Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2011 Golf Industry Show

Winter is a time for reflection, renewal and planning for the upcoming golf season. Education is a large part of that process and learning something new that I can bring back to use on Bull's Eye has been rewarding and fulfilling throughout my career. You may think I know everything, but I know that not to be the case! There's always one more item I can cram into the recesses of my cranial cavity. As Einstein said, genius does not know it all but knowing where to find it is. Use it or lose it. If I didn't think I could add value to your golf course through my attendance I simply wouldn't go. I would invest your money elsewhere. I know there are those of you that would argue that you can conduct all learning you need online. True but I find that most questions are left unasked and body language is missed. Also I’ve learned more in conversation with others off subject than perhaps what the seminar taught. It is fool hardy to stop learning something new each and every day.

I couldn't help but staying awake at this years USGA Green Section Program.

I can't say the same for Andy.  He threatened me....so much for threats.
My schedule was abbreviated as I arrived mid day Tuesday and hustled to make the Research Update session.  The show was open through Thursday with one last day for education on Friday.  All totaled I spent six hours in educational sessions and another ten hours on the trade show floor where I sought out new products and tried to make new contacts with suppliers that could be of future use.  There were over 84 two day seminars at the start of the conference taught by University Professors from through out the world.  I wasn't able to partake in any this time as my "conference on the cheap" prevented an early arrival and later stay.

I caught up with University of Wisconsins "Bug Doctor" Dr. Chris Williamson in the Syngenta Booth.  He is best known for his work on the invading European Ash Borer.  He's an Ohio State grad, so I caught him smiling before the Badger beatdown of his Buckeyes.
The trade show floor is packed with new products from equipment to gadgets. Some form of technical advances always catches my eye to be placed on future needs or wants lists.

Here I found a weedeater with a centrifugal pump for head.  This would have come in handy draining bunkers after last years heavy frequent rains.

Not everything is new.  I hate to date my self, but I remember pulling one of those in my youth at the Nakoma Golf Club.
I've taken advantage of ordering products on the show floor, when my budget permitted saving the club thousands of dollars. I recall my delight at the thought of placing an order for two new fairway mowers at a show years ago only to discover a newer lighter fairway mower was brought into the market. I quickly changed plans and ordered the newer mower from a different vendor sight unseen, untested taking a huge chance and ended up on the leading curve of the lightweight fairway mowing revolution. And the real bonus to you the member was these two mowers had a price tag $40,000 LESS than the two mowers the board had given me permission to purchase! That savings paid for a lot of turf conferences.

The show offers great opportunity to discuss with local and national technical representatives regarding problems or issues with product or equipment.  It's a great venue to get questions answered under one roof.

Here are the boys from Reinders Brothers who outlined our options for the upcoming radio upgrade that will be forced down our budgetary throats by the FCC.  This comes as a result of society becoming a "totally wired wireless" world.  The upgrade BTW is not cheap. Arrrgh....
The Conferences Opening Session was always a highlight that featured many Nationally known figures from General Norman Schwarzkopf to former first lady Barbara Bush. (Just at the time she was featured dangling from a balcony in the “Naked Gun” series of movies. She had a great since of humor!) Motivational speakers, while not one of my genres featured the likes of Ken Blanchard the author of the “One Minute Manager” and Buzz Aldrin whose real life story told in “Lost Moon” was played on screen by Tom Hanks in “Apollo 13. Of course there are always sighting of famous professional golfers on the show floor as so many of them have moved into golf course architecture during latter stages of their playing careers. It was really interesting listening to Paul Azinger speak of his Ryder Cup team and telling our audience things that he wouldn’t tell the general press. I remember the time I rode with Arnold Palmer’s brother Jerry when he mentioned that Arnie’s wife Millie had breast cancer. This was before that fact was made public.

Nick Price informed our assemblage that he is the only Professional Golfer that doesn't boast that he's a golf course architect.

Here Monroe Miller gets his program autographed by Nick.  You may remember reading Monroe's articles in the Wisconsin Golfer Magazine.  A publication of the Wisconsin State Golf Association.
 For years I served the Wisconsin Golf Course Superintendent Association as its Chapter Delegate placing me directly in the cross hairs of association politics. It was during this period of my career that I met some of the most powerful men in the game of golf. From the USGA to Pete Dye. I was proud to represent Wisconsin when going head to head with large chapters as those found in Florida, Texas, California, Pennsylvania, and New York. Back then a simple phone call could have arranged for a round of golf on some of the nation’s premier golf courses. I couldn’t take them up because I had to work. Now my network serves more as a reunion of sorts as the song “Glory Days” runs through my head.

