Rejuvenating championship conditions

By |  August 18, 2017 0 Comments

Schindele says he tries to play the course as often as he can to see a member’s perspective of the new spray program and his team’s work.

Five golf courses with diverse backstories – and different turf treatment approaches – are putting BASF products to the test as part of the second annual Championship Rejuvenation program.

Each year only one course in America gets to host the U.S. Open. But every course strives to achieve its own version of championship conditions.

That’s why BASF, in partnership with Golfdom, again is hosting the Championship Rejuvenation program. The program takes five golf courses from around the country and presents them with a plan (and the product) to integrate new and old BASF chemistries into their maintenance programs and see what results the courses get.

The hope is that the course managers get to see that their own version of championship conditions are well within reach.

“I think championship conditions mean something a little different to everyone,” says BASF Senior Product Manager Jeff Vannoy. “Whether it’s a member/guest, a father/son, a public course that gets a lot of play on Saturday mornings… our goal at BASF is to support all these types of courses. We have a wide range of chemistry, from our latest, most innovative stuff like Lexicon and Xzemplar, to the stable of great products like Emerald, which have been around for a lot of years, but are still really amazing products. We have a lot of everything. Our goal isn’t just to support a few really amazing courses, but to support the industry and make sure they know how to use our chemistry effectively and responsibly.”

The five superintendents and courses participating in the 2017 Championship Rejuvenation program are:

⦁ Josh Pope, Greenbrier Old White TPC Course, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
⦁ Chris Ortmeier, Champions Golf Club, Houston, Texas
⦁ Brandon Schindele, Edina Country Club, Edina, Minnesota
⦁ Mike Golden, Sterling Farms Golf Course, Stamford, Connecticut
⦁ Dan Marco, Ruth Lake Country Club, Hinsdale, Illinois

(L to R) BASF Technical Service Representative Kyle Miller, Schindele and BASF’s Nathan Mezera.

“We want to take superintendents from a variety of types of courses, levels, budgets… and help them see what newer, innovative chemistries can do for their course,” Vannoy says. “They agree to be followed through the season. We’ll learn what they saw different at their courses. We have a great team at BASF, we’ll be checking in with them, taking photography… it’s a team effort.”

Golfdom and BASF will follow all five participating courses throughout the summer and fall.

Edina Country Club

In 2010-2011, the Edina Country Club underwent a large-scale construction/renovation effort designed to turnaround the golf course, boost membership and satisfy current members who were becoming vocal about issues on the private course.

Since that project, Superintendent Brandon Schindele has been on a mission to maintain and continuously improve the course. Like many parts of the country, Minnesota saw extreme weather fluctuations early in the year — something they’ve now experienced for several consecutive years.

“The days of setting a calendar and just following it are over,” Schindele says. “We monitor the course conditions much more carefully and adjust our approach on the fly.”

Beginning with his first spray in early May, Schindele is incorporating Lexicon Intrinsic brand fungicide, which he plans to use through October. Lexicon Intrinsic is a broad-spectrum turf fungicide that also is formulated to maximize plant health. Lexicon controls dollar spot, brown patch, fairy ring, Pythium root dysfunction, snow mold, summer patch and 22 other diseases.

“I have been hearing good things from my colleagues about the new BASF formulations. One colleague I really respect told me he was blown away by the improvement he saw,” Schindele says. He also will be using BASF’s Orkestra Intrinsic brand fungicide and FreeHand 1.75G herbicide in his ornamental beds.

Ruth Lake Country Club saw a boost to membership after a 2004 course renovation.

Schindele says a combination of his own visual inspections and member feedback will indicate how successful he is with his new approach. He adds that he tries to play the course as often as he can to see a member’s perspective of his team’s work.

“Edina is a challenging course, with things like unique roll-offs and false fronts, and our members love that they get to use all their clubs when they play here,” Schindele says. “They are very in tune with the condition of the course, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do to improve upon an already great course.”

Ruth Lake Country Club

Ruth Lake Country Club Superintendent Dan Marco is a fan of good planning, data points and the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy. At the same time, he acknowledges that there always are new things to learn and ways to continue to improve his approach.

“I keep an open mind about using new products, so I was definitely interested when the BASF team approached me about participating in this program,” Marco says.

(L to R) Miller, Marco and BASF Sales Specialist Randy Lusher.

Marco’s impeccably kept private course features 26 acres of fairways, three acres of tees and four acres of greens. As a fan of spreadsheets and cost analysis, he is excited to be using BASF formulations on roughly half of his greens, tees and fairways, and keeping the other half managed with products he has used in previous years.

Marco began using both Lexicon and Xzemplar fungicide in mid-May. Xzemplar provides curative and preventive control of dollar spot on fairways, tees and greens. It’s both a contact fungicide and a long-lasting preventative treatment.

“We used to wait at the start of the growing season until we saw the first signs of dollar spot, and then begin our treatments. Now we stay out in front of it and get a preventative application out prior to the onset. This has really helped us keep on top of dollar spot rather than chase it all season,” Marco says. “When we didn’t get started ahead of the problem, we ended up using more product to treat dollar spot and had to treat more often. It’s much better not to see it in the first place.”

Now in his 16th year at Ruth Lake, Marco oversaw a complete rework of the course in 2004, including regrassed greens, the building of five new holes and being one of the first courses in the region to put in newer varieties of bentgrass greens. Those improvements were a real boost to the club, he says, and resulted in retaining members and attracting many new ones.

