In order to help promote our customers and show our appreciation to them, we occasionally put the spotlight on one of our customers and feature them on our blog, promote them on social media, and mention them in our email newsletter. The spotlight customer for December is the Old Oakland Golf Club, a private golf club on the northeast side of Indianapolis that was founded over fifty years ago in 1962.
The club, which sits on land that was originally a dairy farm, was designed by Charles Maddox and built with the help of PGA Professionals Jack Keesling and Don Street. Local teens, friends, and family members used hand tools to carve the original 18 holes out of the land, with an additional 9 holes being added in 1994.
During the course of its long history, Old Oakland has been frequented by many well-known businessmen, sports figures, entertainers, and notable residents of the Hoosier state, including Jack Benny, Frank “Fuzzy” Zoeller, and Tony Hinkle.
In 2016, the club was purchased by member Steve Sterrett, a prominent local businessperson and respected golf amateur. Steve has begun an extensive project to modernize the club that will be completed over the course of the next three years.
Supervising that project is longtime course superintendent Chase Walden, who was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to speak to Kenney Machinery about his experience maintaining the turf at the club. Here’s what he had to say:
What is unique about Old Oakland?
“I think the thing that makes us most unique is that we’re a 27-hole private facility, which is pretty rare for Indiana. That gives us an ability to have two tee times in the morning, and means that there is really never a time where members can’t go out and play if they want to.
“Also, we have some unique styles throughout the three nines, from a parkland style golf course to a links style course with some holes that are cut out through the trees along the creek. So, there’s a lot of variety amongst the 27 holes.”
What are you most proud of during your tenure as course Superintendent?
“I think I’m most proud of making it through the economic downturn in pretty good shape, with solid membership. Even with some budget restrictions, we were able to maintain turf quality at a pretty high level.”
What are some of the challenges you face maintaining the turf at the club?
“We have some tough growing environments, including six holes that are basically cut out of the woods and along a creek, so lack of sunlight is a factor down in those areas. It’s a challenging environment to work with that requires a gentle touch. A lot of it comes down to good water management and trying to keep things as dry as possible. We do a lot of hand watering and a lot of walk mowing, and use fans on the greens.”
Is there anything you wish your members knew about what it takes to maintain the turf?
“I wish they had a better understanding of the technology and expertise required to maintain a modern golf course, whether it’s related to irrigation, fertilization, pesticide application, or equipment maintenance. I think people just don’t realize all the advancements in technology that have taken place, or the advancements in the expertise required to use the technology effectively.”
What part is Kenney Machinery and the Toro Company playing in the renovation?
“We are putting in Toro irrigation – a satellite system with Lynx Central Control – and so far the system has been great. It’s actually up and running on nine holes currently and is performing well. Compared to the old system that was put in back in the ’60’s, it’s like going from the stone age to the space age. Kenny Machinery has done great as far as getting all of our supplies here in a timely matter, and getting us anything that we’ve needed right away…the customer service has been great.”
What advice would you give to new turf maintenance professionals just entering the industry?
“I would tell them, as my wife often says, that “It’s more of a lifestyle than it is a job” – so it is a commitment. So, I would tell them to accept that it is very much a weather-related business, and rest when mother nature allows, and persevere when she doesn’t allow. I would say that you take as many opportunities as you can, when mother nature allows, to find some rest, and realize that ultimately, mother nature is going to win.
“Just maintain a positive attitude, which really trickles down to your staff. They look to you to see how you handle adversity. If you’re calm and have a “Well, let’s just go ahead and fix it” attitude, I think that goes a long way to affecting your staff. So, take a lot of deep breaths.”
Many thanks to Chase Walden for his insight into what it takes to maintain the turf at one of central Indiana’s premier golf clubs. We’re looking forward into seeing the club after all renovations are complete in 2018, and we’re happy to play a role in helping them with the transformation.