GCM’s guide to the 2022 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show

Look who’s back: After a one-year virtual-only hiatus, the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show returns in person, with a new name and a few other inaugural surprises.


2022 GCSAA Conference Trade Show
A place in the sun: The San Diego Convention Center will be the hub for this year’s GCSAA Conference and Trade Show.

Tim Snelling, CGCS, has only missed a handful of GCSAA Conference and Trade Shows throughout his 32 years as an association member. He has sent an assistant in his place, but last year, when the event, then known as the Golf Industry Show, went virtual, Snelling didn’t even consider “attending.”

“I wasn’t even vaguely interested in doing that,” says Snelling, superintendent at Mauna Lani Bay Resort in Kamuela, Hawaii. “Personally, I like seeing people face to face. I like seeing the equipment in person, networking with fellow superintendents. Maybe it’s because I’m older, but I didn’t think that (virtual event) was something I’d get much value out of.”

The good news for Snelling and like-minded superintendents — as well as those for whom a virtual event does offer value — is that a best-of-both-worlds GCSAA Conference and Trade Show looms, after last year’s show was forced into the ether because of the pandemic.

And don’t think for a minute that Snelling doesn’t know this year’s renamed CTS has returned to the real world. He was the very first person to register.

“I’m good to go,” Snelling says. “I’m really looking forward to getting back to it.”

Barring any last-minute changes of circumstance — as of this writing, plans are for an in-person show, along with an available virtual component — sunny San Diego, which proudly boasts a fully vaccinated rate of more than 80% of its population, will host the 2022 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show Feb. 5-10.

And though CTS and its attendees aren’t strangers to SoCal, the 2022 edition won’t be the same-old, same-old. Though it will feature everything from the GCSAA Golf Championships to the world-class education offerings to the dazzling trade show its predecessors were known for, it has a few new tricks up its proverbial sleeve.

Traditionally a four-day core event, CTS has been condensed to three days. Its ceremonial beginning (aboard the USS Midway) and closing (at the Marina Terrace at the Marriott Marquis) have been moved off-site for the first time in recent memory (more on both events below, in “Special occasions”). Registration is available at four tiers — all access, full pack, trade show only or virtual — to fit nearly any budget or level of comfort. And that virtual component? There will be 32 virtual education sessions that are 95% different from the in-person offerings. Those will run Feb. 23-24 and be available for 45 days on demand.

Click on image to enlarge:
Price GCSAA Conference and Trade Show“There’s really something for everybody,” says Jana Brown, GCSAA’s director of conference events and meeting planning. “With all access, anybody from your course can access educational offerings that might not have been available if they weren’t able to attend in person. There’s a virtual option, as well as the option just to attend the trade show. My advice: Sign up now. San Diego is great. It’s in great shape. We’re looking forward to it.”

Unlike Snelling, Doug Larson, GCSAA Class A superintendent at The Shore Club in Cape May Court House, N.J., did participate in last year’s first-ever virtual show.

“I understand it was something that had to be done last year,” says Larson, who says he has missed only a few of GCSAA’s flagship events over the course of his 34-year membership. “I didn’t really know what to expect. I don’t think I spent as much time with it as some people did. I think virtual is tough in general. I appreciated the attempt. My attention span just isn’t long enough for virtual stuff. I did like that you could take it at your own pace, but I always preferred the times between classes, walking across the trade show floor, running into people, shooting the breeze.”

At nearly 5,000 miles away, Larson is about as far removed from Snelling, his paradise-posted peer, as any American can be. A continent distant, Larson officially was Registrant No. 2. “I was first, huh? Do I get a free registration?” joked Snelling; Larson quipped that he’d settle for “a hat or something” as runner-up. (It should be noted, though, that Snelling cheated a bit. Registration officially opened Nov. 2, but Snelling logged in a day early and found he was able to register. Larson played by the rules and heeded a reminder he set on his phone.)

“I had to block out a time so I wouldn’t forget,” Larson says. “I didn’t want to miss out. I definitely prefer the in-person aspect. What I’m looking forward to most is sitting around and having a beverage with guys I haven’t been able to see much of. You’re there for work, and that’s what the conversation leans to. But I think I gain more from that aspect of it. There’s obviously tremendous value to the education aspect, sitting in the classroom. That’s important. But I’m especially looking forward to meeting with my peers, meeting new people and seeing old friends.”

One of those new people is similarly enthused. Though she has 60-some fewer trips to the Conference and Trade Show than the combined totals of Snelling and Larson, Kennedy Ellis can’t wait. The 18-year-old from Alpena, Mich., has never been to the big show. Heck, the first-year Olivet (Mich.) College student and two-year GCSAA student member has only been on a handful of plane rides, though she did attend the Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show in November 2021. She’ll be more than just a wide-eyed rookie. Ellis will be part of the Ladies Leading Turf: Mentoring Women power-hour session on Feb. 9 (find more information on this event below, in “Special occasions”).

