Using volunteer prison labor and laser pointers for geese control are ideas that the North Carolina municipal course is looking at, to address course maintenance issues while continuing to improve conditions despite tight budgets.
A recent profile in the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times highlighted how Black Mountain (N.C.) Golf Course, managed by Billy Casper Golf (BCG), is striving to improve course conditions while staying within the city’s still-tight operating budget for the property.
“The never-ending battle against weeds, wear and the scourge of geese” have led managers at Black Mountain to consider some unorthodox strategies, the Citizen-Times reported.
After years of wear and recent historic rains turned the course into “a hodge-podge of patchy grasses, overgrown edges and ditches clogged with weeds,” the Citizen-Times reported, at the same time that budget shortfalls contributed to maintenance gaps, members of a town-appointed committee met with regional and local representatives of Billy Casper Golf in late July to continue discussions about course conditions that first began last November and have led to noticeable improvements.
While BCG has told the committee that using volunteers to help with course maintenance can pose liability issues, they did suggest following up on the idea of using prison labor, which the management firm has used with success in other locations.
“We welcome that [idea],” said Mike Stevens, BCG’s Southeast Agronomy Director. “We certainly utilize that resource quite a bit. If there is a way to work through that with the town [of Black Mountain], we would love to do it.”
Robby Henderson, Black Mountain’s Course Superintendent, said other Asheville-area municipal courses have used prison labor in the past and that he was recently approached by a detention official who told him that “busloads” of prisoners were available and willing to help do course maintenance work.
Black Mountain is also thinking of looking at introducing new forms of Bermuda grass that can grow better in a mountain climate and require less maintenance than high-end.
“Everybody loves to putt on bentgrass, there’s no doubt,” Stevens said. “But when you think of all the factors that go into maintaining it, [switching to Bermuda] is a conversation worth having.”
One very cost-effective solution for another common course maintenance problem that has already paid dividends for Black Mountain is using a laser pointer to disperse flocks of geese that soil the course, the Citizen-Times reported.
Henderson said he now supplements the work done by his border collie, Lila, by scaring geese with the pointer. The superintendent said he first experimented on a nuisance flock at a pond next to his house.
“They would come in every morning at 5 a.m. and wake me up,” he said. “I would go out with a laser and shine it across the lake, and they were gone. They just don’t like it.”
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