Rounds 4 Research, an initiative to raise funds
for turfgrass study, has gone national, thanks to the
efforts of the Carolinas Golf Course
Superintendents Association and its President, Doug Lowe, Director of Golf and Grounds Maintenance at Greensboro (N.C.) Country Club.
By Betsy Gilliland, Contributing Editor
Super in the Spotlight:
Position: Director of Golf and Grounds Maintenance
Club: Greensboro Country Club
No. of Holes: 36
Designer: Irving Park course—Donald Ross; Farm course—Donald Steel
No. of Members: About 1,300
Annual Rounds: 20,000 on each
Year Opened: Irving Park course —1909; Farm course —1965
Golf Season: Year-round
Fairways: Irving Park course—Bermuda; Farm course—Zoysia
Honors and Awards: The Farm course received Golf magazine’s 2010 Renovation of the Year award. Doug Lowe received a 2002 GCSAA Excellence in Government Relations Case Study Award, 2006 GCSAA Excellence in Government Relations Award, and the 2007 Bayer Purple Cow Award. He is also the 2012 CGCSA President.
Rounds 4 Research, a highly successful initiative that was started by the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association (CGCSA) in 2009, has taken its game to the next level.
This year the program, which raises funds for turfgrass research by auctioning donated rounds of golf at participating facilities online, has gone national. Significant demand led the CGCSA, which generated almost $350,000 in three years, to seek out an organization with a wider reach to oversee the program. The Environmental Institute for Golf (EIFG), the philanthropic arm of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), answered the call, and two of the four auction periods began in October at www.biddingforgood.com. Another auction ran November 12-26, with the final period scheduled for December 3-17.
Funds generated by the auctions will be returned to participating GCSAA-affiliated chapters for agronomic research, education, advocacy and scholarships. Of course, golfers benefit from the initiative as well, by gaining the opportunity to play courses they otherwise might not have a chance to play.
Club & Resort Business recently spoke to Certified Golf Course Superintendent Doug Lowe, President of the CGCSA and Director of Golf and Grounds Maintenance at Greensboro (N.C.) Country Club, about how Rounds 4 Research came to be, and the reasons for now taking it nationwide.
Q How was Rounds 4 Research started?
A Our Executive Director, Tim Kreger, came up with the idea one day driving down the road. Tim has a strong background in fundraising efforts, and the key to the whole concept was to ask golf facilities for a non-cash donation while at the same time getting the end user (the golfer) to have a more direct role in this funding initiative.
Q Who administered the original program, and what did that involve?
A The original program was largely administered by CGCSA staff. A few of the core responsibilities for our staff included, but were not limited to, communicating the program to our members; obtaining mailing lists for potential buyers; coordinating with the auction site; setting up the web hosting services; manually inputting donations, and mailing donation receipts. The CGCSA Board and the Rounds 4 Research committee spent their time on a grassroots effort to sell the initiative to the membership and other regional golf industry associations, to ensure maximum participation.
Q Why did you decide to go national with the program?
A The first few years of the program were extremely successful—so much so that we began to hear from other chapters that wanted to get involved. While we were able to work with a few local chapters, it eventually became obvious that the program should not be limited to just the Carolinas and a few surrounding chapters, because we knew the potential good that could come from this program on a national scale. Thus, we began to communicate with the GCSAA, to see if it would be willing to take on this project to benefit chapters all across the country.
Q How did the Environmental Institute for Golf get involved?
A The EIFG is the philanthropic organization within the GCSAA, and its mission is to promote environmental awareness and support both research funding and scholarships. While the CGCSA was willing to expand this program in-house if need be, it was very clear to us that the best organizations to manage this program nationally were the GCSAA and the EIFG.
Q Is the CGCSA still involved in any capacity?
A Our Executive Director was retained as a program consultant for a small period of time, to ensure the program got off to a good start. Other than that, the EIFG now largely manages all aspects of the program. Each individual chapter still has the responsibility to get the member facilities involved by donating the actual rounds of golf. Here in the Carolinas, we have a committee set up to actively pursue involvement of our members on a local basis, and we are constantly reviewing participation updates sent to us by the EIFG.
Funds raised by auctioning off donated rounds will be returned to participating GCSAA-affiliated chapters for agronomic research, education, advocacy and scholarships.
Q What are the benefits of the program?
A The program was set up to raise funds for turfgrass research, which at one time was largely financed with state governmental funds. Today those funds have been minimized due to tight statewide budgets, which has put more pressure on the industry that most directly benefits from this research to provide those new funding measures. Benefits to the member facilities and the golf industry come in the form of up-to-date research on how to best manage turfgrass. Secondary benefits with this particular program are what I alluded to earlier—the golf facilities themselves get involved with a non-cash donation, which helps their budget, and the end user benefits by gaining access to hundreds, if not eventually thousands, of golf courses, all at a reduced market price.
Q Why has it been so successful?
A Like so many things, it has been successful because it was a well-thought idea that fit the situation. Just as importantly to note, several people have worked hard to promote this program and to make it work. Courses are quicker to give away a tee time than the cash value of that donation, and the golfers like the access and discounted prices.
Q How are the proceeds used?
A In the CGCSA we have always used the proceeds to pay for the administration of the program and to fund turfgrass research. Other chapters are encouraged to
use funds for turfgrass research, but to my knowledge, they can direct those funds to other needed areas such as environmental awareness, government relations,
and so on. C&RB
Q How are they distributed to various entities?
A I believe the current process involves the EIFG sending out checks to each chapter once the final transactions for each auction are complete, with 80 percent of the funds raised going to the chapter and 20 percent going to the EIFG to support its core missions.
Q Why is agronomic research important to the golf course maintenance business?
A Golf Course Superintendents are always striving to conduct best management practices on their golf courses. Issues that frequently pop up such as turf disease, managing new turf varieties, fertilizers usage, etc., are best solved by research professions and ultimately communicated to the end user on a large scale, saving individual managers the need to conduct their own research.
Q What areas of golf course maintenance have suffered the most because of lack of funding?
A The first thing that comes to mind would be plant disease management. Nature has a way of quickly evolving to get around our current treatment strategies, so we find ourselves constantly needing to keep pace in order to minimize the negative impacts of turfgrass diseases.
Q What kind of advantages have you gained by working with other golf industry stakeholders through Rounds 4 Research?
A Many issues that are studied by the various university systems throughout the country not only benefit the region in which the studies are conducted, but can be used by turfgrass managers nationwide. For instance, research conducted on the West Coast definitely can have the potential to benefit managers on the East Coast and elsewhere.
Q What kind of effect will Rounds 4 Research have on the golf course maintenance business in the future?
A With the changes that have taken place this year with GCSAA now administering the program, everyone expects the success of the program will have a slower pace than maybe what we experienced here in the Carolinas. Once the program is up and fully running – and chapters everywhere begin to see the merits of this program – the potential rewards for the turfgrass and golf course industry are almost unlimited. While the program does include some time and energy that must be spent at the local level, the give back that is received is well worth the input. I for one hope this program continues to succeed on a much larger scale than was ever envisioned by Tim Kreger when he first began thinking about alternative ways to raise money for turfgrass research and how to support our land grant universities here in the Carolinas.