Shell Landing Golf Club

Gautier, MS

The sand specs for building California style greens weren’t exactly followed during construction of the Shell Landing Golf Course at Gautier, MS, in 1999 and 2000.

Toby Thornton, who became the Shell Landing Golf Course superintendent in mid 2010, notes that a lot of problems in holding moisture and nutrients were due to that diversion from the specs.

“They had been putting massive amounts of water on the greens before I got here (about 2 ½ years ago) and hadn’t been able to hold anything in the root zone,” Thornton says. During his first summer at Shell Landing, the greens were hand-watered. This made them a little bit better but certainly not anywhere good enough.


“I didn’t have a lot of information to go by and was trying to do some new things,” he says of the first summer. “I mean, I  tried everything.”

Finally after not being able to develop the greens that he wanted, it became obvious to Thornton that the profile of the greens had to change. With that determination, he then worked with Agromax, a producer of custom aggregates and a distributor of DAKOTA, fertilizers and chemicals for the golf and sports turf industries in the Central Gulf Coast. They developed a topdressing that would promote retention of both moisture and nutrients, while adding an organic fertilizer.

“Toby wanted better moisture control and nutrient retention in the root zone of the California style greens,” Jeff Cornelson of Agromax says. “Those greens were leaching and drying out too rapidly. After a couple of topdressing applications, Toby has turned some troubled greens into some that are much easier to manage and maintain. They are becoming some of the best in my four-state service region.”

Blended at Agromax’s plant in Foley and shipped to Shell Landing, the topdressing featured 20% DAKOTA Peat in the sand to improve the water and nutrient relationship in the root zone. In the blend, too, was an appropriate amount of the organic fertilizer Sustane.

“I really worked the material down in those greens,” Thornton says. “Since then, we’ve really turned the corner on how much we’ve had to water and how we’ve been able to hold the nutrients. I’m not totally out of the woods yet but I have definitely started to change the profile of the greens. The roots have gotten a lot better and we’ve been able to reduce our water usage by about a third.

“We have all around better playability. I’m really happy with what we’ve been able to do,” he says of the 18-hole championship golf course that was designed by Davis Love III and is located on waterfront of the Gulf of Mexico. “We’ve been very aggressive. Most of it we are doing 80/20, but when I went and did some of it by hand, I was even doing it at 65/35.” More work is planned in spring 2013, Thornton says. “DAKOTA™ has really helped us out.”