Friday, July 29, 2016

Renovations at Moraine Country Club

Jason Mahl, the Class A superintendent at Moraine Country Club in Dayton, Ohio, has a huge item checked off his to-do list: open the golf course. A project which began with platform tennis construction, practice facility renovations and an extensive tree removal program, also featured a complete renovation of the golf course, including rebuilding all playing surfaces and installing new irrigation and drainage systems. What began over two years ago is now complete.

Jason Mahl (right) was on the first tee greeting those were in attendance for the MCC Media Day

The project originally broke ground in early 2014 when crews began demoing what are now the former tennis courts. Soon after the demo, construction began on the recently completed tennis courts, which includes brand new platform courts, surrounds, and a warming hut. Another large project which was coinciding with the platform tennis construction was the complete renovation of the practice facilities. The original range and tee were treated with glyphosate and the existing range irrigation was cut and capped. A new range tee was installed, including both grass and mat surfaces. The hitting area includes five new target greens, complete with bunkers and a large target fairway. In addition to the range, a short game facility was also added. The new short game facility features a USGA spec'd putting green, practice bunkers and approach area. New irrigation and drainage was installed over the complete range and short game practice facility.

Communicating the proper range tee divot patterns to the MCC members has seen early success.

The project on the golf course itself did not begin until June 2015, which happened to be one of the wettest June months in Ohio history with over eight inches of rainfall in a two-week span. The construction project on the course was a massive undertaking. Every playing surface was to be rebuilt, and a complete redesign of greens, tees, fairways, bunkers, roughs and native areas was to take place. New irrigation and drainage were also being installed at this time. With the record-setting rainfall in June, the project faced considerable delays early, but, Jason and his staff worked additional hours to ensure the project remained on schedule. A huge kudos goes out to Jason and the Moraine turf staff for making personal sacrifices to ensure the project was a huge success.

The ninth hole post renovation. The course looked fantastic.

Moraine Country Club officially opened back up to the members on June 11, 2016, more than two years after the project initially broke ground. I was fortunate enough to view much of the course in late June, and it's easy to see why Jason and his staff are getting such high praise from the Moraine membership. The course looked beautiful and playing conditions were second to none. Not only did Jason do a great job spearheading the two-year project, he kept the membership well informed throughout the entire process, proving the value of communication. Superintendents have come a long way from lurking in the shadows and seen as individuals who just 'mow the grass', and Jason is a prime example of that. His leadership shown on the project includes a website he created to keep the Moraine membership informed and displays just how far our members have come. This is a great example which showcases managing the largest asset of any club is both an art and science which requires a trained, skilled and dedicated individual.

A group finishing up their round on the 18th green (ninth green in foreground).

Friday, July 15, 2016

Ohio chapters come together for great cause

For the first time, the five Ohio GCSAA-affiliated chapters came together to host a joint chapter event, and the cause couldn't have been better: raising funds for the Wee One Foundation. The fundraiser began about a month before the event date, featuring a challenge between the five chapters. The challenge brought some good ole competition between the chapters, determining which chapter could garner the most participation in the event and raise the most funds.

The Wee One Foundation has directly supported several Ohio turfgrass industry members including Dean Kerns and Ryan Kopke who were both in attendance supporting the day's cause. Both of these gentlemen shared some of their experiences of how the Wee One offered assistance and donations. These shared experiences really hit home with those in attendance. It let them know that their donations were appreciated and that they are directly making a difference in our tight-knit turf community. All the proceeds from the day went to Dean Kerns to continue his battle with ALS.

Ohio Wee One attendees supporting Dean Kerns and his battle with ALS.

