Despite the uncertainty of 2020, the golf industry has made a positive turn. Some companies, like Hodges Rash Company, are seeing a prime opportunity to invest in the future. Partnering with Spiio has been one way to translate their positivity into real results for their customers.
Along with much of the world, when COVID-19 cases and lockdowns hit hard in the spring, the golf industry was shaken by hectic uncertainty. Especially in the northeastern United States, where a few unusually rainy years were placing many golf courses on the verge of going out of business or being forced to scale back, the outlook in March and April seemed grim. However, as lockdowns eased up, it turned out that golf—already outdoors and socially distanced—was a perfect candidate to accommodate safe sport and entertainment. Many previously tightly-scheduled families also found themselves with more time after other activities had been canceled or moved online, and they returned to playing golf together.
Spiio’s temperature data from below the ground allows for better application timing. This is especially true in the spring when the soil warms up.Joe Barton, Hodges Rash Company
These conditions, combined with a year that didn’t rain out as many potential golf days, caused an unexpected but welcome upturn in the golf industry in 2020. People in the industry are feeling more positive than they have in recent years, and companies like Hodges Rash are hoping to make the most of the optimism. The Hodges Rash Company is a Pennsylvania-based distributor that works to provide products and services for turfgrass management. They work primarily with golf courses, but also service several athletic fields. As their customers feel more confident coming out to play and investing in new equipment, Hodges Rashes’ clients are looking to grow.
Investing in New Technologies: Hodges Rash and Spiio
One way companies are taking advantage of the financial freedom offered by an upturn in business is investing in new technologies. Hodges Rash is in this position, and one of the new products they’ve begun offering to their clients is the Spiio wireless sensor. Joe Barton, a sales representative for Hodges Rash, is excited for this partnership because he says the Spiio data offers more scientifically-based information with which they can consult their customers. “We do a lot of our work based on phenological indicators—such as when rodadanger and forsythia are in bloom—which is usually fairly accurate. But Spiio data and temperature data from below the ground allows for better application timing. This is especially true in the spring, when the soil warms up.”
The Spiio allows us to monitor soil conditions helping our customers time those applications with data delivered remotely as we can not always see our customers during the spring of the year with the quickly changing weather.Joe Barton
Spiio also adds the convenience of remote work. “Spring is also a time where you need to make specific applications for weeds and early onset of disease and insects” Barton points out while continuing; “The Spiio allows us to monitor soil conditions helping our customers time those applications with data delivered remotely as we can not always see our customers during the spring of the year with the quickly changing weather.” This is a big deal, because Joe Barton is one of only four representatives who work all over Pennsylvania and Delaware—and some of his customers are three hours away.
How has Spiio benefitted Hodges Rash customers so far?
Right now, says Barton, they are looking to set a baseline during the first year of collecting data throughout the state. They hope that these first couple of years with the Spiio will help them build a foundational model by closely following the trends they see in the sensor’s data. For example, they have noticed that with decreased rainfall this year the Spiio’s moisture sensors didn’t change much from day to day as we followed irrigation cycles which typically did not produce enough water volume to get the capillary pull. However, as they anticipate increased rain through winter and spring, they plan to track the movements and see how they can use this information next year.
Hodges Rash Company can better consult our customers to make strategic and cost-conscientious decisions in their turf applications.Joe Barton
Of course, they don’t have to wait until next year to see benefits—in the short term, they are finding they can better consult their customers to make strategic and cost-conscientious decisions in their turf applications. One benefit of the Spiio when it comes to measuring moisture is the ability to place multiple sensors in different parts of a property. “You can tell that way if it rained on one part of the property but not the other,” Barton notes, which helps inform better watering decisions.
One benefit of the Spiio when it comes to measuring moisture is the ability to place multiple sensors in different parts of a property; “You can tell that way if it rained on one part of the property but not the other.”Joe Barton
Another benefit is that the Spiio adds numerical confirmation to the instincts of experts, like Joe Barton and his colleagues, that allow them to communicate with board members and others who are making decisions about turf. This year, for instance, Barton says that warmer temperature readings from the Spiio have confirmed the sense that turf is under environmental stress, which translates to a message to customers of “maybe we should wait; maybe we should back down” on mechanical stresses.
A Personal Note: How Golf Industry, Family, Sales, and Spiio Come Together
During this unique time, good news for the golf industry is good news for many individuals and families. Joe Barton, whose father worked for the city of Hagerstown in Maryland, worked on a public golf course when he was 15, and later moved to a country club there. He enjoyed working outdoors—so much so that he switched career tracks from computer programming in order to keep working outdoors. But it was because he played baseball growing up and thought about working athletic fields, that he then realized that there are a lot more golf courses than baseball teams. He started out, after graduating from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in Agriculture and Natural Resources, with an internship at Oakmont Country Club. As he gained experience, he moved up in the field and worked as an assistant at both the Woodholme Country Club in Baltimore and Westmoreland Country Club in Export, PA. He then became the superintendent of The Club at Blackthorne in Murrysville, PA.
The start of a sales career
After the birth of his daughter, Barton became acutely aware that he was in a business that didn’t really have summer vacations. He began exploring the world of sales and discovered that, in addition to more time with his family, that route offered him the opportunity to see 50 or 60 courses on a pretty regular basis, rather than just one. He’s been with The Hodges Rash company for 13 years now and seen it grow from a company selling one or two products to one that has expanded dramatically in both products and services.
Looking forward, even with COVID-19 spikes and new lockdowns, Joe Barton continues to be optimistic. This time of year, he acknowledges, is a quieter one for the golf industry anyway, and many are hopeful for a better outlook in the spring. As for their partnership with Spiio, he says:
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