Thursday, April 24, 2014

Earth Day 2014 at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay

What better way to celebrate Earth Day 2014 than to spend it with about 50 friends promoting the environmentally sustainable efforts of the golf course industry.  Even though it drizzled from time to time during the day we had a great turnout of TDEC officials, community friends, golf course industry members, equipment manufacturers, and local, state, and national media.  All here to discuss how golf courses can beneficially contribute to the environment.

Before lunch we had time for people to gather, talk, and look at our Jacobsen ECLIPSE 322 electric mowers.  Some, non golf course people, were brave enough to take them out for a spin on the putting green.  All were amazed at how quiet they are and how easy it is to operate them.

After lunch, Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill kicked off the presentations detailing how the Tennessee Golf Trail and Tennessee State Parks contribute to the sustainability of the environment within Tennessee.  He then introduced Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau (pictured) who started his presentation with our department "motto" that "Every day is Earth Day at TDEC".  This is true and we strive everyday to make decisions that best limit our impact on the environment and natural resources.

I was very happy that Dr. Jim Brosnan (pictured), Professor of Plant Sciences at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, was able to speak at our event.  Dr. Brosnan spoke to attendees about the role of golf courses in limiting the use of water by allowing naturalized areas to grow on golf courses and how golf courses can protect the waterways by providing buffer strips around the edge of waterways to filter chemicals and fertilizer runoff.  I was also grateful for Dr. Brandon Horvath and my "old" friend Dr. Tom Samples joined us for the day's event.

Our next speaker was Ron Wright, CGCS, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Southeast Field Rep.  Mr. Wright has a special insight into how golf courses can contribute to the betterment of the environment because he has been in the golf course industry for over 30 years. Mr. Wright gets to see a multitude of golf courses across the southeast each year and had many great stories to tell about how the golf course industry is turning our reputation around from several years ago of being "environmental polluters".

One of the most special things that happened on Earth Day, in my opinion, was when Mr. Wright, on behalf of GCSAA and the Environmental Institute for Golf, presented Ms. Lori Munkeboe, Director of TDEC's Office of Sustainable Practices, a special Certificate of Recognition for her and her offices work on the Electric Equipment Initiative at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay.  If it were not for Ms. Munkeboe wondering if there was any electric golf course equipment we could use, this celebration at Harrison Bay probably would not have happened.

The last speaker of the day was Mr. David Withers, Jacobsen Worldwide President.  Mr. Withers has a special passion for the environment that I have not seen from another equipment manufacturer.  Mr. Withers spoke to our guests about how equipment has changed over the years and how Jacobsen has embraced the need and desire of golf course superintendents to provide a high quality product while also limiting the strain on natural resources. Jacobsen's commitment to the environment lead to the creation of the fully electric Eclipse 322 mowers, one of the reasons we were able to reduce our gasoline usage by over 9,000 gallons this past year.

Mr. Withers, Paul Carter, Comm. Bob Martineau
Mr. Withers was also gracious enough to present The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay with our certification from Golf Environment Organization or GEO.  Jacobsen was the first equipment manufacturer to see the benefit of promoting environmental sustainability through GEO, so we were thrilled when Mr. Withers volunteered to present our certification.  Being only one of six golf courses in the United States to garner this exclusive environmental certification and having it be awarded on Earth Day was the icing on the cake.

Wildlife Walk group gathered in front of one of
our Operation Pollinator plantings
After the presentations were complete, and even though it was drizzling a bit, Mitch and Bill took our guests on a little "wildlife walk".  Our guests walked down along #10 fairway were Mitch and Bill showed them our wild turkey feeders, our blue bird houses, our wood duck nesting houses, our mallard duck nesting tubes, and finished it up near the Harrison Bay Eagle Cam nesting tree where Harrison Bay State Park Manager Don Campbell and HBSP Ranger Matt Vawter told the guests about the project and allowed them to look at the eagles through a spotting scope and binoculars.  For several of our guests this was the first time they had seen a bald eagle in the wild and were amazed at how beautiful they really are.

The Earth Day Celebration at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay presented by Jacobsen was a tremendous success and I think we were able to help educate and inform our guests on how golf courses can be, and are, environmental stewards.

A special thanks goes out everyone who decided to spend the day celebrating with us.  We had many state and local officials, community friends, and media from around the nation join us and we could not be happier.

