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Creating a TV-Worthy Golf Course at Woodbine Bend

Andy Young

Andy Young has been working on a golf course since he was 14-years old. He played golf in college and continues to play weekly in the mens league at Woodbine Bend Golf Course near Stockton, Illinois, where he has been the Golf Course Superintendent since 2012. 

Woodbine Bend opened in 2002 and was formerly a rolling northern Illinois cornfield. Andy’s goal is to give golfers at Woodbine Bend a fun and unique experience – one they want to come back to. 

“I want golfers to have the best conditions for the money, and I feel we exceed that here at Woodbine Bend,” says Andy. 

One of the ways Andy creates a TV-worthy golf course is by applying SO4 pelletized gypsum in the spring and fall. Andy’s distributor representative, Mike Werth from Advanced Turf Solutions, introduced him to SO4. 

“We have heavy clay soils, so we use SO4 to make the soil structure better for the plant to grow,” says Andy. “Especially if we don’t get rain, the SO4 helps flush salt build-up from the fertilizer we apply.”

In past fall seasons, Andy has typically applied SO4 right before the first snow fall. This year he applied it right after aerification so it can enter the soil profile through the aerification holes. 

“Every fall and spring after I apply SO4, I see better playability on the turf. It’s one of the best gypsums out there,” said Andy.

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Localized Dry Spot

Localized Dry Spot

What is localized dry spot?

With an unusually hot start to the late spring/summer season, localized dry spot (LDS) is showing up earlier and more vigorously than normal. LDS shows up as somewhat randomized, dry looking areas of turf. It is generally seen on sand-based greens, but can occur on other turfs that have been heavily topdressed with sand over the years. Sand-based soil has greater propensity for hydrophobic conditions, which is the main sign of LDS.

What causes localized dry spot?
The deeper cause, beyond sand-based soils, are believed to be organic acids and residue that coat the soil or sand particles. These organic compounds are not completely understood, but are the result of typical decomposition of leaf tissue, roots, fungal biomass and organic soil amendments included in the original root zone mix. These compounds tend to have a hydrophobic nature and once they have coated soil particles, lead to LDS. Combine this hydrophobicity with root growth stoppage in heat and soils that already have low moisture holding capacity, and the problem can become bad in a hurry.

How to manage localized dry spot
While there is plentiful research into the causes and potential areas that could be managed differently to delay or correct LDS, the primary management technique has been and continues to be the use of wetting agents or surfactants to allow water to re-infiltrate areas that develop hydrophobicity.

There are several different chemical groups in the wetting agent and surfactant world, but the goal of all of these products is to lower the surface tension of water so it can infiltrate the hydrophobic soil. It pays to do your homework on the types of products available in the market to determine which one will provide you with the best result. Some of the older chemistries can cause phytotoxic effects on plants, so make sure you fully understand what you’ve got before spraying it on your greens.

Be prepared
Unfortunately, there doesn’t exist today a ‘silver bullet’ to cure LDS. The best strategy is to incorporate existing knowledge into new construction and for existing problems, to know when it’s coming and be prepared with a wetting agent or surfactant strategy to minimize the damage and interruption in play. Be sure to know what your local extension has to say about LDS management in your specific area.

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Aerification and SO4

Golf Ball on Aerified Turf

Aerification contributes to healthy turf

The most scrutinized word in the professional turf industry might be aerification. If golfers arrive to the course and see a “plinko” board on the putting surfaces, they immediately assume that their experience for the day is going to be ruined. This doesn’t have to be the case. Sure, it may not look good but that doesn’t mean they won’t play good.

Consider a story I heard about Tom Watson, eight-time major champion. Tom arrived at his home course and shot a course record 58, just days after the greens had been aerified.

What golfers don’t realize but superintendents do is that aerification is a necessary practice to provide the healthiest turf possible. This is a short-term disruption that has long-term benefits. The GCSAA explains the aerification process achieves three important objectives:
1. It relieves soil compaction.
2. It provides a method to improve the soil mixture around the highest part of a green’s roots.
3. It reduces accumulation of excess thatch.

Healthy roots demand oxygen. In good soil, the roots get oxygen from tiny pockets of air trapped between soil and sand particles. During the aerification process, cores of compacted soil and excess thatch are removed, allowing for the infusion of oxygen, and water to bring a resurgence of growth. The holes are then filled with sand via topdressing. Adding the sand helps the soil retain air space and makes it easier for the roots to grow through the profile. Topdressing can also prevent an excess of thatch from becoming established.

