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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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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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GCSAA members – the unseen heroes of many a golf course!

Golf Course superintendents’ work is often seen, but they are rarely seen or their work realized. It is not an uncommon practice for the maintenance staff at a golf facility to be up working well before the sun comes up.

As a PGA member since 1999, I certainly appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to be in the golf industry, but I know it takes even more hard work and dedication to be in charge of the grounds and maintenance. More times than not, GCSAA members and their colleagues do not get the accolades they deserve. I consider golf course superintendents the unsung heros of the golf industry.

Next time you see your golf course superintendent keep in mind, their jobs are often 24/7 shifts. It takes time, patience, flexibility, and supreme organization to manage 100 acres or more of managed turf, not to mention their staff and their families.

Yes, it is true; superintendents do mow grass, rake bunkers and pick up trash but consider this:

 

YOUR GCSAA MEMBER IS ALSO:

An ambassador for your facility

An environmental steward

A mentor to their staff

An agronomist for the facility

A communicator to the membership

Facility manager for the ground department

Human resources director for their area

OSHA director

Financial planner managing the facility’s largest portion of the budget

Material scheduler and planner

Landscape and golf course architect

A certified, licensed applicator

An artist

A mechanic

An irrigation technician

Meteorologist

Public speaker

An educator

A political activist

ALL IN A SINGLE DAY’S WORK!

The next time you head out the golf course, be sure to spend a couple of minutes getting to know the golf course superintendent and thank him for all the hard work and commitment they provide for your golfing enjoyment!

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Maintained by Craig Dick, blogronomist and VP of Sales and Marketing, we have a wide array of blog articles from Craig and some expert guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming and growing tips, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!

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