News & Articles

  • 23 Oct 2018 6:37 AM | John MacKenzie

    In times of drought, should we make sure golf courses stay green?

    That may be a jarring suggestion for those who view golf courses as a massive drain on water and space. After all, golf courses use nearly 8 billion gallons of water each year in Minnesota and have long been placed in the state’s lowest priority bracket for access to water in times of trouble.

    But Jack MacKenzie, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America says they should move up the list for access to water in exchange for environmentally friendly practices. MacKenzie and his organization are rallying support from lawmakers for such a change ahead of the 2019 Legislative session while touting the environmental positives of golf courses, or as their fliers bill them: “your communities’ largest rain garden.”

    MacKenzie said courses have reduced their water use in recent years and increasingly offer positives, such as recycling water for irrigation and undeveloped spaces for wildlife and pollinators. Those efforts can be improved further with the right incentives, MacKenzie said, namely assurances that when times get tough, golf courses can reduce their water without turning taps off altogether.

    The golf superintendents’ organization represents about 68 percent of golf courses in Minnesota, including public and private courses, MacKenzie said. “There aren’t a lot of business models that allow for a huge capital injection into a property if that property has a threat of closure due to the lack of irrigation water,” MacKenzie told MinnPost last week. “That’s where the golf courses sit right now.”

    Establishing a new category

    The state has six categories for prioritizing access to water, starting with drinking water and water used by power producers, followed by agricultural irrigation, food processing and more. Golf courses are currently in the lowest bracket: nonessential users

    That means if a local water system faces a lack of water, permits of certain water users can be suspended — starting with those in the nonessential category. That’s a rare event, Mackenzie admits, but the dust-up over water levels at White Bear Lake has left some in the golf industry worried for what the future holds.

    Last year, a judge ordered new regulations on groundwater users within five miles of the lake, including banning residential lawn sprinkling when lake levels fall below a certain threshold. Golf courses were exempt from that watering ban, and lake water levels have been more normal as of late

    And though Lawmakers delayed the ruling from taking effect until July 2019, MacKenzie noted there are eight golf courses near the lake, and at least some could be affected by future restrictions based on the court ruling. (The DNR also released an analysis Wednesday saying groundwater use has contributed to those lower water levels, but that such irrigation bans would have “minimal effect on lake levels.”)

    MacKenzie said his organization is suggesting the state establish a seventh category of water users he described as “environmental steward.” He said golf courses wishing to be in that bracket could be required to meet set of tough environmental and water-use rules designated by the state and agree to have their water ratcheted down significantly in times of drought, as long as there’s enough for a bare minimum of upkeep, or, as he put it, “greens and tees.”

    Besides incentivizing greener management of golf courses, MacKenzie said it would avoid “recovery” of drought-stricken courses, which can use more water than “just sustaining your current property.”

    MacKenzie predicted any bill in the Legislature would face some skepticism, and he is indeed correct. State Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, for one, is opposed to the concept. Wagenius, a member of the House environmental committee, told MinnPost some in agriculture have made similar pitches in the past to get stronger water rights, but she said those who wrote the state’s current laws on water “had a good grasp on what our priorities should be.”

    She warned of a scenario in which special-interest groups try to move Minnesota’s water system to more closely resemble California’s. In that state, certain groups with senior water rights have few limitations on access to water, even during drought. Minnesota’s system has not historically operated on such a first-come-first-served basis as Western states.

    Since the White Bear Lake saga, Wagenius said Minnesota has become more conscious of its groundwater and protecting water availability in general. 

    “The issue is we have priorities, and in a severe drought who gets the water?” she said. “Then you have to say, well is the recreational use of a golf course more important than irrigating a crop? Is it more important than people’s drinking water? That’s the basic issue here.”

    State Rep. Paul Torkelson, chairman of the Legislative Water Commission and a member of the House’s environmental committee, was not so quick to dismiss the concept. Torkelson, R-Hanska, told MinnPost smart water and other conservation practices on golf courses and elsewhere is “something we should encourage.” The House is currently controlled by a Republican majority. 

    MacKenzie is “not asking that golf courses rise to the top — that they be more important than drinking water, for instance,” Torkelson said. “If they’re willing to do other things to conserve water maybe they should be rewarded with not being in the bottom of the barrel, so to speak.”

    Not opposed by environmental groups

    The golf course group’s proposal was also not immediately opposed by some from environmental groups. Greg McNeely, chairman of the White Bear Lake Restoration Association, said he wouldn’t predict an easy road for such a policy, but said he believes golf courses near the lake weren’t among the heaviest water users, and that operators there have been making “leaps and bounds as far as trying to preserve.”

