Jim Medeiros felt like he'd "died and gone to heaven" 3 years ago when he became golf-course superintendent at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, R.I. A nearly 100-year-old Donald Ross course, Wannamoisett ranks among the top 50 courses in the United States by Golf Digest magazine and holds the Northeast Amateur, one of the country's biggest amateur tournaments, every June.
"It doesn't get much better than this," says Medeiros, a 1970 graduate of the University of Massachusetts Turf Program. "This is a great, great old golf course. Folks are conservative here in New England, and they haven't messed things up on the course. They've kept all the Donald Ross touches, and we don't leave anything to the imagination as far as treatments go."
Built in 1898, Wannamoisett covers only 100 acres, but Medeiros maintains and waters every square foot of it. High, tight bunkers surround the greens, while fierce doglegs and a rolling terrain make Wannamoisett one of the toughest par-69 courses in the world. With 10 holes longer than 400 yards, the course contains only one par-5 hole. Though the turf consists of bentgrass and Poa annua on greens, fairways and tees, the selection pressure over the years has resulted in a fine-textured Poa plant that doesn't seed as much as more annual biotypes.
No agronomic difficulties "We have very good soils and excellent drainage, so there are no agronomic difficulties to speak of," says Medeiros, who served in two other superintendent positions before coming to Wannamoisett. "[Because] play is only 25,000 rounds each year, compaction is not an issue. But we have so many trees that lack of sunlight on some of the greens is a problem. We pretty much stay on a disease-control schedule through summer months. I question whether you can follow a true integrated pest management (IPM) program when it comes to disease control."
Medeiros sprays low rates of Banol (AgrEvo) and Subdue Maxx (Novartis) fungicides every 3 weeks for Pythium control, adding other fungicides as conditions warrant. Even with a deluge of rain on Day 21, the mixture prevented Pythium development last year. During hot, humid weather, he adds ProStar fungicide (AgrEvo) to the mix for brown-patch control on greens, tees and fairways. Because he gets 21 to 30 days of control from the fungicide application, he makes only two or three treatments throughout the summer.
IPM includes weather watching As part of his IPM approach, Medeiros constantly watches the weather using his new weather-station system to monitor dew points, humidity and evapotranspiration. He finds it easy to remain on an IPM program when it comes to weed and insect control. "We carefully monitor areas where we've previously been hit with crabgrass or grubs, map out hot spots and spot-treat wherever possible instead of blanketing the course with chemical treatments," explains Medeiros. "You have to get serious about your cultural practices, but a lot depends on the amount of play you have and the type of soils on your course."
Working toward the Northeast Amateur tournament in June, Medeiros core-aerates all greens and tees early each spring. Greens also receive aeration with a Hydroject unit (The Toro Co.) two or three times during summer months. Because Wannamoisett has good soils with no excessive traffic, Medeiros only core-aerates fairways once in the fall. He keeps greens below 0.125 inch, mowing with triplex mowers (Toro), while he cuts fairways at 0.5 inch, tees at 0.25 inch and roughs at 2.5 inches.
"I'm always playing around with fertilizers, and I've come up with my own mix using information from a friend of mine in the Midwest," says Medeiros. "My distributor is mixing and bagging it for me. It's a 12-1-12 blend of Milorganite, Nutralene (Nu-Gro/Omnicology Inc.) and sulfate of potash. I put it on tees and greens at 0.5 pound [per 1,000 square feet] in the spring followed by 0.25-pound increments during the season. It provides excellent color without a surge of growth. My distributor is actually selling it to other golf courses in the area and getting great comments about it."
Cart paths with curbs Recently Medeiros improved the appearance of his course by adding cart paths around greens and tees that were designed to be hidden from the greens. He built them with curbs so they blend into the landscape, making the entire environment more aesthetically appealing. "When you stand on the tees, you don't see the cart paths, only the hole," he adds. He also has cut down many of the trees that interfered with play.
Two springs ago, Medeiros worked with architect Ron Prichard and Country Golf Construction Co. in restoring the 18th hole at Wannamoisett to match Donald Ross' field sketch from a 1926 design update. Though Ross' other changes were incorporated into the course, the 18th hole was never redesigned. Jerry Deamer supervised the shaping and rebuilding of the hole. "We pushed the tees back, cut trees down, moved the fairway and built a second bunker," says Medeiros. "It's now a dogleg to the left with a total of 446 yards, increased from the original 416 yards. Our 18th hole now is a great, challenging finishing hole."
Medeiros would like to restore the bunkers to the original Donald Ross specifications within the next few years, as well as dig a new pond on the course. Otherwise, he feels the Wannamoisett course is as close to perfection as he's come in his 23-year career. "Everyone told me this was the most difficult job in the state when I first came here," he says. "But I've found the people and the agronomics so easy to work with that I'm happy to provide the best conditions possible on this course."
Debbie Clayton is a freelance writer in the turf industry with more than 10 years of experience. She handles public relations for AgrEvo USA Co. (Wilmington, Del.).
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