Thursday, August 9, 2018

Aerification 2018--A Week to Remember

Aerification week was last week as many of you know but it did not go as we had hoped.  The agronomy staff worked tirelessly on Monday and Tuesday to get the greens aerified and started on some the other projects due to the forecasted rainfall for Wednesday and Thursday.  It was a good thing we did because both of those days were a complete wash with the course receiving 3.41" of rain during that time.  It is hard to collect cores and spread sand in the rain, as we found out.  One last day, Friday, to get the course back together and the staff knocked it out of the park once again to get us open on time Saturday morning.

I know the word "aerification" is a four letter word for most all golfers but it is simply one of those necessary evils in the golf world.  The process removes old plant and thatch which have accumulated through time,  relieves compaction of the soil, provides new points for gas exchange between the root system and the atmosphere, letting the toxic gases out and fresh oxygen in, and allows for new materials such as sand or other amendments to be added to the soil system.   In a nutshell, you wouldn't dream of driving your car 100,000 miles without changing the oil and expecting it to survive.  We are simply changing the oil.

Most of the aerification process was the same this year as last but we did change a few techniques and add a couple of practices so  I thought a new video would help explain the process.

The agronomy staff put forth a Herculean effort last week to get everything done that we did.  The rain we received really messed up our scheduled activities but we made it through.  We did not get all the cultural practices we wanted done, such as core aerification of tees and topdressing of approaches, and will continue to work on the list over the next couple of weeks.  The greens are done and are healing in nicely so we look forward to welcoming everyone back out to enjoy the course.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Using Smart Guided Sprayer GPS System Technology

Applying fertilizers, pesticides, wetting agents, and other plant protective products to golf courses is simply one of those tasks that has to be performed to provide the healthy, quality conditions demanded by today's golfers.  Golf course superintendents are always looking for ways to reduce the need to spray, to find ways to more accurately apply the products to ensure they are being applied where they are intended, and to reduce expenses and use of natural resources.

On a typical sprayer used on tees, approaches, and/or fairways, eleven nozzles are combined into three "sections" or "booms". Four nozzles on the right, three nozzles in the center, and four nozzles on the left.  The down fall to this system is that when one of the nozzles on the right boom needs to spray, all four of the nozzles spray.  This results in overspray of product outside of the desired area which wastes products and water.  It can also cause harm to turf which might be sensitive to the product being applied on one area.

One of the best assets that has come along for golf course superintendents in a long time is individual nozzle control made possible by the integration of GPS technology on to the sprayer.  Earlier this season we were able to purchase the Smart Guided System GPS sprayer control system for our greens sprayer.  This system allows us to map the different areas on our course such as greens, approaches, fairways, and with the individual nozzle control apply the fertilizers and chemicals within 2" of exactly where we want them.

This technology has been a complete game changer for us.  By being able to apply the products only to the greens surface and not having to account for overspray with a non individual nozzle control system we have reduced our square footage sprayed on our greens from 130,000 square feet to 98,000 square feet.   This has resulted in a reduction of products and water used by  over 23%.  Our approaches have seen even bigger savings with over 33% reduction in products and water needed since we control which individual nozzles spray and which ones do not.

Here is a video of an application of product to #18 green at Harrison Bay.  As you watch it you can see the individual nozzles (indicated by the 1-11 circles at the top) turning on and off as needed and as they enter and exit the boundary of the greens surface which is outlined in green.  I have our greens set up to spray 6" outside of the actual boundary of the green so you will see a little activation outside of the green but it can be dialed in to spray any area we choose. The video pixelated a little during recording leaving a couple gaps but all the area was sprayed.

Here is an example of an application of product to #15 approach at Harrison Bay.  Again as you watch the video you can see the individual nozzles turning on and off.  The approach is outlined in green and the golf green is considered an "obstacle" and will not have any product applied to it.  We can spray these narrow areas between the green and the bunkers without fear of spraying products on the greens or overspraying the area as the Smart Guided System will turn on only one nozzle at a time if that is needed.

Set up of the Smart Guided System was easy and with the mapping attachment we chose to use, which mounts to the front of the sprayer, we can drive around our course mapping all the sites or areas we want to record.  It is a simple process to record the areas and they are saved in the "cloud"

We have looked at several different GPS sprayer control systems and decided on Smart Guided Systems due to ease of use, the ability to adapt to our existing sprayer, and the very economical price compared to other GPS systems on the market today.

