Eric von Hofen and Landscape Master Plan
In an era of going green and sustainability being in fashion, many golf courses are saying and doing two different things.  Around the United States, golf courses are cutting down and removing thousands of trees for a variety of different reasons without replanting substitutes.  Some trees are sick, overgrown, blocking air movement or shading a greens complex. In other cases plant material has a shelf life and sometimes things just need to be updated.
Sick ficus tree by Eric von Hofen
Areas in Florida and now the deep south have been hammered with hurricanes and tornadoes over the years, leaving golf courses naked and changed forever. Trees and landscape have been removed without anyone but mother nature having a say on what stays or goes. During this years PGA TOUR WGC event at Doral, I wrote a story called “The Blue Monster Getting Some Of It’s Trees Back” explaining the replanting of 500 trees and palms on the Blue Course.  Many of you wrote me and asked why the hell would anyone plant 500 trees on a course.  Well this picture shows you why.
Doral Blue Monster and Eric von Hofen
Hurricane Season, which lasts from June 1 through November 1, sometimes brings a big dog storm right over your course causing tremendous damage. Massive hurricanes cleaned house and left many courses in need of creating a landscape master plan.

Here at Riviera Country Club, we have just completed a plan and will start planting in June.  We first took a tree and palm inventory of everything we have located on the property.  The inventory was then totaled and graded if it was a keeper or not.  Landscape Architect, Buzz Jaskela, helped us grade the 1000+ trees and develop plan to replace trees and enhance the look of the golf course.  There are only 6 ficus trees that will need to be cut down due to them having a disease. We focused on the tee boxes and the support trees around the greens.  Shade coverage played a big role on what will be planted. 
Flowering tree by Eric von Hofen
I will be updating you all summer long on the progress of this project. So check back and let me know if you have any questions.Check out this video below showing me inspecting new plant material.

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Wells Fargo Championship
Five months have gone by since the start of the 2011 PGA TOUR season and we have seen some surprises for sure. Some young guns have won and some old birds have been pushed aside. The young guys like @McIIroyRory, @Graeme_McDowell, @IanJamesPoulter, @CamiloVillegasR, @WestwoodLee and @trevorlmmelman all Tweet about their lives on the road and on the course. Just about everything you see today has a Twitter page to follow, providing the latest news on what is happening. Almost every PGA TOUR event these days has a Twitter page and a Facebook Fan Page to promote the tournament and to allow players to promote themselves during the event.
Doral Blue Moster #18 green
Some tournaments use Twitter to promote the sponsor, tickets sales, drinks, parking locations, weather delays, tee times, and fun facts during the event. I have noticed a very big pick up in Tweets from tournament organizers now that the PGA TOUR has relaxed the ban on cell phones at the events. The Tweet trend starts about four months before the tournament and picks up more every week until the event is over. Following the PGA TOUR events on Twitter leaves you high and dry when the tournament is over. I checked out some of the tournaments I’m following and it goes like this. This week Wells Fargo is lighting up Twitter and they are updating almost every hour. The Players Championship is following about the same Tweet speed. The Master’s has not Tweeted since April 7th, The Honda Tweeted March 6th, Cadillac Champ last Tweeted March 16th and The PGA Championship August 17, 2010. Why is it like that? Are they paying someone to ghost Tweet and the day after the event the tech guy goes home and we never hear from anyone again?

I think tournament organizers should give us a few Tweets after they use us to build a buzz for their events.  Tell us about the take down, clean up, course changes during the summer and promote the players who have played or won your event.  Pay the tech guy some jack and keep us interested.

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On March 24, 2011, turf managers from around the state of Florida invaded the grounds of the University of Florida’s research and education center in Fort Lauderdale. The 24th annual event was well attended and co-sponsored by Harrells, Hector Turf and Showturf. Things got kicked off at 8:30 AM with field tours with nine different stations. Dr. John Cisar headed up the plots showing his work on preventative disease control programs and reducing irrigation through scheduling programs.

