Golf Course Management

AUG 2019

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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74 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 08.19 tus using laboratory testing. at said, organic matter accumulation is relatively slow because he's able to keep nitrogen levels quite low (in 2018, he applied a total of 0.5 pound of ni - trogen in five separate applications). For other nutrients, he follows the Minimum Level for Sustainable Nutrition guidelines and has found that he can go well below those num - bers and still maintain a quality surface. Gourlay also takes advantage of a perched water table provided by well-constructed greens, which allows him to irrigate deeply and less frequently — every five to seven days on average. ese management strategies allow him to keep the turf healthy without encouraging excessive vegetative growth. Ulti - mately, this also keeps mowing to a minimum. In fact, in 2018, Gourlay reduced mowing re - quirements on greens by 600 labor hours. Gourlay mows greens about 50 to 60 times each growing season, which spans a period of about 30 to 31 weeks in eastern Kansas, and uses a roller about 120 times to maintain firm - ness. By removing the buckets from the mow- ers, he returns about the same amount of nitro- gen back to the greens as he applies. Clippings are so limited that they don't disturb roll of the golf ball, and as the 16-year GCSAA member puts it, "Buckets don't catch all clippings any - way, and many fall to the putting surface even when one tries to collect them." e 20-year-old greens at Colbert Hills have no annual bluegrass (Poa annua) in them. How many others can say they have greens in the central U.S. that have been in place for 20 years and contain no Poa? Obviously, the aforementioned management strategies have contributed to this. Some may consider Gourlay's turf manage - ment approach extreme, but he has shifted cul- tural practices over time to match the resources he has available. Instead of hanging his head and complaining that a flat or declining budget won't allow quality surfaces to be maintained at a desired level, he has embraced the chal - lenge and has done what was needed to main- tain quality turf. We can all take something from the innovative ideas Gourlay has applied. Jack Fry, Ph.D., is a professor of turfgrass science at Kansas State University, currently working at the school's Research and Extension Center in Olathe, Kan. He is a 22-year educator member of GCSAA. Necessity fuels innovation at Colbert Hills Jack Fry, Ph.D. (what's the big idea?) Matt Gourlay, CGCS, MG, is the director of golf course operations at Colbert Hills Golf Course in Manhattan, Kan., a course built in the beautiful tallgrass prairie of the Flint Hills. Gourlay has golf in his genetic makeup as a third-generation golf course superinten - dent, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Go back further in his Scot - tish ancestry and you find that one of his rela- tives married Old Tom Morris, and his family was involved in production of the "featherie" golf ball — a ball with a leather cover stuffed with goose feathers. In fact, the ball was com - monly known as the "Gourlay" and was used throughout the first half of the 19th century in Scotland. Gourlay's inherent love of the game has contributed to his success, not to mention the fact that he is hardworking, in - novative and intelligent and doesn't hesitate to think outside the box. Gourlay oversees a championship golf course with a minimal budget. His ability to maintain quality with less inputs is visible through the entire course, but he's recently re - ceived attention for his approach to managing the creeping bentgrass putting greens. In 2019, he won the Innovative Conservation Award in the GCSAA/Golf Digest Environmental Lead - ers in Golf Awards program for the unique management strategies he employs. e greens rarely see an aerifier, receive very little fertil - ization and are mowed once or twice weekly, and when they are mowed, there's no bucket on the mower. at's right: Buckets aren't on Gourlay's list. Colbert Hills opened for play in 2000, and the greens were built to USGA specifications. In Gourlay's opinion, the high sand compo - nent of the greens allows them to be managed with little or no aerification because com - paction is minimal, and infiltration rates are high. Furthermore, Colbert Hills is a destina - tion public golf course. A large percentage of golfers travel to play from over 50 miles away. Golfers don't appreciate traveling a long dis - tance only to find that greens have been aeri- fied when they reach the first green. Gourlay's fortunate that the greens at Col - bert Hills are relatively large — they average over 7,500 square feet — because that allows foot traffic to be spread out across the surface with changes in hole locations. Gourlay uses frequent sand topdressing to manage organic matter accumulation and monitors their sta - Some may consider Gourlay's turf management approach extreme, but he has shifted cultural practices over time to match the resources he has available.

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