    Don Arnosti, conservation program director at the Izaak Walton League’s Minnesota Division, said the proposal could be good policy — as long as the environmental standards are truly strong. He said they should include water conservation and also practices to reduce fertilizers, pesticides and other nutrients that pollute water.

    MacKenzie acknowledged that in times of severe crisis he would expect state officials to prioritize drinking water ahead of golf courses. But he said golf courses that put in the effort to be rigorously environmentally conscious shouldn’t be treated the same as courses that don’t meet those standards.

    “Golf is fully cognizant that we use water, we get that,” he said. “But we’re also a group of trained professionals who can reduce our water consumptions and still maintain our business viability.”

  • 17 Oct 2018 8:21 AM | John MacKenzie

    Analysis shows groundwater use is sustainable, but does affect lake

    A scientific analysis recently completed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) shows that groundwater use in the White Bear Lake area meets the state sustainability standard. The analysis also shows that groundwater use in the area has contributed to lower water levels in White Bear Lake and that multi-year bans on residential irrigation will have a minimal effect on lake levels.

    A high-level summary is available at www.mndnr.gov/gwmp/wbl. The DNR also published the findings of the analysis in today's edition of the White Bear Press.

    We’re committed to working with local communities to make sure that the waters in and around White Bear Lake continue to provide their many benefits to the people who live and do business there, now and into the future,” said Barb Naramore, DNR assistant commissioner. “This analysis provides a valuable tool for those efforts.”

    The DNR conducted this analysis in response to an August 2017 Ramsey County District Court ruling, which directed the DNR to determine whether existing water appropriation permits within 5 miles of White Bear Lake meet the state’s sustainability standard, both individually and cumulatively. That ruling also required the DNR to impose a variety of conditions on existing water permits in the area, including requirement that communities ban residential irrigation when White Bear Lake is below 923.5 feet in elevation.

    As part of ongoing efforts to manage water resources in the north and east metro area, the DNR has worked with a consultant to develop a state-of-the-science groundwater flow model. This new tool allows modelers to assess the impacts of various pumping scenarios on lake and aquifer levels over time and distinguish among the relative impacts of groundwater use in different areas. Previous models could not make these kinds of assessments. 

    Using this new model, the DNR evaluated whether permitted pumping within a 5-mile radius of White Bear Lake is sustainable as defined in state law. The analysis confirmed that the state standard would be met even if all currently permitted groundwater users were to pump the maximum amount allowed for multiple years in a row.  

    The state sustainability standard requires:

    • Groundwater use does not jeopardize future groundwater supplies.
    • Groundwater use does not harm the White Bear Lake ecosystem.
    • Groundwater use does not degrade the water quality of White Bear Lake.
    • Groundwater use does not lower water levels beyond the reach of public water supplies or private domestic wells.

    The DNR used the groundwater model to look at impacts based on four different scenarios: no groundwater use, existing groundwater use, existing groundwater use with a temporary residential irrigation ban, and maximum groundwater use with all permitted users pumping as much as allowed for multiple years in a row.

    Water levels in White Bear Lake fluctuate naturally. Such fluctuations benefit lake health by promoting the growth of vegetation that provides aquatic habitat and stabilizes shorelines. The model shows that pumping groundwater increases these fluctuations, particularly on the lower end of the lake's water level range, making the lows lower. 

    While current groundwater use does not violate the sustainability standard, lower water levels, particularly those below 922.0 feet, do disrupt or diminish some recreational uses of the lake. In order to support these recreational uses, the DNR established a protective elevation of 922.0 feet in 2016. With the new model, the DNR is now able to work with the permit holders having the greatest influence on White Bear Lake, to identify potential changes to water use that can help support recreational uses of the lake.  

    Over the next few months, the DNR will meet with area cities, businesses and residents to discuss the analysis and its implications. The agency is working with these local interests to implement a groundwater management plan that ensures continued sustainability. A copy of the technical analysis and other information is available at www.mndnr.gov/gwmp/wbl.

  • 11 Oct 2018 2:10 PM | John MacKenzie

    Tired of smelling like gas after using your landscaping equipment? That smell is from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other air pollutants, that come from gas-powered landscaping equipment. These emissions impact employee health and the air quality in the populated communities the equipment serves. Using electric-powered equipment has many benefits including:

    • No smell – Safer for employee health and more pleasant to work with
    • Lighter -- Easy to use, haul up, and carry across distances and multiple locations
    • Powerful -- Equal performance to gas in most applications
    • Saves money -- No more buying gas. Save lost productivity from less maintenance and time spent in the shop as well down time from flooding.
    • Safer for employees -- Reduces respiratory health impacts, lessens hearing loss, eases cord and lifting-related injuries, and reduces cuts and burns
    • Battery life - Often a short charge time and battery lasts for hours

    Up to $300,000 in grant funding available to switch from your old, 2-cycle gasoline to electric-powered landscaping equipment.

