Past Ten, Next Ten: Interview with Armen Suny

As we roll past 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.

In the "Anarchist Guide to Golf Course Architecture" Armen Suny enjoys ripping apart industry norms and declares a need to use a minimalist, nature based philosophy towards golf course maintenance. With articles like USGA Greens and The Emperor's New ClothesGolf Architecture's Definition of InsanityFirm and Fast GolfGolf Architecture's 18 CommandmentsGolf Architecture- Majors and The R&A, USGA, and PGA of Americait's easy to enjoy Armens take on an industry in change. Suny is a partner in Suny, Zokol Golf Design, the Golf Course Design firm that created the jaw dropping Sagebrush. I've been intrigued by Armen's passion, and look forward to his future articles and efforts.

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

Armen Suny: Environmental issues have not had much affect on me directly in this past decade unless one considers their global impact on the economy and golf. I am not qualified to comment on that, you may need the assistance of a macro-enconomist.

What is most interesting to me about the last decade and golf and the environment is how the industry embraced the "feel good" aspect of environmentalism. And, I really don't think that's a bad thing, just a bit disingenuous. Let me be more specific. When people start talking the talk, inevitably, while they may not be walking the walk, they will trend towards that direction. Just look at the amount of natural organic fertilizers being used in turf now versus 10 or 20 years ago. I'm sure that it is significantly higher. And many have embraced the use of sprayable nutrients and the increase of nutrients other than the "big 3" of N-P-K and are somewhat cognizant of the benefits of a balanced soil.

I guess to put it into one clear message, we are moving away from the reductionist approach of fertility of the 60s, 70s and 80s and moving into a more holistic balance of soils that includes more natural organic fertilizers, microbial population management, and sound deep and infrequent irrigation philosophy. The key to sustainability is a better understanding of the soil environment and how to manipulate it to achieve the best golf conditions, while spending less money, and impacting the environment the least. That should be our goal for the future and the fact that turf managers are even talking about the environment is a good thing and will eventually cause an even greater positive impact on the industry.

And the "Brown is the New Green" movement, while well intended, is just the wrong way to sell the concept, another story for another day.

Turfhugger: What major changes will we see in the next 10 years that will affect your role significantly?

Armen Suny: The impact for the next 10 years and its impact on what I do; hmmm, good question, I wish I had a crystal ball.