Whether it is the Smart Guided System, or another manufacturer of GPS sprayer control, reducing the amount of products used, the water needed to make each application, and the ability to greater protect the environment and non-target areas from over application of chemicals is here and very accessible to most every golf course.  The savings we are seeing in products used compared to previous years will allow us to pay for this system in one season and provide better playing conditions for our golfers and guests.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Soft Tees, Smooth Paths, and Short Skirts

It has been a great year at The Bay so far this year.  We had a sluggish start due to the harsh, prolonged winter weather that stretched into the spring but the course has rebounded in championship fashion.  The agronomy staff has been hard at work giving the course some extra TLC by aerifying weak areas, sodding areas that needed a quick recovery, and applying extra fertilizer and growth stimulants to the course.  We have also had some special projects going on that are making a huge impact on the playability and look of the course.

Deep Tine Aerification of Tees:  Our tee boxes are notorious for firming up during the hot summer months, so firm that it is difficult to get a tee in the ground.  This is due to the native clay soil they are constructed from with little to no sand base or incorporation of sand to help them stay soft and user friendly.  We have tried over the years to use our greens aerifier to cultivate the tee surfaces, removing cores and trying to work sand into the holes to help this issue.  The success has been very limited because our greens aerifier is designed for the soft features of the greens and not the hard clay base of the tee complexes.  So in order to remedy this issue we purchased a used Wiedenmann Terra Spike XP deep tine aerifier.  With this powerful machine we are able to use tines that penetrate deep into the soil surface to aerate the soil.  This time around we are using 3/4" solid tines that are 11 inches long on a 4" x 4" spacing allowing 8 inches of this tine will penetrate the surface.

Smoother Cart Paths Courtesy of Flatpaths:  You may have noticed that the ride around the course is much smoother in areas and some of the bumps in the cart paths no longer exist.  That is courtesy of Jim from Flatpaths, a company we contracted to grind back down areas of the cart paths where tree roots have buckled them up.  Jim did a great job and we hope to have him back out to finish the course the next time he is in the area.  This process was very quick, with limited debris, and was much, much more economical and less disruptive to the course compared to removing or resurfacing the cart paths throughout the course.

Native Grass Area Renovation:  We are very proud of our native grass areas on our course as they provide movement corridors and nesting/brooding habitats for the residents, help eliminate runoff contamination from the short turfgrass before reaching the waterways, and gives defined definition to the golf holes.  As with most things in life there comes a time when some renovation has to occur and for our native grass areas that time is now.  We usually only have to do this process every 3-4 years and it is a good thing because with close to 100 acres of low maintenance areas it takes quite some time.

The course looks quite different with her skirt down and there are many golf balls which have gone astray from their intended target that are getting a second chance at life, but the best part of the renovation project is this is the best time to disperse the seed from the native grasses that are present in these areas.  We want a variety of plant species in our native grass areas, not a monostand, as this improves the diversity of wildlife that can call the golf course home, gives different food sources at different times of the year, and looks more natural.  Bill is working hard to stay out of everyones way and get this project done.  The areas will be back to their glory in no time and we ask that you continue to obey the standing cart rule and not enter these areas with your cart.

We hope you have had a great year so far and we look forward to seeing you on the course.  

Friday, May 18, 2018

Bobwhite Quail Chicks are Busting Out

We have done a lot of environmental projects at Harrison Bay over the years but our Bobwhite Quail Restoration project has turned out to be one of the most fun, and it culminated today in the release of the chicks from their brooding chamber.  The project started back in April and you can review its beginning here Southern Bobwhite Quail Restoration project. We have had the chicks for 36 days and they have been in the brooding chamber for the past 24 days.  Today they were released to fly free.

The chicks started out about the size of a golf ball, if that, and have grown considerably in size over these last 36 days.  They have gained about four to five times their size and have grown in their flight feathers so it was time to let them loose into their new environment.  Our project started with 125 Bobwhite quail chicks and as of today 86 have survived and are thriving.  According to Bill the survival rate of most quail clutches is between 12-15% so our 68.8% survival rate is incredible.

Here is a video (turn on your volume) we put together of the 
Bobwhite Quail Restoration Project at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay.   
(Videos are courtesy of Willie Hamby.  Photos by Paul Carter)

The release party was one of the coolest things I have experienced in quite some time.  To see the quail chicks take flight and/or strut around in the native grass areas was entertaining, inspiring, and gave us all a sense of satisfaction that the project had turned out so successful.

