Greener Faster Longer
We sat down with Matt Shaffer, Director of Golf Couse Operations at the historic Merion Golf Club, to talk about golf, plant health, Anuvia™ and GreenTRX™. Here’s what we talked about:
Anuvia: Hello Matt. Let’s start with the course. Please tell us about how you approach keeping your course in mint green condition.
Matt Shaffer: Well, I’m a little different. I mean I’m not about perfection I’m about nature. So nature in itself isn’t perfect. It’s edgy, it’s rugged…it’s a rugged elegance in its own way. But I’m looking for plant health.
I’m not necessarily interested in what’s good, I’m only really concerned about what’s bad. I’m not a pessimist but…obviously, you try to get in front of your problems, that’s what every superintendent does. They try to optimize playing conditions by minimizing their input. They also are trying desperately to keep a plant alive that’s being cut at ridiculous heights. So it’s a challenging profession, no doubt about it.
A: So, Matt, what factors are most important to you to maintain your course?
MS: You know we look at it – at championship golf level where we live, which is at the five percent bubble – we’re looking for playability first and then plant health second. Which is inherently different than most any other industry. I mean you’re looking for plant health first and then it’ll optimize your yields. But here, that’s not the scenario. We look for playability first and plant health second.
Now some people don’t say that, but that’s the way I see it. So consequently you’re abusive to your plants, but have to have the ability to recover. That’s why nutrition is so critical.
We essentially grow grass in an inner environment. We have a high sand content in our soil so that it drains. Everything’s about drainage on a golf course so that you can get the clients out to play more golf. A dry course obviously plays better than a wet golf course.
So when you keep incorporating more and more sand into the profile, or if you have a brand new golf course and it’s all sand based, then one of the biggest challenges is nutrient retention because the water moves through the profile really fast so consequently it carries all your nutrient with it. So that’s a monumental challenge for a lot of superintendents. And, that’s the beauty of Anuvia!
A: Talk about that, please.
MS: When John Fowler came to me and said ‘I have a new fertilizer’ I’m thinking ‘Yea, NPK is about as old as Greek mythology so let’s hear it.’ And he brought this [GreenTRX] to us and I asked, ‘So what fertilizer class is it in?’ and he says, ‘Well it’s got its own class.’
It’s really a unique product in that 60 percent of it is just based on hydrolysis…there’s only ever been one other fertilizer that’s like that and it’s long gone. And then forty percent is natural organic, which really helps in sand-based soils that have a tendency to flush their nutrients. So it’s a unique product in that regard. And the proof is in the pudding.
I have a great facility here and we have a wonderful team of guys, a lot of turf graduates. I’m an experimenter and I’m an early adopter, so they’re used to me trying new things all the time. So with that, though, they take everything with a grain of salt. So when we started using Anuvia they were more than just a little skeptical. Then all of sudden they started to see the results.
With a good fertility program, particularly if you run lean like we do, you can see instantaneously the results. And then when you run it side by side with other fertility products and it has a deeper darker color because of the iron and the nitrogen relationship, and the longevity of the product, well they became believers, and they started to get really curious about it. And right away they realized this is something pretty out of the ordinary. And it is.
A: So, what do you like about GreenTRX?
MS: Well there’s two ways to lose fertilizer, and this is from a golf course superintendent’s perspective, but it either leeches – it goes out through the soil and it’s not available to the plant, it gets below the roots – or it volatilizes. It goes into the atmosphere. This product doesn’t do either.
Because 60 percent of it is hydrolysis so it’s available to the plant pretty quickly. And the other 40 percent is organics that needs to be broken down by microbial action. So, when you buy a pound of fertilizer, you get a pound of fertilizer. It’s not volatilizing into the air and it’s not leeching into the ground. When you put it on your golf course you’ll get the full value of the pound.
A: When you come up with your program for the year or for the season, you still have to get it past a board of directors. What are they looking to hear from you?
MS: I’m a nutritionist first and a chemist second. And I have this philosophy: I’m thoroughly convinced that I can outgrow my problems. So if I have a strong, healthy plant I feel like it’s least susceptible to insect damage and/or disease. As long as I meet those expectations in regards to playability within parameters of my budget, that’s pretty much all I had to do. Not that that’s not a lot.
A: You first tried GreenTRX on the driving range which is a really good test-drive for a product. Tell us about your experience there.
MS: That’s correct. And ours is an unusual driving range and we have a wonderful professional and he’s a brilliant teacher so our range is open every day. I mean every day minus Christmas, New Year’s, and Thanksgiving. He’s always teaching the game of golf, and we have a big robust membership so we built the range on hundred percent sand, so regardless if we got five inches of rain he could go out there and pick golf balls.
Consequently, keeping nutrient in there was nearly impossible and we were really struggling to do that. We started messing around a little bit with the Anuvia up there and saw striking results and within two or three weeks, we just decided ‘It looks so good on this lobe, let’s do the whole thing.’ And we never looked back. I mean when the members who are really just up there to hit golf balls, but when the members say, ‘Wow the driving range has never looked better!’ then you have a pretty strong product I’d say.
A: And that’s really what the members notice right?
MS: Yeah, members like green grass. They just feel better, they just like playing on it better and it’s just part of the environment that they anticipate seeing when they get here.
A: Will you keep using GreenTRX?
MS: We go back across what we utilized all winter and then we evaluate what worked and what we didn’t think worked. Then we decide to implement a product into the rotation and now that will be Anuvia. It’s gonna play a big part in our program. I’m not sure we’re going wholesale yet, but you know last year we used a little, this year we’ll use more, and next year we’ll probably use a lot.
A: Great, Matt. Thank you so much for talking with us.
MS: My pleasure.
For healthier plants that can take the punishment of heavy play, GreenTRX delivers the nutrients your turf needs and improves soil health while it does it.