Dr. Phil Busey gave us insight on the future of weed control. One of my favorite topics, soil amendments, was covered by Dr. George Snyder. He walked us through his work with polymer coated sand and porous ceramic amendments. Amazing test results and he is really on to something here.

Dr. Robin Giblin-Davis went into the results on how bio-controls are working on controlling nematodes. Again, amazing results in these trials and something we should all keep our eyes on. Reducing irrigation requirements while improving turf quality on fairway turfgrass was a hot station. Many areas in South Florida will be affected by a 15% water reduction starting March 26, so everyone was listening for sure.

After lunch, attendees saw the latest in equipment innovations and side by side demos. Toro, John Deere and Jacobsen were there in full force. These companies brought tons of equipment and had it located around the test plots and lunch area. Thanks guys for the efforts.

The class rooms were busy also with presentations from BASF’s Dr. Kathie Kalmowitz and Bayer Environmental Science’s Jeff Michel. They covered new products and results from two years of testing on some of their leading products. Hope to see everyone again next year.

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Blue Monster Gets Some Of It’s Trees Back

Doral Blue Monster Hurricane Tree Damage and Eric von Hofen

Doral opened in 1961 and has been thru it’s ups and downs ever since. Over the years, Doral has hosted a PGA TOUR event every spring on the world famous Blue Monster. This tournament is played just months before the kick off of the hurricane season. In 2005, while I was the Director of Agronomy, Doral was hit with two massive hurricanes. Katrina hit on August 23, 2005 with winds of 130 mph. The hurricane left Miami and as we all know headed for New Orleans. Doral’s five courses suffered major damage with over 2,000 trees affected. The entire months of September and part of October were dedicated to clean up and opening of the courses. On October 24, 2005 hurricane Wilma paid a visit to the Blue Monster. This time the damage was more extensive because many of the trees that where stood back up blew over again and the tap roots were broken killing many of the trees.
Doral Blue Monster Tree by Eric von Hofen
Over 4,200 trees located around the resort property were damaged from both hurricanes. It will take years for the Blue Monster to grow it’s teeth back. In the fall of 2010, Doral embarked on a massive tree replanting program.
Live oak tree planted at Doral by Eric von Hofen
There were 500 trees planted on the Blue course and smaller landscape beds were added around the tee boxes.
New trees at Doral by Eric von hofenThese new coconuts on the right side of #18 will provide a different look at the green for the players for sure. This new plant material will continue to grow in over the years and restore the look of a true PGA TOUR landmark in Miami. Take a look and this never seen before video of the Blue Monster hours after the course was hit by a hurricane.

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College Roommates Prep Courses For Back To Back PGA TOUR Events

Ten years ago, Kurt von Hofen and Lukus Harvey were sitting next to each other in Turfgrass Management class at The Ohio State University. This month they are competing again, now on a national stage. Kurt, Golf Course Superintendent at El Camaleon, will be hosting the PGA TOUR’S Mayakoba Golf Classic on February 21, 2011, in Riviera Maya-Cancun Playa del Carmen, Mexico. On February 28, 2011, Lukus, Director of Agronomy at PGA National Resort & Spa, will be hosting The Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Kurt von Hofen at the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico

Kurt von Hofen at Mayakoba

Both Kurt and Lukus took similar but different paths to get where they are today. They both graduated from The Ohio State University, moved to Florida, worked hard and took some chances.  Kurt built his experience while holding the following positions:  2007-2010, Golf Course Superintendent, Jupiter Hills Club, Jupiter, Fla.; 2002-2007, Assistant Superintendent, The Bear’s Club, Jupiter, Fla.; 2001, Intern, Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin, Ohio. His pervious tournament preparation consists  of  the 2008 Florida State Golf Association 91st Amateur Championship, Jupiter Hills Club, Jupiter, Fla.; 2007-2008 U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier, Jupiter Hills Club, Jupiter, Fla.; 2001 Memorial Tournament, Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin, Ohio.

