“Balls in the Air with Charlie Rymer” Podcast Episode 5: Bob Ranum & Jim Huntoon

In this episode, Charlie chats it up with two “legendary” names in the golf world: Bob Ranum, “The Long Island Legend” and retired Atlantic Golf Club superintendent and former Garden City Golf Club superintendent; and Jim Huntoon, superintendent at Legends Golf Group’s South Strand jewel, Heritage Club. They discuss the life of a superintendent, the current trends in golf course maintenance, and much more!



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Charlie Rymer: (00:13)
Hi. And welcome into Balls in the Air. I’m your friendly neighborhood host, Charlie Rymer. Got a really special show coming for you today. As always, we are attached to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the Golf Capital of the World. And we’ve got a couple of superintendents that are joining the show today. One of them is retired, Bob Ranum. Bob, drum roll please, is the “Long Island Legend.” What an amazing nickname he has. Great story. Really good friend. Also, Jim Huntoon, who is still active. Jim’s much younger than Bob.

Bob Ranum: (01:09)
Everybody is.

Charlie Rymer: (01:10)
Yeah, exactly. Jim is at Heritage down in Pawleys Island, the south end of Myrtle Beach. I think Heritage is the best kept secret in all of Myrtle Beach.

Bob Ranum: (01:20)
I agree with that.

Charlie Rymer: (01:21)
Thrilled that you guys would come in and hang out. These superintendents are so arrogant. It’s difficult to get them to come and hang out with a PGA professional like me because they look down on us so much. They don’t think we do very much. We just fold sweaters and stuff like that while they do the real work in the world of golf. But, guys, we appreciate you joining. I’d like to maybe start with this. Both of them called about three days ago. They were wanting me to give them a preview of what I was going to ask them. I said, “No, no, no, no, no. No preview.” I can’t believe you think I would give you a preview. I should have given you-

Bob Ranum: (01:57)
I thought we were friends. I thought you would do that for me.

Charlie Rymer: (01:58)
Well, it’s a lot more fun messing with you. You don’t need that.

Bob Ranum: (02:00)
We were remembering [inaudible 00:02:02].

Charlie Rymer: (02:02)
Right. We finished last in the night flight.

Bob Ranum: (02:03)
No, we didn’t.

Charlie Rymer: (02:04)
And most people think it was because of him, not me because I’m the pro. But he actually played better than I did.

Bob Ranum: (02:10)
We weren’t last. We were second to last.

Charlie Rymer: (02:12)
But anyway, let’s talk a little background. Bob, I want to start with you. Two big jobs. You were at Garden City Country Club and then you finished up the last 30 years of your career, or right at 30 years, at Atlantic Golf Club up on Long Island, Rees Jones golf course. But let’s just talk, let’s get back to the beginning. When did you decide that you were going to be a superintendent? How’d you go about that?

Bob Ranum: (02:35)
Oh, that’s pretty interesting. When I was in high school, you’ll like this story. So I was in high school, I’d met a girl, my wife now after 43 years. We started dating and one day she said to me, she goes, “Would you like to go work for my father?”

Bob Ranum: (02:47)
I said, “What does he do?”

Bob Ranum: (02:48)
And he goes, “He’s a golf course superintendent on Long Island at Rockville Links.” I didn’t even know what a golf course was back there where at 15 years old. So she went back to her dad. Said, “Daddy, would you give my new boyfriend a job?”

Bob Ranum: (02:59)
And he said, “Yeah, I’ll give him a job.” So he picks me up. I remember it like it was yesterday. It’s so weird. And he picks me up at my house. We lived down the block from each other. We were only a block away. And I went to work that day, and like anything else, I worked. I had a great time. I got home, and we used to meet at the railroad station in between both of us. So after work, we ran up and she says, “What do you think?”

Bob Ranum: (03:21)
I said, “I’ll tell you right now. I will never do anything again in my life.” From that moment on, my first day of work at Rockville Links, I knew that’s my love and never did anything else. So I worked for him for a year or two, then obviously went to UMass. And then after that I got my first head job at Garden City Golf Club, which was an amazing thing because I was 23 years old. Top 50 club in the country. One of the most respected golf courses in the country. I was lucky enough to be there for 13 years. And then I moved on to … Atlantic Golf Club on the east end of Long Island where I spent my last 30 years.

Charlie Rymer: (03:56)
So before I get to Jim, that first day, you’re working for Allison’s dad. You said you loved it. What did you love about it?

Bob Ranum: (04:05)
Tell you what I really … and it’s really weird. I did love being outside. I loved the whole golf course, but what really intrigued me was the equipment part of it. So we were in the maintenance building just to see equipment that I’ve never seen before. Hand greens, mowers, triplexes, sprayers. I was intrigued on all the equipment. I just couldn’t get enough thinking, “Man, you got this great little maintenance building. You got all this equipment you can screw around with. You don’t have customers yelling at you to fix anything.” So what really drew me in was the equipment aspect of it.

Bob Ranum: (04:36)
Then as I grew on the golf course, I realized I loved everything about it from the game to the maintenance, to the … and I think the challenge, and Jim will say this, the challenge of trying to get a golf course … we never think a golf course is perfect. It’s never going to happen in our eyes. Even though you might play and say, “This place is great.” But it’s the challenge of trying to get there. It’s the challenge of satisfying yourself. Not somebody else. I remember always driving around the golf course and a member would come to me and say, “Bobby, the place is great.”

