Trojan GC2 48V features a range of 45-60 miles on a single charge.
Oil, brakes, lights, tires. At the family-owned Sunset Ranch Golf & Country Club, for everyone, Self-Care Day is part of the job.
Self-Care Day. Sounds fantastic even without further explanation, right?
“The idea was mine, but the concept reflects the mindset of the owner and manager,” says Greg Austin, superintendent at Sunset Ranch Golf & Country Club. Located in Kelowna, British Columbia, and owned by the hands-on Jhajj Family, who “give 100 percent to their businesses,” according to Austin.
Sunset Ranch demonstrates an excellent top-down work culture. Jeff Richard, the general manager, “gives me the freedom to make decisions. He provides the direction but how we get there is my call,” Austin adds. Hard work, leading by example, trusting each other and caring for one another is a recipe for success and Self-Care Day is one ingredient.
As winter approached, the forecast filled with rain and the course closed, rather than send everyone home, Austin turned the time into Self-Care Day. With two mechanics leading the way, the maintenance crew worked together to maintain personal vehicles. Brakes were checked, head lights and taillights were aligned, oil was changed and snow tires were put on. At that time of year, “the staff is putting in long hours for the course. Fitting in car care is harder because personal time is limited,” Austin says.
The offer was extended to and gratefully accepted by spouses and some other employees on property. Everyone covers their personal expenses for oil and parts, but the labor is donated. Taking it one step further, the mechanics became instructors if someone wanted to learn to do the work, cultivating capability. “Our hoist and the shop are always available as long as people leave it the way they found it,” Austin says. “There’s a risk to that,” he adds, but they trust one another.
With vehicles cared for, people are more likely to be able to get to work when the weather turns. With some of those personal errands checked off the to-do list, there is more time for rest or activities with family and friends. Self-Care Day helps ease pressure on local garages, which are extremely busy at this time of year, helping the community. Word gets around and this aids retention and recruiting. Plus, working for and with each other is also good for team building and creating loyalty.
In peak season, there are 14 team members on the maintenance crew, with four being salaried, full-time positions (including Austin, the irrigation technician and both mechanics). The business is doing well even with minimum wage increases but costs are also increasing. Self-Care Days, benefits like free rounds of golf with carts, and weekends off leading into an extra physical week of work are cost-effective ways to show staff you care and foster productivity. There are retirees on staff and students, too. Austin works with the local junior hockey team to provide summer jobs for athletes (until they hit the ice again in mid-August!) and to round out his crew. It’s a win-win.
He attributes his management style to a few things, including emulating the success of his friends and mentors, Brian Youell and Tim Kubash. “They have inspired me to do more for others at a professional level,” Austin says. Early on, Austin was also heavily involved with the provincial and national superintendent associations. He traveled frequently and rarely missed a show or conference.
“Participation as a director with the professional associations exposed me to network opportunities with many of the best in the business,” he says. “I had access to speakers, educators and leaders that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I’m grateful and credit a lot of my current success to those experiences.”
Austin also credits his parents with a balanced upbringing, his mother being especially influential. She was always teaching him to “do the right thing” and acknowledged that someone can be the best in a profession but not necessarily be a good person. Excellence and thoughtfulness are not mutually exclusive.
“With local fast-food places sometimes offering higher wages than what our business is offering, we want to find ways to accommodate employees and let them know they are valued,” Austin says. Paying attention to how the staff is feeling and caring about their personal well-being is part of that. “Self-Care Days are when we make sure personal lives are addressed without crossing professional boundaries,” Austin says. “We try to do the right thing all the time. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to turn self-care ideas into action.”
Lee Carr is a Northeast Ohio-based writer and frequent Golf Course Industry contributor.