    The maximum grant amount is $24,000. There are 50% grant funds to replace and scrap your equipment, and 30% grant funds for complementary purchases, so you can still keep your current equipment. Example equipment: pole saws, string or hedge trimmers, leaf and backpack blowers, lawn mowers, and chain saws.

    Eligible applicants include all Minnesota-based businesses under 500 employees, governmental agencies, educational institutions, non-profits, or trade groups/associations. Special consideration given for targeted applicants in environmental justice and highly urbanized areas.

    The easy, 2-page application has a calculator to help you figure out emissions -- all you need to know is the horsepower, hours used annually, and estimated remaining life left on your gas engine. The calculator does the rest!

    Apply now! Deadline: December 5, 2018.

    Projects of all sizes encouraged to apply! Find grant materials on the MPCA grants to improve air webpage. For general questions, contact kari.cantarero@state.mn.us or 651-757-2875.

    Over $15,000 has already been awarded to organizations switching to battery-powered landscaping equipment. These purchases reduced VOCs by 11.3 tons, NOx by 0.04 tons, and PM by 0.33 tons per year.

    The estimated 20 million small engines sold each year in the U.S. are the largest single contributor to non-road emissions. The average gasoline push mower creates nearly 15 pounds of air pollution an hour – the same amount of pollution as driving your car for 200 miles. Landscaping equipment emissions are not regulated and a large contributor to bad air quality, which is why the MPCA is relying on voluntary efforts to reduce these emissions in populated areas.

  • 04 Oct 2018 5:25 AM | John MacKenzie

    Have an employee who is interested in the turf management industry but needs a nudge?  Desire to "brush up" on your knowledge at an incredible price and convenient times?  Looking for some great base knowledge from the convenience of your home?

    Check out the Great Lakes School of Turfgrass Science

    MGCSA members or sponsored individuals can apply for registration scholarship too!

  • 02 Oct 2018 12:15 PM | John MacKenzie

    The chapter’s gift will help fund research, education, scholarships and advocacy.


    Environmental Institute for Golf

    The Minnesota GCSA has donated $5,000 to support the Environmental Institute for Golf (EIFG), the philanthropic organization of GCSAA. With the donation, the chapter becomes a new member of the EIFG’s Platinum Tee Club, which recognizes organizations that give $5,000 or more annually.

    The Minnesota GCSA is also recognized at the Governor’s Club level in the EIFG’s Cumulative Giving Program, which denotes a donor that has contributed between $50,000 and $99,999 since 1987.

    “The Minnesota GCSA is only one year younger than GCSAA itself, and they have a long history of support for the association,” says Rhett Evans, CEO of GCSAA and the EIFG. “We thank them for their latest donation to the EIFG, which will help fund research, education, scholarships and advocacy.”

    The Minnesota GCSA was founded in 1927. It is one of 99 GCSAA-affiliated chapters in North America.

    “The EIFG lives up to its mission statement, and experience has proven to the Minnesota GCSA, time after time, the EIFG’s presence and leadership in the industry is worth every penny we can spare,” says Brandon Schindele, president of the Minnesota GCSA.

  • 28 Sep 2018 3:44 PM | John MacKenzie

    Joe Brettingen, Assistant Superintendent at Hazeltine National Golf Club is 1 of 50 elite members selected to attend the premier educational and networking event for golf course superintendents.

    John Deere Golf and Environmental Science, a business unit of Bayer Crop Science, have announced the Green Start Academy class of 2018, which includes Joe Brettingen, Assistant Superintendent at Hazeltine National Golf Club.

    “Every year, Green Start Academy illuminates some of the highest caliber assistants in the business – and 2018 is no exception,” said David Wells, golf segment manager for Bayer. “Their knowledge and passion for the industry is truly unheralded, and we ‘re grateful for the opportunity to help support them as the next generation of golf course management leaders.” 

    Since 2005, Green Start Academy has invited 50 prestigious assistants per year to the Bayer Development and Training Center in Clayton, N.C., the John Deere Turf Care factory in nearby Fuquay-Varina and the John Deere headquarters in Cary, N.C. Through a plethora of hands-on learning activities, networking opportunities, panelist presentations and breakout sessions, Green Start Academy attendees have a chance to learn from likeminded peers as well as top industry professionals in career development, turfgrass science and general management. 

