Sunday, September 25, 2016

A new lady in the HBEC nest

To be honest we are not sure what to make of the happenings at the Harrison Bay Eagle Cam nest over the past two weeks.  Our beloved Eloise has not been seen at the nest in the past 10 days and a new female eagle has been a regular visitor and contributor to the "crib rails" placed around the perimeter of the nest to keep the eaglets from tumbling out.

There was a lot of speculation in the beginning that the new eagle was Eloise but was just having a bad hair day but we have had the pleasure of viewing her for many years and there was no doubt that this eagle was a new one.

The new female eagle has made herself at home spending a couple of nights in the nest and bonding with Elliott.  It is widely believed that bald eagles mate for live but as detailed in this article from William and Mary Cams Reveal Deadbeat Dads, Cheating Wives, and Nest Intrusions we are now learning with the vast increase in eagle cams around the world that this might not be the case.

Eloise looking over HB9 in the nest bowl.
Where is Eloise?  We do not know but we are not going to speculate on what has happened or if she will return to the nest.  We hope and pray that she is safe and sound and just taking a long vacation but if not we have to move on.  Things happen that we are not aware of and we have to remember that we are watching nature in it's most true and raw form.

Since she seems to be happy at the nest and Elliott seems to like her we may have a new nesting pair of eagles and she needs a name.  My daughter Hannah who named Elliott and Eloise has decided to name the new female eagle Eliza.  So that will be her new name.  Hope everyone likes it.

Again we hope and pray that Eloise is safe and sound and will return to the nest if possible.  We still feel very fortunate to be able to watch these eagles and if this is our new pair we will get to learn new and different nesting patterns.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Showing the Tees, Fairways, and Driving Range some "Love"

Greens Aerification wasn't the only work that got accomplished last week.  We also performed summer cultural practices on tees, fairways, and the driving range tee as well.  All the tee boxes were aerified using 3/4" solid tines, topdressed heavily with sand, and then once dry enough the sand was drug in.  This practice will make the tees healthier, will increase drainage, and will loosen the compaction of the soil making it easier for you to get your tee in the ground, which we know has been a challenge sometimes this summer.

The big practice that we took on this year was to verticut or vertical mow the fairways.  This year since we had a few extra days I decided to go "deep" to really get down into the thatch layer and clean the grass up.  With the blades set at 1/4" below zero we surely accomplished that goal and pulled a lot of debris up.


Just like the verticutting units for the greens, the ones for the fairways are designed to cut into the turfgrass on a vertical plane pulling long stolons and dead/decaying thatch to the surface so it can be removed.  Here is a video of the fairway verticutter in action.  As you can see there is a tremendous amount of debris removed during this process.  Following the verticutting we blew as much of the clippings as we could from the fairways and mowed them in a circular pattern to "attack" the grass from different angles than it is used to which really cleaned the fairways up.  Since we do not have a leaf/turf vacuum to pick the clippings up there was a lot of debris to blow and you will still experience a little bit of it for a week or so but it will soon be gone.

One area that we really wanted to work on while the course was closed was the landing area on #10 where we installed all the drain lines this winter #10 Fairway Drainage Project Complete.  The work on this fairway has turned out great but the areas where the drains were installed needed to be smoothed out.  Using our John Deere tractor aerifier Willie aerified the landing area with 1" coring tines, allowed the cores to dry and then used a steel drag mat to bust up and spread the cores around.  The area was then blown off and rolled several times with the 1.25 ton vibratory roller we rented for the greens.  We also, as to not waste anything on our course, used the sand removed from #9 green that we had stockpiled in the parking lot to top dress the area heavily which will help continue to fill in the trenches and smooth the landing area out.

To try and make sure all the areas on our golf course felt some love throughout the week we also aerified and verticut the driving range tees on Thursday.  Using the same JD tractor and coring tines the range tees were aerified, then verticut with the Toro verticutters, all the sand drug in and then all the debris blown off to the front of the complex.

In fact there was so much thatch material removed from these tee boxes that when Willie got it blown to the front of the tee complex we had to take the Bobcat up to load it into a trailer to haul it off.  In total we removed 5 full trailer loads of clippings from the area which is an incredible amount.  Just goes to show how badly it was needed to be done, and therefore it will be done a little more often from now on so we don't get in this situation again.

