Monday, April 10, 2017

Encanterra Country Club plays host to First Green field trip

Program uses golf courses as environmental learning labs

Encanterra Country Club in San Tan Valley, Ariz. recently played host to a First Green field trip.  First Green is an innovative environmental education outreach program using golf courses as environmental learning labs – the only program of its kind in the world.

The field trip marked the inaugural First Green event in the state of Arizona and featured 22 sixth grade students from Navarette Elementary School in Chandler, Ariz. 

Encanterra superintendent Scott Anderson (center) speaking to students
Encanterra’s Class A superintendent Scott Anderson oversaw the proceedings with assistance from USGA West Region agronomist Brian Whitlark, University of Arizona area extension agent Kai Umeda, Encanterra director of golf Mark Black and I. 

The field trip provided students with an introduction to the game of golf and the superintendent profession while providing numerous STEM based learning activities. 

Learning stations included a stream flow calculation, use of a prism and soil moisture meter, a Stimpmeter demonstration, walk mowing demonstration, cup cutting, bunker raking and the opportunity to play a 9-hole putting course set-up by Anderson and his staff. 

The trip was three hours in length and the students were split up into three groups with a school instructor/chaperone also participating in each group. 

This marked the third First Green field trip that I have participated in and the trips illustrate the environmental and community benefits of golf courses while introducing potential players to the
Encanterra director of golf Mark Black discussing the short game
 game (students, teachers and parents).  It also provides an outstanding media/public relations opportunity for participating facilities.

First Green was established in 1997 and over 15,000 students have participated in field trips.  The organization originated in Washington, but field trips are now offered in all regions of the United States. 

First Green has extensive resources for golf course superintendents, including online lesson plans, as well as facilitating the connections between golf courses and local schools and science/horticulture teachers.

For more information on First Green (including how to videos) or to schedule a field trip, visit the website at or call at 425-746-0809. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

GCSAA Grassroots Ambassadors engage in association’s government relations efforts

Goal of the program is to build and maintain a positive relationship with members of the United States Congress

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) Grassroots Ambassador program launched in 2014 with the goal of matching a GCSAA member with each member of the United States Congress to serve as a liaison between the lawmaker and their staff on issues of critical importance to the golf industry.

With the recent announcement of the spring Grassroots Ambassador class, the program now features 270 GCSAA Class A, B and C members throughout the country who are actively engaged with their congressional representative. 

Michael Lee, manager of government affairs for GCSAA, oversees the program. Lee, who formerly worked as state director for U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), knows firsthand the effects of grassroots programs.  “It’s important as an association that we have a unified message and our ambassadors are well educated on the issues,” said Lee.  “Congressional members hear from hundreds of constituents on a daily basis and having a proper plan in place assures that your message doesn’t get lost in the clutter.” 

That message is focused on GCSAA’s six priority issues:  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), fertilizers, labor and immigration, pesticides, value of golf and water management.  “The priority issues are reviewed yearly by the government affairs committee, GCSAA board of directors and staff and we use that input to take actions on those items as necessary,” said Chava McKeel, GCSAA director of government affairs. 

Once accepted into the Grassroots Ambassador program, members participate in an initial training session that provides them with political basics and the “how to” of advocacy.  Throughout the remainder of the year, ambassadors receive monthly news updates and participate in “live” issues based training webinars.  If they attend the Golf Industry Show held annually in February, ambassadors are also enrolled in four-hour government affairs bootcamp.  All training materials are also available On Demand through 

Additionally, Lee provides each ambassador with an outreach plan tailored to preferences and schedule that maps out putting together successful congressional engagements.  Each ambassador is required to have two physical “touches” with their assigned member of Congress or staff annually. 

“The face-to-face meetings are crucial to the success of the program and moving forward our priorities agenda,” said Lee.  “These meetings, as well as annual events like National Golf Day (April 26 on Capitol Hill), educate our lawmakers on the economic importance of golf to their communities, as well as the industries responsible use and management of natural resources. Letters, emails, and phone calls are effective communication tools, but nothing beats advocating in person with congressional members and staff.”   

Over the past three years, GCSAA Grassroots Ambassadors have promoted and in some cases defended the above mentioned priority issues.  Waters of the United States (WOTUS), H-2B Visa’s, neonicotinoid and Glyphosate bans, overtime reform and the economic impact of the game of golf are just a few areas of focus that ambassadors have taken action on.   

“The program is really starting to make strides,” said McKeel.  “The golf industry has a voice and our concerns are being addressed.  At the same time, it gives our members a great opportunity to learn and participate in the legislative process while representing an industry that they care so dearly about.  We are really excited about where we are and where we are heading.” 

