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Posts Tagged ‘golf course superintendents’

Fertiliser: less is more

Posted by mynormas on August 9, 2016

I was doing training at a golf club the past couple of weeks. It was about basic chemical application, y’know, calibration, safety, pest identification and stuff. Since it was the fourth time for the club (the superintendent organised it every alternate year), I thought I’d slip in a module about fertilising, just to keep the training interesting and hopefully to ensure I get invited back next year. Two things came to mind:

One. I was explaining about the nutrients required by turf and how important each nutrient in its own way to the health of the turf. I was writing on the white board when suddenly I drew a wooden barrel (or cask, if you prefer) and mentioned about Liebig’s Law of Minimum. I said that according to Mr. Liebig, each nutrient is important and lacking in any will affect the plant’s health.

Liebig's barrel

Liebig used the image of a barrel with unequal staves to explain how plant growth is limited by the element in shortest supply, just as the level of water in the barrel is limited by the shortest stave.

During the lunch break a participant showed me a picture of the Liebig’s barrel sent by the superintendent (he was sitting at the back of the class) to their group WhatsApp presumably because my drawing was bad. It then occurred to me that I actually read about Liebig’s Law 22 or 23 years ago! I remember because I read it in the local public library. I know it was that long ago because back then, knowledge wasn’t the only thing I was pursuing at the library and when I got married, I largely stopped going to the library.

Anyway, Liebig’s law was more than 150 years old and there probably are people who disagreed with him but the fact that I recalled it at the particular instant reminded me about something I heard or read about the mysteries of the mind and how we don’t actually lose information in the brain, so I came to the logical conclusion: I am more than just a pretty face.

The second thing that struck my mind was when I was explaining about measuring green sizes and the participants eagerly asked that it be included in the practical session later in the evening. Know this; most of my participants are not particularly fond of practical sessions because it involves a lot of calculations. Know this too: many superintendents don’t know or don’t measure their green sizes.

Training day at KLGCC

I told my participants that knowing green sizes is important because it will be easier to weigh the amount of fertiliser needed for each green – based on fertilising rate – as compared to calibrating the fertiliser spreader or worse, having no system at all. It would also make it easy to buy close to exact amount of fertiliser needed instead of the usual one ton figure when what you really need is 0.8 ton for 18 greens for six months (all figures not real).

As an example, if we decide to fertilise at a rate of 1.5kg/100 sq.m then green 7 which is 600 sq.m in size will get 9kg, green 8 (703 sq.m) will get 10.5kg, green 16 (345 sq.m) shall receive 5.2kg of fertiliser brand Y which, when calculated with the percentage of nitrogen in the fertiliser, we can say that each green receives 150g of nitrogen per 100sq.m.

Furthermore if the total sizes of all 19 greens in your course is 9,200sq.m, and you think you will stick with applying 1.5kg/100 sq.m/month of that particular fertiliser, then you’ll know you need 125kg of it every month or about 750kg for the next six months. Why order more? Yet it is quite common for clubs to order an exact one ton despite the protestations of the supplier “NO! Don’t order so much! Order just enough for your needs!”. Ahem.

It is disappointing that I can still find Malaysian golf clubs that apply fertiliser at the rate of one bag per green regardless of green or fertiliser bag sizes. The other method I’ve seen was when I was told that this club used the setting ‘J’ on brand ‘X’ fertiliser spreader. That could’ve sound reasonable except that the spreader was never calibrated and the superintendent doesn’t know the rate of fertiliser he applied.

In the first club, after measuring the greens and weighing the fertiliser according to the size of greens and rate of application, they cut down their fertiliser use from 16 bags to 12 bags per month. Guess what? The greens were greener and in better condition two months later. In the other club, they chose to be secretive about the amount of fertiliser used before measurement or maybe they didn’t know or maybe they were upset that a consultant was forced on them and didn’t want to cooperate: didn’t matter  to me, based on a few factors, I chose a new rate and the greens improved too.

If you think by saving the club’s money every month, producing  greener and better greens means that I’m getting a huge paycheck; you’re wrong. Despite the improvements at one particular club, it still hasn’t paid me for the last four months of my consultancy there. No kidding.

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Posted in Golf Course, Golf Course Superintendents, Greens, Padang Golf | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tercabar.

Posted by mynormas on September 14, 2015

“Anda tidak layak untuk bekerja di padang golf”. Saya dengar ayat itu dua kali dalam dua bentuk pada tahun 1993. Kali pertama adalah dari Course Superintendent bangsa Malaysia yang memberitahu seorang pelawat – di depan saya – dan kali kedua ialah dari pengganti beliau, seorang warga Australia yang memberitahu saya di depan muka saya di tee lubang 2 Valley Course.

Maksud mereka mungkin sama, tetapi cara mereka menghadapi nya adalah berbeza; Orang pertama telah mengambil tindakan untuk tidak mengendahkan saya dan terus memberi arahan kepada para pekerja melalui dua orang supervisor. Tugas yang di beri kepada saya hanyalah semata-mata untuk pusing padang selepas hujan dan check bunker mana yang bertakung air.

Manakala, Course Superintendent dari Australia itu telah mengarah saya dan seorang lagi Asisten Superintenden untuk membawa mesin padang golf sebagai operator biasa. Rakan saya itu, saya akan panggil dia sebagai Mr. T, telah mengambil tindakan untuk berhenti kerja dengan berkata “Aku ada ijazah, kenapa mesti buat kerja ini?”.

Saya telah menerimanya sebagai satu cabaran. Sebelum masuk kerja di industri golf, saya bekerja di industri perladangan dengan jawatan Penolong Pengurus Ladang yang selau di panggil ‘Tuan’ oleh pekerja biasa dan sekarang saya akan membuat kerja sebagai pekerja biasa.