We all love our golf course and believe that all the work we performed last week will only go to improve it moving forward.  We still have a few tees to top dress and will be blowing some of the clippings as we mow fairways over the next couple of weeks.  We are already seeing some response from the fairways as they look more lush and healthy and the tee markers are easier to set in the ground on the tee boxes.  It's always nice to see all the hard work paying off.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

2016 Greens Aerification

Early Monday morning we began our summer aerification of the greens and other areas on the golf course.  Aerification is one of the most important cultural practices we do to the greens as explained in this Course Care from USGA Why Aerate?.  This year we chose to use a 1/2" side eject coring tine set on a 1/5" x 1.5" spacing.   Using this spacing we affected 10.91% of the green and removed close to 30 cubic feet of material from the green per 1000 sq ft.

The organic matter content of our greens has increased considerably over the years to over 6%.  The recommended limit for greens is 3% so this year we had to remove the cores and since we don't have the proper equipment to do this, it was left up to the agronomy team to do this manually.  It was a tremendous effort by our staff over two days to remove close to 3,900 cubic feet of material from the greens surface by hand.

Here is a plug taken from the putting green which if you remember was devastated by nematode damage coming out of dormancy this spring, Greens Update.  Two things to take from this picture 1) We have reduced the impact of the nematodes and the damage they caused, and have grown some very nice roots.  2) We have a considerable amount of organic matter (roots, thatch, live tissue) in the top 1.5" of the greens surface.  Ideally we should be closer to 3/4" of this organic layer. This layer is a haven for disease, nematodes, and holds excessive moisture making the greens soft and slower.  Removing this material will only make the greens perform and play better.

After all the cores were picked up and hauled away (to be used to fill in low areas, tree stump holes, and drainage lines around the course later) the greens were blown off leaving a clean surface.  The holes created by the aerifier were open and ready for sand.

After the greens were cleaned off they were double rolled and heavily topdressed with AS45 damp sand from Golf Agronomics.  Over the entire golf course we applied close to 35 tons of sand to the greens.  The sand was allowed to dry, actually a couple of times as we had a few stray showers pass through which got the sand wet again, and then drug in twice using a circle pattern.  After the second dragging the greens were heavily watered to relieve some of the stress from all the abuse to the surface and to work the sand into the surface.

The next step of the process was to perform a vertical mowing of the greens surface.  This year our intent was to remove as much organic matter from the greens as possible so we set the blades at 0.200" below zero and made passes up and back in two directions.  This process removes a lot of the dead and decaying leaf and stem tissue from the green.  It also pulls the stolons to the surface so they can be removed which will make the greens healthier and roll smoother.

In between each direction the greens were blown off to remove the debris from the green and allow for a cleaner and more consistent cut with the verticuttters on the next pass.

We verticut following aerification rather than prior to pulling the core because experience, and advice from our friends at East Lake Golf Club, has shown that this process helps to work the sand into the holes and reduce the size of the surface opening of the aerification hole.  The vertical mowing process will actually pull the leaf blades over the hole reducing the visual affect of the aerification process and will aid in helping the grass to grow over the opening faster which will help make the golfer happier, quicker.

The next step was to remove the leaf surface that was stood up by the vertical mowing process.  We set our sand reel cutting units at 0.150" and mowed up and back in one direction.  The greens were then blown off again and heavily watered again.

On Thursday the greens received another 35 tons of sand to continue filling in the aerification holes.  The sand will help to dilute the organic matter in the top of the greens profile, will help water and air exchange compared to the heavy thatch layer which was present in the top two inches of the green, and help smooth the surface out for better putting.  The greens were drug multiple directions and in circles after each mowing and topdressing.

After all the coring, topdressing, verticutting, mowing and dragging there is only one step left and that is to roll the greens with a 1.25 ton street roller.  The heavy roller will remove the majority of the tire tracks from the greens and start the greens along the path to recovery. Several different fertilizers and soil amendments were applied to the greens and after one final drag and after one more heavy irrigation cycle Greens Aerification 2016 was in the books.

