Here is the second of four profiles on the GCSAA storytellers taking part in today's National Golf Day activities in Washington, D.C., Dan Dinelli, CGCS at North Shore CC in Glenview, Ill.:
F. Dan Dinelli, CGCS is a 29-year GCSAA member and a third-generation golf course superintendent at North Shore Country Club. He is well-respected for his expertise, serving on numerous committees and panels, and a frequently sought after speaker.
- 2009 GCSAA Presidents’ Award for Environmental Leadership
- Golfweek Magazine’s 40 under 40 Award
- 2000 Scotts Tradition of Excellence Award
- University of Illinois Master Gardener
- Trans-Mississippi Scholar
- Illinois Turfgrass Foundation Research Review Committee, 1997-present
- President of the Chicagoland Golf Course Superintendents Association
- Park Management and Horticulture Advisory Committee at William Rainey Harper College, 1985–present
- U.S. Composting Council’s Golf Course Committee, 1998-present
- GCSAA committee member
In His Words
My grandfather, Frank, and his three sons, Joe, Jim and Jerry, were all golf course superintendents in the Chicago area. Joe is my father who I replaced after his retirement at North Shore Country Club. I feel fortunate to have been born into a family that has dedicated their lives to the profession. I recall family functions where conversations always turned to topics on managing golf courses. I assume it’s a lot like people who are born on family farms … it’s just in your blood.
When I was very young I remember listening to my grandfather tell many stories. For example, I recall him saying how wonderful it was to retrofit Model A Fords to take over many tasks that were done with horses fitted with special leather boots so less harm would be done to the turf. During most of my grandfather’s era, watering was done with water wagons and later hoses and manual sprinklers. It was labor intensive as well as a very inconsistent method in applying water. To improve water use, my uncle Jerry assembled several companies to develop and be the first to have an irrigation system operated by a computer. I recall the special climate controlled room was about the size of his office packed with hardware and wires looking nothing like today’s computer. With computerized control systems, the exact amount of water can be applied and automatic turn off switches can be used when it rains, conserving water and energy. Today I utilize a fully computerized control system with a full weather station and soil moisture sensors to ensure the best use of water. Clearly the industry has gone a long way improving efficiency and effective use of resources in so many ways. It’s exciting to look back and see where we are today.
Understanding practices to improve plant health was mostly a "learn by trial" during my grandfather’s era, often borrowing information from corn growers and agriculture. Effects from inputs like fertilizer and plant protectants were experimented with to see if turf would respond favorably. Not much was known and each greenkeeper had to be somewhat a pioneer of their own as they experimented under their growing conditions. As golf grew popular so did the interest in learning how to preserve plant health to ensure season long playing conditions. Because the industry mainly relied on information gained from the field, greenkeepers were typically very open in comparing observations and knowledge learned among themselves. Though this largely holds true today, the industry is fortunate to have many wonderful scientists, university programs, companies and associations who devote their living at improving my, and the professions understanding in how to best manage plant health as well as use resources and inputs wisely and safely.
Today I continue with experiments on various inputs and practices to continue improving the turfs ecosystem. Inputs like compost, bio-solids and beneficial microorganisms are tested and utilized. Scientists from University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin Madison and the pathologist from the Chicago District Golf Association have on-site research at North Shore C.C. to help better understand plant health and pest control options available today. Though much has changed from my grandfather’s era, as practitioners and stewards of the land, it’s important to continue learning the art and science in plant health.
For me, managing plant health is an exciting study. However, what is perhaps more fulfilling is knowing the positive impacts that 170 acres of open green space has just 20 miles north of Chicago. North Shore Country Club is home to many critters, some acting as important indicators for a healthy ecosystem. Our returning red-tail hawks nest each year just off the 10 fairway near the putting green. Golfers enjoy observing the bird’s behavior as they go about their business raising their young each year. Being top of the food chain, their success demonstrates the ecosystems health and function on the course. In our three ponds, which are surrounded by golf holes, harbor a wonderful fishery that anglers enjoy. Health of the rainbow trout, frogs and salamanders indicate very high water quality indicating the safety in our turf management program. Golf is a wonderful activity, but it’s the added benefits that add so much depth to the value of the game, which drove me and my family to love the profession we are proud to be part of.