Friday, January 15, 2016

Strategic planning sessions for your chapter

This week, Steve Randall and I facilitated a strategic planning session with a local Great Lakes chapter. This was my first time working with a chapter in this capacity. Not only was it a lot of fun (honestly), I was very pleased with the process and outcome.

The first step in orchestrating a strategic planning session is to have a chapter board that is willing to exert the time and commitment to outline and institute specific goals for the chapter, this chapter had just that. The board knew the chapter was functioning at a high level and has been well-managed, but wanted to focus in on a few key areas for the coming year and beyond.

The strategic planning process is pretty simple and begins with board members stating what they hope to 'get out' of the planning process. Once this is covered, a SCOR analysis is completed on the chapter by the board. After we have the strengths, challenges, opportunities and risks of the chapter, the group then votes and focuses in on the couple most important bullet points from each SCOR area.

Strategic planning:

Establishing your chapter's framework for the future.

This information is now used to lay the groundwork for short and long-term goals. Whether it is addressing the chapter mission and vision, communication, chapter meetings, budgets, member participation or working with allied associations, the strategic planning process focuses resources on areas that will have a significant impact on the chapter moving forward. Not only can you now focus on these areas to improve chapter operations, it also sets timelines and assigns committees to complete these goals.

If your chapter has not participated in a strategic planning meeting, or it's been a handful of years since your last session, I highly encourage you to host a strategic planning session. Steve Randall has facilitated many strategic planning sessions during his time with GCSAA, and brings a wealth of knowledge to chapter boards and functions. These sessions are thought-provoking and can help lay the foundation of a successful chapter for the short- and long-term, and most importantly, improves the value and benefit the chapter brings to its members.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Out on the Road: Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio

Conference and education season has officially been in full swing for a few weeks now. In early December, I attended the Wisconsin GCSA Turf Symposium, the Central Illinois GCSA Annual Meeting and the Ohio Turfgrass Conference. I was a first-time attendee at all three events and each one was well-planned and organized.
  • The WGCSA Turf Symposium is held in Kohler, Wisconsin, each December and is one of the marquee events on the WGCSA calendar. This year, the two-day event featured presentations from industry professionals and university professors on a variety of topics including pesticides, social media, weather damage, technology and sustainability, to name a few. The event is well-attended by members throughout Wisconsin as well as neighboring states, and this is what makes the event such a hit. Attendees know they will have access to some of the best education in the area, but more importantly, they are able to network and have face-to-face conversations with peers and friends. The WGCSA symposium committee did an excellent job planning the event and I thank them for their time and effort.

  • The Central Illinois GCSA chapter held their annual meeting in Bloomington, Illinois, this year. I was honored to be invited to speak at the meeting about some of the work GCSAA has completed in 2015 and share some of the GCSAA initiatives set to go in 2016. The meeting was also very well attended and featured more qualified speakers than myself in the likes of Dr. Nangle of the Chicago District Golf Association and Dr. Lee Miller from the University of Missouri. One of the best take aways from the meeting was the round table discussion the members had. The discussion featured research funding as well as ways to improve the chapter and increase member participation. The round table was an informal atmosphere to share ideas and was a great success. The chapter was able to gather meaningful insight from members and board members, and is another example of the value these meetings bring to chapter participants. 

  •  Although I was only able to attend one of the three days of the Ohio Turfgrass Conference, I was able to meet and network with many of my fellow industry professionals. The education on the day was fantastic, featuring speakers from the USGA, various universities and GCSAA's own Chava McKeel, who gave the members an update on WOTUS and government affairs priorities. 

These events are all great examples of the wonderful education and networking opportunities that are available to all GCSAA members. One of the highlights of the week came while I was talking to a first time attendee at the OTF Conference, he told me how he gained more information just by having conversations with other superintendents during the day than he would have from any other source. It's yet another example of how attending these events can benefit you, your career and your profession.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Attending annual meetings

Over the past month, I have had the privilege of attending a handful of annual chapter meetings throughout the Great Lakes region. I look forward to attending each one of these meetings, not only for the education events and to meet the incoming board members, but to see the camaraderie between the chapter members that takes place during these events.

With information available to each one of us at the click of a button, or work responsibilities keeping us tied up at the course, it's easy to put the upcoming chapter meeting on the back burner. Attending these meetings, however, is not just playing golf with local superintendents and vendors, or socializing with your buddies. It's creating valuable professional relationships that will enhance your career, it's receiving local knowledge and advice to problems specific to your area, it's finding out about the latest products available to make your job more efficient, it's making friends with peers and it's supporting your association and your industry.

Each person who volunteers for board service is taking their personal time to help make your association better for you. They are putting forth a lot of effort and energy to make these meetings relevant and beneficial to those in attendance. Board service is often taken for granted and it's just assumed someone will volunteer for these positions. Please support your chapter and your incoming 2016 board members by making it out to an upcoming chapter event. Board members will be very appreciative and always welcome your presence and feedback. While it's often easy to come up with a reason or two to skip an upcoming chapter meeting, your board and peers thank you for coming up with the reason to attend.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Chapter Delegates Meeting is in the books

Five months into my GCSAA field staff representative position, I can honestly say I am enjoying the role more each day. The position allows me to work with chapters and members on a daily basis and help them get more out of their GCSAA membership. I have been able to see what a wonderful job our members are doing, not only professionally, but also personally, as so many are great role models on and off the course. Meeting industry peers and hearing all the success stories our industry has to offer is motivating. This week echoed these feelings as over 100 members met in Lawrence and Kansas City to conduct the annual Chapter Delegates Meeting.

