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.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It's A SOCIAL World After All

First off let me apologize if you now have that song running through your head, not my intent.  If you didn't already I'm sure you do now, and again, sorry.  We do live in a social world now however, but now it is a "social media" world.  The days of club newsletters being mailed out to members is most likely a thing of the past.  Members/golfers want information now, instantly, which has changed the way superintendents and golf professionals communicate with their members and golfers.

We try to use a lot of different social media outlets because we realize that not everyone uses the same resources and each one has its own unique purpose.  Our Facebook site The Bear Trace @ Harrison Bay gives a detailed view of what is going on at the course.  Our Twitter account @BearTraceHB allows us to give instant information about course conditions and activities.  Our website provides information on our golf course and the other courses along the Tennessee Golf Trail in a broader, more in depth format.  We are also on Vine at Bear Trace HB, Instagram at beartracehb, and of course this blog, which we love to keep up to date.

We have all these information outlets to try and educate and inform our golfers and we did not expect our efforts to gain national recognition but it has.  Today we received official notification, by the one and only Pat Jones, that we have been selected to receive the Dr. John Kaminski Leadership Award from Golf Course Industry Magazine and Aquatrols at this years Super Social Media Awards in San Diego.  We are very grateful and humbled that our work has been recognized and are really looking forward to the #GCITWEETUP16.

Social media sites are a great way to get YOUR word out about changes or improvements to the course, course closures for weather or cultural practices, or to announce upcoming tournaments or outings.  If you don't already utilize this free way to promote your golf course and yourself I would strongly encourage you to consider it.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Knowledge Is POWER

Caddyshack is one of my all time favorite movies, as it is for most golf course superintendents, but the image of Carl Spackler as a golf course superintendent is what many still see us as.  The image of a untrained, unprofessional, inept person being in charge of the most valuable resource a golf club owns could not be further from the truth.  Golf course superintendents are agronomists, horticulturalists, environmentalists, scientists, financial officers, human resource specialists, psychologists, mechanics, and sometimes miracle workers.

Things are constantly changing in the golf course industry whether it be advances in equipment, new chemical or fertilizer options, or education from research.  I don't think there is any way a golf course superintendent can be successful at his or her job without investing in continuing education.  The investment is not only for your course but also for your career.  There are many options available throughout the year to gain this valuable information, from local or regional conferences, to the national Golf Industry Show, to specialized educational offerings, all of which give the golf course superintendent the knowledge and power they need to be equipped to properly do the job they have been tasked with.  Each owner, greens committee, general manager, and so forth should not only support their superintendent in his or her pursuit of knowledge but should require it.

In December I had the honor of attending the Syngenta Business Institute which is held at Wake Forest University.  This is a unique educational opportunity offered by Syngenta in that it does not deal with any agronomic information but rather deals entirely with the business side of our industry.  Financial management, negotiating, and personnel management are the center of attention of this gathering of 25 golf course superintendents selected from around the nation.  We can all grow grass but getting a refresher course in business is unique and greatly needed.  I would suggest that every superintendent apply for the Syngenta Business Institute.  It is a great opportunity to meet other supers from around the nation and gain friendships that otherwise would not happen in a special setting and I thank everyone at Syngenta for this special learning opportunity.

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending the 50th Annual Conference and Tradeshow for the Tennessee Turfgrass Association.  For the past two years I have had the honor and privilege of serving as president of TTA so this made it even more special.  We had a fantastic lineup of presenters including Chris Tritabaugh of Hazeltine National-home of the next Ryder Cup, Ms. Laura Katen of Katen Consulting, Dr. Clint Waltz of the University of Georgia among many, many more great informative speakers.  We also had an extremely successful mock trial, which was the talk of the show and of twitter, which pitted the values of bentgrass greens vs. ultradwarf greens in the transition zone.

Along with great education we had a full tradeshow, with this year the inclusion of equipment for the first time in many years.  Our new venue, Embassy Suites Murfreesboro, where we will be for the next three years at least, allowed us to spread out a little bit more in both our meeting rooms and on the tradeshow floor.  Getting to see some of the new equipment and gather information from the vendors is as important as the education we get from the presenters.  I have to thank all the vendors who support the Tennessee Turfgrass Association throughout the year but especially at the conference.  I know our Association could not hold our conference without your support.

