Friday, May 30, 2014

Greens Aerification Scheduled for June 3rd and 4th

Much to everyone's excitement the greens at Harrison Bay have made a tremendous turnaround over the past several weeks.  Good growing weather combined with some extreme TLC from the grounds staff have proven to be the special touch that they needed.  Although the greens are improving we know we can make them even better and so we will be carrying out our first large core aeration of the year on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.  The course will be closed for these two days to allow us to perform the necessary tasks that we need to in order to keep improving the golf course.

I know that very few, if any, golfers like to hear the word "aerification" but it is a necessary evil that must be performed.  Just so you don't think that I thought up the process by myself, I invite you to view the USGA video below on the importance of greens aerification.

Please bear with us as we continue to make the golf course better.  We feel that the greens will be back in better shape than they are now within 7-10 days.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Harrison Bay Eaglet Injury Update

One thing about working on a golf course is that you never know what the day will bring.  Harrison Bay is usually not a boring place to work and yesterday was no exception.  After a message from one of our Harrison Bay Eagle Cam moderators about one of the eaglets not returning to the nest the previous night I went to see if it was just out of camera range and found that it was no where to be seen.

The eaglet was located by our golf course staff around noon but it was unable to fly and could only hop around on the ground. It made its way into a very thick area of blackberry bushes for shelter.  Members of our golf course maintenance staff along with Harrison Bay State Park rangers corralled the eaglet and safely placed it in a box for transport to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.

The great people at the UTCVM examined the eaglet and found that no bones were broken, as was feared, but that the eaglet had multiple lacerations on its right wing and that flies had begun to lay eggs in the cuts.  The eggs were estimated to be about 12 hours old and we were told that if the eaglet had not been captured and taken to UTCVM that it would have most likely died within the next 12 hours.

The picture to the left shows the left wing of the eaglet which is not injured and is perfectly healthy.

This picture shows the injured right wing of the eaglet.  The "whitish" area around the elbow is the fly egg sacks that had been laid in the lacerations on the eaglets wing.  Also notice the swelling in the elbow and the torn feather ligaments.  It is most likely that the injury occurred in the tree while the eaglet was moving from branch to branch and once the infection took hold and the eaglet could not use its wing properly, it could not return to the nest and either slipped or fell from the tree.

We are extremely grateful to Dr. Cheryl Greenacre and everyone else at the UTCVM for taking such quick action to care for the eaglet.  They will tend to the eaglet for a few days to make sure the wounds are closed and any infection is gone. You can view the rehabilitation process at We are hoping to be able to work with the American Eagle Foundation in Pigeon Forge, TN to have them rehab the eaglet in one of their large aviaries until it can successfully fly.  At that time it is our utmost desire to return it to Harrison Bay for release.

The Harrison Bay Eagle Cam Project has taken on a life of its own over the years with people from around the world tuning in to see the birth and growth of the eagles.  The eagles feel like family now and we hate to see them hurting or in danger but I am glad that we have so many people willing to go out of their way to help them survive.  Thanks to all of the Bear Trace staff, the Harrison Bay State Park rangers, and the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine personnel for all your dedication and hard work.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Golf Environment Organization (GEO)

The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay is very proud of our affiliations with different environmental and golf entities around the world as we feel that the more knowledge you have, and/or the more knowledgeable people you know, the better equipped you are to do the job properly.  Our golf course has had a long working relationship with organizations such as Audubon International, The Groundwater Foundation, the Environmental Institute for Golf, and the USGA Green Section.

Jacobsen President Mr. David Withers and
TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau with our GEO
certification presentation
In an effort to broaden our knowledge base on what we can do to continue to lessen our impact on the environment we recently became involved with the premier environmental organization in Europe known as the Golf Environment Organization or GEO.  GEO serves a multitude of countries outside of the United States setting the benchmark for environmental stewardship and consciousness. Our involvement with GEO has evolved over the past couple of years and we were thrilled to gain our GEO Certified status on April 22, 2014 at our Earth Day 2014 Event presented by Jacobsen.

As with most things that mean something certification with GEO is not something that is easily achieved, but that is not to say that it can not be done or should not be sought after.  It took us about two years to complete our certification but we have had a few projects going on during that time.  The thing that I like about the GEO certification process is that they look not only at what you are doing now but how have you changed your operation practices over a period of time.  This allows you to see if you have changed and are just treading water or have you changed your practices and continue to make improvements.  The certification process is broken into six different categories; Nature, Water, Energy, Supply Chain, Pollution Control, and Community.