Introduce SO4 pelletized gypsum during aerification

Aerification is the perfect opportunity to introduce SO4 pelletized gypsum in the process. Once the topdressing is complete, the next step is to broadcast SO4, then drag or broom in the sand and SO4.

Having a high quality, highly soluble form of dihydrate gypsum – such as SO4 – allows the calcium and sulfur to be plant available quickly, providing a much-needed boost to the soil and plant heath after a very stressful procedure. By adding calcium, it can help dislodge any accumulated sodium in the soil profile, which can then be leached away with irrigation or rain. Calcium is also important for soil structure, ensuring adequate pore space for oxygen, water, and root growth. Sulfur helps provide deep green color to the turf, improves density, and can increase drought tolerance and winter hardiness.

The bottom line is that aerification is necessary for healthy turf and incorporating SO4 can enhance the benefits and aid in a speedier recovery.

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Reclaiming your golf course . . . .

Calcium Sulfate Dihydrate is the most popular and most commonly used material to reclaim sodic soils and treat soils irrigated with reclaimed, sodic water. Please note that this article started with calcium sulfate dihydrate as the source, not calcium sulfate. I want to be clear, there is a huge difference; knowing what you’re applying is key to reclaiming your golf course.

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The Unsung Heroes

When I first started with Calcium Products 5 years ago I heard an extreme environmentalist talk about the “AUGUSTA EFFECT” and he was referring to how televising the Masters in color started the overuse of fertilizers in order to make golf courses and home lawns look as “perfect” as Augusta National. Take it from me, nothing is “perfect” but Augusta is close and it is not because of the overuse and irresponsible application of chemicals or pesticides. Like thousands of other GCSAA superintendents, Augusta National follows a very well thought out, well executed fertility plan. See this article written during this year’s Masters Tournament regarding some of the best practices in maintaining the course, Augusta National Golf Club: Nothing Cosmetic.

The use of the phrase the “Augusta Effect” is one, unfair because Augusta National is an easy target due to the extreme privacy of the clubs operations, and two the environmentalists that take unfair shots at Augusta National are actually taking an unfair shot at all superintendents worldwide.  Golf Course superintendents are not a bunch of un-educated, un-informed ogres that are looking to destroy the environment with the overuse of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides at the expense of the watershed. The real truth is that Golf Course superintendents are some of the world’s leading agronomists that are highly skilled, highly trained and most importantly highly educated.

I have been involved in the golf industry for nearly 15 years, gaining my PGA membership in 1999. I have been fortunate to work at one of the world’s leading golf resorts and I have had inside access to how the superintendents manage high value turf at a very high value facility and let me be the first to tell everyone, it is not their mission to turn the facility into Augusta National Golf Club and it is not their mission to destroy the environment. All they are trying to accomplish is providing an experience that is memorable for every golfer that plays at the facility. I think this is ultimately the mission of every golf course superintendent. They are truly the unsung heroes of the industry. Without great golf course superintendents, there would be no golf. No offense to the restaurant, or to the PGA Professional staff, but without a quality golf course with quality playing conditions the golf course would never survive. Don’t get me wrong, all facilities need exceptional value added services like a restaurant, or a well-stocked pro shop or professional providing lessons on the practice tees but if the turf is poor the facility is sunk.

The next time you are out playing golf and you see someone on the maintenance staff, be sure to stop them and thank them for getting the course ready and you appreciate their service!! 

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Gypsum is gypsum . . . right? Wrong.

 

Gypsum is gypsum…right? Wrong.

Gypsum is just gypsum and any will do, right? Wrong! Just like any product in the marketplace, there are high quality and low quality gypsum's and the adage of you get what you pay for is absolutely true.

Gypsum is a very misunderstood amendment; most people don’t understand the value. Before I talk about how the quality of gypsum can affect its effectiveness, let me give you a general overview of the material.

Gypsum comes in two different forms, both of which can be used in the turf industry. The first is calcium sulfate anhydrite and the second is calcium sulfate dihydrate. As you can read, both forms have both calcium and sulfur as part of the elemental make-up. The difference between the two, however, is directly tied to its effectiveness and that difference is water! The second form, calcium sulfate dehydrate, has 2 additional water molecules associated with the calcium sulfate crystal. It is these additional water molecules that make the elements of calcium and sulfur available to the plant within hours, opposed to days or weeks with the anhydrite form. For additional detailed information on the difference between the two forms, check out this video by Pace Turf.

