Thursday, December 5, 2013

Preparing the putting greens for winter

Lots of things go into preparing our Champion ultradwarf greens for their long winter nap.  We begin preparing the greens early in the fall with fungicide applications to protect against Spring Dead Spot, increasing the mowing height of cut to allow the greens to put on a "winter coat", and changing our fertility program to increase root growth and food storage.  All of these practices, and more, go into giving our greens the best chance of rebounding out of dormancy in the spring.

One of the challenges that we have had over the years in the spring is the abundance of "old cups" that are left from the changing of hole locations during the winter months.  This is a picture taken in March of this year on hole #3.  The front of this green is narrow and limits the number of hole locations we have, thus the hole locations have all been in the same vicinity.  This multitude of old plugs will take over a month to blend in as the green begins to grow.

This past February at the Golf Industry Show in San Diego I attended a seminar talking about winter maintenance practices on ultradwarf bermudagrass greens.  Along with the normal information about fungicides and fertility and protective covers, the instructors introduced us to a program used at Pinehurst in which they placed several hole locations in the green at the beginning of the winter season and simply moved the flag from cup to cup as play indicated.  The remaining "not in use" hole locations were plugged with a recycled rubber plug which would not hamper ball roll or maintenance practices.  I thought this was a great idea and if it was good enough for Pinehurst then it would be good enough for us to try.  So today we installed three hole locations in each of our greens, one hole location received the flag and the other two received plugs. 

The USGA has produced a great video about the process and the thought behind the program which you can watch here
Hole locations will be moved periodically depending on the amount of play we receive and any damaged hole will be relocated.  The cups in the putting green have also been removed and replaced with cupless flagsticks which will reduce the wear on the green and improve the appearance of the putting green in the spring.

For those worried about a violation of the Rules of Golf here is an explanation to ease your minds.

For those wondering about what happens should your ball be on the putting green and the rubber plug is on the line of your putt, the Rules of Golf cover this situation. Since this a hole made by a greenkeeper, it meets the Definition of Ground Under Repair. You could choose to play your ball as it lies, but you also have the option to take relief. Rule 25-1b(iii) provides guidance on how to take relief if desired.  
25-1b (iii) On the Putting Green: If the ball lies on the putting green, the player must lift the ball and place it, without penalty, at the nearest point of relief that is not in a hazard or, if complete relief is impossible, at the nearest position to where it lay that affords maximum available relief from the condition, but not nearer the hole and not in a hazard. The nearest point of relief or maximum available relief may be off the putting green.  
As with many things at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay we are willing to try many things but I feel strongly that this new technique will not only save us time and manpower but will also protect the greens during the winter months so they will be better prepared to come out of dormancy in the spring healthy and ready for another great season.  If you have any questions, concerns, or comments about this new policy please let me know.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wild Turkeys Sparring at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay

We are blessed to see many great things around the golf course on a routine basis.  From deer being born to bald eagles hatching but this video showing turkeys fighting is a first.  Mitch Sivley shot this video just this past week of three wild turkeys who we have dubbed "The Three Amigos", because they have always been seen together for the past several years, sparring.  Mitch was able to get within feet of these birds and they could have cared less.  Having a wildlife habitat on the golf course is such an amazing treat.  Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Greens Irrigation Project Has Begun

It has been a couple years in the works but this year, after the shown success on #5 and #16 greens, we will be working to install part circle irrigation heads around the remaining greens.  We began on #13 green and will work our way around the course during the winter months, hoping to have them all completed by the spring golfing season.

The process of placing additional irrigation heads around the greens will allow us to direct the water directly to the greens surface and eliminate the over-application of water to the putting green surrounds.  This will save us over a million of gallons of water each year and will cut our nightly watering window in half saving electricity to operate the pumping system. 

Those are the benefits for the golf course and the environment but what about the golfer.  Well,  with the ability to place the water where it is needed and the proper amount we will be able to provide firmer and faster putting surfaces while also being able to reduce the surrounds from being overwatered and saturated making "bump and run" shots and run up shots more effective.

Willie and Jonathen will be working on different greens throughout the winter and we will wait until the spring before we sod over the trench lines to allow them to settle and the sod to root better, so until that time please play these areas as Ground Under Repair.