Bob Ranum: (05:03)
And I would say, “Well, did you see over here? It just isn’t right,” because see, golf course superintendents love perfection. And real quick little side note. Since I retired, I’m doing work for Golf Magazine.

Charlie Rymer: (05:16)
You’re retired?

Bob Ranum: (05:16)
Yeah. Had a party, too.

Charlie Rymer: (05:19)
He had this huge party at Atlantic and I didn’t show up. And he’s never going to let me forget about it.

Bob Ranum: (05:25)
So going around, so this year for Golf Magazine, I went to 40 golf courses I’ve never seen before. And what I find more, besides just the architectural value of the golf course, is just spending time with the golf course superintendents. Every superintendent is so enthusiastic about their piece of property. They just can’t wait to show you everything about it. What they want to do, what they have done, the plans they have, the architectural values. So I had so much fun just spending the day with the superintendent. So my average day would be I get there at 6:00 for the superintendent. I’d spend the morning with him. Then I’d play in the afternoon to really get the value of the whole golf course. So that was a real fun thing that I’ve been doing.

Charlie Rymer: (06:04)
Well, we’ll save a little bit of that for later, because I want to dive into that and what you’re doing for Golf Magazine now. But first Jim, how did you first fall in love with this golf business? Because the golf business, you be in love with it to do it, no matter whether you’re on my side or your side. But where did you first fall in love with golf?

Jim Huntoon: (06:23)
When I was a teenager, my grandfather taught me to play. I picked up on it really quick and enjoyed it and immersed myself in the game then. You do have to have a love for it, Charlie. and I still do. I just was not originally thinking about going into the golf business, but once I got through college the first time and got out and graduated, realized I had to work for a living, I decided it might be time to-

Charlie Rymer: (06:57)
Wait, wait. I’m 53. I haven’t figured that out yet.

Jim Huntoon: (06:59)
Well, you’re doing well. But I just went back to golf and said, “This might be a way to enjoy what you do and have a career at the same time.”

Charlie Rymer: (07:12)
So you fell in love with it, decided you want to get into it. And how did that transition to this really excellent career that you’ve had so far? You’ve got plenty more in front of you as a golf course superintendent. Did you go intern? Did you work on a crew? Tell me a little bit about your education.

Jim Huntoon: (07:30)
Yeah, well, this is how I got down to Myrtle Beach. I’m originally from the Midwest. I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in community and regional planning. And like I said, I figured out pretty quickly I didn’t want to do that. So I immediately started working on the grounds crew at a local country club there. Ames Golf and Country Club. Iowa State’s a big turf school. So there was a lot of turf guys that were working there, students. Just hanging around them, I just felt like this might be something that I want to do.

Jim Huntoon: (08:00)
I had just graduated with a bachelor’s and wanted to go to a two year school, and looked around and found out about Horry-Georgetown here in Conway. And at the time I was 24, my wife was 24. We were living in Ames, Iowa in the middle of the winter.

Charlie Rymer: (08:15)
That’s not much fun.

Jim Huntoon: (08:16)
Myrtle Beach sounded like a good place to move to, Charlie. It really did. And so we moved down here in ’99, and the rest is history. Been here since. I worked for 11 years at Caledonia through school as an assistant superintendent. I did do a stint at Pinehurst for an internship, but just Caledonian and Heritage were really the only two golf courses that I’ve been at. Right next to each other.

Charlie Rymer: (08:43)
And two good ones to be at.

Jim Huntoon: (08:44)
Very good.

Charlie Rymer: (08:44)
I noticed while you were talking, Bob was looking down at his phone there. He’s got a great excuse because grandbaby is on the way as we speak. And of course, Bob would be there up on Long Island, but with COVID, it’s difficult to travel and all that.

Bob Ranum: (09:00)
The wife went instead.

Charlie Rymer: (09:03)
So you get a couple of texts coming in, you’re excused. Pretty neat stuff right now for Bob. But tell me a little bit about your education.

Bob Ranum: (09:10)
Well, I worked work for Gene, Allison’s father, and I realized that I wanted to go. So at the time when I was going, I graduated high school in ’73. So we were looking around at the best colleges. Back then, UMass was by far the number one turf school anywhere around. So it was a no brainer that I would go up there. So I went up there. Took me five years to get out of a four year program.

Charlie Rymer: (09:35)
I can relate to that.

Bob Ranum: (09:36)
That’s pretty normal. I just loved it. I would come back every summer, obviously, and work on different golf courses. I tried to work. What I tried to do, which I think was interesting for me, was every summer I came back home, I worked for a different superintendent on Long Island. So I went to Piping Rock one year, I went to actually Garden City Golf Club where I became the superintendent, and I did Cherry Valley one year, just so I could see different ways superintendents managed their crew, managed their golf courses. I thought I wanted to get as much possible I could.

Bob Ranum: (10:08)
Then when I graduated, Garden City Golf Club, the superintendent from there was moving up to Piping Rock, [Mel Lucas 00:10:15]. I just said, “F, I might as well just interview. I know the place.” I interviewed I was a young kid, 23 years old. Interviewed against all these big superintendents. And I remember, again, I remember it like it was yesterday. They said to me on the third interview, “Bob, we’re going to give you a chance. We’re going to let you be the superintendent here for one year. And if it’s a complete disaster, we’ll make it go away.”