“The biggest reason for me wanting to go is just knowing everyone who will be there,” says Ellis, who crammed virtual turfgrass-science classes from Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State into her already-busy high school curriculum. “I know it’s a huge networking thing. I’m looking forward to the educational opportunities, too. I’m all for professional development and getting my name out and getting to know people in the industry. I’m always hearing this is obviously the biggest show, the best show. I’m looking forward to the hundreds of business cards I’ll walk away with and the opportunity to meet and interact with thousands of people from across the nation and world.

“From the Carolinas show, I know what to look forward to, but I know what to expect — times about 1,000.”

— Andrew Hartsock, GCM managing editor

Safety first

Those attending the 2022 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in San Diego will need to abide by prevailing health and safety rules established by the city, county and the state of California — all of which follow the lead of guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of the deadline for this issue of GCM, that means folks attending the in-person event at the San Diego Convention Center will have to provide proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival to enter the event. In California, unvaccinated people are required to wear face masks in all indoor public settings.

For more details about all the safety protocols in place at the San Diego Convention Center and to keep apprised of any changes since GCM went to press, visit the COVID FAQ page of the CTS website.

Special occasions

The common threads of networking and education will be woven through all aspects of the 2022 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show, but you’ll find a few events particularly conducive to connecting and learning. Here, a day-by-day guide to some of the special gatherings and activities sure to make your stay in Southern California even more rewarding.

Monday, Feb. 7

A Learning Tour variety pack
Various times

Take your pick of three outings that provide an up-close, interactive look at programs and solutions for your golf facility. Whether you opt to explore operations at a local course, take a deep dive into irrigation auditing or experience a First Green field trip, you’ll be immersed in your chosen subject matter and will benefit from the unmatched resonance of real-world learning.

Welcome Reception
6:30-9:30 p.m.

All aboard the USS Midway! The former U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, commissioned in 1945 and active until 1992, was once the largest ship in the world and is now anchored in San Diego Bay. In addition to taking in the venue’s spectacular 360-degree views, reception attendees will be able to take guided tours of parts of the ship. Flight simulators, skydivers and old-time USO performers will be among the evening’s entertainment as you enjoy time with friends old and new. The Welcome Reception — which is free for all-access and full-pack registrants — is presented in partnership with Syngenta and will feature activities that support the GCSAA Foundation.

Tuesday, Feb. 8

Opening Session
8:30-10 a.m.

Hosted by TV’s Lauren Thompson and GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans, the Opening Session will celebrate achievements in many areas of the industry. The event, presented in partnership with Syngenta, will be held in Ballroom 20 of the convention center. GCSAA will award its highest honor for superintendents, the Col. John Morley Award, to first recipient Bob Farren, CGCS, director of golf course and ground management at Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort. Andy Jorgensen, CGCS, superintendent at On Top of the World Communities in Ocala, Fla., will be honored with GCSAA’s President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship, and Jack Fry, Ph.D., professor of turfgrass science at Kansas State University, will be presented with GCSAA’s inaugural Outstanding Contribution Award. The superintendent who triumphs in the 2022 GCSAA National Championship — to be contested Feb. 6-7 on the Torrey Pines South Course — will be spotlighted as well.

2022 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show

Trade Show Tee Off
5-7 p.m.

As your packed day of education concludes, head to this new event that will lift the curtain on the 2022 trade show. All Conference and Trade Show attendees are invited to get familiar with the trade show floor layout ahead of official “business” hours Wednesday, and to mingle with the trade show’s hundreds of exhibitors in a more relaxed, informal atmosphere. There will be special receptions for equipment managers and first-time Conference and Show attendees. The folks at Flyaway Geese will be giving away a goose dog to a Trade Show Tee Off attendee, and, in other canine matters, the polls will be open for 2022 “Dog of the Year” voting at the LebanonTurf booth (3529). The 2021 Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards and the 2021 Edwin Budding Award will be presented at the Syngenta booth (3222) and in the EM Education/New Product Showcase area (1419), respectively.

Wednesday, Feb. 9

Health in Action 5K
7:30-8:30 a.m.

Lace up your running shoes and start Hump Day on the right foot with the GCSAA Health in Action 5K, presented in partnership with Syngenta. The start/finish line will be at the Marriott Marquis, on the hotel’s Embarcadero side. All proceeds will benefit the GCSAA Foundation. The top three finishers will receive gift cards from Dick’s Sporting Goods, and the top chapter will take home $500. Register to race.

