Golf Course Management

DEC 2013

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

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gcm ex t ra from the foor. It was very intimidating. "I was never going to win the argument that day," he adds with the matterof-fact air of a man who is comfortable in his ability to handle such things. What is it about these methods that produces such fne results but polarizes the opinion of the British course management industry? And how did Evans put them into practice? Playability perspective As a golfer, Evans won the 2001 Berkshire Trophy (one of the top amateur events in the U.K.) and was a member of the same England training squad as Luke Donald. He tackles the job of golf course management from the perspective of playability. He then develops an agronomic program to support the playability goals, rather than the other way around. "Basically I control speed with cutting height, and as we haven't got the staff to cut and roll, we have to cut really tight to create speed. I put an agronomic plan together to back it up," he explains. Evans has a full-time staff of six (including himself, an assistant and a mechanic) and one seasonal worker. "The plan revolves around good sanding, good fertility and embracing Poa. The greens are basically 99 percent Poa, and I'm doing my best to get rid of the 1 percent bent. Although it has shown that it can also be cut at 2 mil," he says, laughing. "Understanding the plant is the big thing. When I came here the feeding program was very much granular and carried out every six weeks," says Evans, who once had his greens Stimping at 14.25 for an event. "Now we feed every week with a little nitrogen mixed with some Primo Maxx. The way I look at it, the greens are like fnely tuned athletes, and you have to give them the correct amount of nutrition every week so they remain at a high level rather than experiencing peaks and troughs. Our aim is 11 on the Stimpmeter every day, and to achieve that we need the grass plant growing evenly. That means foliar feeding every week." 64 GCM December 2013 Evans compares the care and feeding of the Poa surfaces at his course to the regimen of a fnely tuned athlete. He was initially feeding every two weeks but noticed a dropoff from days eight to 14, so he halved the amount of each application and began feeding every week. Evans has studied the subject extensively, including the work of David Huff, Ph.D., professor of turfgrass breeding and genetics at Penn State. Huff's research revealed that Poa was much more effcient at photosynthesizing than other plants, so it doesn't need as much light and can be cut down to a tight height because it doesn't have a deep root system to sustain. By the numbers Over the last few years Evans has collected data for everything he does so that he can measure improvements and answer his critics when they ask for evidence. "My budget has actually gone down on my greens. In 2010 we spent £27,000 (approximately $40,000) maintaining greens — 66 percent of which is labor. In 2012 this was down to £25,000 ($36,000); while this year we will be down to about £23,000 ($32,000). I haven't overseeded the greens in fve years, so that has also created savings," he explains. He also says his fungicide bill has dropped from £10,000 ($15,000) when he arrived at Ealing to £2,500 ($3,750) now. In addition, the data help Evans identify areas in which tweaks can be made to the maintenance program. "For instance, four years ago I was aerating the greens 15 times a year," he says. "Last year we did it seven times and it didn't impact on the required parameters. Compaction levels weren't affected; percolation rates didn't change; organic matter didn't increase. So we were able to reduce costs through halving the number of procedures without having any detrimental effect on the quality of the greens." In 2010, Evans became one of BIGGA's small worldwide band of Master Greenkeepers. He has built his own consultancy based on his work at Ealing and is currently developing a formula for pricing the management of greens. "When you buy a carpet you get a cost per square meter, which is based on the quality of the carpet you have chosen. I am developing a program that will inform people of the cost of maintaining a green at square meter prices, with the cost varying based on the problems that the greens face and the level of playability the club wishes them to reach," he says, adding that last year Ealing's greens cost £3 per square meter (approximately $4.50).

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