A golf course superintendent’s life is fraught with challenges but Keith Lyall deals with more than most.
Lyall is the superintendent at the Sun Peaks Resort in Sun Peaks, British Columbia, roughly five hours northeast of Vancouver. The circumstances he encounters on a day-to-day basis are unique.
Situated at 1,200 meters (just over 3,900 feet) Sun Peaks is the highest elevated course in British Columbia.
It is part of a resort where skiing, not golf, is the priority. The golf season is short, lasting perhaps four months and ending on or around October 1. In a peak season, it will host somewhere between 10 and 11,000 rounds.
From a maintenance perspective Lyall, who has been at Sun Peaks since 2004 and has been the head superintendent since September of 2005, has his hands full. During the last week of April, the golf course was covered by two feet of snow.
“You really have to think differently,” he said, “and we just don’t have enough growing-degree days. I would say I’ve got about six weeks of good growing conditions throughout the entire year.
“It’s either too cold or we probably get too hot. So, there’s about three or four weeks in the spring and about three or maybe four weeks in the fall.”
With such a compact golf season, Lyall has developed a system that allows his team of 12 (including himself) to take care of routine maintenance tasks with dispatch and have the golf course ready for play when the spring weather allows.
“That for me is Number One,” he said. “Number Two I think is the agronomy stuff; top dressing, spraying, irrigation repairs.
“I don’t think that’s much different from what most people do. I don’t think we do much that’s unique short of compressing everything into a three-month season. We’ve got to get a lot done in a short amount of time. And, we’ve managed to do it.”
Lyall first applied Aquaritin Defend to his greens some five years ago at the behest of a sales rep.
“What piqued my interest was when he started talking about nanotechnology,” he recalls. “I’m a little bit of a nerd and I had read a little bit prior to that about nanotechnology, specifically in the medical field. That piqued my interest as soon as he said that, and just like Aquaritin does today, they were giving out free samples.”
Lyall didn’t notice any results from his initial application.
“But the next year, I thought, let’s buy into this,” he said, “because (Defend being a smaller particle), my thought process was it would be easier to get into the plant. My plants struggle to grow because it is so cold up here.”
Introducing Defend into his protocol was just one in a series of steps Lyall took to enhance the health of his greens, which were being impacted by snow mold, anthracnose, and Pythium, among other things.
“I had to incorporate a bunch of different activities, kind of all at the same time. One of them was drill and filling.
“I also started a full-on summer fungicide program and then I introduced Aquaritin around the same time. Those three items turned my greens around.”
Lyle also utilizes Defend to combat a significant problem with earthworms and their castings.
“It wasn’t so bad when I first got here,” he said. “I noticed a lot in the rough but over time they were starting to migrate into fairways and tees and it was starting to get pretty bad on greens. So, what I did that first summer, every two or three weeks was put Aquaritin Defend down, and the worm problem went away
“I’m no scientist, but I think what’s happening is the silica in Aquaritin (affects) the skin between the segments of the worms. When put down regularly, it gets on there, they don’t like it and they take off.”
Lyall says Defend has been instrumental to his success at keeping his earthworm issue under control.
“If you go on my greens, you’ll see some castings,” he said. “Not many, but when the snow melts, I won’t have a worm casting in sight. So, since then, for that reason alone, I use Aquaritin because there is no registered (product) in Canada that I can use to control worms.
Lyall notes that Defend has enhanced his putting surfaces in other ways as well.
“I would say it’s made a difference in color,” he said. “When I first started using it, I definitely noticed an increase in color. Around the same time, I started upping my nitrogen levels. That was kind of risky, because I already have a thatch problem, but the turf just wasn’t sufficient looking in my eye. I wanted to see it greener.