A number of golf course superintendents and industry professionals have added their voices to the growing trend of podcasting. Photo by Shutterstock
While he strives to let his work speak for itself, superintendent Matt Guilfoil is anything but the silent type.
“I like to talk,” Guilfoil says.
If you want to hear what he has to say, Guilfoil has latched on to a medium that allows him to deliver his thoughts on a variety of topics ranging from turf to beer in a manner that is readily available to the masses. If you haven’t heard, podcasts
have become wildly popular, with nearly 1 million podcasts available for your listening pleasure on topics from personal finance to the Watergate scandal to what it takes to fall asleep.
Football star Tom Brady has a podcast team. So does actress Jenna Fischer. TV host/comedian/writer Conan O’Brien has one. Ditto for basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal.
Guilfoil, who is the GCSAA Class A superintendent at Desert Canyon Golf Club in Fountain Hills, Ariz., got into the act in 2020. Along with superintendent Dan Cutler at Rio Verde (Ariz.) Country Club, they are co-hosts of the podcast “From the Jingweeds”
(more on how they came up with that name later).
As listener numbers for “From the Jingweeds” have doubled, tripled and even quadrupled as people tune in through Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other services, Guilfoil is almost at a loss for words over the response — if he didn’t
enjoy talking so much, that is. “Almost three years into it, I can’t believe people still listen to my mouth every week,” says the 19-year GCSAA member.
A growing ‘Force’
Six figures worth of podcasts are available for consumption. Count Joe Gulotti’s podcast among those.
The GCSAA Class A superintendent on the DuPont Course at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del., Gulotti’s podcast is the “The Talking Greenkeeper.” Those like Gulotti behind the microphone of podcasts have multiplied since podcasts
emerged two decades ago. In 2021, there were 850,000 active podcasts, totaling 48 million total episodes, which is a 20 percent increase compared to 2020, according to Neal Schaffer, who teaches at the Rutgers University Business School and is founder
of digital marketing consultant PDCA Social. Schaffer’s findings noted that 51 percent of Americans listened to podcasts as of 2019 and that 66 percent of American podcast listeners range in age from 12 to 34. Also, the weekly listener spends
6 hours, 39 minutes, on podcasts.
Gulotti, a five-year GCSAA member who started his podcast in 2018, admits it wasn’t exactly a turnkey operation. “I thought anybody could do it, but I wasn’t prepared,” he says about his early content. “They were the same
story like, ‘How did you get started in the business?’ And I kept saying, ‘right, right, right,’ all the time instead of letting the guest talk. Now, I let the episode, the guest, breathe,” he says.
The once-a-week podcast originates from Gulotti’s basement. Past guests include Frank Rossi, Ph.D., from Cornell University and architect Jason Straka. Gulotti doesn’t stick strictly to turf talk in his mostly hour-long episodes, but it is
“I think the agronomy part is important. I have had Paul Koch (from the University of Wisconsin). Here’s a Ph.D. talking fungicides and what’s working and not working. It would’ve been weird if I had not asked Frank Rossi about
greenkeeping. I thought it was so crucial. It’s free, valuable info for people,” Gulotti says. “One time I had a guest who was a ‘Star Wars’ fan, and we talked about ‘Star Wars.’ You’ve got to be open,
honest, fun. Make it fun.”
Gulotti says feedback on his podcast has been positive, and it includes people who listen from as far away as Thailand. “People seem to enjoy it. I get DMs on Twitter and emails,” he says. “I’m tickled to death people listen to
In the 1990s, Gulotti remembers carting around his portable Discman CD player and listening to the Foo Fighters, among others, while he mowed greens. Once he discovered podcasts, especially Howard Stern, Gulotti was hooked. “Our industry is perfect
for listening. Put in the ear buds and listen while you’re out on the golf course. I think it’s perfect for greenkeepers,” Gulotti says. “It seems to be a match made in heaven.”
“Pullin’ Weeds” podcast co-host and Carolinas Executive Director Tim Kreger (left) handles a remote podcast with guests Sean Reehoorn (center), superintendent at Aldarra Golf Club in Sammamish, Wash.; and Phil Helmn, MG, at Ingestre Park Golf Club, Ingestre, England. Photo courtesy of Allen Knight
Cookin’ in the Carolinas
When board members of the Carolinas GCSA approached executive director Tim Kreger about doing an association podcast, he posed a question to them.
“I asked, ‘Are we in the education industry or entertainment industry?’ Their reply was we could do both,” Kreger says. Thus, in 2019, began the official podcast of the Carolinas GCSA, “Pullin’ Weeds.” Kreger
co-hosts it with Allen Knight, who first met Kreger when they worked for the South Carolina Junior Golf Association.
