By Mike Jiggens
For at least 15 years now, we’ve been hearing the same refrain that the game of golf is dying, that its popularity is diminishing at an alarming rate, as well as all sorts of other not-so-flattering things about the sport.
Yes, we’re not in the same position we were 20 or so years ago when golf was enjoying its biggest boom ever. We reached a pinnacle of growth then that we may never experience again. As we crossed over into the new millennium, however, supply had overtaken demand and things began to go downhill.
But now we’re hearing some encouraging things about the state of the industry. During some casual conversations with industry authorities in January at the Ontario Golf Superintendents Association’s annual conference in Niagara Falls, talk was made that golf appears to have finished bottoming out and is actually moving in a forward direction once again.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way, it would seem.
Superintendents are doing their part not to skimp on the maintenance required to keep playing conditions at a desirable level. After all, that’s why we choose to play this game. Course playability must always be in top order if the game is to rebound. Maintenance budgets may have shrunk significantly over the years, but superintendents and their teams are a smart and innovative lot, and continue to find ways to make things work.
One such superintendent is Jim Riopelle of the Glenboro Golf & Country Club in Brandon, Man. With 36 years of experience in the industry, he knows a thing or two about the industry and has plenty of ideas about how to help build the game back up again. Wearing the hat of guest columnist, he shares with us in this issue his thoughts about the state of golf from a superintendent’s perspective, and presents a number of suggestions aimed at keeping golf alive and perhaps giving it a helping hand to move it forward as well.
His outside-the-box thinking includes such ideas as better maintenance scheduling that can still achieve playable conditions yet save money on labour, tapping into technology that is either cheap or free and waiting for new chemistries to be tried by higher end golf courses before prices decrease.
He offers several other forward-thinking approaches that even tie in with a golf course’s food and beverage service – all aimed at eliminating waste and inessentials to allow golf courses to move forward.
There are too many of these good ideas to list here, and I don’t wish to spoil Jim’s well-written guest column by revealing any more than I have already.
The industry is doing its part to produce a better breed of assistant golf superintendent who is one rung away from climbing to the top of the leadership ladder. The Green Start Academy, a program co-sponsored by John Deere and Bayer Environmental Science, gives deserving assistant superintendents a leg up toward becoming full superintendents by teaching them aspects of the job they wouldn’t ordinarily learn at the post-secondary level.
In this issue, we share the experiences of five of the eight Canadians who were selected to participate in the fall program. The academy helps to move golf forward by producing individuals who are ready to step into the role of superintendent, bringing with them a knowledge that puts them ahead of the curve. This bodes well for the industry and is another strategic step toward growing the game again.
Syngenta has sponsored a similar program for both assistants and superintendents in recent years, demonstrating that industry suppliers are taking on an active role in trying to reinvigorate the game.
Golf will move forward again only when all parties come together. This means all departments within the club as well as the club itself and vested interest groups.