Bukan saja saya bawak mesin, saya juga di beri tugas untuk ‘cuci’ spinkler di 18 lubang. Saya kena buka sprinkler dari atas, keluarkan internal (isi) nya, pecahkan saringan (filter) di bawah sprinkler, seluk tangan sampai ke siku untuk keluarkan sisa saringan, bukak air supaya apa yang sumbat akan keluar dari bawah sprinkler, kemudian pasang balik semua. Ulang beratus kali lagi. Ada satu hari tu, seorang pekerja tak sampai hati tengok tangan saya luka dan ambil screwdriver dari tangan saya untuk ambilalih tugas. Ego saya nak ambil balik, tapi akhirnya saya mengalah…

Yang paling mencabar ialah kerja menyembur racun menggunakan boom-sprayer dan menabur baja menggunakan spreader Vicon di belakang tractor. Saya pernah masuk hospital enam hari kerana keracunan. Satu hari, sedang saya baja fairway berlaku hujan lebat, saya pun balik ke pejabat. Course Superintendent jumpa saya dan tanya “Why are you back?”, saya kata “Its raining”. Dia ambil plastik tarpaulin, tutup Vicon supaya hujan tidak masuk ke dalam spreader dan suruh saya sambung. Waktu itu petir dah mula, boleh saja saya lepak di driving range atau poolside cafe atau starter hut tetapi saya habiskan juga baja fairway lubang 12 dalam hujan lebat dan petir. Bila saya balik dalam basah kuyup, dia tunggu saya di depan pejabat. Dia kata, “I know its raining and all, but I need you to do this”. Masa tu, Tuhan saja yang tahu dalam hati, tapi kemudian, saya tahu ketahanan saya menghadapi kesukaran kerja, antaranya datang dari situ. Itu hakikat kerja di padang golf; cuaca yang tidak menentu. Kalau hujan sikit kita yang lari dulu, apa cerita pekerja kita?

Bukan niat post ini untuk saya bangga diri, tapi saya ingin menekankan bahawa untuk kerja di padang golf sebagai supervisor atau superintenden dan sebagainya, kita perlu tahu pengoperasian, penggunaan dan penjagaan mesin yang ada di padang dan buat kerja di padang.

Jangan nanti anda di cabar secara langsung oleh pekerja (tidak akan selamanya pekerja anda adalah orang asing) dengan dia kata “Cuba kau buat! Aku nak tengok!” ataupun secara tidak langsung bila mereka mogok atau tidak datang kerja dan anda sendiri kena bawak mesin. Jangan juga di perbodohkan pekerja. Saya masih teringat ketawa pekerja kerana Mr. T tidak jumpa cari kunci untuk hidupkan mesin ‘sweeper’; mesin itu sebenarnya tidak menggunakan kunci, ia gunakan sistem push-start seperti yang ada pada banyak kereta moden sekarang. Mereka sengaja tak beritahu dia kerana dia tidak tanya mereka dengan baik.

Kalau anda boleh buat apa yang mereka boleh buat, bukan sahaja hormat mereka akan meningkat, tetapi keyakinan diri anda juga akan meningkat.

Di masa yang sama, mereka tidak boleh lagi memberitahu anda tentang kerja sewenang-wenangnya. BIla saya masuk kerja sebagai Superintenden di kelab baru, pekerja memberitahu saya bahawa mereka mengambil masa dua hari untuk potong fairway di 9 lubang. Selepas sebulan, saya ajar mereka macamana nak potong dengan betul dan dalam masa singkat, mereka boleh siap 9 lubang dalam sehari dan fairway lebih cantik dari dahulu. Mereka bukan pekerja baru; seorang pemotong fairway dah ada pengalaman 7 tahun. Samada mereka sengaja menduga saya atau mereka tidak di latih dengan betul. Kedua dua itu dapat saya atasi kerana saya sendiri boleh bawak mesin.

Saya juga akan bawa multi-use tool yang ada pisau, screwdriver, plier dan sebagainya di pinggang untuk membuat pembaikan kecil di padang. Saya tiada masalah untuk baring di bawah mesin (selepas ambil langkah keselamatan) untuk lihat apa yang rosak.

Kita tidak perlu boleh bawak mesin sehebat pekerja yang sepanjang hari bawak mesin. Kita tidak perlu se’terror’ operator yang dah 20 tahun bawak mesin green. Tapi kita tidak boleh tidak tahu bawak. Itu saja. Kita mesti boleh nampak yakin untuk duduk di kerusi operator dan hidupkan engine dan potong bila perlu. Saya selalu kata “Bagi saya dua minggu, saya boleh buat apa yang awak buat”. Dah cukup. Mungkin bunyi macam cakap besar, tapi saya yakin boleh.

Ini semua, saya berterima kasih kepada apa yang di buat oleh Martin Greenwood, Superintenden dari Australia yang memberi saya pilihan; bawak mesin masuk padang atau bawak kereta keluar kelab.

Jangan takut di cabar. Cabaran mental kerja ini lebih penting untuk anda hadapi dan harungi dari cabaran yang anda ‘perasan’ . Kita boleh ada kelulusan tinggi, kita boleh ada pengalaman banyak, kita boleh cakap besar. Tapi, kita boleh buat ke? Cabar diri sendiri. Test and exceed your own limits. Push yourself if no one else does. When someone else push you; take the challenge.

#nevergiveup

Asalnya, artikel ini sampai ini saja dan ia di bangkitkan oleh perbualan saya dengan seorang rakan yang bercerita tentang rakan lain yang merasa tertekan bila di suruh untuk bawa mesin sedangkan mereka sudah berpengalaman dan berpelajaran. Lepas tu, terdengar cerita lain pula yang juga saya rasa mencabar, jadi sebelum artikel ni auto-publish; saya tambah sikit di bawah. Sometimes people forget that what’s posted or commented on Facebook can be seen by other people that was not the target.

