Past Ten, Next Ten: Interview with Chris Lecour

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.

I first met Chris when I audited his golf courses operations for the Ontario IPM Accreditation Program. Four years later, Chris is now a regular contributor to Turfhugger and I am no longer an Auditor - So no conflict of interest here!

His time at the Raven Golf Club at Lora Bay (a High-end, semi-private golf club located in Thornbury Ontario) allowed him to experiment with turf varieties, bring the course to full Audubon Certification and become one of the first IPM Accredited golf courses in Ontario.

Oh! And they hosted a number of high profile events including the 2007 Telus World Skins and the Wayne Gretzky Classic.

Chris lives in Collingwood Ontario with his wife Nada and three children Holly, Ben and April.

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

Chris Lecour: Over the past 10 years, the entire turf industry has become more aware about the role we play in protecting the environment. In my view the biggest shift in the past 10 years has seen the turf industry move from a defensive and reactive stance, to a more positive and proactive response to environmental issues. 

Every day, every maintenance practice performed on a golf course has the opportunity to have a large or small, negative or positive impact on the environment. 

More and more turf managers are ensuring that those impacts, large and small, are only positive or at the very least, not harmful to their immediate and surrounding environments. 

From water and pesticide usage and the storage and safe handling of fuels, fertilizer and pesticides to turf cultural practices, tree managment, and waste handling and recycling, each process or task carried out on a golf course has the opportunity to influence the environment. 

Through the education and training that turf managers have received over the past 10 years, this awareness of our individual and collective impact on the environment will live on and should continue to have a postive and long lasting effect on future turf managers.

Turfhugger: 3 Big Things from the Past 10 Years

Chris Lecour:

1.Greens rollers. When I first started in the industry, virtually no one was rolling greens on a regular (3-4X per week) basis. Now the opposite is more the norm with a wide variety of roller types available. Almost everyone rolls and more frequently than ever before. Green speed can be maintained or increased through rolling, rather than lowering the height of cut, and mowing can be alternated with rolling on occasion with very little loss in green speed. Less mowing and higher heights of cut means less stress on the plant and ultimately less inputs to maintain healthy turf.

2. Advanced in turf cultivars and breeding. Although Penncross remains a favourite of many Superintendents, newer varieties of creeping bent grass, kentucky blue grass and the use of fescues and other bents has provided turf managers with more options for grassing than ever before. These newer varieties of creeping bent and kentucky blue grass are more resistant to diseases, are more resilient to wear and traffic and outperform their predecessors in many other areas.

3. The widespread use of technology. GPS, cell phones, smart phones, laptops, notebooks and netbooks, soil moisture sensors, weather stations, real-time communication with pump stations, TurfNet, blogs and so much more. How different would the role of the Superintendent be without technology?

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

Chris Lecour: The bottom line is turf managers will continue to be forced to do more with less: less water, less pesticides, less fertilizer and less money. Conserving water and reductions in pesticide usage have been discussed within the industry and at various levels of government for several years now and it appears as though restrictions will only increase in the future. As well, the effects of a saturated golf market combined with the current global economic crisis and recovery means club revenue and budgets will likely remain lean and mean for the forseeable future. Individuals and the industry will need to get even more creative with how specialized turf and golf courses are maintained in the face of these reductions.

One of the smartes things we can do to get through these tough times is communicate: communicate with your board of directors and members and let them know what they can expect in the way of conditions; talk to colleagues and industry associates for their help in solving problems and issues at your own course; finally, keep the lines of communication open with your regional and national superintendent or turf related associations for help in dealing with whatever is coming your way, be it disease pressure, a human resource issue or new government legislation.

Turfhugger: 3 Big Things for the Next 10 Years

Chris Lecour:

1. Low dose, low toxicity pesticides. Acelepryn by DuPont set a new standard for season long control from insects with the lowest toxicity to non-target organisms available to many of us. As pesticide regulations continue to tighten in almost every region, these low toxicity products are going to become even more necessary in the never ending battle to provide quality turf conditions.

2. Water Conservation. The previously mentioned advances in technology which included pump station communication, weather stations, soil moisture sensors will all become invaluable to turf managers everywhere as the whole industry will be asked, and eventually forced to reduce the amount of water applied to golf courses, sports fields, and green spaces. I envision the irrigation audit becoming an annual necessity for many of us to demonstrate a commitment to preserving our most valuable natural resource.

3. Continuing Education, specifically in areas of business administration and finance. While most Superintendents got into their chosen field because of a love of the game, the outdoors, or likely both, more and more of the turf manager's time is increasingly being pulled in a different direction; specifically, a large portion of each workday is being spent on office or administration work. Golf course maintenance and turf management is a business, and a pretty serious one at that for club owners. Public speaking, human resource management, finance, bookkeeping, budget building and forecasting; These are the areas the modern turf manager will need to become proficient in if they are to speak intelligently to a multitude of interest groups in the coming decade.