A very special thanks has to go out to Mr. Adam Slick of Jacobsen for thinking of and coordinating the event. Ms. Sharon and Ms. Amy were terrific in organizing the event and being the smart ones who thought of providing umbrellas which came in very helpful to our guests.  Mr. Glenn Gray of We Are Golf and Buffalo Communications did a great job of coordinating with all the media around the world to make sure the event got the maximum amount of coverage possible.

In case you were not able to attend here are some of the media reports on the event

WDEF Chattanooga CBS affiliate "Earth Day and Eagles..." "A golf club with more eagles than most"

Chattanooga Times Free Press "Bear Trace a fitting site for Earth Day Celebration"

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Operation Pollinator Wildflower Plots Established

Another environmental project that we are happy to be involved with at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay is the Operation Pollinator program supported by Syngenta.  For many years golf courses have been accused, sometimes correctly but many times incorrectly, of damaging or destroying the habitats of natural pollinators such as bees and butterflies.  In an effort to raise the awareness of the need and importance of these pollinators to golf courses, and the world in general, Syngenta began Operation Pollinator in Europe several years ago.  With the overwhelming success of the program in Europe they have begun the program in the US.

We chose two areas on our golf courses, which have already been converted from daily high maintenance to low maintenance naturalized areas, to be used for this project.  These areas are to the left of the first tee complex and between the tenth green and eleven tee complex and will encompass about 15,000 square feet.

The process of preparing the area between 10 and 11 began with mowing down of the naturalized area with our frontdeck mower.

The next step was to blow off the clippings.

The area was then mowed down with a triplex mower down to 1/4" and blown off again.

After mowing the area down we allowed the area to "green" up and then applied RoundUp to the entire area.  After a few days we used our John Deere aerifier to prep the ground pulling 3/4" cores from the ground.  The area was then coated with a layer of sand and drug with a steel drag mat to prepare the soil for planting.

We used 1/2" rebar and flat washers to build rope stakes that we placed around the planting areas.  Hopefully this will let the golfers know that they are not supposed to drive in these areas (but time will tell).

We purchased our wildflower mix from American Meadows and hope that the mix will provide us with many years of native pollinator wildflowers and will most of all provide the native pollinators the food, habitat, and breeding ground that they need to survive and regain their population.

I think this is a great program, and I like the fact that Syngenta is supporting this project without making any money off of it.  I would especially like to thank our Syngenta rep, Jason Whitecliffe, for introducing us to this project and for his support in getting it off the ground.

If you would like information about the project, contact your local Syngenta sales rep or visit

Thursday, April 10, 2014

New Practices and Sand Should Make Routine Topdressing Better

In order to get ultradwarf putting greens in the best condition they can be there are many cultural practices that must be done on a routine basis.  These range from double mowing, to vertical mowing, to grooming or brushing, to solid and core aerification, to routine light and heavy topdressing.

Today was our first routine topdressing of our greens for this growing season.  We will be performing this practice every 7-14 days depending on growth of the turfgrass and scheduled play on the golf course.  In the past we have used a dyed green sand but we are trying to provide a better surface while also cutting our operational costs, so we are using a humate enriched sand.

Our new sand is the exact same sand particle we have used for years so we are not in any danger of bridging or changing the structure of our putting surfaces.  This sand from Golf Agronomics is blended with humates from Humate International at a rate of 1000# of humate per truck load.  We routinely apply humates to our greens through our foliar applications to improve the nutrient and water holding capacity of our sand based putting greens.  Adding the humate sand will allow us to provide a long lasting residual supply of humates to the soil over time.

I was very pleased with how well the humate sand spread with our Dakota 410 topdresser and was equally pleased with how our SandPro CocoMat drag mat did at moving the sand into the turfgrass canopy.

A quick mow following the drag to clean up the green surface and remove any "turf tags" that had been pulled up from the drag mat and we were ready for a light application of water to help move additional sand into the surface.

After the minute of water applied the greens are ready for play.  I know many golfers see topdressing as a bad thing but it should be seen as a beneficial process.  Topdressing of greens helps to keep the surface firm, smooth, and provides you with a better ball roll.  Properly topdressed greens will have much less tendency to scalp or become "puffy" or "spongy".  Greens that are properly topdressed will promote more rapid infiltration of irrigation and rain water allowing the golfer to play on the greens quicker and maintenance of the greens to be performed more quickly compared to greens which do not drain properly.

We are always trying to provide our golfing guests with the best possible conditions we can provide.  This winter and lagging spring is causing the golf course to be delayed in green-up and in our normal greens maintenance activities.  As the weather improves so will our activities on the greens and so will the conditions of the greens.