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Posts Tagged ‘golf course’

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 »

Racun Apa?

Posted by mynormas on June 27, 2016

Racun makhluk perosak adalah suatu bahan yang selalu kita gunakan samada sebagai penjaga rumput, landskap, halaman, padang ataupun orang biasa. Racun semut atau nyamuk yang kita sembur pada waktu petang untuk menghalau atau membunuh nyamuk adalah contoh racun makhluk perosak. Bahkan lingkaran ubat nyamuk yang kita bakar supaya kita boleh tidur lena juga adalah racun makhluk perosak atau pesticide walaupun kita panggil ia ‘ubat nyamuk’, namun ia bukanlah apa yang kita beri pada nyamuk yang sedang sakit tapi kita beri supaya nyamuk sakit atau lebih baik lagi; mati.

Saya merasa pelik bila saya menerima message dalam group WhatsApp bahawa seorang rakan yang menghadiri taklimat dari pegawai kesihatan tentang Denggi memberitahu bahawa pegawai tersebut mencadangkan penukaran racun supaya nyamuk tidak lali jika hanya satu racun di gunakan. Hmm… bagaimana jika semua racun itu berlainan nama dagangan (Baygon, Ridsect, Fumakilla dsb) tetapi mempunyai bahan aktif yang sama?

Dan ini yang berlaku pada saya minggu lepas;

Lokasi: sebuah pekan kecil di selatan semenanjung Malaysia

Misi: mencari racun rumpai berdaun lebar untuk membunuh semalu untuk padang bola seorang client. Saya telah pergi ke tiga buah kedai; dua kedai hardware yang menjual racun dan juga satu nursery pokok hiasan.

Perbualan:

Saya: “Hai, ada jual racun rumput?”

Pekedai: “Ada, kami ada dua jenis. Yang satu ialah Round-up dan satu lagi yang ini…” (Betul, kebetulan ketiga-tiga kedai pun tunjuk dua racun, kecuali salah satu kedai lagi tunjuk satu jenis racun tambahan tapi di label sebagai baja kerana ia adalah racun yang di haramkan di Malaysia)

Saya: “Eh… tapi kedua-dua racun ni sama. Kedua-dua nya adalah glyphosate”

Pekedai: …(?)

Nama racun

Nama yang biasa kita kenali suatu racun ialah nama dagangan. Terdapat satu lagi jenis nama yang kebanyakan racun di kenali iaitu nama biasa atau common name. Nama biasa lazimnya adalah nama pendek kepada racun itu dan biasanya adalah kependekan daripada nama bahan aktif. yang lebih rumit dan panjang…

Kadang-kadang, nama biasa juga adalah nama generic yang digunakan secara umum oleh pengguna sama seperti mee segera dari pelbagai jenama adalah di panggil sebagai ‘Maggi’ dan ubat gigi dari pelbagai jenama semua di panggil ‘Colgate’.

sample of glyphosate

Contoh racun yang mempunyai bahan aktif glyphosate.

Bahan aktif

Apa yang membuat satu racun itu efektif ialah bahan aktif nya. Bahan aktif ialah bahan kimia di dalam racun herba (atau herbicide dalam konteks artikel ini) yang membunuh atau mencederakan rumpai (dan kadang-kadang…rumput!). Bahan aktif hanyalah sebahagian kecil dari keseluruhan racun, yang lain selalunya adalah apa yang kita panggil sebagai bahan lengai.

Semua racun yang di jual di Malaysia dan telah di sahkan oleh Lembaga Racun Makhluk Perosak (LRMP atau Pesticide Board) akan mempunyai label yang di mestikan mempunyai nama bahan aktif dan kepekatannya dalam racun tersebut. Ya, walaupun racun serangga di rumah.

active ingredient label samples

Label contoh racun disebut di atas mempunyai bahan aktif glyphosate.

Racun rumput

Bila kita pergi ke kedai dan meminta racun rumput; kita akan di tunjukkan -biasanya- kepada racun jenama Roundup dan beberapa racun lagi. Saya pasti jika and perhatikan betul betul, racun lain itu juga akan mempunyai bahan aktif yang sama dengan Roundup iaitu glyphosate.

Glyphosate

Roundup ialah jenama sejenis racun rumpai popular yang di temui oleh seorang ahli kimia dari syarikat Monsanto yang bernama John E. Franz pada tahun 1970 .

glyphosate derivatives

glyphosate

Pada tahun 2000 bila berakhirnya tarikh hakcipta untuk glyphosate maka banyak lah syarikat pengeluar racun yang mengeluarkan racun berasaskan bahan aktif glyphosate di bawah pelbagai jenama. Malangnya kerana populariti Roundup ataupun kerana kurangnya daya kreativiti, banyak racun ini yang menggunakan ‘up’ di belakang nama (kecuali Seven-Up; iaitu sejenis minuman ringan)

Dengan pengetahuan kimia yang berkembang, glyphosate juga telah di kembangkan kepada pelbagai bentuk dan formulasi. Sebahagiannya di jual sebelum berakhirnya hakcipta Monsanto ke atas glyphosate lagi, mungkin kerana ia di jual dengan nama bahan aktif yang berbeza formulasinya. Contohnya (cuba baca kuat-kuat) glyphosate-diammonium, glyphosate-dimethylammonium, glyphosate-isopropylammonium, glyphosate-monoammonium, glyphosate-potassium, glyphosate-sesquisodium dan glyphosate-trimesium.

