Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Thousand Ways to Topdress

One of the beautiful aspects of golf course management is that no two golf courses are the same.  Golf courses in the same state, same town, or even "north/south" courses on the same property are different and there are a thousand different ways to maintain them and achieve the desired results. This is what makes golf course maintenance special and unique and gives each golf course superintendent the possibility to put his or her personal stamp on the golf course.

Topdressing of the greens is a vital process in maintaining healthy and well performing greens that putt well, drain properly, and are firm to accept impact from golf balls, foot traffic, and the weight of the golf course maintenance equipment.  For many years we have been applying our weekly topdressing sand with a mechanical spreader followed by a custom made drag mat to help incorporate the sand into the greens.  This process works well but we found ourselves collecting a large amount of the sand in our mower baskets the following days which was then discarded, having to do extra maintenance to the greens mowers due to the damage caused by the sand passing through the reel and bed knife, and having many disgruntled golfers no matter how hard we worked to get the sand worked into the greens.





So as some have noticed this year we have taken on a different approach to our topdressing program and so far are seeing very satisfying results.  Instead of using the heavy mechanical spreader which we had difficulty applying a consistent light topdressing with, we are using push spreaders like the ones used to apply fertilizers and other granular products to the greens.

A couple of years ago when we did the DryJect procedure on the greens we purchased dried bagged sand to inject in the greens.  We did not use all of the sand during this process and have been playing around with the idea and benefits of applying the sand with push spreaders since then. This year took the plunge and decided this is the method we are going to use to topdress our greens.  The use of bagged sand is more expensive than bulk order sand but this way we do not have any loss of product due to contamination, spillage during loading or transport to the greens, and we have an exact measurement of the amount of sand we are placing on the greens.

Our application rates are 5-10# of sand per 1,000 sq ft. each week depending on growth of the grass and how much play we have had or are expecting to have.  It is a light rate compared to that which is suggested by some research and golf associations but we have found the following advantages. We have eliminated any compaction on the greens from the heavy mechanical topdresser, eliminated the compaction and bruising of the turf caused by the drag mat machine, eliminated the loss of product due to spillage or contamination, eliminated the rush to get everything done before golfers start play (at this light rate we can do it in play and no one notices), and we have reduced the damage to the cutting units and all the expenses that go with having to change bedknifes, sharpen reels, and ease the frustrations of the equipment technician.

We are by no means discounting the importance of topdressing greens with sand.  It has many great benefits which we believe we are still experiencing and will continue to benefit from as we move forward.  This process will allow us to place less stress on the greens, our small numbered agronomy staff, our equipment technician, and will be less disruptive to your round while all along providing firm, fast, and true playing surfaces. Looking at the course with the "third story" mentality has allowed us to see that just because certain cultural practices might work at another golf course or be recommended by someone they may not be best for our course or work into our program.

We have had so many compliments on the course this year which we are grateful for and they have all been passed on to the agronomy team.  Changing the way we topdress our greens has freed up some time to do other things on the course like giving a "shout out" to my alma mater, Auburn University, while waiting for the mowers to finish grooming the greens. (It can't all be work you know) We really hope everyone is enjoying the changes we are making to the maintenance programs and philosophy at Harrison Bay as all the hard work done on the course is to benefit your game.




Sunday, April 30, 2017

2017 Rounds 4 Research Auction---Bigger and Better Than Ever


The annual Rounds 4 Research auction kicks off on Monday, May 1 and runs through May 7.  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 www.biddingforgood.com and are available for preview now, with the actual auction beginning Monday, May 1. 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.  In fact this year there are two separate rounds available from each of our courses.  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 www.Rounds4Research.com  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!!!

Friday, April 21, 2017

The proof is in the putting...surface that is.

Of the 125 acres we highly maintain at Harrison Bay there are really one three that golfers really care about and those three acres are our putting greens.  No matter what else you have on your course or what you offer, if you have poor putting surfaces you are likely not going to be successful in this business.  Golf course superintendents, in most cases, worry and fret over the greens more than any other part of the golf course and with good reason.  That's why golfers pay "Greens Fees" and not "Tee Fees" or "Fairway Fees".

Last year at Harrison Bay we took a very large hit on our greens and our reputation due to the conditioning of our greens. Look Back at 2016 A severe infestation of nematodes virtually destroyed the root system of our greens turf leaving us with patchy greens, weak turf, disgruntled and dissatisfied golfers, and a lot of recovery work.  At times in life we all take our eyes off the ball and loose concentration about what our main task is.  As a golf course superintendent my main task is healthy, puttable greens that are smooth, true and at a playable speed.