“It’s a very playable, fun course. It’s not necessarily a nationally recognized golf course, but lots of times the comments back from those who play it for the first time are very positive. It’s more than what they would have expected,” Marco says.

Sterling Farms Golf Course

Superintendent Mike Golden was recruited to Sterling Farms to enhance the course.

Sterling Farms Golf Course was a public course in need of a turnaround when Superintendent Mike Golden was hired in early 2017. The general manager had played Golden’s former course, and recruited him to help improve Sterling Farms, which sees more than 50,000 rounds each year.

After ensuring that he had strong support from the course’s board of directors, Golden jumped right in by planting 3,000 square feet of nursery sod throughout the 18 greens. Trees and drainage work on the hilly course also began right away.

“Our greens, tees and fairways were all struggling,” Golden says. “Being in turnaround mode, we are the perfect candidate to see what we can do by being part of this program.”

He is using Emerald fungicide first, followed by Xzemplar, and finishing with a second application of Emerald on his tees and fairways. For the greens, Golden is using Lexicon fungicide throughout the growing season. His goal is to stay ahead of disease.

“I need to get as much as possible out of my tee and fairway sprays,” Golden says. “With so many rounds being played, we have to limit the time our sprayers are out there. Plus, we need to maximize our dollars on each spray, so I have high hopes using BASF’s new chemistries.”

“Our greens, tees and fairways were all struggling,” Golden says. “We are the perfect candidate to see what we can do by being part of this program.”

Golden’s primary goal is to reach optimum plant health and re-establish turf coverage on all greens. Once achieved, he hopes to reach daily green speeds of 10, with the ability to get to 11 for tournament play.

“Our turnaround efforts are off to a great start, but next year is when we’re really going to see Sterling Farms pop,” Golden says. “I’m hoping Xzemplar and Emerald play a big part in making all of our work pay off.”

Greenbrier Old White TPC Course

Superintendent Josh Pope

Less than two weeks before the 2016 Greenbrier Classic, the unthinkable happened. A 1,000-year flood devastated Greenbrier’s Old White TPC course, canceling the tournament and leaving behind an uncertain future for the historic venue.

The damage was extensive and essentially required Greenbrier to rebuild the course. And there was little time to mourn — Superintendent Josh Pope and his staff developed a plan to rebuild the course in time to host the recent 2017 Greenbrier Classic, a PGA Tour event with a field of 156 professionals. The team rebuilt the course to honor the original architects, C.B. MacDonald and Seth Raynor. The course re-opened to the public following the tournament.

“BASF products are our go-to for championship conditions,” Pope says. “I have used BASF products throughout my career, and I know how well they work in times of stress. They are reliable. They are a sure thing.”

Pope’s plan for championship conditions was developed alongside BASF Technical Service Representative Kyle Miller and Area Sales Manager Scott Waltz. Pope is using Lexicon Intrinsic brand fungicide on fairways, greens and tees, Honor Intrinsic brand fungicide on bunker banks and Xzemplar fungicide in primary rough.

With all the new sod they’ve put down during the restoration, Pope says his primary measure of success will be avoiding any issues throughout the tournament and the rest of the season.

“When my greens went into the tournament, they were only 11 months old, so I need strong chemistries to protect my turf,” he says. “If any products can do this, it’s BASF products.”

Champions Golf Club

The Old White TPC is surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains.

Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas, has a colorful past — drawing top-level players and prestigious tournaments since it opened in 1957. Founded by Jack Burke, Jr. and the late Jimmy Demaret, the Cypress Creek course features more than 70,000 trees, wide fairways and enormous greens.

But like Greenbrier, Mother Nature also was unkind to Champions last year, flooding more than a third of the course. Superintendent Chris Ortmeier and his team doubled down to ensure a quick recovery, but he is still working to eliminate some flood-related issues, such as doveweed kyllinga.

“Doveweed has been a big challenge,” Ortmeier says. “It just keeps coming back.” Doveweed thrives in warmer climates and prefers wet areas. With nearby Cypress Creek posing an ongoing flooding threat, Ortmeier has a plan.

Developed in tandem with BASF Technical Service Representative Kathie Kalmowitz, Ph.D., and Senior Sales Specialist Scott Dunham, Ortmeier’s treatment approach is designed to help maximize course conditions leading up to the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open.

The Champions Golf Club’s treatment is designed to maximize the course for the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open.

The program includes an aggressive plan to control doveweed and various other weeds using a combination of Tower herbicide — a broad-spectrum pre-emergence herbicide — and Pendulum AquaCap herbicide, a water-based formulation of the industry’s leading pre-emergent active ingredient, pendimethalin.

Ortmeier will control fairy ring with Xzemplar fungicide, which also controls leaf spot and patch diseases. He’ll use Honor Intrinsic brand fungicide prior to the next aerification. BASF trials on ultradwarf Bermudagrasses show quicker hole closure and healthier turf. In the fall, Ortmeier will integrate Lexicon Intrinsic brand fungicide into his program to provide protection from the tropical hurricane season and potential changing winter temperatures.

“I’m a data guy. I like to make my decisions based on data,” Ortmeier says. “That’s why I’m excited to be involved in this trial with BASF, so I can see firsthand what impact the products are having on the Cypress Creek course.”

St. Louis-based writer Steve Richardson is the owner of The Richardson Group, a marketing communications company.

Photos: Steve Richardson



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