Friday, February 15, 2019

Engaging Young Golfers with Landseer Communication Activity Books

Last week we received our order of activity books from Landseer Communications and we could not be happier.  We have been looking for some time for a way to engage younger golfers/people to the beauty and environmental stewardship opportunities that can be found on a golf course.  The activity books are extremely high quality with great illustrations and descriptions of the wildlife and projects that can be found at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay.  Simple and to the point these books will provide a guide or reference to the wildlife, birds, insects, and activities that can be found on our golf course.

One of the features in the activity books was a tribute to Eloise, our first female eagle that we lost last year.  This feature is a great way to highlight all the excitement and fun we had watching her and Elliott build their nest, raise their family, and bring a great deal of publicity and fame to our golf course.  It was heartbreaking to loose her as we did but she will be remembered by many for years to come through these books.

Another page area that we chose to feature is our Bobwhite quail restoration project which has turned out quite nice.  The quail are hard to see, as they are very elusive and don't like to be around people, but if you sit still out near #5 tee complex where they were released you might get lucky and hear them calling to each other.

There are 16 pages of coloring pages and activities, such as Nature Bingo, in our book which can give a preview of what someone can look for during their round or show off what all they found around the course.  The pages are individual and specific to each property with special write-ups to highlight information about the bird, insect, animal, or project.

Delphine Tseng is the owner of Landseer Communication, the designer and publisher of these great activity books.  She has a passion for the environment and getting young people involved in our sport and appreciating all the beauty and activities golf courses have to offer, and her level of enthusiasm can't be matched.  I would encourage anyone that wishes to create a fantastic community outreach project to contact Delphine or visit Landseer Communication at

We will be distributing these activity books to school children during our The First Green field trips which we will be hosting this spring.  If you would like one we have placed a few up at the clubhouse with Robin. The Friends of Harrison Bay State Park also published a book for Harrison Bay State Park which is available at the Interpretive Center or the A-Frame at the park.  If you would like to give a small donation to help offset printing costs that would be much appreciated as well.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

2019 Golf Industry Show...A New Journey Embarked

As we all know the past several months have been some of the wettest in history for our course.  We have a lot of projects on the course that we want to accomplish but the weather is keeping us from these goals.  So escaping to "sunny" San Diego for the annual Golf Industry Show seemed like a perfect remedy.  The Golf Industry Show is the national conference and trade show for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and is a great opportunity to learn, network, and energize the batteries for the year to come.

I would like to thank Mr. Nixon, our Director of Golf, for attending the show with me and his continued support of our industry.  The trade show is a great place to look at new products and talk with vendors so we can determine the best equipment and resources to use, not only at Harrison Bay but across all the courses that comprise the Tennessee Golf Trial. We looked at some different bunker liner materials, chemicals and fertilizers, and some new mowing equipment which we hope to be bringing to the Tennessee Golf Trail in the near future to better maintain the grounds and also protect the environment.  Just a teaser there but I think you are going to like it.

One of the best things about the golf industry is that we are all in it together.  Education and networking is one of the best things about GIS and this year we had some great education and networking opportunities including the long awaited Syngenta Business Institute reunion, the GCSAA Chapter Presidents breakfast, the Ladies Leading Turf symposium sponsored by Syngenta and organized by Leasha Schwab, a great hypnotist Ricky Kalmon, a fantastic professional development class with Ms. Laura Katen of Katen Consulting, and a hilarious comedy routine from Sinbad to round out the event during the closing ceremony.  I also met some great new friends and was able to catch up with some old friends which makes the golf industry the best in the world, in my humble opinion.

The highlight of the week, and the reason for "A New Journey Embarked", came on Thursday morning when I was elected to the GCSAA Board of Directors for a two year term.  I am pictured with newly elected GCSAA President Rafael Barajas, who was elected the 83rd GCSAA President.  I have had the honor of serving the members of the turfgrass industry in Tennessee for several years.  I am grateful for the honor and opportunity to serve the 18,000+ members of GCSAA worldwide and work with the other great members of the Board of Directors and staff at GCSAA.  I greatly appreciate the encouragement of my family, my supervisors in Nashville, and the dedicated staff at Harrison Bay, most especially my assistant Willie Hamby as he will be taking on a greater amount of responsibilities when GCSAA duties call me away.

