VGCSA featured in Virginia Agribusiness Council Member Spotlight

Virginia Agribusiness Council

In this month's newsletter, we are getting to know the Virginia Golf Course Superintendents Association! We've interviewed Jeffrey Whitmire, CGCS, Golf Course Superintendent for Williamsburg Golf Club.

Please share Virginia Golf Course Superintendents Association’s (VGCSA) history, mission, and objectives.

Jeff Whitmire, CGCS
VGCSA President

The VGCSA was formed in 2000. The purpose of this Association is to enable golf course superintendents in the Commonwealth of Virginia to be unified, affiliated, and represented on a state and national level. The purpose is further to promote networking, education, and professional growth for golf course superintendents throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.

What is the economic impact of the golf course industry?

The last economic impact study (in 2012) showed that the golf industry has a $2.5 billion impact on the Virginia economy. I am sure it is even more now.

Why did you decide to pursue a career as a golf course superintendent and how has your involvement with the VGCSA influenced your career?

Golf has always been and continues to be a big part of my life. As a player, I was always fascinated with well-conditioned golf courses and curious about how these conditions were achieved. I was finally old enough to work on the golf course when I was seventeen and I have not left yet. The VGCSA has been very important to my career.

The most important benefit for me has been the relationships. We foster these relationships by hosting meetings, conferences, golf tournaments, and through our activities such as Lobby Day in Richmond when we meet with our legislators.

How is the VGCSA dedicated to being environmental stewards and protecting Virginia’s natural resources?

VGCSA members work outside and interact with the environment every day so environmental stewardship is naturally important to our membership. We collaborated with Virginia DCR to develop Nutrient Management Plans for golf courses. This was a part of the Chesapeake Bay Act that aims to reduce nutrient loading in the Bay. I am proud to say that (almost) every golf course in Virginia has a Nutrient Management Plan on file with the Virginia DCR.

We also recently published our 2nd edition of the Virginia Environmental Best Management practices for golf courses, and our goal is to have all our member facilities with a documented BMP.

Many Virginia golf courses are also certified as Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries. 
What are some of the new technologies being utilized on the golf courses and why are they important?
The internet has influenced the industry more than anything. The ability to retrieve current and relevant information within minutes has radically changed how we manage golf courses. Other examples include: 

Using moisture meters (both portable and in-ground) for more efficient watering and better conditioning.

GPS equipment. GPS sprayers can more precisely apply fertilizers and plant protectant products. GPS is also used to track player movements. The information from these sensors is overlaid on a map showing areas that receive intense traffic and other areas that do not. This information can then be used to improve maintenance practices. For example, areas that receive a lot of traffic may need fertilizer, while less trafficked areas may not need fertilizer. This same principle also applies to pesticide applications, mowing, and other activities. 
Electric, hybrid, and autonomous mowing equipment is also becoming increasingly popular. This equipment uses less fuel, has fewer emissions, more accurately performs its task, and (in most cases) eliminates the possibility of hydraulic leaks  
What is the biggest challenge that VGCSA is currently facing and how is the association working to overcome it? 

Like all industries right now, staffing is our biggest challenge and is the major focus for our annual education conference. Our association is offering targeted classes to promote employee retention and recruitment. We are also working with local school systems to introduce our industry to students and a few of our members are helping to establish vocational training programs. + 
What are some upcoming events that your members are looking forward to attending with the VGCSA?

We have the Virlina Cup (an annual Ryder cup style competition with our friends in the Carolinas GCSA) and the Joe Saylor (our premier two-man event) coming in October. Also, our season-long member-member match play concludes in October with the final round hosted at Kinloch Golf Club. We head to Charlottesville in December to Farmington Country Club for our annual conference and meeting. We are also looking forward to our Lobby Day in January where our board of directors meets with the legislators in Richmond. 
What is your favorite golf course in Virginia to play golf whether it is for fun or for a tournament? 

We are blessed with so many great golf courses in Virginia that it is impossible for me to name just one. All courses have their own personalities that make them special and unique. I enjoy playing any golf course that is in good shape, has interesting architecture, and offers a thoughtful challenge.