Last Ten, Next Ten - Interview with David Phipps

As we roll through the first year of this decade I've asked two standard questions to a few key players in our industry. I wanted to know their thoughts, from their unique role and perspective, on what we saw over this last ten years and what to expect in the ten to come.

Turfhugger has hosted a few posts (here, here and here) by Daivd Phipps, Superintendent of Stone Creek Golf Course near Portland Oregon. Phipps has been featured through GCSAA.TV numerous times for his environmental efforts, he's been recognised with numerous awards and we went to him for some tips on talking to the media about environmental issues.

Turfhugger: To what degree have environmental issues affected your role through this past decade?

David Phipps: Funny you should phrase the question with a decade. This year was my tenth year as a superintendent and my tenth year at Stone Creek Golf Club. My previous position was assistant superintendent at The Oregon Golf Club under Russell Vandehey, CGCS and prior to Russ I worked for John Anderson at the same club. I gained much of my environmental fortitude working for both John and Russell. It seems to me that the environmental golf movement was starting to take front stage in the late 90's and by the time Stone Creek was ready to begin construction I knew that environmental issues would soon arise.

Lucky for me the OGCSA had embarked on the first edition of the OGCSA Environmental Stewardship
Guidelines with the help of Dr Michael Hindahl. These are the Guidelines that were recognized by GCSAA with the President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship in 2005. With the help of Dr  Hindahl we embarked on setting up an environmental program for Stone Creek with the hopes of helping us get through the mitigation permit process.

I soon witnessed the benefits of having a strong environmental program in place by watching environmental regulators sift through my documents like a kid in a candy store. Before I knew it the golf
course was permitted and Stone Creek was well under way. This was a real eye opener for me and more
or less set the tone of my career from there on. Before long Stone Creek was being recognized by the
local soil and water conservation district, we were able to wiz right through Audubon certification and we won the National Public ELGA award.

I recite a brief history of my first decade as superintendent to magnify the point that I am not just a
turfgrass professional that manages and mows grass for the game of golf. I am a land manager with
the largest degree of responsibility on my course. Today there is no way of being a superintendent
without being an environmentalist. The role of the superintendent is much more complex that what it
was a decade ago. We need to be up on new regulations and laws that affect the environment around
us. We need to be conscious of our use of fertilizers and pesticides and learn to do more with less and
most important we need to be able to communicate. I see so many more superintendents taking on more
responsibilities because of their ability to communicate and portray themselves what they really are, an

Turfhugger: What major changes will we see in the next Ten Years that will affect your role most significantly?

David Phipps: New environmental laws that will affect the way we manage our properties are already beginning to happen. We are losing some of our tools that we use to manage our properties. If I were a gambling man I would say that we can expect much of the same in the future. If we think we have red tape now, wait ten years. Europe and Canada already have stringent pesticide regulations and sooner or later it is going to happen here in the US.

As a superintendent we better prepare to adapt to changes and be ready to account for all of our actions.
The industry as a whole will continue to invest in new technology that will enable us to conform to the
more stringent regulations.

In ten years the role of the superintendent will be looked upon by the greater golfing community with
much more adoration and respect for all the environmental work that has been done to help protect and
sustain this great game.