So yes this has been a lengthy blog post but it has been a very long week and all the work done by your agronomy team will pay off tremendous benefits from here on.  I have to thank Robin and our upper management in Nashville for allowing us the time to perform all these tasks properly and not rushing through them as we normally have to.  We usually have only two days to accomplish all the tasks we performed over these five days but this way we got to take our time, slow down, and do the job better which will allow the course to recover quicker and perform better.

I can not thank our agronomy staff enough for their dedication and hard work.  After all the long hours for the TGA Match Play Championships last week to come right behind that with aerification was a lot to ask.  They performed flawlessly and had a great attitude the entire week doing all the hard work in the baking sun to make your golf course better.  If you see the agronomy staff out on the course let them know how much their commitment to the conditioning of the course means to you.  They deserve the recognition for all their efforts.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tennessee Golf Association Match Play Championships

Last week The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay had the honor of hosting the 2016 Tennessee Golf Association Junior Amateur and Senior Match Play Championships.  It was great to be able to welcome golfers from all across our great state of Tennessee and we saw some outstanding talented golfers.

The Agronomy Staff has really been working hard over the past several months with the goal of getting the course in great condition for this event and according to many of the players, we succeeded.  Hosting an event like this means that everyone has to do their part, from the operations side, the food and beverage side, and the golf course maintenance side.  It is a team effort and we are very proud of the dedication and work of our team.

From the golf course maintenance side of planning for this event it meant many early mornings with work being done in the dark to make sure the course was properly prepared and ready for the players at 7:30.  So what all was done before most people were out of bed?  Greens were double cut, then rolled.  Pin locations set.  Championship tees mowed.  Bunkers blown out and raked.  Fairways drug and cart paths blown off.  It takes an army and we have a good one.

Afternoon course preparation for the event also needed to be done to keep the course in prime condition and our agronomy staff came through again.  Each evening they returned to mow fairways, tees, approaches, blow off fairways and roughs, and to roll greens.

It is not every day that we can put this much time into the course but the extra work really proved worthwhile and we hope the golfers enjoyed the course and enjoyed their round.
Congratulations to William Nottingham of Kingsport, TN for being the 2016 TGA Junior Amateur Match Play Champion.

Congratulations to Mr. Bob Rice of Pikeville, TN for winning the 2016 TGA Senior Match Play Championship.

We are half way through the year, and it has been a challenging year at that, but our staff has worked extremely hard to get the golf course back in the shape that we and our guests expect it to be and we are not going to reduce our level of expectation.

This week we are performing our summer course aerificaiton, all in an effort to make the course even better.  The course will be closed this week but the driving range is open, except for Thursday when we will be working on the range.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Playing Catch Up at the Bay

With all the work being done on the golf course this summer, mostly on the greens, there have been some areas of the course which have unfortunately had to take a backseat on the priority list.  One of those has been the native grass areas around the course and with over 50 acres of native grass areas that has begun to become an eyesore and an added obstacle to many golfers' enjoyment of the game.

This past week Mitch used a Bobcat brushcat equipped with rubber tracks to go through and clean up all the native grass areas and lake banks around the course.  Many of these areas had become overgrown with weeds and tree saplings becoming unsightly and in some cases blocking golfers view or even ability to play properly off of certain tee boxes.  We do apologize for that and believe we have remedied that issue.

View from the tee box on #2 before maintenance.

View from #2 after maintenance.

#5 tee box before maintenance

#5 tee box after maintenance

Another area on the course that we have neglected has been the faces, or turf surrounding, the bunkers.  These have become overgrown and were extremely difficult to play out of but several members of the agronomy team led by Bill Greene have put forth tremendous effort mowing the grass back down, reestablishing a nice clean edge on the bunkers and getting them back in shape for play.

Our agronomy staff is working very hard to catch up on several of the important areas on our course and we ask that you do your part in improving the course by repairing your ball marks, filling divots, raking bunkers, and obeying golf cart directional signs.

Harrison Bay will have the honor of hosting the Tennessee Golf Association Match Play and Senior Match Play Championships July 28-31 and we are working to have the course in championship condition by then.  In preparation for that we will be adding sand to the bunkers, aerifying selected tees and other areas on the course, landscape work around the course, and a lot of prep on the greens to get them smoother and faster.

