Sunday, May 1, 2016

BT@HB Bluebird Trail is Thriving

The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay is home to a collection of 45 Eastern Bluebird nesting houses strategically scattered throughout the golf course.  These nesting houses have been in place since 2008 and have fledged hundreds of bluebirds which now fill the air around the golf course.  Eastern Bluebirds are not only nice to look at, but have a peaceful song and help to eat lots of insects, including spiders, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and many more.

Nesting boxes at the course are very active already this year with over half of them already having residents staking claim for the year.  Bluebirds usually have 1-3 broods of 2-7 eggs per year.  The incubation period is between 11-19 days and the then they will remain in the nest from 17-21 day before fledging.

Bill and Diane Bice, Diane Johnstone, Angie Medley
(Deanne and Jim Morgan, Chuck Johnstone not pictured)
We are extremely fortunate that several years ago we were able to connect with interested community members who love to monitor and take care of our nesting boxes.  These members of the Friends of Harrison Bay State Park volunteer their time to take care of the blue bird houses at the course and a smaller blue bird trail at the park.  Projects like this one where we can reach outside of our course and invite people from the community to see what golf courses can provide for the environment are critical in changing the philosophy that golf courses are harmful to the environment. Previous post on Bluebird Nest Monitoring

After a couple of years where we lost several nests due to predication from raccoons and snakes we installed simple wire predator guards which have made a significant difference in our success rate.

Recently our friends at TurfNet put together this video on the predator guards and why we use them.

Bluebird nesting houses can be a great addition to any golf course, or even your backyard, and are rather easy to make.  There are many nesting house plans on the internet but we chose to use the Eastern Bluebird Nesting Box Plans from Audubon International.   Bluebird Fact Sheet from Audubon International

All the information you could probably ever need to know about bluebirds can be found at or at All About Birds

In order to keep up with how our nesting houses are doing Mrs. Diane Johnstone reports our nesting activity to  The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Nest Watch.  A real simple way to know which boxes are doing well and help to keep a count of Eastern Bluebird nesting activity at Harrison Bay.

The Bluebird Trail at the golf course has been one of the easier environmental projects that we have done and has provided suitable habitat for hundreds of hatchlings to begin their lives.  If you don't have bluebird houses (or another species nesting house) on your course then I strongly encourage you to consider it.  Start small with just a few and expand from there.   Happy Birding!!!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Rounds 4 Research was a Resounding Success...But There's More Opportunities

The Rounds 4 Research auction ended last night with a resounding success.  With over 100 rounds available to bid on in Tennessee alone, we are happy to announce that over $11,500.00 was raised for turfgrass research, scholarships, and advocacy to be used in Tennessee.  Across the entire program over 900 rounds were bid on raising over $155,000.00   Congratulations and THANK YOU to all the winning bidders and thank you to all the participating golf courses.

The Tennessee Golf Course Superintendents Association is extremely grateful and thankful to all those who participated in the program.

Exciting News:  For those who were not able to participate, or were unlucky and got out bid, you now have a second chance at VICTORY!!!

The Environmental Institute for Golf is re-opening the auction to clear house on all the remaining rounds up for bid.  The auction will run from April 12-17.  We have 40 rounds remaining for Tennessee which will go back on the block.  

Here is your opportunity to play some great courses such as TPC Southwind, Spring Creek RanchThe Links at Kahite, Hillwood Country Club, Humboldt Country Club, and even a one year membership at Knoxville Municipal Golf Course along with many more.   

To view all the available rounds please go to Tennessee R4R Auction and help raise money for turfgrass research while getting to play some great courses in Tennessee.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Time to Tee Off with Rounds For Research Again

It is almost that time of year again where you have the opportunity to bid for the chance to play some of the best courses in the state of Tennessee while at the same time supporting and funding turfgrass research.  I am proud to announce that we (The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay) and all the other courses along the Tennessee Golf Trail will join close to 100 other golf courses in Tennessee as part of the Rounds 4 Research program.  Between April 1-10, 2016 you will have the opportunity to bid on rounds of golf on the Bidding For Good website with proceeds from your winning bid going to local and national golf associations to be used to fund education, research, advocacy, and scholarships.

The Rounds 4 Research program is a great and simple way for you to "support turfgrass research while playing on exclusive courses.  It's a WIN-WIN."  The funds raised by your winning bid will be split with at least 80% going to your local golf course superintendent association and the remaining amount going to the GCSAA Environmental Institute for Golf .  As stated before, it's a Win-Win.  You get to play on some of the best courses that you might have thought you would never get the opportunity to play and your local golf association, Tennessee Golf Course Superintendents Association gets much needed, and valuable, funds to help support turfgrass research that will aid all golf courses.

