Golf Course Management

JAN 2018

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

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90 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 01.18 "Many courses will use 1 pound of N per thousand on green surfaces. That's the 'lean-and-mean, firm-and-fast' mentality. Here, we feed the plant more frequently, but at lower levels of N. We want the plant constantly growing," Banks notes. "A lot of courses will minimize N on the greens to get them firm and fast — and we're going in the opposite direction. We are limited as to how much N we can use, to be honest, but the key is to schedule applications accordingly and apply when the plant needs it most. "As a result, we're just not as firm and fast as many clubs," Banks continues. "Once the course matures, I see us achieving that goal. But our membership understands the program here, and that's so important, that communication. Maybe we're not as firm and fast, but we topdress like anyone else, if not more. We're growing the greens out of disease, adding sand multiple times per week, and relying on other cultural practices to achieve the firmness." Adventures in organics Two-plus years into his tenure, Banks has become a hyper-informed, often adventurous consumer of products, because organic turf care remains such a new discipline — something that similarly describes the product market taking shape around it. He's a fan of the organic fungicide Civitas (Intelligro), "which is like an IPM pesticide, the organic base of all my sprays," he says. The Vineyard Club's spray program is a very different exercise. "There aren't many biological fungicides out there. What we do use is a mix of four biofungicides. I wouldn't say our mix is curative, but it does help strengthen the plant and maintain healthy roots when stress is really high. As long as we maintain healthy moisture, a healthy growing plant, biofungicides have been successful even in the high-stress periods. In 2017, it was." Banks also had good things to say about EcoGuard from LebanonTurf, where the active ingredient is a soil-borne bacterium that has exhibited the ability to fight off fungi like dollar spot and brown patch. "This was only my second year with it, but it's definitely one of my go-tos," Banks says. He's also high on Rhapsody from Bayer, a biological fungicide, and micronutrients with biostimulants like foliar liquid seaweed: "I don't know if it cures anything, but I do think it maintains a healthy growing plant." While Banks maintains a network of organic turf "consiglieri," headed by Carlson and Rossi, fellow superintendents interested in organics are increasingly seeking him out for advice. Their questions are "all over the board," he says, but few of these colleagues have a real desire to follow Banks into the all-organic category. "They want to be more environmentally sensitive, which is totally doable, but I would never recommend everything I do. Just certain directions," Banks says. "Our membership is unique. They understand what the regulations are here. If a colleague tried some of this stuff, say, in the Boston area, his job may be in jeopardy quicker than mine. Those expectations are so important. But there are certain times of the year, less stressful times, when I would preach against certain things — like when you see two or three grubs and initially think to treat the entire property. However, this is much easier for me to say now, being on this side of organic turf management." The predecessor's tale Carlson's organic credentials predate his tenure at The Vineyard Club. Mainly they stem from his experience as head superintendent at Widow's Walk Golf Course, a Michael Hurdzan design that opened in 1996 on a former sand quarry in the coastal Massachusetts town of Scituate. Hurdzan and Carlson worked together through construction and grow-in to craft a day-to-day management approach that was notably organic and short on chemical inputs, At The Vineyard GC, the general strategy when dealing with pests and disease — one first developed by Carlson and now practiced by Banks — is to constantly feed the plant "in an attempt to grow the plant out of disease situations," Banks says. Photo by Randi Baird "We're growing the greens out of disease, adding sand multiple times per week, and relying on other cultural practices to achieve firmness." — Kevin Banks

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