Beberapa tahun kemudian, bila ada peluang untuk naik pangkat; saya telah di beritahu “You are not ready”. Memandangkan usia saya dah pertengahan 30an, saya tak pasti samada ia adalah isu perkauman ataupun kerana tiada kelulusan. Kalau ia tentang perkauman, tiada apa yang saya boleh buat, tetapi jika kelulusan, saya mau berubah.

Saya telah mengambil kelas malam Diploma in Accountancy mengikut syllabus LCCI. Saya ada tiga atau empat guru dan rasanya semua mereka lebih muda dari saya. Tapi saya takkan biarkan saya di cabar tanpa sebarang tentangan. Tiga malam seminggu akan memandu 20km ke bandar utk kelas malam dari pukul 7 sampai pukul 9 atau 10 malam. Pada bulan puasa saya terpaksa buka puasa dalam kelas, walaupun ia melibatkan hanya saya seorang, semua kawan dan guru sangat supportive.

BIla saya lulus periksa, saya bawa sijil ke kelab. Kelab itu dengan baik nya telah membayar kos belajar saya; memang saya terkejut tetapi sangat lah saya berterima kasih. Bukan itu saja, saya juga telah di naikkan pangkat. Tapi kena share: dua orang di naikkan pangkat, saya jaga ‘back room’ departments dan sorang lagi rakan yang hampir 10 tahun lebih muda dari saya akan jaga front office departments (Oh? Dia ready pulak?). Ok lah… saya terima. Kerja beberapa bulan, dapat tawaran lain. Saya pun pergi.

Di kelab baru, saya pegang satu jawatan tapi buat dua kerja. Kerja kedua adalah kerja yang saya suka dan kerja pertama adalah cabaran baru untuk saya. Oleh itu, saya terima.

Bila tiba akan ada kekosongan jawatan atasan akibat persaraan saya telah bersuara bahawa saya tidak berminat tapi saya mencadangkan bahawa kerja saya di perbesarkan untuk merangkumi kawasan lain. Saya tak kisah dan saya tahu saya tiada peluang pun tapi saya tidak suka kelemahan saya di jadikan alasan. Saya tahu apa orang cakap belakang saya tapi saya yakin dengan kekuatan saya dan saya kenali kelemahan saya. Saya terima satu panggilan talipon dari kawan yang telah di ‘headhunt’ untuk jawatan tersebut . Kawan saya tidak mahu jawatan itu kerana faktor usia tetapi dia merasa sangat marah kerana dia dapat tahu saya, dan orang-orang seperti saya tidak akan ada peluang untuk naik jawatan itu (headhunter minta dia beri cadangan calon lain yang ‘preferably’ serupa dengan dia). Saya tidak terkejut tapi saya terharu dia lebih marah dari saya. Saya masih ingat ayat dia “Eh. What’s wrong with your club ha?”

Saya ambil kelas malam lagi, belajar bahasa. Mahal untuk saya kerana ia adalah one-on-one. Tapi saya dapati ia sangat susah dan saya tahu juga ia tidak akan membawa apa apa perubahan di tempat kerja. Ia bukan tentang bahasa. So? Kenapa buang masa? Saya dapatkan kerja lain lah.

I refuse to be a victim. Fight it, or walk away. I choose to walk away. It will not be a battle I can win or make a difference. Why bother?

Saya dapat kerja di kelab yang lebih besar dan selepas itu, dapat kerja dari sebuah kelab yang terkenal tapi saya merasakan dah jemu dengan ini semua dan ingin kembali kerja di padang supaya saya boleh buat apa yang saya suka buat: jaga rumput dan jadi bos sendiri.

Saya jadi consultant. Tapi saya perlukan kelainan. Saya tak boleh tukar warna kulit tapi saya boleh tambah kelulusan dan kecekapan saya. Saya ambil periksa Pengendali Racun Makhluk Perosak dari Kementerian Pertanian, Kursus Penulisan di atas talian (http://suzannedoyleingram.com/) dan juga Masters in Environmental Science dari Universiti Terbuka Malaysia (oum.edu.my).

Will it make a difference? Honestly? Rezeki dari Tuhan. Bukan dari orang dan bukan dari kepingan kertas. But it makes me feel good to improve myself and prove other people wrong. I am not lazy. I am not stupid.

Bila saya rasa tercabar, saya akan periksa diri saya dan lihat di mana kelemahan saya dan perbaikinya. Complaining or whining won’t help. It will just make you feel like a victim and then you will feel helpless. And angry.

Never be a victim. Fight it or walk away. And when I say ‘Fight it’ I do not mean it ine literal sense. I mean that you find out what’s wrong and how you can be better or if there is a misunderstanding. Kita cari apa masalahnya dan bagaimana kita boleh jadi lebih baik atau mungkin ada salahfaham. If it is based on prejudice; trust me, any amount of fighting will only make the other party dig in and say they are right. Kalau ia berdasarkan prejudis, sebarang pergaduhan atau pertengkaran tidak akan membantu anda; ia hanya akan membuat pihak satu lagi kata mereka yang betul.

Walk away. Bila saya walk away, saya jimat tenaga dan saya kekal kawan dengan orang itu. Saya tidak rugi dan mereka tidak menang apa-apa. Saya berdoa satu hari nanti hati mereka akan terbuka dan boleh terima sesiapa sahaja berdasarkan pengetahuan dan kebolehan. Saya percaya lebih mudah untuk kita capai itu jika ia di buat secara damai dan menerima kelemahan dan memperbaiki diri.

Insya Allah.

Posted in Golf Course | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Licence to Kill

Posted by mynormas on June 8, 2015

Very few turfgrass professionals in Malaysia realise that there is such a thing as a licence to apply pesticides. Except perhaps suppliers who have to have a licence to keep pesticides in their stores; they would be aware because it is given by the same body which is the Department of Agriculture.

