Achieving heat and disease resistance

Golf course

A successful golf course superintendent should be cognizant of the abilities and limitations of the members and customers who play their golf course. 

Joe Kovach understands that visitors to the Casselberry Golf Club in Casselberry, Fla. aren’t expecting or desirous of U.S. Open conditions. What they’re seeking is an enjoyable golf experience for a reasonable price and Kovach strives each day to give them just that.

Listen to the full interview:

Casselberry, which is located just 13 miles north of Orlando, traces its origins back to 1946. The original nine is the work of Paul McClure. A golfer himself, and an inventor, he attempted to design a gasoline-powered golf cart sometime in the early 1950s, although he never obtained a patent for it.

Lloyd Clifton added an additional nine holes in 1963.

Once privately owned, Casselberry is today a municipal facility that maxes out at 5,472 yards with a par of 69.

Golf course

Kovach started his career in turf at the Atlanta Athletic Club before migrating to the commercial/sales side of the industry for a time. He’ll celebrate his eighth anniversary at Casselberry in June. His crew is comprised of himself, a mechanic, four full-time workers, and three part timers.

The bulk of the crew’s time and energy is focused on the Bermuda greens.

As any superintendent will tell you, 80 percent of your comment cards and 80 percent of the play happens on or around the greens. Obviously, that’s where the priority comes in. Our (golfers) are not looking for fast and firm. They’re looking for good color and surfaces that roll pretty smooth. If we can keep that maintained, we have happy customers.

Kovach was first learned about Aquaritin Defend at the Golf Industry Show in Orlando in 2017.

“I had a sales guy call on me; he turned me on to a guy who had been using the product,” he recalls.

“John Reilly accepted my phone call and we talked for about 30 minutes. We talked about silica, we talked about the benefits. I was already going down that road with trying to find ways to develop more plant health without necessarily having to use chemicals.

Golf course

“The phosphites and the silica, salicylic acid, those kinds of things. I became a fan of those types of products.”

Kovach did some testing early so he could observe how his greens would react to Defend before committing to it.

“I would have a nursery green and I would take a piece of plywood and throw it over the top of the green and spray it over the top of it,” he said. “Pull it up and do that repeatedly for about two months. And I started to notice the difference with the Defend product.”

Kovach was particularly impressed with how well his old-style pushup greens withstood a high volume of play (roughly 35,000 rounds annually).

“Having 1.6 acres of greens at a municipal course where we put quite a few rounds together can be a bit of a challenge,” he said. “Not only are they push-up greens, but about 50 percent of the grass on my greens right now is the old 328. I’ve got about 25 percent that are tiff-dwarf; stuff that has been sodded, patched up, and repaired over the last several decades, and then I have maybe 25 percent of what I would call ‘Other.’

“That’s one of the challenges; old push-up greens with lots of old grass; they really need to be hauled out and re-done. But as long as I can keep things going, everybody’s going to be satisfied with that.

Golf course

Since adding Defend to his program, Kovach has noticed his putting surfaces are rolling more consistently and displaying increased resistance to disease pressure and heat stress.

They just seem like they’re healthier, it just seems like I have a lot less disease, I have a lot less stress. Last summer was a great example; I had a lot less heat stress. Hand watering is out of the question for us. So, I have to balance everything out the best I can without the benefit of being able to micromanage each green.

Kovach started the 2023 season by overseeding with Poa trivialis. As this testimonial was being prepared, he was in the process of transitioning back to Bermuda grass. He anticipates adding Aquaritin 19 to his program sometime around mid-June.

“I want to give it a true, honest-to-goodness test,” he said, “and if it works as good as the Defend product has it will be full (go ahead) from there. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can see.

“I might be doing kind of the same thing with the 19 (that he did with Defend). Do half my greens with the 19 and use my old regimen on the other 9 greens. I haven’t put that together yet. One thing’s for sure. I want to make sure that when I’m spending the money that I’m given that I spend it wisely.”

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