I'll wrap this blogpost up with a site I feel we all need and that is of green grass and blue skies.  The winter has been a tough one but the sun will eventually come back out, the rain will eventually stop falling everyday, and we will once again be able to prepare the course the way we love to.  Keep the faith.  It will all be okay in a few.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Triplets at the HBEC Nest for 2019

The Harrison Bay Eagle Cam project has been a source of great joy and of sadness.  Last year we lost our original female Eloise (Remembering Eloise) leaving the nest empty for a while.  Throughout the spring three females tried to claim the nest and the handsome and dashing Elliott as their own, but it was not until our new female came along that a new HBEC queen could be crowned.

Our new queen of the nest has been named Athena and has taken over right where Eloise left off.  She has many of the same traits or characteristics that made us all fall in love with Eloise such as having a prominent brow which gives her a fierce look, to keeping airspace near the nest clear of any other females trying to stake their claim on her nest or her "man", to making sure Elliott knows exactly where the nesting material goes, no matter where he thinks it should.

On Tuesday afternoon 1/22/19 a little after 4:00 PM Athena laid her first egg at the Harrison Bay nest.  As with any eagle in the wild it is virtually impossible to know if this is her first egg every laid but she did struggle a bit which lead our expert moderators to speculate that it was.

Here is a video from our moderator Suzie-O which shows the laying process of egg #1

On Friday afternoon Athena laid her second egg which seemed to be a little easier on her.  Both her and Elliott have, and will, take turns caring for the eggs as they keep them warm and turn the eggs periodically to keep the embryo from sticking to the insides of the egg.  It is delicate process that makes many of use worry but we have to trust that the eagles know exactly what they are doing.

Well much to our surprise on Monday evening we were graced with a third egg from Athena.  Three eggs in a single nest is not completely uncommon but is rare and since the nest was constructed in the fall of 2010 Eloise had only ever laid two eggs at a single time.  We are very thrilled and excited about the opportunity to witness three eaglets being raised but it will also increase the need for food, shelter from the elements, and the inevitable sibling rivalries and bonking which will make all viewers uneasy and is the leading cause to hatchling death in a multiple egg nest.

As always we welcome everyone to join us in viewing the Harrison Bay Eagle Cam project at

We are still buttoning up some technical issues which will make the experience even better throughout the year.

We would like to thank our great moderators who operate the site and the cameras and keep all the chatters informed and in line.

We would also like to thank Golf Course Industry magazine, Aquatrols, and Syngenta US for their sponsorship of the project this year.  Without financial support from our friends this view into the life of a bald eagle nest would not be possible.

Monday, January 28, 2019

2018 Recap, Bridge Refurbishments, and Covering Greens

Yes, it has been quite a while since our last blogpost update and for that I apologize.  2018 was a great year at Harrison Bay with some of the best course conditions our Agronomy Staff has produced in quite some time.  Irregardless of the 83 inches of rainfall we received in 2018 (normal amount is 57") our small crew of dedicated team members continued to provide quality, championship conditions while continuing to make course improvements and advances.

One of the improvements we have been working on this winter is to repair and cleanup the bridges which span our wetland areas on holes 13 and 14.  We have removed and replaced any rotting or weak boards from the decking, have begun the process of pressure washing the bridge, and have installed a woven rubber liner in the center of the bridge to make it safer for our walking guests to travel across the bridge.

The walkway material is from PEM Surface and is an excellent product providing a porous, nonslip surface which is easily secured to the decking with silicone glue and decking screws.  We have already had several of our regular walking golfers comment and thank us for this project.  We will finish the project up this month and seal the bridge to help keep this clean, fresh look.

With the cold temperatures heading into the south this week we pulled the covers over the greens today to help protect them.  We do not cover as much as others, and that is perfectly fine.  No two golf courses are the same and no two golf course superintendents do the exact same processes.  We have 15 years of experience with what our greens can handle and our microclimate on the lake gives us a little advantage of staying warmer than other areas in town.