The event featured about 80 participants from around the state and region, including Adam Ikamas, CGCS of the Michigan Golf Course Superintendents Association and Luke Cella, CGCS of the Midwest Association of Golf Course Superintendents. Following golf and dinner, Luke Cella gave a brief presentation on the background of the Wee One and presented a check to Dean Kerns which put the total dollar amount donated by the Wee One Foundation over $1,000,000 to date. A silent auction and fundraising ball-drop were also featured on the day to help raise additional funds for the cause. This was a great event for the state of Ohio and the turf community as it was the first Wee One event to take place in Ohio. A huge thank you goes out to all those who worked so hard to make this event possible, including Brian Laurent of Propel Solutions and his team and Wedgewood Country Club and Joe Noppenberger for hosting. Thank you to the Wee One Foundation, which matched all funds up to $10,000 raised by this great event. This was an exceptional inaugural event, and I look forward to seeing it grow throughout the years!

COGCSA past President Carl Wittenauer, CGCS with Dean Kerns getting ready to select the 'ball-drop' winner.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Michigan Golf Day at the capitol building

Over the past decade, the Michigan Golf Alliance — made up of the Michigan Golf Course Superintendents Association (MiGCSA), Michigan Golf Course Owners Association, Golf Association of Michigan, Michigan Section PGA, Greater Michigan Club Managers Associations and Michigan Turfgrass Foundation — has organized the annual Michigan Golf Day at the Capitol, which takes place on the Capitol lawn in Lansing, Mich.

This year's event began with Representative Jason Sheppard from Monroe County providing opening remarks. Rep. Sheppard discussed the economic impact golf plays in Michigan, as well as the continued efforts to introduce new players to the game. Hailing from a golfing family, he is well versed in some of the issues facing the industry. Last year, Governor Rick Snyder signed a proclamation declaring June as 'Michigan Golf Month.' This year, Rep. Sheppard presented the proclamation to the presidents of the associations who make up the Michigan Golf Alliance. Tim Skubick, host of the PBS television show 'Off the Record' and long-time political columnists in the state of Michigan, followed Rep. Sheppard. Mr. Skubick offered his insight on the upcoming national election in November and spoke on various legislation currently being discussed in Michigan, outlining how it may impact our industry.

I accompanied MiGCSA Executive Director Adam Ikamas, CGCS, and Saginaw Country Club superintendent Rob Steger, CGCS, during our visits to the offices of various state senators and representatives. During our visits, we relayed information regarding the $4.2 billion economic impact golf has in Michigan, the 58,000 jobs the game supports, the environmental benefits and the $118 million charitable impact the game provides. With the work and preparation of the Michigan Golf Alliance, every state legislator's office was visited throughout the day to discuss golf's important role in Michigan.

'Lunch on the Turn,' which takes place on the Capitol building lawn, was once again catered by Eagle Eye Golf Course. This lunch provides a great opportunity to meet with various legislators on a personal level to discuss issues which take place both on and off the course. Some of the state and national issues which came up most often were the Department of Labor's new overtime wage regulations, the future use of water and the role the golf course superintendent plays at the facility. Legislators could also have their swing examined by Michigan Section PGA Professionals, as well as receive putting tips at displays set up on the lawn. Both the House and Senate were in session during the day, which worked out well, as nearly every state legislator came out to the Capitol lawn to join us for a golf inspired lunch.

Many of the legislators we spoke to during the event were looking forward to Michigan Golf Day, which is a testament to the preparation and work the Michigan Golf Alliance does to promote, not only the day but the entire industry. A massive 'thank you' goes out to all Michigan Golf Alliance members who made the trip to Lansing, The MiGCSA once again had a solid contingent, with members taking time away from the course, in order to support this important day for the golf industry, and create key relationships with state legislators.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Pure Michigan

Last year, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder officially decreed June as Michigan Golf Month, so I thought a recap of my recent travels to the state would be timely. The Senior PGA Championship wrapped up last week at the Golf Club at Harbor Shores, located on the eastern edge of Lake Michigan in Benton Harbor, Mich. Harbor Shores previously hosted the event in 2012 and 2014, and is scheduled on the same two-year rotation through 2024. Host superintendent Brad Fry and assistant superintendent Austin Grall had the course in immaculate condition, even with mother nature being somewhat uncooperative. I was fortunate enough to volunteer on the grounds crew for a couple days during the event, which featured volunteers from as far as Texas and Florida, as well as industry peers around the Great Lakes area.