The Superintendent on the left Trevor Dargan is from Ireland whose budget is 650K Euro's!  That drawfs mine by several thousand dollars, but I've got his card and plan on giving him a call the first time I can get my clubs on the plane for a trip over the pond.   Steve Curry on the right is a former chapter delegate I bumped heads with time to time over the internet.  It was only after playing a round of golf together that he put my name with a face.  I knew when I saw the pairings who he was.  We still laugh about that to this day.
In recent times my budget paid my way to conference and show as a part of my contract benefit package. The recession largely pared that back to old days when I paid for the conference out of my own pocket, not by choice but by necessity. I'm a certified golf course superintendent and need to maintain continuing education credits that I can only earn by attending the conference and show. So when I was able to obtain a deal of deals, $477 per person to stay at a four star hotel right across the street from convention center for five nights AND included round trip airfare it was a “no-brainer.” I doubt if I’ll ever find that type of savings in the future so count on me placing the expense reimbursement in the budget annually. If you’ve read my blog this far, you can see that the expense is worth it.

And what a week it was.  It all started on Sunday with a Packers victory in Super Bowl 45 to ending with the Badgers beating then #1 Ohio State on Saturday.

Too bad the score doesn't show as the fans fill the court after victory!

What do we do in the Winter. Part Two.

What do you do during the winter,drink coffee and play cards?  Boy if I had a dollar for every time I answered that question untold times over the course of my career I would have at the very least a pocket full of cash.

This is what we do for you and your golf course each and every winter during our "off season" when there is snow on the ground keeping us from tree maintenance.  By the numbers, we inspect and repair over 135 pieces of turf maintenance equipment when added to that of the golf cart fleet which we also service. 

Do the math.  If there are five months of winter down time approximately 100 days and 135 pieces of equipment to go through, means we have to average better than one unit per day to reach our objective.  We are now forced by layoff to complete this work in thirty fewer days!

Reels lined up for disassembly and grinding.

Bedknives  sharpened awaiting reassembly.  Sharp knives are necessary for healthy turf.

The fairway unit has problems climbing hills and the problem needs to be rectified.  Engine? Fuel Injectors? Turbo charger?  Hydrostat?

By count, we sharpen and grind 65 cutting heads.  Look closely and you can see the reflection of the blades spinning.  The second picture show this better.

Look closely you can see the reflection of the reel spinning in the grinder.  The reel will go through a second sharpening to add a relief grind.  Once sharpened the reel will be reassembled, backlapped and rehung on the mower.

This photo show how fast the reel spins as it sharpens.
 All units are disassembled for inspection.  Here you can see a bearing that is pitted.  This bearing will run "hot" and fail before the summers is through.  Down time in season repair is costly and leads to complaints.

Rust and imperfections in the surface will cause this bearing to run hot.

Even though these bearings are grease frequently, reels and rollers run through dew covered turf.  Moisture is the culprit.
Equipment wears out over our time and a lot of our equipment is being used past its replacement life.

A new wheel on the left, old on the right.  Has the axle shaft expanded the hole that much?
Traction units are placed on the hoist for inspection, lubrication, and servicing.  Hydraulic hoses are inspected for wear and replaced before they fail.  Loose fittings are tightened.  Hydraulic hoses become brittle over time and are replaced over time on a yearly schedule more so than hours of service.

Cutting deck blades are removed and sharpened.
A new filter on the top vs. one that was new before leaf removal.

Forty two ball washers are bead blasted awaiting a fresh coat of paint.  We used to do more off season painting of equipment in years past when our staff size was larger and time permitted greater detail in our work.

42 ballwashers waiting for a nice warm February afternoon for a fresh coat of paint.

42 ballwashers means 42 covers.

Then of course I get to "blog" about it. _Mk

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What do you do in the Winter? Part One.

Toro Rake O Vac
What do we do in the Winter?  I've been asked that countless times over the course of my career.  Now with a little technology, I'm going to report back to you with the tasks we do during our "off season" all in preparation for the upcoming golf season.  One of the big jobs we targeted for rehab before our mandated six week furlough was to rebuild our 20 plus year old leaf and debris sweeper.  It is a manner of routine on our part to inspect each and every piece of equipment for wear and tear and to fix it BEFORE it breaks possibly costing the club thousands of dollars more in additional repair costs.  It's too cliche to mention "pay me now or pay me later," but I've witnessed the consequences brought on by the latter first hand.

Our investigation is best seen via the following photo's.

These blades are supposed to be straight.

Note hairline crack in blade.  How dangerous was that?

New blower fan and shaft replacement installed.

Wear seen on the draw bar -birds eye view.

Side view of draw bar wear.  Extensive.

The engine was overhauled as well.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the blower assembly alone, if purchased new from Toro would have cost the club a pricey $1,250 plus tax and freight.  We had a local machine shop refurbish ours for a cost just around $250 saving the club some serious money.  The draw bar has been rebuilt and reinstalled.  Believe this or not, but this is the third hitch fastened to this unit.  That's how much we depend on this unit in caring for your course.

Rebuilding your equipment is not cheap, but necessary as we would hate to have it break at the moment we need it most.  BTW, a new unit now lists over $35K.  A replacement is not in the cards in the foreseeable future.  We do a lot of refurbishing in house.  In the past when we had more time to care for your equipment, this unit would have been painted from top to bottom with new decals installed.

Hope you are enjoying your off season as we are scrambling to get everything ready for the upcoming season.