Friday, September 28, 2012

Here we go USA!

No, I'm not at Medinah this weekend. I was in Florida at the RISE meeting most of the week, so I'm going to be watching the action from the comfort of my couch this weekend!

Having said that... GO USA!!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Golfdom Summit coming soon!

November 27th-30th, we'll be at the Reunion Resort in Orlando!

I'm so excited! Only about 10,000 things to do before then...

Check out this video preview of what we've got cooking for the 2012 Summit.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Becker Underwood reports "business as usual" during acquisition

There was a lot of talk last week about BASF's announcement of its plans to acquire Becker Underwood for $1.02 billion (see previous post). But one thing I didn't see was any word from Becker Underwood on what was the plan for right now, for today. Are products going to be available to superintendents as normal during the transition?

I reached out to Charlie Hale, Becker Underwood's marketing strategy and support lead, and this is what he had to say:

"The number one goal of Becker Underwood and BASF is ensuring that our customers continue receiving the high quality solutions they have come to expect from Becker Underwood. For now, business will continue “as usual” with the same people, products and services that our customers know and trust. Our production facilities are producing products; these products are available for purchase by our customers. And except for a few already-planned lineup tweaks -- including a couple new and/or improved products, no changes in the overall Becker Underwood product lineup is currently anticipated. Product lineups always evolve over time with new, improved products typically replacing older and/or poorer performing products. I wouldn’t expect that to change going forward."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

BASF to acquire Becker Underwood for $1.02 billion

More big news in our industry -- big to the tune of $1.02 BILLION! BASF to acquire Becker Underwood, this news just hit my inbox at 8:03 a.m. EST... the entire press release is below.

We'll get on the phone to learn more, but for now, here's the official word from BASF: 

BASF to strengthen global crop protection business with acquisition of Becker Underwood

* BASF to become a global leader in biological seed treatments
* Strategic growth field Functional Crop Care strengthened
* Broader portfolio of integrated, sustainable solutions for agriculture

Ludwigshafen, Germany – September 20, 2012 – BASF plans to acquire Becker Underwood for a price of $1.02 billion (€785 million). The company, headquartered in Ames, Iowa, is one of the leading global providers of technologies for biological seed treatment, seed treatment colors and polymers, as well as products in the areas of biological crop protection, turf and horticulture, animal nutrition and landscape colorants and coatings. Becker Underwood has 10 production sites worldwide and 479 employees. BASF came to an agreement with Norwest Equity Partners (NEP) to acquire Becker Underwood which has been a portfolio company of NEP since 2004. The purchase is subject to approval by the responsible authorities and legal closing of the transaction is expected by the end of 2012.

“We are impressed with Becker Underwood’s ability to translate growers’ needs into innovative, tailor-made solutions that can promote higher yields while conserving resources. Becker Underwood is to become part of BASF and we are excited that together with our new colleagues we can continue expanding our competencies. Particularly in the rapidly-growing seed treatment market, we will be able to develop innovative solutions for agriculture,” said Dr. Andreas Kreimeyer, Research Executive Director and Member of BASF’s Board of Executive Directors responsible for the Agricultural Solutions segment.

Becker Underwood is expected to achieve sales of $240 million (€185 million) for fiscal year 2012, ending on September 30. As part of the acquisition, BASF’s Crop Protection division will create a strategic global business unit called Functional Crop Care. The unit will merge BASF’s existing research, development and marketing activities in the areas of seed treatment, biological crop protection, plant health, as well as water and resource management with those of Becker Underwood. Becker Underwood’s animal nutrition business will be integrated into BASF’s Nutrition & Health division.
Markus Heldt, president of BASF's Crop Protection division.

“Becker Underwood has a strong position in North America. We will continue to expand this core business as we expand globally. Together we can sustainably create value for our customers,” said Markus Heldt, President of BASF’s Crop Protection division. “We are thrilled at the prospect of working with the highly-qualified employees at Becker Underwood as we continue to develop our combined businesses.”