Bob Ranum: (10:40)
Well, my first year was a complete disaster. I killed every blade of grass I could find. I was killing the neighbors’ yards. And then at the end, I think, “Ah, this isn’t going to be good.” And then he came to me and said, “Listen, you didn’t do a great job, but I got to tell you, you worked around the clock. We see the progress you’re going to do. We understand there was a lot of thatch on the golf course and you were trying to eliminate it.” So they said, “Keep going.”

Bob Ranum: (11:02)
And I said 13 years at the Garden City Golf Club, which was a great experience for me, because being a young superintendent, I didn’t really know playing conditions as much as growing grass. And that membership, being 100 members less than 10 handicapped there, they taught me what a condition should be. Firm, fast. Don’t worry about green grass, worry about playability. So he really set the tone for my career in playability, which I think most of my career, I went after.

Charlie Rymer: (11:33)
Let me ask you to jump in, Jim. So many times in golf, we hear these terms and we assume everybody knows what it means. A lot of times if I’m doing a live event, “Well that player caught a flyer.” Well, some people know what a flyer is. Some people don’t, everybody acts like they know it is. They don’t really. He mentioned the term thatch. Just in layman’s term, what is thatch and why is it so important to not have so much of it on a golf course?

Jim Huntoon: (12:04)
It’s the decaying plant material as the grass grows and ages. And it’s the underground parts of the turf grass plants, the rhizomes and the stolons. Those aren’t really layman’s terms, but that’s what we call them, they’re underground stems.

Charlie Rymer: (12:20)
Yeah. I know those are parts of plants.

Jim Huntoon: (12:22)
That all stuff over time breaks down and it creates a spongy layer between the soil and the turf surface. It affects the playability of the turf and of the golf course. It affects the overall health of the turf. The more thatch you have, the harder it is to get water and fertilizer and chemicals to where you need them. And it’s a very important part of managing turf for playability and sustainability.

Charlie Rymer: (12:53)
So to get it out, how do you go about doing that? Let’s say … your career at Garden City and Atlantic have all been bent grass, which folks can relate to in terms of the greens. First time I ever saw a bent grass fairway in my life was up in the North Carolina mountains. And I was just terrified to take a divot. I was playing Grandfather Mountain. Their fairways were better than any green I’d ever seen in my life. But how do you go about getting it out?

Bob Ranum: (13:17)
Just to get back to Jim, and he’s 100% right in growing the grass. And you as a player knows the firmer the surface you can get to, the less smaller the divots, the better it bounces. You can’t achieve any of that if you start off with thatch. You can’t go to a golf course and say, “Just turn the water off because there’ll be a disaster.” I didn’t get it out. There’s many ways to get it out. I found over the career for me, aerification was the best. The more I could aerify the golf course, which is pulling a plug up, dragging it back in, just eliminating it. Then once I got the thatch that was manageable, I would go into more deep verticutting, deep detaching like that.

Bob Ranum: (13:52)
Then eventually I got into top dressing fairways, which we do on greens. I was top dressing fairways. Looking back on my career, I don’t know if the top dressing of the fairways was as important as the aerification and the detaching. Then I think if you add all that together and you get yourself a good playing surface, it’s managing the fertilizer. Because if we go out and over fertilize the golf course, you’re just producing thatch, what you just brought up. So we have to regulate that fertilizer very, very lean to make it playable. The best compliment you’re going to get is if a Charlie Rymer comes to your place and says, “This is what I want to play on.” Then you have achieved what you’re trying to get.

Charlie Rymer: (14:30)
When the ball hits the ground on a well-prepared golf course, obviously taken out. Somebody gets 10 inches of rain in three days, there’s not much you can do with that. But normal rain, just the sound of a ball hitting a green, the sound of a ball, you can hear it landing in the fairway and bounding forward. Is something that quite honestly, I don’t think see enough of in the US. I think a lot of golfers here don’t understand that the game is meant to be played along the ground. Because we have courses that are so green here, that ball, it just doesn’t release that. And to me, the game is a lot less fun and you use a lot less imagination. And there’s a lot of really cool features on golf courses that you can’t use because everything just hits and splats.

Charlie Rymer: (15:22)
It’s something that’s been really frustrating for me to see over the years, especially go to a golf course and they say, “Oh, we’re old style. We play link style golf.” And then you go out and every fairway, boop, it just splats. But I wanted to get to this, Jim. I think the impression among a lot of folks that play golf and don’t otherwise, that chemical applications on golf courses can be really bad for the environment. I think in many cases, that’s not really true. What are your thoughts on that?

Jim Huntoon: (16:00)
We’ve come a long way in the industry. And real quick before I touch on that, I wanted to mention as superintendents, we’re trying to get as little growth as we possibly can of the turf to maintain the playing conditions, like you talk to. It’s more of how little can we get this grass to grow and still mow it and still hold up to the traffic and provide a good surface? But golf courses are good stewards of the environment. Pesticides, fertilizer, all these things are expensive. We’re trying to get by as efficiently as possible. And a lot of the new stuff is what we call site-specific. It’s not like your old style pesticides or DDTs where you drop a bomb out there and everything in the soil gets killed. It’s very site-specific.