    “For years, Green Start Academy has been recognized as a premier experience for assistant superintendents looking to build strong careers,” said Ren Wilkes, marketing manager for John Deere Golf. “Cultivating the leaders of tomorrow is critical not only for the impressive professionals that attend this event – but to the industry as a whole. With each new class of graduates, we become even more proud to support this unique development program.”

    About John Deere

    Deere & Company (NYSE: DE) is a world leader in providing advanced products and services and is committed to the success of customers whose work is linked to the land - those who cultivate, harvest, transform, enrich and build upon the land to meet the world's dramatically increasing need for food, fuel, shelter and infrastructure. Since 1837, John Deere has delivered innovative products of superior quality built on a tradition of integrity. For more information, visit John Deere at its worldwide website at www.JohnDeere.com.

    About Bayer
    Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the Life Science fields of health care and agriculture. Its products and services are designed to benefit people and improve their quality of life. At the same time, the Group aims to create value through innovation, growth and high earning power. Bayer is committed to the principles of sustainable development and to its social and ethical responsibilities as a corporate citizen. In fiscal 2017, the Group employed around 99,800 people and had sales of EUR 35.0 billion. Capital expenditures amounted to EUR 2.4 billion, R&D expenses to EUR 4.5 billion. For more information, go to www.bayer.com.


  • 28 Sep 2018 8:42 AM | John MacKenzie

    The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has recently adopted and posted the Turfgrass Best Management Practices (BMPs) for nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer use in Minnesota. Please see highlights from the announcement below.

    The purpose of the BMPs is to protect water quality while at the same time being economical and practical to implement. They refer to practices relating to the timing, rate, placement and source of fertilizer application and other practices that increase fertilizer use efficiency and decrease potential loss to the environment.

    Draft BMPs were posted for review and comment on July 31, 2017 in the State Register.  The final adopted BMPs are based on comments received from turfgrass managers, turfgrass fertilizer manufacturers, university specialists, state agency specialists, and educators.  The MDA appreciates the input it received and thanks the Turfgrass Science Program at the University of Minnesota for their partnership in preparing the document.

    The BMPs for nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer use on turfgrass can be used as a stand-alone document or used as a source document for developing targeted outreach publications and programs. In the coming months the Minnesota Department of Agriculture will develop a short guidance document based on the BMPs that is primarily focused on homeowners.

     A copy of the final BMP document is available at www.mda.state.mn.us/turffertilizerbmps or by contacting Jen Schaust, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, jen.schaust@state.mn.us, 651-201-6322.

  • 29 Aug 2018 5:59 AM | John MacKenzie

    The MGCSA, with support from PBI Gordon, is excited to offer four scholarships to eligible individuals to participate in the 2019 session of the Great Lakes School of Turfgrass Science Online.

    In order to enhance the educational opportunities of our existing membership/staff and promote the Golf Course Management Industry, the MGCSA is offering a new Reimbursement Program for the Great Lakes School of Turfgrass Science Online.  (4) Reimburse coupons will be offered annually to approved applicants who complete the Online program and submit their Certificate of Completion.  Applications will be reviewed by the Scholarship Committee.  All decisions of the committee will be final. Applicants will be notified by December 15th prior to the School’s Registration deadline.   Applicants will still need to register/pay for the Online School as if they were attending on their own.  The Reimbursement check of $495 will be issued to the individual or company paying the initial Class Fee following the completion of the course.


    1.   Applicants must either be a MGCSA member or sponsored by a MGCSA member to apply.

    2.   Completion of the program and providing Certificate of Completion is necessary for reimbursement.

    Link here for complete application form

  • 27 Aug 2018 8:39 AM | John MacKenzie

    Business Insider, Erin Brodwin

    Last week, a jury in San Francisco ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to a school groundskeeper who developed cancer after years of using Roundup, the company's popular herbicide. A scary-sounding reportpublished by an environmental group shortly after the trial found traces of the chemical in dozens of everyday foods, from cereal to granola bars.

    But the trial's outcome doesn't mean that Roundup — or its chief chemical, called glyphosate — causes cancer.

    Instead, it means that members of the jury believed that Monsanto (which recently merged with chemical giant Bayer and announced plans to dissolve its name) intentionally kept information about glyphosate's potential harms from the public.

    The lawsuit is just the first part of what could be a decades-long legal fight over glyphosate. Meanwhile, the science linking Roundup to cancer is limited at best, and only further research can change that.

