Sunday, October 22, 2017

Late Season Improvements

We are starting to put a wrap on what has been a very successful season at the course.  Hard work by the agronomy staff and some great weather has allowed us to experience one of our best years of conditions ever.  The issues that we had with the greens last year are a distant memory, but not forgotten, and the greens are in fabulous shape.  The course has recovered from all the work done during summer aerification and the surrounds which were shaved down have smoothed up nicely.  All in all it has been a great summer.




As the temps start to drop some of our work will switch from mowing grass to the inevitable leaf war that we fight every year but we also have a few late season projects that we have been working on around the course.  The first one we have completed is replacing the netting at the back of the driving range.  The old netting was torn in several places and was basically useless for stopping range balls from going in the woods and was dangerous to the wildlife, mostly deer, as they walked through in the dark.

We decided to use a woven windscreen this time as we believe it will last longer and would not be a danger to the wildlife as they can hopefully see this screen easier.  Willie and Shane spent several days replacing and adding posts that needed to be replaced and secured new wires along the posts to secure the windscreen to.

The other project that we will be working on over the next couple of weeks is the replacement of the old short split rail fencing which is rotting and falling down and the unsightly rope barriers located around the course.  It would be ideal not to have to have traffic barriers around the course as the distract from the appearance of the course and add extra work for the agronomy staff but unfortunately they are necessary as not everyone follows the cart rules and drives where they are supposed to.
We rented an auger to drill new holes for the posts for new fences which I am sure you have seen around the course.  We have chosen to use 6" x 4" pressure treated ground contact posts this time so they will not rot and will not likely get broken or knocked over as the untreated pine split rail posts tended to.  Buried 2 feet in the ground this will leave us with 2 feet exposed to create the fencing look that we are going after.

Pressure treated 2" x 6" railings will be used this time for the same reasons as the posts, less likely to rot and will last for a real long time.  36" openings will be left in the railings at the walking paths for our guests who walk and/or use push carts but are not wide enough for golf carts to travel through, so please don't try.

Projects like these two are simple ways to keep the golf course protected and looking good.  It isn't always a complete greens rebuild or a 5,000' drainage project that can make a big impact on the appearance and playability of a course.  Sometimes it is the little details that make the difference.  We will hopefully be done with the fencing project in a few weeks depending on weather and play and we hope you like the new additions and the look.  Other projects in line for this winter will be renovating the timbers around the steps leading up to the clubhouse, installation of crossties along cart paths on a few holes, and if we get the time before it gets too late we would like to renovate and sod the area between the fairway and the cart path near #2 green.  All projects designed to improve the course that we all love so much.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Better Conditions through Better Communications

We recently made an investment by purchasing walkie talkies or radios for each member of the agronomy staff and it is already showing benefits to our operation.  Our golf course is spread out over 600 acres of property.  Trying to track employees down to give them an instruction or calling or texting them on their personal phone, which I never felt was fair to use their minutes or data, was very frustrating, inefficient and and a tremendous waste of time.  In speaking with several of my mentors in the industry who have taken this step and experiencing this setup when I volunteer at East Lake Golf Club each year for the TOUR Championship it seemed like a great idea.

By providing each member of our team with their own radio it makes our entire operation more efficient.  We can give instructions or corrections in real time without having to stop what we are doing and go find them or hope they answer their phone or see the text they have been sent.  Employees can be redirected to areas of the course where they are needed easier, mechanical issues can be reported to our equipment technician quicker, if there is an irrigation leak, tree down, or any other major issue occurs on the course we can be notified immediately.  From a management standpoint, having each crew member with the same radios, on the same frequency means that instructions, good or bad, given to one employee are heard by all so the entire staff knows what we are trying to accomplish in our work.  The radios which were purchased from Smith Turf and Irrigation for $192.00 each (programmed and delivered) have already shown to be a benefit and wise investment.


For the golfers this investment in our operations will hopefully mean a safer and better quality of golf course.  As I said before our course covers a large amount of property, now each of our staff members will be equipped with the capability to call for assistance if there is an injury or a medical emergency to a guest on our course.  We will be able to work more efficiently and be able to contact each other to find gaps in play or know what is left to be done on the course so we can stay out of your way better.  I believe over time as we continue to work toward having the best golf course we can this investment will pay benefits over and over and over.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Golf Environment Organization Recertification Achieved


I am proud to announce that The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay has completed recertification with the Golf Environment Organization http://www.golfenvironment.org to remain a GEO Certified golf course.  We gained our original certification in 2014 GEO 2014 certification. The Golf Environment Organization is a worldwide leader in environmental sustainability based in Europe with member courses all over the world.  The thing I enjoy the most about GEO certification is that they look at all aspects of the golf course operations not just what is happening on the course.  GEO looks at things like whether or not you are purchasing locally grown produce for food preparation, how far your fuel has to be delivered which impacts your carbon footprint, what your involvement with the local community is, to all aspects of the property.  For us, being that we are located on Harrison Bay State Park property, this examination into our environmental programs expanded outside of the boundaries of the course to include all the projects undertaken and impacts made property wide.