Wait. What? You’re a supplier and you don’t have a licence to store pesticides? Oops. Well, perhaps because nobody checks so nobody knows. Except that recently a client who was worried about using pesticides that are irresistably cheap they actually kill – not only the target pests – but the grass as well, have asked me to narrow down specifications for pesticides and the three things that I can think of were to find chemicals that are registered with the LRMP (Pesticide Board), have MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) and buy from suppliers that have licences from DOA. So maybe one day, your customers will ask for your licence, then maybe you have to have one.

Pesticides, which includes herbicides by the way and not just insecticides and fungicides, are often used in relatively large quantities on a golf course. I say relatively because in Malaysia, it is rare to find them being used on fairways which is about 50% of a golf course never mind roughs (30%?) so for most of Malaysian golf courses; pesticides are restricted only on greens which constitutes about 5 – 10% of the golf course – ditto fertiliser (does that solve the mystery of Malaysian golf course quality for you?) – and because of Malaysia’s rainfall and humidity, the greens’ grass are quite often infected so we are still talking about a big amount of pesticides; though not as big as if it is also applied to fairways and rough hence the word ‘relatively’. Get my drift? Pun intended.

Despite applying mostly on greens, pesticides can consume up to 10 – 20% of the material cost on the golf course maintenance budget.

Even though the greens constitute only about 5 – 10% of the golf course area, golfers spend about 75% of their game on the greens so the greens are considered as the most important part of the golf course and the most highly maintained. It also means that golfers spend a lot of time on the most pesticide-applied area of the golf course. Constant exposure to pesticides can cause a multitude of reactions to different people; some are harmless and some can be dangerous. Of course a low level of exposure to a very toxic pesticide may be no more dangerous than a high level of exposure to a relatively low toxicity pesticide; so most of the risk is assumed by the applicators themselves. But still, I feel that golfers must beware the grass they are playing on is applied with chemicals that are potentially toxic. Then there’s also the risk of pesticide ‘drifting’ when applied at the neighbouring holes.

So we would expect that because of the risks to the applicators, to the greens, to the golfers and to the environment; most golf courses have applicators that are specially trained in this area with special equipment; right?

Not really…

Spraying greens with knapsack sprayer

Spraying greens with knapsack sprayer

Spraying iwth walking boom.

Spraying with walking boom.

Manual spray in progress

Manual spray in progress. Note the amount of spray coming out. How to know how much was sprayed in one area?

I’ve always find it strange and slightly worrying that the concept of ‘calibrating’ of sprayers are not common among Malaysian pesticide applicators, be them golf courses or even football fields. How do you know how much pesticide you are using or have applied? How do you know you have sprayed once or overlapped?

I suppose most of us have seen the application of chemicals so often that we are immune to what is wrong or right.

Unfortunately, the applicators licence issued by DoA are not compulsory on golf courses because they are considered as private property and the licence are compulsory for applicators in public property such as houses (for pest-control companies) but wouldn’t it be nice if ALL golf courses and football fields in Malaysia have trained pesticide applicators? Wouldn’t we feel safer?

I conduct a two-day hands-on training limited to six person to a class at your golf course with your current equipment (which means I can evaluate it too) so if you want to make sure that your grass gets the right amount of pesticide to treat the disease/insects/weeds, I assure you, the cost of using too much or the wrong chemicals is much, much higher than the cost of training. Call O3-5I3I OO66 or email mynormasATconsultant (AT=@) now.

I had to brag (liar) but I'm probably one of the few in the industry in Malaysia that has an applicators licence.

I hate to brag (liar) but I’m probably one of the few in the turf industry in Malaysia that has a pesticide applicator’s licence.

Posted in Golf club, Golf Course, Golf Course Superintendents, Greens, Lanskap | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Biggest Office

Posted by mynormas on June 3, 2015

This picture? The

This picture? The “Golf Course Superintendent” sign? Totally not photoshopped or tricked out in any way.
To be fair, the super has moved to new facilities; thanks to new management and they went on be one of the top clubs in Malaysia.

Reading or writing by squinting through one eye is a bummer; I’ve had to go through a minor operation on one eye due to cataract yet I really felt the need to say something about this issue. This past week I’ve had four discussions about Malaysian golf course conditions  (I know thats what you go through in a day but bear with me) and all of it relates to the man in charge, commonly called as the golf course superintendent. In Malaysia, they are also referred to as the golf course manager, supervisor, director or assistant superintendent but the fact remains, they are in charge. I divide them into a few categories:

  1. Superintendents who don’t know what to do
  2. Superintendents who won’t do
  3. Superintendents who can’t do
  4. Superintendents who’s knowledgeable, can and will do.
  5. The corrupt.

It has been said that the golf course superintendent (or whatever the designation) has the biggest office in a golf club; anything between 120 to 300 acres. He, other than the club manager, should be the highest paid person in the club. Such privileges do not come easy; on his shoulder rest the reputation and prestige of the club and he is responsible for the highest expense department, not to mention taking care of the item with the highest construction cost; the golf course.

Right about now I can hear the cliché already; “it is a team effort”. Of course it is, but the team would have to be led by someone that needs to know agronomy, plant pathology, soil science, entomology, agriculture engineering, hydrology, not to mention golf rules and even golf itself. No? Then how is he (or she) to know about plant health, fertility, insects, drainage, machinery, irrigation and how to set up the golf course?

Cliché alert: “It’s not rocket science”, “it’s just growing grass”, anyone can do it bla bla bla. For these managers/owners, I say good luck in managing your clubs but actually, these are the minority. The majority of clubs know that maintaining a golf course takes a knowledgable person with skills. Here’s the tricky part, many clubs know that and want to hire them, but most clubs do not seem to recognise or respect what they already have and I mean this as recognition to both sides of the argument: some superintendents are lacking in knowledge but are still retained, some superintendents are in their comfort zone (and still retained) and some superintendents know what to do but do not get the support and respect they deserve. Of course, there are some who are knowledgable and are supported.