Lukus Harvey, Seve Ballesteros and Eric von Hofen at Doral

Lukus Harvey, Seve Ballesteros and Eric von Hofen at Doral

Lukus built his background while holding the following positions: 2005-2010, Golf & Grounds Superintendent, The Ritz Carlton Golf Club, Jupiter, Fla.; 2003-2005, Golf Course Superintendent, Doral Resort & Spa (Blue Course), Miami, Fla.; 2002- 2003, Assistant Superintendent, John’s Island Club (West Course), Vero Beach, Fla.; 2001-2002, Assistant Superintendent, Calusa Pines Golf Club, Naples, Fla.; 2000, Intern, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.; 1994- 1999, Intern/Crew, Walden Golf & Tennis Club, Aurora, Ohio.  His previous tournament preparation consists of the 2004-2005 Ford Championship, Doral Resort & Spa, Miami, Fla.
The world will be watching, so I hope these two guys take some time to smell the roses and realize just how far and fast they have travelled together.  Best of luck boys and I will see you both at your events.

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Germany And The GLC Berlin Club Have Been Faced With A Severe Winter

Eric J. von Hofen
Long time certified golf course superintendent, Joseph R Swing, of the GLC Berlin Club in Germany gives Turfunderground some dirt. As with many parts of the U.S., Germany has had a very early and severe winter. Many areas of the country that rarely have snow cover more than a few days, and when only just a few inches, had over a 30cm (1 foot) of snow for several weeks. Many parts of the country had record breaking snow fall amounts and duration of cover. We are now in an extreme thaw period. You may have heard of the flooding. The temperatures have been in the 50´s, with heavy rain for several days now. By the end of the weekend there will be no snow left any where, other than in the Alps. The winter here in Germany usually is at its strongest in January and February, so the worst may still be to come. For sure, there will be wide spread and record Snow Mold damage as a result of this winter.
eric J. von Hofen
The golf course is holding up well with the snow fall. We have seen no effects of snow mold so far. We are lucky enough (said ironically) to be the first course in Germany to experience Waitea Patch; Waitea circinata var. circinata. I had it start up in early May and dealt with it for some five weeks before I could get a positive I.D. from a lab in England. Since then it has been verified genetically by Dr. Frank Wong at Cal. Davis. Waitea was unheard of here in Germany, at least identified as Waitea. When we get back into the growing season this Spring, I will be able to tell if the Waitea is active again. Until then Guten Tag

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Welcome to Kingsbarns Golf Links, St. Andrews, Scotland

Eric von Hofen and Kingsbarns
Kingsbarns Golf Links, a man-made links course designed in 2000 by Mark Parsinnen and Kyle Phillips, a world renowned golf course architect, has co-hosted the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship along with the Old Course at St Andrews and Carnoustie since 2001. I had the pleasure to play this great course and was blown away with it’s layout. Watch this video to see it for yourself.

The place feels like it has been there 150 years and you would never guess it’s only 11 years old. If you are headed over to Scotland to play the Old Course, I recommend you make a point to play KingsBarns.
Eric von Hofen at Kingsbarns Golf Links Scotland

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Would you be ready if a fire hit your golf operation?

Eric J. von Hofen
A fire can happen in the blink of an eye and when you least expect it. Here are some tips that you might want to follow before your golf course is faced with the worst day in it’s history. I would have the following information stored two ways, one a external drive and the other on a flash drive. Leave one copy at home and the other in your clubhouse. Remember that when a fire strikes, everything is gone. You will not have access to your office, computer, phones, irrigation system or building. I remember coming to work the next day and the only thing I could get out of the building was three rakes and two carts. I lost everything including my college diploma. See my office below.
Eric J. von Hofen

Information that needs to be backed up and stored off site:
-Have an updated equipment list with serial numbers, hour meters and pictures. Include the purchase date and cost at that time.
-Employee contact numbers.
-Irrigation programs and pump totals.
-Chemical and fertilizer records with the current inventory list.
-Gas and diesel inventory list.
-Vendor contact numbers.
-Member and club officials contact and email information.
-The clubs insurance contact information.
-Local and state fire marshall contact information.