    Before developing a type of cancer known as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the plaintiff in the recent trial, Dewayne Johnson, had used Roundup regularly in his job as a groundskeeper at a California public school. For neglecting to alert Johnson (and the rest of the public) about the potential links between Roundup and cancer, the jury ordered Monsanto to pay Johnson $39 million to cover his medical bills, pain, and suffering, plus an additional $250 million for punitive damages (or punishment).

    But as for whether Roundup could actually have been the sole or even primary cause of an individual's cancer, the research leans heavily toward "no."

    The scare over a potential link between Roundup and cancer appears to have begun with a now widely-criticized statement put out by a World Health Organization group known as the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015.

    That year, the IARC put glyphosate — Roundup's active ingredient — in a cancer-risk category one level below widely-recognized harmful activities like smoking. But several researchers have said the IARC's determination was bogus because there is no evidence that glyphosate causes cancer. In fact, a lengthy review found that the IARC had edited out portions of the documents they used to review glyphosate to make the chemical look far more harmful than its own research had concluded.

    During the latest court case, Monsanto attempted to counter plaintiff Johnson's claims that Roundup caused his cancer using extensive testimony from expert witnesses. They pointed out that the evidence definitively linking the glyphosate in Roundup to cancer is scant. More broadly, figuring out what caused one individual's cancer is a tricky business for any scientist — a point several experts have made since the most recent Monsanto verdict came out last week.

    "This verdict is just the first in what could be a long legal battle over Roundup, and proving causality in such cases is not easy," Richard Stevens, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine who specializes in cancer and its causes, wrote in a recent post for The Conversation.

    The IARC's 2015 statement is not final.

    "The agency has often changed its classification of an agent based on new evidence after initial evaluation," Stevens wrote. "Sometimes it has become more certain that the agent poses a hazard, but in other cases it has downgraded the hazard."

    Based on new studies (typically in mice), glyphosate could go from its current status — where some people see it as a potential cancer risk — to being recognized as having a very low risk for harm.

    Several studies of glyphosate and cancer are ongoing, and more are coming out each year. Just last year, a review of studies looking at the ties between glyphosate and cancer concluded that in the low amounts of that people are actually exposed to, glyphosate "do[es] not represent a public concern."

    Conversely, the new evidence could come out strongly against glyphosate and suggest that it's incredibly harmful. As Stevens points out, new evidence dramatically changed the public perception of another popular product which was initially labeled cancerous — a zero-calorie sweetener called saccharin, which is sold under the brand name Sweet' N Low.
    In the 1980s, any product containing the sweetener was required to carry a warning label saying that it was "determined to cause cancer." But the science was flawed: the rats that had been used in the studies were especially prone to bladder cancer, and the findings did not apply to people. So in 2016, the sweetener was removed from a list of cancer-causing ingredients.

    But glyphosate's status remains to be seen. For now, the court case merely reflects the determination of a jury — not the conclusion of the majority of scientific experts.

  • 09 Aug 2018 6:34 AM | John MacKenzie

    By Patrick Rehkamp  – Data Reporter, Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal

    The PGA Tour has announced when its annual event will be played at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine in 2019 — and golf fans accustomed to making holiday trips to the cabin may have a big decision to make.

    The 3M Open will be held in early July, with the first day of the tournament on Thursday, July 4 of next year. The final day will be Sunday, July 7.

    The PGA recently committed to a tour stop at TPC for seven years, and Maplewood-based 3M Co. is the lead sponsor. Minnesota hasn't hosted a regular tour event for nearly 50 years. Work to lengthen to the course so it provides some challenge for the pros will start shortly after the senior event's final tournament there in the coming weeks. 3M’s long-time PGA senior event partner, Pro Links Sports, will manage the new event.

    Hollis Cavner, the CEO of Pro Links Sports, realizes the event will lose some Minnesotans to cabin country, but the fourth of July is still a date many people have off and not everybody owns a second home.

    "We’re gonna lose some to that but not everybody has one," he said. "There’s no way 3M is going to spend this kind of money without doing due diligence."

    Cavner added there will be concerts, fireworks and other events to attract fans. Plus, Vikings training camp isn't expected to be underway and he said the field of professional golfers will be strong enough over the holiday weekend.

    "They know they’re going to play in front of a lot of people and they love that," he said. Television ratings for previous PGA events over the Fourth of July have been solid, Cavner said.

    Professional golf apparently really likes Minnesota. Hazeltine National will become the first U.S. golf course to hold the Ryder Cup twice, as PGA of America announced in March it's bringing the event back to the Chaska course in 2028 — after Hazeltine hosted the 2016 Ryder Cup. 

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