Volunteers from the Philadelphia Association of Golf Course Superintendents work on a drainage project on the seventh green of Walnut Lane Golf Club last November. Photos courtesy of Bill Corcoran
Last fall, during the week of Thanksgiving, the Philadelphia Association of Golf Course Superintendents held what has become its annual volunteer event at Walnut Lane Golf Club. Walnut Lane is an 18-hole Alex Findlay design that’s owned by the city of Philadelphia and leased to The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia (TFTGP), a nonprofit youth development organization that introduces the game of golf and its inherent values — integrity, respect, perseverance — through in-school and after-school educational programs.
A few years ago, the Philadelphia Association of Golf Course Superintendents (PAGCS) began helping with the fall aerification at the course, providing a volunteer force made up of its members. Now, under first-year superintendent Ben Davies, the staff at Walnut Lane has been able to complete aeration in-house, so, when Ben was approached about what would help the facility the most in the latter part of 2017, he came up with some projects that could make a big difference in his continuing efforts to improve turf quality.
First up was the course’s seventh hole, which is next to the maintenance facility. There was a drainage issue that was causing water to collect on the front of the green and to the left of the approach after any rainfall.
The second and main project was to create more airflow by the 10th and third greens. The 10th green is the most difficult on the golf course to maintain. It has all the characteristics of the “worst scenario” for trying to grow turf, including minimal sunlight, airflow restriction from trees, and a low-lying area that doesn’t drain well. Additionally, there was a significant need for stump grinding on the property.
A request for volunteers went out to the PAGCS membership, and the first person to volunteer was Bill Brown, CGCS, of Aqua-Aid. Bill offered the services of an Imants root pruner, which could accomplish work the golf course was in dire need of. Next to chip in were Shreiner Tree Care and Arader Tree Service, offering large commercial stump grinding services. Filling out the volunteer list were PAGCS members from Lehigh Country Club, The Ace Club, Philadelphia Country Club, Huntingdon Valley Country Club, and Bala Golf Club. Mike Janzer from Plant Food Co., Jeff Hass from Golf Cart Services, Matt Brown and Sumner Cross from Lawn & Golf Supply Co., and Andy Barone from Ventrac also donated their time.
Mike Janzer of Plant Food Co. clears trees behind Walnut Lane’s 10th green.
By the end of the day of work at Walnut Lane, a new drainage system has been installed in the area around the seventh green, the third and 10th greens had significant tree removal from their surrounds, the entire course had been root-pruned, and all the old stumps on the course had been ground. Significant brush removal was also completed throughout the course using two Ventrac mowers.
All of this was topped off with a traditional Philly cheesesteak lunch and a talk from special guest Mike Quick, a Philadelphia Eagles great and hometown favorite who currently serves as a TFTGP board member and is an analyst for the Philadelphia Eagles radio broadcasts.
Bill Hyndman, TFTGP executive director, had this to say about the day: “The Walnut Lane Golf Club and The First Tee are grateful to the Philadelphia Association of Golf Course Superintendents. The course would not be in the shape it is today without the support and dedication of the many superintendents, crew members and vendors who have helped us for a number of years. These individuals, who all have difficult jobs themselves, selflessly take time each year to help us, and we can see that they have made a tremendous difference. Thank you for helping us make a difference for our kids, and for golf.”
To say that Walnut Lane has gone through a revitalization might be an understatement. In the past three years, the course has received a much-needed reinvestment. TFTGP investments and in-kind services have totaled more than $500,000! The involvement of people such as Frank Shuman, TFTGP board member, longtime PAGCS member and 45-year GCSAA member, and Jay Parisian, TFTGP past board member, PAGCS past president and a 25-year GCSAA member, has been key in the current momentum at Walnut Lane Golf Club, home of The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia.
Bill Corcoran, a 20-year member of GCSAA, is a board member of The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia and a commercial representative on the Philadelphia Association of Golf Course Superintendents board.