Composting: A Saddle Rock Golf Course case study
Saddle Rock implements a composting program using grass clippings and bunker edging materials.
Joe McCleary, CGCS
Saddle Rock Golf Course, Aurora, Colo.
Saddle Rock Golf Course, located in Aurora, Colo., started using compost during a construction project. The greensmix included 3% compost material, 17% peat, and 80% sand. The suppression of impacts from the Take-All Patch was the primary thinking behind the use of compost during the green construction process.
No other compost materials were used during the golf course’s construction. When Saddle Rock first opened, grass clippings from the greens and other compostable products were transported back to the maintenance facility for disposal. No compost production occurred during these years.
The compost process
One year after bunker edging operations were complete, a process for producing compost from clippings and bunker edging byproducts was developed. This process involved:
- The use of a four-wheel drive tractor with a 60-inch wide tiller and a tractor with a loader.
- The tractor (with the tiller) was driven onto a large pile of bunker edgings. It was then used to mechanically breakdown the edgings.
- After a few passes with the tiller, additional bunker edgings were placed on top of the pile with the loader.
- Tilling operations continued until the entire bunker edging byproducts was broken down.
- The material was then moved to another location and mixed with material from a clipping compost pile.
The clipping compost material accumulates in a pile during the year. The clippings were frequently turned to accentuate the composting process. A loader bucket equipped with 12-inch teeth provided an ideal tool to turn the pile. The bucket’s teeth mixed the pile each time it is raised. Sand was mixed with the clippings to develop suitable compost. To ensure that the turf doesn’t burn (compost clippings can be very hot), clipping compost and bunker edging byproducts were mixed together.
After topdressing, any excess rocks have to be removed by hand. To minimize this problem, a modified cross conveyor was used. The cross conveyor processed the composted material and removed rocks and other debris. When the compost processing operations were completed, more than 95% of the rocks and other debris were removed.
Compost testing ensures that the final compost product is ready for use on the golf course. Tests revealed that our compost had a “whopping 744 ppm of nitrate.”
According to Easily Extractable analysis, the phosphorus levels were excessive at 1,827 lbs. an acre. The soluble salt, chloride, and sulfate levels were elevated. The ESP and SAR levels were low.
Composting generates approximately 80 cubic yards of compost that is used to topdress tees, fairways, and other areas on the golf course. Compost applications are completed with a material handler equipped with twin spinners or conventional topdressors.
Compost processing typically occurs in the fall and winter seasons. This ensures that quality compost is available to use during the next growing season. Our composting process provides quality topdressing material for weak and healthy turf.