Made easier by equipment

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How having the right in-house solutions helped a quartet of courses elevate playing conditions.

August 1, 2019

The Super 600 has helped Copperleaf Golf Club handle more cultivation projects using in-house labor.
© david Dore-Smith

Efficiency provided by equipment

Until 2017, David Dore-Smith still worked with a contractor to fraise mow the practice tees at Copperleaf Golf Club in Bonita Springs, down in south Florida. The course handles more than 47,000 rounds annually and the divots on the practice tees were filled in so often with sand, Dore-Smith says, that it had started to crown. “We put a gauge on it and we had a 3-inch mound,” he says, “so we would contract out every year to have a company come in and fraise mow that mound out.”

Now, though, Dore-Smith turns instead to his own maintenance building, where he houses two Wiedenmann Super 600 heavy-duty sweeper, verticutter, fraise and flail mower collection systems. “We’re saving more than $5,000 a year by being able to do that in-house,” he says. “And we do it when we want to, not at the mercy of the contractor’s availability.”

After years of using a sod cutter, Dore-Smith relies on the Super 600 to mow around collars, too. What once required two full days and five or six crew members is now “literally a one-day, two-man operation,” says Dore-Smith, who’s in his 16th year as the club’s superintendent. The end result is cleaner, too, with the collars growing back in quickly enough to repeat the process several times during a season, “so you don’t have to be as aggressive each time.”

Copperleaf shuts down for three weeks every July, more than enough time to allow the course’s 85 acres of Celebration Bermudagrass to recover and regrow prior to the late summer reopen. “It’s just one of those things,” Dore-Smith says, “if you do it routinely, even once a year, you can stay on top of it. If you leave it for several years, you have to be more aggressive.

“Similar to most everything: the more often you do it, the easier it is each time.”

Keeping new turf terrific

Back in January 2016, during his first month as its new superintendent, Wesley Curtis helped plant 1,000 trees across the 148 acres of Westwood Golf Club in Houston, most of them oaks, some of them pecans and bald cypress. The forest flurry was the first step in an incredible renovation for a club that recently teed off its 10th decade in Space City.Before he was hired, club officials told him they wanted to dive into a renovation. “It was just up to me the extent of that renovation,” Curtis says.

So, during 93 frenzied days last summer, Curtis and his crew worked with various contractors to resurface the greens — peeling off 4 to 5 inches of the surface before building them back up and planting TifEagle greens — resurface the tees with TifTuf Bermudagrass, and re-edge every bunker. And once the renovation wrapped up, maintenance bounced back in full force. Curtis is a devotee of Wiedenmann products, describing them as “very durable” and “mechanically friendly.” “The less you have to work on it,” he says, “the more you can use it, the more it’s in the field, the less downtime.”

His Terra Rake and Terra Brush are used in concert to brush fairways “to stand ’em up, to mow ’em, to get more of a true cut but also to get a more playable surface.” He breaks out his Triple V-375 “once a year, during the summer, to verticut fairways in an effort to remove the thatch that built up over the rest of the year.” And his Super 500 turf sweeper and Mega Twister work hand in hand to clean up the course — a process that used to take a week and now takes a pair of crew members less than two days. And that’s great, because 1,000 new trees sprout a lot of leaves.

Simplifying the seeding process

To hear Keith Blayney tell it, plenty of superintendents “down south pay a lot of money to overseed in the winter.” Of course, Blayney is an Alberta native and has worked as the superintendent at Edmonton Petroleum Golf and Country Club for the last 19 years, so most course superintendents, technically speaking, work “down south.”

Because of geography — and the weather that comes with it — Blayney paid considerably less money by turning to Mother Nature when he transition seeded from bluegrass to bentgrass in 2018.

The Terra Float Air aided a conversion from bluegrass to bentgrass at Edmonton Petroleum Golf and Country Club.
© keith blayney

A particularly brutal freeze-thaw cycle the previous winter had throttled the club’s fairways, leaving all but a handful either in poor condition or outright dead. “We were planning on doing a bunch of work anyway down the road, so there was no sense in spending all the money on the sod,” Blayney says, “so we thought we’d seed.”

Blayney turned to a new Wiedenmann Terra Float Air, then opted to switch to bentgrass — “the quickest germinating seed other than ryegrass,” he says — to capitalize on the winter damage. Blayney worked with his crew to overseed entire fairway areas, seeding in two directions every few weeks throughout the summer. “We did it in two directions on everything, and then as some germinated we would go in a single direction, and then we carried on,” he says. “If we had a rain event, it would kill off the bentgrass, so you would have to go again, doubleseed it again, and keep after it pretty much the whole summer.”

Oh, and about those Edmonton summers: “We have long daylight hours in June,” Blayney says, “18 hours of daylight, so that’s the grass-growing time.”

Seems like a perfect contrast to those long, cold, freezing, thawing, brutal winters — and good for new grass.

A cleanup fleet

When Jon Urbanski moved almost literally next door to Wilmington Country Club in Delaware after 14 years at neighboring Bidermann Golf Club, the most drastic change, at least from course to course, was the sheer number of trees. Bidermann counts maybe 100 across its property. Wilmington, on the other hand, has more than 2,500, according to the club’s senior horticulturist Peter Coates.

The trees are such a unique part of the landscape, Urbanski says, that more than 160 more trees are being raised in a nursery in a corner of the 385-acre property.

All those trees produce plenty of work later in the year, of course, when fall leaf cleanup fills the schedule. That’s one of four distinct areas — along with fine fescue rough management, storm cleanup and aerification cleanup — that Urbanski earmarks for his six Wiedenmann Super 600 heavy-duty sweeper, verticutter and flail mower collection systems. The fleet allows Urbanski and his team “to get out in front of play on a regular basis and expedite the cleanup of the course,” he says. “I don’t think six is a luxury. I do think the property calls to have at least that many units here.

“If we didn’t have them, it would be a constant ballet of blowing leaves and mulching them up.”

Instead of a careful choreography to clear so many acres of detritus, Urbanski is now planning to turn those collected leaves into homemade organic soil and mulch, incorporating the leaf litter into the existing organic dump area. “We spend a lot of money on mulch here,” Urbanski says. “If we can create our own mulch here and just cut that amount in half, we can reallocate those resources.”