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2018 Golf Industry Show Preview

Posted On: January 2, 2018 by ClubProcure in: Agronomy

Golf Industry Show Preview

The VGM Club Village is the place for club industry professionals to come together and see what is new with VGM Club & learn more about our partners exhibiting at the Golf Industry Show. Last year we introduced the VGM Club Village to the Golf Industry Show with a ton of success. This year we hope to build on that success with great partners, a state of the art virtual reality game; and of course, more giveaways!

Showing at the booth with us will be Cintas, Stens, Gempler’s, Best Buy for Business, YETI, VGM Furniture, Airgas, Affinity Underwriters, PepsiCo, Gallo, and Sherwin-Williams! This show will be an excellent opportunity to learn just how impactful VGM Club and our suppliers can be for your 2018 season.

Come together at the VGM Club Village, Booth #1065 this February!

The tradeshow is just one part of the Golf Industry Show. The second, and arguably more important part for our members, is the education sessions and seminars. VGM Club was able to catch up with five of our members speaking during the 2018 GIS about their seminar topics and more.

Tim Hiers, CGCS at The Club at Mediterra in Naples, Florida: Seashore Paspalum Greens Management: Maintenance and Green Challenges

How long have you been giving this seminar?

Tim: I’ve been giving this seminar with Dr. Duncan for about 12 years.  In 1998, I got my first exposure to Seashore Paspalum on a test green, and then in 2000 we grassed Old Collier Golf Club with Seashore Paspalum tee to green. It was the second golf course in the world to grass tee to green, the first in the United States with a finer texture Paspalum. The first one was in Oahu, HI. We were also the first in the continental United States to irrigate exclusively with brackish water.

What did you take away from the 2017 show that you implemented at The Club at Mediterra?

Tim: The smaller show floor gave me an opportunity to get more out of the show than I did four or five years ago. I have made some equipment and product decisions, where in the past that hardly ever happened. What I typically do now is walk the floor the first day, give a quick look, and say hi to many people. Then I come back and make note of where I want to go the second day and spend my quality time there. That was tough to do when the show floor was bigger.

Looking forward to 2018, what is on your course’s maintenance department agenda?

Tim: We just finished three consecutive years of $16 million dollars in projects. We added all new irrigation for all 36 holes, a new pump station, a new pump house, new grass everywhere, new bunkers, Better Billy Bunkers, and new cart path. We are hoping for a normal maintenance routine. We will do some small things, but nothing big.

How do you plan to grow as a manager in 2018?

Tim: As you can imagine, being a superintendent for 41 years I’ve taken a ton of seminars and I think I can honestly say I have never had a bad seminar. I always take copious notes. If you treat people right, if you are considerate, and a decent listener and value people, you can take a hundred management seminars, but those are foundational pillars for good management.

The employee dynamic is changing almost yearly, and it does not do any good to mark a millennial a “millennial” and treat them like a “millennial”. You need to learn what motivates them without compromising your values. What motivates one person if they are 40 years old may motivate another person differently if they are 20.

Somebody told me this once, and it is one of my favorite analogies: “If you build 18 greens exactly the same, at the same time, with the same contractor, they still are not the same. Just like if two parents have 18 kids, none of the 18 kids are the same. They may come from the same family, just like greens, but every green has a different microenvironment, different size, different sun orientation, different elevation, and different tree shade.

To conclude, when you are managing people, you have to learn how to manage them with basic principles: consistency, consideration, empathy, and good communication. You have to manage to the group and then to the individual. This fluidity is what you will learn in all management seminars. Lastly, I will just say that the minute you stop learning is the minute you start going backwards. We must always stay hungry to learn more, but not just learn. Learning does not do anything if you do not apply it.

Tommy Witt, CGCS at Northmoor Country Club in Highland Park, Illinois: Negotiating Strategies for Superintendents - Getting to Yes 

How long have you been giving this seminar?

Tommy: Bruce and I have conducted this seminar for about eight years. Both of us have been long time instructors on numerous other subjects.