Just a quick reminder that you can get updates on course conditions, weather delays, and projects by following us on Twitter @BearTraceHB. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

2013 Golf Digest Green Star Award

The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay was recently honored with the 2013 Golf Digest Green Star Award for Outstanding Environmental Practices.  Over the years we have been blessed to have received several awards for our environmental stewardship programs and projects but this one is extremely special as this is the first year public golf courses across the nation were judged.  To be included in the same category as previous Green Star Award winners Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes, and Barton Creek Resort and Spa is truly special.

Our environmental projects have been on-going for many years and have involved many individuals that may not always get the recognition that they deserve.  An award such as this is not possible without support and hard work from many people and I would like to take this time to thank each of them.  From the great golf course maintenance staff to the clubhouse staff to our management team in Nashville it is truly a team effort and this award is a tribute to every one's hard work and dedication.

We are very grateful to the fine folks at Golf Digest for the 2013 Green Star Award and for their outstanding award article,  The Eagles Have Landed.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Time to put the mowers up

Friday marked what will most likely be the last mowing of the fairways and approaches for the 2013 growing season.  It has been a great year even with all the rainy, cloudy weather we experienced during the summer months. 

Improvements to the golf course this year have included projects such as the renovation of our short game practice area behind the cart storage building.  This area which is also used as a greens nursery was in dire need of repair and with the help of our friends from Champion Turf Farms is now another asset to our golf course and a great place for our golfers to practice.  Chipping Green Renovation

As we did on #5 green two years ago, this year we installed part circle irrigation heads on #16 green so we could better control the amount of water applied to the greens surface and to be able to apply it only to the green and not the surround.  As a result, these greens which used to be our worst are now among our best.  We are planning to continue this process on other holes this winter.
#16 Irrigation Renovation
Renovation of the bunkers continued earlier this year as we finished up the removal of old sand, installation of new Sand Mat bunker liner and installation of new bunker sand to finish up renovation of all the greenside bunkers.  Only a few fairway bunkers are left to be renovated and some maintenance of adding some new sand to the renovated bunkers and the nightmare of maintaining the old bunkers will be a distant memory.

One of our biggest improvements to the golf course this year has come in the form of the new electric golf course maintenance equipment we got through our "Electric Equipment Initiative."   The new electric equipment has made a tremendous improvement to the golf course not only in the conditioning of the course but in reducing point source CO2 emissions and undesirable noise.  We thank Ms. Lori Munkeboe of the Office of Sustainable Practices and our Director of Golf Mr. Mike Nixon for thinking of Harrison Bay as a great place to implement this project.  We are hoping to continue this project at another State Park golf course in the near future.
Electric Equipment Initiative Goes Public

Along with our Mallard Duck nesting tubes and our wild turkey feeders, my favorite environmental project that we do The Harrison Bay Eagle Cam Project was a tremendous success this year.  With the hatching failure that Elliott and Eloise experienced last year to see the two little eaglets hatch, grow and fledge this year was doubly exciting.  The Harrison Bay Eagle Cam Project has reached over 211,000 unique viewers in 69 different countries since it began.  We are grateful for all our sponsors and supporters we have had over the years and are especially grateful that the USGA Green Section has once again provided major funding for this years operation.  Hopefully within the next two weeks we will have a new pan/tilt/zoom camera installed beside the nest and a microphone installed so we can hopefully hear this years brood calling out for some fish or turtle.  Two Weeks Since Eaglet Hatching

Most of all I have to thank my fantastic staff.  Without their passion and dedication to the conditioning and playability of the golf course we would not be in the position we are today.  Although I tend to hear the great comments from the golfers and guests, the golf course maintenance staff are the ones that make the golf course what it is and they deserve all the credit.
Great Work Gentlemen!!!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chipping Green Renovation Finally Complete

We have been working this summer to renovate and improve our short game practice area and today we were able to put the finishing touches on it.

This afternoon we removed the area at the bottom of the green and sodded it with new 419 bermudagrass.  We had hoped to carry the putting surface farther down the hill but the slope created issues with drainage and traction of the equipment used to maintain the green.

Since we have not had the greatest grow in weather this summer for the turfgrass we have a few thin areas on the green.  Willie and Jonathen took viable plugs from the area we were removing and placed them in the greens surface.  This will help the putting surface heal in quicker and be better for practice.

Once all the plugs were moved and the sod laid the area was cleaned up and watered.

It will take a couple of weeks to get the new sod and plugs to knit together and then we will have a vastly improved short game practice area from what we did just a few short months ago.