Sunset Ranch Golf & Country Club was built in 1990 and designed by landscape architect J. Bruce Carr with current renovations and improvements being executed by Austin-Young (Greg Austin, superintendent, and Chris Young). The 18-hole, par-72, semi-private golf course plays 6,500 yards. Design alterations are being implemented with the intent of reducing inputs and related maintenance costs. Alterations will also improve playability and create interest from a playing perspective. In fall 2020, a full bunker renovation was completed, reducing the number of bunkers from 21 to 17. In fall 2021, nine new bunkers were added; a 10,000 square foot turfgrass nursery was built; and two new green sites were constructed.
New turf on the greens is being converted to Pure Distinction creeping bentgrass, the fairways sport Kentucky bluegrass and the roughs are Rhizomatous tall fescue. The capital improvement plan calls for rebuilding two greens to USGA specifications at the close of every playing season (March through October) until the work is finished. Tees are being renovated, too, and not coincidentally, Austin has a strong background in construction. Golfers will contend with Scotty Creek throughout this well-regarded Kelowna course and especially lucky golfers may see a baby moose in addition to breathtaking foothill vistas.
$400 million deal adds zero-turn mower and utility vehicle lines to Toro portfolio.
The Toro Company announced that it has acquired privately-held Intimidator Group, based in Batesville, Arkansas. The Intimidator Group designs and manufactures Spartan Mowers, a professional line of zero-turn mowers known for high-level performance, durability and distinctive styling. Sold through an established dealer network, Spartan Mowers has strong brand recognition in southern regions of the United States, appealing to rural markets and large acreage customers. Intimidator Group also designs and manufactures a line of powerful and versatile side-by-side utility vehicles that perform well in the tough terrains.
“The addition of Spartan Mowers to our portfolio strategically positions us to be an even stronger player in the large and rapidly growing zero-turn mower market,” Toro chairman and CEO Richard M. Olson said. “Spartan’s product lineup complements our innovative Exmark and Toro branded equipment and provides unique opportunities to further leverage technology and design, procurement and manufacturing efficiencies. We are confident the combined efforts of our teams will help advance our strategic priorities while providing unparalleled products, technologies and service to our customers. This move also reinforces our commitment to disciplined capital deployment, including prudent investments in our business, strategic acquisitions, dividend growth and share repurchases, all of which position us to deliver compelling shareholder returns long-term.”
The transaction has already received customary regulatory approvals. The purchase price was $400 million, which was paid with a combination of cash on hand and short-term borrowings under the company’s existing revolving credit facility. The Toro Company expects this acquisition to be modestly accretive to fiscal 2022 adjusted earnings excluding transaction and integration expenses. For calendar year 2021, Intimidator Group net sales were approximately $200 million.
Dr. Rick Latin releases second edition of book designed to help turf managers better understand the disease control products they are applying.
Dr. Rick Latin moved to Pinehurst, North Carolina, following a 38-year run on the faculty at Purdue University. He quickly learned he needed a pursuit beyond experiencing the region’s splendid golf courses.
“I have a lot of time on my hands, because I can’t play golf seven days a week,” he says.
Latin stays busy by remaining connected with the turf industry and plant pathology. He speaks at industry events, consults with courses, participates in select research trials, reads current literature, and is on a team developing a software program for superintendents interested in establishing site-specific fungicide programs.
“Basically, I’m doing my favorite parts of the job from working at a university for 38 years and don’t have the administrative areas that I once had to deal with,” Latin says. “I can do as much as I want. For those of us who have that option, it’s a labor of love.”
Increased work and personal flexibility allowed Latin to complete a project he started in 2017: updating “A Practical Guide to Turfgrass Fungicides.” He released the first edition in 2011 and numerous advancements convinced Latin a second edition was a worthwhile effort. The American Phytopathological Society Press published the book and sells it on its website (https://my.apsnet.org/APSStore). The 353-page guide helps superintendents and turf managers better understand and utilize disease control products.
Sixty-three percent of United States golf courses spend $30,000 or more annually on fungicides, according to a Golf Course Industry “Turf Reports” survey of 250 superintendents published in November 2021. The same survey indicated 51 percent of courses are projected to increase their fungicide spending in 2022 compared to 2021, while 47 percent indicated spending levels will remain the same.