I’d love to comment about the superintendents who are lacking in knowledge but I won’t. Sometimes I can’t help but pity them; for the most part they were thrown into the deep end because of their good work in a previous position or loyalty (or they can’t find jobs elsewhere) and really don’t know what to do except repeating what their predecessor have done or what they think what their predecessor have done and what the suppliers advise. Somehow I can’t find in my heart to blame these people, they were examples of the Peter Principle: people who were promoted and promoted until they reach the level of their incompetence. To these clubs, there is hope because these people in general have good attitudes and are hardworking (hence the promotions), so send them to seminars, courses or pay for them to attend classes (I had a club willing to pay for my Diploma in Accountancy which was of no use to them at all!) or send them to a neighbouring club once a week or month to learn from the superintendent there; or pay the superintendent to come over to teach – just make sure you know the superintendent’s background too.

I’ve also met superintendents who are – on paper – knowledgeable but have voluntarily capped their limits at a certain level. They would not do more than that level, never mind the condition of the golf course. There are of course, justifications and reasons for it: no budget, interference, not enough workers, the weather, poor construction bla bla bla. Have a chat with them and you realise that it is easier to play the victim’s role in a blame game. You get told the idea that this is a hopeless situation even if you know of other clubs who faced similiar circumstances yet are in better condition. This also means that the golf course’s potential is also capped at that level and would not rise any time soon. To the clubs that hired these superintendents; tough luck. No seminar I know will change your golf course. No consultant or adviser too, unless the reports are discussed with the bosses; then maybe there is a chance. I’ve seen that happen, then again, I’ve also seen where the report was discussed with the boss; and the little that was done was to cover the bigger things that was supposed to be done but not, and after listening to the old story of “why it can’t be done”, the bosses gave up (thats part of the problem anyway) and things go back to what it was. To these clubs: good luck. Some superintendents in this category have been … wait: no… a MAJORITY of these superintendents have been in the same club for a very very long time.

What? You don’t know what I’m talking about, but yet your heart rate is increasing, temperature rising and you are upset? That, sonny, means you DO know what I am talking about; you’re just in denial. Okay fine, there are some superintendents who are in one place for too long with their golf course is in good condition. Happy? I’m talking about other clubs where the condition is poor and it is always someone else’s fault. But now that we’re at it, how about taking your club up another notch? Perhaps the weeds on the fairways? The greenspeed? No you can’t? Because of (insert excuse here) right? I rest my case.

The third category of superintendents is the one I pity most. He (or she, I know of one lady super) can usually get a job elsewhere but to him (or her) this job is a challenge to his/her ability and they just want to give it a try. These superintendents are usually  young or relatively new at the club and usually are up against a culture or a bureaucracy that has dug in, fortified and willing to fight to not change. Buying a fungicide that the superintendent needs to apply by the end of the week will take three weeks to process because it has to be justified, three quotations have to be searched and that one form needs to have three (or five!) signatures from three or five levels up and those people are usually not at their desks because of course they are in charge of other projects too. Or the superintendent is regarded as an outsider, an alien, an aberration even. Or a club that can only make decision after a committee meets which is usually at the end of the month… maybe three. Then there are clubs with real issues, for example; a non-responsive workforce – for want of a better description – they have the numbers but they can only work certain hours and at certain limits, never mind clubs with a small work force. Or a club that really tie their superintendents down with a very low budget. Just in case you think I am contradicting myself with superintendents in the second category, be advised that superintendents in this here third category, are still putting up a good show despite their restrictions.

Clubs with these two challenges (1. the non-performing superintendent as well as workforce – because it permeates into the department’s work culture, I promise you – and 2. the club with plodding bureaucracy or work culture – because it permeates into the club’s work culture, I promise you) are good candidates for the golf course maintenance contractor. No kidding. Hire one company to maintain your golf course and you will rid yourself of non-performers and plodders; and consign your golf course to forever be average. What? You think these companies were set up to serve golfdom and golferkind while turning your golf club into the best? No, they were set up to make a profit, so they think fast on their feet and are super-efficient for their own good but it will translate into comparatively better golf courses for you, at least for the first year and the final year of the contract. After which you are ‘doomed’ to appoint a contractor again because you don’t have the know-how and lets face it, you don’t know what went on the past five years anyway.

Someone is upset reading this is it? Lets be realistic, to look for the ‘right’ contractor, you are going to call for a tender exercise which will primarily focus on the cheapest tender after which you will negotiate again until the guy with the cheapest price hurt his knee begging you to stop: so of course lah the contractor will work his a$$ off to beautify your golf course without cutting any corners. Right? Unless – dare I say it? Oh heck, there are some people who will thank me – the contracting company is orang putih/gwailo/angmoh; then we will be the one on our knees begging. And the golf course will be better than average while some of us wonder why the expats do a better job than locals. No, not really about skin colour or just about the budget too. Find out why in the next category of superintendents.

I would be remiss in my ranting to not talk about the fourth category of lucky superintendents and their clubs. The superintendent who knows what to do or if they don’t; they find out, they are willing to do what it takes and they are allowed to do what it takes as they see fit. They are working for clubs who say things like “What? You need a new RM180K fairway mower? We don’t have the budget now but can we talk about it and see if we can postpone or perhaps look for a reconditioned mower or repair what you have now?” Or “So you need to hollow-tine the greens next month eh? Let me talk to the tournament organiser and see how he feels or if he wants to postpone or if he is willing to continue if you use smaller tines/do half of the greens”. In the world of management it is called ‘discussion’.

