Olds College students gain the wisdom of the Oakcreek Pros

Posted on April 09, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Jason Pick, Instructor in Golf Course Management at Olds College, Calgary, wrote to Bernhard recently to tell us about one of our Canadian distributors who uses our training programme to support their local community.

For the last three years Bernhard distributor in Calgary, Oakcreek Golf and Turf, under the direction of Reef Caulder have invited the students into the workshop for a day of training.

“Oakcreek Golf and Turf have been training our 2nd year Golf Course Management students for three years now,” said Jason. “It’s invaluable training that’s become an annual highlight, providing our students with a much greater understanding of the importance of regular grinding and reinforce this critical skill for golf course managers.

We do our best to ensure Olds College Turfgrass Management students are utilizing the most current equipment, and their training closely aligns with industry standards. Partners like Oakcreek and Bernhard provide students with the very newest state-of-the-art equipment to practice on by hosting our class at their facility completely free of charge. This investment in the future really adds value to our student’s qualifications. “

Oakcreek accepts up to 25 students at a time to receive hands-on experience in how to tear down, re-grind and set-up the reel and bedknife of a cutting unit using the Bernhard Express Dual and Anglemaster sharpening system.

This impressive education programme is invaluable.

“It’s my hope that Oakcreek is recognized for this impressive education programme initially instigated by Retired Manager, Claude Cloutier and now continued by Reef Caulder.

Getting our students out to experience the practical side of learning is invaluable for them. They have used grinders at the school, but to use the newest designs and latest technology in the workshop and to work with experts in the industry who are happy to share their knowledge with the next generation of young golf course superintendents and sports field professionals is very special. The students get so much of out this day, not just in practical terms, but understanding turf health and reducing subsequent maintenance costs incurred by poorly set or sharpened reels.”

Reef Caulder, Service Manager at Oakcreek Golf & Turf commented, “It is amazing to see the youth and excitement in today’s turf industry. The access to hands-on training and information is something that cannot be stressed enough for its importance. The students have an opportunity to see, learn and understand the necessary basics on reel theory, design and set-up that will encourage a finely tuned product in the future.

The Turfgrass Management Programme at Olds College runs with a cap of 25 students accommodating a 1 Year Certificate, 2 Year Diploma and a 3 Year Bachelor of Applied Science Degree in Turfgrass Management. The programme is unique, in that it is designed specifically for the industry. Offering residency to 30 students between January to April, incorporating their field schools and internships and ensuring they are back at work when their clubs need them most.

Keeping the cutting equipment as sharp as new has a big impact on turf health and the environment. It is one of the key things Jason tries to help his students recognize. “Sharp reels reduce inputs because inputs costs money, whether on pesticides, fertiliser or water. We use the analogy that dull scars take a long time to heal. Well-cut scars will resist disease and heal fast giving you a healthier plant.”

There is significant demand in the industry for trained golf course people.

“Our graduates are highly sought after. It is rare to have students looking for work. Rather, they are turning down offers and choosing the best positions. We have had 100% placement for as long as I have worked here. There is significant demand in the industry for trained golf course people.

We have around 550 courses in Western Canada between Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. With industry averages of about twenty staff on each course, that represents significant opportunities for job placement and advancement in this field.”

So has Canada not suffered from the recession to the same degree as the rest of the world?

“The Golf industry has evolved, driven predominantly by the fluctuating economies and social changes. Now more than ever, course operators must strive to improve their efficiency in order to remain competitive. Through precise management of operations and maintenance standards, our course managers will ensure profitable operations.”

Jason who is also on the Board of Directors of the Western Canada Turfgrass Association said in his part of Canada the winters are long. “We have between 160-180 playable days of golf a year – and in that time we work towards getting 1.2 million dollars in revenue, so you can see how crucial it is to keep our golf courses healthy and in tip top condition for our short Canadian season.

Our season runs from mid April to mid October, the grass starts going dormant late October, and by November most of Alberta is under snow. Alberta has some great high-end golf courses rated in the top ten in Canada. We, as a class, take advantage of these high calibre venues by visiting as many of them as possible over the short season to gain an insight into the best in the business.”

Jason really understands the wisdom of getting out of the classroom and into professional working environments.

“Many years ago as a golf course superintendent, I took part in similar training organized by Bernhard in Calgary and so have first hand knowledge of exactly how valuable this kind of training and education is.”