Environmental Conference

Dan Meersman, Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Superintendent, speaks to attendees about his club’s sustainable Zoysiagrass.

Environmental Seminar held at Merion;
sustainability, water management stressed

  ARDMORE, Pa. - The Golf Association of Philadelphia held an Environmental Seminar on Sept. 22, 2015 at Merion Golf Club. An estimated 80 GAP Member Club presidents, superintendents and professionals were in attendance, in addition to numerous USGA and various allied association attendees. The seminar featured six speakers throughout the morning, with topics and presentations focusing on the many environmental challenges the game of golf and its sustainability face, and how clubs can deal with them, now and in the future.

| Video Recap |

  The first speaker of the morning was Rand Jerris, USGA Senior Managing Director of Public Services, who highlighted the overall topic of sustainability. His presentation included an outline of what the topic entails as a whole, and what exactly it means in regards to the game of golf.

 “Our particular concern is the increasing water costs, which on a national average, is climbing on a nationalized rate of 11.4 percent [per year]. The cost associated with labor, we all understand, including healthcare and insurance costs, are also increasing at high rates. We need to understand what the collective impact on clubs will be,” Jerris said.

 Jerris’ time at the podium was followed by a presentation by GCSAA Director of Government Relations, Chava McKeel. Equipped with vast, valuable experience in dealing with both the government and golf, McKeel stressed to attendees the importance of developing a custom Best Management Practices (BMPs) plan in order to run a sustainable and successful golf club. She told speakers that the need for state level, golf facility written BMP plans is greater than ever.

 “We, as an industry, face many challenges. I want to magnify a conception problem golf also has. Golf is seen as a sin industry by policy makers across the country. In 2006, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast region. Lawmakers came in, making recovery and relief efforts, and they excluded golf, as they labeled it as a sin industry, alongside tattoo and massage parlors,” McKeel said. “We have challenges, even beyond our resources, and I just wanted to paint that picture for

 The next segment featured Kimberly Erusha, Managing Director of the USGA Green Section, who sparked discussion regarding water and drought management plans. She suggested every club have a written water management plan in place, and presented many resources the USGA has available to help in the water management process. Erusha made it a point to get attendees thinking about how their courses and clubs manage and use water on a daily basis, and what that will mean for the future.

 Erusha posed an ever-important question to attendees: “Do we have dependable source of water, now and in the future? Ask yourselves.”

 Merion’s own Matt Shaffer, the club’s Director of Golf Course Operations, was then handed the stage. Under Shaffer’s guidance, Merion hosted the 2005 U.S. Amateur Championship, the 2009 Walker Cup, and most recently, the 2013 U.S. Open Championship. He discussed his dealings with Turfgrass and sustainability during national championship play with the day’s attendees, and offered advice on how Merion has moved toward using less water and is focused on “natural” elements on the golf course.

 “I’ve always been a minimalistic, and believe that water is the catalyst for many of our problems. I’ve been an advocate of that for many years, and that is coming from working at one of the best golf clubs in America, in my opinion,” Shaffer said. “The less water used on a course, the less money a club will have to spend on labor costs and cutting.”

 The USGA Green Section’s Director of Education, Jim Moore spoke next. During Moore’s presentation, he explained the urgent need to deliver education and resources throughout the game in order to make it more sustainable and environmentally-friendly in the long run.

 “We’re trying to develop a model or tool when it comes to answering someone’s challenges. It’s not that superintendents don’t know what to do to solve these problems, but it’s trying to sell these ideas. It’s trying to get the golfers to buy in,” said Moore. “It’s one of the unique opportunities that the USGA and the GAP, some of the leaders of the game, have as to getting these messages out so that when the challenges do show up, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

 The concluding speaker of the morning was Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Superintendent Dan Meersman. Meersman presented an intriguing case study focusing on the implementation of Zoysiagrass on the Cricket Club’s St. Martins track. He left his audience with a compelling case as to why Zoysiagrass has been the best choice for his club, and urged other clubs to explore more efficient, sustainable grass types.

 “We noticed when you go into Philadelphia’s row homes, the best grass there is Zoysiagrass. When making our decision to move towards this, we looked at high-end performance from a golf standpoint, or simplistic maintenance, we were confident with Zoysia in our decision,” Meersman said. “We’ve seen great benefits across the board.”

Golf Association of Philadelphia
  Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional golf association in the United States and serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. Its 151 Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. As Philadelphia’s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.

| Rand Jerris | Chava McKeel | Kimberly Erusha | Matt Shaffer | Dan Meersman | Jim Moore |