Curator of a Classic

Curator of a Classic

Superintendent Scott Ramsay applies POLYON controlled-release fertilizer and a 4-R’s philosophy to maintain The Course at Yale's ambiance and appeal.

May 14, 2018

Scott Ramsay considers himself the curator of a museum. And in a sense he is, but his museum is the golf course at Yale University, where Ramsay has been the superintendent for 15 years.

“I sometimes call myself a curator of one of the best college golf architectural museums anywhere,” he says.

The Course at Yale dates back to 1926. Three of the most renowned figures in the history of golf course architecture had a hand in its creation. Charles Blair Macdonald and Seth Raynor collaborated on the project with assistance from Charles “Steam Shovel” Banks, a Yale graduate.

The course hosts some 25,000 rounds each year during a season that begins the day after Yale’s spring break concludes, whatever the weather, and continues through the first or second week in December.

The playing surfaces feature a mix of Poa and bentgrass.

As his fertilizer, Ramsay utilizes POLYON controlled-release fertilizer, a granular product from Koch Turf & Ornamental. He considers POLYON fertilizer the epitome of the “4Rs” philosophy -- The Right Fertilizer applied at the Right Time in the Right Place at the Right Rate.

Ramsay first used POLYON fertilizer some years ago when he was employed at Cliffside Country Club near Hartford, Conn. “It seemed to fit the bill,” he says. “I wanted to get a summer-long fertilizer out and I gave it a try and was very happy with the results. I’ve been a fan of it since then.”

Ramsay makes a single application in mid-May each year. “For me, it’s the right product, and obviously, it’s in the right place. But I like the release qualities of it, at the right time, in the summertime.

“I like to push my mixed bentgrass population in the summertime,” he says. “And it gives me the right rate at the right time without promoting diseases. I try to keep (the bentgrass) as lean as possible and I try to match my fertilization to the growth rate of the plant. The Poa typically doesn’t do well in the summer and I like to push the bentgrass through it. I’ve had pretty good success over my 30 years with that.”

Ramsay combines the fertilizer with pre-blended quantities of Acelepryn for grub control and Dimension for crabgrass issues. “In one application I get my crabgrass control for the year, my fertilizer, and my grub control,” he says.

Ramsey has found POLYON fertilizer to be particularly effective against dollar spot, which at times has been his nemesis. “I did get away from granular fertilization for a while and just went with spoon feeding,” he says. “Spoon feeding is still the main part of my program, but I found if I completely get away from the granulars, that the dollar spot was overwhelming. I found that I was spending more on fungicides than fertilizer. So as soon as I stepped up the fertilizer again I’m down to two or three fungicides applications on fairways and tees and that’s simply because we stepped up the fertility.”

The Course at Yale is a huge property, spanning some 450 acres, approximately 100 of which are maintained, including the greens, which are two to three times larger than average. The link-style design is purposely rough around the edges and the site is teaming with wildlife.

“Our goal is to have a presentation that would let you film a movie set in 1934,” Ramsay says, and you would think you were back in time.

There’s not a single building or structure on the golf course.

Because of the sheer expanse of the property and the fact that his staff is smaller than those at many comparable courses, Ramsay strives daily to get the most out of his budget. POLYON fertilizer allows him to do that even though it is a premium product.

“It’s worth spending some extra money if it’s a premium product,” he says. “But there are efficiencies with the environment because your nitrogen source is captured. There are efficiencies as far as managing my staff because I can just put it out once and it’s good for the period I need it.

“My program involves trying to keep things thriving through the summertime and pushing the grass through the summertime and when we do get dinged up a little bit there is enough fertility there for recovery.”

Ramsay is particularly enthused by the fact that POLYON fertilizer is environmentally friendly. “That’s why I like this technology,” he says. “It doesn’t volatilize, it releases at the (appropriate) time. Koch provides data and science to show that you’re protecting the environment.”

The same can be said of Acelepryn, Ramsey’s insecticide of choice. “It is one of the more expensive products going,” Ramsay says. “But it is the safest insecticide that has ever been designed. We make a lot of decisions based on the environment and our thresholds for aesthetic diseases."

Ramsey notes that he, his staff, and the university, are committed to protecting the environment.

“I am at a place where they give me a lot of leeway on our thresholds for disease or drought, or water management,” he says.

“Everything we do is based on safety for the staff, promoting the golf course, but also protecting the environment.”

About the author
Ron Woelfel is a Philadelphia-based turf writer and frequent GCI contributor.