I was asked today "How do the covers actually help protect the greens?".  The illustration to the right does a very good job of describing how the greens covers work but in a nutshell the covers are designed to allow radiant heat from the sun to pass through the cover but not back out easily.  The sunlight warms the leaf tissue and the soil and "traps" the heat against the surface compared to uncovered greens in which the collected heat of the day is easily lost and the surface and soil temperature of the green is allowed to fall to levels detrimental to the health of the plant, and in turn the longterm health of the green.

I hope this helps explain why there are times, like today, when we have to pull the covers during the day when the sun is out and it is all nice and warm and you would love to be out playing golf.  In our experience if we wait too late and pull the covers at the end of the day we are losing a complete day of heat generation and capture and undermining the benefit of the covers.

It is our plan to remove the covers at the end of the week and have the course ready for play for the weekend.  We will update as we get closer to the weekend.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Aerification 2018--A Week to Remember

Aerification week was last week as many of you know but it did not go as we had hoped.  The agronomy staff worked tirelessly on Monday and Tuesday to get the greens aerified and started on some the other projects due to the forecasted rainfall for Wednesday and Thursday.  It was a good thing we did because both of those days were a complete wash with the course receiving 3.41" of rain during that time.  It is hard to collect cores and spread sand in the rain, as we found out.  One last day, Friday, to get the course back together and the staff knocked it out of the park once again to get us open on time Saturday morning.

I know the word "aerification" is a four letter word for most all golfers but it is simply one of those necessary evils in the golf world.  The process removes old plant and thatch which have accumulated through time,  relieves compaction of the soil, provides new points for gas exchange between the root system and the atmosphere, letting the toxic gases out and fresh oxygen in, and allows for new materials such as sand or other amendments to be added to the soil system.   In a nutshell, you wouldn't dream of driving your car 100,000 miles without changing the oil and expecting it to survive.  We are simply changing the oil.

Most of the aerification process was the same this year as last but we did change a few techniques and add a couple of practices so  I thought a new video would help explain the process.

The agronomy staff put forth a Herculean effort last week to get everything done that we did.  The rain we received really messed up our scheduled activities but we made it through.  We did not get all the cultural practices we wanted done, such as core aerification of tees and topdressing of approaches, and will continue to work on the list over the next couple of weeks.  The greens are done and are healing in nicely so we look forward to welcoming everyone back out to enjoy the course.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Using Smart Guided Sprayer GPS System Technology

Applying fertilizers, pesticides, wetting agents, and other plant protective products to golf courses is simply one of those tasks that has to be performed to provide the healthy, quality conditions demanded by today's golfers.  Golf course superintendents are always looking for ways to reduce the need to spray, to find ways to more accurately apply the products to ensure they are being applied where they are intended, and to reduce expenses and use of natural resources.

On a typical sprayer used on tees, approaches, and/or fairways, eleven nozzles are combined into three "sections" or "booms". Four nozzles on the right, three nozzles in the center, and four nozzles on the left.  The down fall to this system is that when one of the nozzles on the right boom needs to spray, all four of the nozzles spray.  This results in overspray of product outside of the desired area which wastes products and water.  It can also cause harm to turf which might be sensitive to the product being applied on one area.

One of the best assets that has come along for golf course superintendents in a long time is individual nozzle control made possible by the integration of GPS technology on to the sprayer.  Earlier this season we were able to purchase the Smart Guided System GPS sprayer control system for our greens sprayer.  This system allows us to map the different areas on our course such as greens, approaches, fairways, and with the individual nozzle control apply the fertilizers and chemicals within 2" of exactly where we want them.

This technology has been a complete game changer for us.  By being able to apply the products only to the greens surface and not having to account for overspray with a non individual nozzle control system we have reduced our square footage sprayed on our greens from 130,000 square feet to 98,000 square feet.   This has resulted in a reduction of products and water used by  over 23%.  Our approaches have seen even bigger savings with over 33% reduction in products and water needed since we control which individual nozzles spray and which ones do not.

Here is a video of an application of product to #18 green at Harrison Bay.  As you watch it you can see the individual nozzles (indicated by the 1-11 circles at the top) turning on and off as needed and as they enter and exit the boundary of the greens surface which is outlined in green.  I have our greens set up to spray 6" outside of the actual boundary of the green so you will see a little activation outside of the green but it can be dialed in to spray any area we choose. The video pixelated a little during recording leaving a couple gaps but all the area was sprayed.

