Oct 06

Dead Simple Solutions

How we helped Darren Crowther diagnose his issues and chart a course for better agronomy at Houldsworth GC.

By Paul Lowe

Houldsworth Golf Club, is an 18-hole parkland golf course situated in-between Stockport and Manchester. About two years ago Darren Crowther and his small team set about transforming this hidden gem into a real diamond. Darren inherited some common and yet very challenging agronomic problems.  

Dry Patch and Hydrophobic Soil

At Houldsworth the affected areas were hydrophobic. The turf dried out to the extent that it became very difficult, if not impossible, to re-wet even after applying copious amounts of water and even a wetting agent. The soil just continued to repel water, the good areas became wetter and dry areas remained dry. Resulting in loss of turf quality, moss infestation and an inconsistent playing surface.

Knowing that the soil was indeed hydrophobic, we needed to reset the balance. Aqueduct allowed Darren to do exactly this. By applying Aqueduct to these areas, we quickly reversed water movement issues and fixed the hydrophobicity problem, both at the surface and below the soil surface. This then allowed Darren and his team to apply enough water to bring it back to his targeted moisture levels. Once the hydrophobicity was cured, we set about choosing the right wetting agent.

The Right Solution

Houldsworth’s needs were hardly unique:

  • Consistency throughout the profile
  • Improved percolation
  • Conserve water during dry times
  • Improve plant health.

Zipline’s unique blend of soil surfactant chemistry breaks surface tension and optimizes the moisture deep down into the soil profile. Once in place, it helps to maximise turf quality by enhancing the availability and retention of both applied and existing moisture and nutritional elements. The result has been more consistency, improved percolation rates, firmer, faster playing surface and improved plant and soil health. 


The greens had an extremely high level of thatch. This contributed to severe summer dry patch and soft surface during the winter. The thatch was approximately 3 -4 inches thick and was showing little sign of degrading / breaking

A quick reminder about thatch: Why do we see a build-up of thatch in golf greens and why is it so problematic?

It is all about the micro-organisms. Micro-organisms break down organic matter and for the micro-organisms to flourish and decay the organic matter they have certain requirements. Like all living species they require the correct air to water ratio, an uncontaminated place to live and a food source. If just one of those requirements is missing those micro-organisms simply cannot function properly. The thatch will start to build, and this is when the moisture levels will increase, and those disease pathogens will inhabit.   

Creating the right environment and getting the water and air ratio correct is essential in the foundation of turf and soil life health and a determining factor in how efficient thatch breakdown can be.

Drainage and a good aeration plan are a key factor allowing water to travel through the profile. At Houldworth, water was sitting in the thatch layer. When thatch is waterlogged for long periods of time the air spaces are filled with water and the environment for healthy biology has disappeared. 

Using the right wetting agent technology really helped. The technology in Zipline created a unique mode of action that promotes better water/air ratio. Unlike any other surfactants, Zipline helped water to flow through the profile — leaving plenty of room in soil for air.


Finally, during the warmer summer months, Darren decided to use a monthly combination of a low-salt based fertilizer and combined this with Redox C-85 and Redox Supreme. 

Redox C-85 stimulates the natural biology that is associated with the plant and soil. It is soluble across a broad pH range, improving soluble carbon availability and in all soil types. The availability of soluble carbon increases the natural soil microbial diversity, overall soil health and untimely thatch breakdown was quickly noticeable.

Redox Supreme increases nitrogen efficiency, specially formulated to target plant sugar alcohol production related to nitrogen in plants. The combination of plant nutrients and increased sugar alcohols enhanced nitrogen metabolism and improved the overall quality and performance of the greens. The two products combined dramatically helped with reducing thatch build up, reduced fertiliser inputs from over 120kg N to 60kg N whilst improving presentation and plant health. 

The Results

Two pictures say it all. Here’s the same green 12 months apart:

Darren and his team have made massive improvements. The greens are firmer, smoother, faster and more consistent, all without the need to lower the height of cut. The turf is healthier, fertilizer & water requirements have been reduced. The beneficial soil biology is working well, disease is far less serious, and the thatch is degrading well. He’s on his way to continued, sustainable success.


About The Author

More than 60 years ago, Aquatrols introduced the world’s first commercially available soil wetting agent. Since creating an entirely new product category to address water management challenges and opportunities, the company has remained a top innovator and producer of high-performance soil surfactants and related technologies. Aquatrols’ advanced product suite optimizes soil-water-plant interactions in agricultural, professional turfgrass, and horticultural industries in more than 40 countries. Headquartered in southern New Jersey, Aquatrols also has offices in the United Kingdom and conducts business on six continents.