The Woods Golf Club in Green Bay, Wisconsin is a shining example of the benefits derived from a regular and consistent Nature Safe program. When Ed Hoover first assumed the position of Superintendent at The Woods seven years ago, it was at best, a below average public golf course. The greens had been constructed with some poor soil mixes. Not only were the greens hard, they could not sustain healthy turf during the summer months. As a result, The Woods had a reputation for losing substantial amounts of turf on their greens every year. These greens were resodded twice before Ed came to The Woods, but they continued to die off every summer. They were also susceptible to summer diseases like dollar spot. The Woods is located only a very short distance from Lake Michigan and the cool nights with high humidity provide ideal conditions for dollar spot and other fungus diseases during the summer months. In the winter months the heavy snow cover provides the right conditions for snow mold. These conditions were responsible for a hefty outlay each year for control chemicals.
Ed had formerly worked for a Nature Safe distributor and he understood the cumulative effects of Nature Safe. He cautioned the club owners not to expect immediate miracles and he began a Nature Safe program. For the first two years, he deep tine aerated his greens twice per year, applied two bags of Nature Safe 5-6-6 per green, top dressed with a fine grade sand and dragged it, along with the Nature Safe into the holes. Ed now aerates only once a year. The greens slowly started to improve and they were playable for the entire summer with no turf loss. Each year since the Nature Safe program was instituted the greens have continued to improve. They are now much softer and hold a well played shot into the greens. The greens were also much less susceptible to diseases. Dollar spot and snow mold became less of a problem due to the high level of beneficial microbes being built up in the soil to compete with the pathogens and the fungicide expenditures declined each year.
The tees at the Woods also benefited from a Nature Safe 10-2-8 program. They have become some of the finest public golf course tees in the area. Here too, Ed was able to reduce the amount of chemicals needed to maintain his tees.
The fairways at The Woods benefited the most from a Nature Safe program. As with most northern-most golf course fairways, the fairways at The Woods are primarily composed of Poa and are susceptible to dollar spot and snow mold. In the past, just to have acceptable fairway turf, it was necessary to make several fungicide applications every year to control these diseases. Ed put his fairways on a Nature Safe 15-2-8 (Now 15-0-8) program that included three applications per year at the rate of one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet at each application. Almost immediately there was a reduction in the incidence of dollar spot and it continued to decline over time. Ed did not spray his fairways for dollar spot at all this past summer and he had no dollar spot problems. That amounts to a big savings in chemical expenditures. Ed continued with his winter applications of fungicides to control snow mold for several years. One winter, he was unable to get the fungicide applied before the snows came. That winter, the Green Bay area received over four feet of snow and Ed assumed that his fairways would be decimated with snow mold in the spring. To his surprise, there was much less snow mold than he had anticipated and the turf that had snow mold was only superficially affected. The snow mold affected only the leaf tips and the turf grew out of the damage. Prior to the Nature Safe program, snow mold would have killed all of the affected turf. As a result of this experience, Ed has ceased applying snow mold chemicals to his fairways at a huge savings to his club.
The overall condition of the turf at The Woods has improved so much over the past seven years that in 2010 the local golfers who frequent public golf courses voted The Woods to be the best public golf course in the Green Bay area. That is quite a tribute to Superintendent Ed Hoover and his faith in a regular Nature Safe program.