Here is an example of an application of product to #15 approach at Harrison Bay.  Again as you watch the video you can see the individual nozzles turning on and off.  The approach is outlined in green and the golf green is considered an "obstacle" and will not have any product applied to it.  We can spray these narrow areas between the green and the bunkers without fear of spraying products on the greens or overspraying the area as the Smart Guided System will turn on only one nozzle at a time if that is needed.

Set up of the Smart Guided System was easy and with the mapping attachment we chose to use, which mounts to the front of the sprayer, we can drive around our course mapping all the sites or areas we want to record.  It is a simple process to record the areas and they are saved in the "cloud"

We have looked at several different GPS sprayer control systems and decided on Smart Guided Systems due to ease of use, the ability to adapt to our existing sprayer, and the very economical price compared to other GPS systems on the market today.

Whether it is the Smart Guided System, or another manufacturer of GPS sprayer control, reducing the amount of products used, the water needed to make each application, and the ability to greater protect the environment and non-target areas from over application of chemicals is here and very accessible to most every golf course.  The savings we are seeing in products used compared to previous years will allow us to pay for this system in one season and provide better playing conditions for our golfers and guests.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Soft Tees, Smooth Paths, and Short Skirts

It has been a great year at The Bay so far this year.  We had a sluggish start due to the harsh, prolonged winter weather that stretched into the spring but the course has rebounded in championship fashion.  The agronomy staff has been hard at work giving the course some extra TLC by aerifying weak areas, sodding areas that needed a quick recovery, and applying extra fertilizer and growth stimulants to the course.  We have also had some special projects going on that are making a huge impact on the playability and look of the course.

Deep Tine Aerification of Tees:  Our tee boxes are notorious for firming up during the hot summer months, so firm that it is difficult to get a tee in the ground.  This is due to the native clay soil they are constructed from with little to no sand base or incorporation of sand to help them stay soft and user friendly.  We have tried over the years to use our greens aerifier to cultivate the tee surfaces, removing cores and trying to work sand into the holes to help this issue.  The success has been very limited because our greens aerifier is designed for the soft features of the greens and not the hard clay base of the tee complexes.  So in order to remedy this issue we purchased a used Wiedenmann Terra Spike XP deep tine aerifier.  With this powerful machine we are able to use tines that penetrate deep into the soil surface to aerate the soil.  This time around we are using 3/4" solid tines that are 11 inches long on a 4" x 4" spacing allowing 8 inches of this tine will penetrate the surface.

Smoother Cart Paths Courtesy of Flatpaths:  You may have noticed that the ride around the course is much smoother in areas and some of the bumps in the cart paths no longer exist.  That is courtesy of Jim from Flatpaths, a company we contracted to grind back down areas of the cart paths where tree roots have buckled them up.  Jim did a great job and we hope to have him back out to finish the course the next time he is in the area.  This process was very quick, with limited debris, and was much, much more economical and less disruptive to the course compared to removing or resurfacing the cart paths throughout the course.

Native Grass Area Renovation:  We are very proud of our native grass areas on our course as they provide movement corridors and nesting/brooding habitats for the residents, help eliminate runoff contamination from the short turfgrass before reaching the waterways, and gives defined definition to the golf holes.  As with most things in life there comes a time when some renovation has to occur and for our native grass areas that time is now.  We usually only have to do this process every 3-4 years and it is a good thing because with close to 100 acres of low maintenance areas it takes quite some time.

The course looks quite different with her skirt down and there are many golf balls which have gone astray from their intended target that are getting a second chance at life, but the best part of the renovation project is this is the best time to disperse the seed from the native grasses that are present in these areas.  We want a variety of plant species in our native grass areas, not a monostand, as this improves the diversity of wildlife that can call the golf course home, gives different food sources at different times of the year, and looks more natural.  Bill is working hard to stay out of everyones way and get this project done.  The areas will be back to their glory in no time and we ask that you continue to obey the standing cart rule and not enter these areas with your cart.

We hope you have had a great year so far and we look forward to seeing you on the course.