How many can say they hosted a PGA tournament in their first year as superintendent? Matt Vollrath is one of the lucky few.
After almost five years as assistant, Vollrath became the superintendent of Harbor Shores last November. He had six months until the course would host the Senior PGA Championship for the fifth time in its 12-year history.
Harbor Shores opened in 2010 as the only Jack Nicklaus Signature Course on Lake Michigan. With that distinction come high expectations from guests.
As a relatively new course, Harbor Shores has been continually improving since day one, and Vollrath has been incorporating Foliar-Pak for the past several seasons. “I was using quite a bit of it the last couple years and then just kind of figured out some products that I liked and certain combinations of the product, and really started to run with it here this last year or so,” he said.
Minors and Foundation Forty are applied on fairways, too. As an amino acid concentrate, Foundation Forty improves tank-mix performance by increasing nutrient and chemical uptake. “Foundation Forty goes in just about every tank,” he said. Similarly, Minors also increases nutrient uptake.
Higher nutrient uptake may sound like it would necessitate growth regulators, but the Foliar-Pak program has had the opposite effect for Vollrath. “I’ve really liked it because it’s really helped me control fertility and growth even without regulation, still maintaining the color, and still being able to provide good speeds without having to regulate,” he said.
The course’s playability was especially important this spring when the Senior PGA Championship returned to Harbor Shores.
“When hosting the Senior PGA, we didn’t regulate greens. We keep pretty good tabs of our clipping volume when we go out and mow. And not having that huge flush of growth, especially on the greens, and being able to maintain speeds at a championship caliber, that’s where I’ve really seen the biggest difference.”
The difference is noticeable not just in playing conditions but also in maintenance costs. “I was able to cut out regulation altogether from the chemical budget, which ended up saving money—not having to go out and mow as much and still maintaining the speeds that we needed,” Vollrath said.
Harbor Shores is set to host the Senior PGA Championship again in 2024, but expectations of the course are high regardless of tournament play. With a hardworking crew and an efficient program, Vollrath is prepared to continue meeting the challenge.