The project is far from over and we have more in store but it makes me think back to a classic episode of The Andy Griffith Show "Opie the Birdman" (Season 4, Episode 1) and a saying comes to mind.

The box seems sort of empty now...
but don't the fields sound nice and full.

Again we can't thank Bill Greene enough for his dedication and passion for our environmental programs.  The Bobwhite quail restoration project has been fun to implement.  We are proud to have a golf course with the natural habitat specially suited for these birds and we can't wait to watch them grow up and begin raising their own families on the course.  This group of birds should lay their first clutch of eggs toward the middle of July and will hopefully over the years cover the course.

If you are interested in introducing Bobwhite quail onto your golf course and if we can help in any way please contact us and we will be happy to put you in touch with the quail breeder, let you borrow the brooding chamber, or answer any questions we can.

Welcome to The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay 
Mr. and Mrs. Bobwhite Quail.  
We hope you enjoy your new home for many years to come.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Hello Spring. Nice of You to Show Up...FINALLY

After a winter that seemed that it would never end, the sun is finally out and shining, and the course is coming back into shape, albeit about a month later than we are used to.  The extended cold temperatures and excessive rainfall that we experienced in the months of March and April delayed the green up of the bermudagrass and have caused the delay in some of our maintenance practices that we would normally have performed by now.

The delay in the normal springtime temperatures has caused delays in the green up of a few areas on the course and we have been asked about these, why they occurred, what we could do about them, and how long will they be this way.  Dr. Jim Brosnan, Associate Professor University of Tennessee, recently wrote an article about the delayed greenup that we are experiencing in the transition zone and I thought I would pass along his excellent explanation.

To be honest a few weeks ago, as I examined the golf course, I was fearful we would have to sod several areas on the course.  Since the weather has taken a turn for the better in the past week, with full days of warm sun and little to no rain, the turfgrass has also taken a turn, and one for the better.  We are seeing substantial growth and recovery in these areas and will be doing a few cultural practices over the next few weeks to help the turf along.  The first practice, which started this morning will be to vertical mow the weak areas to remove any crusting of thatch and algae and expose the underlying turfgrass to the warmth and benefit of the sun.

The next practice will be to use our Aerway shattertine slicer to solid tine aerify the weak areas to allow a void for any water that falls or is applied to be removed from the surface as to not drown the new plants as they grow or allow any algae to reform and to allow oxygen into the soil to promote root growth and recovery.  We will follow the solid tine venting with mowing of the fairways to smooth out the surface.  Following this we will apply some extra fertility to these areas to give them a little boost.

Your agronomy staff has worked very hard over the years to provide the high quality conditions that you have come to expect.  We understand questions arise when things look out of place and we will do everything we can to answer those questions and concerns. The golf course is quickly coming back to form, now that Spring has finally decided to show up, and we are confident these weak areas will be filled in shortly.  As always if you have any questions, concerns, or comments about the course or any practices we perform on the course please don't hesitate to let us know.  We will do our best to answer them.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Rounds 4 Research Auction 2018--Support the Game You Love

The annual Rounds 4 Research auction kicks off on Monday, April 30 and runs through May 6.  The R4R auction is a great way for golfers to help support turfgrass research by purchasing donated rounds to some of the nations best and some of your favorite courses, and some courses that you might not be able to play on a daily basis. The Rounds 4 Research program is the brainchild of the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association where they helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support research and education.  The program was moved a couple of years ago to the GCSAA Environmental Institute for Golf which administers the program and allows other states throughout the nation to benefit from this amazing program as well.

The program works by courses donating rounds of golf which are then listed at and are available for preview now, with the actual auction beginning Monday, April 30. Interested golfers can then go to the auction website and bid on rounds from courses all over the nation.

The Tennessee GCSA has worked hard to gather a great collection of over 100 rounds from courses throughout Tennessee and some surrounding states for this year's auction.  The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay is proud to be participating in the Rounds 4 Research auction this year, along with the other 8 courses that make up the Tennessee Golf Trail.  Tennessee golf courses participating in the program this year can be found at Tennessee Rounds 4 Research Available Golf Courses.

Research results being presented at UT Turf Field Day
Who benefits from funds raised from Rounds 4 Research? Well, ultimately you, the golfer, benefits.  All the proceeds raised from the R4R auction, at least in Tennessee, go to support turfgrass research, like that performed at The University of Tennessee-Institute of Agriculture, help to provide scholarships to the upcoming next generation of turfgrass manager, and provide education for current golf course superintendents and turf managers at local association meetings and special events like the UT Turfgrass and Ornamental Field Day.

