Hole #3 at the River Course at Grand Harbor Golf Club in Florida. Photo courtesy of Debbie Clayton.

Hole #3 at the River Course at Grand Harbor Golf Club in Florida. Photo courtesy of Debbie Clayton.

After moving from Pennsylvania to Florida, David Levin found more to love than just the weather. The golf course superintendent at Grand Harbor Golf Club, in Vero Beach, Levin manages three all-bermudagrass courses — the 18-hole Harbor Course, the 18-hole River Course and the nine-hole Oak Harbor Course.

“I like growing bermudagrass a lot better than growing bentgrass,” says the Lancaster County native who worked at a Philadelphia-area golf course for a year and had a stint at Golden Bear Golf Club in Hilton Head before heading further South. “If you have a problem with bermudagrass, you can just fix it, whereas problems with bentgrass generally mean resodding,”

But the nice Florida weather means that Levin stays busy all year long. Winter months are busy with golfers and during ‘slow’ summer months, he accomplishes all cultural practices on all three courses. The River and Harbor courses have Tifeagle greens, while Oak Harbor has Tifdwarf greens.

“Each year, we aerify greens four times, fairways three times and do a great deal of verticutting,” he notes. “But no one ever sees an aerification hole because we close each course during cultural practices. That’s the advantage of a multi-course operation.”

Constant Salinity Issues

Because of their proximity to the ocean, Grand Harbor courses face relentless salinity issues. The entire back nine of the River Course sits on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, meaning saltwater intrusion is constant. “We do a lot of sodium flushes on those holes, trying to keep salt off the root zone,” Levin adds.

Tissue sampling is one way Levin and his boss, Grand Harbor Director of Agronomy Dennis Croumie, fight sodium levels and monitor plant health. They take tissue samples from the River and Harbor course turf once a week and send them off to a scientist at a turf lab for analysis and fertility management recommendations.

“Out of the 150 golf courses our tissue specialist analyzes, he was seeing best results in Naples, Florida,” explains Levin. “He mentioned it was a 36-hole property and one course had much better tissue tests than the other. That course was using advanced amino acid fertilizer products from Macro-Sorb Technologies.”

 

Tissue Testing Measures Results

Hole #3 at the River Course at Grand Harbor Golf Club in Florida. Photo courtesy of Debbie Clayton.

Hole #3 at the River Course at Grand Harbor Golf Club in Florida. Photo courtesy of Debbie Clayton.

Based on his progress with the initial applications, Levin started including Macro-Sorb Foliar and Radicular products in his weekly applications for enhanced absorption of nutrients and increased root mass production. “We tank mix them with our weekly fertilizer and pesticide applications,” he adds. “Our tissue testing showed that they really increased the efficiency of the control products we use, as well.”

Something else Levin noticed after applying the Macro-Sorb products regularly was the deepness of the River course roots. “They were three times the density of the Harbor course,” he adds. “Soon we started using the products on the Harbor course greens too.”

When tissue testing tells Levin that sodium levels start increasing on River course greens, he applies Bye-Carb from SMS Additive Solutions in conjunction with the granular gypsum he regularly applies. “Bye-Carb helps reduce salinity content in soils, as well as lower pH and dissolve calcium,” he says.

Regardless of sodium levels, Levin also uses Macro-Relief every two weeks. The product  increases stress tolerance of turfgrass caused by high salinity levels in the soil.  “It gets the sodium out of the plant tissue and keeps turf healthier,” he notes.

Levin plans to continue tissue testing on both 18-hole golf courses indefinitely. “Many courses don’t do this regularly, but it’s becoming more and more common,” he adds. “It’s good to have a measurement of your progress. When you see it on paper, you know it’s working!”