What to do When the Rains Come

What to do When the Rains Come

Flooding is a way of life for Tony Gustaitis, golf course superintendent at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club in the Philadelphia suburb of Lafayette Hill, Pa. But after 27 years, he’s learned how to deal with it.

“I know we’ve had at least 100 floods since I started here in 1988,” says Gustaitis, whose parklands course has demanding elevation changes with stunning views from the higher holes. “It’s guaranteed we’ll have one each year and sometimes up to 13.”

Whitemarsh Valley CC

The upper holes offer stunning views, but flooding is a long-standing problem on the lower holes.

Conditions after flooding on the lowest part of the course were so bad that the course undertook a project 12 years in the making to raise three of the fairways two feet higher. Since its completion four years ago, floodwaters recede much faster, saving recuperation time and decreasing hand labor.

“Because of the flooding, I know we get more weed, disease and insect problems than other courses in the area,” adds Gustaitis. “When grasses are under water for several days at a time, we get every weed known to man — and even some not yet identified!”

Sedge Solution

Two of the prevalent weed offenders on Whitemarsh Valley’s creeping bentgrass greens, tees and fairways are sedges and kyllinga. Lighter colored and faster growing than turfgrass, they often stick out like sore thumbs in well manicured golf course turf.

“When we cut a fairway, everything looks great, then the next day sedge is there — it seems to grow five times faster than our bentgrass,” notes Gustaitis. “We even get them on our upper holes that don’t flood — they just get tracked up there.”

Four years ago, Gustaitis discovered Dismiss® Turf Herbicide, from FMC, and it became his go-to product for sedge and kyllinga control. “Now, every time I spray fairways, I add one ounce of Dismiss and it prevents the sedge from establishing,” he adds. “I’ve been very happy with it.”

Whitemarsh Valley CC Clubhouse

Whitemarsh Valley CC Clubhouse stands on the grounds of the original home of golf course architect, George Thomas.

Gustaitis says that 90 percent of the products he uses are branded. “We don’t tend to use generics,” he says. “With branded products, you know the company has done all the research and stands behind it. You know it’s going to work.”

He feels similarly about a relatively new FMC product, Triple Crown® Golf Insecticide*. Like his weed problems, insect pests like cutworms, sod webworms, grubs and annual bluegrass weevil have made regular appearances at Whitemarsh through the years.

Triple Crown Gets the Bugs

A combination product for above and below ground insect control, Triple Crown contains zeta-cypermethrin, bifenthrin and imidacloprid. It controls more than 30 pests, including fire ants, masked chafer grubs, chinch bugs, and annual bluegrass weevil. And by eliminating the need to tank mix multiple products, Triple Crown also helps save time, money and shelf space.

“It’s a neat concept to have that three-way combination,” says Gustaitis. “Imidacloprid gets the grubs, bifenthrin gets the surface feeders and the zeta-cypermethrin makes it work very fast — you see dead cutworms and sod webworms on the surface right away! And you only have to apply it once for good control.”

Another FMC product Gustaitis likes to keep in his rotation is Disarm® 480 SC fungicide. He uses it in “shoulder season” for brown patch, anthracnose and dollar spot. “It works well in spring and fall months and helps us with our resistance management program,” he adds.

Whitemarsh Valley CC

Gustaitis stands on a bridge that was part of the reconstruction project to reduce flooding damage on the golf course.

As he enters his 28th year at Whitemarsh Valley, Gustaitis is thankful to have flooding issues much more under control than they were even five years ago.

“Fortunately, the water leaves much more quickly now,” he says. “The hardest thing we do is sit on our hands and wait. But if we wait another day for the turf to dry out, it’s usually much better and we can get on with our normal schedule.”