a decrease in playability conditions no matter what the budget is and therefore cultural practices are an ever increasing issue.

Cultural Practices

· Controlling Thatch
• Core cultivation (pull cores)
• Solid tine aeration to relieve compaction
• Verti-cut to reduce thatch in two forms Deep and Shallow
• Deep (dethatching)
• Shallow (grooming)
• Topdressing to stimulate microbial activity in light and frequent intervals
• Proper fertilization rates according to plant need (soil test analysis)
• Controlling traffic to reduce compaction and stress
• Proper irrigation according to plant need (through the use of evapotranspiration / Weather stations

· Core Cultivation should be done in the Spring and in the Fall because it allows for recovery time not during your peak season
• Physical removal of thatch affects approximately 3-5% of the turf depending on tine size and spacing. Topdress afterwards to fill holes
• This process introduces oxygen into soil as well as stimulating microbes
• Proper water management (increased infiltration rate)
• Relieves compaction , provides a healthy condition allowing turfgrass to compete against the suppression of insects and weeds and certain diseases.

· Solid Tine – Venting
• Introduces oxygen
• Increased microbes
• Shoves organic matter into soil (breaks it up)
• Relieves surface compaction

· Verticutting (vertical blades which slice through turf)

Shallow grooming- tickles the turf
Deep dethatching- rough, physical removal. The greens will look beat up for a few days.

• Breaks up stolons
• Improves cut
• Physical removal
• Introduces topdressing


· Topdressing is done to firm and smooth the surface

· Light and frequent applications should be applied to match the current soil profile

· Matting the sand in promotes recovery and promotes microbial activity

· Topdressing protects the crown

· Creates pore spaces (water holding capacity)


· Calibrate the nozzles on your heads to achieve consistency. Replace if necessary.

· Have irrigation performance test completed. Make necessary changes

· Computerized systems are so much more efficient

· Throughout a droughty period consider syringing (a light mist) to cool the plant down

· Select drought resistant turfgrass cultivars to overseed with

· Deep and infrequent irrigation will promote deep roots and a healthier turf

· Creating wetlands, watersheds, and catch basins to retain water


· Provide enough mineral nutrients for optimal growth

· Optimal growth is when the plant has photosynthetic capabilities to re-cooperate before being mowed again

· Optimal Growth is finding balance between recovery and excessive growth

· Spoon feeding is a good way to achieve this optimal growth

· Find a combination of granular and foliar applications through growing period

· Feed the roots and the shoots

· This process mimics slow release without the “lull” in colour

· Spoon feeding gives you more control

· Spoon feeding minimizes burn potential

· You should see less loss to environment through this process because there is more plant uptake


· Increased budgets for disease control

· Curatively spray upon first sight through the use of scouting and monitoring

· OMAFRA weekly podcasts on disease and insect suppression during growing season

· Big issue is leaf wetness

· Whip tees, fairways and greens minimizing canopy wetness in morning

· Instituting storm water management strategies to reduce or eliminate soil erosion, water pollution, and siltation

· Instituting buffer zones near water systems to avoid pollution and runoff

· Know your water entrants points, know your water exit points

· Be aware of the water quality coming in and the water quality coming out

· Continually checking reels mowers for proper contact and height ensuring good plant health

· Small discrepancies in height settings can stress and scalp the turf weakening the plant and promoting the onset of disease or infestation

· Mow once and then roll instead of double cutting to reduce plant stress

· Continually sharpen bedknives, blades, reels of all mowers even rotary mowers reducing damage and promoting a clean sharp cut as opposed to tearing

· Roll occasionally instead of mowing reducing stress

Education and Communication

· Change the perception that golf must be played on green grass, accept dormant grass

· Embrace golf’s roots of links style golf (un-kept areas, fescues) as opposed to the “Augusta state of mind” where everything is lush and mowed

· Educate about the benefits (positive attributes), change the attitudes of general public

· Push local, provincial, federal legislation for incentives to put more efficient ferti-gation systems in

· Walk path around golf course for public with educational signage about environmental stewardship

· Networking with industry professionals and turf scientists on latest developments

· Promote the idea a course shouldn’t play the same way every day. However, a hole should play the same as the next seventeen on that specific day.

Sustainability Ideas

· Eliminate alternate tee boxes ( reduction in resource consumption if possible)

· Out of play areas converted into natural habitat with native species established

· Increase wildlife by increasing habitat

· Individual tests on individual holes. Soil test several greens. No two holes are the same are they?

· Save clippings for both fertilization and soil generation

· Clippings have some nutritional content, collecting all of them in a manure spreader and then dispersing them throughout the rough is a cheap and effective way to fertilize an area that otherwise wouldn’t see any nutrients.

· Clippings can also be mixed with sand and after being turned over once per day with a loader will yield an excellent pile of topsoil


Through my studies of the fate of our fertilizer and pesticides and sustainable management ideas I have learned many things. Firstly the dangers involved with applying common pesticides used in our industry can be found on the product labels and I did not go any further than that. I have learned the ways in which our synthetic fertilizers end up in the environment. There are several processes that cause this pollution on golf courses. I feel a lot of them are by misapplying fertility products and poor turfgrass management.

