Blowing Up The Blue Monster

The Blue Monster has been changed forever. Construction is well under way and Trump is taking things to a whole new level at Doral. The entire Resort in being upgraded. Hotel rooms, lobby, entrance way, meeting rooms, and restaurants are all getting a much needed infusion of cash from Mr. Trump.

These pictures where taken from the TV tower on #16 green. Elevated tees and more water will be in play for the resort golfer and the PGA Tour players.

This is the new lake being dug on hole #15. This will be a tough par 3 for sure. I can’t wait the see the end product later this year. I will keep you updated.

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Are You Getting On The Celebration Train?

Celebration Bermudagrass Fairways in Northern Palm Beach County by Eric J. von Hofen
Celebration Bermudagrass continues to stake it’s claim in the golf course renovation market. More and more courses have switched out their contaminated 419 fairways to Celebration using a no till method. Palm Beach Country is the epicenter of the Celebration explosion. The switch out costs around $125,000 and takes about three months to grown in.

Celebration Bermudagrass Fairways in South Florida by Eric J. von Hofen

If you have managed any type of turfgrass during the last ten years, you probably have seen a few things change. Maybe not as many changes as your cell phone or computer, but pretty close. I moved to Palm Beach 1992 and the course I worked on had 419 Fairways, 328 tees and 328 greens. During these twenty years, I have seen numerous grasses come and go. From winter overseeding with Ryegrass to GN-1 to Tifsport. This is not to mention the boom of paspalum and new ultra dwarf bermudas for greens and tees.

Turf samples from a course in Miami, Fl by Eric J. von Hofen
My current 1925 Donald Ross golf course in Miami has eight different grasses on it. Some of them are still hanging around from when the place was built and we can’t get rid of them. Is Celebration our answer? It seems to be. Everyone I have talked to, that has switched to Celebration, has done it for these three reasons. Maintain a uniform stand of turf, playability and the striking green color. There is a price to pay for perfection though, Celebration needs a fair amount of verticutting and likes to be cut tightly.

According to the official Celebration web site, Celebration Bermudagrass is an Australian Breed Cynodon dactylon developed by renowned turfgrass breeder Rod Riley. Celebration delivers everything a superior turfgrass should: durability, exceptional recovery, softness, drought resistance and unmatched beauty.

Soft Texture

Cold tolerant

Extreme drought tolerance

More shade tolerance

Exceptional wear tolerance and divot recovery

Striking blue-green color

Uses: Home Lawns – Commercial Landscapes – Parks & Rec – Golf Courses – Sports Fields

I would like to hear your thoughts about Celebration. From a maintenance standpoint to your experiences in playability, let us know.

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Heavy Rains Impact Course Conditions in South Florida

Is it ever going to stop raining? Many golf courses in South Florida have just been hammered with heavy rains this summer. Here in Miami, we have received all of our yearly rain fall by October 5th. I have been hearing rain fall totals over 70 and 80 inches in this area. Naples is coming in around 45 inches and Palm Beach in the mid 70’s. It’s incredible to think that other parts of the United States are still feeling the grip of the summer drought.

According to the latest USGA Green Section report, many courses are feeling the affects of a variety of turfgrass diseases. Courses with Champion Bermudagrass greens are in the roughest shape. Bermudagrass decline and pythium have been discovered and are actively being treated. Tifeagle and MiniVerde are not much better. Aggressive topdressing and spray programs are being used to battle out breaks of algae and thinning turf on the edges of greens.
Tifeagle Green in Miami after 70 inches of rain by Eric J. von Hofen
The Farmers Almanac is forecasting a wet and cold winter for the Southeast and above normal temperatures for the West Coast of the United States. For all of us turf managers, I hope they are wrong.

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Prime Time For Primo

Spray Primo in south Florida
Summer has arrived across the United States and golfers are flocking to their local courses expecting to see perfection. Some courses are dealing with above normal rains and others are faced with drought conditions. This seems to be the norm these days. We just can’t find a happy median where the weather and turf conditions are in sync. The Winter of 2012 was the warmest on record and many courses opened early only to get kicked in the pants with ice and snow weeks later. Here in Miami, we are 15 inches above our normal rain fall and today Naples just declared a new level of water restrictions because of the lack of rain.

Finally this week we had one day with no rain, so we took advantage of it and sprayed our fairways with Primo Maxx. This is about a month behind schedule and our turf is growing like crazy. Primo is a key product for Syngenta and it works wonders on Bermudagrass. Primo slows the vertical shoot growth and promotes lateral growth. I spray my Tif-Eagle greens every Friday with 3 oz per acre of Primo to mange green speed and overall plant health. We applied 8 oz per acre of Primo and 1 gal per acre of Harrells Minors to our fairways to shut them down and green them up. In July, we will spray them again at a 10 oz rate and in August max out a 12 oz rate. September’s application is back to a 8 oz rate.