Special thanks to all the Bear Trace staff for all their hard work and for our friends at Champion Turf Farms for providing us with the sprigs.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The TOUR Championship 2013

 I once again this week had the privilege of volunteering for The TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.  The hospitality shown by Ralph Kepple, CGCS and his staff, including assistants Kyle Johnson and Shaune Achurch was great.  They genuinely enjoy having the volunteers around and are more than willing to answer any question thrown their way.

This year was my fourth year volunteering and it was made even better by my good friend Gary Weller of Council Fire Golf Club, who I worked for for several years, join me in the fun.  Everyone works hard but we still have a great time. 
I have always loved being on a golf course early in the morning when the sun is rising and being at East Lake early is no different.  Everything is so well maintained and manicured, it is just amazing to see in person.

 Here is an early morning shot of the bunker raking crew getting a tutorial on how to properly rake bunkers the way the Tour officials want them done.

Great pains are taken to get the bunkers just right with some of them raked several times so that you don't hear the dreaded, "RERAKE ON HOLE #12" come over the radio.

In the afternoons the bunkers are watered down and packed with a squeegee roller to make sure they are firm and consistent.  The caddies at East Lake take care of the bunkers during the tournament and they did a fantastic job of making sure the bunkers could pass the test of the world's best golfers.

One of the best parts of volunteering at East Lake, besides getting to eat Allen Weed's gourmet hamburgers, is the new people you get to meet.  I had the pleasure of working with Billy Bagwell of Callawassie Island Club in Okatie, SC for both days.  Billy (in hat) is talking with a gentlemen from the Turfgrass Department of The University of Georgia as he is taking firmness readings of the green. 

Of course Tour players like the greens to be firm and fast so they can sink those 30+ foot putts.  One of the determining factors in how well the greens perform for the players is the amount of moisture in the greens surface.  Too much moisture and the greens become soft and slow, too little moisture and they turn into bricks and even the best golfer can't stop a shot on them.  To the right Assistant in Training Ben Thompson is checking the moisture of the greens with the TDR 300 moisture meter.

The desired amount of moisture in the greens varied from day to day depending on the weather forecasted and what the tournament officials wanted.  Based on the desired reading Ben used different numbers of marking flags to pin point areas on the greens which needed additional water.  With this marking technique, which we are going to incorporate into our process, only the areas that need water get it.

After Ben had checked all of the green and flagged it so he wouldn't have to remember exactly which area of the green needed how much water he went through and watered only those areas for only a specific amount of time.

End result...firm, fast, beautiful greens.  Not all thanks to Ben's handy work but he did his part.

The afternoon cleanup of the golf course consisted of mowing the fairways and walkways as well as rolling the greens.  The fairway mowers are set with a slow forward speed to increase the clip rate giving the zoysia fairways a super tight cut.  Line them up and let them eat.

This is a close up picture of some of the turfgrass mowed at East Lake.  If you think it is a picture of a putting surface you would be incorrect.  This is the fine cut of the fairway grass following the afternoon cut.   So sweet!!!

I loved this shot of the head equipment technician setting the heights and contact on all the greens, tees, and approach mowers during the mid morning break.  Looked like a row of soldiers all lined up getting their marching orders for the next day.

At a golf club like East Lake it is all about the fine details of the property.  Although the turfgrass gets most of the glory on the course I was very impressed with the landscaping and the attention to detail in the out of the way areas.  No stone is left unturned and no bed is left unmulched to produce the championship product.  Details. Details. Details.

I got a good laugh out of the distance the marketing people went to brand everything on the course with the Coke logo. After all the tournament is presented by Coca-Cola.

My last job for this year at East Lake was to put, what I think are some of the coolest tee markers in golf today, out.  What better way to brand the tournament than with these great tee markers.
Thanks again to the East Lake Agronomy Staff!!!
See you next year!!!

Friday, September 13, 2013

2013 University of Tennessee Field Day

The University of Tennessee Turfgrass Research Team put on a fantastic Field Day on Thursday at the East Tennessee Experiment and Research Center just up the road for The University of Tennessee at Knoxville campus.  The research center is used to experiment with different chemicals and fertilizers as well as new plant species while using various techniques and practices to find out what works best.

They had a great turnout with around 500 attendees from Tennessee and surrounding states coming to see what the UT Turf Team has discovered.  This was my first year being able to attend the Field Day or go to the research center and I have to say I was incredibly impressed.  Dr. Jim Brosnan and all the people involved in the Field Day did an amazing job.

