Friday, July 11, 2014

Sprigging and Sodding from 2014 Winter Injury

We all enjoy seeing a snow fall across the golf course every now and then and while it is beautiful to look at the damage that cold temperatures and snow/ice cover leave behind can be felt for a very long time.  The winter of 2014 was very hard on turfgrass in the transition zone and we are still recovering from its effects.  We have worked to repair areas around the golf course, on greens, tees, and fairways, as possible.  This week and next we will complete our recovery efforts.

We had several small areas on the greens that did not recover and needed to be sodded or plugged. Our staff used the sod from our nursery/chipping green to make the repairs in the greens which turned out very well.  With the removal of so much plant material from the nursery it has been necessary to renovate the nursery again this season.  I guess that is what it was built for so we should use it as such. The process began last week with Willie and Tanner stripping any remaining turf from the surface, adding some new sand and smoothing and packing the surface.

The resprigging of the chipping green started this morning with a quick trip up to Knoxville where Champion Turf Farms was converting yet another golf course.  Upon returning to Harrison Bay it took us about an hour to introduce the sprigs to their new home.

Once the sprigs were completely spread across the green surface and had a quick drink of water they were "buried" in humate blended sand.  The sprigs were covered with enough sand so that they were barely visible.  This process will help protect them from drying out and from any movement by wind or water.  It also helps to begin the smoothing out process of the green during grow in.

Once the sprigs were sufficiently protected and they had another drink of water we used the bunker rake to pack or press the sprigs into the green.  This process will help the sprigs make better contact with the soil surface for better rooting.  I would have liked to have used a heavy roller or cutting tool but sometimes you have to use the best tool that you have available.

With favorable weather, the sprigs will take about 6-7 weeks to completely grow in and become a true putting surface like the rest of the golf course greens.  Until that time the chipping green area is closed to play.  Irrigation will be applied over the next several days on a regular interval so we ask that you stay clear of this area so you do not get wet by accident.

Other renovations to the golf course will include the finishing up of sod repair on #5 and #17 fairways.  The repairs on #10 and #15 have turned out very nice and we expect these two new areas to do the same.

We will also be placing sod on a couple of tee boxes and in some heavy traffic areas on and approaching greens.  Please be aware of these areas and avoid driving through, walking over, or playing from these areas until further notice.  We will not be placing ropes and signs around many of these areas since they are so small but we ask that you show care for the golf course and respect the hard work your golf course maintenance staff is putting forth to provide you with a high quality golf course.

Monday, June 30, 2014

HB5 Flies Free Again

Injured and infected right wing of eaglet on 5/29/14
As many of you might remember one of our eaglets, HB5, was injured last month and had to be taken to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine for treatment as documented in this blogpost Harrison Bay Eaglet Injury Update.  Dr. Cheryl Greenacre and her staff at UT CVM did an amazing job of cleaning HB5s injuries and preparing it for transport to the American Eagle Foundation in Pigeon Forge, TN for rehabilitation.

After a short time in a solitary cage to regain its strength and mend its wounds HB5 was moved from the small netted cage area to a larger 150 foot flight cage where it could spread its wings and get stronger.  A sub adult bald eagle was placed in the flight cage with it for companionship and to help it cope with being in captivity.  In the short three weeks that HB5 was at the AEF facilities it quickly regained its strength and it was evident that it wanted to fly free, again.

Today was a special day at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay as Mr. Al Cecere and his staff from AEF journeyed to Harrison Bay to return HB5 back to the wild where he belongs and at the site where he was designed and destined to live.

After a little bit of a struggle and a "good bye" nip at Mr. Cecere's thumb HB5 was removed from the transport carrier.  Mr. Cecere stated that HB5 was one of the feistiest birds he had seen, using every trick in the book not to be captured each time they tired, and did not expect this bird to ever want to be near humans again.  Bad for us but great for HB5.

A small but very interested group of eagle watchers gathered for the release which was probably a once in a lifetime event for us all.  The support and interest in our program has been overwhelming this year and we hope to carry this momentum forward. Mitchell Sivley, Assistant Superintendent at Harrison Bay, looks on ready for the action.
Mr. Cecere was very patient and accommodating with all those in attendance allowing us time to be up-close and personal with HB5.  Golf Course Superintendent Paul L. Carter and his daughter Hannah, who gave the adult eagles their names, Elliott and Eloise, spend time some quality time with HB5 before its release.

