Rapid technological change is affecting all industries and the golf sector is no exception. The availability of organic products for turf management is increasing. Carrying Place Golf and Country Club operators are embracing these new products wholeheartedly. As with any new technologies, learning the best way to apply them takes some experimentation. Thus, some learning is achieved through trial and error, but follow up soil testing shows that the application of products such as kelp and humic acid is building stronger, healthier turf and supporting the growth of beneficial soil microbes.
The long term strategy at Carrying Place is to continue to put down more organic products, and to decrease the use of chemicals as turf health increases. Building healthy turf and soil takes time, but healthier turf is resistant to disease and pests. When infestations do occur, smaller amounts of chemicals are needed to regain balance. Learning how to best use natural products requires knowledge, patience, and strategic problem-solving. When chemicals are applied, this is done in a very targeted manner, only after a full assessment of specific turf conditions.
The spin off benefits of this approach are numerous. Turf managers are seeing an increase in staff engagement as creativity is required as staff embrace the challenge of experimenting with new methods. Natural materials cost less, but there is an increase in the need for manpower and volume of materials needed, so financial savings may or may not be significant. Environmentally, the development of strong healthy soil benefits golfers, turf managers, and the creatures that inhabit the course and surrounding waterways.
Carrying Place operators have expanded naturalized areas around the course. This practice not only protects water quality and creates habitat, it also helps dissuade geese from frequenting the course. Trees are maintained mindful of the creatures that rely on them for shelter and food, and Carrying Place participates in Operation Pollinator—an initiative to help golf courses transition land not used for play to support bee populations. One staff member is IPM certified, and practices such as selecting appropriate seed types to match course conditions support the effort to reduce water and chemical inputs. Water is tested regularly according to government regulations both for volume (the same level of water entering the course must leave the course), and for quality.
As you wander the course at Carrying Place, keep your eye peeled for Ospreys, rabbits, squirrels, and bees. Remember that the staff are a resource and they are always open to respond to golfer questions. Unique to this course, one of the course members (an experienced birdwatcher) created a record of all the bird species that visit the course and has paired them with an audio recording of the sounds they produce.
The idea of a pristine immaculately-groomed environment is changing in the golf industry, and there is a strong network of golf courses working together to learn and move forward with more natural practices.