Here is Dr. John Sorochan, UT Turf professor, giving a detailed description of an experiment he is working on to determine the best possible distance behind the center of the reel that the bedknife should be located to get the proper cut on turfgrass.  As always it is the details that set us apart from others and Dr. Sorochan is trying to find that one extra thing.  Very interesting concept.

Here is my very dear friend Dr. Tom Samples, another great UT turf professor, getting ready to discuss the native grass trial they have been working on to find new ways of reducing the amount of turfgrass maintained on golf courses and to eliminate the cost of doing so in both fuel and manpower.  Dr. Tom gave us many great examples of native grass species which work great on golf courses.  Expect to see some of the popping up at Harrison Bay in the near future.


Dr. Jim Brosnan, detailed the new herbicide treatment trials they have been working on and discussed the various rates and timing of the products as well as how the height of the cut of the turfgrass worked to influence the effectiveness of the application.  It is great to be able to see how certain weeds are controlled based on the amount of product used and the different products which are out there.  Without research centers such as the ETERC the new chemical technology and the new practices or application timings would not be available for us as superintendents to make the golf courses better.

It wasn't all play at the Field Day for us though.  The Tennessee Turfgrass Association was in full force at the Field Day where we were trying to raise money through our on-site raffle to support the UT Turf Foundation.  We are very grateful to all our vendors and sponsors who donated products or services which were given away during lunch. 

Here is Mr. Bob McCurdy, TTA president, presenting Dr. Brosnan with a check for over $1,300.00 from TTA from this years raffle proceeds.  Thanks to all of our friends who came by and purchased a raffle ticket.  You have really helped out the UT Foundation with your generoucity. 

I would be remise if I didn't tell you about the TTA social at Barley's pizzeria the night before the Field Day.  We had a great turnout with around 50 people showing up.  Great pizza and great conversation was had among friends and new acquaintances and we hope to continue to grow the TTA Social each year just as the Field Day grows.

If you missed the 2013 Field Day for some reason then you really missed a fun and informative day.  I was pleased to see Bill Brown, CGCS at the Field Day since we had not had any time to get together since our days on the GCSAA Certification Committee several years ago.  Bill has recently left the dreary, dull world of being a golf course superintendent and has launched his own company Turf Republic which specializes in social media and technology to help get the word out about what people in the turfgrass industry are up to.  For those who missed the Field Day or need a way to justify why you are wanting to go next year, Bill has a great website developed 2103 Tennessee Turf Field Day where you can see some of what all went on. As I said the UT Turf Team did a great job of putting on the Field Day and I will most definitely return each year from here on out.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Venting Aerification Planned for Next Week

We will be performing our monthly venting aerification of the putting greens on Tuesday and Wednesday of this upcoming week.  It will be the same process that we did in August but we will apply a light coating of topdressing sand directly following the work so they will be even better.  The results of the solid tine venting were great last month with extremely minimal disruption to the putting surface.  We will be using the same tines as last month which are 1/4" solid tines, about the size of a regulation tee. 

The USGA has created a great video webcast detailing the importance and procedure of venting aerification and I encourage you to take a look at it.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Growing and Patching Greens

The change in the weather over the past week has done amazing things for our golf course.  We have been able to get the entire golf course mowed and we are off the paths on all holes for one of the first times this year.  The greens have responded great to the sunshine and are in the best condition they have been in some time.  Being able to get the course back in shape has allowed us to work on a few of the fine detail work this week, all in an effort to make the golf course even better.

We have a few weak areas on a couple of greens, mostly near the cleanup laps, which have failed to recover this summer due to the poor growing weather.  This week Willie and Jonathen spent a couple of days working on fixing these areas with some sod we received from Champion Turf Farms.  This area on #15 green is on the hump near the back bunker.

Willie cut out the bad area taking care to use the boards to turn on as to not damage any more of the green than necessary.

All the bad sod in the area is removed from the patch area.  Any usable sod for the corners was used in plug work on smaller areas.

After the area was packed and smoothed out the new sod pieces are carefully put in place and tamped down to insure good sod to soil contact.

After being trimmed and cleaned up the area was rolled and heavily watered. 

These patch areas are an unfortunate necessity but turned out extremely nice due to the care and concern of Willie and Jonathen.  It will take a couple of weeks for these areas to root in so we can begin mowing them down so in the meantime just consider them Ground Under Repair areas and take care to walk around these areas. 

Hopefully we will continue to have great weather for the rest of the season and we can play some golf.