Seeing this magnificent bird up close today was a highlight of my career.  We were so thankful that Mr. Cecere took his time and provided us his special observations about HB5.  Mr. Cecere stated that he had not seen a prettier eaglet and was amazed by the pure dark feathers on HB5s head and tail.

One feature of the eagle that I had never seen before were the black barbs located at the rear of the tongue.  These barbs are called "rear-directed papillae" and are used to aid in the swallowing of food.  In the very back of the tongue there is a hole called the "glottis" which is the entrance to the windpipe.  The "glottis" will close when swallowing or calling out.

Every eagle needs a little bling
HB5 was also banded with a special band from the US Department of Agriculture.  The band is unobtrusive to the bird and will help to identify it if is viewed by eagle watchers in another area or is injured or captured again.  The talons are extremely impressive up close and definitely demanded your attention.

Before the release of HB5 back into the wild Mr. Cecere took a moment to remember a great Tennessean and great American who he was a personal friend with and had recently passed away.  Mr. Cecere in a fitting tribute to his friend Senator Howard Baker asked if we could rename HB5 to "The Great Conciliator" in honor of the late senator's ability to bring peace and mediation between both political parties while serving his country in Washington.  Senator Baker's spirit will now fly free with HB5.

After everyone had gotten to see HB5 it was time for it to return to the sky where it belongs and in one quick toss Mr. Cecere released it into the air.  It quickly took to flight and flew directly to the perch tree beside the nest tree where HB6 had been sitting less than an hour before.  As we watched it sit on the tree both parents and HB6 came flying overhead as if to say "Welcome Home".

We cannot thank the Bear Trace golf course staff members who captured HB5, the Harrison Bay State Park Rangers who rushed it to be checked out, the fine doctors at UT College of Veterinary Medicine for treating it, or Mr. Cecere and his fantastic staff at the American Eagle Foundation enough.  Their hard work and dedication has returned another bald eagle into the wild and this is one experience I will never forget and consider myself blessed to have been a part of.

Coverage and updates on the release can be found at and

Fly Free HB5 Fly Free

Monday, June 23, 2014

June has been a busy month

A lot of work has taken place at Harrison Bay since my last post.  The golf course maintenance staff has been hard at work and with summer temperatures finally arriving the turfgrass has taken off and the course is looking better and better by the day.

The greens have completely recovered from our June aerification and we are back to our normal maintenance practices such as double cutting, rolling, topdressing, vertical mowing, and venting.  These processes are tedious and sometimes inconvenient but they are a necessity to continue to maintain high quality putting surfaces.  Please bear with us as we do these practices, especially if you are one of the first groups out.  We are working as fast as we can to get it done right for all our guests.

One of the projects that we took care of while we were closed for aerification was to repair the winter injury areas in 10 and 15 fairways.  The damaged sod was cut up with a sod cutter and removed from the damaged area.

We then used large rolls of sod from Mid Tenn Turf in Manchester, TN to repair the areas.  It was a lot of work and of course it rained on us right in the middle of the process which made it that much more difficult but the staff stayed with it and got the work done.  These areas have been rolled several times and have been topdressed and fertilized and are ready for play.  We will continue to lower the height of cut down over the next month until it is back to fairway height.

One of the things we are doing different this year is our mowing pattern on our tees and fairways and we get a lot of questions about this.  Mowing the fairways and tees in this pattern is known by many superintendents as the "classic cut" as it takes us back to the day before the modern lightweight fairway units that made striping fairways so easy.  This mowing pattern was chosen because it reduced the time it takes to mow the fairways, the fuel used, and the emissions created.

Some people like the look and some don't.  I guess it is a personal preference but we are doing it to save time and money.  We estimate that by mowing our fairways in this pattern we will save 312 manhours, 811 gallons of diesel fuel, and eliminate the production of 18,641 pounds of point source CO2.  Along with the sharp look that this mowing pattern provides these saving are the icing on the cake.

As the work is never done on a golf course we have several more projects that we will be carrying out during the month of July to continue to improve the course.  We will be aerifying and topdressing the tees this month, we will put the finishing touches on the greens plugging project that Willie and Jonathen have done such a great job on, and we will continue to repair areas in fairways and around greens damaged by the cold winter of 2014.

As the summer progresses please take time to enjoy all of the aspects of the golf course and not just the green grass.  We have an abundance of wildlife to enjoy watching and the Operation Pollinator plantings on holes #1 and #10 are beginning to bloom.  As the seasons progress and these areas mature we should have a great stand of wildflower color in these areas which will provide food and shelter for many bees and butterflies.

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.