Hopefully after watching the video you now understand that the ONLY gypsum you should use is the dihydrate form; now it is up to you to find the best form available.
By law, all gypsum bags must have a product analysis printed someplace on the bag. It will look something like this:

Guaranteed Analysis:
Ca (calcium)……………………………………………..#%
S (sulfur)…………………………………………………#%
CaSO4-2H2O (calcium sulfate dihydrate)……#%
Derived from: calcium sulfate dihydrate

The most important line in the analysis is:
CaSO4-2H2O (calcium sulfate dihydrate)……#%.

This is the line that will show you the purity or the quality of the material. The closer that percentage is to 100%, the more effective and efficient the gypsum is for your particular application. As that percentage gets further away from 100% the more material you will need to apply to maximize the nutritional value of the gypsum.

Another major factor in your selection of gypsum had to do with the fineness of the particle that makes up the gypsum in the bag. So what does fineness mean? Fineness has to do with how small the raw material is crushed to and how much can pass through a mesh screen before it is bagged or pelletized then bagged.

Side note: there are various mesh screen sizes. For example, if the screen size is 10 mesh, that means there are 10 holes for every square inch. If the screen size is 200 mesh, it means there are 200 holes for every square inch. Remember, the higher the mesh size the smaller the particle has to be to pass through.

I added the side note is because particle size is directly related to the efficiency of gypsum. The smaller the gypsum becomes the more surface area it will cover. This is important because if you can cover more surface area with less product, you are maximizing the value of the application. The fineness can be found on the bag alongside the analysis.

There are a lot of options in the marketplace for gypsum and to the less educated user, it’s all the same. Now you know why that isn't true. Turn over the bag now that you know what to look for. Check the analysis and mesh factor to make an educated decision. Trust me, your soil will thank you for it and, hopefully, you’ll thank me too!

 

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Is your turf protected for the winter?

It’s not too late to winterize your turf and protect it from the harmful effects of the winter climate. If your turf is not properly prepared for the harsh winter climates it is going to struggle to re-establish this Spring when it comes out of dormancy.

Did you know that gypsum is the perfect winterizer. If you are not applying gypsum to your lawn before the first day of winter you are really placing undo harm to the turf. Gypsum creates a great enviroment for your turf to go into dormancy. It creates soil structure that allows space for the roots, increases the water holding capacity of the soil so the turf doesn’t go thirsty and it provides an area for maximum oxygen intake for the plant. While all these are great reason to apply gypsum to your turf, the most important reason to apply gypsum before the first day of winter is because of it amazing ability to provide protection against the copius amounts of salt and winter de-icers we apply to our sidewalks, driveways and parking lots. These are the products that not only keep us safe but “burn” the turf in the spring.

If the excess sodium levels are removed from the rootzone, your turf has an excellent chance of survival in the spring. When gypsum is applied the calcium in the gypsum preps the soil for the turf to survive and the sulfur bonds to the sodium  from the salts and de-icers products and flushes the sodium out of the root zone into the sub-soil where it cannot be harmful to the plant.

Give gypsum a try, your turf will thank you for it and your neighbors will wonder why your turf appearance is better than theirs in April and May.

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Anderson’s to close their Fairmont, IL facility

On December 13th the Anderson’s announced in a letter to their customers that they “elected to cease production of pelletized products at our Fairmount, Illinois facility.”

This is a big surprise since they closed the plant in spring of 2010 for repairs and upgrades. That closure caused wide spread shortage of pelletized lime and pelletized gypsum in the spring of 2010.

Many suppliers upon hearing such news would raise their prices 20-30%. Calcium Products will be keeping its current spring pricing in place. Though we strongly encourage all our dealers to contact their sales reps to plan out their spring needs. History has shown that when this plant is not operating there is a shortage of product in the market place. We are committed to ensuring our customers that prepay, that they will have good product supply for spring.

The one thing that we have going for us is we have some advanced warning of the shortage. We plan on running all plants at full capacity to try and meet the demand but storage is limited. We are working to find additional storage at satellite warehouses and with dealers. Those that can take product early are strongly encouraged to do so.

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Great conference in March!

lawn and landscape summit chicago 2012We’re proud to be co-presenting the Lawn & Landscape Summit on March 30-31, 2012 in Chicago and hope you’ll join us.

The first day is geared toward professionals like you and day two is for homeowners and other interested folks.

We’ll be posting more about the event in the coming weeks but wanted to give you the heads up as soon as we could! Go check out the site and get your ticket!

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