Mar 23

A Turf Problem Solver

By Pat Jones |Wisconsin Superintendent Patrick Reuteman didn’t have huge problems to solve when he took over for an area legend. But he solved some nagging issues with help from the targeted use of Zipline®.  

Patrick Reuteman became superintendent at Milwaukee’s grand old Westmoor Country Club under nearly ideal circumstances. His boss quite happily stepped away from the job and handed him the keys to an excellent golf course on his way out the door.

You may know the story: Bryan Bergner, one of Wisconsin’s best-known superintendents, made a family-first decision to dedicate himself to raising his son when his wife took on a demanding new career. As a result, he and Reuteman were able to manage the hand-off without a hitch.

“Transitions are tough when there’s nothing wrong with the golf course,” laughs Reuteman. “It’s yours to screw up at that point.”

But, when you’re a passionate turf pro, there are always a few things you want to make even better. Now in his fifth season as Westmoor’s superintendent, Reuteman has put his stamp on the program.

First, he wanted to go after the ‘thatchiness’ in his approaches to offer something new for players. “We wanted to push the boundaries on approaches and roll-out areas. So for a couple of years, I just beat the heck out of them, mainly aerifying, vertical mowing and topdressing just to give them a similar structure to our greens and then dropping mowing heights from there. We have high and low handicap play and it’s fun because it’s challenging for the good players and the high-handicappers can putt off it.”

His club’s average handicap is 16 so things like that are a win/win. “I want to make it fun and I love getting their feedback.” He claims to be a middling golfer himself but he plays with members regularly. “I think it’s important to hear what they think and hopefully give them straight information about what we’re doing,” he says.

Another challenge was addressing an old nemesis, localized dry spot. When Zipline® came along he trialed it on the club’s Little Links short course. “I like trying different products, so I did a trial. The greens are sand-capped and super dry and the Zipline did great.”

He’s noticed it lasts a lot longer and is looking at the product for his putting surfaces. In the meantime, he’s plugged it into the fairway program to “charge things up” and try to get ahead of the annual drought he assumes will eventually arrive in Milwaukee.

“If we’re wet in the spring a lot of guys skip. I think it helps to still do that app and get ahead of things. I’ve found that helps with Zipline and that ‘charging’ app we do.” He’s slowly working the product into his program to build it into his budget to make Zipline part of his regular fairway program.

One last annoying problem he wanted to solve: a series of lightly used but unirrigated tee boxes that demanded a lot of hand-watering attention. “We started putting Zipline on these tee boxes two years ago and used it religiously. And loved it. We reduced our hand-watering on those non-irrigated tees substantially.” He digs the labor savings and it’s one less thing to worry about.  

Reuteman doesn’t lack support. His old boss still stops in and he has a tight-knit group of Wisconsin supers he turns to for ideas and, of course, Aquatrols’ John Turner who helps with water management. His goal is to do things right agronomically and provide great play for the members at Westmoor.

“The reality is there are still expectations to keep things green along with firm and fast. I call it ‘country club firm.’ Zipline helps us with that.”


About The Author

Pat Jones has been writing about the golf course business for 33 years. He also teaches and speaks regularly on the state of the industry and trends in the market. Jones is no stranger to working with the Aquatrols brand having served as an advisory member of the company’s board of directors from 2002-2010. Today, his firm Flagstick LLC provides content, research and strategy to companies, distributors and associations in the market.