We have a generous collection of golf courses throughout the state of Tennessee who have stepped up and donated rounds of golf, usually a foursome with golf carts and some with range balls and/or other extras, which will make your golf experience even that much better.

So how can you help??  

1.  Go to Bidding For Good website and register for an account.
2.  Look over the golf courses for Tennessee and select the courses you are interested in bidding on.
3.  Get ready to bid on your choices from April 1-10.

That seems so simple so what else can you do to help out??

1.  Check the list of golf courses and make sure your home course is listed.
2.  If they are, Thank them for supporting the cause.  If they are not, Ask them why they are not on the list.  There is still time for your course to get involved.  Donations will be accepted throughout the auction period.


3.  Help promote the program but telling your membership, golf buddies, and anyone that will listen about this great opportunity.  Every little bit of promotion helps.

The Rounds 4 Research program only works if people bid on the rounds, so we can get millions of rounds donated, but if you don't do your part and bid on these amazing golf properties, then neither of us wins.  Please help us raise much needed funds for turfgrass research.

If you are a golf course in Tennessee that has donated a round THANK YOU.  The project would not be a success without you.

If you are a golf course interested in joining this great group of donors there is still time.  Please contact TGCSA Executive Secretary Ms. Shelia Finney or myself to donate a round.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Rebirth of #3 Green

For several year now we have been dealing with the poor performance of #3 green.  We have tried many different practices and processes to try and revive this green but with no success.  So this winter we took on a renovation of this green in order to continue to work to provide the best possible playing conditions and experience we can.  Details of the project and why we chose to make this drastic step can be viewed on a previous blog post, Renovation of #3 Green.

We began the project in November by removing the top 5 inches of the contaminated greens mix. The excess organic matter in the greens surface made it virtually impossible for the green to perform properly.  It was surprising how fresh the greens mix below this level was.  Like it had just been installed a few days ago.  This difference in the two layers validates the need, and our request, for deeper aerification of the greens surfaces to eliminate this hard pan layer and allow for roots, water, and air to penetrate deeper into the greens profile.

The next step was to bring in new greens mix which was spread and contoured to a new greens shape.  The new greens mix and the old greens mix was lightly blended together to insure we did not have a barrier between the two soils.  The green was then graded and packed which gave it a similar but new look to the surface and now provides us with about twice the legal pinning areas as before.

Once the green was packed and contoured we installed new Champion ultradwarf bermudagrass sod to the surface.  Now sodding an ultradwarf green in the middle of winter in Tennessee is not the ideal way of doing things I will agree but it was the only time we could do this project and affect the smallest amount of play.  We were extremely lucky during the time of the sodding as we had unusually warm weather through the end of December which allowed us to roll and top dress the green several times and helped in its transplanting.

On February 27th we decided to officially open #3 green for play.  Although there are still a few seams that you can see and it is not as smooth or fast as the other greens on the course, playing on the greens surface is better than playing on the temporary green out in the fairway.  We will continue to roll and top dress the green over the remainder of the month and believe by the end of March the green will be as good as the rest of them, maybe even better.

We are very pleased with the results of this project and very encouraged by the growth we are seeing from the green given how early it is in the season and the weather we have had so far.  This is a picture of a plug taken from #3 green and as you can see the roots are starting to grow and establish into the greens mix.  This is a very encouraging sign and one we are very happy to see.

I would like to thank our Agronomy Staff for all their hard work on this project.  We took on a challenge that many people said we were crazy to attempt and through hard work and determination have succeeded in reviving our worst green to one we can now be very proud of.  I would also like to thank everyone, from the proshop to the golfers, for their patience and understanding as we carried out this process.  I know it was not ideal to have to play to a temporary green for three months but I believe you will agree with me that the pain was worth the gain.

As always we will continue to strive everyday to make The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay the best that we possibly can and we thank you for your patronage and your support.  If you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to contact me with them.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Our Newest Residents---HB9 and HB10

It's been an exciting weekend for all of us at Harrison Bay and our loyal family of viewers at Harrison Bay Eagle Cam as we welcomed our two newest residents to the course, HB9 and HB10.

HB9 hatched at 7:30 PM on Saturday, March 5 and HB10 hatched 4:31 PM on Sunday, March 6.  Both eaglets appear to be happy and healthy and we are looking forward to an exciting year of watching these two grow and join the rest of Elliott and Eloise's family in the big blue sky.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

#10 Fairway Drainage Project Completed

For many years we have had a continually escalating issue in the landing area on #10 fairway of poor drainage, excessive shade, and standing water.  All these issues have lead to poor growing conditions for turfgrass, limited ability to allow golf carts off the path, and a lot of upset golfers and guests.