The certification or recertification process with GEO really got us looking into our complete operation and got us to see things that we were doing correctly and things that we could improve on.  There are six sections of certification with GEO and our inputs and reports from these areas can be found here.



The content of our Nature section can be viewed here  The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay---Nature


The content of our Water section can be viewed here  The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay---Water





The content of our Pollution Control section can be viewed here The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay---Pollution Control



The content of our Supply Chain section can be viewed here  The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay---Supply Chain



The content of our Energy section can be viewed here  The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay---Energy



The content of our Community section can be viewed here The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay---Community



We are very grateful to our department leaders locally and in Nashville for all their support in obtaining our original certification and in gaining this recertification.  Special thanks go to Mr. Robin Boyer, BT@HB GM and Golf Professional, Mr. Don Campbell, Park Manager and Mr. Matt Vawter, Park Ranger at Harrison Bay State Park for their assistance in sharing and gathering information about the history and impact of Harrison Bay State Park.  Special thanks also has to go to Mrs. Diane Johnstone and Mr. Jim Morgan of the Friends of Harrison Bay State Park for sharing how the Friends Group assist in providing support and funding for some park projects including the Harrison Bay Eagle Cam Project and also how they are assisting the golf course by being members of the BT@HB Bluebird monitors Bluebird Trail is Thriving.

We are very proud to be among this list of only 11 courses in the United States to have obtained GEO certification.  GEO Certified United States courses

The recertification process is very educational as you get to step back and look at your operation from a distance and then dive in to gather specific information for each category.  I am always excited to see how others view our environmental projects and practices and was thrilled when GEO assigned Ms. Teresa Wade of Net Positive Golf to be our independent verifier.  Our complete independent verification report prepared by Ms. Wade can be read here--2017 GEO Verification Report



Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer Aerification 2017

As you probably know the golf course was closed this past week so the agronomy staff could perform the necessary cultural practices on the course needed to have a high performing and well conditioned golf course.  We realize that this closure is not a desirable event to many golfers but it is vital to the long term playability of the course.  We have done our best to limit our cultural practices to this one week out of the year as to not impact your round and we thank you for your understanding and commitment to our course.



During summer closure week we try to accomplish as many tasks as possible to relieve the compaction and wear the course receives during the year as well as make improvements that we feel the course needs and will improve our guests experience.  Usually I try and post photos of the activities but this year the agronomy staff completed so many tasks in such a short time I thought you might like a video of the week.



So what did we accomplish this week??

Over 18 MILLION new holes were created in the putting greens relieving the compaction from the past year, removing a years worth of thatch growth, and providing channels for new, stronger plants and roots to develop.

4 acres of teeing surfaces were solid tine aerified

10 acres of tee and green surrounds were scalped down for better play

32 acres of fairways were sliced with our Aerway shattertine aerifier to improve fairway health.

Around 150 tons of sand were applied to the golf course turf including greens, tees, and greens surrounds to help firm up the playing surfaces, fill in aerification holes, and provide a smoother playing surface.

and many other smaller activities.

video
One of the improvements to the course that we hope you will quickly notice and enjoy is the lowering of the height of cut of the turfgrass directly surrounding the greens.  For years we have been maintaining this turfgrass close to 1/2" which resulted in balls getting caught on slopes and not running onto the greens surface or limiting the options golfers had to play their shot onto the green.  The turf surround the greens was scalped down to 1/4" and topdressed with sand to help firm up the turf and provide a smoother surface allowing the golf ball to hopefully roll onto the putting surface easier and also allow golfers the option to putt their ball from off the green if they choose which in the past would not have rally been an option.  We will continue to work these areas and improve them over the remainder of the year and we hope you find the new maintenance practice pleasing to your game.


Our golf course has made considerable improvements over the years and it is all due to the hard work and dedication of the agronomy staff.  I would be remise if I did not recognize and commend these individuals for their commitment to the betterment of Harrison Bay.  

