Last Ten, Next Ten - Interview with Ken Cousineau

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. A list of Top 50 of the Last Ten, Next Ten will be coming soon too!

In the mean time lets start with a NEW interview with Ken Cousineau, Executive Director of the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association. Check out our 2009 interview with Mr. Cousineau here.

Turfhugger - To what degree has environmental issues affected your role in the CGSA through this decade?

Ken Cousineau - The CGSA has been a long time advocate of environmentally responsible golf course management. It was one of the first organization world wide to participate in the development of an environmental principles statement for golf. Environmental responsibility has been and remains a key to the CGSA mission statement.

The development of the Environmental Management Resource Manual and key environmental policies and the ongoing maintenance of these policies has meant an increased percentage of association time and resources have been committed to environmental issues. 

The development of an Environmental Best Management Practices survey and benchmarking tool which is conducted every second year has been another addition to our environmental activity. Much of what I write about that is consumed within the golf industry is related to environmental issues or activities. More often than not if I am asked to speak at an event or a conference it concerns some aspect of golf and the environment. 

Our environmental committee is probably our most active. It is involved in the preparation of policy statements, guidelines and tools to assist the members. Most of the CGSA involvement in government advocacy is related to environmental concerns. Our conference and seminar program regularly features environmentally related training activities.

Turfhugger - What major changes will we see in the next Ten Years?

Ken Cousineau - Of course no one has a crystal ball about these things and those that are doing the leading edge research are usually fairly careful about who they discuss the “next best thing” with but here are some thoughts on what could happen prior to 2020.

On the equipment side I believe that there will be a move to alternative fuels (bio, solar, electric, battery) and robotics. This would free up staff and salary dollars and reduce carbon production.

With respect to course maintenance, I would think that there will be a move to wider, more easily played courses that take less time to play. Fairways will be wider and the height of cut will be slightly longer, the rough will be shorter, bunkers will be more “natural”, slower greens – in general, more forgiving for the average and beginning player – this will be either mandated by owners and managers or recognized by superintendents as the best way to encourage more players.

From a course management standpoint, there will be a continuing move toward fewer inputs in terms of water, fertilizer and pesticide while continuing to maintain a consistent playing surface. This will be driven primarily by economics and competition but will have environmental impacts as well. Provided the balance is struck between strong, consistent turf quality and reduced inputs, the results could have an environmental benefit. If the pendulum swings too far and it results in less healthy and vital turf stands,
the positive impacts of urban turf with respect to oxygen production, carbon capture, water quality and retention and the overall cooling effect that lush vegetation can provide in the urban environment could be lost.

Course architecture – a move towards courses that are challenging but built for the mid to high range handicap player in order to attract more of them to play – length in the 5500 to 6500 range, wider fairways in landing areas to encourage better scoring and faster play, smaller greens and tee blocks to reduce maintenance costs. Avariety of tee areas to allow for different “looks” to the course either on different days or for different skill levels. Course layouts that allow for three or six holes to be played and then to be back close to the clubhouse – allows for golf courses to accommodate players who want to play fewer than 9 or 18 holes. Designs that incorporate bunkers and water but less as part of the challenge of the game and more for aesthetics.

Greater use of technology to maintain the golf course – applications from hand held technology will be virtually universal – few if any golf courses will not use this technology – those that don’t use it will be novelties within the industry. 

Applications that let you schedule your irrigation based on soil moisture levels, anticipated weather patterns, temperature and plant needs will be common and will be extensively used. 

Equipment that measures plant characteristics and instantly determines the health of the plant and the disease pressure will be part of cutting robotic equipment. This information will instantly be  transmitted to the superintendent who will then be able to send a second robot out to spot spray the effected areas thus reducing the impact of disease and the use of chemicals – it will eliminate course wide applications.

In northern climates, turf species that are not only able to survive the conditions that occur when ice forms on greens but will actually thrive on the gases produced under the ice in these conditions, eliminating the dreaded “winterkill” syndrome that most Canadian superintendents have experienced at some point in their career.

Dramatically improved weather prediction models that will be accurate 6 months in advance or more with precise indications of precipitation, temperature, hours of sunlight severe storms, etcetera. This kind of predictive model will make equipment maintenance schedules easier to develop, will allow for more accurate budgeting and purchasing and will allow the superintendent and other course functions or departments to more accurately schedule employees this reducing overall staff expenditures.


I agree with most of Ken's predictions. Slower greens and less maintenance intensive bunkers will become a trend at some clubs, but not industry-wide. Remote mowers will not be adopted industry-wide also. I like seeing what you Cannucks are doing up there. Good article EH!

good interview scomo