Did you notice that the two top clubs in Malaysia routinely get their superintendents on stage during award presentation ceremonies? Even if its held overseas? You think that’s because of gratitude to the superintendents’ efforts? No, that’s the mark of the attitude of the clubs to the superintendents’ office. It started long before that walk up the stage. It causes the walk. Not the budget. Not the machinery. Not the skin colour.  Its the attitude. The respect. The clubs respected the superintendents work, decision and opinion.

Ya, ya, ya… here comes the cliche: “Respect has to be earned”. Kinda hard to sympathise or empathise with some clubs (I hesitate to use the pronoun ‘you’ here, because there are some who will take this personally) who insist on hiring the cheapest person they can, to maintain the most expensive department they have. Respect your superintendent and see the difference. If there’s no difference, then perhaps, change the superintendent (sounds harsh? It has to work both ways fellas).

This article is too long already. Is anybody still reading? Very few now I bet. So it is time to introduce the fifth category of superintendents; the ones that people know but talk about only in whispered circles. The almost-unmentionables; the Mr. 10 percent. The what-do-I-get-in-return guy. The corrupt (oh, you think that’s too harsh? Lets see if I can find another term… urm… nope).

You think every one else does it? No, you are a minority. You think because your boss/purchaser/storekeeper does it, it is ok for you to do it? No; two wrongs do not make a right. You think because your salary is lower than market rate then it is ok for you? No. It ruins your reputation to go look for another job that can pay you higher than market rate. You think because the golf course looks good you can do it? No you can’t, because it IS your job to make the golf course looks good. You think nobody knows? Wrong, the industry is small (in Malaysia) and people talk. Ok, they whisper. Behind your back.

Stop. You are ruining not only your reputation but the other superintendents’ too. You will be indebted, nay trapped, to one or two particular suppliers and you will find it hard to change because… easy money is addictive or after a while your hand in the other guy’s pocket so often that you get used to it and he becomes your twin; hard to tell where he ends and you start. Your office is his office. There’s also guilt, fear and conscience. Then the golf course stagnates because your pool of resources and ideas has shrunk to one or two companies. No doubt they’re good and the golf course is good, but it won’t get any better.

So, to improve the golf course conditions in Malaysia; to the superintendents, let’s pull up our socks, raise our game, stay clean, increase our skills, share our knowledge or find another job. To the clubs themselves, treat the superintendents as a professional, respect his position, give him authority: if you can’t, send him for training or a makeover, or find a new one. Otherwise we have to continue as if nothing is our fault and like everything else that goes wrong… blame the government.

Note:

I wrote this opinion based on my observations in Malaysia. It should not be used without evidence to point fingers to any single person, club or group or organisation in particular. Hopefully it provokes thought, if not action. Get angry if you want but do something productive we must. 

Anonymous comments will not see the light of day on this site; I won’t even read it.

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Siram rumput

Posted by mynormas on February 7, 2014

Sprinkler irrigation in a golf course

Proses penyiraman padang golf

Menyiram adalah aktiviti ‘instinct’ penggemar rumput ataupun lanskap. Lebih dari membaja atau memotong. Mungkin kerana ia paling mudah atau paling murah atau kerana kita juga boleh merasa dahaga kita boleh empati dengan rumput yang kekurangan air.

Watering is an instinctive activity for most grass or landscape owners; especially in the Malaysian context, 2,500mm of rain notwithstanding. Whether a 200 acre golf course or postage stamp lawn, we water our lawns regularly. Two days of no rain and we would be watering our grass even if looks like it will rain later in the day.

I am arguing that the timing and schedule of watering needs to be examined.

  1. Lets not water late in the evening. Watering in the evening causes the water to left in the soil when the weather is cool and in Malaysia; humid. Damp and wet soil conditions too often can lead to diseases and algae. Plus, we are watering AFTER the grass have dehydrated! Water in the morning so that there will be water in the soil for the grass when the sun is heating up.
  2. Don’t water every 24 hours or any other regular schedule. Water deeply and irregularly. Keep in tune with the water needs of the grass, don’t stress them too much but don’t water them too easily too; we want the grass to have deep roots.
  3. There is another method called ‘syringing’ especially for grass that is cut at a low cutting height. Its about ‘wetting’ the grass when the sun is at its hottest. Don’t worry about what you read that the sun will turn the water droplets into magnifying glass type of concave lens and focus the ray onto the leaf; the water will evaporate before any major damage is done.

Kebanyakkan kita menyiram rumput, terutama nya masa baru tanam. Ini bagus. Tetapi pada pandangan saya, kebanyakkan orang terlalu banyak siram dan ‘timing’ siram juga salah. Saya mempunyai beberapa pendapat.

  1. Siram di waktu pagi. Dengan cara ini air akan ada di dalam tanah bila tiba tengahari dan matahari terik. Menyiram di waktu petang pada hari panas ibarat memberi air kepada orang yang dah nak mati kehausan. Menyiram di waktu petang juga mengakibatkan tanah basah di waktu malam yang akan menggalakkan penyakit dan lumut.
  2. Siram ikut keperluan. Bila siram, siram banyak (supaya air masuk jauh ke bawah) dan jangan siram ikut jadual. Menyiram ikut jadual menyebabkan kita siram waktu air masih ada dalam tanah dan ini 1. membazir dan 2. memanjakan rumput. Rumput tidak belajar untuk mencari air. Check tanah, dengan cara memijak ataupun mengorek sedikit dengan jari untuk tengok basah atau tidak.
  3. ‘Syringe’. Kadang kadang, matahari terlalu terik dan kita kesian kat rumput yang layu. Cahaya matahari juga boleh membakar pasir topdressing kita dan mematikan akar rerambut (root hair) di permukaan atas tanah. Apa yang saya cadangkan – terutamanya rumput yang di potong pendek dan kawasan terdedah – ialah menyejukkan rumput dengan siraman lima minit ataupun dua pusingan penuh sprinkler pada waktu tengahari dan awal petang. Jangan takut pada teori bahawa air akan bertindak sebagai kanta untuk cahaya matahari membakar daun; kalau ia dah panas macam tu, air itu akan melowap.