Without spoiling your seminar, tease it a little bit. Why is it important for folks in 2018?

Tommy: People negotiate everyday with everything. In my experience and from what I know from my peers, is many golf course superintendents take the first offer made. That does not happen in many other professions and careers.

This seminar helps students coming out of college and negotiating for their first assistant position. Because it is not just about money, it is about benefits and responsibilities too. How much responsibility can they have? Some golf course superintendents have medical that the facility pays for. Others, they pay for half of it. Others might not get any of their medical paid for. They may not have or negotiate any sort of retirement fund.

It also navigates negotiating with vendors. Golf course equipment is tremendously expensive. Do you want to purchase equipment for cash? Do you want to lease it? What advantages are there to negotiating a lease?

There are many examples of a golf course manager negotiating. Because of this, it would behoove, him or her, to have those skills to learn how to negotiate situations. You negotiate with your employees. You negotiate your work schedules. You negotiate entry level starting wages. That is the bottom line and I think that GCSA understood that this is a skillset where universities fall short.

I teach 20-25 different seminars and almost none of those are agronomic. We have wonderful superintendents out there talking about agronomics. We have wonderful turf grass researchers and scientists, but negotiating is just as important. Often times, the only way a golf course superintendent can learn how to negotiate effectively is through trial and error, and coming on the short-end of the stick.

How did you become better at negotiating? Was there a particular instance where you fell on the short-end of the stick that made you rethink your strategy?

Tommy: The average superintendent now is staying at their club for almost 10 years, whereas 10 - 12 years ago it was only 5.7 years before they found a new opportunity. That means the golf course superintendent is going to change jobs an average of four times. I feel I learned the most when I was interviewing and accepting new positions during my career. That was why I initially looked to improve my negotiating skills.

As I improved, I began looking at how I could get better at negotiating with vendors so I could provide more value to my position and show more value to my employers. So it was kind of two-fold, but most of it was initially in a job interview when I was asked, ‘How much money are you expecting?’ I learned not to answer that question right away. I learned not to answer that question until I was offered a job, and I answered that question once or twice too soon until I started reading self-help books. This was far beyond any training and experience that I got studying under Dr. Beard at Texas A&M. It wasn’t in that curriculum.

Was there anything from the 2017 GIS that you implemented at your facility last year?

Tommy: I taught two seminars “Negotiating Strategies” and “Considering Career Options.” The first is similar to Dr. Beard and I’s seminar this year, and the other is what to consider when offered a new position. What I took away from that, as I do every year, is how many golf professionals focus on the pay and place, without looking at the numerous other factors involved in career success. 

I took that one thing away from teaching those two seminars. I received feedback like “Oh I’ve never thought about that”, “I’ve never thought about how long the greens chairman will be there” “What is his reputation?” “What is the golf pro like?” “What’s the culture of the club?” “How many superintendents have they had in the last 20 years?” “Is it one or is it seven?”

The other thing is the networking and professional relationships and peers that I interact with there. “What are they doing?” “What challenges are they having?” They are sharing some of the same things with me. “Well how did you work that out with your greens chairman?” “How did you overcome this firm and fast demand?”

I have so much respect for the men and women out there and the jobs they do under different circumstances at different facilities and how they get it done. One of the things I have learned from just talking to my peers is you cannot get this kind of audience anywhere. It is not just about growing grass. I could talk to guys here on the north shore about growing grass and what they are doing because some of the finest superintendents in the country are right here within 10, 15, 20 miles of me. But then there is other men and women all over the country that are dealing with green chairmen, general managers, environmental issues, budget restraints that I can learn from at the GIS that does not happen without it.

What is on your course’s maintenance department agenda for 2018?

Tommy: We’re going to do a total bunker renovation. We have 27 holes here and we have renovated two of the three nines, and so in the upcoming year, we are going to look very closely at establishing our plans for renovating our third nine over the next three years or so.

How do you plan to grow as a manager in 2018?