It has been an interesting summer so far and we are excited about where the course is headed.  I have to thank our agronomy staff, some of which have only been with the course for a month or two, for jumping in with both feet and putting in long, hard hours to rebuild the course to the level that you, and I, expect.  We are not done, not by a long shot, and will continue working hard.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Managing Excessive Organic Material in Greens

Over the past couple of months we have been working very hard to recover our greens from the nematode infestation that we experienced coming out of dormancy as detailed in a previous blogpost Greens Getting Better Everyday.  With all the extra fertility we have had to apply to the greens to help them recover we have generated a lot more organic matter in the greens this year than usual causing them to be puffy, or have a "spongy" feeling, which reduces the firm, fast feel of the greens and allowing our greensmowers to start scalping and gouging areas in the greens.

We have worked too hard in getting the greens back to lay off of them now so that is why we got aggressive with our verticutting process this past week.  The whole idea of getting aggressive is to remove the stolons or top growth on the greens.  It looks very intense but is actually one of the best things we can do for our greens as it removes the excess growth in the greens, allows for more sand topdressing to be incorporated into the greens, creates a firmer faster surface, and reduces the potential scalping issues that we have been facing.

The greens were verticut in two directions at a depth of 0.125" below the surface using a backtrack mowing pattern meaning we verticut directly back up the pass we just did.  This is done to make sure all the green is consistently affected in the same way.

Verticutting or vertical mowing is accomplished by using blades which are set in a vertical position, thus the name, and designed to penetrate the surface of the greens to remove stolons and excess growth on greens.  The depth at which the blades are set determine the amount of material removed and the disruption to the putting surface.

So why do we spend the extra time and energy to backtrack mow?  The set up of the verticutting units and the growth habit of the greens to grow downhill and toward the sun requires this to insure a consistent affect to the entire surface.  The top picture shows the units going up hill or "into the grain" so the blades are actually not affecting much turf.  The bottom picture shows the blades going downhill so that the teeth shown above are actually reaching under the green surface and pulling the turf upwards.  If the greens were only verticut in one direction then every other pass would be affected more than the other and that would result in stripes across the green which would affect play and appearance for a very long time.  And no one wants that.

After the greens were verticut we used a tow behind turbine blower to remove any excess organic material from the greens surface before it was double cut with our sand reel mowers set at 0.130 and then single cut with our regular cutting units set at 0.120.  The amount of material removed from the greens is unbelievable and I wish there was a way to collect it all and pile it up so everyone could get a grasp of what is going on under that putting green surface and why these processes are necessary.

After the greens were double cut and then single cut they were moderately topdressed and drug in and then watered.  We really opened up the canopy of the greens with this process and the sand worked right into the voids we had created, so much so that we were able to come back on Wednesday morning and apply another dressing with sand to finish the process off and smooth the greens up so much more.

So on Wednesday some of the greens looked like this which did give credence to some of the comments we heard like "What have they done to the greens now?" or "They just got them back and now they have torn them up again".  But the greens putted very well considering their appearance just proving you should not judge a book by its cover.

So by Friday the greens were healed in from the verticutting process and better than they have been all year.  It takes some work to get and keep greens in the condition that golfers demand and as we are not closed one day a week for maintenance we have to perform these tasks when we can.  Normally we would not have been this aggressive during the playing season, and would have waited for our summer aerification closure, but this needed to be done and if I could I would do it again next week.  Don't worry I'm not.  Thanks for your patience and I hope you agree with me that the final result was worth the couple of days of pain.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Best Laid Plans Gone Awry---Green #9

Not every plan that we come up with at the golf course works out the way we plan, but you have to be willing to try different techniques or you will never know.  When we came out of winter dormancy this year we were dealing with several issues and had to try different techniques to combat them.  On #9 green our issue was not nematodes as it was on the other greens but rather poor drainage and an excessive amount of surface algae that was smothering the new turfgrass as it was trying to come out.

We tried several chemical controls to try and eliminate the algae growth but none of them worked the way we needed so we decided we would "wash" the algae off with a high pressure hose.  We started with a 1" adjustable fire hose nozzle but that was not working as well as I wanted so I decided to use a flat fan nozzle on the end of the 1" hose to peel the algae off of the green.