Namun begitu, apa yang saya ingin sampaikan di sini ialah jika anda ingin membeli racun, jangan hanya dengar apa yang penjual beritahu anda tentang racun itu, tetapi lihat juga apakah bahan aktif dalam racun itu. Jangan beli dua jenama racun yang berbeza tetapi sebenarnya mempunyai satu bahan aktif yang sama.

Rujukan.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glyphosate#Formulations_and_tradenames
http://prpm.dbp.gov.my/
http://roundup.ca/en/rounduphistory
http://npic.orst.edu/ingred/active.html
http://www.alanwood.net/pesticides/glyphosate.html

Posted in Fields, Golf Course, Padang, Padang Bola, Padang Golf, Rumput halaman rumah, Rumput secara am, stadium, Taman | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Consultant

Posted by mynormas on May 24, 2016

I was with a client Golf Course Superintendent (CS) and he was telling me about a golfer that was gushing about the improvements in his course and wonders how the CS could manage such work in a short time during one of Malaysia’s hottest weather period ever. The superintendent said “I told him that now, we have a consultant who…” I held up my hand “No, you were 70% of it” I said “You, and your people did all of the work. We had a discussion, yes, but you did the work. I have clubs that I have consulted for much longer and there was no difference, sometimes their condition got worse”

The CS blinked. “How could that be?” he asked.

“Well, not all superintendents are willing to listen. There are those who felt that a consultant was forced on them when they don’t need one. I have a superintendent who will do the opposite of my recommendations and there was one who would deliberately take my recommendations to extremes” I continued to give him two specific examples of the incidents.

Unfortunately for the golf course, when the CS did the opposite of my recommendations, it back-fired and as for the part where a superintendent took my recommendation to the extreme, I was lucky that in my report I showed pictures of two other clubs that received the same recommendation with good result because it was done with common sense.

I just could not bring myself to put those kind of things in my report or mention it to the management. In one club when the GM – who was a friend – asked my opinion about a CS related to one of the cases I spoke of earlier.  I told him “I think he should be promoted, either to be a club manager or perhaps laterally as operations manager”

“Why?”

“He is loyal, qualified, has good relations with golfers and perhaps he has been in one position too long, exposing him to other jobs may improve his morale and perhaps even open a brand new career path for him”

I told my client CS “Some days I just want to resign from being their consultant. It has come to a stage where it can be embarrassing to admit I consulted for them. The incidents I quoted were for the things that I can follow up on but what about stuff that I can’t?  Like fertilising or chemical applications?”

There are of course, other clubs that can be a challenge too, for example clubs that has a case of ‘the improvement lust is strong but the financial flesh is weak’. Watching TV turns them on but they have no money for Viagra (for the clubs that are in that position usually are at an old, Viagra-needing age already). So they hire someone who can give suggestions that they can’t act on. Honestly, I usually stay on at these clubs because the CSs there are usually hard-working and full of initiative.

Then there are clubs where the management are perhaps are not clear on what they want. “I want to improve my golf course” they said “Sure” I replied and a couple of months later they’ll say “My fairways are still wet”. I said “Your fairways are wet during the rainy season and we can only work on them when they’re dry, in the meantime, we work on your greens”. “But my greens are fine” one particular boss said. So I showed him the before and after pictures of the greens because somehow the young CS managed to improve the greens in just two months.

The only club – so far – that I have refused to work as a consultant for is a club that the GM would continuously reduce the cutting height after I have asked that they be raised because of health issues. When explained, he would feign understanding and agreement but it would happen again within an hour of me leaving the club. I was engaged under a friend’s company so I told the friend; “Sorry, I’m busy and can’t cope”.

There are also some superintendents who don’t like to be friends (tongue in cheek) with me. Whenever I go to a club, whether at the invite of the management or as a customer, I do my best to contact the superintendent beforehand but I don’t know everyone and some superintendents live like hermits with no friends in the industry or not a member of the association so I don’t know who they are in which case I usually tell the management to ‘make sure the superintendent know I am coming’. Once or twice the management will be red-faced to explain the absence of the superintendent “I met him this morning!” was one reply I got; there was one ‘Emergency Leave’ and a recent ‘Very Busy’.

In general, it has always been a good experience, I enjoy the work though yesterday my wife said that soon, maybe I should look for a permanent job without so much of traveling because “… you are not getting any younger”. Hard to argue with that, the traveling is the toughest part of this job.

