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Organic golf course management: Lessons from The Vineyard Golf Club

Superintendent Kevin Banks shares three areas of focus for any golf course superintendent who’s considering going organic.


The Vineyard Golf Club first hole
The first hole at The Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown, Mass. Photo by Larry Lambrecht

Editor’s note: Read more about superintendent Kevin Banks and the organic management of The Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown, Mass. — located on Martha’s Vineyard, an island known for its strict environmental statutes — in The Vineyard Golf Club: A new sheriff in town.

Disease control

Synthetic pesticides are no longer stored in my storage container. The products I use now are all biological fungicides or OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute)-listed products. These products are all new to me, and not all are 100 percent curative. Some products need a one-month advancement or even six-month advancement. Scheduling and staying organized are very important when tracking inventory and spray schedules.

Weed management

There are some products that will control some dandelion and clover. However, there are some weeds like crabgrass and goosegrass we struggle to control. The best way to fight off weeds is to have healthy turf, so we often spray our rough more than traditional golf courses. We have tried different forms of control, but sometimes our only option is to re-sod when thresholds reach a certain level.

When it comes to weeds in bunkers and weeds in mulch around our clubhouse, we hire a local landscaper and their crew to handpick weeds almost every other week depending on the severity of weed growth — which costs money. So, our budget for that is bigger than most.

Rolling turf

Before my time at The Vineyard Golf Club, I had a different thought process. For me, rolling’s primary role was to help with ball roll, speed and firmness. My secondary thought would have been disease control. Today, here, my primary thought with rolling is disease control.

There is a lot of great research out there regarding rolling and golf course turf. Studies have even expanded out to rolling on fairway areas. We don’t have the tools in our shed yet to roll fairways, but we do drag the fairways in the summer to remove dew — not just for disease suppression, but for a better cut, which we hope will lead to a healthier plant.

Kevin Banks is the golf course superintendent at The Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown, Mass., and a nine-year member of GCSAA.