Brad and his staff did a tremendous job organizing the volunteers each morning and evening creating a conducive team atmosphere. The local industry partners went above and beyond providing hospitality, meals and uniforms, showcasing just how everyone pools together to help our neighbors when they need a hand. The golf course tested some of the best players in the world, providing some of the most scenic settings while doing so.

The Golf Club at Harbor Shores is a unique golf course featuring spectacular views of Lake Michigan and winds along the Paw Paw River in Southwestern Michigan. If you are in the area and haven't been to the property, make a point to do so, it is worth the trip. Also, with the Senior PGA Championship coming back to the course every two years, mark your calendar now to volunteer in 2018, I'm sure you'll make some lasting friendships and won't be disappointed by doing so. A huge thank you goes out to Brad, Austin and the entire Harbor Shores staff and volunteers. Events like these make the industry so rewarding.

Earlier in the month, I visited the southeastern part of the state, where I was able to stop by the course where held my first position on a grounds crew, Boulder Pointe Golf Club in Oxford, Mich. I started there over 16 years ago, under the supervision of Scot Gardiner, CGCS, who continues to oversee the 27-hole facility.

It was my first trip to the course in almost a decade, and it was great to see the fantastic work Scot has done over that time. The course weaves through an extensive and continuous housing development. It was carved out of an unused gravel pit which creates unique challenges to Scot and his crew. The course was in excellent condition, even though our travels were limited due to the weather continuing the early May trend of being cool and wet. We were, however, able to tour a good portion of the course and see the many improvements Scot has made over the years.

Visiting Scot and Boulder Pointe was a great experience. It gave me a great perspective on how relationships evolve and grow over the years, as well as provided me a unique and personal appreciation of the individuals who work to make this industry so great. The visit was very personal to me, which is something I will continue to reflect on, and take with me to each event and visit I attend in the future.

Also, coming up next week on June 9 is Michigan Golf Day at the Capitol. The day is put on by the Michigan Golf Alliance and is an extremely important event on the MiGCSA calendar. Please plan on attending the day's events in Lansing and supporting all of those who make up the Michigan golf industry. More information and sign up can be found here.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Neonic bans in Illinois introduced in House and Senate

Illinois House Bill 5900 and Illinois Senate Bill 2965, better known as the Saving Illinois Pollinators Act, were introduced earlier this year in the 99th Illinois General Assembly. Both bills are in their early stages but have already added a significant amount of representative co-sponsors in both the Illinois House and Senate.

The bills are identical in their description and partially read as follows: Provides that beginning 9 months after the effective date of the Act, it shall be unlawful to apply any neonicotinoid insecticides on any public lands owned or maintained by Illinois. Provides that beginning 9 months after the effective date of the Act, it shall be unlawful to apply neonicotinoid insecticides in any other outdoor residential settings, including landscaping, ornamental, or other outdoor applications in Illinois. 

The bills also leave room to adopt any rules to further define or implement provisions within the act.

As of the publication of this post, the bills have been referred to the Rules Committee in the Illinois House of Representatives, and to the Assignments Committee in the Illinois Senate. Both of these committees are made up of three members of the majority party (Democrat), and two members of the minority party (Republican). These five individuals from each committee decide if the bill will be assigned to one of the standing committees in each the House and Senate, and if so, which committee. If House Bill 5900 and Senate Bill 2965 are assigned to standing committees, they would most likely be assigned to the Environment Committee in both areas of the Illinois General Assembly. 