When I first started this consultant business a friend remarked “I have always imagined you as a consultant” I wasn’t that surprised and asked why, assuming the answer to be my knowledge, experience and luck in working for big or award-winning clubs.”Because you are always smiling and approachable”

Oh…

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

A winner

Posted by mynormas on April 21, 2016

I was at a client club the other day going round the course with the superintendent. I was in crisis mode because their green no. 2 had the highest number of insects per square meter I’ve ever seen. Plus the hot weather was thinning out the other greens.

On one green, we met a flight of golfers and I as usual try to be unobtrusive without being unfriendly; a nod here, a smile there and a thumbs-up where appropriate. One of them approach us “Whatcha doing? Checking the greens?” he asked. “Yes” I whispered (one of his friend was putting). “The greens are quite fast now” he said. “Really?!” I said, wide-eyed. “Yes, really, it really is different from what it was before” or words to that effect. I’m assuming the ‘it’ he was referring to was the whole golf course.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just another green in another day on another golf course…

I pushed the superintendent to the front “Here’s the guy responsible for it. All his work” The golfer nodded to the super and the super was unsure of how to respond but I suppose it’s safe to say he was pretty proud and he should be.

He only has one triplex greensmower for 19 greens. That same mower is used for dethatching and rolling. One tractor pulled fairway mower, one unreliable front deck mower, one bunker raker and nine workers; four of which works for only half of the day. He mows his tees with backpack brushcutters. He fertilises his greens with slow-release greens’ grade fertiliser alternating with big-prilled oil palm fertiliser.

He has been working at the same course since the day it was planted with grass, in fact, he was one of the workers doing the planting. He stayed on through a few management changes and rose up through the ranks.

He doesn’t speak English and he doesn’t have formal training or even much education, what he has is a good attitude. He takes notes of almost everything that I said (doesn’t necessarily mean he does everything) and asks questions if he doesn’t understand. He is not afraid of trials and tests which I have come to fear more than he does but there were a few chemicals that I am using now that I learnt from him. He doesn’t complain or whine and he definitely does not have the victim mentality.

What he has achieved came through a victor mentality of wanting to try anything new.

Sure, the greens and even the course may not be much to KL folks but considering the resources he has, the location of the club and the price golfers pay; I think the club did well to improve the course and at least this flight of golfers agree.

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Those black things? Those are the bugs.

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

Tanah hydrophobia

Posted by mynormas on April 13, 2016

“Tanah hydrophobia” ialah cadangan terjemahan yang saya dapat dari PRPM milik Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka bila saya tanya tentang ‘hydrophobic soil’ iaitu tanah yang takut atau anti air. Pernah kah anda menyiram pada halaman atau padang anda dengan air yang cukup banyak tetapi ia masih lagi kering? Orang tuduh anda tidak siram sedangkan anda siram? Mungkin tanah anda adalah tanah hydrophobia; ia tidak telap air (terjemahan water repellent juga dari PRPM DBP) maka natijah dari penyiraman anda ialah rumput tetap kering tapi lumut mula naik. Atau mungkin anda pernah alami penyiraman yang air tidak meresap ke dalam tanah tetapi mengalir di atas permukaan sahaja?

“Sifat hydrophobia tanah boleh melewatkan penyerapan air ke dalam tanah untuk jangkamasa dari beberapa saat hinggalah ke berminggu minggu. Tanah hydrophobia di katakan di sebabkan utamanya dari salutan molekul organik ke atas partikel tanah. Molekul organik ini mungkin datang dari tumbuhan, bahan reput, hidupan atau mikro-organisma bawah tanah atau jika selepas tanah terbakar. Sifat hydrophobia berubah ubah, menyebabkan ia sukar di ramal dan di perhati. Ia boleh di lihat selepas waktu kemarau yang panjang dan hilang bila musim hujan bermula” Perenggan di atas di petik dari sebuah artikel dari Jabatan Geografi, Swansea University.

Bagaimana boleh kita atasi sifat hydrophobia ini? Kita boleh guna cara mekanikal iaitu dengan menggunakan benda tajam untuk menebuk permukaan tanah itu seperti cara Pengudaraan Halaman atau Pengudaraan Padang.

Satu cara lagi ialah dengan menggunakan Agen Pembasah, yang tiada kena mengena dengan agen pembelasah seperti James Bond, Jason Bourne, Jack Bauer, Jack Bristow, Justin Bieber dan sebagainya.

Apa itu Agen Pembasah atau wetting agent? (Kita bincang tengan agen pembelasah dengan nama initial JB di lain tempat). Agen pembasah ialah bahan sebatian yang membantu air untuk melawan sifat tanah yang hydrophobia. Tapi awas! Bukan semua wetting agent adalah sama.Kalau silap sembur, rumput boleh mati, seperti kawan saya seorang ni

Untuk mengetahui lebih lanjut tentang wetting agent, sila lah ke seminar yang PERCUMA jika anda ahli GCSAM, RM50 jika anda adalah affiliate MGA (Malaysian Golf Association) dan hanya RM100 jika anda bukan ahli di Bukit Jalil Golf and CC pada 9.00 pagi 19 April. Tempat adalah terhad jadi hubungi GCSAM di nombor yang tertera di bawah.