Jim Huntoon: (16:51)
We’re very careful, because obviously a lot of people love the natural part of golf. They love the wildlife. They love just being with nature. I think we do everything in our power to encourage that. Environmental stewardship and responsibility is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

Charlie Rymer: (17:11)
Wildlife management on the golf courses is a big issue as well. Atlantic, I’ve only been there a couple of times with you, but you got to be covered up in wildlife in the summertime, and that’s be something the members like.

Bob Ranum: (17:22)
Yeah, we do. It was unique. We had 68 acres of natural grasslands at Atlantic. So you had these big fields of fine fescue, little bluestem, big bluestem. Plus we were surrounded by acreage. So we always had deer and fox, coyotes and everything was out there. So it was good. I just touched base on that firmness real quick. What he said about the flyer lies. All the stuff we try to do on a fairway and the rough, which I believe in a nice, tight rough for that flyer. It all falls apart if the greens can’t react the way you want them to react.

Bob Ranum: (17:56)
So if you could set up where you could hit that right shot in the fairway and react to that green, but you’re in the little rough with a flyer, you can’t stop it. It really makes the difference in things. So I’d like to just say that I think everything’s important from the tee, the fairly and the green. How many times do you walk on a golf course and you stand on that tee and you say, “I know right away the superintendent is good, because it’s a firm tee. It’s a good tee.” You know the golf course is going to be that. It’s that whole presentation all the way through. Sorry for jumping in.

Charlie Rymer: (18:22)
Oh, we can do wherever you want to go with this show. You didn’t get dressed up.

Bob Ranum: (18:27)
Sorry about that, because he surprised us.

Charlie Rymer: (18:30)
So Jim, you play golf. Bob tries to play golf. He’s actually a lot better than I give him credit for. And I don’t really want to … I’m not asking this question to you guys to throw any superintendents under the boat, but how important do you think it is for superintendents to play, to get out and spend time playing with not just maybe a couple of their buddies, but get out and play with either the members or the customers? Whatever golf course they have, how important you think it is for him to get out and play?

Jim Huntoon: (19:03)
I think it’s extremely important. You get in the habit of riding around the course when you’re working and you don’t look at things in the same way. When you’re actually playing, you’re actually seeing it from the golfer’s perspective. Ultimately, a lot of us superintendents get caught up in grass and irrigation and this and that. But it is about golf and you can’t lose sight of that. And there have been superintendents over the years that have been very successful that didn’t play golf. But you have to have a lot of other intangibles if you’re not going to play. I think playing and seeing things through the player’s eyes is crucial.

Charlie Rymer: (19:44)
It’s got to be hard. I got a good buddy who’s a preacher in Atlanta. He claims to be the top Methodist preacher in all of Atlanta. They have a ranking system, preachers do, to figure out who’s the top in the state, like you Golf Magazine writer. The preachers that have the most members at Augusta National, they figure they’re … he said he’s got seven in his church. So he’s number one preacher in Atlanta, or in the state of Georgia. But when I take him out places, he loves golf.

Charlie Rymer: (20:17)
It’s a lot of fun to not tell people that you got a preacher with you, because he wants to see what the real world is like. And it’s be same thing for you guys. When you go to play golf, if you go somewhere else, you don’t want them to know you’re a superintendent, because then you got a earful all day long. Especially if it’s a course that if they don’t know you and it’s member or customer, they would be tough, I would think, to play golf with them. You’d rather almost do it anonymously. Right?

Bob Ranum: (20:45)
Well, I’ll tell you my experience. I was superintendent for 43. And I joined the club down the block that was a private club called Southampton Gold Club, which was a wonderful Seth Raynor golf course. I think Jimmy came to visit me. We played it. So I got the perspective of what members think. So when I would go to that club and play with the members, I heard what members, and I could bring that back to Atlantic and say, “Okay, if you just surround yourself with superintendents, sometimes you’re all just complaining about the same thing.”

Charlie Rymer: (21:17)
Wait, wait. Superintendents complain? No. Mostly about us PGA pros, I bet.

Bob Ranum: (21:22)
Well, it’s up there. It’s not the top three. We can get to the top three. But the thing is, so I had that perspective. Also when I’d go back and play with our membership. It’s always good for the superintendent to play with the membership, because then there it’s them and three guys. And hopefully most times the members aren’t going to talk about the turf. But you can see what they look at. For example, what bothers people the most on the golf course? Is it the bunkering? Is it the rough?

Bob Ranum: (21:46)
So I think it’s super, super important for the golf course superintendent to play his own golf course, to play other golf courses to see it. And to know the game of golf. I don’t know, I know there has been successful guys like that, but I think they would even be more successful if they played.

Jim Huntoon: (22:01)
I agree.

Charlie Rymer: (22:02)
What kinds of things have you learned from getting out and playing at your club Heritage?

Jim Huntoon: (22:08)
Recently, I can think of a couple times where I played. And for example, we have a par three number 13 on the backside. It’s over water. And the main tee that most people play, there was some sawgrass growing up. It was to two feet right past the tee, two feet high. And I hit my ball into that sawgrass, Charlie.

Charlie Rymer: (22:33)
Yeah, right off the tee.

