I Don’t Think Our Greens and Surrounds Have Ever Looked This Good
Director of Agronomy at Winstar Golf Club
"We are part of one of the world's largest Casinos, a 36 hole facility, with mini verde greens on 18 holes and Tifeagle on the other 18. I have been here 18 and a half years and the water quality has gotten worse over the years. We have seen the buildup of the bicarbonates, a high pH and as we have talked about with HCT, I’m learning to not consider that of much importance. 9.2 is our pH, high salts and high bicarbonates. It became very difficult to grow grass here at the facility.
When you’ve always had confidence that you were a pretty good grass grower and then you start second guessing yourself, because everything you've been taught to ever do; whether it be through education, experience, or whatever, and it wasn't working. So that’s what has become of us looking into HCT’s WaterSOLV™ Program. Because we tried it all, and had not had the success that we wanted. We would get a little bit, but it pretty much had become a stalemate.
I started here in March of 2005 and have been here ever since. One of my sales reps came out and we started looking at some issues. He didn't understand the severity until he physically came out and started pulling soil samples with us. What really grabbed his attention is when we have a sharp shooter right next to a drain basin, whether it be in a surround or in a fairway, and we could not get it to penetrate the ground at all. I’m about a 260 lb guy and I put everything I’ve got on it and it's not going in the ground at all and it's standing right there where we are trying to dig.
So we talked about what we had done in the past as far as some of the acids we have injected throughout the years and he said he knew of a golf course that had similar water as to what we were battling and that they had been using these WaterSOLV™ products. He said he didn't know a lot about them, but he said he had seen the results. 'This golf course has been on their products for at least around 5 years and it’s made a world of difference'. He said we should try it just based on what he’s seeing because it's so similar to what he’d seen on this other property.
It has been very difficult to grow grass. In fact, that course had been on temporary greens. We hadn’t gotten to that point here. We have always kept our greens pretty good. But he said he thought it was worth trying. Interesting thing about it is I’ve worked with Mr. Oppold (Bob) at ISTRC since 2005, since the onset of Winstar Golf Club. I gave Bob a call because he’s been around a long time. He knows a lot of people and knows what's going on with physical properties. He understands all that stuff.
When I called Bob he said that we were a good candidate and should try it. He talked about other courses that had used it and the progress they had seen. I thought; we’re at the tail end.
We have tried everything that I know of, every other acid product that's been recommended to us, and to no avail. Now I won’t say that they didn't work. At the start of when we would use them, we would see some results. But then over time it would peter out, we would get stagnant and basically it became very difficult to grow grass.
It really grabs your attention when you send one of your employees out on an aerifier, whether it be a solid tine or hollow core, to punch your fairway tops, and if it’s not raining it’s basically going across it like a tractor because your soil is so hard.
We took baby steps. What we tried first was the WaterSOLV™ pHix product. We applied it just on the greens top surfaces and we did the surrounds as well. I believe we have used the pHix for about 5 months. We took a core sample again after 5 months to re-review, and I get a call from the lab and he’s very excited, ecstatic.
He said 'Charles, I don't know what you have done different but you need to continue doing it. I’m seeing some really good things through your profile that we haven't seen since you built these greens in 2005’. So that was eye opening to me to hear that because I know we were seeing some of the healthiest turf on topside that we had seen in years.
What also grabbed my attention was my superintendent was on either 18 and pulled a core sample to look at. The root structure was crazy. Even though it's mini verde on one 18 and a TifEagle on another 18, the root structures were almost identical. I let them play and make their own choices on stuff like fertility as long as we stay within the guidelines, and l keep an eye on it. They are using two different vendors, and I’m comfortable with that based on the results I’m seeing. It’s two different programs, but the same results coming in the root structure. I know it was because we are actually getting oxygen and infiltration, the important things to grow root structure.
So, once we saw that I talked to the powers that be and decided to purchase the FS-1 Injection equipment for all of our pump stations. And after that, based on what we were seeing in the field and seeing in the physical reports, we went ahead and went full blown into the WaterSOLV™ BC and the WaterSOLV™ Curative injectables. We are now fully injecting those throughout the entire property.
We started injecting around the first of June this year (2023). And what's pretty incredible about it is we were getting some really good rain events which was great for us but the difference I saw was with injecting the product. We would sneak in some applications of pHix on the fairways as well but in the past when we would get like a two-inch rainfall the next day, we would at least be cart path only. When a good hard rain would come we would have water everywhere.
Now our drain basins are not backed up like that. You don't hear the squish. We are open at least a day ahead of when we used to be if not two. And in some cases, we have actually been able to get the carts off the cart paths in the afternoon after a night rain event, so that was very eye opening for me.
I’ve had my employees go out and aerify and we are getting good quality cores like we were never able to penetrate the soil before, especially this time of year. That’s what was kind of amazing about it.
One of my most critical employees that I have on staff was out mowing fairways. Well in years past when we would mow fairways we would have to move the cart directional signs. Our fairway unit operator always had to take a hammer or mallet or something because you had to use force to knock those tines back into the ground.
He came into my office and said, ‘I don't know what that stuff is that you’re injecting into the irrigation system but don't ever get off of it. I was out there mowing the fairways and I forgot my hammer and thought, oh my gosh am I going to be able to get these signs in the ground? And I kid you not, I was able to not only get the signs into the ground but I was able to get it all the way into the ground.’ He’s been with me since 2007. And he said, ‘Out of everything you guys have tried, I’ve never seen anything work like what you’re doing now.’
And we have had record heat in the area like a lot of people. We are approaching 25-30 days over 100 degrees F with no rain. And our fairways and tees would never look like this except for middle spring when we are getting all the rains like we normally do in the springtime.
