Naming seasons can be fun. James Taylor crooned, “winter, spring, summer or fall.” Many near me add “mud season” and “black fly season.” Down south, they have “hurricane season.” Many other geographic regions have named and recognized seasons relative to their climate. In the Northeast golf industry, “golf season” and “off-season” are the well-used monikers. While golf education is typically found in the off-season for superintendents, universities work hard to provide research and results all year long. This summer, I was fortunate to see how it all begins.
Rutgers University weed scientist Matt Elmore, Ph.D., reached out to me in early June looking to connect with superintendents in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 or lower. These zones are in western Massachusetts, much of New York, Vermont, inland New Hampshire, and almost all of Maine. Elmore, having only joined Rutgers in the recent few years, did not have many contacts in these areas. Communications began regarding his needs and I offered to join him during the travel.
Elmore needed some superintendents who would be interested in donating sample of annual bluegrass from their golf course fairways and roughs. Of special interest was those who have used plant growth regulators (PGR) (e.g., Trimmit) or herbicide programs to manage the annual bluegrass over the years. The USDA grant research was to look for herbicide resistance. In addition, they would check for PGR efficacy, and develop an annual bluegrass seed bank for future use.
We traveled from Albany up the Northway, over to Burlington, Vt., across northern New Hampshire, into the Portland, Maine, area. Sixteen superintendents hosted us, albeit briefly, and donated nearly 50 samples of turf. Conversations covered poa control, winter kill, native area challenges, weed infestations, and many more.
Owl's Nest Resort & Golf Club’s superintendent John Gabbeitt (left), and The Mountain Course at Spruce Peak’s Kevin Komer, CGCS, (right) both graciously hosted Matt Elmore, Ph.D., and assisted with his annual bluegrass collection
Fast forward three weeks at Rutgers Field Day, where graduate students explain to attendees the USDA project that is beginning. They explained that the annual bluegrass has recently been planted in the greenhouse, the general overview of the expectations of the research, and that they should have data come this time next year.
Turf specific universities play an important part in our industry. They provide critical research and give continuing education presentations that help superintendents do their jobs better. Many universities offer further educational opportunities in-season by opening their research plots to us so we can see the work in progress. Many nation-wide are assisting in developing Best Management Practices manuals that superintendents can use to advocate for our industry.
Researchers also rely on superintendents for sample donations (like Elmore’s Northeast #TakeMyPoaTour), or real-world research areas on your golf courses. Both are critical to developing the cutting-edge research from which superintendents ultimately learn.
These important relationships are nothing new to our industry. Recently, GCSA of New England Life Member Jack Hassett reminisced visiting Ag researchers in the Ottawa area early in his career with turfgrass samples. The benefits he received from their expertise, while they enjoyed delving into a different plant species, were extremely valuable. For our universities to continue delivering industry-changing results, they need all the support that golf course superintendents can provide. By offering turf samples or data from your facility, supporting field days by attending, and providing your questions and feedback during educational seminars, this often-symbiotic learning process can continue to grow and prosper.