In theory the plan worked great and there was lots of green grass on the green under all that algae.  So our plan worked out, correct?  Well, not really.

On other areas that had algae growing on them on other greens we reverted back to the less aggressive adjustable nozzle after we realized that the flat fan nozzle had actually, almost irreparably, damaged the green by stripping the leaf blades off of the plant.  After a week or so after performing the high pressure washing of the green I knew our best laid plans had gone awry.  The green was showing some signs of recovery but with the golf season coming on quick we had to make some quick decisions about how to fix or repair this green.

Before just fixing the green we needed to figure out what could have been the cause of the issue in the first place.  Why was the green failing to drain properly and allowing the surface to stay wet for so long to allow the algae to become such a problem.  At first we thought it was our pigment PAR from Harrell's that we used for greens applications but according to lab testing that was not the cause of the sealing off of the greens.  A closer look at the top three inches of our greens surface and the topdressing sand we have been using for several years began to tell the tale about what happened.  The fine and very fine sand particles in our topdressing sand exceeds the suggested limits for topdressing sand from the USGA.  These particles had packed together to make water and air almost impossible to penetrate the green surface.  Below the top 2 inches tests showed that our greens were functioning properly but the water simply could not make it through to that level rapidly enough.

With several big events coming up at the end of the summer we had to pull the trigger on fixing the green.  We simply could not wait for the green to come back in on its own.  So on Monday, May 23rd, we started the renovation process of the green by removing the top 3-4 inches of the green surface as we did on #3 green over the winter months Rebirth of #3 Green  The removed material was stockpiled in the parking lot to be used in other projects at a later date.

Close to 75 tons of new greens mix was brought to the green and spread.  We used the tracks of the Bobcat track loader to disturb the area beneath the 4" so that there was no chance of the two sands bridging or water being trapped between the new sand and the existing greens complex.

After the green was roughed in and then fine hand raked to level out any humps we watered down the sand to help it pack better and used the weight and the tracks of the track loader to firm up the greens surface and get it ready for it's new coat of turf.

The removal of the damaged green and the replacement of the new greens mix was done by Mitch and Bill in only one day.

Over the next couple of days we continued to hand rake and pack the new greens mix as well as apply our pre plant fertilizer getting the surface ready to lay the new Champion Ultradwarf bermudagrass sod on it.  The sod arrived on Wednesday and early on Thursday morning we got started by first placing a ring of sod around the perimeter of the green and then pulling a rope across the middle of the green so we could have a good first line and off we went.

It took the agronomy staff a little over 4 hours to cover and cut in the new sod on the green.  Roll after roll after roll we kept laying it down until it was all done.  The sod came in a refrigerated trailer so it was still in excellent condition and gave us an instant idea of what the green would soon look like once it was grown in.

Once the green was completely covered and cut in we cleaned up all the scrap pieces and moved all the unused pallets of sod out of the way and began the "seating in" process.  First we hand watered the green rather heavily to water the sod and to make the 1.25 ton vibratory roller work better.  We rolled the sod in multiple directions which did a great job of helping to level everything out.

After the multiple rollings we had a sand slinging party to add greens mix on the surface and used level lawns and brooms to help work it down into the canopy.  This helped to firm up the green and level off high and low areas in the green.

The next thing on the list, after multiple heavy waterings, was to mow the green at a high height of cut 0.250" taking off the top bit of canopy to help the smoothing process and to make it easier to get the multiple topdressings into the surface.

Unfortunately this is the last project, and last picture I took, of one of our agronomy staff members Barry Webb.  Barry passed away unexpectedly on Memorial Day.  Rest in peace Barry.  You are very much missed.

So it has been three weeks since we went from what was an embarrassing situation and green to one that is looking extremely good.  Already down to greens height and rolling better and better every day we are extremely happy with the results of the project.  Thanks to all the golfers who put up with the temporary green in the fairway for a few days and with the slower than normal putting as we worked the green down to height.  As we move forward the green will only get better as the rest of the greens are.

The Agronomy Staff did a great job on this project and we will continue to work to improve the golf course with other projects such as sodding, tee and approach aerification, and adding sand to bunkers will be carried out throughout the remainder of the summer.