The work of female superintendents at 2022 U.S. Women's Open to be told in YouTube series; Border Collies may be your golf course's next best friend; and more from the 2023 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show
ORLANDO — How many times have you teed off in the afternoon and run into disastrous bunker conditions?
James Sorenson, CEO of Momentus Golf, has a solution with the invention of the Bunker Wizard, which was specifically designed for smoothing sand in golf course bunkers.
Sorenson’s space around a makeshift sand bunker at the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Conference and Trade Show drew a crowd Wednesday as he relaunched the product that was plowed under by the start of COVID-19 in 2020.
"We launched it a month before the virus hit when everybody got rid of rakes around the world because people thought you could spread the virus on the handle," says Sorenson, who worked with another engineer at Stanford University for five years to come up with the unique design.
The Bunker Wizard rake starts at $115 each, which can be as much as 3-4 times a standard rake.
"But it’s going to last five times longer than those classic rakes that really do a bad job," he says. "I always thought rakes were for leaves but we created something for sand specifically."
The rake has an initial appearance of a long paint roller, but the rake arm has a row of teeth and attached to the arm a wire cage — longitudinal wires strung across two hub caps — and the rake can be pushed or pulled. The teeth break up the sand and the roller flings the sand in the air and creates like a rooster tail of sand that is smooth and uniform when it lands.
2023 GCSAA CONFERENCE AND TRADE SHOW
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Scott Pulaski, a golf course superintendent at Walloon Lake County Club in Petoskey, Michigan, purchased 65 of the rakes last spring.
"I was a little apprehensive and my concern was that with our wet sand all the time it would just skim the top of the bunkers, but it works great," Pulaski says. "I love them and our golfers love them. We’re ready to use them in year two."
The rake is lightweight, easy to use and eliminates footprints in one simple pass. More important, the product improves the look, playability and uniformity of bunkers without typical rake marks.
"Even in the deepest footprints it takes one pass to fill to holes in and level the bunker," Sorenson says. "This way it gives the golfers an ability to maintain the bunkers throughout the day so those golfers who tee off at 1 p.m. are seeing the course the way those teeing off at 8 a.m. did."
THE FEEL-GOOD THAT KEEPS GIVING
One of the feel good stories of the 2022 golf season was when 32 female superintendents were invited to help prepare and maintain the golf course for the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles in the North Carolina Sandhills.
University of Denver professor and film maker Sheila Schroeder was tasked with producing social media content for the female team of superintendents for that USGA championship week this past summer. But when she got home to Colorado she soon released she had a treasure trove of unused footage.
That’s when she and a few of her students began piecing together 3-12 minute segments of the embedded experience that turned into a 15-episode web series called “Breaking the Turfgrass Ceiling.”
The segments begin airing this Friday with a different episode every week for several months on YouTube. Those interested in watching can search “Women In Turf Team.”
“All these women came to Pine Needles to help take care of the course and history was happening right in front of my eyes, and as a film maker I’m always looking for stories that can change the face of film making,” Schroeder said. “This was one of those stories. Women make up about 2 percent of superintendents and I thought this was a great opportunity to amplify those voices.”
The web series covers topics ranging from how to water greens to fixing equipment to mowing fairways in the dark.
“I feel honored every day to be telling the story of these incredible women who are doing things despite many challenges, and they love what they do,” Schroeder said. “They bring so much joy to this industry. They walk in and they light up a room immediately.”
Several of those featured in episodes stopped by the Breaking the Turfgrass Ceiling booth at the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Orlando to sign a poster promoting the web series.
AN ANSWER FOR PESKY GEESE
Golf course superintendents carry many hats, from covering Bermuda greens in the winter months to yearly maintenance schedules to juggling tight budgets.
And over the years, another job title has been added — that of being the person in charge of getting rid of all the geese on the course.
Wildlife on the links — and the damage they can produce — is a real issue in many areas of the country, one that can be solved by a North Carolina-based company called Flyaway Geese.
The firm, which was started in 1997, specializes in wildlife management, using Border Collies to intimidate the pesky animals or birds that often view golf courses as a nice place to hang out.
Due to the close proximity to Flyaway Geese's headquarters near Charlotte, the dogs in the Tar Heel state are often leased to courses, while the rest of the country purchases the skilled herders from the company. The number of dogs a course needs is loosely determined by how many areas need herded.
"It started with goose control and has moved into everything that spends any time on the ground on a golf course or in the water," says Rebecca Gibson, owner of Flyaway Geese in Stanfield, North Carolina. "We’ve got dogs doing elk management, we’ve got dogs doing deer management, geese, ducks, you name it. Other than slow golfers, they keep just about everything moving on a golf course."
Gibson estimates that her firm has Border Collies on more than 500 golf courses across the United States.
"The reason it’s Border Collies is that it’s the only breaded dog that moves with their head down and their tails in between their legs. So when they are moving they stalk," she says. "A goose doesn’t see like we do, they see colors, shapes and patterns that trigger brain responses. When a goose sees a Border Collie they see them as like a coyote, a natural predator, but the difference is Border Collies have no desire to kill. They are herding, not hurting, so it’s very humane."
Gibson's training sessions always draw large crowds at the annual Show, and Wednesday was no different as gawkers were lined up around the outside of the fenced-in pen five deep.
"I can’t believe this business," she says. "My grandma used to say ‘Rebecca, one of these days you’re going to have to get a real job.’ But here we are, 27 years later, and my husband has retired from Hendrick Motorsports to work with me full time. It pays the bills and puts the kids through college for sure."
THE SOCIAL SCENE
Scott Johnson of @TheWarriorAllia speaks at the #GCSAAConference Sunrise Celebration. GCSAA is proud to have just signed an MOU with Warrior Alliance to help veterans train for jobs in #golf.#GCSAAConference pic.twitter.com/Nv302v3X1E
— GCSAA (@GCSAA) February 8, 2023
ODDS AND ENDS
Golf course architect Jan Bel Jan has a unique project ready to begin in April at Miami Springs in South Florida. It is heady enough that the city-owned municipal course is 100-years-old, but there is quite a female flair to this project with Bel Jan, along with a female mayor, female procurement officer and female golf course superintendent on board. "Among the new items to the course will be more forward tees so more people can have more enjoyment and improve pace of play," Bel Jan says. … Spectrum Tree Farms in Live Oak, Florida, claims to have transported hundreds of thousands of trees to golf courses from Texas to North Carolina to Miami for 35 years now. Keith Jacks, president of the company in North Florida, says tree farms are a $1 billion dollar industry in the Sunshine State. His company owns 14 tree farms scattered over 750 acres. "We’re in an industry that is never going to stop," Jacks says. … The golf industry is no stranger to the labor shortage that is plaguing the United States. That’s where upstart company The Crew comes into play. Based out of Palm Springs, California, the firm specializes in golf staffing and recruiting. The Crew operates in about eight states and is looking to expand east. "The biggest thing is when these courses have positions with high turnover rates they are getting tired of going through that headache that is hiring and firing," says Joe Widuch, a business development executive with The Crew. "We’re seeing a large demand for this and with us you can flex up and flex down during peak seasons and off seasons. And we’re seeing a lot larger orders, so instead of one or two employees they are needing 15 or 20 workers."