Vaquero Club with Matt Weitz
We have some remarkable early users of the OnLink decision platform, and we think our friends and partners should hear about their unique qualities and what makes them leading-edge operators. I genuinely enjoy having a front row seat to see how strong operators manage in their various environments. One common thread for their success is the ability to correlate key weather data points with their soil insights and then apply water and pesticides based on this intelligence. Many of our customers have had brutal summers with unprecedented rain mixed with high temperatures and humidity. One of these regions is Dallas, Texas, where over 21 inches of rain fell from May to date combined with temperatures above 90 degrees. Here’s a call out to an outstanding young Superintendent and his experiences at a special place in the Lone Star State.
Matt Weitz has been at the helm of Vaquero Country Club for a year and a half now. An early adopter of the OnLink platform, Weitz came to Vaquero from the privately-owned Victoria National Golf Club in Indiana.
Originally, Matt justified the subscription price of OnLink knowing that if the club reduced its water usage – literally by just two days each year of having to make water for irrigation – the platform would pay for itself. But, now he says he’s seeing that his assistants are on the same page all the time and fertility inputs/soil conditions/weather/playing conditions are all in one place which is saving him time and streamlining the processes. This is a feature he believes any superintendent could benefit from.
Talk with Matt about “Moneyball Golf,” and the analogy quickly resonates. He says the analytic approach has been implemented successfully across a variety of industries, and now he’s seeing it work firsthand in turf management.
For Matt, the key takeaway of the OnLink platform, so far, has been knowledge in one place. While he’s always taken data daily, it wasn’t necessarily recorded before like it is now. He says, “You’re taking everything you measure every day and actually filing it. Now that we’re doing that it’s interesting to watch the trends. Knowing my salinity levels, soil moisture levels, fertility spray applications, combined with weather and playing conditions, and having it all in one place…everything is definitely correlating together a bit more.”
At Vaquero, Matt and his team are measuring the following data points: Greens soil moisture (all greens daily), Green Speed (6 greens daily), Salinity (6 Greens Daily), Soil Temperature (6 Greens Daily), Firmness (6 Greens Daily) and Tissue Testing- (Weekly). Blue tooth-enabled TDR, and Pogo handheld sensors, Trufirm for green firmness and TurfGuard wireless in-situ sensors (Toro) are used to collect data daily, and everything is recorded within the OnLink dashboard.
Instead of going guy-to-guy among his crew to get all the information, now it’s all in one place. When guys come in from doing various jobs, they are recording everything on the platform. It’s taking everything and putting it into one viewing area. “OnLink has saved me the headache of sitting down each day and bringing all the information together from everyone’s specific jobs and all the data that’s being collected on the course. I can now go to one place and see everything I need to know,” he says, “which has definitely saved me time.”
And, although the season is not over, Matt says with confidence, “From a budgetary standpoint, we’re ahead of where we were last year at this time, and from a golf course conditions standpoint, we’re ahead of where we were last year – with worse weather conditions.”
Communication and transparency with the membership in regards to his agronomic plans and programs have allowed him to perform all the necessary cultural practices without disrupting the Vaquero experience. Metrics to report back at board meetings was one of the big selling points for Matt. The other main reasons he signed on were for water management and playing conditions monitoring.
In regards to water at Vaquero, there are two wells to pull water. Directly out of the well, the water is considered brackish, as it contains high levels of salts, bi carbonates, chlorides, sodium and iron. They use a reverse osmosis plant to clean the water prior to applying it to the turf. Even with the RO plant, there is still a high level of TSS (Total Soluble Salts) that develops during droughty conditions. By monitoring the EC (electric conductivity) conditions, Matt and his team are able to indicate when the salt reaches a level that needs to be flushed. Sometimes it’s as often as weekly, but currently they are flushing greens every other week. Right now, he’s looking at a yearly budget of $350,000 for water (including usage from wells, electricity, RO costs and labor).
This time of year, pythium, anthracnose and bacterial wilt are the three main plant diseases that Matt’s keeping an eye on, and he’s pleased with plant health conditions at this point – especially considering such an extremely wet spring.
Thinking of his fellow Golf Course Superintendents and the future, he says,
“I feel as though [OnLink] will really help us as golf course managers to fine tune our entire operation. Over time as the historical data begins to accumulate I think it will be the ultimate justification when making decisions. To me, being able to make more educated decisions will minimize any guesswork and ultimately lead to a significant bottom line savings.”
Matt believes the biggest challenge facing the industry is how to continually raise the bar on the golf course without increasing expenses. For his part, he’s looking to find ways to increase efficiencies and re-allocate labor to other areas – whether it be toward tedious detail work or additional turf conditioning. He’s looking forward to checking out the OnLink labor management platform coming out this fall. “Every club needs to find ways to get more bang for their buck,” he states.
Thanks, Matt and Vaquero Club, for working with us in our early stages as we strive to provide the golf industry an intelligence platform with actionable analytics that leads to the ability to do more with less.