Visitors to Shadow Hills Golf Club in Indio, California are often amazed by the facility’s beautiful setting that combines deep green hills with the natural hues of the vast Colorado Desert. The Troon-managed club is part of a homeowners’ association and features two 18-hole golf courses – the championship South course and the executive North course. As a member of Audubon International's Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, Shadow Hills works to protect the local environment, conserve natural resources and save wildlife habitats.
Superintendent Jason Allmon came to Shadow Hills in June 2017, but he’s been involved with golf course construction and management for more than 20 years. Like many superintendents, his career path went in a much different direction than the one he anticipated when he was attending college in Southern Missouri.
“My degree is in biology, and my initial plan was to teach high school,” Allmon says. “During college, I took on a job at a local golf club to make some money between classes. I really enjoyed my work there, which caused me to take more plant science classes. After I graduated, I worked in golf course construction for a few years and worked my way up to become a superintendent. I’ve been here in California for 11 years now.”
Allmon and his crew of 34 employees keep the golf club and the surrounding residential properties looking their best all year round. Located in the Coachella Valley outside of Palm Springs, Shadow Hills is surrounded by very exclusive courses with large operating budgets and the fees to match.
“We’re not a high-end, private club like others in the Valley,” Allmon explains. “But we have a decent operating budget and a good-sized crew which helps us keep the Shadow Hills homeowners and their guests happy.”
Because of the area’s hot desert climate, Allmon estimates that 75 to 80 percent of the golf played at Shadow Hills takes place from November to April. During those months, around 90 percent of the rounds played are by Shadow Hills homeowners. When the weather begins to get warmer in May, the competition for golfers also heats up.
“That’s when many of the homeowners head north for the summer,” Allmon says. “Everyone is competing for rounds then, but our executive course has an excellent layout, and we see a lot of demand for tee times on that course throughout the year.”
The power of POLYON
In the fall months, golf courses in the Coachella Valley typically overseed their Bermudagrass with ryegrass to maintain green turf throughout the busy season that stretches from November to April. However, shading the Bermudagrass with ryegrass for months at a time can take a toll.
“Once it gets too hot for the ryegrass, then what you’re left with is thin, unattractive and patchy Bermudagrass,” Allmon explains. “It’s really important to be proactive with your fertility program to prevent this from happening. Otherwise, you’ll have fairways that don’t have a lot of turf to play off of.”
Before coming to Shadow Hills in 2017, Allmon applied a fertilizer blend containing POLYON controlled-release fertilizer from Koch Turf & Ornamental at another California golf course. When Allmon landed at Shadow Hills, his local distributor sales representative told him about another available fertilizer blend – a 30-0-10 formulation – with a higher ratio of POLYON.
“I made an application of that 30-0-10 POLYON blend at Shadow Hills in late spring,” Allmon recalls. “It gave us a continual feeding throughout May, June and July, which is really important for Bermudagrass because it gives you coverage over your thin spots. Those are the spots you can really struggle with, because if there’s not much shade or healthy turf over the soil, it dries out even faster in the hot summer months.”
Fewer applications, better results
Keeping golf course turf green longer has become increasingly important over the past few years as more visitors to the Coachella Valley are golfing even during the formerly slow, hot summer months.
“People used to stay here just through Easter,” Allmon says. “Now, they’re staying through Mother’s Day even Memorial Day weekend. The resorts are discounting their rooms during that time of year, and those discounts make it attractive for people from Los Angeles and Orange County to visit after school is out. The kids swim at the pool and Dad gets an early tee time. That puts additional pressure on clubs to provide a decent product for longer than before, which is where the POLYON really helps us out.”
Because they saw such good results on the Bermudagrass, Allmon and his crew have begun using the POLYON blend regularly, fertilizing tees, approaches and fairways approximately three times per year.
“We were able to put an application down in May that provided food for the Bermudagrass once it really started to get growing,” Allmon says. “That was the only application we had to make all summer. And that’s important, because like all courses, we have days when we’re extremely busy. We can apply the POLYON blend, and we’re good for a few months. I don’t have to have a crew member waiting to apply fertilizer to a fairway when there are golfers present. The time savings is another real advantage to using the POLYON blend.
“I’ll be honest – I’ve used a competitor’s product, and it had its benefits. But overall, just the fact we were able to get several months of food to the Bermudagrass with one application of the POLYON blend… to me, that was worth the cost of the fertilizer itself and more. Shadow Hills management is happy with the results. We took a chance and did something different. It’s been a good decision, and it’s continuing to pay off.”