It has been a long year and a herculean effort by our agronomy staff but I am thrilled to say that the greens at Harrison Bay are back to the exceptional standard that we, and our golfers, expect them to be.  The above photo is of the putting green last April and the photo to the left is from this April.  Lots of work, TLC, and attention to detail have been poured into these greens and I want to commend and celebrate the work that our agronomy staff have done.


#2 Green April 2016



#2 Green April 2017


#13 Green April 2016


#13 Green April 2017


The one thing we learned through this experience  is to not look at the most obvious culprit.  When our greens started to fail last year everyone, including soil labs, were claiming we had diseases such as pythium root rot and dysfunction.  Nematodes were not mentioned or considered until we started to look at the greens from a third story view.  Why was the 419 in the collars dying? It's hard to kill 419 but we were doing it.  It turned out the greens had encroached over the years and the areas where the 419 was dying outside of the greens perimeter were actually growing in greens mix, and nematodes like sand based soils better than clay based soils.  Applications of products such as BAYER Golf Nortica and Aqua-Aid Worm Power have protected and revived our root systems so that we have turf roots out the bottom of our cup cutters now.

It has been a long year and I know some swore never to come play our course again due to the condition of the greens but if you have not played the course yet this year I encourage you to give us another look.  The agronomy staff has done a tremendous job getting the greens back in the championship conditions that we strive to deliver every day.  We will continue to work and keep our eye on the ball so that the issues we encountered last year don't happen again.  A sincere thank you to the agronomy staff for their hard work and dedication.  A sincere thank you also to all our loyal golfers who have had only praises for the course this year. It is so much better to hear than some of the comments last year.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Front Entrance Facelift- Part 2

In an earlier post, Front Entrance Facelift Part 1 we detailed the renovation of the rather sad looking sign at the front entrance to the course.  I have been wanting to dress up the front sign for some time and without any major projects on the course this winter it seemed like the perfect time.  Willie and Bill did a fantastic job with the block work and the stone wrapping and this week we were able to put the finishing touches on the project.

Maybe it was the Masters tournament or just because I thought they would look nice but I chose to use azaleas in front of the sign to give it some color when they bloom.  The mulch is made from recycled pallets which are chipped and painted twice.  Since the wood used to make the pallets has been kiln dried they do not degrade as quickly as regular ground mulch and the paint will allow the color to stay for several years.  It does cost a little more up front but not having to remulch areas for 4-5 years makes up for it in the long run.

In addition to the stone work, repainting of the sign, the new plants and mulch we also were able to install a flood light on the sign which will help our early morning golfers and guests find the course easier and makes it look nice.  Special thanks to Volunteer Electric Cooperative and Mr. Wayne Hullander of Ooltewah Electric for helping out with the power and electrical connections.

We were able to install the new sod in front of the planting area today and with that I believe this project is done.  Sometimes what you envision for a project works out and sometimes not but this project turned out better than I thought.  Thanks to all the agronomy team for stepping outside of their comfort zones to take on this challenge and learn new skills.  I think the work was well worth the effort and we hope everyone enjoys the new front entrance.

What will the next project be???

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Spring Cleaning for the Wood Duck Boxes

For me personally I think the Southern Wood Duck is the most attractive bird we have on our golf course, except for our bald eagles of course. The population of the wood duck was greatly threatened in the late 1800's and early 1900's as detailed in Staus of the Wood Duck from Ducks Unlimited but has made a comeback.  Our belief in sharing the property our golf course sits on with the wildlife and waterfowl that call it "home" started a long time ago and we still hold that belief to be true today.

Several years ago we constructed 12 wood duck boxes which were placed in different areas near the water around the course.  The plans for these nesting boxes are really simple to make. This plan from Ducks Unlimited is some of the best I have seen. Wood Duck Nest Box Plans  So each year in the spring we go through the course and repair any damage to the boxes and install new bedding material (cedar shavings) to help the ducks out.  Wood ducks are extremely timid and will abandon nests built in tree knot holes if threatened so installing these nest boxes over the water where predators can't get to them give them a greater chance of nesting success.

Our wood duck boxes have been very successful over the years.  We have provided a safe and suitable nesting habitat for these waterfowl for just a very limited investment in material and time.  Installing these nest boxes has allowed for the wood duck population around our golf course to grow like the hatchlings in this photo.

Our next step might be to add a nest box cam so we can watch the nesting process and to continue to promote the environmental benefit of golf courses and the superintendents who manage them.

