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A Family Affair (Jan 22)

January 22, 2015 – Located in Louisville, Kentucky – a city rich with American tradition and history – Hurstborne Country Club boasts its own interesting story that dates back before the Civil War.

Although the club’s golf course is nearly fifty years old, some of the buildings on the property date back to the 1700s.

The Hurst family bought the property in the 1880s and oversaw extensive renovations and an expansion of the property. The family’s money came from Mr. Hurst’s simple and fortuitous invention of a weatherproofing material for telephone lines.

The course has always been known for the quality of its bentgrass greens, which have been maintained for more than a decade by Superintendent Walter Pritchett. The course is ranked as the number one member-owned course in Kentucky and number three overall in the state by Golf Digest.

See Video on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9b6eALu4GM

“We’re known around Louisville as a challenging yet fair course,” said Pritchett. “We also stand out because we’re one of the few courses that have large bentgrass approaches, which is a nice touch. The bentgrass does very well in this region, typically there’s just a few weeks in the summer where you struggle, but for the most part, it does well.”

Hurstbourne Country Club is ranked as the number one member-owned course in Kentucky.
Hurstbourne Country Club is ranked as the number one member-owned course in Kentucky.
For Pritchett, turf management has been a family affair, with both his sons joining his turf team over the past few years.

“One of the benefits of being a superintendent is the flexibility we have,” said Pritchett. “One of the great privileges I’ve had in my career is being able to work with my sons. My oldest son worked for me for three seasons and is now doing an internship at Louisville Slugger and my youngest son is working here now.”

“Of course, they both hated it at first but quickly were able to better understand what they were doing and felt very accomplished and proud about the differences they could make on the course. For me, I like for them to see what I do for a living because they gain an appreciation for what they have and why they can go to the schools they do.”

Although he’s found a great labor pool in his own house, Pritchett’s biggest challenge has been keeping his roster filled.

“They say we’re still in a recession and there’s a lot of unemployment, but it’s been very difficult for us to find people that want to work for $10-$11 an hour,” said Pritchett. “We get a lot of teachers and students looking for jobs, but it’s hard to run a golf course when people just want to work three months out of the year.”

Pritchett has used some innovative techniques to both reduce maintenance costs and improve course quality for players.

To help dress up our driving range, we installed bunkers using white artificial turf, which makes them maintenance-free.
To help dress up the driving range, Pritchett installed bunkers using white artificial turf, which makes them maintenance-free.
“We’ve learned a few tricks along the way to improve the quality of the course and experience for members. For example, we replaced our own turning boards with plastic lattice. It’s a tenth of the price and it works just as well. Also, in an effort to dress up the driving range, we installed bunkers and instead of using sand, we used white artificial turf which makes them maintenance-free but still gives the golfer the visual of a bunker.”

“But probably more than anything we’ve done in the last few years to improve the golf course is learn how to use the moisture meters on our greens. Managing the moisture has made a huge difference in what we’re able to do and achieve.”

Part of that achievement is presenting consistently fast greens.

“We’re rolling 11.5 to 12.5 feet every day using the Jacobsen ECLIPSE2 walking greens mowers set at .125” with 15-blade reels and brushes,” said Pritchett. “To get that with our previous Toro mowers, we’d have to mow at .100”. With the Jacobsen mowers, I’m getting 15% more leaf tissue for photosynthesis and fertilizer uptake. We were one of the first courses in the area to use the Jacobsen reversing groomer/brush. Using it in reverse really stands up the grass.”

For special events, Pritchett likes to go even lower.

“For our pro-am Osborne Cup last year, we went down to .100” and were rolling 16’ with a double mow and roll. It didn’t even register on the prism. People absolutely loved it.”
But for Pritchett, service is just as important as product performance.

“The service from local Jacobsen dealer Wolf Creek has been unreal,” said Pritchett. “We had a motor issue with a fairway unit the morning of a tournament. Our Wolf Creek rep was here with a new one at 5:00am. I know he lives three hours away, so he left his house at 2:00am to make sure we had what we need. You just don’t get that kind of service from everybody. It’s been win-win for us with Jacobsen with the quality-of-cut and service.”

“One of the great privileges I’ve had in my career is being able to work with my sons… I like them to see what I do for a living because they gain an appreciation for what they have.” ~Walter Pritchett, Superintendent of Hurstbourne Country Club, Louisville, Kentucky

Original: http://performancematters.jacobsen.com/2015/01/a-family-affair/

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