Jim Huntoon: (22:33)
Right off the tee. And the next day it got trimmed down. But I do think it’s important to play other golf courses. Superintendents have a good relationship with each other, and it’s the type of business where you lean on your peers. Bob’s been a mentor to me and helped me a lot over the years. Early on when I was at Caledonia, we hit it off right away playing golf and talking golf. It’s just a good thing to network with your neighbor superintendents. And we’ve all got the same problems and we help each other and try to do anything we can to further the business, especially here in Myrtle Beach because we all want everybody to be as good as they possibly can, Charlie.

Charlie Rymer: (23:23)
When y’all get together, I know I had lunch the other day with a group of superintendents and y’all made me buy my lunch. You said, “Listen, you’re the only PGA guy here. So you’re going to buy lunch.”

Bob Ranum: (23:32)
We’ve never seen a golf pro put his hand in his pocket before. So everybody was taking pictures.

Charlie Rymer: (23:36)
Right. First time I bought lunch in a long time. But typically when y’all get together, is it socially? You get together to play golf? I know there’s a Golf Course Superintendents Association. I assume there’s a Myrtle Beach chapter.

Jim Huntoon: (23:51)

Charlie Rymer: (23:51)
Is that when you try to get together?

Jim Huntoon: (23:52)
Yes. We have the local chapters, the Palmettos Golf Course Superintendents Association, which is our local association underneath the Carolina’s Golf Course Superintendents Association. Yeah. A lot of times we’ll do full day events where we might have some education in the morning, and then play golf in the afternoon and have fellowship and just get together and talk the talk, Charlie.

Charlie Rymer: (24:17)
Yeah, and I know there’s an exchange of ideas, best practices, that stuff. To this area, we’re obviously warm season grasses. And one of the debates that always comes up is do you over seed, do you not over seed. Do you use one of the green dyes and make it where it’s pretty, but that grass isn’t growing in the winter time? But maybe one of the issues that comes up here that challenges, in particular, superintendents in the Myrtle Beach area the most, what would one of the bigger issues be? Toughest thing that we deal with as a market year in and year out?

Jim Huntoon: (24:57)
I’d say not just here in our market, but nationwide weather. Obviously you can’t control that. And it’s constantly going to throw you curve balls. And that’s part of being a superintendent is learning how to deal with those. The longer you do it, the more you understand that you can’t control it and you just deal with it. But other than that, here in Myrtle Beach, some golf courses have heavy amounts of play. I know that can be challenging, wear and tear. It’s great with what’s happening now with more people getting in the game, Charlie. I can tell you that a big topic right now is the single cart usage. That’s a big thing that we’re all communing on and talking about and trying to develop ideas how to deal with that.

Charlie Rymer: (25:40)
Well, especially in times when the grass isn’t growing.

Jim Huntoon: (25:42)
It’s critical right now. And I know I’m here in Myrtle Beach where some facilities are dealing with it more than others. I know for the company that I work for, we’ve had some symposiums and get togethers about how to deal with it. I had to submit a plan to my bosses and superiors about what our traffic mitigation plan is to deal with that, which it’s great that more people are playing. But the single carts is definitely … it’s not doubling our wear, but it’s definitely increasing it.

Charlie Rymer: (26:12)
Yeah, and everybody agrees. If you’re someone who rides in a golf cart and you come into a course in your cart path only, that’s end of the world for a lot of folks. So what are some of the solutions? I know that’s. I see different things being tried, where it’s scatter, get on the course here, get on the course of, they try and move it around. Is there anything that you see on the horizon innovative that might help us? Some newer, lighter vehicles, different tires, that stuff?

Jim Huntoon: (26:41)
I think that’s part of it. I think in the short term, I think a lot of us are looking at increasing fertilization. Goes back to what I was talking about earlier. We need to increase fertilization because we have more wear. A lot of courses probably had to trim some of their budgets to deal with the pandemic and maybe it didn’t fertilize as much in 2020 as they normally would. So I know I’m looking to bump that up a little bit.

Jim Huntoon: (27:08)
Some of the things I’ve heard people talking about doing is using a two cart system, which basically means you can take four carts and a foursome. Everybody have their own cart, but only two carts are allowed on any given fairway at any time. It’s up to the group to decide … I don’t care how you do it, but you guys just decide. Just make sure there’s only two carts out there. I’ve heard that being used. A lot of Myrtle Beach golf courses are really good at traffic control. I know at Heritage and coming up at Caledonia, both busy facilities, we use a gate system where we change the entrances and exits. If you keep up with that on a regular basis, it does a good job of spreading out the wear.

Charlie Rymer: (27:47)
You just need the golfers to understand what’s going on and help us all make the golf course as good as it can be for everybody. I know some places will go to the GPS. Every time Bob and I ride together, we get put in GPS timeout with the beep beep beep.

Jim Huntoon: (28:01)
Oh, I’m sure. I’m sure.

Charlie Rymer: (28:04)
We have to back out of there. But people hate hearing about aerification. You guys have talked about why you have aerification. They hate cart path only. But the fact of the matter is, you got to have cart path only certain times of the year, no matter what part of the country you’re in. Bob, I want to ask you … the folks that don’t know Bob, he’s a little bit of a Maverick and isn’t afraid to break from the pack. And one of the cool things, he’s got the best front porch in all of Myrtle Beach. I may or may not have spent a few evenings out there listening to some Riley Green playing country music and maybe drinking a nice wine. Love staying late. You got to come up for one of those evenings, Jim.

