Kansas, United States: Peter Grass is the newly-elected President of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA). A certified golf course superintendent, Grass has been employed at Hilands Golf Club, a private nine-hole facility, for 40 years, with the last 25 years as superintendent.
He has been a member of the GCSAA Board of Directors since 2009 and will serve a one-year term as President.
GCSAA has 17,800 members and is a leading advocacy organisation for the golf course management profession and the golf industry. Founded by a group of 60 greenkeepers in 1926 at Sylvania Country Club in Toledo, Ohio, the professional association also oversees the annual Golf Industry Show and each year recognises a leading industry figure with its Old Tom Morris Award.
In his first interview since assuming office, Grass shares his insights into the GCSAA, its members and the challenges ahead.
Why is GCSAA important to the golf industry?
Peter Grass: The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America provides tools, resources and a collective voice to our members, who manage the largest asset at a golf facility – the golf course. Our role is paramount and we think we are getting it right, primarily through our efforts in professional development and environmental and advocacy programmes.
Our headquarters are located in Lawrence, Kansas, and we have field staff representatives in nine regions across the United States. We’ve been around for 89 years, with the mission to serve our 17,000-plus members, advance their profession, and enhance the growth and vitality of the game.
Arnold Palmer is on record as having said: “The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and golf course superintendents are probably the most important single entity that we have in golf.” We work hard to live up to his high praise every day.
What are a few things you would like to highlight during your term as President of GCSAA?
Peter Grass: My background is a bit different, and I hope that I can utilise those differences to show that GCSAA has value for everyone – whether you are at a private 18-hole facility or a nine-hole public facility. GCSAA exists to serve those in golf course management at all facilities.
A lot of people have told me how cool they think it is that someone from a nine-hole facility can serve on the Board of Directors and become President of the association. But if I can convince others that they, too, can benefit from being a GCSAA member, then I’ll consider my year in office to be a success.
There are about 4,000 nine-hole facilities in the country and I am proud to represent them as President of GCSAA. Many people have come through the ranks and have worked at a nine-hole facility. I just never left. I started working at Hilands as a teenager, and I am now 56.
What are some of the challenges that superintendents face today?
Peter Grass: Superintendents are being asked to do more with less – less money, less staff and less water. There are high costs directly related to golf course management. However, golfers’ high expectations have not changed. They still want their courses to be impeccable.
Despite the challenges, superintendents also want their courses to offer exceptional play on healthy turf. Every day, they strive to provide the best possible conditions to customers.
We need to better educate golfers and remind them that there are aspects of golf course management that are out of the superintendent’s control, such as rising costs for labour, water and turf products.
There are also increased regulations and responsibilities. In addition, superintendents face challenges from Mother Nature, whether it’s a rough winter or summer drought conditions. But superintendents are problem-solvers, and they know the best ways possible to deal with whatever Mother Nature brings.
What should golfers know about superintendents?
Peter Grass: The vast majority of superintendents are educated professionals who have degrees in turf management. They continue their educations throughout their careers to ensure they stay abreast of the latest and best practices for land management, application management and technology.
For example, GCSAA had more than 7,000 members take advantage of educational webcasts last year. Superintendents have a wide scope of expertise, and they have an average of more than 15 years on the job. They are scientists, environmental stewards and business professionals who passionately care for the profession and each other.
Superintendents are part of the total US golf industry, which contributes US$69 billion and two million jobs annually to the economy. A golf course is also a great asset for a community. It is a responsible use of green space, provides wildlife habitats, is a filter for water run-off and serves as a cooling effect for developed areas.
How have you seen the golf course management profession grow?
Peter Grass: We are working together toward a common goal more than ever before. Golf course management professionals are keen to adopt best management practices nationwide and develop water conservation and drought management plans for the long term. And we are making strides.
We are also working towards building economies of scale. All our allied partners have come together on key initiatives where we can pool our strengths and resources.
The more we do together, the more we can positively benefit the game. GCSAA is the strong voice for the golf course management profession and environmental issues among that group.
We are educating lawmakers and others on the environmental benefits of golf courses and the entire industry.
The environment is a core area of focus for GCSAA because it is home to our members on a daily basis. Through scientific research and data collection, we are helping to demonstrate responsibility and expertise that can be powerful in advocacy and outreach on behalf of the golf industry.
London, England: GEO Foundation, the international sustainable golf non-profit, and golf marketing and communications agency Performance54, aim to elevate sustainability awareness, action and results across the sport globally.