Sylacauga, Ala., located just east of the state’s geographic center, is a town of 12,600 known as “The Marble City,” because it sits on a solid deposit, measuring 32 miles long by 1 1/2 miles wide by 400 feet deep, of what’s claimed to be the hardest, whitest marble in the world.
But for people working in the club and resort business— and for golf course superintendents in particular—Sylacauga has a new claim to fame that’s about as far removed from slabs of white marble as you can get (except for the big hunk used to make the sign shown in the photo above). Sylacauga is now also the and services, and network with experts and top names in the golf industry.
Q How can superintendents—and the management at their clubs—be assured that trips to FarmLinks will be non-commercial in nature, and that they’ll take away real value, besides the benefit of some welcomed R&R? A Our programs are not live “infomercials” or inyour- face product sales. The Experience at FarmLinks is a teaching tool and a learning experience for superintendents, industry professionals, students, and golfers in general. Guests find that rest and relaxation are combined with innovation and education.
For example, while enjoying 18 holes of golf, guests can also check out the product research plots of companies like PTI and Syngenta, and the most current maintenance and hospitality equipment that companies like Toro and Club Car have to offer—including some new products that have yet to be released.
But many visitors still say the best part of the experience is the Southern hospitality and the relationships they build while they’re here. Our guests aren’t subjected to boring meetings and endless sales pitches; they enjoy activities and comfortable accommodations— and time is also built in for interaction with other superintendents and professionals.
And as “The Experience” continues to expand, we’re planning to incorporate more customized, solutionsoriented programs. Eventually we hope to gather information from each superintendent about their needs before they even arrive here, so we can prepare to directly address issues that concern them. We’re also about to integrate a new on-the-course tour that I will be conducting; it will take visitors through the entire FarmLinks course and discuss the real-life issues happening here, as well as the solutions we’ve utilized to effectively manage our course.
Q Exactly what kinds of studies are conducted on the property—are they scientific in nature, in that they compare treatments and controls, or more along the lines of field evaluation of products and inputs? A We have both kinds. Everything at FarmLinks is designed to be educational in one way or another. Companies learn how to improve their products; superintendents are exposed to better techniques; and students and future golfers gain new insights. The bottom line is that FarmLinks is designed to focus on research and demonstration—while true research is a benefit to our industry, the demonstration of products can be just as beneficial to the end user. Our guests have limited time while they’re here, and we’ve discovered that they enjoy seeing the products and services in use. And the results of that use are evident.
One example of a demonstration that’s currently on the property would be how Syngenta products are used to control poa annua in overseed. We apply a combination of Monument and Barricade eight weeks prior to overseed, and have achieved 90%+ control of poa annua. We set up three plots on hole #4, one with Barricade+Monument, one check, and one Barricade only. The plots are marked, and our guests can see what is occurring with the products.
An example of research done at FarmLinks is something that began last year. Use of Primo on putting greens has become a popular practice in the Midwest and in other regions. We took six greens, three shady and three sunny, and sprayed Primo every two weeks at 5 ozs/1000 sq. ft. with our nutrients. We had a plot covered so the Primo would not get on the plants, and we came back and sprayed the nutrients only on these plots. We then took samples of roots inside and outside the plots, and are observing them for root length and mass. In 2006, we will continue doing research and demonstration like this with several other products, hoping to find ways to help superintendents be more efficient while delivering a better product.
Q What are some of the things you’ll be doing in the future to keep producing information and findings of value to superintendents? A We recently put together an Innovations Advisory Committee composed of nine golf course superintendents from across the nation (see box below) with a combined total of more than 100 years of golf course knowledge and experience. These are leaders in the industry who know what products and practices will be the driving factors in the success and growth of a golf facility. Our goal for this committee is to identify the most significant finds and come together as a group to discuss and compile a list of the top innovations in the industry. Based on these recommendations, our internal team will seek the involvement of sponsoring companies for our Innovative Solutions pavilion at FarmLinks.
FarmLinks will also continue to serve as a research and development site for companies that partner with us; they can utilize the facility and the feedback we get to refine products and bring them to market. Toro, for example, has been a partner since the beginning, and has utilized this concept to rework prototypes and develop new equipment, based on superintendents’ input. FarmLinks Innovations Advisory Committee Members Mark Clark, Troon G&CC, Scottsdale, Ariz. Sandy Clark, Barona Creek GC, San Diego Jeff Corcoran, Oak Hill CC, Rochester, N.Y. Todd Daniel, Riverchase CC, Birmingham, Ala. David Gourlay, Colbert Hills GC, Manhattan, Kan. Tim Kennelly, Baltimore CC, Baldwin, Md. Rick Tegtmeier, Elmcrest CC, Cedar Rapids, Iowa Tom Vlach, Greystone G&CC, Birmingham, Ala. Bruce Williams, The Los Angeles CC, Los Angeles Just a few of the more than 1000 industry pros who are now “Experienced.”
FarmLinks Innovations Advisory Committee Members
- Mark Clark, Troon G&CC, Scottsdale, Ariz.
- Sandy Clark, Barona Creek GC, San Diego
- Jeff Corcoran, Oak Hill CC, Rochester, N.Y.
- Todd Daniel, Riverchase CC, Birmingham, Ala.
- David Gourlay, Colbert Hills GC, Manhattan, Kan.
- Tim Kennelly, Baltimore CC, Baldwin, Md.
- Rick Tegtmeier, Elmcrest CC, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
- Tom Vlach, Greystone G&CC, Birmingham, Ala.
- Bruce Williams, The Los Angeles CC, Los Angeles
Dan Dinelli is a member of the Club & Resort Business Editorial Advisory Board and writes frequently for C&RB on course maintenance topics. Have a topic you’d like to see Dan address in a future issue? A question about a specific course and grounds challenge you’re facing at your club? Or would you just like to invite Dan to visit your club sometime to exchange ideas? Write to him at [email protected]
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