Chad Karr recently celebrated one year as the superintendent of Brickshire Golf Club in Providence Forge, Virginia. The milestone marks a year full of change and adjustment—for Chad, his family, and Brickshire Golf Club.
Chad grew up in Virginia and started working in the golf course turf industry when he was 16 years old. He spent some time in the Carolinas, attended Horry-Georgetown Technical College, and then moved back to Virginia in 2006. He continued to work on golf courses, primarily in the Richmond and Williamsburg areas.
Before joining Brickshire, Chad drove three hours round-trip to work every day. With four kids at home, he and his wife decided to move closer to his job and build a house in the Brickshire neighborhood. That’s when the Brickshire Golf Club superintendent position opened, and Chad realized he could have an even shorter commute than expected.
“I think the place flew under the radar because there are so many great golf courses in central Virginia, but I instantly fell in love with the property,” said Chad. “It has a lot of native areas, a lot of good architectural character to the course.”
The job offer was exciting for Chad, both professionally and personally. “I went from having a three-hour commute daily to about a three-minute golf cart ride,” he said. Chad started in June of 2022, eager to get to work. “I felt as though I could come in and make an impact and make some changes that would be for the better. And I hope to think that Foliar-Pak has been a big part of that success.”
Starting in the middle of the season meant working with what was on hand. “I inherited a chemical and fertilizer room that basically were a hodgepodge of products from other manufacturers, so I pretty much rode out the rest of the season with what I had,” Chad said. “The prior superintendent had been very impactful. He was very high-level maintenance, he was good. So I inherited a great opportunity in that regard. There were some things that I’ve improved upon, but I was given a really good slate to begin with.”
It wasn’t until the fall that Chad began tweaking his program. Specifically, he was looking for a silica product when his distributor representative told him about Foliar-Pak CSiL. “I took a chance and decided to start off with three products. So I started off the CSi L, Foundation Forty, and Amperage. And immediately, you saw a huge color change, very natural,” Chad said.
“It didn’t seem like you were overloading the plant with nitrogen, just got a really good plant response. So much so that I have a couple of tenured employees on my crew that have been here between eight and ten years who said they’ve never seen the greens look that good.”
If those results weren’t enough, a careless golfer provided yet another field test. “We had an area on our practice green that someone had decided to apply some aerosol, whether it was bug spray or sunscreen, on their legs, and you could see the outline of their feet in green and all brown around it.” Chad turned the blunder into a bet with his rep: “If I can get that area to recover and I don’t have to plug that out, then I’ll commit to a full-on program next year.”
Chad was pleasantly surprised by what happened next. “As I continued to do those biweekly sprays with just those three products alone, that area actually recovered, and I didn’t have to plug it out,” he said. “At that point, we then pulled some soil samples. And with recommendations from Curt, we came up with a program.”
True to his word, Chad committed to a full Foliar-Pak greens program for the 2023 season. He started in the spring with a foliar spray of 18-3-4, Calcium, Amperage, Armament K, and Magnesium. His soil applications are the same all year: Armament K, Base Calcium, and Base Magnesium.
Summer applications consist of the three that started it all: CSi L, Foundation Forty, and Amperage. The program continues Magnesium through the summer and adds Gold Standard 45 for phosphite. It also includes CSi L and Grow-In around spring and fall aeration.
Chad had used amino acid products before, but not with the same success he saw from Foliar-Pak technology. “Some of the other competitors, I would see that you would apply the product. You get plant response within two, three days. And within five days, it kind of petered out,” he said. “And you kind of feel like your greens look like they’re hungry and needing that next application, which then, at that point, could be another week out. Where Foliar-Pak, it’s like every time I spray, I don’t see that diminished return. It’s like they just exponentially get better every time.”
The results have continued to impress. “They have habitually had areas that they just could never get to fill in. And I would say that I have 99.9% turf coverage at this point, which is absolutely amazing,” Chad said.
Improved plant recovery has taken some pressure off of Chad’s crew. “One of the things that we noticed in the fall was, if an area wilted, we weren’t looking at wilt damage as long. Which, in a lot of ways, was allowing my crew to not feel obligated to continuously hit the same areas with water,” he said.
“I think in a lot of ways, I’m able to give less nitrogen to get a healthier plant, which is reducing my clipping volume and reducing the amount of time it takes to mow. Plus, I think reduced clippings means less wear and tear on equipment. I think it all exponentially adds up.”
Another challenge for Chad and his crew at Brickshire is water quality. The course has used reclaimed water since its construction over twenty years ago. While this design is a sustainable solution to water shortages, it means the crew is maintaining their course with non-potable “gray” water.
When he arrived at Brickshire, Chad knew he would be working with high bicarbonate levels, which he soon confirmed with a water test. Soil testing reinforced the results, as the soil had high sodium levels.
Chad decided to take a new approach to water management this year. His irrigation plan now includes deep watering every few days to get past the solid sodium accumulations in the top few inches of soil. It will also involve drenching the greens with Armament Concentrate and Hydro-Pak Command to flush out the high salt levels in the soil.
Chad sees these kinds of innovations as the future of golf course management. “I think that that’s going to be kind of the trend moving forward in this industry, that potable water is going to be less and less available for golf courses,” he said. “And we’re going to have to get creative to use other sources that are less desirable for human consumption. Had we not utilized this component, they basically discharge this water back into a local river.”
Having dealt with everything from aerosol damage to low water quality, Chad feels that Foliar-Pak has proved itself on his course over the past year. “You know, there may be some things cheaper on the market, but I think that it’s like everything in life: You pay for what you get. And it’s definitely been worth every penny,” he said.
And Chad isn’t the only one who has noticed positive changes since last summer. “People are absolutely raving about conditions, especially greens, the putting surface. Play has been up tremendously. We’re about 3,000 rounds ahead of where we were last year at this time,” Chad said. “I think that there’s definitely something to the uptick in rounds, and I think it has a lot to do with the conditions of our putting surface.”
When Chad moved to Brickshire just over a year ago, he thought he might be able to change the golf course for the better. Now, that hope has become a reality with hard work from his crew, support from his family, and help from his Foliar-Pak program.