“Over the past years, Becker Underwood has established itself as an innovative provider of solutions for agriculture,” emphasized Dr. Peter Innes, Chief Executive Officer of Becker Underwood. “Strengthened by the power of BASF’s research capabilities as well as its existing portfolio of solutions, we will be able to develop and globally market new types of solutions for growers.”

Upon receiving the necessary legal approvals, the majority of Becker Underwood’s business will be integrated into BASF’s Crop Protection division. In 2011, the division recorded sales of around €4.2 billion and is expecting another top year in 2012 as well. With its products and services, BASF helps growers to improve their yields and the quality of their products.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Northwest Oregon? Yes, please.

I was looking for some information on my upcoming travels and was very excited to see this:

Yes, Northwest Oregon, I'm coming to see you, Tuesday, Nov. 13th! The "Seth on Tour" trip continues, this time at Oregon Golf Club in West Linn, Ore., at the 2012 Golf and Environmental meeting. For the low, low price of $75, they'll have speakers such as Andy Staples (ASGCA), Kevin Fletcher (ePar USA), Chava McKeel (GCSAA), Steve Kealy (First Green) and... me (gulp. I mean... Golfdom).

And yeah... they've got me batting clean-up. Is that good or bad? Well, it certainly is cool to have the "keynote" spot, but it's also nerve-wracking to think of the mass exodus that could occur as soon as Staples gets done. Heck, I might already be at the clubhouse bar by then, too!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Reader feedback -- professional courtesy

Got a nice email from a reader regarding Mark Woodward's most recent column (which you can read here.)

Here's the note:

Mark nailed it, RE: Professional Courtesy.

It only take a moment to make an impression. I remember visiting a younger superintendent on his job who I had tried to call earlier. When I arrived on site, I could see him in the distance. I rang his cell, watch him look, and shove it right back in his pocket. I lost respect for him. I learn he lost his job later that year!

It only takes a moment to say thanks (or no thanks). Just respond!

I'm always afraid I'll have this happen to me, or do it to someone. Sometimes I don't take a cell phone call because it's not an appropriate time to chat on the cell. And I also try not to call people when I can see them, because it would crush my ego to see my call getting ignored.

There's pretty much only one person who is in the 100%-always-answer category: my wife. It could be the final seconds of the Super Bowl, and if my wife rings my cell, I answer. Mainly because she rarely dials me up, but also because that's the one person (and with her, my kids) who are so important that I would drop everything to check in on. Everything else? Everything else probably can wait, when you think about it.

So what am I rambling about here? Well, I guess I'm making a defense for NOT answering your cell phone. Because there are times when taking that call can also be a breach of etiquette, right?

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New video!

As you probably noticed, I haven't been doing many videos since Golfdom was acquired by North Coast Media.

That's just because we've had to change over a lot of our technical... stuff. Stuff I don't even pretend to understand!

But our IT team has been hard at work, and we're ramping back up again. is back up, and we'll get it up to full speed soon. And now, for the first time in a few weeks... a new video!

This is the interview I did with Bethpage Black superintendent Kevin Carroll during the Barclays. Thanks to Kevin for taking the time to hang out with me with I was there on what was a busy week!

Monday, September 10, 2012

New Sports Illustrated cover

It was interesting to see last week's Sports Illustrated cover. It has former Bears QB and golf nut Jim McMahon on the cover.

I met McMahon about five years ago at a celebrity golf event, back when I was writing the "Reflections" page regularly in Golf Course Management. My dad was a huge Bears fan, so it was exciting to meet the former Super Bowl champ.

McMahon was funny and nice. He had a few empty Coors Light cans in his cart at the time, so he was feeling fine. I caught up with him as he was signing autographs after his round. He signed for anyone who approached him, not in any rush. He was the same way with me when I asked him for an interview.

