MIDLOTHIAN, Va. — Independence Golf Club’s Director of Golf Course Maintenance Dan Taylor of Midlothian, Va., has been selected as the fifth recipient of the Virginia Golf Course Superintendents’ Association’s Environmental Stewardship Award.
The award is presented “in recognition of distinguished and meritorious service in the environmental stewardship of Virginia golf courses, and in grateful appreciation for unselfishly promoting the profession of golf course management, which led to the advancement of the association.”
“This certainly is a great honor and one I accept on behalf of all superintendents throughout the commonwealth and the great people around me at Independence,” said Taylor, a 15-plus year employee of the club who has served as the layout’s only head superintendent since the course opened in 2001. “I’m proud of the progress that we’ve made at the club and am looking forward to building on our successes.”
Taylor, along with on-site owner Giff Breed, award-winning master architect Lester George and Virginia amateur legend Vinny Giles gave the Championship Course at Independence a major makeover after the club closed for a wholesale top-to-toe renovation in 2014.
Since reopening last year, the changes included regrassing the fairways and greens, ridding the layout of an overabundance of bunkers and strategically removed or relocated trees to get air moving, resulting in healthier turf. All told, 40 percent of the layout’s bunker acreage was removed.
As a part of the makeover, club officials changed green surrounds from rough to closely mown areas. The fairways were converted to a sturdier strain known as 419 bermudagrass and greens were resurfaced with Champion ultradwarf bermudagrass; Independence is believed to be to northern-most course to use that type of grass on its putting surfaces.
Bunkers were reconstructed using the “Better Billy Bunker” method, which offers superior drainage. Additionally, new wells were drilled to increase the water supply to both the course and the surrounding neighborhood. The result is a more fun course that plays faster and is friendlier to the environment.
When Independence reopened, golfers were treated to a transformed layout by relying on the principles of playability, pace of play and sustainability.
Moreover, while tending to his daily responsibilities maintaining Independence, Taylor often has plenty of company in addition to his superintendent crew. During his busy day, Taylor often sees a four-legged friend such as a deer staring right back at him as if to say, ‘What are you doing here?’
The course is home to an extensive species of diverse wildlife, including deer, wild turkeys, beavers, ducks, geese, rabbits, foxes, herons, turtles, frogs, hawks and an occasional bald eagle, among many types of species.
Independence also is very conservative when it comes to water usage. The lakes on the property catch runoff and Independence recently drilled two wells to supplement the course’s needs. Taylor also has a new Toro e-Osmac system that is computerized to control every sprinkler head on the property individually. The system is programed with the size of the head, the nozzle, the soil type and many other variables to allow great control to only irrigate where necessary.
Taylor also hired an industry consultant, Angela Whitehead, to put together a Nutrient Management Plan for the club, something that will be required of all Virginia golf courses by July 2017. He noted that there is state grant money to defer half the cost.
Regarding environmental stewardship in daily maintenance practices, Taylor downplays this as nothing unique among superintendents.
“Superintendents are good stewards by nature. It’s what we’ve been taught. You don’t use fertilizers unless they are necessary—the same with pesticides,” he says. “Likewise, we conserve water and don’t use it when it’s not needed.”
Under Taylor’s watch over the course’s conditioning, Independence has received a host of rave reviews, including being hailed as one of Golf Digest’s ‘Best New Courses’ for 2014 and ranked No. 3 among the country’s ‘Most Cheerful Courses’ in the publication’s August 2015 edition.
With Taylor as the superintendent, Independence Golf Club has welcomed a host of state championships, including the State Open 2007-13.
In 2002, Taylor was selected to be a part of the USGA Green Section Committee. He was part of advising, serving and supporting the committee from 2002-14 before it was disbanded
Taylor served on the VGCSA board the past five years as external vice president for the Old Dominion Golf Course Superintendents’ Association.
Prior to arriving at Independence, Taylor served as the superintendent at The Virginian, a premier 21-hole facility in Bristol, one of the best-conditioned layouts in both Virginia and the nation. He has also served as the superintendent at the Legends Club of Tennessee and assisted with the construction of the The Little Course at Aspen Grove, which is dedicated furthering the game through turfgrass research and junior golf.
A native of Gastonia, N.C., Taylor received his Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from UNC Charlotte and a degree in agronomy as a part of the turfgrass program at Catawba Valley Tech in Hickory, N.C. Taylor and his wife Susie reside in Midlothian. He is a stepfather to two sons, Brad McCurry and D.J., and a daughter, Kendall.