Starting this month, Kenney Machinery Corporation will be honoring one of our customers each month as the “customer of the month.” This customer will be highlighted in an article on our blog, featured on our Facebook page and promoted in our monthly email newsletter.
The customer of the month for February is The Sagamore Club in Noblesville, Indiana, which is one of the newest golf courses in the greater Indianapolis metropolitan area. Despite its young age, the club is already setting a new high standard for both course design and customer service. In 2004, Golf Digest named it one of the top ten new courses in America, and it is one of only two golf courses in the state of Indiana to be designed by the legendary pro golfer Jack Nicklaus.
The Sagamore Club property includes an 18-hole golf course and numerous practice facilities including a chipping green, a short game practice area, a driving range, a putting green, and a practice bunker. It also features an 18,000 square foot clubhouse, tennis courts, a fitness center and swimming pool, and a limited number of single family homes.
Dan Grogan, the superintendent of The Sagamore Club, recently spoke to the Kenney Machinery Corporation about the club and some of the challenges he faces in maintaining the turf there. Here’s what Dan had to say in response to our questions.
What are you most proud of about The Sagamore Club?
“I think that one of our biggest accomplishments is our well-earned reputation as having some of the best greens around – not only in the state, but in the entire region. It’s been one of our bragging points throughout the years.”
What personal accomplishment are you most proud of during your time at The Sagamore Club?
“What I’m most proud of is the fact that I worked my way up to my current position from the bottom of the totem pole. I started at The Sagamore Club as an intern before I even graduated from Purdue University, at which time the course was still under construction. I took a full time job as an irrigation technician in 2006, worked as a second assistant for a year, and then was promoted to assistant superintendent in 2007. I held that job for seven years before being promoted to superintendent in 2014. I had two great predecessors that held the position of superintendent before me who taught me a lot, and its thanks to their guidance and a lot of hard work that I got to where I am today.”
What are some of the challenges you face in maintaining the turf at The Sagamore Club?
“I think one of the unique challenges that we face here is we’re on one of the higher elevation points in the county, so we’re always windy every day. We rarely if ever have a calm wind day, and that makes it a little challenging when it comes to chemical or fertilizer applications. Also, trying to run your irrigation cycles at night when it’s really windy is a challenge.
“Our second challenge is just the large size of the golf course property itself – it’s about 350 acres including the development and all the housing. We’ve got about 80 acres of native fescue grass that we maintain. It’s a really tough battle we face year in, year out to try to keep those as weed-free as possible from not only the golfer’s perspective, but the home owners as well. A lot of those areas are adjacent to home owner’s properties, so we do try to put in a lot of work and chemical applications trying to make sure those areas are as tidy as possible, but it’s a big challenge when you have that many acres.”
Is there anything you wish your customers knew about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into maintaining the turf at The Sagamore Club?
“If your equipment isn’t operating properly, then your staff isn’t able to operate properly, and that obviously comes down to knowing the equipment. Whether it’s a weed eater, or a blower, or greens mower, all of that needs to be serviced and maintained properly for us to succeed as a whole. Our full-time mechanic, Jim, does a great job keeping the golf course equipment running year-round. Of course our customers know that it takes work to maintain the property, and they appreciate what we do in that regard, but I don’t think they necessarily are aware of all the moving pieces involved in the process.”
Were you impacted by the recent economic downturn, and if so how did you handle it?
“I don’t think there’s many golf courses out there that weren’t impacted in some way by the economy in recent years. We dealt with it by simply doing the best with the resources we had, and making sure that we were as efficient as possible in everything that we did in order to stay within our budget constraints. As long as everyone pulls their weight and does their job, everything keeps running smoothly.”
What advice would you give to other turf professionals?
“There’s going to be times where you will have setbacks, whether it’s from mother nature with a big storm, or a disease outbreak, or someone sleeping through their alarm on the weekend, but you have to try to maintain an even keel and not let it get the best of you.
“At the end of the day, it’s just grass, and it’s going to be there tomorrow. I try to keep a balance between loving the job and doing all that is required of me to get the course where I want it, but at the same time realizing that there is a life outside of work to try to enjoy as well, whether it’s going fishing, or playing golf with friends, or going to a concert in the summer. I would tell other turf professionals to enjoy what they do, but at the same time don’t let the job consume them.”
What is something that not many people know about the Sagamore Club?
“During the finishing stages of the construction of the course, Jack Nicklaus came back in on one of his final site visits and decided to switch the nines. The front nine used to be the back nine, and vice versa. He liked the last four finishing holes on the original front nine for the back nine, so he switched nines here. So, when we say that Jack Nicklaus designed the course, it’s not like he just signed off on the design. He was very much involved in the process all the way through.”
We’d like to give Dan Grogan a big “thank you” for taking time out of his busy schedule to tell us a little bit about The Sagamore Club.