After you do so many of these interviews, you can hear when a source gives you the sound bite you need. It's an instant relief -- you know you have something you can print, something you can show as a result of your trip. With McMahon, we kept talking, but I wasn't able to get that sound bite.

I wanted him to give me something about why he appreciated a beautiful golf course. But all his answers were mostly about his game. He seemed indifferent to the quality of the golf course.

Finally, after I asked him if he had one golf course that was his favorite, he smiled at me and said, "Not really. Every time I play golf I have a few of these (shaking his beer can) and I've been hit in the head so much that... I don't really remember most golf courses after I play them."

He was smiling when he said it. I figured he mostly was referring to the beer. But now that I read that he has early-onset dementia, it just bums me out. He really can't remember golf courses after he plays them.

I love the NFL and I watched a ton of football this weekend. I don't know what the answer is, but it sure is sad to see these players suffering after they retire from the game.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Boom goes the squirrel tunnel

In this new issue of Golfdom we have an in-depth story on squirrel control on golf courses, penned by Jim Knight, Ph.D. You can read it by clicking here. Jim is an extension wildlife specialist at Montana State University, and if there's one thing he knows, it's how to kill a squirrel.

My favorite part from that story: gumballs. "Gumballs have been reported to clog the intestinal tract of squirrels... Most of the claims are anecdotal, there is no evidence populations will consume enough to result in reliable control."

So don't bother throwing a bag of Big League Chew down the squirrel tunnel!

The story has caught a few eyes, including the folks over at Rodenator. They gave me a call to see if I'd be interested in learning more about their system, which includes an "underground shockwave."

Did they say "underground shockwave?" Then you know my answer was "yes!

They sent me a longer story, but I clipped it down to the part about their product, and how it works. Here's the last part of the story, written by Del Williams of Torrance, Calif.: 

Those working to eradicate burrowing rodents in golf course facilities without poisons or other harmful chemicals, are instead finding success with a poison-free, non-chemical, pest control method that delivers a precision underground shockwave to the targeted animals while also collapsing their tunnel systems to prevent re-infestation.

“With the Rodenator system, we eliminated the prairie dog problem and much of the ground squirrel problem within the first month,” says Walker. “We have the burrowing rodent problem under control. We’re saving about 30 hours a week in burrowing rodent-related labor and grounds-equipment repair. We avoid costly, labor-intensive poison baiting and trapping. Overall, we could save tens of thousands of dollars over the next several years in repair, maintenance, and labor costs. The grounds are shaping up, which makes for better, safer, faster play, and happier golfers.”

As delivered by the Rodenator Pest Elimination System, developed by Meyer Industries, a wand is inserted into a burrow hole, and a mixture of oxygen and propane gas is shot into the hole for typically sixty to ninety seconds, depending on the type of animal. Then another button on the wand is pressed, igniting a spark into the mixture, creating a precision underground shockwave. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

GCSAA prez reaches out

An email went out to all GCSAA members this afternoon, from President Sandy Queen, asking for help identifying superintendents who may be in need. Specifically, the email asks for help identifying members who have been impacted by Hurricane Isaac.

The entire contents of the email is below:

Dear GCSAA Members,

Sandy Queen, CGCS
GCSAA President
On behalf of my fellow GCSAA board members, I share my deep concern for those members, their families and staffs who have been impacted by Hurricane Isaac. We know many of them suffered personal loss and that weighs heavily on all of our minds.

GCSAA has deployed field staff to make contact with chapter leaders to help identify members in need. As much as we try to be proactive, we need your assistance in communicating with us regarding your needs. Please feel free to email me or any of your GCSAA board of directors or contact GCSAA at 800-472-7878 to alert us of any situation impacting members.

As an association, our fundamental charge is to serve its members. In times of need, we must respond with assistance. I appreciate staff's responsiveness in alerting members to our emergency assistance fund (for personal losses not covered by insurance) and with information to help manage their professional situations. If you did not see the latest information on hurricane and flood recovery, please access the following link.