Fungicides are critical parts of disease control programs. And there have been significant changes to the marketplace since 2011.
“The second edition was a result of new active ingredients being introduced into our industry, new information being revealed by my colleagues and myself, and new knowledge about how resistance is developing and how we can use these tools most effectively and efficiently,” Latin says. “The book keeps pace with the current advances in turf science. The first edition’s value would be reduced without an update.”
Options in the SDHI class, for example, have quickly expanded since 2011. Latin details the intricacies of the active ingredients within the class that have entered the turf market in the past decade, including benzovindiflupyr, fluopyram, fluxapyroxad, isofetamid, penthiopyrad and pydiflumetofen, in the second edition.
“In 2011, we basically had boscalid and one product called Emerald that was almost specific to dollar spot and a related SDHI called Prostar, flutolanil, that was just remotely related,” he says. “We have had a number of different related products and active ingredients come out since then that have different strengths, different weaknesses and different advantages. It’s a challenge to understand where they fit in terms of controlling specific diseases and where they fit into the overall agronomic program.”
Fundamentals are introduced — or reintroduced depending on applicator experience levels — early in the book and Latin then shifts into investment-maximizing chapters on factors that influence performance and disease control scheduling. The potential audience ranges from students to proven superintendents. Anybody remotely connected to using, purchasing, selling and studying turfgrass fungicides will learn something from the words, images, charts, research and graphics Latin presents.
“Fungicides are great tools, but they don’t always meet our expectations and there are many factors that affect fungicide performance,” he says. “The more we know about these, the more we can manage diseases from an informed perspective and use the fungicides to their greatest advantage. Understanding the how and why — and the why not — will help superintendents use and benefit from these fungicides in the future.”
Latin plans on attending the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in San Diego next month and will be available to sign copies of the book. The GCSAA awarded Latin with the Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award in 2018.
“Writing a book is a long process,” he says. “But it’s a labor of love, because I enjoy writing, I enjoy learning and I enjoy translating research results into practical terms. At times, it’s frustrating. At times, it’s tedious. But I’m always interested in completing a project and making a contribution.”
Guy Cipriano is Golf Course Industry’s editor-in-chief.
Spray Caddie created to keep cups clean during spray apps and topdressing.
Developed by a longtime golf maintenance professional, Spray Caddie, a new golf course maintenance tool that keeps cups clean during spray apps and topdressing, will debut at the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in San Diego next month.
Spray Caddie Golf Cup Cover is a flat, round cover that, when placed over the golf hole, shields the inside of the cup from liquid overspray and sand from topdressing. Metal tabs on the cup cover attract a magnetic wand (sold as part of the Spray Caddie Starter Kit) that allows for no-touch deployment and retrieval of the cup cover. As there is no need to actually touch the cup cover, hands or gloves stay dry so there’s no transfer of chemicals to gloves, hands, spray rig steering wheels, or cell phones used to remotely turn irrigation systems off and on. Spray Caddie Golf Cup Cover is made of recycled plastic and is manufactured in the United States.
Spray Caddie was developed by Rob Roberts, an assistant golf course superintendent and licensed spray tech in Washington State with more than 25 years of experience. Roberts struggled for years to devise a cup cover that would make his daily job easier. Once he finalized the Spray Caddie design, he wanted to share it with the golf industry. The product is patent pending.
Rob’s partner in Spray Caddie is his wife, Stacie Zinn Roberts, an award-winning and frequently published writer in the golf industry and marketing professional in the golf/turf space.
The Spray Caddie product line includes:
Spray Caddie is currently available through online sales at TheSprayCaddie.com. The website launched in mid-December 2021.
The SprayCaddie.com website launched in mid-December 2021, and sales have been strong. Spray Caddie will be a special guest of Tahoma 31 Bermudagrass in San Diego and be found at booth #3951. Introductory pricing will be available through the show.