Spotlight Customer: Bloomington Country Club

Bloomington Country ClubHere at Kenney Machinery, we like to occasionally put the spotlight on one of our customers by featuring them on our blog, promoting them on social media, and highlighting them in our newsletter.  It’s our way of showing our appreciation to them and helping raise their visibility in the community.  This month, we’d like to put the spotlight on Bloomington Country Club, the only private country club in Bloomington, Indiana.

The club has a long history as one of the best golfing destinations in south-central Indiana.  Since its founding in 1921, it has been a destination for both hard-core and occasional golfers throughout the area.  It was a 9-hole golf course up until the 1970s, when it expanded to 18 holes and added a new clubhouse and condominiums.

Tragedy struck the club in 2004 when a fire completely destroyed the clubhouse.  However, the club rebounded and rebuilt, and in 2006 reopened with a brand new clubhouse.

Today, Bloomington Country Club is maintained by a top-notch grounds crew led by Superintendent Levi Robertson, who has held that role for 18 months.  Levi spoke to the Kenney Machinery blogging staff recently about some of the unique aspects of maintaining the turf at the club.  Here’s what he had to say in response to our questions.

What makes Bloomington Country Club Unique?

“I think the most unique thing about this place is our zoysia grass fairways. We’re one of the furthest north golf courses in Indiana to use zoysia grass, which is a warm season grass that stops growing and goes dormant in late fall/winter. In the middle of the summer, when a lot of superinterdant’s fairways are struggling with disease pressure or they’re watering like crazy, that’s when the fairways here are thriving. They’re extremely heat and drought tolerant. Many golf courses don’t use zoysia because the initial cost of getting the turf there and getting it installed is expensive, but once it’s established, the maintenance of it is so much cheaper.”

What are some of the projects you’ve been working on as Superintendent?

“One project that has been ongoing here for the past five years, and that I am continuing, is converting our cool season green surrounds grasses to zoysia grass.  We’re taking two and a half inch Kentucky bluegrass and converting it to zoysia grass at fairway height, or half an inch. So, you can literally putt your ball from 50 yards off the green, which creates so many more shots around the greens for all players. 

The members have loved it.  The front nine and the back nine were always different golf courses, but what we’ve done on the front, it’s really unique. You don’t see it on a lot of golf courses in this area where they’re mowed down that short all the way around the greens.

What are some of the challenges you face in maintaining the turf at the club?

“We have heavy clay soils pretty much all the way around the golf course.  We have native soil push-up style greens.  That means that compaction is an issue along with drainage. The water just does not go down, as opposed to a sand base putting green, which is what the USGA putting green is. These greens were built up with native top-soil, and have been heavily top dressed for the last 40 years.

It’s something we manage with frequent hand watering and rolling more often during the week as opposed to mowing everyday during the stressful months of the year. We also do a lot of deep tine aerification on the greens just to try to penetrate that eight inches of soil. We’re creating these deep channels for oxygen and water to reach the roots of the plant. We’ll do that about every two months, and go down about eight to nine inches just to try to get that air and water down as fast as we possibly can.”

Is there anything you wish the club’s members knew about what it takes to maintain the turf?

“I know they appreciate what we do, but I don’t think they realize what goes into the daily practice of managing our equipment.  For example, things like checking heights of cut, making sure all of the fittings are tight on the hoses, etc.   It’s extremely precise. Even adjustments as small as a thousandth of an inch can matter.”

Speaking of equipment, you recently had the opportunity to participate in the Pro Club at Toro to learn more about what they do behind the scenes to design and manufacture some of the best turf equipment in the industry.  What was that like?

“It was really interesting.  I’d never really been to a steel-pressing plant before, so getting to see that firsthand was really exciting for me. As superintendent, I know what it takes to manage golf course equipment and what we’re trying to do with it, but the work that Toro puts into designing of the equipment and the testing just really blew me away.

Seeing the details that Toro puts into their equipment, seeing how they stand by their products, seeing their warehouse, and seeing their headquarters only shows more proof to me of them caring about the turf managers out there in the field.  It make me appreciate how they try to give us the best equipment possible to accomplish our goals.

My favorite part of the tour was the assembly line—just seeing the coordination of all the people on the floor and how fast they’re actually able to build these pieces of equipment…it’s remarkable.”

What advice would you give to turf professionals just entering the industry?

“Never stop trying to further your education. You can never stop learning.  Be open-minded, and always ask questions of your fellow peers, salesmen…anyone who might be able to increase your knowledge and give you a different perspective. 

I think it’s important that we keep adjusting to the times that we’re in as opposed to sticking to the same practice just because it was done somewhere else. That’s not always the best for where you’re located, so being able to be versatile and adjust to the current situation is vital.”

What has your experience been like working with Kenney Machinery?

“Their service is great. I personally look forward to building on the current relationship I have with Kenney. It’s new, but as long as I’m here, I’d love to continue to do business with Kenney. I think they’re a great company, and they’ve got a great team of salesmen.”

Many thanks to Levi for sharing his experiences with our blogging staff.  You can visit the Bloomington Country Club website to learn more about the club.