As home to a high-quality, extremely productive wild trout stream, Lost Creek Golf Club in Fayette Township, Pa., has provided prime real estate for the development of a plan to protect the waterway.
Turfgrass scientists at Penn State University developed such a plan for Lost Creek in late 2018. The project, believed to be the first comprehensive nutrient management plan ever created for a Pennsylvania golf course, was funded by the Chesapeake Bay program as part of the Juniata County Conservation District’s restoration of the Lost Creek watershed.
“The Conservation District wanted to work at a Class A trout stream,” says Tom Troutman, Lost Creek’s Golf Course Superintendent. (It’s pure coincidence that a superintendent with that surname is involved with the project.)
The Conservation District contacted Pete Landschoot, Professor of Turfgrass Management at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, to develop the plan. A nutrient management plan helps golf course superintendents keep track of the nutrient status of soils and turfgrasses and provides strategy for meeting their nutrient requirements through proper timing and amounts of fertilizer applications.
Lost Creek is a high-quality trout stream in its forested headwaters. However, the waterway begins to transition to a warmer water fishery and suffer impairments from runoff as it flows through more agricultural and developed valleys before entering the Juniata River.
The stream, a special feature of the golf course, supports a robust, reproducing population of brown trout. The creek enters the northeast corner of the course near the seventh-hole green, then proceeds south through a wooded area along the eighth fairway before cutting through mostly open areas on the southern portion of the layout.
The creek affects play on about a third of the holes on Lost Creek, a semi-private club with more than 100 members that was built on land previously farmed as pasture. The property is about 150 acres and is surrounded by farmland and wooded areas.
Troutman “basically stayed out of the way” when Landschoot was at the property, but the Penn State professor offered input to the maintenance staff about making fertilizer applications. “He gave us recommendations on where to put down nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus,” says Troutman.
Unfortunately, neither the superintendent nor the professor had much control over the weather last year. Troutman says 2018 was the second wettest year on record, so the nutrient management plan has not yet been fully implemented. He also says the property lost 70 percent of its grass on some greens.
Still, Troutman says, Lost Creek will take advantage of the findings from the project. “It’s [a plan for] better use of fertilizer, using smaller amounts more frequently, and trying not to get any runoff into the stream” he says. “The course overall will be in much better shape. The grass will be much healthier.”
State environmental officials hope that the benefits of the private/public cooperative project will extend beyond Lost Creek. They expect the nutrient management plan to serve as a model for other golf courses to follow, to protect and enhance water quality by limiting nutrient runoff.
“It would be great for other golf courses, if they have the budget to do it,” Troutman says.
The Goal: Position Lost Creek Golf Club to make its fertilizer applications more effective, with a new nutrient management plan that would protect the trout stream on the property.
The Plan: Lost Creek opened its golf course to Penn State University turfgrass scientists, to develop a plan that would protect water quality and limit the runoff of nutrients. Scientists took soil samples to help the maintenance department keep track of the nutrient status of soils and turfgrasses and to provide strategy for meeting their nutrient requirements through proper timing and amounts of fertilizer applications.
The Payoff: With an unusually wet golf season last year, it is too soon to determine the results of the nutrient management plan. However, Lost Creek hopes to increase its fertilizer budget to apply products at the right times and rates. The program also could serve as a template for other properties to protect adjacent streams and water sources.