Thatch is almost impossible to remove once it has set in but discouraging the growth of more or excessive thatch is a very effective principle. This will improve water percolation and infiltration to the soil. This will improve pesticide and fertilizer efficacy and limit waste. There are several cultural management practices superintendents can use to reduce the amount of thatch a stand of turf has. These practices can be used in conjunction with an integrated pest management plan and sound irrigation techniques promoting the optimal growth of turf.

Golf course management is steering sharply towards environmental and economical sustainability. Future golf management practices will require economical management techniques, while being environmentally sustainable. Water conservation/ quality and pesticide management are at the forefront of the scrutiny golf courses receive. Superintendents must educate the public about what exactly is going on within this property. This involves dismissing the common misconceptions about our chemical use, but also informing them of environmental protection and promotion. Sustainability means committing to continual improvement


Turfgrass information file ( ) via University of Guelph Library Sign in:

I. , Nutrient and pesticide runoff from golf course fairways caused by simulated and natural rainfall, Bell, Gregory E. 2007. 2007 Turfgrass and Environmental Research Summary. p. 45. , TGIF # 132589

II. , Surface and subsurface nutrient transport from a golf course watershed, King, K. W.; Balogh, J. C. 2006. USGA Turfgrass and Environmental Research Online. March. 5(6): p. [1-14]. , TGIF # 110193

III. , Phosphorus, Urban Runoff & Aquatic Weeds, Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment. 200X. Washington, DC: Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment. 22 pp., TGIF # 106456

IV. , Long-term monitoring of nutrient loss in golf course runoff, Starrett, S.; Su, Y.; Heier, T.; Klein, J.; Holste, J.; Paloma, M. 2009. Australian Turfgrass Management Journal. March/April. 11(2): p. 52-55., TGIF # 146207

V. , Nitrate leaching in bentgrass putting greens , Guertal, E. A. 2008. USGA Turfgrass and Environmental Research Online. March 15. 7(6): p. [1-6]., TGIF # 134410

VI. , Limit Leaching, Kerkhoff, Karen L. 2006. Grounds Maintenance. February. 41(2): p. 4., TGIF # 135441

VII. , [The economy, course construction, maintenance, and sustainability], Isaac, Steve. 2009. International Turfgrass Bulletin. April. 244: p. 16. TGIF # 148585

World Wide Web:

I.–What-we-ve-got-and-what-we-need-/ , The USGA’s Environmental Strategies: What we’ve got and what we need

II. , Proper use of fertilizers minimizes environmental effects, Thomas L. Watschke

III. , Bahía Beach Resort & Golf Club Honored With Environmental Heritage Award, Jun 16, 2009 – RALEIGH, N.C. – Miles M. (Bud) Smart, Ph.D.,





Independent Study: Sustainable Golf Course Management November 30, 2010

Filed under: Independent Study — Graham J. Wieja @ 5:55 pm

What is it? How do we achieve it?

•Maximize plant health culturally
•Correct major soil drainage or chemical problems
•Become a keen observer and meticulous record keeper
•Fine tune fungicide programs by choosing the best nozzles repeated calibrations
•Utilize fertilizers that contain phosphite (H2PO3-) for preventative anthracnose foliar blight and pythium blight management

Best Disease Management Programs
The best disease management programs utilize an integrated approach. This includes:
• Improving plant health (Host)
• Utilize an appropriate mowing strategy (Host)
• Correct pathogen identification (Pathogen)
• Establish disease thresholds (Pathogen)
• Evaluate the growing environment for shade and air circulation (Environment)
• Maintain environmental safety (Environment)

Improve plant health by correcting major soil drainage or chemical problems, managing thatch, limiting shade, maintaining good airflow, and providing optimum turfgrass fertility. This is the cornerstone of turfgrass management. Proper equipment calibration and selection of the best nozzles and water volume carrier will maximize fungicide efficacy. Establishing and maintaining disease thresholds starts with scouting and mapping and requires meticulous record keeping. Historical data tell us when conditions are conducive to disease development. Implement a disease control program based on this information. Maintain environmental safety by developing pesticide and fertility programs that are safe for ground and surface water, animals, and humans.

Use of Phosphonates
Phosphites work both directly and indirectly to enhance disease suppression and should be used exclusively as one component to a preventative disease management program. (See reverse for research data.)


Proper Turfgrass Fertility Management November 16, 2010

Filed under: Independent Study — Graham J. Wieja @ 10:40 pm

Fertility Reccomendations

For a high quality, stress tolerant turf the major factors are:
1) Good soil conditions
(texture, structure, drainage);
2) Using grasses well adapted to the site and use conditions;
3) Good management practices (mowing, fertilization, irrigation, pest management, thatch
control, treatment for compaction);
4) Reasonable use of the turf. Although fertilization is just one of these factors, proper fertilization is essential for maintenance of cool season grasses.

To develop a sound fertilization program one must first understand the growth cycle of cool season grasses and how fertilization, particularly with nitrogen, affects the plant physiologically. Understanding how the plant generates, stores, and utilizes carbohydrates helps understand why it responds to different conditions. While all nutrients are important for good turf, management of nitrogen (N) and potassium (K) have the greatest influence on plant health. A healthy turf is much easier to manage.

