This years ten Delegates were in fact the hundredth that BIGGA and Bernhard have sponsored to travel to the USA and they were just as enthusiastic as the past 90 who went before them.
Neil, Jamie, David, Stuart, Dan, Graeme, Peter, Alan, George, Stuart were an enthusiastic, interesting group from around the UK. They got on amazingly well, from the very first moment they met at the airport, and they threw themselves into getting the most out of the trip.
On the first Sunday they played 18 holes at Angel Park Golf Club, just on the outskirts of Vegas. This gave everyone a feel for the extraordinary setting of the place - 3000 feet up, overlooking the Red Rock Canyon and Las Vegas Valley.
Day two they toured the famous TPC Summerlin Course - and had a fascinating tour with the impressive and energetic Assistant Superintendent, Englishman, James Seisun. The delegates were amazed at the professionalism and slick operating of maintenance management at the club, and James gave us a wonderful and enlightening tour - in a fleet of golf buggies decorated with the Bernhard logo.
Summerlin is lovely, and superbly maintained. The mountains in the distance, smart houses backing on to the course, Olive, Scotts Pine, Eucalyptus, and dormant Bermuda grasses, and a very tidy and well managed and controlled operation.
In the afternoon we toured Las Vegas Paitue Golf Course with Director of Course Maintenance, Jeff Reid - who entertained us to lunch in the glass-walled club house looking across to a very dramatic landscape. His passion for Paitue is infectious and we were all captivated by the place.
Paitue has 3 x 18 hole courses, each measuring over 7,000 yards. With an average rainfall of only 4" per years, water is a precious commodity.
The club is on the edge of the desert, more or less in the shadows of the mountains. It is a wild and rugged place, and sits low on the landscape and is hard to spot from a distance. Owned by a local indigenous Indian tribe, who made their money out of smoke houses (tobacco) the club is fortunate to sit on 4 wells that supply its water, and use some 4 million gallons per night, per 3 courses in the summer, and an astonishing 880 million gallons a year in a climate - where summer temperatures reach a punishing 44 degrees C.
It would be impossible not to be overwhelmed and hugely impressed by the management of the maintenance team of 55, and the vast collection of spotless equipment and machinery - including Bernhard grinders. The sheer size of the operation, the vast workshops, the leisure areas, the wall of eight microwave ovens, drinks and snack machines in the staff dining room amazed the guys.
Our very grateful thanks to James and Jeff and their teams for giving us so much of their time, and hospitality, and thank you to Angel Park's staff for taking care of our players. We hope to be able to offer you the same degree of hospitality in the UK one day.
There have been so many wonderful things written by the delegates about their experience. They bonded on the first day, even before we'd left the UK and that camaraderie grew throughout the week in to valuable new friendships. They enjoyed every moment, and truly seemed to throw themselves into every experience presented to them.
Round Up of comments from the Delegates:
"Having spent time at 3 different quality courses, from chatting with industry representatives & Master Greenkeepers it made me so proud to be in such an amazing industry with such incredible people. The contrast between the courses was fantastic, seeing a dormant Bermuda course in real life, and TPC Summerlin was something I will never forget, and of course, riding around a PGA tour course. How incredible is that? Can't wait to watch the event in October. Paiute was just stunning."
David Grey from Fife.
Graeme Gallimore from Bude said the high spot for him was the presentation of the 3 courses. "I was so overwhelmed with the welcome we got, and how everyone was so happy to share their knowledge and experiences with us. They were very professional in their business style of management, and a couple of things I shall try to adopt now will be to tidy my appearance and present a more professional image, especially to new and outside customer, and I will remember to tell golfers to enjoy their day."
Dan from Northforeland in Kent said that it has just began to sink in, now he's been back a week, "what a huge honour the experience was - to be in the company of such professionals, all with a shared interest." Dan loved manning the BIGGA stand at the show - "meeting like minded people." He said " the camaraderie was priceless," and he was "bold over by Bernhards, and Stephen's support and enthusiasm."
Big personality, one-man-show magician, Stuart Yarwood, from Cheshire particularly loved the education and the show. He loved the professionalism of the management teams and of the turf professionals he met on the visits, but at the same time was amazed at their reliance on chemicals - and the slow change away from their use. Overall, Stuart was overwhelmed by the tours.
" TPC", he said "melted my mind", "Jeff and Piaute melted my heart".
Throughout the week the guys shared ideas and experiences, interested to hear how the others worked and tackled certain problems.
Many of them expressed the view that their world is quite isolated, and so to be immersed in a group and find that you are all feeling the same way about the same issues, experiencing the same difficulties gave them confidence - and also the knowledge that from here on in, they can call each other up for support and advice.
What was interesting is that they all talked with the same level of passion for their work, their world, and their hunger for new angles and shared experiences.
As far as GIS goes everyone felt it was certainly the best since 2008. A good atmosphere, people wanting to do business. The Bernhard stand worked well and stood out by looking slick, smart and very professional.
One final comment from Kim
"The Delegates were a joy to work with. They definitely got the best from the trip in every sense. They represented BIGGA and Bernhard professionally and with enthusiasm and they made lasting friendships between the group and with superintendents they met in the US, particularly those who hosted our golf course visits."