A lot of golfers get excited about the Masters Tournament and with good reason, but ALL golfers should get excited about the Rounds 4 Research program.  I encourage every golfer that reads this blog to visit  and preview the over 1,100 rounds across the nation available this year and be ready to start bidding tomorrow morning.  This is a special opportunity for golfers all across America to help support turfgrass research and education, and play some of the best courses available at some very special pricing.

So visit

 Rounds 4 Research 

this week and bid on amazing rounds at amazing courses and help do your part to provide the much needed funding for turfgrass research, scholarships, and education.  
We all win through this great program.  

We have done our part in gathering these rounds for the auction
---now do your part and get to bidding!!!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Southern Bobwhite Quail Restoration Project--Earth Day 2018

Every day is Earth Day on a golf course and especially at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay.  Each year we try to determine an environmental or wildlife habitat need on our course and design a project or program to try and address this need.  For decades the habitat for the Southern Bobwhite Quail has been in constant decline.  This decline is caused by many issues.  As smaller farms, pasturelands, and grass-woodline areas have disappeared in favor of larger open farms and sprawling neighborhoods the habitat for these small game birds is becoming scarce.

Over the years we have drastically reduced the highly maintained turfgrass acreage on our course allowing these areas to return to a natural grassy stage.   These areas are perfect habitat for these small birds as they are small in size and close to water and wooded cover.  The project for this year was designed and carried out by Bill Greene.  Bill, an avid hunter and outdoorsman throughout his life, has a passion for wildlife conservation.  After some detailed research Bill started constructing a brooding chamber to hold the quail chicks until they are large enough to be released.  The chamber is 3'x8' and 12" tall with feed towers and a watering system installed.

Feed and grit will be placed in the feed towers and water placed in the watering barrel.  This supply of food and water will be enough to keep them for the 33 days then need to stay in the brooding chamber before being released into the wild.  1/4" wire mesh was installed in the front half of the brooding chamber with the back half of the chamber solid to allow the chicks an area to get out of any harsh sun, wind, or rain.

A layer of pine shavings are placed in the bottom of the chamber and the chicks released into the chamber.  As you can see in the picture, the chicks, which Bill is holding in his hands, are very small and quite fragile at this young age.  It will take close to a month for them to become strong and big enough to release into their new habitat.

Our plan was to have the chicks out in the brooding chamber long before this time. The unpredictable weather that has kept the south in what seems like a never ending winter has changed those plans.  Since the chicks are so small and fragile and the weather keeps fluctuating so much we have decided to keep the chick in a nesting area at the maintenance building under a heat light and with food and water until the weather regulates.  This will give them some extra time to grow and be ready to be placed in "the wild".

We are blessed to have employees like Bill Greene at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay.  Not only does he assist in maintaining the golf course grounds everyday but has taken a personal interest in the environmental projects and programs we have in place.  Bill took the time to research the needs of the quail, to speak with his  uncle who raises Bobwhite quail and to secure the donation of the game birds to our project.  If you see Bill out on the course (he will be the tall guy almost always wearing something promoting the Georgia Bulldogs) stop and speak with him and learn about the Bobwhite quail restoration project and say thanks to him for his commitment to the environment, our wildlife habitat programs, and to the golf course.

We are very lucky to be able to come to work on a golf course everyday, and even more for that golf course to be The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay.  Golf courses provide land that can be used in many ways.  For the golfers (humans) it provides a great place for exercise, stress release, and fellowship with friends and family.  For the wildlife and birds the golf course provides a home, a place where they can move and live and raise their families.

We hope that each of you have a fantastic Earth Day this year and remember that every day should be considered Earth Day.  Please do you part while on the golf course by keeping vehicles out of native grass areas, placing trash and cigarette butts where they are designed to go, and stopping from time to time and simply enjoying the wonderful sights and sounds of the course.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Aquatrols Conservation Award

Earlier this month our course was awarded the inaugural Aquatrols Conservation Award for the wildlife habitat management programs we have undertaken over the years on the golf course.  We are very grateful to Aquatrols for this award and for the recognition of our environmental stewardship projects.  It is our belief that golf course management and environmental stewardship go hand in hand and in all honesty it just makes the job more fun and interesting.

I would like to thank Mr. Steve Fasano of Aquatrols for being so gracious in his comments and his time in presenting us with the Conservation Award. Each year Aquatrols sponsors the Golf Course Industry magazine Super Social Media Awards at the annual Golf Industry Show.  The Super Social Media awards are presented to golf courses for their use of twitter, blogs, videos, and other forms of media which get the word out of all the great work being done on their course.

