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32 - Apr 2016


Golf Course Trades

Capillary Concrete

The Story of Martin Sternberg, CGCS and How It All Started

Reprinted with permission from the Capillary Concrete website.

My name is Martin Sternberg and I was born in Sweden, right into a family of golf geeks and en- trepreneurs, since generations. My family (wife and three daughters) and I spend as much time in Sweden and the USA, and have been for 25 years.

I started playing golf as a child. When I was 15, I opened a golf workshop in our basement in Go- thenburg, and two years later, with my father Jan, I opened, a golf shop and later also in Stockholm. But I wanted to play more golf than stand in the shop, which I did. And soon I became pro and a member of the PGA, aged 19 years old. I was one of only six players selected by the Swedish Golf Federation in 1987 for specialized training in the Swedish Military Golf Team.

I love the game of golf! I like the strategy of the game and how it is affected by the golf course and nature. Right after high school I went to the USA to study at the Golf Course Operations Management, at the San Diego Golf Academy, where I first came in contact the Golf Course Superintendents As- sociation of America, which is the world’s leading organization for golf course management and greenkeepers / superintendents.

I loved it from the first moment, it was amazing to work with a living thing like a golf course, and I really wanted to learn all there was to know about golf courses. I soon realized I had become a golf course nerd, and I was really hooked.

While studying in the USA, I also embarked on a large project in Sweden with my father to build a new golf facility from scratch. Traveling back and forth, we built the course on our own with help from friends and probably made every mistake there is during the three years we spent, finishing the golf course and driving range. In the end, the result was great and the course became very popular.

It was a tough time though, and I studied hard to learn all there was on greenkeeping and golf con- struction. I enrolled in the certification program of the GCSAA, and 1992 I became the first European certified superintendent, CGCS, after many years of studies and a very difficult tests (for a native Swede) in New Orleans. A certification I still hold to this day.

I had a vision in my head of what golf courses could be like. I had seen it in the USA in many places, but nowhere in Sweden. In 1998 I started to build more courses and renovate several others, to the highest level found in the USA. To this day, I have been involved in part or fully responsible in over 25 golf course construction or renovation projects across the world. There were some really big projects like Hills Golf Club, designed by Arthur Hills and Steve Forrest, Oslo Golf Club, which today is Scandina- via’s most technically advanced golf course. I always tried to improve the level of the golf courses and spent a lot of time checking out new products and technical innovations. I had the first Penn A4 greens in Scandinavia after having spent time with Dr Duich at Penn State University, for instance. We always tried to find new and better solutions to golf course problems.

One of the problems that really bothered me was bunkers. No matter which product we tried, there

was no one that could resolve everything and act as the basis of perfect bunkers. Bunkers were always the constant headache at every project, and I spent much time trying to find new solutions. Maintenance was both expensive and time consuming.

One day, when I visited Augusta National, host of the world’s biggest competition, the Masters, I had seen that morning before the competition how the maintenance crew went out and watered sand bunkers by hand. They explained to me that this was done so the sand would be more compact and balls would not get plugged on impact. On Augusta national, they have enough crew to do this, but what normal golf course crew can do this? Not many. It gave me the inspiration to continue my search.

Inspiration led me to look up my old teacher at my Swedish University Ulltuna, where I had graduated from the Higher Greenkeeper Education, Associ- ate Professor Lave Person. He had taught me all

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