The "Nature" section of the certification, as you can guess, deals with how the golf course interacts with the natural surroundings and inhabitants of the golf course.  What are we doing to enhance the property for the benefit of the environment?  What changes in our management practices and policies have we made to lessen our impact on the environment and the surrounding?  What environmental programs or practices have we put in place to create sustainable and suitable habitat for wildlife?
One of the many wildlife inhabitants of our course

The content of our Nature certification section can be viewed here

The "Water" section of the certification deals with how we are managing the water utilized on our golf course, as well as, how we are protecting the water supplies and sources around the golf course.  What practices or policies have we put in place to limit the amount of water we are using?  What steps have we made to limit the amount of irrigated acreage on our golf course?  Have we selected the proper turfgrass species for our climate and water supply?  What steps have we taken to protect the water around and flowing through our golf course from pesticide, fertilizer, or soil particle contamination?
Converting our greens irrigation from full circle to part circle
heads has reduced our usage of irrigation to water greens

The content of our Water certification section can be viewed here

The "Energy" section of the certification deals with the steps we have taken to reduce the amount of energy we are consuming at the golf course.  This is not only concerned with electricity but also gasoline and diesel fuels.  What practices have we changed to limit the amount of fuel used on the golf course?  Have we implemented a recycling program at the course?  Are we using energy efficient fixtures and appliances?

A view of one of our fully electric Jacobsen Eclipse 322
battery configuration

The content of our Energy certification section can be viewed here

The "Supply Chain" section of the certification deals with our use of products and companies which also hold an environmental friendly mindset along with how we are choosing our chemicals and fertilizers to better protect the environment.  Have we changed our purchasing practices to purchase more local products to reduce the amount of fuel used for delivery?  Are we using more organic products or are we limiting the amount and number of chemicals and fertilizers used on the course?  How are we managing our soil structure and moisture content to provide a more healthy turf which will require less chemicals and inputs?

Proper equipment like the Toro ProCore 648 allows us to
properly maintain our soil structure for better turf

The content of our Supply Chain certification section can be viewed here

The "Pollution Control" section of the certification deals with how we are protecting the environment from direct or accidental contamination from fuel, chemicals, fertilizer, or other substances.  Have we created vegetative buffer strips around our water ways to protect them?  Are we mixing our chemicals and fertilizers on impervious surfaces? Are we storing our chemicals, fertilizers, and oil products in a safe and secure manner?
Vegetative buffer strips around all of our waterways helps
to protect the surface water from contamination

The content for our Pollution Control certification section can be viewed here

The "Community" section of the certification covers how we are involving and including our community in our environmental programs and practices.  How are we communicating our environmental activities and programs to the general public?  Are we reaching out to include the public in our projects and our property with the hopes that they will implement some of our programs on their property?  How are we promoting our environmental programs with the media to help improve the image of the golf course industry?  How are we making sure that the general public views the golf course as a positive entity within the community rather than a negative environmental polluter?  

Members of the Friends of Harrison Bay State Park who
monitor our eastern blue bird houses

The content of our Community certification section can be viewed here

Our certification process was very enlightening and educational.  We had the pleasure of working with Mr. J. Russell Bodie, M.A. of The Smart Group as he was assigned to carry out our GEO onsite verification.  Mr. Bodie was great to work with and his Verification Report can be viewed here

It is an honor for us to be included in the current group of only six golf courses in the United States which are GEO Certified.  The other courses are Broken Sound Club of Boca Raton, FloridaHighlands Country Club of Highlands, North CarolinaMirimichi of Millington, TennesseeThe Ritz Carlton Golf Club of Orlando, Florida, and The Venice Golf and Country Club of Venice, Florida.

Environmental promotion and protection is important and can be very enjoyable.  We hope that each course will institute some environmental programs or practices in their operating standards.  Working with organizations such as Golf Environment Organization makes the process that much more enjoyable and easier.  Utilizing these environmental organizations for their knowledge and inputs can give you ideas and methods to improve your course, as they have ours.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

2014 Rounds 4 Research Auction Starting Soon

It is almost time for the 2014 Rounds 4 Research Auction to begin.  Running from June 9-22, 2014 you will once again have the opportunity to bid on rounds of golf at some of the best golf courses in America, including some exclusive clubs that the general public is not able to play.  The best part of the Rounds 4 Research program is that while you are getting to enjoy these great golf courses you are also supporting and funding environmental research, scholarships and education, and outreach and awareness efforts.

