The start of a new golf season is a time of renewal, when all good things are possible. It’s a time for a fresh start. The same can be said when a superintendent assumes a new position.
That’s certainly the case with Matt Whalen, who took over this season at The Broadlands Golf Club, a public facility in Broomfield, Colorado, roughly 15 miles north of Denver at an elevation of 5,400 feet.
For Whalen, his appointment marked his return to his professional roots. He spent 13 years at Cheyenne (Wyoming) Country Club before heading to Arizona where he worked on the sales side of the business before deciding to resume his career as a superintendent. Whalen officially took over at The Broadlands on May 1 of this year. He oversees a crew of 13, including himself.
Whalen first became interested in a low nutrient regimen a decade ago after attending the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s and talking turf with some of his European colleagues. The experience caused him to adopt a more organic, minimalist approach to turf maintenance. When he returned to Wyoming he put that philosophy into practice and decided to try Aquaritin Defend.
“One winter I struggled with some of my greens,” Whalen recalls “and I saw a post from Aquaritin saying they will ship you 2 liters for free if you’ll just try it,’ so I contacted them and got the foliar spray. I made three applications and saw bentgrass germinate.
“So, I was sold and ever since I just put it in, primarily for the silica. I think silica is a great turf additive for any turf span.”
Whalen notes that adding Aquaritin Defend to his arsenal helped him achieve his long-term objectives.
“I tried to do things to get the turf I really wanted,” he said. I was trying to give it a competitive edge over other like poa annua. It fits into my program where ‘Less is more.’”
When Whalen took over at The Broadlands he returned to Aquaritin Defend on his greens; he makes an application every two weeks.
“It was something I did in Cheyenne,” he said. I absolutely loved it. I don’t use it as a stand-alone product but I do use it every two weeks with a foliar application.
Around the same time, Whalen learned about Aquaritin 19 and decided to give it a try. He made his first application in mid-May and was immediately impressed with the results. “I was blown away,” he said. “Absolutely blown away. So, we went ahead and sprayed all of our fairways with it, and again I was blown away with the color response we got. The density increased. It was Just a better standard of turf in all those areas.”
Whalen made a second application of Aquaritin 19 just prior to the Fourth of July holiday, which coincides with the start of busiest stretch of the club’s golf season which traditionally runs from around St. Patrick’s Day through mid-October. He concedes the interval between applications was longer than recommended.
“I go a little longer,” he said. “Just because we don’t have the capability to do monthly applications. Trust me, I wish I did, but I only have a 175-gallon spray tank and I’ve got close to 60 acres of fairways.
“It’s extremely hard to get out and do it but I thought it was important to get the growth regulator out with the (Aquaritin 19) to see what would happen. Once they get out of regulation, you get a little bounceback. That’s kind of what we’re dealing with now.”
What happened was a surge in growth, increased turf density, and enhanced coloring.
“After we did the (Aquaritin 19 applications) the fairway density got better, the color got better, the clipping yields were less,” Whalen said.
The volume of clippings increased as the calendar turned to August but Whalen is enthused about what lies ahead.
“Next year, when we use this product more, there will be less clippings,” he said. “There will be less cleanings that the crew has to do as far as blowing clippings that were left on the tee boxes and fairways.
“It will be more of a steady growth rather than a huge flush growth. That I think is what every superintendent is looking for right now. We’re just looking for a nice steady growth, a nice green color. So, we don’t have to go out and send guys to clean after we mow and have debris everywhere left over from mowing.”
Apart from helping him upgrade the conditions at The Broadlands, the Aquaritin product line is saving Whalen money as well.
“I think it’s a great alternative to extremely high fertilizer prices,” he said. “I was a fertilizer salesman for almost a year. I realize how expensive that stuff is now, so as long as you keep track of your soil reports and know where your soils are at, these types of products; they’ll help you a ton.
All the work Whalen and his team have done this spring and summer have resulted in upgraded playing conditions at The Broadlands. Whalen is elated with the reaction of his customers and members.
“I can’t go a day without somebody telling me how good the golf course is, how good the greens are, how good the fairways are,” he said. “I had one guy say he’s been here 20 years and he’s never seen it this good.
“People appreciate everything we do and they know we’re trying. They don’t necessarily know the science behind it, but they see the results and they really like it.”