Jika rumput anda telah kuning akibat kurang siram; kemungkinan besar ia tidak mati, hanya menjadi dorman. Teruskan siram supaya ia tidak mati terus. Bila cuaca dah sesuai, insya Allah ia akan baik semula.

Posted in Fields, Golf Course, Golf Course Superintendents, Greens, Landscape, Lanskap, Maintenance, Padang, Padang Golf, Rumput, Taman | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Greens improvement (2): kau ada?

Posted by mynormas on April 17, 2012

Last Saturday I received a text message from a manager in Bukit Beruntung Golf club (I consult them)  saying that a VIP commented that the greens in Bukit Beruntung are now better than those on a well-known public course in Selangor. This course  used to be the bench-mark for the greens in average-budget  clubs in Malaysia. This would make it the third VIP in three weeks to say so.

This is significant because, there was at one point last year when I despaired and actually considered giving up on Bukit Beruntung. But as usual, it does take a long time for changes to take effect. Not having a real budget (try having money in the mind but cannot spend), enough staff/machinery and being on the ground 6 days a week (I go there and to other clubs I consult only 2 days a month) makes it longer than usual.

I’ll give credit to Mr. Lee the Superintendent who is one very hardworking guy.

By the way, I’ve been to the well-known public club last week and they already have a consultant. He knows what he is doing. He just needs time.

As far as marketing myself goes I am limited by the golf course superintendent’s ethics of GCSAM that prevents me from approaching the GM without the knowledge of the Super. There’s also the  “Do unto others what you want others do unto you” professional courtesy kinda thing. And it is a very rare superintendent that will admit he needs outside help. Not with free ‘advice’ he can get from salespeople anyway. And that’s why I go to some golf course stores I find there are stuff the Super don’t quite know how to use (he bought when he was desperate and wasn’t really listening).

I coincidentally do not have pictures taken from the same angle on the same green like in a previous posting. But I hope you will be satisfied with pictures from late 2010 and early 2011 compared to current.

Oh… before I forget, in Bukit Beruntung now, the West Course still has problems. We concentrate most of our limited resources on East course; its the tournament course. They have around 20 workers, four walk-behinds and about 6 mowers for 36 holes. Fortunately, there are plenty of stuff in the store leftover from the previous management. And yeah, it still is soggy when the rainy season starts; we are working on it. And those pesky lovegrass? They’re still there too. By the millions. Bukit Beruntung recently bought two tractor-mounted rotary mowers that should have taken care of the lovegrass problem. Unfortunately, they were cheap tractors and mowers made in C___a and gave problems from day one. There is a lesson to be learnt here people!

Do you need professional, experienced and independent advice for your course or field? Contact me at O3 5I31 OO66 (and let it ring. Plus be reminded the O=0 and I=1).  or mynormasAtconsultant.com. If you are within reasonable distance from me and you actually do have the authority (I know members are concerned about their club but I’m not going to interfere with management; I’ve been there) I’ll give you one visit for free advice.

Pictures  on the left are taken in January to April 2011. On the right are pictures in March 2012.

 Ya! Itu taik lembu!

That brown spot? Cow dung. And ants are making a trail to it. This is green 4 East Course early 2011.Green di serang penyakit.

I think this is green 5.

 Green di East course sekarang.

          Tremendous improvement, kan?

The improvement was so slow and gradual I didn’t even notice.

Green ber penyakit

This should be green 17 East course.

Green berpenyakit

I forgot which green this is. Sorry. But it’s East Course.

This is the green before the tunnel.

cantik kan?

As I said, the staff are inexperienced so the mowing is not perfect.

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Greens improvement: kau ada?

Posted by mynormas on April 3, 2012

A golf course operator recently denied that I have made improvements to his golf course. Here I am enclosing pictures of greens on different dates that show otherwise. Usually, if a golf course don’t want to spend extra money, I’ll take about six months to make changes. With this club; I took 2 months! I was actually scraping spilt fertilizer from the store’s floor! I used whatever chemical they had in their store. Can you imagine using wetting agents to combat ants on greens? Nevertheless, I succeeded insyaAllah; after all its about the knowledge (I target the queen ant. Contact me to find out more).

Sebuah padang golf kecil telah meminta saya membantu mereka membuat lawatan dan memperbaiki padang golf mereka. Saya menerima tawaran kerana padang golf tersebut berada dalam perjalanan untuk saya melawat anak saya di asrama.

Dalam lawatan pertama bersama saya dan boss padang tersebut, saya dah tahu saya akan menyesal. Dia tidak mahu menerima bahawa greennya mempunyai rumput liar jenis Zoysia. Dia tidak mahu membeli baja dan racun yang lebih efektif dan tidak percaya bahawa setiap green memerlukan jumlah baja yang berbeza. Peliknya dia lebih mempercayai penjual baja yang telah menjual baja kepadanya yang saya sendiri tak tahu macamana nak guna baja tersebut. Saya telah pergi ke stornya dan meminta pekerjanya mengutip baja lama yang bertaburan di lantai stor dan mengambil label dari tin-tin racun untuk saya mengenal pasti mereka. Saya gunakan yang ini.

Saya teruskan. Yang membuat saya marah: dua minggu lepas dia mendakwa bahawa sejak saya masuk tidak ada perubahan yang telah saya buat kepada padangnya. Saya mencabarnya untuk membuat rondaan sekali lagi di padang golf nya tapi dia menolak.

Padang ini tidak mempunyai superintenden, untuk mengajar pekerja; saya yang pikul tong spray! Sarang semut penuh di merata green. Pisau potong tidak tajam.

Di sini saya sertakan beberapa gambar green yang sama yang di ambil dari sudut yang sama pada tarikh yang berbeza. Saya ada banyak gambar tapi dari sudut yang berlainan.

