The Rewards of Working on a ‘Living Lab’ Golf Course

Most golf course superintendents would consider Matt Gourlay, CGCS, a lucky guy. Since his Colbert Hills Golf Course serves as a “living lab” for nearby Kansas State University’s Turfgrass Management program, he sees first hand which products work well … and which ones don’t. Part of the overall 27-hole golf complex, the experimental nine-hole Par 3 course features eight different varieties of bentgrass on greens, including Penncross, Crenshaw, L-93, G-2, A-4 and SR1020, as well as eight varieties of tall fescue, bluegrass, zoysiagrass and bentgrass on tees. “K-State has one of the best turfgrass management programs in the country, and uses our course as a testing ground for university research projects,” adds Gourlay, who has been superintendent for eight years. “We provide mowing, water and other labor. Their professors and students do all the research. We had five plots this year, including herbicides, turf colorants, fungicides and naturalized native areas.” When Colbert Hills opened in May 2000, Gourlay was there as a 14-year-old cart boy. He progressed to the maintenance team a year later and has remained at the course in some capacity ever since. “I fell in love with golf courses,” says Gourlay, who holds a bachelor’s degree in golf course management from K-State. “My dad and grandfather were both superintendents and my mother owned a soil testing company. It’s in my blood.” Designed by golf course architect Jeff Brauer and professional golfer Jim Colbert, Colbert Hills is owned by Kansas State Golf Course Management Research Foundation, a philanthropic organization for the university. “We are the Number One daily fee course in Kansas,” notes Gourlay. “Anybody can come...