Mike Golden
Mike Golden works on rewiring an irrigation decoder on the 18th hole at Sterling Farms Golf Course.

Rain Men

They are the next best thing to Mother Nature.

Words
John Byrne
Photo
Nikon D810/24-70 f/2.8
Video
iPhone 6s/iMovie

It’s the hottest time of the year, and Mother Nature needs to be on our side if the golf course is going to be as lush, firm, and healthy for our fantastic golf games. But what if the course doesn’t get enough rain, in all of this heat, then what? 

Enter the Rain Men

Those guys on the machines… you know… the irritating ones you wish would mow somewhere else… you know… the ones who should be ‘seen and not heard’… know who I’m talkin’ ’bout? Yep…. them. They are our friends! They are our best Best BEST friends! Our Un-caped  Crusaders!

Why? Because fellow Sterling Farms Golfers… our games would totally hit the skids if we had to go through life without them! They not only bring mow, whack, rake, dig, fill, seed, and give the golf course the much-needed love and attention it needs… but they deliver the water too!

We all know without water, nothing would live… especially grass. Our golf course turf professionals are here to preserve and protect our beloved links, and they do it all year long, in rain, snow, and specially heat. Right now it is tougher than ever. It’s a scorched earth, and because it is the height of summer, the course is packed to the hilt too. Thousands of divots a day are being dug up, but these dedicated greenskeepers have got our backs!

The Rain Men, and I coin that term out of endearment, are indeed our saviors!

Julio shown working on one of the irrigation golf rotors on No. 4’s fairway. Each rotor is housed and operates a hydraulic water valve that rotates as it sprays, after it rises. When it is done, it retracts. Julio was recently hired to manage the irrigation system, but it is a big job, and he needs help from Mike, and PJ, to name just two! There are over 900 serviceable parts in the 300-odd sprinklers used to water the golf course.

Mike Golden is the golf course superintendent at Sterling Farms.  He is Rain Man Numero Uno! When I first came to meet the man, he was on the practice green outside the Pro Shop, watering. Whenever I am out there playing, I see him motoring around, asking people to “please” keep their carts away from the greens.

We can all do better to help. Mike loves this land as much as anyone, and he knows trusting these greens to anyone can spell doom. He lords over them because he knows. We all do, when things do badly.

I am told Mike can hit a golf ball pretty well. Word has it he is a 4! So… when he asks you to “please” get your golf cart back onto the path, it might be because it feels like your wheel is on this throat! (I ‘felt’ for him, when he had to ask… it isn’t easy.)

You will see him out there on the course just about everywhere. He covers every inch of the place, and often. I sometimes think I have OCD. He has it too! We all do. It’s a passion, an obsession with doing things as well as we can. He is a good man.

Mike lives it. He knows the green spaces are actually living, breathing, life forms that need much babying and attention! Sure, he has a crew helping him, a really good one. PJ, his new assistant, is a hard-working man too. A Rutgers Turf Management School alum, PJ is out there spraying weeds, watering, measuring, and doing everything he can to help.

But make no mistake about it: Mike Golden is all hands on. I’ve seen him with a shovel in his hands, laboring side-by-side with his men, in the scorching 95-degree hot sun. He is down on the ground, trying to unravel the puzzle of countless wires, all in an effort to feed electronic instructions to the hundreds of ever-needy irrigation decoders, which pass on instructions to each individual irrigation rotor (the thing that turns the “valve-in-heads” that spray water onto the course). It is hard, complex, and under-rated work that must be done, and done well, or huge swaths of our golf course will die.

Mike leads by example, and his managers and staff all know it. No one gets a pass when it comes to hard work under Mike, and it’s time the word got out: these Rain Men really kick it!

Hot & Wired

Did you know a labyrinth lies beneath Sterling Farms Golf Course? Yes, I kid you not! Below every tee, rough, fairway, and green is a highway network of wire, pipe, power, and water any self-respecting family of ground hogs would be proud to call their own (just kidding).

But seriously: there really is a network running right underneath your ball, and it’s all part of a sophisticated irrigation system the golf course needs to stay alive. It is stunning to learn there are as many as 40 or more electronically controlled irrigation water sources on every hole! That’s hundreds and hundreds spread out over the entire course! Each time you hit the links and see a sprinkler it is a marvel unto itself… that little thing has plumbing and electronics galore attached to it! All for us!

While you are out there hitting your ball, be sure to give at least one of those guys a pat on the back, or a polite a nod of appreciation. They are our heroes, and a little bit of recognition goes along way. Oh, and if you fix your divots, and repair your ball marks, you’ll be a hero too!

This is a trench they dug between Nos. 17 and 18. It was so they could reconnect a wire to turn on and off the irrigation rotors, which are basically devises that control the water flow and rotate the sprinkler head, for just one or two parts of a hole. There are hundreds of these under the entire course. Each irrigation golf rotor requires a separate decoder to feed instructions to it. The many decoders, rotors, and valves-in-heads (three devices per sprinkler) require power, structural support, housing, and plumbing. One rotor can run as much as $600! That is not including the decoder, which runs about $300 per sprinkler. Basically, a grand pays for one sprinkler. Remember that when you step on one!

From the desk of Paul grillo, executive director, Stamford Golf Authority

Welcome to Sterling Farms Golfer. Over the past five decades, Sterling Farms has evolved into one of the premiere golf destinations anywhere in the region. We continually strive to maintain, if not exceed, that distinction, and know we owe it all to our Stamford families, friends and neighbors, as well as our patrons like you. Now is the best time of the year to play our spectacular 18 hole championship golf course. Our Golf Course Superintendent, Mike Golden, and his whole team, are leaders in the world of greenkeeping, and we are very proud of the quality of their hard work. I think you'll find our putting greens, fairways, tees, roughs—and every landscape feature here—reflects their devotion and hard work. It is spectacular. Sterling Farms is home to the area's top driving range facility. You won't find a better value, or level of quality, anywhere! We take great pride and joy serving you, and our local community. On behalf of all of us here at Sterling Farms, welcome and thank you!
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