Four days in Orlando at the 2020 Golf Industry Show

You can’t do it all, so here’s a day-by-day guide to the can’t-miss events for your best GIS.


Golf Industry Show networking
Photos by Montana Pritchard

First, let’s be clear: There is absolutely no way anyone could experience all that is the 2020 Golf Industry Show in Orlando.

No one could possibly take advantage of every educational opportunity, presentation and networking session and visit every trade show booth.

Heck, even if the education sessions didn’t run concurrently and instead ran end-to-end, continuously, for the full 400-plus hours, and a committed attendee tried to attend every one, that would take ... oh ... more than two weeks of 24/7 commitment, and that wouldn’t leave a second for the golf, gear and glad-handing that also go along with GIS.

And GIS doesn’t last a fortnight: It’s four jam-packed days (six if you count the first two days of the GCSAA Golf Championships on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 25 and 26).

Even for the most seasoned GIS attendee, it can be a bit much.

Here, then, is a day-by-day look at some of the highlights of this month’s Golf Industry Show. For more on everything taking place in Orlando, head to the Golf Industry Show website.

Monday, Jan. 27

Action in the GCSAA Golf Championships will wrap up on Monday, with the final day of play in the big two-day golf events — the Golf Classic and the GCSAA National Championships — being contested at four of Orlando’s top golf facilities.

After the golf concludes, stop by the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes for the trophy presentation from 2 to 4:30 p.m. (at the 19th Hole Reception) for networking opportunities and to congratulate the 2020 national champion. The GCSAA Golf Championships are presented in partnership with The Toro Co., which has served as the presenting partner for the event for 26 consecutive years.

Golf Industry Show tournament

The GCSAA Education Conference will get underway Monday morning, and a highlight is sure to be the half-day session Launching a First Green Field Trip Program at Your Own Golf Course, set from 8 a.m. to noon.

First Green is GCSAA’s education outreach program that seeks to link youngsters to golf and golf courses through a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum. This interactive session — a partnership with GCSAA, First Green and a local school — will help attendees host a First Green field trip on their home course. Current superintendents with First Green hosting experience will stage demonstrations on the local golf course where part of this seminar will take place.

Looking for more of an agronomic focus to start your week at GIS? Then you’ll want to check out the Turfgrass Talk Show: Irrigation in the 21st Century, which runs from 3 to 5 p.m. In this fast-paced, interactive session, various industry experts — hosts and guests range from an architect to a superintendent to a handful of college professors — will cover several topics related to irrigation, from the complex irrigation system itself to the irrigation research that has led to best practices that promote plant health while reducing waste.

Topics will include: the impact of irrigation timing and frequency, along with methods to monitor soil moisture; managing effluent water; and how you can sell that new system to your members.

Immediately following the show, from 5 to 6 p.m., speakers will mingle with guests at a reception presented in partnership with Tru-Turf.

Tuesday, Jan. 28

Tuesday morning kicks off with a pair of fascinating options for attendees. The first will take attendees down the road to Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge for the half-day field trip Behind the Scenes at Bay Hill, presented in partnership with The Foley Co. There, attendees will see firsthand how the course deals with challenges, from the common to the unique, including tournament preparation, a review of Bay Hill’s new irrigation system and short game practice area, and a tour of Bay Hill’s maintenance facility. Additionally, there will be a hands-on reel and bedknife grinding demonstration by Foley.

Golf Industry Show dog

Back at the OCCC, John Boehner, the 53rd speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, will be a big draw at a pair of events focused on government affairs and advocacy. The first, the Grassroots Ambassador Academy Part I (Part II is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon) is intended for GCSAA Grassroots Ambassadors only. Boehner, who served as speaker from January 2011 to October 2015, is the featured presenter for this ambassador training session which is set from 9 to 11 a.m.

The afternoon Quorum Call: The Inside Scoop on Issues and Advocacy in 2020, from 1:30-3 p.m., is open to all interested in advocacy. Boehner will headline this quick-hitting government-affairs session crammed full of short presentations of informative issue updates and profiles in local, state and federal engagement to promote the industry and enhance the game of golf.

Tuesday wraps up in style with the Opening Reception, presented in partnership with Syngenta, which will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. poolside at the Rosen Centre Hotel. This kickoff event is a great way to network with new colleagues and reconnect with old friends while enjoying complimentary entertainment, food and drinks.

Wednesday, Jan. 29

Your Wednesday begins with the “official” start of GIS — the Opening Session, 8:30 to 9:50 a.m. (doors open at 8 a.m.), and presented in partnership with Syngenta. Golf Channel and NBC host Lauren Thompson will return to host this event on the main stage. GCSAA President Rafael Barajas, CGCS, will lead this celebration.

Recognition for GCSAA’s top awards — the President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship, the Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award and the Old Tom Morris Award — will be among the highlights. The 2019 GCSAA Board of Directors and newly certified superintendents also will be recognized.

Shortly after the end of the Opening Sessions, the doors to the trade show swing open. Hundreds of exhibitors spread over thousands of square feet of exhibit space will showcase all the latest and greatest in products and services in golf course maintenance. Show hours on Wednesday are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Golf industry trade show

The show floor also will host several special features, including free education, Inside the Shop, the New Product Showcase, presentations on the GCSAA TV Live stage and the GIS Silent Auction.

Also on the Wednesday agenda is the Ladies Leading Turf session from 3 to 4:20 p.m., which is titled “Next-Level Leadership: Building Your Diverse Team.” In this session, leading women in turf will recount their journeys through the industry and discuss ways to foster diversity within any organization.

Immediately after the session, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and just down the hall in the Destination Lounge, all women and men employed or studying in the turf industry are invited to a networking reception presented in partnership with Syngenta. Complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be provided.

Thursday, Jan. 30

The last day of GIS 2020 is here, and with it comes some of the week’s most notable events, including the GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl Competition from 7:30 to 11 a.m., which is presented in partnership with John Deere Golf.

After an early 6:30 a.m. breakfast, participants in the annual Turf Bowl get down to their hotly contested business. The Turf Bowl exam — a written case study, as well as multiple-choice, short-answer and identification questions covering agronomy, and financial and business-management aspects of the superintendent profession — is for university turf students only, in teams of up to four participants. A total of $10,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to the top 10 teams during the Closing Celebration.

That same morning, GCSAA President Rafael Barajas, CGCS, will preside over the GCSAA Annual Meeting and Election, which takes place from 9 to 11 a.m. Elections will be held for officer positions of president, vice president and secretary/treasurer and to fill two open director positions.

Barajas will serve on the board for one year as immediate past president, and Darren J. Davis, CGCS, will retire from the board after serving last year as immediate past president.

Then, doors will swing open at 4 p.m. for the final act of GIS 2020 — the Closing Celebration, which is set for 4:30 to 6 p.m. The highlight of this 90-minute celebratory wrap-up will be motivational speaker Carey Lohrenz, the first female F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy. Lohrenz weaves stories of her time as a combat-mission-ready Naval aviator with messages about team performance in the most demanding environments. Author of the book “Fearless Leadership: Lessons from the Flight Deck,” Lohrenz has spoken to many of the top Fortune 100 businesses, from AT&T to Walmart.

Andrew Hartsock is GCM’s managing editor.