Bob Ranum: (28:46)
You have to stay over, though.

Jim Huntoon: (28:47)
That’s fine.

Charlie Rymer: (28:48)
Yeah, Uber back. But one of the stories that I appreciated hearing from you was you were the first superintendent, maybe in the country, to use Triplex mowers, which used to be used for greens. Now, most places use the push mowers. But you were one of the first superintendents to go Triplex mowers on the fairways. Tell me that story.

Bob Ranum: (29:10)
I wasn’t one of the first, but I’ll tell you how I came up with it. Went to the Walker Cup at Pine Valley, I think maybe ’84. I forget the exact … you probably know the year better than I do. So four superintendents, we all went to the Walker Cup of the day. I’m walking down these fairways-

Charlie Rymer: (29:26)
They let y’all in?

Bob Ranum: (29:27)

Charlie Rymer: (29:27)
You snuck in.

Bob Ranum: (29:29)
See, it’s a bad neighborhood around Pine Valley, so you can get through the gate. So again, we’re walking down and it just about different superintendents. Four of us are walking down. These are the best fairways I’ve ever seen in my life. I was blown away. So I said, “We got to go see the superintendent.” At the time, it was a guy named Dick [Batum 00:29:47], which is a very famous superintendent now. He’s been every golf course, Marion, Oak Hill. And he was at Pine Valley. So I walk in, I say, “Hey, Dick. Bob Ranum, Garden City Golf Club.” I said, “These are the best fairways I’ve ever seen in my life. What do you do?”

Bob Ranum: (29:59)
And he didn’t even look up. He just pointed to the double doors. And if you see maintenance buildings, they all have the double doors. He just went like this, put his head down. I walked through these doors and there was 25 Triplex fairway mowers. I’m like, “Wow.” So I’m thinking you can’t cut greens with 25 Triplex. So I go back and said, “Dick.”

Bob Ranum: (30:17)
He goes, “I pick up clippings. I cut all my fairways with these. I pick up the clippings or I move the clippings. Cuts down on my fertilizer, cuts down putting the extra water down. Lets the bent grass get aggressive and move into the [inaudible 00:30:30] areas, which we’re all trying to eliminate.” So we all get back in the car. And two of us said, “Damn, when we get back, we’re going to figure out a way to do this on Long Island.”

Bob Ranum: (30:37)
And the other two said, “You’ll ruin the game if you …” somebody’s beeping me, I’m sorry. “You’ll ruin the game if you do this to your fairways.” So we went back, I started it Garden City Golf Club. Changed my fairways in one year. The other superintendent was at a course called [Plandum 00:30:58]. The other two wouldn’t do it. They fought it for years, but eventually every superintendent on Long Island was doing it.

Charlie Rymer: (31:04)
And that’s why nobody likes him.

Bob Ranum: (31:06)
That’s why nobody likes me. There’s other reasons, but that’s one of them. But you asked me … I did bring up challenges for the Northeast. The big challenge we always have in the Northeast is things called nematodes. So anything that goes wrong with my golf was at Atlantic, I said, “it’s nematodes. I can’t control these little things.” I figured I would say before he did.

Charlie Rymer: (31:30)
Every superintendent I’ve ever been around … You think about it, folks. There’s this creature that’s microscopic. And it eats grass. It destroys grass. And apparently there’s no treatment for it. And every time a superintendent can’t grow grass because they’ve been out fishing too much and not out cutting the grass, they blame it on this poor little creature that’s mythical and doesn’t even exist.

Bob Ranum: (31:51)
It works, though.

Charlie Rymer: (31:52)
Oh yeah. I’ve heard you guys explaining it to the … “Oh, we’ve got nematodes in there.” “What’s that?”

Charlie Rymer: (31:57)
“Well, it’s this thing you can’t see. And it eats grass.” Really? Really, a nematode?

Bob Ranum: (32:01)
It’s terrible. That’s the biggest challenge. Little buggers.

Charlie Rymer: (32:05)
Yeah, they’re the best things to ever happened to superintendents, the nematodes.

Bob Ranum: (32:08)
They’ll go on for generations.

Charlie Rymer: (32:11)
Bob doesn’t know anything about grain on Bermuda grass. So I’m going to talk to you about this, Jim. For our folks that are listening that maybe play on bent grass, never really dealt with grain that much, a lot of folks just don’t understand the whole concept of grain. So just like I asked you about thatch, grain on Bermuda grass, one-on-one, what is it? And unlike nematodes, it actually exists.

Jim Huntoon: (32:36)
It does exist. And it is just the way the grass lays over. A lot of times the grass wants to grow towards the setting sun. Sometimes it wants to grow with whatever way the water flows off. And a lot of times on Bermuda grass greens, it can just have a crazy mind of its own, Charlie, and just go all different directions. As you play on Bermuda grass greens more and more, you can see the different shades. If it’s lighter, you know you’re going with the grain. If it’s darker, it’s coming into you. It’s basically the same concept as the light and dark stripes in the fairways that you see with the mowers.