I don’t think our greens and our surrounds have ever looked this good except when I grew in the first 18 holes. Matter of fact I sent a picture to my vendor that recommended me to get on these products and my choice of words were; look how sexy these surrounds and greens are! It’s been eye opening.
In years past the drift of our irrigation from the wind would kill a lot of our trees. You’d get the brown and yellowing look and it's the kiss of death! You know they’re going down and there’s nothing we can do. We have tried everything like digging the root balls out 2 to 3 times bigger, adding pea gravel and sand, just everything we could think of to try to help our trees in the past.
Well, I had 8 pine trees in particular that I noticed were getting that brown look as we started getting into early summer. And I’m thinking gosh that's 8 pine trees that I’m going to have to pull out. Well, a week or two would pass and I would go by them and I think I’m seeing green coming out of those needles again! And today, I kid you not, this is two and half months after our initial review of these trees, you cannot tell that those trees had any kind of damage to them at all.
They are as green as anything out here on this property. I’ve got two of them that are about 25 feet tall. Others are around 12 foot. It’s been eye opening.
We had some pretty significant winter kill from this past winter and our water quality magnified that. So, what we are seeing with this repair mode that we’re in, is root structure like I have never seen, ever. We are hilling in faster. We had a green that we had to patch sod, about 4000 sq ft worth, and I was amazed at how quick this green hilled in.
Within about a week and a half you couldn’t hardly tell that there were any sod seams. And we were rooted down in about 2 and half weeks. I was also able to run an aerifier across to soften it up and lay the sod down more evenly. It’s been planted now a month and I have run the aerifier across it a couple times. In years past I wouldn't get those kinds of results.
Once we top dress it you can't tell it was ever damaged or repaired. And I do attribute that, based on what I am seeing, to it being healthy and being able to utilize the nutrients that are there.
And as we had talked about in the past, Todd (HCT’s Principal and Product Developer) explained that once some of these locked up nutrients become available, the property is going to be really green.
We have put on very minimal nitrogen and any vendor or visitor that I have had come out can’t get over how green we are. And some of our club pro shop guys have said they look at the course every day and it looks like it just gets greener and greener and greener.
And that’s despite over thirty days of extreme temperatures. We’ve got excessive heat warnings for so many days in a row now. But it’s crazy the color we have. And I know I'm going to do it this fall; I’m going to lay off my normal fall fertility as far as any kind of nitrogen stuff because we’ve got great color and the only thing I’ll put down is a little bit here and there just for healing of the sod replacement.
It has definitely made me rethink and relook at my fertility program for sure because not only can we see it’s in the soil, locked up, we can see it in on the course and it's just gorgeous.
Our surrounds have made a 360-degree turnaround. In order to keep them even halfway hydrated in the past we had to flood them. And for a golfer that's not fun. You come up to the green and splat! So soft, so wet, but that was our efforts trying not to lose any turf. Now we’ve got real vibrant turf around the surround. It’s fun for a golf ball to hit up there. It’s easy to chip off of. There’s not squishing; there's no water standing. So, I’m just amazed at what we are seeing in those areas. Some of those surround areas on the hills have been very tough to grow grass in the past and looking at several now we’ve got vibrant grass.
I’ve never seen our greens look this good. And it’s from top to bottom, left to right whatever you want to call it. It's just all the way across the board.
Like anybody we have had issues in the past on some of the edges. There were just difficult areas to fill in all the way. So, we have been injecting a little bit of extra pHix in some of those areas and they are non-existent now. We are consistent all the way across the board.
I was a big organic compost guy in the past and we are going to cut that out just based on what we are seeing. That alone will be a $40-50,000 savings. Because our property is so huge (we basically maintain about 215 acres of turf) we are also going to be able to cut out another one of our fertility applications in the springtime, and that’s going to be roughly another $25-30,000 savings right there.
It's one of those things where I've been in this business for 35 years. And we are creatures of habit. It has taken me a little bit of time to sit back and rethink my whole thought process of what I've been taught. Whether it be from going to school or coming up through the ranks, from my mentors or whatever but you can't argue with what's out in the field. So, I've got to let turf tell me what to do, not basically what I used to do.
I think we will be able to alleviate a substantial percentage of our typical aerification top dressing because we are already seeing that by getting the cart directional signs in the ground and the aerification being easier.
Now that we know we are actually getting infiltration into the profile over time we are going to cut down on our operational costs by not having to go out and go through the typical process.
So far, knock on wood, we haven't had any issues with the chemigation system. Once we got it installed, we did get a pump company to come in and help us but one of my superintendents joined in with them and tackled it and he was able to pretty much do a lot of it himself and I think you can handle it yourself but we have such a big property I didn't want him getting consumed with putting all of his time into getting it in there. So, we had a pump company come out to help get it in but it was pretty simple."
Director of Agronomy at Winstar Golf Club
While water and vegetation issues are universal their causes are complex and specific. That's why we created our own soil and water testing matrix to create custom prescriptions for our customers that are aimed at solving the source of problems, and reducing the need not only for wetting agents, sulfuric acid, gypsum and manual aerification, but reducing the need for our chemistry as well. Most of our long term users are on maintenance programs using just 3-6 ppm of a custom percentage of each product injected directly into their irrigation system.
HCT's purpose and privilege is providing sustainable and cost effective solutions to the chronic problems that plague soil health in the world of water and agronomy. We consistently reduce water demand 15% and increase crop yields 18% and more. When you treat water ‘well’ with WaterSOLV™ you increase efficiency, decrease costs, increase yield, improve pore space and add oxygen chemically. We can show you how to restore soil infiltration and soil operability just by treating your water and for substantially less than you're spending now.