Gary Grigg grew up on a potato farm. He received a job offer in the potato industry while completing a master’s degree in agronomy at Michigan State. The job offer was rescinded before Grigg had completed his studies, leaving him to scramble for postgraduate work in the late 1960s.
Grigg’s father pushed him to meet with a group of investors building a golf course with renowned Michigan architects Bruce Matthews Sr. and Jerry Matthews. Grigg needed work, but he knew little of the trade. “I told them I didn’t know anything about turf, and the response was, ‘It can’t be harder than growing potatoes,’” says Grigg. “I found that maybe it wasn’t harder from an agriculture perspective, but it was harder not to know the industry.”
A former GCSAA president who achieved legendary status for helping build and maintain golf courses, Grigg wanted a comfortable interaction setting for people with similar questions he asked during the transition. from potatoes to greens. He started a professional Facebook group for a dozen industry friends in 2010. He later opened the group up to well-meaning agronomists, superintendents, greenkeepers, technicians, helpers, students, interns and industry professionals. Private Golf course maintenance group has swelled to over 17,300 subscribers representing 112 countries.
“It goes back to when I became superintendent in 1968 with a master’s degree in agronomy, no experience and no one to ask questions,” Grigg says. “I thought there were enough people who had experience and would be willing to share it in the Facebook group.”
The group operates according to rigid rules:
- Sellers can join the group. But commercial messages are prohibited.
- The group is for turf employees only, though Grigg approves of general managers who also serve as superintendents.
- Conversations should be work-related. Fishing, college football and weekend plans are discussed elsewhere.
- Bad language, memes and GIFs are not allowed.
“I never thought he would develop the way he did,” Grigg says. “I’m not sure Facebook is the right place for this, because Facebook doesn’t understand professional groups. They send things to people who are already members, saying, “Add your friends to this group.” I have to sort out all these people.
Subscriber growth has been declining in recent years. But the conversation remains robust. Over the course of a weekend last month, questions about effective headphones for working on the course, dollar point outbreaks, and equipment malfunctions were posted — and answered.
“It’s very rewarding,” says Grigg. “I get a lot of comments and personal messages thanking the band for me. If someone asks a question and someone jumps at them saying it’s a stupid question, I’m quick to say, “Hey, you can ask any question you want in this group.” Do not worry. At the beginning of my career, a professional group made me call the golf courses of my neighbor. I made a lot of mistakes.”
Guy Cipriano is the editor of Golf Course Industry.
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