“Pullin’ Weeds” literally goes the extra mile(s) on occasion. What might separate their podcast from others is Kreger and Knight almost exclusively take their show on the road, including travel that can be as far as seven hours away
(they do two podcasts monthly, with Simplot sponsoring one of those). The first one each month features a chapter member; the second one usually is a member of industry or an educator.
“I think the difference with ours is it’s more about the story of the individual. Where they went to school, golf courses they worked, people they’ve interacted with. We hardly ask about practices and what they do. We get to know more
about them. Get to tell their stories. We’ve been able to tell, share some stories,” Kreger says. “You’re not going to get on there and think (Quail Hollow Club’s) Keith Wood will give you 30 minutes explaining how he
set up the Presidents Cup. But you may hear him talk about how Allen was when he was working at Keith’s club as a cart kid at Florence Country Club.”
Knight, whose day job is with Four Twenty-One Media, says, “I do care about height of cut or clip volume, and I enjoy learning about people. We had David McIntosh on (director of grounds at High Hampton Inn Resort in Cashiers, N.C., and a 13-year
GCSAA member). His great-grandfather was recommended by Old Tom Morris (that recommendation led McIntosh’s great-grandfather to sail overseas to help upgrade a golf course in Grand Rapids, Mich., which propelled him to more projects). His
lineage floored me. I enjoy uncovering stories and people telling us their stories. I make a friend every time I sit down with someone for an hour. I feel like I’ve made a bunch of friends.”
Business is good. “Pullin’ Weeds” broke 100,000 downloads last year. New podcasts are posted at midnight, but that isn’t too early for some listeners. “Sometimes we have 500 to 700 downloads by 6:30 a.m. The beauty of
it is you can go back and listen to what you want, when you want,” Kreger says.
Wherever you are, too. Dan Francis, a seven-year Class A member at Wildwood Golf Club in Middletown, Ohio, is a devoted supporter of “Pullin’ Weeds.” Francis says, “For me, it’s an opportunity to listen and hang out with
my peers. I feel like I’m there with my peers, talking about the industry.”
From flyfishing to the grind
For Earthworks, it took one worldwide event to give podcasts a whirl.
“Covid started it,” Kevin Hicks says.
Hicks is West Coast regional agronomist at Earthworks, which provides carbon-based solutions for the turfgrass industry. In May 2020, the company embarked into the podcast universe. The reasoning? “We realized real quick we were losing our connection
with partners. Contact and communication is such an important part of what we do. If not, we’re going to lose ground. Communication is especially important on the sales side. Distributors, end users, clients,” says Hicks, a 32-year
GCSAA member who has worked at Earthworks since 2017.
Hicks is one of four people at Earthworks who do podcasts. The others are president Joel Simmons, Northeast regional agronomist Jack Higgins and upper-Midwest regional agronomist Chad Kuzawa. Most of their podcasts are recorded virtually, once a week.
As a former longtime superintendent, Hicks can sympathize and share experiences from his days on the golf course. “I’m our closest connection to the superintendent world. It’s the thing I lived for a long time. Being a superintendent
is incredibly stressful, intensive, to the point of not being healthy,” Hicks says. “I try to use the podcast to talk about things that are part of life outside of the golf course. We may talk flyfishing as much as growing grass. I
want to feature superintendents in a different light, things they do when they shut the gates at night, things outside of the grind. There’s certainly room for that (agronomy), but I want to divert their attention. There are other things
The first Earthworks podcast featured Josh Saunders, director of golf course operations at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club, and an 18-year member of GCSAA. His entry into podcasting was new for him.
“I was never a podcast guy (although he actually participated in one before his Earthworks appearance). Never had listened to one. The pandemic changed my mind,” says Saunders, who will host the U.S. Women’s Open in 2024 and now
listens to podcasts by people such as commentator Joe Rogan and athlete/entertainer Pat McAfee.
“Here’s the thing; there’s so many different ways to do our job on a daily basis and be successful at it. To hear others talk about their challenges and successes, that’s the best education you can have.”
The pandemic is not, and may never be, entirely in the past. But Earthworks likely isn’t going backward in terms of podcasts. “It’s been so well received, we have not even questioned whether to continue it,” Hicks says.
The “From the Jingweeds” podcast setup at the home of superintendent and co-host Matt Guilfoil from Desert Canyon Golf Club in Fountain Hills, Ariz. (left); Southwest Turf Support’s Casey Ruddick (center); and co-host and superintendent Dan Cutler from Rio Verde (Ariz.) Country Club. Photo courtesy of Matt Guilfoil
What’s in a name?
So, back to that story on how “From the Jingweeds” was born.
It stemmed from a golf trip to Nebraska with Guilfoil and friends, including one of them who somehow missed a more than 100-yard-wide fairway. “He said, ‘It’s in the jingweeds.’ That meant the … use your imagination
to fill in the blank,” Guilfoil says with a smile.