Posted in Fields, Golf Course, Golf Course Superintendents, Landscape, Padang, Padang Bola, Padang Golf, stadium, Taman | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Cheap maintenance

Posted by mynormas on January 28, 2016

“Times are bad and it will get worse this year” I hear that like almost every alternate year but yet here we are. “Really! It will be worse this year!” Ya. Ok! I hear you! Like I heard you in 2008 and 1998 too. “Was the budget amended in 2008 or 1998?” Hmm… maybe you have a point. Maybe your golf course is not that badly hit yet or you think its immune or if someone really wants to buy your hole 5 for the right price, the management would sell it but I’d like to share some ways of saving costs without sacrificing too much quality in golf course maintenance.

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The Malaysian government is amending their budget on the 28th January 2016. How many clubs are amending their budgets? How many golf courses have taken another look at their budgets in view of rising costs, reduced demands and increasing competition? You may argue that some golf clubs are closing down so there will be less competition but the existing golf course will be going after the same golfers as you are. Some will take the easy way out and reduce prices though I’ve heard of one golf club that want to increase their green fees.

From experience, many golf clubs will cut their maintenance budget because that is easily the biggest expense for the club. But as golfers paying green fees or as a member paying dues you don’t really want your golf course standard to deteriorate and let it be blamed on the economic situation do you? So you would expect the club – if they don’t want to lose you as a customer – to take other measures to cut costs right? At the same time, you don’t want to pay higher green fees or more subscription too.

Experienced Superintendents will have a few things they can do on the golf course to help on the cut-backs without much disruption on your golf game. Unfortunately some of them will choose from these options after they have recovered from their initial knee-jerk reaction they took or were forced to take.

  1. Clean out the store.

Big club or small club; I have yet to find a golf course store that does not have left-over fertiliser or chemicals. They are left behind because they bought one tonne of fertiliser when what they need for 18 holes was actually 0.8 tonne or perhaps the new guy has a different idea than the previous guy or there is a new trend or for whatever reason; most of the time; those few bags of fertiliser or chemicals pushed to the back of the store can still be used.

Your Superintendent won’t mix different fertilisers or chemicals on one hole or green, though I see no harm using different types on different holes as long as they calculate the nutrients or active ingredient to be more or less the same for every hole.

Always read the label! I almost advised someone to use the herbicide DSMA on greens once, believing it to be fungicide until I saw the label on the sack underneath it. If in doubt; I will prefer to tell the storekeeper to waste it.

  1. Small is beautiful.

Your Superintendent may reduce the areas that he/she needs to maintain. I would not recommend shrinking the greens but there are other areas that can be considered.

Sacrifice the OBs or out-of-play areas.

There are usually areas in the rough that are far enough from play that the maintenance crew can let it go wild. This will cut down on man and machinery hours. Save on manpower, diesel, machinery wear-and-tear and spare-parts. The Superintendent could let it become an ‘environmentally sensitive area’ or just let it become a wild rough. Look at it this way; your Superintendent is training you to hit straight.

For aesthetic value or if there is intention to bring the rough back to normal, once a month they may send a team of people to poison or cut new woody growth (including what Planters call ‘volunteer oil palms’) and creepers. Nothing ruins the ‘natural look’ more than the sight of short oil palms and big-leaf creepers creeping or hanging from trees.  You don’t really want your rough to look like a haunted forest.

If slow play becomes an issue because of ‘lost balls’ then they may do what I did once; put up a “Beware of Snakes” sign. Believe you me; even after knowing its purpose, even after knowing that for the past 10 years no one has seen snakes in that hole, no golfer will dare venture into knee-high rough looking for golf balls when they see that sign. It’s a psychology thing.

Reduce the fairways.

Fairways are a source of expenditure by virtue of the fertiliser and effort required to maintain it. In some areas, your Superintendent may shrink the fairways into rough.

Your Superintendent can’t really reduce the width of your fairways but he can shorten it up to the point where the slope rating measurements are taken, and it is possible to take out the fairways on a par 3. I once took out all the fairways on a golf course par 3s though on one long par 3, I increased the size of the approach since it is cut with the collar-mower. Collar; I cannot not have, fairway; I can. So collar I make slightly bigger, huge fairway I take out. Save money on big fairway mower operating hours and fertiliser.

  1. Use the expensive fertiliser.

What?! Some of you might ask. Well this is where I’m sure your Superintendent will insist – and I would agree – not to cut: slow-release fertiliser. At least for the greens. It comes in many types; polymer-coated, sulfur-coated, polymer-sulfur coated, long-chain methylene ureas, etc and all are more expensive than your normal ordinary routine regular standard fertiliser, some more than others. Believe it or not, using the expensive fertilisers will save money. I have to mention these because this is what management will demand first: buy the cheapest one!

Using cheaper quick release ordinary fertiliser may mean losing the nutrients by leaching or evaporation especially in our weather; these problems are supposed to be taken care of by the technologies of the new slow-release fertilisers. Use expensive fertiliser and more of the nutrients will get into the grass and you can also reduce your fertilizing frequency and amount of fertiliser.