For more information on the Grassroots Ambassador Program, click here or for information concerning National Golf Day on April 26, visit

Saturday, March 4, 2017

GCSAA provides emergency relief for members affected by natural disasters

Members who meet the criteria for personal loss are eligible for assistance
How quickly things change. From 2011 to late 2016, California was mired in a historic drought that brought many hardships to local communities and golf courses. In five quick months, the state has gone from record dry to record rain and snowfall throughout most parts of the state. As they say, "when it rains it pours".
In light of the recent flooding throughout the state, the damaged spillway at Oroville Dam and the potential for increased flooding this spring due to runoff from the Sierra Nevada mountains, I wanted to use this blog to remind you that GCSAA does provide an emergency relief fund for members during times of natural disaster. While it cannot be used at the facility level, GCSAA members who meet the below criteria for personal loss would be eligible for assistance.
The purpose of the fund is to provide financial assistance to GCSAA members who suffer personal loss or medical hardship.
  • Any GCSAA member is eligible for this assistance.
  • The amount of the assistance provided shall differ by situation up to a maximum of $2,500 per claim.
Initially, GCSAA will provide financial assistance (intended to assist with clothing, food and shelter) to members who contact us (via phone or email) and whose daily lives are altered by the effects of the event and who meet ANY of the following criteria:
  • Had to relocate/evacuate (whether they are staying with family, friends or in a motel) from their homes and were not able to immediately return following the event due to damage.
  • Remained in their homes, but lost basic necessities such as electricity, water, etc. for a period greater than 48 hours, which lead to unexpected financial burden.
  • Are employed at a golf course that sustains substantial damage and may not be a source of employment going forward.
Note: These members will not be required to provide us with any documentation or invoices other than a verbal or email explanation of costs incurred and verification on our end that they are within the affected area.
Our goal is to provide financial assistance as quickly as possible.
Once our members have had an opportunity to truly assess their long-term situation, in terms of personal loss and employment status, we will make available the entire $2,500 following more closely the aforementioned criteria.
Those in need of assistance can contact Scott Woodhead at GCSAA at 800-472-7878 or
While we hope that this is one benefit our members never need to use, it is available to those in need should the circumstance arise.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Best Management Practices provide a framework for a sustainable approach to golf course management

GCSAA releases online resource at Golf Industry Show
GCSAA rolled out its newly developed Best Management Practices (BMPs) digital template at the annual Golf Industry Show (GIS) in Orlando on Feb. 9. 

The template, funded by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and PGA TOUR will provide golf course superintendents, facility owners and managers, golfers, communities and government agencies with a framework for a sustainable approach to golf course management. 

As the golf industry continues to face critical issues such as water management, nutrient management, pest management, energy efficiency, wildlife preservation and continued pressure from government agencies and activist groups to reduce inputs, the implementation of agronomic and environmental BMPs will be key to the future of successful and profitable golf course operations. 

The template is flexible, allowing states to implement their own BMPs taking into account state specific regulations and environmental concerns.  BMP’s provide the following:

  • Professional Commitment:  BMPs solidify superintendents’ role as agronomic experts and environmental stewards. The implementation of BMPs on the ground demonstrates superintendents’ and their facilities’ dedication to responsible resource management, which in turn, reflects positively on the entire industry. 
  • Community:  By identifying management practices and expectations, BMPs clarify how golf facilities are contributing to the well-being of the community. With clear guidelines, golf course superintendents can improve communication and goodwill within their communities and with the general public.
  • Partnerships:  The development of a BMP program allows interested parties (golf course superintendents, owners, golfers, communities and government agencies) the opportunity to solve long-standing environmental, regulatory and business concerns for the benefit of all. By proactively working with local and state agencies, golf course superintendents are able to communicate management challenges, build trust with legislators and regulators, identify contradictory or confusing regulations, and promote the responsible use of resources.
  • Cost Savings:  Resource conservation is the cornerstone of the development of a BMP program. Facilities that adopt best management practices on the ground realize cost savings associated with using less water, applying less fertilizer and pesticides, reducing managed turf and improving the allocation of other resources.
  • Knowledge:  BMP programs offer golf course superintendents documented support for short- and long-term resource planning, implementation of new management practices and solutions to agronomic challenges. Based on turfgrass management research and collaboration with state and local agencies, BMP programs give superintendents and facilities another tool to strengthen their role as environmental stewards.
  • Growth of the Game:  Shared knowledge about the environment, collaboration and open communication are all essential to establishing a connection with golfers and attracting new players to the game. BMP programs give golfers a better understanding of what golf course superintendents are doing on the course, and why they are doing it – especially in terms of broader environmental issues such as water management and drought planning.
  • Risk Management:  BMP programs that incorporate environmental regulatory compliance, safety and environmental protection practices often help reduce regulatory risks including fines, closures and possible litigation.
For more information on GCSAA’s goal of implementing BMPs in all 50 states by 2020, visit the website at