TTA VP Theo Lankford presenting Coach Fulmer with a gift
As it was our 50th Anniversary we decided to have a celebration dinner and invited former University of Tennessee football coach Phil Fulmer to speak to us about his experiences in coaching the Tennessee Volunteers, dealing with the people who maintained Neyland Stadium for all those years, and his life experiences in general.  Coach Fulmer did not disappoint and was very generous with his time and experiences.

Giving back to the TTA in serving as its president for the past two years has been a special moment in my career and I was blessed to be recognized by my peers at the conference as well.  This year the TTA honored one of its best all time ambassadors, Dr. Tom Samples of UT, by renaming our annual Professional of the Year award as the Dr. Tom Samples Professional of the Year Award presented by TTA.  It was my great honor to receive this award and I am truly thankful to all my colleagues for deeming worthy of it.  It is greatly appreciated.

Along with presenting a webinar Marketing Golf through the Environment for Sustainability in Golf and speaking at the Winter Green Express for University of Tennessee Extension Service on The Environmental Benefits of Golf Course, I also had the pleasure this past week of traveling to Greensboro to speak at the 9th Annual Turfhead Summit held at Bryan Park Golf Course.  All three of these educational opportunities gave me a chance to gain valuable information that I can bring back to our golf course to improve it but also gave me the opportunity to tell others about what we are doing and having successes at so hopefully they can implement some of our practices and programs to improve their operations.

Education is invaluable and there are so many ways out there to gain this information these days.  I have to thank our supervisors in Nashville for providing and encouraging us to take these opportunities to better ourselves and invest in our futures.  I also have to thank my staff who maintain the golf course in my absence without skipping a beat.

Now on to the Golf Industry Show in San Diego and the New England Regional Turfgrass Conference in Providence, Rhode Island to wrap up this years educational circuit.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Covering Greens---What It Looks Like and Why We Do It

I really wish it only took this long to cover a green but in reality when you have a great crew, who know what they are doing, it can be that easy.  Covering greens is not an easy process but to help ensure the survival of ultradwarf greens in the transition zone it is a necessary evil.  No one likes to close a golf course to play but then again no one likes greens that are damaged in the summer from winter laziness or poor decisions.

Here is a link from a previous blogpost including a webcast from the United States Golf Association which better explains covering greens.

So much like you or I need a coat on when it gets cold outside, our greens do also, especially this year with the warm weather and the extended growth of the grass.  Covering the greens will increase the temperatures under the covers from 5-8 degrees higher than the temperature outside of the cover.  This may not sound like much but that slight increase in temperature can be the life and death of ultradwarf greens.  It takes a little work to protect them but it is worth every second in the long run.  And it is still better than syringing bentgrass greens all summer long.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Facelift for #16 Green

This week we worked on giving #16 green and little facelift and in the process correcting poor surface drainage on the back of the green that has caused weak turf on the cleanup lap.  As you can see in the photo there was a dip where the 419 surround and the Champion green surface met resulting in water running down the 419 surround and then sitting on the edge of the green.  This caused for poor rooting and surface algae accumulation which caused for poor turfgrass coverage.

We removed the existing turf, both Champion and 419, and also removed any greens mix that was contaminated with excessive organic matter. We brought in new greens mix and spread across the area.

Once the new greens mix was spread out we used a 1 ton roller to pack the new mix and make sure we had the proper grade that we wanted for the area to help ensure the water did not have an area to accumulate in but continued on the green.

After the sod was placed on the ground it was watered and rolled multiple times to smooth it out and help ensure good sod to soil contact.  This was a good way to make sure we had the proper slope that we wanted and had a good transition from the existing sod to the new sod.

Once the sod was down, watered, and rolled into place it was lightly topdressed and watered in several, several times to fill in the canopy and help retain moisture.

Improvements will continue at Harrison Bay all winter, especially if we continue to have this great warm weather.  Any area, on or around any of the greens, that has been renovated will be marked and should be considered Ground Under Repair and should be played as such.

Thanks to Willie, Barry, and Mitch for doing such a great job on this project.  Now onto the next one.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Renovation of #3 Green

As with everything in life, greens, whether it be the turf covering the surface or the sand supporting the surface or the drain lines underneath the surface, have a life span.  Over the past several years #3 green has suffered from its poor growing environment and other factors to be a less than acceptable putting surface.  We have tried many different life support practices and have patched weak areas for years but the green still continued to go down hill and it was time for some exploratory and reconstructive surgery.