Your Superintendent shouldn’t get into the habit of using cheap fertilisers, they are like cheap vitamins. As I always say; cheap vitamins equals expensive urine like cheap fertiliser equals expensive drainage water; the nutrients comes out with the liquid. Of course, bad fertilizing practices can cause that too but that is material for another article. Contact me for more information about it by emailing me at mynormasATconsultant.com replacing AT with @.

  1. Be more scientific and specific.

If the economic pressure does not let-up and the golf course starts to feel that it will soon need to mortgage hole 14 to the local Ahlong loanshark, there is another way to save on fertiliser cost. Your Superintendent may want to ask you for some money to do soil tests to determine how much nutrient is in the soil and maybe even tissue tests too to determine the connection between what’s in the soil and what’s taken up. He would take another look at plant requirements of the grass. Dr Micah  Woods of Asian Turfgrass Center has released guidelines for minimum levels  for sustainable nutrition that he calls umm… Minimum Levels for Sustainable Nutrition or MLSN  and apply just enough fertiliser the turfgrass needs to avoid wastage.

Amazingly, there are still golf courses that fertilise their greens by “one bag for each green method” or 15 bags for 18 +1 greens (perhaps because some greens are just too small to justify one bag). Measure your greens or at the very least: calibrate your spreaders! Then you can be accurate and consistent in your fertilising.

  1. Get a second opinion

You may see a new person going round your golf course poking and scratching on the grass. This may mean that your golf club has hired a consultant. A person who could look at the whole thing from a new perspective may be a good option, right? Having looked at the same thing for years may dull one’s objectivity, so a fresh set of eyes will be useful.

I like poking and probing

I like poking and probing

The best kind of consultant the club can get is one who has actually survived the economic crisis of the late 1990s and 2008 and has worked on both side of the fence; the side that asks for money and the side that wants to cut costs.

How does this save on costs? By looking at the golf course from a different view, he may see all the cost-cutting measures that the Superintendent does not have the heart to cut. Or he could identify a wasteful habit that was not noticed before.

Contact me now to find out more how I can help you save cost by emailing me at mynormasATconsultant.com replacing AT with @

  1. Renovate!

This is one suggestion that is going to fly in the face of convention. Why would anyone renovate a golf course during an economic crisis and call it a cost-saving measure? Well, look at it from the management point of view; traffic is going to be low, some materials’ prices are going to be cheap and some contractors want work.

The management would not want to be dragged into a green fee price war with the neighbouring clubs and if they do cut their prices, at least they can feel justified that it is partly because the golf course is literally, a work-in-progress. If the golf course across the street yells at you “Why are you setting your green fees so low?!” you can tell him “Relax bro, chill, I got three temporary greens, I have to sell cheap”

That reasoning may not go down well with some of you but let’s face it – unless you are the kinda guy who believes that “the end is near” or “the sky is falling” and is ready to jump a bridge soon – times will get better and there will be golfers with money to spend when the economy improves and they will be heading to the newly renovated and improved golf course which will be in the best position to increase green fee prices.

Add to that fact some suppliers and contractors will be reducing prices perhaps to get their stock moving or to get some quick money or to improve cash flow; now would be a good time for the club to get a good bargain.

Of course, all this is relevant only if the club has money in the bank for the work. Or now would be the time membership clubs to beg the Trustee for the use of the sinking fund.

  1. Buy that machine.

What if you really, really, really need to buy a machine? Should you defer? Why? You think it’s going to get cheaper next year or in the following year? Perhaps the currency exchange will improve but by then the machinery price may go up due to inflation and between now and then the costs of repairing your existing junk may eat into whatever amount you think you’re saving and you could end up spending more money in total while at the same time, the aggravation of operating and maintaining that junk eats into your staff’s productivity (and the golf course’s quality).

In the meantime, do consider that the machinery supplier is desperate to sell his machine too and may be willing to offer discounts or longer warranty or maybe even free parts. If he/she is corrupt and offer you kickbacks tell him to reduce the price of the machine even more or tell him to never set foot in your office again. Don’t deal with people like that; you’ll be indebted and trust me, the industry is small enough that words get around. Yes, you, we do know about you and how much you got. Shame on you for giving the rest of us a bad name.

Should you go for reconditioned/used machinery? My experience says no, not unless your golf course is right next to the supplier’s workshop and he can service you. I’ve seen reconditioned machine that work for only a week before the engine fell off; it wasn’t bolted on, it was welded on and when the machine worked for a week, the vibration broke the weld. Of course, I shouldn’t generalise, no one should; send your mechanic with your accountant to look at the machines before deciding. Who knows? Maybe there exist honest second-hand machinery dealers…

For fairway or rough mowers, you could try using a mini-tractor with mowing implements. That way, when you finally got a budget and you can finally afford a machine that the superintendent dreamt of, the tractor can be used for other works. They’re like one third or half the price of a five-gang mower anyway, plus almost any mechanic worth the job-title can repair a tractor.