Celebrating Certification
12:30-2 p.m.

Certified Golf Course Superintendents, come dine and catch up with your colleagues who’ve also achieved the profession’s pinnacle designation. The CGCS class of 2021 will be recognized, along with the classes of 1996 and 1981, who are marking 25 and 40 years of certification. The luncheon is presented in partnership with Syngenta.

Leo Feser Award presentation
2:30 p.m.

Like reading firsthand stories from superintendents in GCM? Join us at booth 2455 on the trade show floor as we recognize the author of the top superintendent-penned article to run in GCM in the past year, as voted on by fellow superintendents. The 2021 Leo Feser Award winner is Jeff Heaton, director of grounds at Lake Geneva (Wis.) Country Club. In his article, Bridging the generation gap, Heaton shared lessons learned from managing his high school- and college-aged crew members, and offered advice to fellow superintendents on helping their youngest staffers — and, in turn, their operation — thrive.

Ladies Leading Turf
3-4 p.m.

Gather to hear anecdotes and advice from six women who’ve climbed the ladder in various sectors of the golf industry, from course maintenance to design to operations. The leading women on hand for this education session, which will focus on mentorship, will be Jan Bel Jan, ASGCA; Sally Jones, general manager of the Benson (Minn.) Golf Club; Karen Rumohr, superintendent at Woodside Golf Course in Airdrie, Alberta; Jamie Taylor, LPGA golf professional; Lora Beth West, assistant director of agronomy at Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles; and Kennedy Ellis, a turfgrass science student and member of the women’s golf team at Olivet (Mich.) College. Immediately following the program, all are welcome to attend the Ladies Leading Turf reception from 4 to 5 p.m., an opportunity for conversation and networking. The Ladies Leading Turf session and reception are presented in partnership with Syngenta.

Thursday, Feb. 10

GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl Competition
8-11 a.m.

Among the activities on tap for students at CTS, the 28th annual Turf Bowl will be the centerpiece. This year’s competition will be a hybrid contest consisting of an in-person exam and a case study presentation to be submitted by Jan. 21. The in-person portion in San Diego will be preceded by the traditional breakfast for student competitors and their advisers.

GCSAA Trade Show

Turfgrass Talk Show
1-3 p.m.

The golf course maintenance industry is chock-full of machinery, but do all of these tools deliver on their claims? Does data justify their use? In this favorite, interactive Power Hour, a panel of turfgrass scientists will take a discerning look at the merits of several mechanical and cultural practices, including solid- and hollow-tine cultivation; air, water and sand injection; verticutting; fraze mowing; rolling; and others. The Turfgrass Talk Show, presented in partnership with Tru-Turf, will be co-hosted by Thomas Nikolai, Ph.D., and Roch Gaussoin, Ph.D.

Closing Celebration
5:30-7:30 p.m.

As the sun sets on the 2022 conference and trade show, cap your trip with the Closing Celebration, an evening of camaraderie and recognition set against the backdrop of San Diego Bay and presented in partnership with John Deere. The Marina Terrace at the Marriott Marquis will host the final festivities, which will include the presentation of GCSAA’s Old Tom Morris Award to country music star Vince Gill, a lifelong golfer and a generous supporter of the game. Travis Cook, superintendent at the Founders Course at Greystone Golf & Country Club in Birmingham, Ala., will be presented with GCSAA’s first-ever Emerging Leader Award; the newly elected 2022 GCSAA Board of Directors will be introduced; and finally, drumroll, please: GCSAA will announce the winners of the 2022 Collegiate Turf Bowl Competition.

— Megan Hirt, GCMOnline.com editor


When the 2022 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show arrives in San Diego, it’ll bring with it the continuing education you need to improve your golf facility, grow your skills and advance your career. The industry’s largest education conference will feature 15 education tracks, 83 seminars and 28 Power Hours, and over 60% of the total education will be new this year. Here’s a look at some of what’s noteworthy.

With unprecedented labor issues affecting just about every golf-related business, CTS is offering a robust lineup of classes in the Labor Track, covering topics ranging from recruitment strategies to how to foster a more inclusive work environment.

Get answers to your questions about facility water conservation, drought management, irrigation design and water quality on the Water Track.