  1. I will always take advantage of any articles, webinars, and information that deal with budgeting and topics under that umbrella.
  2. Working with my committee and club leaders on looking at our course maintenance standards. Expectations have risen dramatically since implementation a decade ago. We need to update our maintenance standards to meet realistic member expectations.
  3. Investigating more opportunities for leasing rather than cash purchasing of equipment because of the numerous values of leasing.

Ryan Cummings, CGCS at Elcona Country Club in Bristol, Indiana: Decision Maker: Stepping into a Leadership Role

How long have you been giving your seminar? 

Ryan: This is the second year that Dr. Patton and I have presented this seminar at GIS. 

What did you take away from GIS 2017 that you implemented at Elcona?

Ryan: I took away a few ideas that increased our staff’s efficiency in on course tasks from networking with various superintendents around the country.  For example, many superintendents had changed their bunker raking methods to the popular “Aussie” method, where the bottoms are raked daily and the edges are smoothed and only touched if impacted by daily play, thus allowing saved time each day to be re-allocated to other maintenance tasks.  By talking with other superintendents who have already implemented this into their routine, we were able to quickly figure out a game plan to utilize this method at Elcona in an efficient manner, and were able to re-allocate an average of 30 minutes to other tasks each day.  That made a powerful impact on our daily planning. 

Where does this topic fit for superintendents in 2018?

Ryan: This four-hour seminar is a great way to aid superintendents in their mentorship of their assistants.  Bringing an assistant to GIS is a great mentorship activity in its self with the huge educational and networking opportunity GIS presents an individual.  We wanted to get assistants in a room together to explore some of these topics that may not be a part of their current experience and explore different methods of how to solve real world issues they face each day on the job.  We do not advertise knowing all the answers, but rather provide the avenue for discussion among attendees to come up with what works best for the operation they are an integral part of.

Without spoiling your seminar, tease it a little bit. What information will attendees walk away with?

Ryan: Attendees will walk away with relevant solutions and techniques to build and lead their chosen teams back home. They will get introduced to areas where they may not have experience currently with, like budgeting and purchasing, and avenues to help manage the ever increasing data that they may be asked to collect on a daily basis.  Our hope is that we share one or two impactful nuggets of information that they can immediately apply back home to strengthen the operation they are charged with helping lead. 

What is on your course’s maintenance department agenda for 2018?

Ryan: Our course’s agenda for 2018 is continue to grow our efficiency and knowledge towards providing an end product that consistently exceeds our membership’s expectations.  On the project side, we have an opportunity to create a stunning feature along the west end of our pool, combining plant and hardscape materials.  Next fall I hope that we implement a few in-house projects that come from our recently approved Master Improvement Plan created by Shawn Smith and the team at Hills/Forrest. 

How do you plan to grow as a manager in 2018?

Ryan: Teaching this seminar has provided me with a few opportunities upcoming in 2018 to travel in the United States and Canada where I hope to continually expand my network of colleagues and friends in the industry.  Networking and being more of an outgoing person has been an opportunity for growth throughout my career, and it remains high on my list of goals for 2018.

Chris Tritabaugh, Golf Course Superintendent at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota: Successful Bentgrass Management on Greens and Fairways and Mindfulness & Millennials: Using Both to get Results and Keep Your Sanity

What did you take away from 2017’s GIS that you implemented at Hazeltine?

Chris: Attending GIS as a speaker, or faculty member is far different for me than attending as a non-speaker. I’m an introvert, so while I’m comfortable with public speaking/teaching, it is also exceptionally draining. It takes a great deal of mental energy for me to do a four hour seminar. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it, but when it is over I have very little energy left to act as a traditional GIS attendee. That being said, whenever I do a speaking engagement, I’m learning something. One of the reasons I work so hard to encourage audience participation is because their comments/questions provide me with a new way to look at my topic. Every time I give a talk on a particular subject, I walk away with something else to think about. Teaching others always helps me become better.  

Why did you choose the topic for your seminar?