By the way, there’s this friend of mine who wants to sell of some pre-loved machinery. No, I’m not contradicting myself; these are not reconditioned, these are from the days when golf courses in US are leasing their machines for two or three years and then returning them back the leaser. She managed to get a fleet of them and wants to sell them off. Let me know if you are interested by emailing me at mynormasATconsultant.com and replacing AT with @.

8. Train your staff.

What? “This guy is off his rocker” you say. No money coming in and you want me to spend on my staff who may leave? Well, firstly, I have always considered staff training as an investment, not an expense so you won’t get my sympathy but what the heck, I’ll give you face; secondly I assure you, when handling machinery worth hundreds of thousands of ringgit and applying chemicals/fertilisers on a golf course worth millions of ringgit to build, keeping untrained workers are more expensive compared to training workers and then they leave.

Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution?

Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution?

By the way, if you are one of those companies that have been contributing to the Malaysian Human Resource Ministry’s Development Fund or HRDF, this may be the time to use those for training. Ask your HR manager for more info.

If you want to focus on staff training for the golf club, contact someone with more than 22 years of experience in the industry and has a Train-the-Trainer certificate at O3-5I3I OO66 or mynormasATconsultant.com replacing AT with @.

The above list is just some of the things I have done for the golf courses I’ve worked with. Your Superintendent, who knows your golf course infinitely better and are more intimately familiar with the management may have other options he or she will look at.

All they ask is for is some understanding if you see some decline in the golf course standard. They don’t like it any more than you do; it is their reputation on the line. Sometimes some of the cuts were forced on them; it has happened to me too due to management knee-jerk responses when I was a Superintendent. Sometimes we just have to follow instructions even if we don’t agree. When I was part a general manager, I do the knee-jerk responses and expect the staff to follow instructions even if they don’t agree… Hey! I have a budget to balance you know, otherwise I may really have to sell Hole 5.

Contact me at 03-5[31-OO66 or email me at mynormasATconsultant.com replacing AT with @.

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

Unaffordable Course

Posted by mynormas on January 26, 2016

The USGA Green Section wrote a tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic even, article on its website on how golf courses increase their maintenance costs. I may not agree with all of them (edging the buggy paths, for example) but there are plenty that I agree with and am surprised that Malaysian golf courses continue to do them or even constructing them. Lets list and summarise  them here; words in bold are from the article (ok, maybe I paraphrased here and there: sorry) and those not in bold are my comments.

  1. Having (or adding) a lot of bunkers which should be maintained to be consistent and uniform. The more bunkers a golf course has, the more difficult it is to be maintained to be consistent and uniform or even maintained regularly. And no, I don’t think consistently and uniformly not maintaining them at all counts.

    Now almost all new bunkers in Malaysia 'must' look like this. I once asked "Why?!" and was told "There's a new cloth/coat/technology to hold the sand". "Thats good" I said "but it will still increase your construction and maintenance cost and it looks out of character from your older bunkers!" "Ya... but everyone else has them" was the reply.

    Almost all new bunkers in Malaysia ‘must’ look like this. I once asked “Why?!” and was told “There’s a new cloth/coat/technology to hold the sand”.
    “Thats good” I said “but it will still increase your construction and maintenance cost and it looks out of character from your older bunkers!”
    “Ya… but everyone else has them” was the reply.

  2. Plant more trees. Ya… There are owners and bosses who love to plant trees. Committees too. Perhaps some people think its a legacy thing. With too much trees, grass don’t get enough sunlight and the efficiency of your mowers is less to mow around them. Plus your rough/fairways dries out slower because less air and sun.
  3. Lakes and stream banks. Mowing and trimming them as close to the water edge as possible. These are mostly manual work.
  4. A ball washer for every hole. If you must have them (they’re sponsored perhaps?) install them at tees of holes 1, 10 and at your par-3s. Golfers or caddies can make use of them while waiting for their turn. If I have a ball washer I’d be changing the soap water every week.
  5. Let the maintenance staff fill the divots instead of educating golfers (and caddies) to do it.
  6. Blowing debris from fairways and roughs (I may not agree totally on this.  Though I usually blow the leaves on Fridays only)
  7. Have a multitude of mowing heights. This is my pet peeve. I try very hard to not roll my eyes when superintendents proudly tell me that their tee is mowed at 14mm, the collar is at 12mm the apron is at 15; the fairway collar at 20, the light rough… As if golfers or even the staff can tell the difference of 2mm. I’m betting the Myanmarese mechanic back at the workshop is laughing to himself while setting everything at 17mm… For most clubs; I suggest only three mowing heights: greens, fairway (=tee, collar, apron etc) and rough (=light rough, deep rough etc).
  8. Mow the greens and/or tees with walk-behinds. Mind you most clubs in Malaysia get away with it because instead of either two ride-ons or six walk-behinds greensmowers for 18 holes; some clubs have two or three walk-behinds for 18 holes and don’t see a problem with it.
  9. Ornamental flower beds. I totally agree. Why have an unmaintained flower bed? I actually conspired with a superintendent of a client club by removing a long neglected flower bed while the boss is away and pretending it was never there. Long story… Maybe one day I’ll tell it.
  10. Irrigate non-playing areas. I took out a lot of sprinklers from rough areas.
  11. Overseed turf that would go dormant. Not applicable to Malaysia.
  12. Make your natural unnatural. Yeah… about this. I think we shold keep natural areas to be natural however, this does not mean unmanaged; I usually send workers once a year to kill new trees, ‘volunteer’ oil palms and creeper plants.
  13. Plant the wrong grasses for your area. You know; Seashore Paspalum for fields far from the seashore or Bermudagrass/Tifeagle for areas with a lot of shade.
  14. Edge the buggy paths frequently. I actually see nothing wrong with this if you have the manpower. I do this at least at holes 1 and 10 for the best first impressions.
  15. Let your irrigation system get too old. At the very least the pump house lah…
  16. Use plenty of signs, stakes and ropes. Ya. Mowing around these takes time and reduce efficiency.