I would very much like you to see some pictures that I happen to have that show the greens from the same angle at different dates. I have many pictures, here are just a few. I hope you see the difference.

Green 12

 

31 Jan 2012

 

9 Mac 2012

Green 11

 

11 Dec 2011

 

9 Mac 2012

It is unfortunate the dogs keep on digging green 11. Otherwise you can see a lot more improvement. But this green is just behind the workers’ quarters, so the dogs must be feeding on food scraps and then show their gratitude on the greens.

Ini padang golf pertama yang saya jumpa ada masalah anjing korek green. Saya dapat menyuburkan dan menghijaukan nya insyaAllah tapi belum dapat cara menghalang anjing ni. Ada idea?

Green 5

 

29 Nov 2011

 

9 Mac 2012

What you do not see on the left picture of the green are the ant hills and earthworm casts. Many of the greens here had them. And I’m talking about to the point where some places on the greens were already sinking!

Apa yang anda tak nampak di gambar kiri ialah jumlah rumah semut dan taik cacing. Saya telah mengajar pekerja mereka bagaimana untuk menyembur sarang semut dan juga ‘teknik separuh bulan’ untuk membaiki green. (tak tahu? hubungi saya untuk keterangan lanjut). 

Walaubagaimanapun, saya berharap padang golf ini bertambah baik dan sentiasa maju jaya. InsyaAllah.

Whatever it is, I still wish the best for this golf course and hope that their business will improve and they will prosper. InsyaAllah.

Posted in Golf club, Golf Course, Golf Course Superintendents, Greens, Padang Golf | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

My TV interview in 2009

Posted by mynormas on January 25, 2012

I was interviewed on  TV3’s Malaysia Hari Ini in 2009.

In case you were wondering, in the interview; with regard to the jokes about “Pakar Rumput yang Perkasa”; just before the camera started rolling, the interviewer teased me about being a ‘pakar rumput’ (turf expert) to which I replied “I’m still macho” or words to that effect, to which she said “The macho turf expert” and translated it to “Pakar Rumput yang Perkasa” which sounds weird/funny.

This is actually my second TV ‘appearance’. I actually was interviewed for an hour by another TV3 programme about football (soccer) in 2007 which was shown after the midnight news. I did not ask/receive a copy of the interview. It was about football fields in Malaysia. The producer has since left TV3.

I’ve even misplaced this CD once and thought that I’ve lost this one too. As soon as I found it, I uploaded it on Youtube and you can watch it here:

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4 Principles I won’t drop in 2012

Posted by mynormas on January 2, 2012

  1. As a paid consultant, I should not take commission from suppliers.
  2. I must follow The Golf Course Superintendents’ ethics of never pitching to the GM without knowledge of Superintendent.
  3. I must teach my clients the details.

1. Commission, a cut or whatever you call it.
I’ve always believed that I should not recommend specific products to clients. I’ve wanted to be known as an independent consultant so I believe that when I am hired I should recommend only the active ingredients,  formulations or specifications that in my opinion will help to solve my client’s problems. I have had suppliers who asked I recommend their products; I couldn’t. Having said that, I have also had clients, who admit their ignorance and gave me instruction to recommend a specific supplier or product. I have done that, giving more than one name, if possible. And in more than one instance, the succesful supplier has offered me a commision; I have always refused, except for one time when a grateful supplier traveled all the way from Ipoh to deliver a hamper, I didn’t have the heart to say no.

Well lately, I have been made to feel stupid for not taking part in this lucrative … ‘trade’. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that for a one-off, pro bono or free work, I should get paid by the supplier who I recommended.  Except that, I didn’t have the heart to do that either when given the chance. After all, the supplier is a friend anyway. Maybe I am not cut out for this business. Should have stuck to taking a salary.

2. The ethical part
Many years ago, as the Vice President of the GCSAM, I wrote a set of ethics. One of the ethics said something that I (or any other superintendent/supplier/member of association) should not offer advice, or service to a golf club without the knowledge of the club’s superintendent.

Honestly, it would have been easy enough to go for a round of golf (or drinks) at a golf club, ask to meet the manager and offer unsolicited advice. That could put me in a good light and maybe do the opposite to the superintendent.

Should I care? I mean, of the 200 golf courses in Malaysia, there are only 40 superintendent who are/were members of the association. Chances are, the superintendent of the club that I could afford to offer free advice are not a member of the association anyway.

3. Hold your knowledge tight
My wife, who has seen me work, feels that I teach too much to the people I work with to the point that those people feel they know enough that they can work without me. She feels that I should just stick to telling them to do something without teaching the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’.

That should be easy enough. Some client’s staff feel that they don’t need to know and some want to find fault anyway. So why bother.

4. The race card
This may sound alien to non-Malaysian readers. I have always considered myself a Malaysian first. I have always thought that I should be considered for the job because I am the best choice due to my skills, my knowledege and my experience.  It hurts when a couple of weeks back, a supplier/competitor suggested that it was easier for me to get clients because of my race.  She promised to meet me to discuss so I did not press the matter further over the phone conversation. But it was a shock, after all, if anything, I thought it was the other way round – that is, the only way I can make it as a consultant in Malaysia was if I was John, Michael or, at least in one instance; Chong.

But no, this is one principle I can’t do without. After all, I left one company because I felt that it had ‘preferred’ race over ability and I convinced a partner to change the company name from Australian Turf Management to Advance Turf Management.

All in all, 2011 has been a disappointing year for me and 1st January 2012 found me in a slightly depressed mood. Perhaps some changes are in order. I’ll have to do more marketing work for sure. Maybe I should drop the ‘halo’, do what other people are doing and stop being such an uptight a$$hole.

Maybe its time to change in 2012.

 

Posted in Fields, Golf Course, Golf Course Superintendents, Padang, Padang Golf | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

 
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