Golf Course Superintendent Wayne Phillips and his staff have succeeded in turning an unused plot of land between two holes into a thriving fruit and vegetable garden.Most golf course superintendents are charged with using their resources wisely and efficiently, but the grounds crew at Rocky Bayou Country Club in Niceville, Fla., likes to add a creative spin to their maintenance practices as well. Two years ago, Golf Course Superintendent Wayne Phillips and his staff turned an unused, but consistently maintained, plot of land between the third green and the fourth tee into a 6,000-sq. ft. fruit and vegetable garden.
The garden includes 10 plots that measure 10-feet-by-15-feet and walking paths. Maintenance Supervisor James Dann takes care of the garden, and the Food & Beverage staff incorporates the fresh fruits and vegetables into the dishes they prepare.
|Super in the Spotlight:
Position: Golf Course Superintendent
Club Name: Rocky Bayou Country Club
No. of Holes: 18
Designer: William W. Amick
No. of Members: 300
Annual Rounds: 24,000
Year Opened: 1973
Golf Season: Year-round
Fairways: 419 Bermuda
Honors & Awards: Class A Superintendent, Gulf Coast Golf Course Superintendents Association Vice President
Phillips recently spoke to Club & Resort Business about the germination – and success – of the idea to plant the garden.
Q. What made you decide to plant the garden?
A. A couple of reasons. One, we wanted to take the initiative to turn the area into something useful. The spot was going from one hole to the next, between the third green and the fourth tee. It’s an area off to the side. There are no woods there, and it’s fairly wide open, so we wanted it to look appealing visually and we needed to do something with that spot. Our city water line also happens to come through that area and we wanted to do something to help out our kitchen staff.
Q. How did you select the location for it?
A. We purposely put it in a visual area to keep us accountable and to be sure we maintained it properly and cleanly. We wanted it to be noticeable. One of our members, who is an artist, painted a sign for the garden. We put up a split-rail fence, and we ground up pine stumps into mulch over the winter, and we used the mulch to make sidewalks and walking paths. We have 10 to 12 individual walking paths. People go by and see it. We hope the garden makes them happy – or gets them to the clubhouse to see what’s on the menu.
Q. How do you decide what to plant?
A. We just asked our chefs what would be the most popular and what people would have the most interest in. We started out doing herbs and we were looking for somewhere to put them in the ground instead of on the patios. Then we thought, “What if we had vegetables?” We have tried different things, and we’re getting better at trying to select things we can handle. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Now, we’re selecting things based on our success.
Q. Who takes care of the garden?
A. I have a person on staff that does it, James Dann, our Maintenance Supervisor. He had a garden at his house, and he would bring us things. I approached him to see if he would like to head the project.
Q. What does he do to tend to it?
A. He watches the water. We installed a misting system. It’s not an overhead system where the water will drift, it’s all tubing. He watches the misting system closely to be sure it’s working properly.
In the beginning it was just a weed field, basically, so we incorporated some compost into our soil. We had to amend the soil to get it ready for our garden and the vegetables, which he plants. He starts the seeds at his house and brings them to the garden.
Q. How much time does it take each week?
A. It can take a lot of time. It takes a lot of time to start the initial plants, and then they roll on their own. And then it takes a lot of time to harvest. He also keeps the walking paths clear, so it varies from week to week depending on what we’re doing. Maybe eight hours one week, and two hours the next week. It’s not an extreme amount of time, but manpower and hours are pretty critical on a golf course. The golf course takes priority over anything else, so managing that and finding the time for the garden can be challenging.
Q. How do you make sure the garden doesn’t interfere with other golf course maintenance duties?
A. We just set the golf course as a priority with careful planning. And sometimes the kitchen staff will pitch in and help out if we get behind, or if a storm rolls in and we’re getting other things back on track.
Q. How do the maintenance needs for the garden differ from your turfgrass maintenance needs?
A. We’re really concerned about keeping organics in the garden more than in the turf because the turf produces that on its own.
Q. How much does it cost to plant and maintain the garden?
A. The initial planting of the garden probably cost us almost $1,000 to $1,500. It’s not that expensive if you do it by seed. This year we probably spent $400 to $500. Taste-wise, it makes up for the cost. It’s more the thought of it than a huge money savings. We did it for the taste of fresh vegetables, and we wanted to do something original.
Q. What are the main expenses associated with the garden?
A. We have to do some weed control, but the expense of it is miniscule compared to the management of the golf course dollar-wise. We already have most of the things we need here anyway.
Q. What kind of savings has Rocky Bayou gotten from having an on-site garden?
A. I can’t say that it’s saving us thousands of dollars, but it’s paying for itself.
Q. How has the garden influenced your relationship with the Food & Beverage staff?
A. We have a good team here, and our relationship was good already. But I would say it’s made it stronger. They’re obviously very appreciative that we’re doing this for them. It makes their job easier because their food tastes better
We are a small (but proud) club. Our kitchen is run very efficiently and produces some wonderful food, but no one in the kitchen wears tall chef hats and our kitchen is not that elegant, just a plain kitchen.
Q. What kind of reaction to the garden have you gotten from the members and how is it beneficial to the property?
A. All positive – especially during harvest time.
It’s certainly making the best use of an area that was useless. If you can utilize your property more efficiently, it’s certainly going to be a benefit. We’re trying to utilize the property in the most effective and environmentally friendly way possible.
Q. What advice would you give to other superintendents that might consider planting a garden on their golf courses?
A. This is the key – choosing things that can take care of themselves. Some things grow a lot easier than others, but it depends on how involved you want to be. Green beans are very easy. We grew potatoes the first year, but there was a lot of work involved. Someone had to dig them up at harvest time, and it was very labor intensive. The kitchen staff also said they would like to have fresh peas, so they asked us to grow them. We did, but we’re not going to do that again, because you know what? Somebody has to shell those peas.
Green beans, okra, squash, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli and greens are easy. Just choose things that are less time-consuming to grow and harvest.
Q. What kind of environmental message are you sending by planting the garden?
A. The golf course is owned by a big land company in this area, and we are on a 100-year lease. We want to show the landowners that we are caring for this piece of property to the best of our ability.
Q. What other environmental initiatives do you have in place at Rocky Bayou?
A. Our main environmental initiative is the buffer zones around the lakes. The lakes travel through the property, and they’re free flowing. They’re not stagnant or contained. We have three- to four-foot buffer zones around them, and they act as a filter to keep things from making their way to the water stream.
Q. Are there any other creative ideas that you’ve implemented at Rocky Bayou?
A. This year we started a lawn and landscape business through our facility for our members. A lot of them live around the perimeter of the club. We just prepare an invoice and bill it to the member’s account and any money that we make from it goes back into capital purchases. We also have a golf cart repair business. We’re a private club, and most of our members own their own golf carts.