For detailed sarcasm, visit the page at www.usga.org/course-care/forethegolfer/steps-to-make-your-course-unaffordable.html.

For sharing information about how to not increase the cost of your course, call Normas at 03-5I3I-OO66 or email me at mynormasATconsultant.com replacing AT with @. 

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

Call the Consultant

Posted by mynormas on November 13, 2015

Suddenly my presence is needed all over. Presumably the rain is causing problems for golf courses and football fields alike. Disease here, dead greens there and wet fields everywhere but they call me only when the problem has deteriorated badly. Reminds me of the saying “A consultant is someone called in at the last minute to share the blame”.

Some of the issue could have been solved if they had a plan. A schedule. Sure the weather is becoming unpredictable but who in Malaysia didn’t know the monsoon at the end of the year? So schedule the work AND/OR the tournaments accordingly lah!

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

This machine is mine.

Posted by mynormas on August 19, 2015

In a recent previous post and even in a magazine article, I wrote that in the month of August, turf machinery be washed extra clean, polished even, and a national flag tied to the machine; not merely as a show of patriotism but more so that the machine operators take a little bit more care for their machine instead of just hosing it down at the end of the day, every day.

Why August? Because coincidentally, the National Day of Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia fall in this month and many of my readers are from this region (WordPress allows me to trace the country of origin of readers).

Yesterday I happened to visit one of those golf courses that did this. The superintendent told me how he picked a Saturday afternoon when most of the machinery were back at the workshop and called for a staff meeting. After the usual briefing, he told them about the programme and gave them time to wash their machines.

One operator, after vigorously washing his machine, found that he could not tie the flagpole to the machines’ roll-over bar because the roof was wider than the bar and there wasn’t any other place to tie the flag. Guess what he did? He dismantled the roof and tied the flag to the roll-over protective structure. He was willing to not have a roof for a month (the superintendent will take the flags back after Malaysia Day on 16th Sept) just for the flag. And he’s not even a Malaysian.

He took off the roof so he can tie the flag.

He took off the roof so he can tie the flag.

The superintendent told the bunker-rake machine operator that he need not worry about his machine because it was too small and too old to clean up. The staff member protested, not only did he wash his machine extra clean, he took some paint and painted all the metal parts of the machine – dozer blade included, black. The superintendent gave him a flag which he proudly displayed on his machine. And he’s not even a Malaysian.

He painted the metal parts black so that he can be allowed to put the flag.

He painted the metal parts black so that he can be allowed to put the flag.

The point is not about the flag but the effect that the programme had on the workers: they owned the machines. Suddenly it is ‘my’ machine and I want my machine to be the cleanest it can be because I want to put on a flag. Follow up this with a training on how to look after the machine and I’m sure the machine will last a little bit longer with less maintenance stress as compared to a machine that did not ‘belong’ to anybody. I mean, “who washes a rented car”?

I got that quote from a book I read about 25 years ago titled ‘In Search of Excellence’ written by – if I am not mistaken – Tom Peters. An example he gave was the ground crew chief of a squadron of jet fighters that had the best maintained planes compared to other squadrons. The crew chief’s secret was, instead of a crew looking after the right wing, another one looked after the left wing, one looking after the cockpit and so on, he gave them all each a plane to look after. One crew, one plane. “How did that work in creating excellence?” he was asked. His answer was that because each one of them now ‘owns’ a plane, they had a greater sense of pride and responsibility to that particular plane of theirs. “After all” he said “who washes a rented car?” I might be paraphrasing because hey, it has been about 25 years ago but I believe the gist is there.

I also believe the credit should also go to the crew chief for his innovativeness and in this context, the superintendent for his role in firing up the workers. I mean, if he had sat in his office and gave the flags to the supervisor who would give the flags to the mechanic who then gave the flags to the operators; the effect would not be the same. So what worked? Maybe it was his speech, maybe it was the look in his eyes, maybe it was because he helped wash a few machines, maybe he held a big stick, maybe he promised them a reward or maybe it was already a culture in that place, whatever it was, it got the result that he wanted. It was actually more than I imagined, I can tell you that.

