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How to light a cigarette – Taylor talks

Ecology, Environments, Features / 22nd March 2018

by Bob Taylor, STRI’s head of ecology and environment

As I pondered how I might start the “Focus On” workshop that I was compiling for BIGGA entitled ‘An Integrated approach to Golf Course Management’, I thought immediately back to my formative days at STRI and a discussion about a triangle.

Back then former director, Peter Hayes, told me that the disease triangle could be remembered by likening it to another triangle on how to light a cigarette. He explained that to light the cigarette we need three things; first a cigarette, second a match and third would be the person wanting to light the cigarette in the first place. The cigarette wouldn’t be lit if any of the three elements were missing. This analogy was presented as an equilateral triangle, one of those that looks like a pyramid, with one of the factors or elements positioned on each point.

The disease triangle is very similar, except in this case the three elements that are needed for disease to manifest are:

1) The host, which in the world of greenkeeping will be grass, and the right kind of grass at that

2) The pathogen, in this case the fungus

3) The environment


Disease triangle


Turf and the disease are always present, but there’s no disease until the environment can promote an outbreak. The point here is that fungi are always present. Fusarium, with its sickle like septate spores, spread through the surface water film and lie dormant until the environment is conducive to the germination.

Still on the subject of triangles, we are all becoming increasingly aware of the need to manage efficiently without waste or excess. We need to understand how, and why, we manage and the consequences of our actions. A good golf course is rapidly becoming the course that is streamlined in all aspects of its operation, managing efficiently and in harmony with its surroundings. So where’s the triangle then?

The triangle could include social, economic and environmental sustainability. Golf clubs are striving towards economic sustainability. This has to remain the ultimate aim but it will be almost impossible to achieve unless we understand the need to become socially responsible.



Sustainability triangle


Within the golf industry we have a responsibility to manage in a manner that does not impact on our neighbours, be it farmland or housing. We must engage effectively with our neighbours to encourage them to become part of the local golfing scene. At the end of the day we need members to procure the business.

A main driver, that we use to facilitate this, is the environment. The landscape, and all it contains, is key to why golfers stay with a club. If managed inappropriately it can also be the reason why golfers move somewhere else.

Without a strong environment it will be difficult to build a strong golf club membership. I say difficult rather than impossible simply because a number of golf clubs operate as social clubs, where member engagement and enjoyment is based on daily and evening events that to many are equally important.

We could also have an unnecessary triangle to demonstrate the relationship between the greenkeepers’ role, the golf members and the environment. It is hard not to always harp back to the environment as it’s so key in every aspect of greenkeeping. Unfortunately, it is something that we fail to recognise, and this makes it so easy to abuse.

I am thinking here of golf clubs that still spray through all the rough to control those thistle or cats ear, believing that they will spread out into the playing surfaces. Incidentally this will not occur providing you maintain a relatively gap free sward.

What about those greenkeepers still stockpiling soils into woodlands? I have always advocated that woodlands are not waste sites. The act of stockpiling dense materials like hollow cores soil grass clippings etc. will impact on oxygen exchange so vital for those Mycorrhizal fungi that play such important roles in the woodlands (see my article: ‘trees are not boring’ later in this series). There are still a number of greenkeepers who persist in continuing to spread grass clippings into the rough. This occurs even on those courses with active policies promoting collection and composting.

On a wider landscape scale perspective, we are all guilty of making our lives too easy. Whether this is by using single use cups or straws, jumping in the car instead of walking or by choosing the cheaper plastic wrapped products at the the supermarket.

Perhaps we need another triangle to highlight this.


If this subject interests you, then feel free to contact me via info@strigroup.com, or my Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn accounts to discuss further. Golf’s future, although complex, depends upon us all becoming increasingly proactive, moving forward to the benefit of the community, not just the golf club.

You can read the other instalments of Taylor Talks by clicking on the links below:

February – Consider a landscape management approach

January –  Shifting baselines and traditional management