Most golf course superintendents would consider Matt Gourlay, CGCS, a lucky guy. Since his Colbert Hills Golf Course serves as a “living lab” for nearby Kansas State University’s Turfgrass Management program, he sees first hand which products work well … and which ones don’t.
Part of the overall 27-hole golf complex, the experimental nine-hole Par 3 course features eight different varieties of bentgrass on greens, including Penncross, Crenshaw, L-93, G-2, A-4 and SR1020, as well as eight varieties of tall fescue, bluegrass, zoysiagrass and bentgrass on tees.
“K-State has one of the best turfgrass management programs in the country, and uses our course as a testing ground for university research projects,” adds Gourlay, who has been superintendent for eight years. “We provide mowing, water and other labor. Their professors and students do all the research. We had five plots this year, including herbicides, turf colorants, fungicides and naturalized native areas.”
When Colbert Hills opened in May 2000, Gourlay was there as a 14-year-old cart boy. He progressed to the maintenance team a year later and has remained at the course in some capacity ever since. “I fell in love with golf courses,” says Gourlay, who holds a bachelor’s degree in golf course management from K-State. “My dad and grandfather were both superintendents and my mother owned a soil testing company. It’s in my blood.”
Designed by golf course architect Jeff Brauer and professional golfer Jim Colbert, Colbert Hills is owned by Kansas State Golf Course Management Research Foundation, a philanthropic organization for the university. “We are the number one daily fee course in Kansas,” notes Gourlay. “Anybody can come out and play for a nominal fee, but we offer memberships and founderships, as well.”
Challenges with Nutsedge and Silvery Thread Moss
One of Gourlay’s biggest agronomic challenges is weed control. Built on a former cow pasture, the course has its share of broadleaf weeds. Nutsedge has been particularly persistent. Since spraying wall-to-wall is not an option, Gourlay searched for spot-spray solutions. When his distributor rep recommended Dismiss herbicide for nutsedge several years ago, he decided to give it a try.
“Dismiss works extremely well and is a very fast-acting product,” he says. “You can immediately tell the difference between areas you sprayed and those you didn’t spray. After using it as a spot spray on fairways, tees and roughs for several years, we can see a cumulative effect. Nutsedge — and other sedges — are definitely less severe than last year.”
Another issue Gourlay encounters is silvery thread moss on greens. During online research to find a control solution, Gourlay discovered QuickSilver herbicide from FMC. He started using the product on greens six years ago and finds it exceptionally effective in controlling silvery thread moss.
“We use QuickSilver sporadically in spring and fall months as needed, working the applications around our aerification schedule,” Gourlay explains. “Moss isn’t a terrible problem for us — it’s more of a cosmetic look. But we always want the perfect conditions and with QuickSilver, we can achieve them.”
An avid blogger, Gourlay communicates with his members and fellow superintendents through regular postings. “I’m always doing research, either online or at trade shows and meetings, trying to figure out better ways to maintain the golf course,” he adds. “It’s my passion!”
With the research program ongoing at Colbert Hills — and turf research luminaries such as Drs. Jack Fry, Steve Keeley, Jared Hoyle and Dale Bremer right there at his fingertips — Gourlay has a major leg-up in his goal to achieve ideal conditions.
By Debbie Clayton, Public Relations for FMC