Its still not too late for Malaysians, at least, because the flags can remain on the machines till 16th September which is Malaysia Day. The cheapest flags I found was at Mr. DIY (biar kami rugi asal anda puas hati) at RM2.50 each. Or we can try and do something else. Or we can try finding one excuse or another to not do anything and complain about everything. It is a choice. Up to us.

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

Ogos

Posted by mynormas on August 3, 2015

Kita ada 12 bulan dalam setahun. Kepada kita yang menjaga padang rumput; bulan yang mempunyai signifikan hanyalah bulan puasa iaitu bulan yang kita lakukan kerja-kerja penyelenggaraan lebih dari biasa dan bulan Disember yang kita anggap sebagai bulan ‘puaka’ kepada mereka yang negatif ataupun kepada mereka yang positif; bulan cuti kerana ini adalah bulan monsun yang mana tak banyak kerja yang kita boleh buat. Malahan kerja rutin biasa seperti potong atau baja (pupuk) juga menjadi masalah.

Saya ingin mencadangkan supaya bulan Ogos di jadikan sebagai ‘bulan mesin’ untuk kita di Malaysia, Indonesia dan juga Singapura yang menyambut hari kemerdekaan pada bulan Ogos ini. Saya cadangkan supaya bulan ini adalah bulan di mana kita bukan sekadar guna water-jet untuk tembak air cuci mesin, tetapi di bulan ini kita akan menggunakan berus dan shampoo kereta untuk mencuci minyak lama, rumput di celah-celah mesin dan tempat duduk dan sebagainya.

Setelah puas hati bahawa mesin adalah bersih sebersih-bersihnya, maka kita pasangkan bendera negara kepada mesin itu untuk menandakan secara simbolik bahawa mesin itu sudah termasuk ke dalam kategori paling bersih.

Kita bukan mahu membuat kenyataan politik (kalau mahu pun peduli apa sama orang lain?) ataupun mahu menunjukkan berapa patriotiknya kita (kalau mahu pun apa salahnya?) tapi untuk kebanyakkan kita yang mahu tahu whats-in-it-for-me maka ia adalah untuk melanjutkan usia mesin kita dan menambah kebanggan pekerja tentang mesin mereka dan juga untuk kita menunjukkan kepada pelanggan dan kepada boss kita bahawa kita bersifat innovatif dan mempunyai inisiatif. Bukan kah nanti lebih senang untuk kita nak minta beli mesin baru satu hari nanti bila kita boleh beritahu dia secara tidak langsung bahawa kita MEMANG penjaga mesin yang berwibawa? Mesin baru tu MEMANG di perlukan, bukan kita tak tahu jaga mesin lama…

Bila boss atau pelanggan datang dan lihat mesin mengibarkan bendera, dia akan tanya; apa hal? Kita beritahu dia bahawa ini adalah ‘bulan mesin’ dan bendera itu hanyalah simbolik kepada pencucian dan kebersihan mesin di kalangan mesin lain.

Hanya untuk shampoo kereta/mobil yang berharga USD1 -2 sebotol, bendera dan batang penyapu pada harga yang sama serta cable tie  yang berapa cents untuk ikat tiang bendera itu. Kalau bulan Ogos mesin itu sangat bersih, saya yakin ia akan berterusan sehingga bulan Oktober ataupun November utk tahun ini. Dan jika ini di buat bertahun tahun, siapa tahu ia akan jadi satu tabiat?

Kepada anda yang tersenyum sinis dan berkata “Tak payah. Mesin aku memang tiap-tiap hari bersih”. Maka, kalau ikut hati saya nak menaikkan pandangan mata ke atas (roll my eyes), ketap bibir dan kata “Ya lah tu. Dah berapa lama tak masuk worsyop sendiri? Kau pukul 5 dah balik/tee-off kan?” tapi tak nak lah buat musuh kan so saya akan tersenyum dengan merendah kan diri dan kata “Ya?! Bagusnya. Teruslah pasang bendera!”

Sebuah mesin yang telah di bersihkan di pasang dengan bendera

An extra clean mower with a flag.

Nota:
Untuk menjadikan ini lebih efektif, pembersihan dan pencucian mesin mestilah di lakukan secara asing dan bukan pada lewat petang masa nak cuci mesin lepas potong tetapi pada Sabtu atau Ahad tengahari atau mungkin Jumaat petang. Jadikan ia operasi pencucian lengkap dengan ambil gambar sebelum dan selepas. Jadikan pengadilan untuk tentukan mesin itu bersih atau tidak sebagai suatu benda yang rasmi samada oleh kawan kawan pekerja ataupun anda sendiri. Tepuk tangan masa bagi bendera. Timbulkan kebanggaan. Begitu juga pembukaan/pembubaran bendera (jangan biarkan bendera koyak/kotor/lusuh di mesin; magic nya akan hilang) pada hari atau minggu selepas hari Kemerdekaan. Simpan balik supaya boleh di gunakan pada tahun berikut nya. 

Posted in Fields, Golf Course, Padang, Padang Bola, Padang Golf, stadium | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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