Less Is More at Golf Courses

To make greens roll well and keep fairways playable, golf course superintendents have used chemicals more sparingly and strategically than 20, 30, 50 years ago.

In addition to creating buffer zones near waterways, golf course superintendents today spend a lot more time doing soil testing – and even grass-tissue testing – to make sure they put down fertilizers and treatments mainly where needed, said Jake Schneider, manager of Wisconsin Golf Course Superintendents Association (WGCSA).

“People are a lot more scientific about it,” he said. 

He said soil samples often reveal that certain fairways don’t need more potassium or fertilizer, or that many portions of the course need different amounts of nutrients.

In addition, WGCSA provides superintendents with best-management practices, and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to fine-tune standards for best golf-course practices.

He said course superintendents today use slow-release fertilizers more than they used to, and they also fertilize frequently in small doses that the plants can take up. They refer to that practice as “spoon feeding.”

“We’re not looking to produce the most corn, we’re looking to produce healthy grass that people will want to play on,” Schneider said.

More courses are using sprayers that run off of global-positioning systems to provide specific amounts of product to specific locations as mapped through planning. Also, many greens sprayers detect the edge of the green and shut down nozzles when they are not above the green.