If we can assist or encourage any others to protect and promote the wood duck population please let us know.   Happy Birding!!!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Limbing Up Trees and Dressing Up the Walkpaths

We are fortunate at Harrison Bay to have an active group of golfers who love to walk our golf course.  These golfers make up a significant part of our yearly membership and our yearly rounds.  Through the years as we have increased our native grass acreage to eliminate daily maintenance expenses and increase the nesting and movement areas on the course for the wildlife we have unintentionally constricted the travel path for some of our walkers.  This winter we decided to dress up the walkways through the native grass areas to make it easier to travel and more attractive.

This winter has been about some of the smaller projects we can do to the course to improve it and one of those easy but very beneficial projects is to limb up the trees in the playing areas of the course.  Limbing up trees will provide better shot options for golfers, will allow more sunlight to reach the turfgrass so it can be healthier, and will give the golf course a better appearance overall.

To make the limbing up process easier we created a secure platform which we placed on the front end loader tractor which allowed us to reach farther up the tree to do a better job.  Trying to hold up an extended pole saw will tire the operator out quickly so this technique makes it safer and more productive.  With safety in mind the saw operator is secured to the tractor with a safety harness so he can not fall out.  This process has really sped up the limbing project and we are through the front nine in only a couple of weeks.

The big question was what do we do with all the limbs that we will generate and how do we use them to benefit the course.  We decided that we wanted to chip up the limbs and use them as mulch on the walk paths as I have seen done at some other golf courses.  Willie did some research and found this great little chipper WoodMaxx DC-1260 chipper.  It will easily chip up a limb up to 4" and is very economically priced compared to some of the chippers we were looking at to rent.  Now we have a chipper to help clean up the course when needed.

A simple plywood box was built on the back of one of our Toro Workman MDEs and we chip the limbs directly into the box.  Being small in size like the DC-1260 is makes it very easy to maneuver around and easy to use.  Once the box is full we take the chips to a nearby walkway and spread them across the path.

Using the wood chips on the walk ways will hopefully make the native grass areas more attractive and will give our walking golfers a nicer path to walk.  In the past following rainstorms some of the areas along the walking paths have had standing water or have been extremely muddy which is less than desirable to walk through or pull your pull cart through.  We hope this will eliminate these issues.

The wood chips through the native areas are a nice addition to our golf course and will help our walking guests have a better round.  That being said these areas are for WALKERS ONLY. NO golf carts should ever be taken into native grass areas or driven down the wood chip walk paths.  Please allow me to repeat this.  THE WOOD CHIP PATHS ARE FOR WALKERS ONLY.  GOLF CARTS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE THEM!!!!  Please help the course by doing your part and obeying the cart rules that are in place at Harrison Bay or at your own course if you can't come join us.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Front Entrance Facelift--Part 1

As the old saying goes "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."  For a few years now the sign at our front entrance has not represented the quality of golf course we are trying to produce for our guests.  The paint on the old sign was faded, the sign dirty, and the posts rotted through and only being held up on one side by steel support beams and long bolts. So this year we decided to give the sign and the entrance area a facelift.  Hopefully it will provided the first impression we are looking for.

We removed the overgrown plants and the years of old mulch from around the sign.  The sign was removed and taken to the maintenance building for a good cleaning and a tree that overhung the sign was cut down and cleaned up.  After we removed the steel supports that had been holding the left side of the sign up we had to pour new footers for the cinderblook columns that were to be constructed.

Two new 8 foot tall cinderblock columns were constructed which were then wrapped using Airstone from Lowes.  The Airstone was a great product to use as it is lightweight, can easily be cut to fit with a hacksaw or a radial arm saw outfitted with a masonry blade, and is easily attached to the block wall with an exterior adhesive.  The varying colors, textures, and thickness of the Airstone gave us the ability to contrast the stone work and give the columns some character and interest.

After a nice bath and a new coat of paint the sign looks brand new.  The sign project turned out better than I thought it would.  The remaining steps in the project, which will be happening over the next couple of weeks, will be to add some new plants, level the area up and lay new sod, and install some much needed uplighting on the sign which will help our guests locate the course easier on dark early mornings.

As all projects at Harrison Bay are a team effort the success of this project fell squarely on the shoulders of Willie Hamby (left) and Bill Greene (right).  Neither of them are block masons or stone masons so there was a lot of measuring and remeasuring to make sure everything would fit perfectly, and it did.  It always amazes me how many different hidden talents agronomy staff members possess.  It takes more than just the ability to grow and mow grass to succeed on a golf course and I am very thankful our staff always rises up, goes above and beyond, and continues to improve Harrison Bay.