Organic Turf Management Pilot Project Underway at Highland Links

CCB MEDIA PHOTO Officials from the Cape Cod National Seashore, Johnson Golf Management on the first hole green at Highland Links Golf Course in North Truro.

Officials from the Cape Cod National Seashore, Johnson Golf Management on the first hole green at Highland Links Golf Course in North Truro.

TRURO – The oldest links golf course in the country, Highland Links Golf Course in North Truro, is conducting a pilot project to see the benefits of using organic turf management over chemicals.

The Cape Cod National Seashore is collaborating on the project with Johnson Golf Management, the operators of the course’s concession.

The pilot project involves exploring alternative lawn care products on the tee boxes, fairway and green of the course’s first hole.

“The development of organic lawn care, and natural turf management, is in response to a growing concern around synthetic intervention in the landscape,” said Charles “Chip” Osborne, an expert in sustainable turf management and one of the country’s leading experts on growing organic turf. “It is the development of science-based strategies from the natural perspective, adopting a systems-based approach that involves healthy soils, natural, organic products and very specific and revised horticultural practices.”

The project began last fall when soil samples of the first hole were cultured out to see what organisms were present.

Osborne said they determined what bacterial and fungal organisms are good for the soil and the turf would be treated to try to eliminate the unwanted organisms.

“We know what organisms we want if we are trying to grow turf grass,” Osborne said. “We end up knowing what is desirable out here and what levels are desirable to grow turf.”

The first application of “green” products on the hole were made about 5 weeks ago and the first treatment to the fairway will be made in September.

“The end result is less product is going down,” Osborne said. “The way that organic fertilizers work it has a more sustained benefit. The water soluble synthetics are in and out in anywhere from four to six weeks where an organic, granular gives an extended window of eight to 12 weeks.”

Osborne said the transition for the course could take between three to four years.

“As we get this transition happening, more internally is going to happen from the soil which will end up with a reduced product input on the other end.”

Cape Cod National Seashore Superintendent George Price said the idea to move to more organic turf management came about after Johnson Gold Management took over concessions for the course from the town of Truro in May of 2014.

“This is a positive step towards a more holistic, natural alternative to conventional turf management practices in the national park,” said Price. “We are very excited to be a part of this pilot project and provide technical support from our natural resources staff.”

Highland Links is one of nine golf courses in the U.S. that are located within national parks.

The course is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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