During these Environment Committee hearings, the bill’s sponsors (Rep. Will Guzzardi in the House and Sen. Don Harmon in the Senate) explain the bills to the Environment Committee members. Individuals, including special interest groups, government agencies or private citizens can voice their opposition or support of a bill at this time. As of right now the Rules and Assignment Committee hearings for each bill have not been scheduled.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Michigan courses discuss Fair Labor Standards Act

The Michigan Golf Course Owners Association recently held a seminar to discuss the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA was enacted in 1938, but, with proposed changes scheduled to take place later this year, the act has come under question recently. Much of the day's discussion impacted owners, however, many of the issues pertain to superintendents and include:

  • I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Forms - I-9 forms must be filled out and filed for every employee who works at the golf course, including all of those on the grounds crew. These forms should remain on file for a minimum of three years after the conclusion of employment for each employee. 
  • Non-Exempt vs. Exempt Employees - Non-exempt employees may be paid on an hourly basis, must earn at least minimum wage, and must be paid overtime for all hours over 40 worked in one work week. Exempt employees are generally salaried employees (many superintendents and assistants fall in this category), must be paid at least $455/week (proposed change would see this salary number jump to $921/week) and meet the job duties of one of the white collar exemptions.
  • Payroll Records - Along with I-9 forms, payroll records must be retained for a minimum of three years following the end of the year to which they relate.
  • Posting Requirements - All employers are required to post the FLSA minimum wage provision in an area where their employees congregate, such as the break room or lunch room. FLSA posting's vary by statues so please check the posters page to find out which postings you need to display in your facility. Postings typically change year-to-year, so instead of purchasing the large laminate posters, the forms can be printed on 8" x 11" sheets of paper and re-hung when changes occur.
  • Preventative Measures:
    • Regularly review time records for accuracy. Make sure any changes made to hours worked have both the supervisor's and employee in question's approval. 
    • Develop accurate job descriptions. Job descriptions are important. Be sure the description is written based on the job itself, and the not the person currently performing the job. It is also important, under the 'Duties and Responsibilities' area of the description to add: 'Additional duties assigned by the supervisor'. 

This only covers a brief snapshot of the entire FLSA, as the act covers additional information. I would encourage you to visit the DOL's FLSA website for more information on the FLSA, and to review the proposed changes which may directly impact your facility and employees.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Chapter Leaders/Executives Symposium

The Chapter Leaders/Executive Symposium wrapped up last week at GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas. The symposium features chapter members and executives from 25 affiliated chapters scattered across the nation. The goal of the symposium is to provide leadership training, offer development to chapters and discuss components necessary for chapter success. It also allows GCSAA an opportunity to communicate services and programs available to GCSAA chapters and members.

GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans kicked off the event with a passionate presentation on working as a team to create successful events. Rhett highlighted the importance of individuals and the roles they play when planning events. He also stressed chapters must know the member's needs and expectations they have when attending, or deciding to attend these events. Chapters must work together within their organizations to make sure these needs and expectations are being exceeded.

Following Rhett's presentation, Bill Hamilton, CGCS, and Irene Cline from the Sierra Nevada chapter gave a presentation on an outreach event put on in an under-served area of their chapter. Bill and Irene focused the education portion of the event on issues which were directly facing the area where the event was taking place. They also spoke on how holding events in similar areas can create a sense of community and encourage members to become more involved. Brian Laurent of the Miami Valley GCSA, Central Ohio GCSA and Greater Cincinnati GCSA gave an informational presentation on selecting and implementing a new website to communicate with chapter members.

Updates were also given by GCSAA staff on: marketing campaigns, the upcoming redesigned GCSAA website, Chapter Outreach Grants, National Golf Day, Grassroots Ambassadors, Rounds 4 Research, social media etiquette and upcoming Golf Industry Shows. Both days concluded with attendees breaking in to roundtable based on region and topics.

The second day began with Steve Randall, GCSAA's director of chapter outreach, giving a spirited presentation on leadership and how the outreach program has evolved over the past 10 years. Steve stressed the importance of communication and challenged everyone in the room to become a better communicator, leader and person.

The day-and-a-half event was full of education, ideas and training opportunities which can be used at each chapter, regardless of size or location. The event also allowed each participant to network with peers and develop both professional and personal relationships.