After three years of resodding the same area in the landing area due to winter shade and saturated soils limiting our ability to successfully maintain a quality playing surface the decision was made to finally fix the area instead of continuing to patch it.  We began the process this summer by removing the trees which were creating the shade on the fairway during the fall and winter months.  We actually began to see some benefits from the shade removal toward the end of the year with the fairway beginning to dry out quicker after storms.  It was the first piece of the puzzle that was starting to come together.

The biggest piece of the puzzle was to install subsurface drainage into the fairway landing area to remove the water.  #10 fairway is unique from other fairways on our course in that it is not very much higher than the water level of the lake surrounding the course.  What this means is that the water table is very close to the surface limiting the soils ability to drain as well as other areas.  In the spring when TVA begins to raise the level of the lake back up to "summer pool" the water is actually pushed back up into the water table and will keep this area from drying out.  Our solution to the problem...5000 linear feet of subsurface drain lines.

For the past month our agronomy staff of 5 have been working hard, in all kinds of weather, trenching drain lines, hauling gravel, moving plywood, and installing drain pipe, to continue improving our golf course for everyone's enjoyment.  We installed 25 150' long lines of 4" slotted pipe every 10 feet running across the fairway to a 6" trunk line which will take the water to edge of the lake where it will be released through a bubble basin. 5000' feet of pipe might seem excessive to some but I don't want to do this project again and believe this is the best way to have a long term successful project.

We have done a lot of drainage work since I got to Harrison Bay in 2001 and have had some issues with our normal use of washed limestone gravel.  The main issue that we run into with using the washed limestone gravel is that it has zero nutrient holding capacity so the sod that we place over the gravel line does not have the ability to grow very well and many times will thin out or die leaving the underlying gravel exposed to potentially damage golf clubs and mowers.  This time we used a product from Custom Stone Handlers in Soddy Daisy known as River Path to top off the underlying 1" river stone.  This mixture of stone and sand will allow for some nutrient holding capacity which will allow the sod to thrive while also maintaining the percolation into the drain lines.

It has been a hard fought battle to get this project done and I have to give all the credit to my dedicated staff who have worked hard and steady to complete this project in less time than scheduled.  If you have played golf in the past month I am sure you have seen them toiling away, shoveling one load of gravel after another. Being able to drive out on this fairway during the winter months has already shown us that the drain lines are working and the project is successful.

We will be sodding the drain lines over the next week and will plan to open the fairway back up to play close to the first of March.  This project has been needed for a long time and I hope that this spring and summer when you are allowed to drive your cart out into the fairway, stand there without getting your shoes soaked, hit your golf ball off of a nice stand of turf, and not worry about splashing mud all over your nice clean pants that you will think about the hard work, dedication, and passion shown by your agronomy team over the past month and consider saying "Thanks" to them for all they do to better the golf course on a daily basis.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Eloise Lays HB9 and HB10

It is hard to believe that our Harrison Bay Eagle Cam project is now five years old and what a fantastic and amazing journey the past five years have been.  We have been so blessed to watch, and allow others around the world to watch, Eloise and Elliott raise their young over the years and this year's excitement is well under way.  On Wednesday night, January 27, at 5:52 PM Eloise laid HB9 much to the surprise of most as this is about two weeks before the normal laying time.

Then on Saturday night, January 30, at 6:55 PM Eloise laid her second egg of the 2016 season which makes it HB10.  Two eggs is the normal number of eggs to be laid from this pair and we hope that they will complete their hatching cycle and be healthy eaglets ready to take that great leap into the world.

So just like the US Postal Service, Elliott and Eloise will be on watch through rain, snow, sleet, fog, sun, and dark of night.  It will take, on average, 35 days and then we will be on "Hatch Watch" and then an additional 8 weeks before our little eaglets will be ready to join their parents for a quick fly over of the golf course.

We welcome everyone to join our eagle family and get an unclose and personal experience of life and love in a bald eagle nest.  You will likely witness Eloise sheltering the eggs/eaglets from rain and snow, Elliott providing multiple meals for his family, sibling rivalry between the hungry and growing eaglets, and the tenderness and love of Elliott and Eloise as the carefully roll the eggs, feed the eaglets, and coax them to leave the nest.

This project continues to show how golf courses can be an environmental sanctuary and a great place for many forms of wildlife to raise their families.  We, at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, strongly believe that we have a responsibility to the wildlife that call our golf course "home" to protect and preserve their habitat and we hope that we can show that dedication to everyone around the world through this project.  The Harrison Bay Eagle Cam Project can be viewed at  Tell your friends, your children's teachers, and any one else you can think of to visit us and get a view of our eagles.