A total of 20 golf courses in Tennessee have donated rounds this year and we hope momentum will continue to grow for this program and other courses will become involved in future years. The rounds are usually foursomes but some courses have designated special packages to sweeten the pot. Some of the courses available for bidding this year are TPC Southwind in Memphis, Council Fire Golf Club in Chattanooga, Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin, the Tellico Village Golf Courses of Toqua, Tanasi, and Kahite, along with the entire Tennessee Golf Trail Collection, to name a few.

So here is how the Rounds4Research program works.  

1) Go to to register to bid
2) During the time of June 9-22 visit to bid on the rounds you are interested in.
3) Following your successful winning of the bid EIFG (Environmental Institute for Golf) will send you a voucher or certificate for your round or package which you can then take to the golf course to redeem.
4) Here is the great part.  At least 80% of the bid amount is returned to the local GCSAA chapter that the round was donated to.  In the case of the Tennessee courses, the funds come back to Tennessee GCSA.
5) You get to feel good about helping the environment while enjoying a round of golf.

The auction is only successful if the rounds are bid on.  So tell your friends and neighbors, and even your enemies, to go to to register to bid and to be prepared from June 9-22, 2014 to help yourself to some great golf while also benefiting the environment and environmental programs.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Don't Skimp on Aerification

Now I'm not one to call myself an expert on ultradwarf bermudagrass management by any means but after 10 years of maintaining them I have made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of hard lessons.

We converted our greens from bentgrass to Champion ultradwarf bermudagrass in July of 2003 and for the first 4-5 years our greens were as close to perfect as we could make them.  The turfgrass plants were young and had not produced a distinct mat or organic layer at that time.  When the economy made its downturn around 2009-2010 the decision was made to lessen our aerification practices to try and keep the golfers happy, keep the cash register ringing and try to limit the downtime of the greens during the summer golfing season.

Now let me say that ALL agronomic decisions made at Harrison Bay are mine, and with that I take full responsibility for the conditioning of the greens at our course.  In 2010 we started limiting our aerification practices and only aerifying with small 1/4" side eject tines at a close spacing and going only about 1.5-2" deep.  This practice gave us the desired results of golfers being happy with "unaerified" greens and it kept them coming out and in turn the revenue increased.

Well, now it is time to pay the piper as they say.  The photo to the right is a profile sample of one of our greens taken from a weak area.  You will notice that we have a mat layer consisting of live and dead shoot and root tissue which is diluted with sand from our topdressing.  Below that is a 1"-1.5" "muck" layer of organic matter that is completely restricting root movement, water movement, and air movement into the soil profile.  As you can see by the color changes the organic matter levels in the 2"-3" level are markedly less and below the 3.5" level it looks like the green was just built, no roots have entered this area to produce any organic matter.

This photo is representative of a lot of the areas on our greens, especially the areas which are showing stress from this past harsh winter.  As you can see the roots have not, can not penetrate this layer of organic matter and the turfgrass is doing its best to survive in the top inch of the soil profile.  This is not favorable for a successful green and here is where our problems lie.

The photo to the right is taken from a very good area on one of our greens.  If you will notice the organic matter has been managed or has not accumulated in this area as much as the previous example and with that water, air, and roots (sticking out of the bottom of the profile) can easily move thorough this profile.  This is what all of our greens should look like.

I know "aerification" is thought of in many golfers circles as a lengthy four letter word but it has to be done.  The USGA Green Section recommends the removal of 15-20% of the greens surface in a single year and through our practices over the past years we have only been getting between 8-10%.

Our payment to the piper will start this Monday and Tuesday as we will begin our aerification schedule for the year to begin repairing the mistakes that have been made over the years.  We will be conducting a "Spring Cleaning" of the greens designed to remove old plants from past seasons and initiate growth of new plants.  It will also serve to begin removing the organic layer and introduce new sand and soil amendments to the area below the "muck" layer.

We will be using a 3/8" coring tine on a 1.5" x 2" spacing.  The cores will be removed from the green and the topdressing drug in, greens mowed, greens rolled, and watered heavily. I do not think this will be overly disruptive to the putting surface since we did the back of #9 green last week and to my knowledge no one even knew we did it.

We will be working all summer to remove the organic layer in our greens.  Our large core aerifications will be performed on June 3 and 4 and August 4 and 5.  We will also be performing spot aerification on some of the weaker greens at other times during the summer months.

Over the past several years the popularity of ultradwarf bermudagrass greens has taken off in the South, especially here in Chattanooga.  As I said, I don't want to sound like a "know it all", but if you are a superintendent growing an ultradwarf bermudagrass or a member or owner of a course that has ultradwarf bermudagrass greens, please do not make the mistake of skimping on proper aerification practices.  It will come back to bite you and when you least need it to.