Whether it is our Harrison Bay Eagle Cam project or our Mallard Duck Nesting Tubes or our Wild Turkey Feeders or our wood duck boxes or Establishing Native Grass Areas they are all done to enhance the golf course, to provide nesting and brooding  areas and to help promote the fact that golf courses can be, and are, safe and suitable habitats for a multitude of birds and wildlife.

It has been a busy winter with many improvements made to the course and we are ready to get going with the growing season.  It seems quite early but Spring has sprung at Harrison Bay with the trees blooming and the greens coming out of dormancy.  We hope this is the start to a great golfing season for all and we hope all will come out and enjoy the great weather and all the hard work that we will be putting into the course.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Fence Renovation Project 2018

Last year we began working on improving the overall appearance of our golf course when we renovated the front sign on Harrison Bay Road. Front Entrance Face Lift Part 1 and Part 2  This year in continuing the work to make your experience even better we chose to renovate the old split rail fencing along the front entry road, surrounding the main parking lot, and along the back of the native planting bed which runs along #1 tee.

The project was a fun and exciting one that allowed us to hone old skills and tap into new talents some of us didn't know we had.  We began the project on January 22 and finished up today, February 15th.  In total we installed 249 4"x6" pressure treated posts with 2' buried in the ground.  We drilled and screwed in 2,304 3" galvanized bolts into 532 2"x6" pressure treated rails for a total of 4,256 linear feet of fencing.  Yes we counted it all. 😁

Here is a video we put together of the project.  Hope you like it.

Special thanks go to Bill Greene, Willie Hamby and Shane Shelton for their commitment and hard work on this project.  If you like the finished product and see them on the course let them know.  They suffered a few cuts and splinters along the way to make this project such a success.

Spring is just around the corner and we can't wait to get everyone back out on the links and enjoying the course that we all love caring for so much.  See you out there soon.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Remembering Eloise--The First Lady of HBEC

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of Eloise, the original female bald eagle at the Harrison Bay Eagle Cam project.  She was spotted on the nest cam Saturday with an injury under her right wing.  On Sunday Harrison Bay State Park rangers responded to a local land owner reporting an eagle in distress.  She was captured and taken to the University of Tennessee Veterinary College for treatment but did not survive her injuries.

We have, as viewers of HBEC, had the distinct pleasure of watching her care for her nest and territory.  From watching her direct her mate Elliott as to where each and every stick should be placed around the nest perimeter to carefully and delicately rolling her eggs and feeding her chicks without the slightest chance of injury to them with her razor sharp beak or talons to protecting her nest from predators or other eagles that would like to take over, it has been a true gift to witness this.

Since 2010 Eloise has laid 12 eggs of which 10 successfully hatched and fledged from our nest to take to the skies and fly free.  Along that path we have had several close calls or frights including the premature branching and fledging of HB5 which lead to a capture and rehabilitation stint at the American Eagle Foundation before being released back at the golf course.  HB5 Flies Free Again

Watching Eloise care for her eaglets was a tremendous honor.  There were so many times where she would shelter them from rain and snow and stay awake all night long to make sure they were safe and sound.  It has truly been a blessing to get to see this magnificent animal in its natural environment and she will not soon be forgotten.

As many of you may remember Eloise left the nest last year and was replaced by Eliza.  Why this happened no one knows and we feared the worst but hoped for the best and we were all thrilled when she returned this year to reclaim her rightful place as the queen of HBEC.
Photo by Bret Douglas

Our eagle cam is a glimpse into nature at its rawest form.  We have witnessed all the elements that makes life, life.  From birth to death, caring to pain,  anger to love, all of these elements have been on direct display and many of them hurt.  We will miss seeing Eloise "boss" Elliott around about where to place the "furnishings" around the nest, seeing her care for her eaglets in the tender caring way she did, and being taken back by that distinct, heavy browed stare she had.

The Harrison Bay Eagle Cam ( will continue to function as an educational conduit to allow interested viewers to garner a view of an active bald eagle nest in the wild.  Elliott, as his natural instincts tell him to continue his species, has returned to the nest this afternoon with Eliza, the female that took Eloise's place last year.  We can only hope for continued success of the nest and for many more eaglets to be fledged in the years to come to fill the skies.

Photo by Bret Douglas

Fly Free Eloise

We will miss you dearly