Besides the outstanding networking opportunities, attending the Delegates Meeting allows chapter delegates to meet and hear from the GCSAA Board of Directors directly. This gives the delegates the opportunity to not only hear about future endeavors the board is pursuing, but gives the delegate the chance to voice the opinions and concerns his/her chapter has on these issues. The board takes this feedback seriously and uses the information when creating or adjusting members services and programs. Some of the topics discussed this year included the proposed Member Standards, a report from the Affiliation Agreement Task Group, member benefits offered to Equipment Managers, 2016 GIS highlights, a Government Affairs update and BMP updates, to name a handful.

Throughout the day and during the presentations, it's easy to see the board's and the GCSAA employees' enthusiasm about these programs. It's also great to hear the delegates feedback on ways to improve and build upon future and existing member programs. All of these programs and services coincide with the GCSAA mission and vision, and it's awesome to see the delegates passion about making these progams the best they can be, not only for the association members, but to advance the profession, as well.

We all know the enthusiasm superintendents have for the industry. This was just another great example of seeing this firsthand and on such a large scale. It's great to see the board looking to the future and setting up the association for success in years to come. I commend all the delegates for taking the time to attend the meeting and offering productive feedback. The participation and dedication from the members is what truly makes this association so valuable and this was just another example this week. I hope you all reach out to either your chapter delegate or anyone on the GCSAA team to hear about the exciting programs GCSAA is offering now and in the future.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Dealing with frost delays on the course

Superintendents may hate frost delays more than golfers. With numerous jobs to complete before play hits the course each morning. maintenance crews oftentimes find themselves playing the waiting game, just like golfers. Tasks such as mowing greens, raking bunkers or cutting cups are preferably started hours before the first tee time. Frost, however, can change all of that. For several reasons, such as safety and pace-of-play, it is not ideal to have maintenance crews and golfers on the same hole, and while golfers who have been waiting for long stretches of time at the pro-shop are eager to get on the course, delaying them a few minutes longer while maintenance crews get a head start is a benefit to all of those involved.

Golf course superintendents know the negative repercussions cart and foot traffic has on turfgrass during a frost, but communicating that information to members and golfers can be challenging. Superintendents have had some success posting flyers and bulletins in locker rooms and around the pro-shop about traffic on frosted turf, and in my experience making sure you are available to answer any questions during a frost delay and talking personally to golfers waiting has always gone a long way. I have also always made sure to let the pro-shop staff know a day or two ahead of time when frost delays are expected, this way they can communicate the information to members and customers beforehand. Educating staff is also important. The more crew members know about frost and the potential damage it can cause on turf if driven or walked on, may prevent turf injury from happening in the future. I've also seen many instances where the more crew members know about 'why' superintendents make certain decisions, the more they feel part of the team.

With many northern golf courses experiencing their first frost delays of the year this week, I wanted to share with the Great Lakes region a GCM Magazine article written a handful of years back, but still has valuable information on the subject.

The article, written by Ed Brotak Ph. D., a former atmospheric science professor at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, provides extensive information on why and how frost forms and offers some great talking points when you are discussing frost delays with golfers whose tee times may be affected in the morning.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Honeybees on the course

Spreading the word about the positive impacts your golf course has on the community and environment can be challenging. Jeff Sexton, CGCS at Evansville Country and GCSAA Grassroots Ambassador, however, was able to get the local news network involved. Amanda Chodnicki of 44News based in Evansville, IN visited Evansville Country Club and interviewed Jeff, Dr. John Scott Foster of the Wessleman Woods Nature Preserve and Don Neyhouse, a Technical Sales Consultant for Bayer CropScience. All three spoke on the positive effect bees have on the environment and how Evansville Country Club is leading the way for golf courses in Southwest Indiana who are looking to start a beehive restoration project on their property.

Currently, Jeff and his staff have two bee boxes on the course, each housing 20,000 bees. They hope to add two more boxes next year. Indiana Congressman Larry Bucshon has taken an interest in the project which shows what a great impact the Grassroots Ambassador Program can have on local golf courses.

Jeff is helping demonstrate that golf course superintendents take the surrounding environment very seriously. He is hoping to prove that neonicitnoids can safely coexist on a golf course with honeybee colonies and is doing a great job.

Check out the Channel 44 newscast:

Bees On Golf Courses - Amanda Chodnicki 44News
Adding Bee Hives On Golf Courses - Amanda Chodnicki 44News
Posted by Amanda Chodnicki 44News on Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015

Fall is in the air

With the morning temperatures on the cooler side the past few days, the weather has been cooperating for most turfgrass management practices. Fall is my favorite time on the golf course, not only due to the weather, but because it really is a time when you can check a lot of items off the 'to-do' list. This is the time of year when it becomes possible to switch gears from hand-watering and syringing greens to working on larger projects around the course.

It's easy to become focused on the tasks at hand at the golf course this time of year, but remember there are a lot of other opportunities in the industry which allow you to enjoy yourself and network with local peers. The Great Lakes region is known for its great fall weather (as you all know and enjoy). Most local GCSAA chapters have monthly meetings in September and October, which feature relevant education and networking opportunities followed by golf at some great courses in very favorable weather.

The meetings are set up to give you the opportunity to continue not only your education, but also the friendships you have forged over the years. It is an excellent way to find out how practices are done at other facilities and see colleagues in a relaxed atmosphere. As we enter into what is the final third of the golf season for much of the region, I encourage you to attend these meetings and enjoy the camaraderie and game you all work so hard to preserve.