Thank you to each member of our agronomy staff for making The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay all it can be, not only this week, but every week.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Electric Equipment Initiative Rolls On

Several years ago we began a program utilizing fully electric equipment on our golf course that we called the Electric Equipment Initiative.  We needed a new mower for the clubhouse grounds recently, so sticking with our philosophy of reducing fuel use and carbon emissions, we purchased the EGO Lithium-ion battery powered mower from The Home Depot.

The EGO mower is a fully electric 21inch self propelled mower powered by a 56 volt lithium-ion rechargeable battery that will run for about one hour and will fully recharge in an hour.  The biggest question we had was, Would the mower have enough power to mow around the entire clubhouse on a single charge?  We are pleased to say that the mower has enough power to do the job and then some.

The EGO mower is great.  It is quiet so we are not disrupting golfers, guests, or clubhouse employees while we are mowing around the clubhouse.  It is lightweight so we really don't even have to use the self propel function if we don't want to.  It continues to help us save fuel, eliminate the possible environmental contamination with oils or fluids and eliminates the emission of harmful carbon emissions.  It looks really cool as well...it has headlights so we can silently mow in the dark if we choose.

The EGO mower, since it doesn't have any fluids or gas in it to spill out, can be stored in almost any position.  The mower folds up easily to about the size of a 50 pound bag of seed and can be stored out of the way, up against a wall to save space.

The purchase of this fully electric push mower brings our electric equipment project "full circle".  After all. it was an electric lawnmower used by Ms. Lori Munkeboe's neighbor early on a weekend morning that got the conversation about utilizing fully electric equipment on our golf course started.  This mower is just another great addition to our fleet and we hope to add more electric elements to our toolbox in the future.

We are excited and honored to be able to detail the history and success of our Electric Equipment Initiative in this month's Golf Course Management magazine in an article "Can You Hear Me Now?" starting on page 46.  I have had the pleasure of telling our story to several organizations across the country over the past several years and I hope this article will be able to reach many more and get them thinking about the advantages of using fully electric equipment to maintain their golf course.  This was a fun article to write and I have to say thanks to everyone who helped me complete this article and get it in print.


If you have any questions about using electric equipment on your course, or possibly, at your home please let me know.  If I can be of any assistance I will gladly answer any questions that I can.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Golfers Determine Course Conditions

If you follow our Twitter feed (@BearTraceHB) you may enjoy the daily information about course rules and conditions, reminders and updates about upcoming tournaments and cultural practices, and sometimes you may have to deal with a "friendly reminder" or rant from me about improper care from golfers of the course.  These are not meant to be rude or disrespectful, just meant to remind you that you, the golfer, have a greater impact on the conditioning of your golf course than the golf course maintenance staff does.  If you want your golf course to be a championship caliber golf course then you have to treat it like a championship caliber golf course.

Golfers may think the course rules for the day, such as where carts can travel or if they are allowed off the paths, are done to punish them or impede on their round but this is far from the truth. Course rules are made to protect the golf course and sometimes the golfer.  Carts are sometimes restricted from some areas to ensure the course is protected from damage so that it is in good shape for all, not only today but in the future as well.  As one great golf course superintendent once commented "If everyone drove in the good grass, there would always be good grass."  This is absolutely accurate.  If carts will scatter and not play "follow the leader" there will be less stress on the turf and in turn better turf for everyone to play on.

Golfers respecting and taking care of the golf course extends from the tee box where they can place their broken tees in collection bins or fill sand divots (if these amenities are available) to the fairways where divots can be replaced or filled with sand, to the bunkers where they should be raked following play, to the greens where ball marks should be PROPERLY repaired.  All these little things add up to keeping the golf course in top condition and take just a little bit of effort from each golfer.

Taking care of the golf course also extends to the practice areas.  Proper care of the practice areas, such as using the divot pattern to the right, will allow these 25 divots to recover much quicker than the other 25 divots.  Practice green etiquette is also a big contributor to golf course condition for everyone.  Practicing putting is a vital part of honing ones game but please do not stand in one place for an extended amount of time as this will weaken the turf and could eventually kill it.

Each golf course maintenance department only has a certain amount of money to spend on labor, equipment, or products. Every action the golfer takes, either harmful or beneficial, greatly impacts the conditioning of the course.  Please remember this the next time you play and think about where you drive, how you leave the bunker after you play out of it, or whether or not you properly repair your ball mark on the green and how these will affect the course.  I'll make you this promise.  Our Agronomy Staff will be at the course every day working hard to make the golf course the best it can be but we will be able to accomplish so much more with your help.  Please help us out and help to make our course all that it can be.

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.