Turf Toughie: Take Our One-Question Exam!

Q: Why is it important to maintain your soil pH between 6.5 and 7?

            Sometimes it’s the simple questions – like “Why does my belly growl when I’m hungry?” that are quite perplexing but also most important. Same goes for turf.
“Why is it important to maintain your soil pH between 6.5 and 7?” is one of the questions Benjamin A. McGraw, Ph. D., associate professor of golf and plant sciences at the State University of New York (SUNY)- Delhi, N.Y., likes to pose to his students. 

“I don't know if it’s a head-scratcher but the answer is important and vital to a superintendent’s career,” McGraw says.

The answer, as McGraw explains, is that most nutrients (whether applied or in the soil) are readily available to the plant in this pH range. Outside of this range many nutrients (both macro- and micro-nutrients) are not readily available to the plant.

So… keep the pH up and don’t leave your plants with their bellies growling!

Architect Richardson says Design for Drought

By Curt Harler

            Especially in dry years, there is a cost to keeping every square foot of turf green. That cost comes in dollars and in lost sleep.

“The best way to reduce your stress and stress on your turf is to have less turf,” says Golf Course Architect Forrest Richardson, ASGCA. “The number one strategy is reducing turf area.” He is the principal with Forrest Richardson & Associates in Phoenix.

While that may seem an obvious way to cut droughty areas, he finds that many superintendents and owners overlook that easy step. Cut the green area from 140 acres to 105 and there is that much less area to worry about.

Less grass to water and maintain means fewer headaches.

Less water on the rest of the turf is the next step.

“Certainly, you want the course to be enjoyable and playable,” he acknowledges. “But you’d be surprised how easy it is to get by with 10-percent less water.”

Distant roughs and areas around the tees are the first place to cut back irrigation. While greens, tees and landing areas should be watered, the side and back areas around the tee boxes do not need water. In fact, the area in front of the tee box sees less than a half-percent of play, Richardson figures. So cut the water there, too. 

NTEP "Encouraged" with new Test Results

By Curt Harler

The National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP: changed some of the ground rules for testing grasses. The new program was first outlined in the March 2010 TurfGrass Trends. The major change was a cutback from a five-year test program to four years in a number of tests. The focus of some tests changed, as well.

When we checked back this month with Kevin Morris, executive director of NTEP, to see how the changes were going, he was “encouraged” by early results but said it still is a bit too early to tell definitely.

“We just published our first data (under the new regime), a ryegrass test put out in 2010,” he says.

As part of the new program, half of the seed plots established around the country are standard variety tests. The other half are what are termed “ancillary” tests – they are specific to one aspect of the turf… say traffic tolerance or drought resistance.

“We will stay with that program for a while,” Morris says.

As the number of commercial varieties available dropped, NTEP saw a need to move away from the beauty-contest aspects of variety testing in favor of focused, trait-specific research.

Heat Blisters Turf, Scorches Roots

By Curt Harler
This year will go into the books as one of the toughest seasons on record for superintendents in the Midwest. Drought and record hot July temperatures slammed courses across the region.

By late August, Derek Settle, director of the turfgrass program for the Chicago District Golf Association, was able to say with relief that he was seeing Bentgrass beginning to take off.

“We muddled through this year. I think things will be better in September,” Settle continued.

Muddle is the word for it. With the drought, root mortality was high almost everywhere. There were an extraordinary number of localized dry spots. A lot of wetting agents were used. Fairy ring became a serious problem on several courses.

The cooling weather brought no relief. “Take-all is a problem now with the soil temperatures dropping below 70 degree averages at the two-inch depth,” Settle continued. That was the first time since June 13.

“We still have shallow roots. Greens are fragile,” he said. “Fairways, too. It’s pretty easy for golfers to make divots.”

This fall will be pivotal for 2013. “Right now it’s all about root growth,” he said. “I think we’ll be able to keep the grass green for one more year!”