Cutting back

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A South Florida club ringed in ornamentals discovered a new PGR solution that both saves time and improves aesthetics.

May 16, 2022

© COURTESY OF High Ridge Country CLUB

After almost three full decades at High Ridge Country Club, Mike Shafer knows every step of the ornamentals drill. Spray. Trim. Spray. Trim. Spray. Trim. Maybe spray again. Definitely trim some more. Carve out whole days — plural — to deal with beautiful, flowering plants around every turn.

“There are no houses on the property and there are probably three times more ornamentals here than on most golf courses,” says Shafer, the superintendent at the Boynton Beach, Florida 18-holer. “I have a lot of firebush, jasmine, Panama rose, things like that that we’re just all the time trimming. I go in and I cut everything back pretty hard in July, right at the beginning of summer, then as they start coming back I trim them where I want them, usually around July or August, then I’ll spray them again.”

Two summers ago, though, Shafer introduced SePRO Cutless Quickstop to his ornamental maintenance schedule and … there was far less ornamental maintenance to schedule. He started spraying just Panama rose and Ligustrum, then expanded last year to jasmine and firebush. “And when I say I’m spraying these things, I have big areas of them,” Shafer says. “It’s not just two or three plants here and there. It’s all hedges around my 18th tee box.

“The firebush, I had to go back once or twice, I had a couple little spots where either we missed or it just outgrew it or it’s a different variety, just a little three-, four-inch piece of the plant outgrowing everything else. We nipped it up in five minutes and it looks like we just trimmed the whole thing. I sprayed the Panama rose two years in a row, six ounces both times, and that gets me through almost nine, 10 months until I really go back and cut them back hard. I haven’t been back to them since.”

Where Shafer and his assistant superintendent, Paul Lowe, used to block out about 12 hours every month to spray all the ornamentals around the 100-plus-acre property — the 15th and 18th tees alone used to take two full days to spray and trim — they now schedule that same number about every seven to eight months.

“It gives us time,” Shafer says. “I have guys all day long filling in divots in fairways, touching up pine straw, touching up mulch, trimming some of the other stuff farther back that we don’t have time to get to all the time. If you have guys doing those things, you don’t have time for that.”

Count Lowe among the product’s fans, too. Now in his 13th year in the industry — and just starting his second at High Ridge after a run at PGA National Members Club that focused more on tournament agronomy — Lowe dived into ornamental PGRs last season.

“There’s vegetation everywhere and it’s a trimming and maintenance nightmare as far as keeping up with it,” Lowe says. “The more we can experiment with it and use it on different species, it’s going to be very beneficial to us.”

Lowe also noted that in addition to helping the plant keep its shape, Cutless Quickstop “definitely promotes leaf growth and flowering. When we had initially done the firebush, they were cut back pretty hard and it really flushed them out — pretty quickly, too. From an aesthetic standpoint, it helps out quite a bit.” He opts for a fan nozzle attached to a standard 15-gallon tank for applications and “didn’t notice any issues where we had heavier or lighter rates.”

After the success of the 2021 season, when the aforementioned firebush, jasmine and Panama rose were all controlled, Shafer and Lowe have approached the 2022 season with an open mind. The course never closes but play slows down significantly from Memorial Day until about the first week of October. While most golfers are elsewhere, “We’re going to try it on the bougainvillea, because I’ve heard of good results, we’ll do the Ligustrum, some Ruellia, there are some ferns out there I want to try,” Shafer says. “We’re not scared to try, and we can do it in the summer, when there’s no harm done because there’s no one here.

“I’m just still trying to see what else I can do with it. You name it, I got it, and everything I’ve used it on so far, I’m very happy with it. For the price of the product, it saves me tenfold on how much we spend trimming.” ?