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Guest Blog: Environmental Impact Report

Have you ever wondered how golf courses are kept so pristine? 

If you're like me, than you might have offered bribes to golf course superintendents to come work on your own lawn. 

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As you can probably imagine, a lot goes into course maintenance. But not so much you need worry.

Today's Guest Blogger is our Superintendent, Thad Thompson, who details what it takes to maintain a 27-hole golf course, while being responsible and aware of resources. Especially in times like these, when we are experiencing a drought, it's more important than ever to be cognizant of our environmental impact.

 

At Terry Hills we have tried our best to become conscious of the impacts that maintaining a 27-hole golf course has on our environment.  We monitor everything from water use to sunlight levels, wind direction and speed as well as the use of pesticides. 

  Because Terry Hills is located in New York State we have been required by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to report our water use since 2012.  In an attempt to be proactive, we have been reporting our water use since 2009.  As required by the DEC, Terry Hills has applied for a water use permit.  Gathering all the information for this application required many hours of research and data as well as the hiring of a Professional Engineer to compile and submit all the required paperwork.

  Water is a resource that we are lucky to have in abundance in NYS but it is not an excuse to waste it.  We are employing the use of not only visual scouting to assess our turf quality, but also a moisture meter to have hard data to back up our irrigation strategy.  At Terry Hills we have a single row irrigation system, meaning that there is a single row of irrigation heads right down the middle of each fairway.irrigation
  When the US Open was at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014 the entire golf course was renovated and the USGA demanded that they go back to a single row irrigation system for water conservation.  I was lucky to be able to attend the Open and see this experiment in person.

 We use an Integrated Pest Management approach to monitor the things that impact our turf quality and management strategy.  This approach includes scouting on a daily basis for disease, invasive turf insects as well as any water issues that may be impacting our turf quality.
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We deal with a variety of turf diseases including anthracnose, dollar spot, brown patch, brown ring patch and leaf spot on a daily basis.  It’s my job to know the environmental timing for a multitude of these diseases. The primary insects we are looking for are Annual Bluegrass Weevil, Black Turfgrass Ataenius and Japanese beetle, as well as cutworms, white grubs and ants. We use pesticides based on scouting and environmental timing only, not on a regular basis. These specialty chemicals cost a lot of money and I, as Certified Pesticide Applicator in Class 3A, am responsible to NYSDEC to report any and all pesticide usage.  The bottom line is we only want to use them when we have no other options.

  Our fairways get 2 fertilizer applications in the calendar year, once in the spring and once in the fall. 

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I use a 43-0-0 polymer coated urea that releases through osmosis.  The release is controlled by temperature, not by water like a sulfur coated product.  I find this to be a much safer product with a release time of about 14 weeks.  New York State outlawed the use of phosphorous a few years ago and based on the soil tests that we have had sent to a lab, we don’t even require potassium because our soil is rich with it.  That is why we only use the 43-0-0 analysis meaning 43% nitrogen.  In my 9 seasons at Terry Hills we haven’t made a single fungicide or insecticide application, property wide to the 30 acres of fairways.  We have spot treated once in the 9th fairway for grubs because the skunks were tearing it up.  We have made herbicide applications every 3 years for control of white clover and dandelions.

  We spray greens every week with a liquid fertilizer using the Harrels program.  Prior to this, we used to fertilize every 2 weeks but have cut the amount in half and now go out every week.  The advantage of fertilizing every week is that we are now giving the greens the nutrition they need for 7 days.  This makes them much more consistent on a weekly basis.  We found that by going out on a 2 week fertilizer schedule, the greens were using everything up in about 12 days leaving them deficient nutritionally and susceptible to disease pressure.  I was looking for a better health management strategy than a strategy where we were relying on pesticides.  Tees get sprayed once a month with a liquid fertilizer.  We include a long lasting fungicide if we have scouted a need for it or if environmental pressures for disease are extremely high.

  We have implemented a tree removal program the last several years at Terry Hills. 

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We have been proactive in our approach to maintaining optimal sunlight levels and air movement throughout our 27 holes.  We are concerned about our playing surfaces and although trees are beautiful, they can become a hindrance. Overcrowding of trees can affect the quality of the turfgrass, the competition for water and nutrients, and obstruct sunlight. Air flow is vitally important throughout the entire golf course, not only to keep golfers cool but to cool down the turf as well.  The exposed root systems can become a hazard for our golfers as well a costly mechanical concern to our rough mowers.  

T
he impeccable course conditions at Terry Hills are truly the product of a very knowledgable and hardworking grounds crew, but always remember:

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