The day after the fire has to be a controlled media event. Golfers, owners, staff, and insurance companies are the only people you need to worry about. At that time you probably will not know what caused the fire so you will only be able to confirm that “yes we had a fire” and that is it. Your burned up building will be jumping with local fire officials and the state fire marshall. These guys worked together and in about one hour they had it narrowed down to a five foot area where my fire started. Ten minutes later they found the cause and pulled out the remains of a electric golf cart charger. The fire marshall said “you might want to lock this up, it’s going to be worth a million dollars”. I took his advice and hide the charger until the insurance team showed up. He was right the fire was a $1.2 million dollar loss.
Eric J. von Hofen

Over the next month you will have every fire clean up company and insurance adjustor show up wanting to help you and offer to review your insurance policy. They have a great scam telling you that they can put together claim so you don’t have to worry about. Sounds great but they will take 30% of the insurance payout. Not a good deal at all. This is when your records will be worth gold. These records will also be very important if your equipment is leased. The lease company now has nothing to pick at the end of the lease and you have nothing to maintain your course with. Now what do you do? The insurance company will have to settle with the lease company and you will have to put together a new equipment package.

Keep a clean maintenance building, back up your information and look for any fire hazards on a daily basis. Make proper equipment repairs and train your staff on fire protection. Sounds petty but it sure pays off.

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Part 3 of Riviera Puts Ross Back into it’s Bunkers

Eric von Hofen and Riviera CC #13 fairway bunkers
We are very lucky with our location in Florida and the different types of sand we have at our finger tips. I looked for three different types of sand that we could use to build a test bunker showing how the sand played and compared to the existing sand on the course. There would be four sands to hit from and compare. I wanted one that was fine, one that was angular, one that was a mix of the two and the existing sand. Each one of these sands drained differently, had a different shade of white and most importantly had a different pentrometer reading. This reading is so important because it measures the resilience to produce a fired egg. Higher the number has less of a chance the golf ball will plug in the sand and become unplayable. The UGSA has pentrometer guidelines for helping select sand. Now the price comes in to play. Shipping cost from three different areas of Florida had to be looked at. Each sand came from a different mine and was processed differently. The angular was the most expense because of how it was processed. Price per ton was shocking. We selected a sand in the middle and it is working great. The sand holds some moisture in the bottom of the bunkers and holds well on the faces. The moisture helps to prevent plugged lies. Below is the test bunker we built at Riviera.
Eric von Hofen and the test bunker at Riviera CC
Summary of the project:
Objectives-Remove old sand and rocks in the bunkers.
Remove and replace old bunker liners.
Redesign the bunkers to update the look to a classic Donald Ross design.
Design bunker faces to change surface flow of the water to prevent washouts.
Increase the playability and beauty of the golf course.
Eric von Hofen and Riviera CC #14 bunkers
This $325,000 bunker project was the best and most effective way to change the look and playability of the course. We started with 112,500 square feet of bunker area and we removed 44,000 square feet. The new bunker area ended up being 68,500 square feet. The views from every tee box have changed so much that each time you are teeing off you stop and your eye is drawn sand and shapes in front of you. It takes you back to a period of time when bunkers were designed and installed into the current land and not just a round area of sand called a bunker. The course remained open for play during the project with only hole closers on the hole we were working on at that time. The project was completed in 52 days. Small price to pay for such a great finished product. The Riviera members were very supportive during the project and love the final results. I hope you have enjoyed this 3 part series on this bunker project.
Watch this video below to see the before, during and after product on a hand full of bunkers at Riviera.

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