The first edition of “From the Jingweeds” included talk about the pandemic, pool noodles and the best way to safely rake bunkers. Listeners from New York, South Carolina and Wisconsin have sent him and Cutler types of beer to review. “A
lot of what we talk about is what happens on the golf course and in life,” he says. “I find it to be therapy to talk, complain. The ultimate goal is to get the average golfer to listen to it as well and understand what we’re
doing, why we’re doing it, and that we’re not just out there ruining their day.”
When Guilfoil appeared this year on a Barstool Sports podcast, it resulted in a bump for “From the Jingweeds.” On Sept. 7, Guilfoil said, “We’ve had 44,000 downloads since and quadruple the number of downloads.” His sponsor
Southwest Turf Support in Phoenix has helped make it all possible.
Martin Ort supports what Guilfoil is doing. It’s an important endorsement; Desert Canyon GC is family-owned by the Orts, and Ort is general manager. “I thought it was a great way to take a peek behind the curtain and educate the general
golfer what it takes to get the golf course ready,” Ort says. “For him to shine a light on it is a good thing for the industry.”
It boggles Guilfoil’s mind that listeners from places as far away as Australia, Germany and Ireland tune in to him. One podcast listener, though, ranks as his favorite. “My mom listens. She says she just likes hearing my voice,”
A Podcast How-to
If you have the itch to start your own podcast, listen to this.
Those in this industry who have podcasts up and running offer their advice on what it takes to get started. For Allen Knight, co-host of the podcast “Pullin’ Weeds,” the Carolinas GCSA podcast, he says to devise a plan before going
full throttle. “Have a purpose. A format. Have consistency. You’ve got to work on it,” Knight says.
As for cost, it depends on how much you want to spend. Most podcasting veterans say start-up costs range from a few hundred dollars (or perhaps even less depending on what you already may have in your technology arsenal) up to four figures.
“If you have a computer, for $300, you can have everything you need,” says Matt Guilfoil, superintendent at Desert Canyon Golf Club in Fountain Hills, Ariz., and co-host (with Dan Cutler) of the podcast “From the Jingweeds.”
So, what exactly do you need? There are a few must-haves, such as a site to host your podcast and an RSS feed, which is the source to connect your content in a way listeners can access. Hosting choices include Buzzsprout, Podbean and Libsyn, the latter
of which is the option superintendent Joe Gulotti uses for his podcast “The Talking Greenkeeper.” Hiring someone or a helper who can add editing experience isn’t a bad idea, either.
Necessary equipment includes a laptop (even a smartphone can suffice), microphone and headphones. To record, software choices include Zoom, Audacity and GarageBand. Your podcast can be published by options such as Apple, Spotify, Google and Stitcher.
A monthly service can range in cost from $5 and up, depending on the package you choose.
All of the podcasters reached by GCM agreed on one thing: A really good microphone is crucial. And if you do your podcast with the guest in person, Knight has one rule that has much to do with the mic.
“Don’t tap on the table. It’s annoying,” he says.
On the air: GCSAA Podcast continues evolution
With four years, nearly 50 episodes and 33,000 downloads under its belt, GCSAA is no stranger to podcasting. But in the spirit of teaching old dogs new tricks, year five of the GCSAA Podcast promises to bring significant changes and improvements to
the association’s audio touchpoint with its members.
The GCSAA Podcast debuted in September 2018, and episodes have included conversations with association leaders, superintendents playing host to major golf events and top turfgrass scientists and researchers. Episodes have been recorded live during
the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show, and other episodes have offered listeners GCSAA education points just for tuning in.
In the coming months, the podcast’s evolution will continue with the introduction of guest hosts to the regular rotation of monthly episodes. The program is designed to give GCSAA members and other industry figures an opportunity to dive deeper
into their areas of expertise or explore new areas of interest through conversations on the podcast with peers and golf course management colleagues.
The first two confirmed guest hosts both come from the equipment management side of the business. Hector Velazquez (@HectorsShop on Twitter), who produces the popular Inside the Shop videos that can be seen on GCSAA TV, and Kayla Kipp (@kipp_kayla),
the equipment manager at Nemacolin Resort in Pennsylvania who recently became the first woman to earn certification through GCSAA’s Certified Turf Equipment Manager program, will each have episodes recorded and posted live before the end
of the year.
In 2023, the guest-host effort will expand to include select superintendents and assistant superintendents. And more live podcast recordings are planned for the conference and trade show Feb. 6-9 in Orlando.
The GCSAA Podcast is available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple, Spotify, Google and Stitcher. Episodes are also available on GCSAA’s website, www.gcsaa.org/media/listen-to-the-gcsaa-podcast.
—Scott Hollister, GCM editor-in-chief
Howard Richman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is GCM’s associate editor.