The issues that lead to the demise of #3 green compared to the other greens begins with its location.  Being located down in the "hole" as it is and surrounded by trees limits the amount of air movement to the green.  This lack of air movement along with the poor sunlight the green receives throughout the year restricts how quickly and well the green drains.  The excess moisture in the green complex has lead to anaerobic activity, leading to poor root development, increased disease pressure, weak canopy production, and the creation of surface algae.  Through the years we have tried many cultural practices to correct these issues, including aerification, DryJecting, and patching of the green.  None have been successful to bring the green back to where it needs to be.

So last week we began the renovation of the green by removing the top 4-5 inches of the green surface.  It took all day and a couple of changes in the process for the crew to get all the "bad soil" removed and stockpiled at the top of the hill for use in a later project.

The next step was to bring in 125 tons of new 85:15 greens mix from Golf Agronomics.  The new mix was spread and floated out across the green.  We were able to successfully disturb the top 2-3 inches of the existing greens complex by using the tracks of the Bobcat to fluff up the sand which I feel allowed for the new greens mix to blend with the existing green so we will not have a layer barrier and thus did not need to till the two layers together.

Once all the greens mix was added we spent some considerable time floating the sand out and moving it around inch by inch to ensure that once the grass was added to the surface we had created a fun and playable putting surface.  The contours of the green were changed significantly to give us more movement throughout the green, better surface drainage of the green, and increased our pinnable locations.  I think you will really like the subtle, but interesting, changes we made to the surface.

Renovating an ultradwarf bermudagrass green is definitely not something you would consider to be a winter project as warm season grasses need summer temperatures to grow but we are in a situation where closure of this green during the summer months was not an option, but this way we will enter next year with a newly grassed green.  The sod was delivered from Champion Turf Farms on Wednesday morning.  It took Thursday and Friday to install the 6,500 sq ft of sod.  I had forgotten how challenging laying small rolls of sod on a green could be but thanks to our dedicated agronomy staff we got it done, and done well.

Once the sod was down we rolled the green to smooth out the surface and ensure good sod to soil contact.  Willie is using a one ton roller to smooth out the green. You can see in the video how well the roller works.

The last step in finishing up the greens sod installation process was to use a Toro Hydorject 3000.  The Hydroject uses high pressure bursts of water, which you can hear in the video, which help to turn the roots of the grass toward the new soil.  This is probably the best method to smooth out a newly sodded area and help establish new roots.

It has surely been a process and a lot of work by our staff but the final product is one that we are very happy with.  There are still many steps to go, such as fertilizing, topdressing, more rolling and hydrojecting, and so forth.  By the spring we will have the greens surface ready for play and will hopefully not have to field the one question that I hated to hear, "What's up with #3 green?"

We thank you for all your patience and understanding as we continue to work to improve the golf course for your enjoyment.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Harrison Bay Eagle Cam goes High Def and More

The Harrison Bay Eagle Cam Project is beginning it's fifth season with some new additions and improvements.  Each year we have tried to upgrade the experience of watching Elliott and Eloise raise their young.  This year we have upgraded our broadcast to High Def which will allow us to see the details of the eggs, the eaglets, and at times, unfortunately, what is for dinner.  The details of the feathers and other features really pop with this new addition.

The other addition/improvement to the project is the addition of an Approach Cam which our faithful viewers and supporters raised enough money to fund last year.  This camera which is located near the ground looking up at the nest will give us a view of the eagles flying in and out of the nest and moving around in the top of the trees.  We have some more adjustments and fine focusing to do on the approach cam but this has already been fun to watch.

The Harrison Bay Eagle Cam Project, which can be viewed at, is a great project that we have a lot of fun with.  The project was begun to allow us to watch "real time" life in a bald eagles nest but also to show how a properly managed golf course can not only be a place of enjoyment for golfers but also provide a safe and suitable habitat for wildlife to live and raise their young.  Over the years we have had over a million viewers view our project from all over the world.  We hope that everyone who logs on will enjoy the project for what it was designed for and we thank you for your continued support and funding.