Power Hours
Enjoy fast-paced, quick doses of wisdom? The 2022 Power Hour roster is as robust as ever. On the agenda are perennial favorites Lightning Round Learning! and Turfgrass Talk Show, plus several brand-new sessions. Among those fresh offerings will be Tiger Woods’ Reimagination of The Hay Short Course at Pebble Beach. The Peter Hay short course was one of the original short courses in the United States when it was designed in the 1950s for beginners. After a complete reimagining and renovation of The Hay by Tiger Woods/TGR Design, it reopened in April 2021 and continues to provide an enjoyable golfing experience for players of all ages and skill levels. Attendees will learn all about the redesign of the The Hay and how each hole has design features that coincide with a bit of Pebble Beach history. GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans will facilitate this panel discussion among parties involved in the project, including GCSAA member Bubba Wright, superintendent at Pebble Beach Golf Links; architect Beau Welling, senior design consultant for TGR Design; and Jason Nau, vice president of Frontier Golf.

Equipment management
Equipment managers can choose from many offerings to help hone their skills, the most courses for equipment managers ever offered.

Straight from the source
Many GCM contributors will be on hand at CTS, diving even more in-depth into the topics they’ve covered in the magazine. Don’t miss your chance to learn more from the following experts.

Space is limited in many classes, so participants are encouraged to register as soon as possible.

— Darrell J. Pehr, GCM science editor

Trade show

A return to the trade show floor for the first time since 2020 will reveal some changes from past experiences, starting with what will happen on the show floor Tuesday, Feb. 8. In a new wrinkle, an event called the Trade Show Tee Off — set to run from 5 to 7 p.m. — will be an upbeat, social and first-chance opportunity to interact with hundreds of exhibitors. Traditionally, the trade show floor has opened on Wednesday.

“It is more of a social and networking event — a show floor preview,” says Melissa Householder, trade show manager for GCSAA. “Some of the exhibitors are doing happy hours during that time. Tuesday night will be a little more casual and relaxed than Wednesday and Thursday trade show hours. It will be a networking event and a chance to reconnect with industry partners and fellow attendees after not being able to in 2021.”

On Wednesday, the trade show floor will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

It will be a special occasion for one of the exhibitors, PBI-Gordon of Shawnee, Kan. The company, whose portfolio serves the turf and ornamental industry plus animal health industries, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. “For us, it’s the perfect scenario to kick off the 75th, to be back in front of customers and be with them. From what I’ve heard, everybody is excited to be back in person. We hope to make a big splash at our booth,” says Abbey Barry, communications senior specialist at PBI-Gordon. “We think we have some fun stuff to showcase, and we’re just excited to put it out there.”

GCSAA Education Conference

Nich Uchida won’t have to travel far to settle in on the trade show floor. Operations manager for Baroness, Uchida is based in California. The company also has facilities in the United Kingdom and Japan. “I’m looking forward to kind of getting back to the way things used to be,” says Uchida, whose company specializes in professional turf maintenance equipment. Uchida adds that being able to be in person with customers is significant, and that the in-person setup also benefits the company’s engineers, who can see what’s going on with the competition. Bottom line: It’s great to be back. “I think people are itching to get back. And I cannot lie — I was sad and disappointed we didn’t make it to Vegas,” Uchida says.

San Diego isn’t Las Vegas, where CTS was slated to take place in 2021, but for FMC Corp., the opportunity to make some cash will be part of its booth experience. FMC, a chemical manufacturing company, plans to give away $10,000 to the first person to sink a hole-in-one on a par-3 at its golf simulator on Tuesday evening. And, as it did at the show in Orlando, FMC will give visitors the opportunity to make money for their local GCSAA chapters during a long-drive simulator challenge from a virtual tee. In Orlando, FMC donated more than $20,000 to chapters. Evan Parenti, FMC’s golf and lawn market manager, welcomes the return to an in-person show. “Ours is a very collegial business,” Parenti says. “It’s seeing old friends, being back in your community — something you can’t get in a virtual setting.”

Another highlight for FMC is that it has bought all the aisle signs on the trade show floor. For the first time, a company will exclusively brand the signage. It’s another way for FMC to stand out and show what it offers, including a new fungicide mode of action that will be launched in San Diego.

Something new on each end of the trade show floor will be Power Hours that in the past were housed in education rooms. An equipment manager fast fix, 15-minute sessions and demos will be available. And the New Product Showcase, one of the most popular stops each year, is back.

Besides all the new products and booth happenings, there will be other activities and options in the vicinity. Looking to have a little lighthearted fun on the trade show floor? The networking parks will offer a variety of games many of us grew up playing. If you need to charge your phone, grab a bite to eat or just plain relax, the networking parks will be the place to be between booth stops.

The wide array of possibilities sounds sweet to Adam Thomas, CGCS, superintendent at Lawrence (N.Y.) Yacht & Country Club. “I can’t wait to get out there and speak to other superintendents, network, (visit) vendors, and be on the trade show floor,” Thomas says. “Being on that floor is important to help you do your best job at your golf course.”

— Howard Richman, GCM associate editor