Successful Bentgrass Management on Greens and Fairways:

Chris: Bentgrass management is something I’ve been passionate about my entire career. I don’t know if we do it better than others, but we’ve found a bentgrass management program that gets results with minimal inputs. I think that is something anyone can learn something from. This year I’ll be teaching the seminar without my partner from last year, Thomas Bastis. Thomas took a position as a PGA Tour agronomist and it won’t allow him to attend GIS. The seminar will be similar to last year, but I’m going to take a look at a few things we did differently at Hazeltine this season, as well as addressing some of the comments we received in last year’s evaluation.

Mindfulness & Millennials: Using Both to get Results and Keep Your Sanity

The second seminar is another topic on which I’m passionate-working with and providing leadership for Millennials. I’ll be teaching this seminar with Paul MacCormick from Prince Edward Island. Paul has become a good friend and we share a similar mindset when it comes to leadership and mindfulness. I’ll be concentrating on Millennials, while Paul speaks on Mindfulness. No doubt we’ll both play off each other’s portion, and we feel it will be a rewarding seminar.   

What is on your course’s maintenance department agenda for 2018?

  1. We’re going to be building some forward tees, which is becoming pretty common. We’ve had shorter teeing grounds, but the number of rounds played from them has outgrown their size and original intent.
  2. We’ll be starting to prepare for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in 2019. When we hosted the Ryder Cup, it came at the very end of the season, which meant we could use the entire golf season to fine-tune. The KPMG comes the third week of June, which in Minnesota is when the season is just getting going. For that reason, we’ll need to have the course pretty much ready to go when we shut it down for the winter.

How do you plan to grow as a manager in 2018?

Chris: I’m always trying to grow as a manager, or rather leader. I believe our industry has come to realize that great leadership leads to a great staff, which leads to great results. I do a lot of reading on the subject of leadership, I’ve began presenting on the subject and I spend a great deal of time thinking about it. As winter has begun, one of the areas in which I’ve concentrated is asking the staff-“what do we/I need to do to get better?” I listen and work towards achieving what they’ve told me. I don’t want anyone on our team to feel they have to be frustrated by work. If something is bothering you, tell me what it is and we’ll find a way to make it more enjoyable for you.

Rodney Crow, CGCS at Mount Vintage Golf Club in North Augusta, South Carolina: High Profile Job Market: What are THEY looking for?

How long have you been speaking about this topic?

Rodney: This will be our first year doing this particular seminar, entitled “High Profile Job Market:  What are THEY looking for?”. I did a seminar at the GIS in 2016 with Jan Fox and Carol Rau, and had a great time being a presenter. The idea for this seminar came to me this spring while I was talking with some turf students who were asking about resumes, interviewing, and advice on their careers.

Without spoiling your seminar, what are some of the things you will be sharing?

Rodney: I am doing this session in conjunction with Carol Rau, PHP who does career consulting for the GCSAA.  Our seminar will be taking a look at both hard skills (resumes, cover letters, etc) and soft skills (communicating, problem solving, etc) so that the attendees can better understand the need for BOTH sets of skills in today’s job market.

What is on your course’s maintenance department agenda for 2018?

Rodney: Mount Vintage Golf Club has several major projects on tap for 2018.  Last year, we renovated the bunkers on our Vintage 9.  We eliminated some bunkers, and added the Capillary Concrete liner system to the rest.  We also regrassed our Independent 9 greens from creeping bentgrass to Champion G12 ultradwarf bermudagrass.  For 2018, we will be renovating our Chester 9 bunkers, and converting our remaining 18 bentgrass greens to Champion G12.

How do you plan to grow as a manager in 2018? 

Rodney: For 2018, my biggest focus as a manager will be to really fine-tune my organizational skills.  As with most other facilities, a stagnant budget with increasing costs makes it critically important to have staff and projects as efficient as possible.

Do you want to schedule an appointment to meet with one of our reps at the show? Give us a call at 800-363-5480, or visit our Golf Industry Show page.