Nitrogen management has many important impacts on turf. Among these are:
1) color;
2) top growth;
3) density – competition with weedy species and recuperative potential after turf
has thinned;
4) wear tolerance;
5) level of carbohydrate reserves;
6) root growth, rhizome and/or
stolon growth;
7) susceptibility to diseases,
9) susceptibility to stress conditions(extremes of temperature, moisture, traffic, shade).

I’ve learned much about how potassium plays significant roles in plant health, including influence on:
1) top growth;
2) root growth;
3) carbohydrate synthesis in the plant;
4) cell size and cell wall thickness;
5) how water is stored in the plant;
6) turgor pressure;
7) control of stomatal openings and wilting tendency. The bottom line is that adequate K is
necessary for a healthy, stress tolerant turf.

Turfgrass growth stages can be grouped into several categories during the typical year:early spring, late spring, summer, fall, and late fall. During early spring (April through early May, depending on the year) the typical growth curve begins with the grass breaking dormancy as air temperatures warm. This early growth utilizes carbohydrates stored the previous fall. For this reason, fertilization in the fall is a very important part of a good fertility program. Continued increases in air temperatures result in increasing soil temperatures.

Poa annua (annual bluegrass) comes out of dormancy at a lower temperature than agrostis stoloniferous (creeping bentgrass) which makes it more competitive in the early spring. With spring rains turfgrass growth increases rapidly. Heavy rates of N in the early spring contribute to rapid growth resulting in increased mowing. The growth enhances turf density and competition with weeds.


A costly money saver November 24, 2009

Filed under: DTM 1500 (Turf Communications) Semester One — Graham J. Wieja @ 8:14 am

Sports fields have been around for centuries. Since the dawn of modern civilization, competition has existed and has always required adequate playing surfaces. Fast forward to modern times where numerous professional sports require professionally maintained playing surfaces. Take for instance baseball, rugby, golf, lacrosse, cricket, lawn bowling, and my personal favourite, football. I was always told that football is not a contact sport, it is a collision sport. The playing field certainly exemplifies that after each and every NFL football game. Thus, artificial turf was introduced to team owners as a revolutionary new way to save on stadium maintenance costs. The synthetic turf, commonly referred to as astroturf, was first introduced on a national stage when it was installed in the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. It requires far less maintenance and has only a few slight drawbacks. It bakes anyone who dare stand on it in the heat, and is directly linked to several career ending injuries. Other than that, it seems fine to me.

The NFL is undergoing severe scrutiny due to released reports about retired players showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Repetitive blows to the head as one would see on any play from the line of scrimmage in the NFL is similar to what a veteran boxer would experience during their career. Amongst the ideas to promote a safer game is the examination of the helmet. However, there is no mention of the synthetic fields which are described as carpet on concrete. Not only does it lead to direct injuries such as turf toe, skin abrasions are extremely common.

I understand that the NFL is a business. Decisions are made to accentuate two things, income and championships. NFL team owner’s are opting for artificial turf fields because of reduced maintenance costs. The field can be used more often and generate more revenue. But at what cost? The players suffer prolonged injuries. Injuries that commonly nag them for the rest of their lives. It is a proven fact that professional football teams have more major knee injuries on artificial turf when compared to natural grass. It’s time the NFL takes a stand on this issue and eliminates synthetic fields for the benefit of its’ players.

synthetic field composition

*** Some quick facts about synthetic turf ***


Healthy Turfgrass November 23, 2009

Filed under: DTM 1500 (Turf Communications) Semester One — Graham J. Wieja @ 9:28 am

There are six components required for healthy turfgrass. Air, water, light, soil, temperature, and traffic all have an affect on the health of your turf. Proper management is required in order to cope with the stresses your grass will have to the components.

Adequate air flow and irrigation are obvious essentials to healthy turf. Light and temperature are also extremely important. Soil and traffic are commonly overlooked when it comes to healthy playing surfaces. Good root zones (soil) allow for grass roots to penetrate deeply and evenly. This provides a more drought tolerant plant. It can access water more readily and have better access available nutrients. Thick, prospering turf will crowd out weeds and have better resistance to pests.

Concentrated foot and cart traffic is detrimental to turf. Good playing surfaces are comprised of proper site selection as well as proper construction and management. Although cultural practices are avaialbe to alleviate the compaction of soil due to traffic, proper routing of traffic is your best choice.

All of the components to healthy turfgrass are important. I feel that soil quality and its’ compaction that is traffic related is commonly overlooked. Of course when evaluating the surroundings of a playing surface you would consider what you can see: sunlight, amount of irrigation, air movement, and temperature. Commonly overlooked is what is going on underneath what we can see. Root zone quality is essential to the plant’s growth and nutrient supply. A lot of the products superintendents apply to their turf is easily leachable. This increases the importance of the turf’s root zones because of the amount of money being expended. When you increase the compaction you decrease the quality of your product. It begins to be detrimental to your property, and your career alike.

Foot Traffic Routing