Hidden Valley Golf Club superintendent Ian Sturge may just be the go-to person for advice on how to keep a golf course looking and performing at its peak. After all, his Riverside golf course just received the distinction of National Golf Course of the Year by the National Golf Course Owner’s Association (NGCOA), and according to the Riverside golf club owner, Jay Miller, Sturge had quite a bit to do with the course receiving such an honor.
Not only did the superintendent revive the dying course back in 2007 when he was first hired on, but he has also developed what one might call a fool-proof method for ensuring that the Riverside golf course is in A+ condition during the times of the year when it matters the most for Hidden Valley’s bottom line.
According to Sturge, one of the most important elements of maintaining optimal course conditions is aerification. The 32-year old superintendent likens it to topdressing in that it is a necessary evil for ensuring the health of the green.
Sturge initially had to aerify the entire Riverside golf course four years ago using a combination of methods from standard coring to quadra-tining and five-eighths-inch tines. Sturge had to carefully balance the needs of the course with any interruption in play the process would cause golfers in order to reduce any negative impact on revenue for the Riverside golf club.
Now that the Riverside golf course has been revived, Sturge relies on routine aerification to maintain the progress hes made. In fact, the superintendent is quoted as saying that this procedure is “probably one of the most important things that my maintenance staff performs. Aerification has to be done on a regular basis to maintain what Sturge says is the ideal soil profile that is, 50% soil, 25% water, and 25% air. As the grass grows and the course is walked on, this perfect combination is disrupted and has to be restored through further aerification.
Sturge recommends standard aerification using a 12inch or 5/8 inch hollow core on a 2×2 pattern (i.e. one hole every two inches) two or three times per year in order to prevent disease and maintain the perfect conditions for optimal play. After aerification, sand should be applied in order to increase the flow of much-needed water and nutrients to the roots. This is the process he used to bring his Riverside golf course up to award-winning condition it boasts today.
Sturge also uses and recommends a monthly aerification process that is much less disruptive to playing conditions and consists of using a much smaller tine and has the potential of restoring the course to ideal conditions within a few days.
Sturge himself hesitates to take credit for Hidden Valley’s recent award, and there were indeed other criteria the NGCOA took into account including management and contribution to the community and the game of golf. If you ask the Riverside golf club owner, Jay Miller, however, Sturge did more than his share: Hes just unbelievable. I trust him with every blade of grass.