Jim Huntoon: (33:17)
But it’s something that has to be accounted for. It’s variable from golf course to golf course. Some golf courses, grain is more influential than others. Some golf courses spend a lot of money to try to eliminate it and minimize it. And others just roll with it.

Charlie Rymer: (33:38)
So let’s get into that a little bit. Over the years … I grew up in South Carolina, just South of Charlotte. I was in an area where we were maybe 95% bent and 5% Bermuda. And now it’s flip flopped, because the Bermudas are just so much better. And to me, these new Bermuda grasses, the ultra TifDwarfs, oh, you got champion, MiniVerde. I know there’s a ton of other varieties around. Those two seem to be the most popular in the Southeast. But these grasses, when I look at them, are just so much better than what I ever thought Bermuda could possibly be. From my standpoint, it’s changed the industry. What are your thoughts on these new grasses?

Jim Huntoon: (34:21)
It has changed it. They are revolutionary compared to the old Tiff Dwarf and the 328s and the older varieties. They can be mown lower. They have a Dwarfer leaf texture. The leaves are smaller. The nodes are closer together, which means that’s where the leaves come out of the stems. They can be managed in certain ways to increase ball roll and smoothness. And it has been a revolution. And a lot of places that were bent grass in the south have gone to these ultra Dwarf Bermudas just because … it’s not so much that they’re cheaper to maintain. When they first came out, that’s what people would say. You don’t have to hand water them in the summertime.

Charlie Rymer: (35:06)
Cheaper, comparing them to bent grass.

Jim Huntoon: (35:08)
To bent grass. Right. We’ve come back on that a little bit. It’s more of funds are reallocated to other areas, but the superintendents and the crews definitely have a much better quality of life in the summertime.

Charlie Rymer: (35:24)
I always felt bad for superintendents in the summertime in the South, trying to keep bent grass alive. Especially the hot, humid nights. I always thought that was really tough. So you’re a warm season grass … Your career has been here. You specialize in that. Bob, you’re cool season. And I’ve seen the line creep farther and farther north. Even to me, when I start looking … I wonder in the Washington DC area, I’m thinking about Congressional. They got a lot of big tournaments coming. I don’t know how well Bermuda could handle what gets thrown that way in the wintertime. But where do you think that line is going to finally get to on, “Hey, if you’re north of here, you got to have bent. If you’re south of here, you got to have Bermuda”?

Bob Ranum: (36:13)
It’s hard to say. It is moving north. The use of covers has really brought the Bermudas farther north. In many ways, these ultra Dwarf Bermudas, you can have them from South Florida all the way up into Kentucky and Washington DC area, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky. Cold is definitely going to be your limiting factor. You see the same thing with athletic fields too. A lot of these NFL stadiums and college stadiums, the Bermuda grass has moved farther north. They can do some pretty wild things, too, with blankets. And they have those heaters and the artificial lights. A lot of that stuff started over in Europe on soccer pitches.

Bob Ranum: (36:56)
And it’s moving farther north. And in some ways, when you have the coldness at night in the wintertime, it’s going to be your limiting factor. But in many ways, your ultra Dwarf Bermuda greens, the farther north you have them, the better quality you can have. Because again, they don’t grow very much in those climates. Whereas in South Florida, when you have a 12 month growing season, this is going back to the thatch. When you take a 5 month growing season compared to a 12 month, you have double the amount of growth in the thatch and there’s less aerification, less cultivation, just less stuff that us as golfers don’t like to deal with when we’re playing.

Charlie Rymer: (37:35)
Yeah, turf is interesting because there’s clearly a bunch of research going on all across the world, by my estimation. A lot of it happens here in the Southeast. A lot of the grasses that are innovative have been developed in the Southeast. It’s going to be interesting to see where it ultimately gets to. I’m hearing some new varieties of Zoysia grass, which I really love being used as putting surfaces in certain areas. It’s starting to get finer and finer. So definitely something that’s fun to follow if you’re like us and you’re a turf geek.

Bob Ranum: (38:08)
It’s interesting-

Charlie Rymer: (38:09)
Golf geek.

Bob Ranum: (38:10)
… talking about Washington DC area, and how Congressional just did their whole golf course solver by Andrew Green. And I went up there to visit, and it’s a bent grass surface because it’s going to have a tournament. But they did the heating and cooling system underneath through the stress of the summer that to help the bent grass survive. The bent grass is great in the spring and fall. So they chose the Washington area still to stay with bent grasses. But turn it around, even as far north as I did. I had a Bermuda practice tee because the recovery in the summer when I had most of my [crosstalk 00:38:43]-

Charlie Rymer: (38:43)
I had no idea. Bermuda practice tee in Long Island, yeah. No wonder everybody thinks you’re crazy.

Bob Ranum: (38:49)
What was nice about it was I used to save that tee area for when we really got into the play in July and August, when it was growing the best. I would fill divots with rye grass. But the Bermuda just creeps so much better than my bent rest tee which got destroyed. So there is applications for it. I don’t think you’ll ever see a high-end course in Virginia and north not sustained with bent grass, because it’s a great playing surface, but there is other applications for that.

Charlie Rymer: (39:18)
How did you keep that tee alive in the winter?

Bob Ranum: (39:20)

Charlie Rymer: (39:21)
You would cover it?

Bob Ranum: (39:22)
Cover it for the whole of winter.

Charlie Rymer: (39:24)
That would get it through?

Bob Ranum: (39:24)
Beautiful. It was a great tee. Now, we just redid our whole range over. And when we did it, the members chose … well, the golf pro complained about the tee, because-

Charlie Rymer: (39:35)
Hey, leave us alone.

Bob Ranum: (39:36)
… because when we first put the Bermuda down, it’s hard to hit. Not hard to hit all of them. I have found it nicer, but he complained about hitting hard. But then once he got used to it, he was fine. And then he saw the benefits. And when we did the tee over, they made a decision because I was leaving them. The next superintendent made a decision to do a shortcut bluegrass on the tee, which I didn’t think really felt it was part of the golf course. It was a bent grass golf course and the Bermuda fit in really well with that. But they chose a shortcut blue on their practice tee.

Charlie Rymer: (40:09)
Now most superintendents after having an amazing career like you’ve had, Bob, you’re going to just ride off into the sunset. Maybe never go look at a golf course again. But you love golf as much as anybody I’ve ever seen. And your retirement, you’re writing for Golf Magazine, you’re doing podcasts for Golf Magazine. You’re going and looking at all different golf courses. Tell me about how you decided to do that and what it is that you’re doing for Golf Magazine.

Bob Ranum: (40:41)
I recommend this to any superintendent. I always had a plan that I would retire at 66, 67 years old. So I always had that plan of coming to watch this Old Plantation. So I bought years ago, I had my plan. So when I was getting ready to retire, a good friend of mine is [Ran Morissette 00:40:57] who took over the Top 100 for Golf Magazine. So he called me and we had a chat and I didn’t want to join … I wanted to see as many golf courses as I could possibly see architecturally, but I didn’t want to just be one of these Golf Digest guys that have 2000 raters or a Golf Week that has all these raters.

Bob Ranum: (41:16)
He assured me that we were going to start out with 60 raters worldwide. And in doing that worldwide, and then we would communicate a lot better. Now we’re at 90. So I felt like I could make a big difference if I went to see a golf course. So he gave me the opportunity. So when I retired, I went right into that. The first year of retirement, I got to see 40 golf courses from nine States. So I did nine States, 40 golf courses. I basically traveled as much as I could just to see the different architecture.

Bob Ranum: (41:47)
We don’t have a lot of Donald Ross golf courses like you do down here, in the New York area. We had [inaudible 00:41:52]. But now when I went up to the New England area, I got to see tons of Donald Ross. I got to see all these. So I’m getting to see this. Next year, I plan on visiting at least 40 again. I go out in the fall to California. I’m doing all of California for a month. Then I’m doing the Midwest. I want to do Texas to Chicago. And then the year after that, I’m going to Europe. I’m going to do Scotland Ireland and England for a month. Six weeks.

Charlie Rymer: (42:17)
He loves it. He loves it, doesn’t he, Jim? The good news for you and I, Jim, he’s going to be out of town a lot. And I’ve been talking about his front porch at Wachesaw Plantation. We’re going to be on your front porch.

Bob Ranum: (42:26)
But let’s stop right there. Charlie is not-

Charlie Rymer: (42:28)
Where’s Bob? Where’s Bob?

Bob Ranum: (42:30)
Charlies has what he calls the show every night. His house overlooks the intercostal, Waccamaw River. The sunset there is spectacular. So would you rather sit on someone’s porch looking at a parking lot or would you rather sit over by Charles? He just wants everybody to come to my house for the free wine.

Charlie Rymer: (42:48)
I tell you what, both spots are a lot of fun to hang out. We appreciate you hanging out with us. This has been a Balls in the Air with your friendly neighborhood host, Charlie Rymer, Jim Huntoon, the superintendent at Heritage, which Pawleys Island, South Carolina on the South end of Myrtle Beach. I tell everybody, they ask me and say, “What’s a hidden gem? What’s a hidden gem?” You go to Heritage when you come down to Myrtle Beach. You’re going to appreciate that golf course and the condition it’s in.

Charlie Rymer: (43:14)
And Bob Ranum, the Long Island legend, now retired superintendent who is doing a lot of work for Golf Magazine, traveling the world. Gentlemen, I appreciate your time. I appreciate your friendship. And the conversation that we’ve had here today is one we probably have about two or three days a week. So if you’re in this area, look us up. We’ll sit out here and be happy to talk to you.

Bob Ranum: (43:34)
The only difference is we’re having a cocktail with him.

Charlie Rymer: (43:36)
Right. We’re not listening to you talk. We’re talking to you. Just remember that, if you sit down with us. We almost got in a big fight driving up here. We were all talking at once and nobody listening. But guys, thank you very much. Appreciate you being on the show.

Jim Huntoon: (43:47)
Thank you, Charlie.

Charlie Rymer: (43:48)
You got it, Jim. Appreciate it.

Jim Huntoon: (43:49)
Yes, sir.

Bob Ranum: (43:50)
They tell me I can look and see if I have a grandson.

Charlie Rymer: (43:52)
Yeah, exactly. Hopefully the grandbaby’s coming, due anytime now. Hopefully you’ll get a great text as we finish up this show. So folks, join us next time right here on Balls in the Air and make sure that you check us out wherever you listen to your podcasts. And if you have a chance to like us, go ahead and like us, because we like it when you like us. Thank you.