Primo cuts down on labor, reduces the use of fuel, and stops mower disruptions during peak season of play. Turf quality improves and the roots grow deeper. Get into that chemical room today and mix up a load of Primo. You will be happy you did.

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Helminthosporium Pays Us A Visit Again

Leaf Spot by Eric von Hofen
Almost over night we see the results of Helminthosporium on our TifEagle greens. This is the first time in a year we have seen any signs from our little friend here in Miami. I wrote a similar post on this disease almost a year ago to date. Last year we had record cold temps that brought on the signs of the disease. This year we have had a month of well above temps with light rains that have kept the soil around 80 degrees. This was just enough to increase the pressure of the disease and for us to see the damage. I have started a program of applying fungicides on a 14 to 21 day rotation. I will use Fore, Insigna and Daconil for control and prevention of the leaf spot this winter. It has been 16 days since my last fungicide application so I’m not surprised to see the spots pop up. I spray my greens every friday with a light Harrells fertilizer package so adding fungicides will be easy to do. I will keep you updated this winter on the progress on the control of Helminthosporium. I see a connection between the amount of sun, rain fall and soil temps when the Helminthosporium shows up. Let me know what your seeing on your golf course.

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New Rules for IRS-Recognized Nonprofit Country Clubs Will Be a Game Changer

New York City by Eric J. von Hofen

Home of the Nonprofit - New York City

For years people have tried to figure out how nonprofits work and where the money trail goes. The IRS feels that enough is enough and that more transparency needs to take place. There are thousands of nonprofits in the United States and, believe it or not, Country Clubs will have to play be these new rules. The IRS has beefed up reporting requirements with respect to compensation, and these new requirements will apply to Country Clubs and other nonprofits alike. The changes were prompted by audits showing discrepancies in what nonprofits across the country were disclosing. In 2012, after the Club’s taxes are filed, the lists of the top money makers and their compensation amounts will be be made public. This reporting will be done on the new IRS Form 990. Will you be on the list and ready for that public relations nightmare?

GuideStar Logo

GuideStar Monitors Nonprofits

This information will be streamlined directly to the web site. According to GuideStar, they have a database of more than 1.8 million IRS-recognized nonprofit organizations. Many people use this web site to monitor their favorite charities to see the good work that they are doing and where the money is going. Well, now your members will be using this site to see how much you are making. This “SuperLeak” will have many golf course superintendents running for cover and wanting to give up that company truck. I think that this process will forever change the mystery of what the top guys in the country are making. No more speculation or rumors on who got what in the last big deal. The GCSAA will have to rewrite the results of their compensation study to show the facts.

I hope there is a silver lining around this cloud, and that Country Clubs will see the value of their top people and take care of them. But I feel that there will be some losers in the deal and they will be compared to the guy down the street and the cuts will follow. This is truly a game changer.

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Prep for overseeding in the Desert
During the month of October, golf courses in the sunbelt areas of the country are faced with a huge task. Overseed, yes overseed. This process is different in each region and requires a ton of work for it to be successful. In the desert regions, winter nighttime temps drop into the 30’s and 40’s and warm up into the 70’s during the day. These temp changes make the Bermudagrass go dormant and turns it brown. Overseed is a must during the winter months when golf demand is at highest point of the year. The goal with a desert overseed is to completely cover the bermudagrass with ryegrass. Period. Any areas of bermudagrass still thriving in the fresh new ryegrass stand will stick out like a sore thumb in December. These courses will be growing this new crop for the next 7 months then they flip the switch and grow bermudagrass for the rest of the year. I wish it was that easy. These superintendents work magic during this process.
Verticut prep of fairways for overseed
In Florida, I call this seeding process interseeding. The goal here is to have 60% stand of bermudagrass and a 40% stand of ryegrass. Only areas in north Florida have nighttime temps in the 30’s and the rates might be higher. South Florida has only a hand full of cold days a year that knock back the bermudagrass and seed is not needed. With seed comes the stripes. Many clubs that push for green at any cost want to see a bang for their buck. “Hey Sup stripe it up baby”. Somehow they think that your growing bentgrass and they want the place to look like their club up north. Just relax and play it as it lies.

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Hurricane Irene track
Just what you want to see on your computer screen on a monday morning, your course is in the cone of death. That’s right a hurricane might be headed your way. After a look at the computer models and a peak at the ocean water temps map, you have to start to make some decisions. Living in South Florida, you have to become some what of a meteorologist and keep your day job as a golf course superintendent. I have gone through at least five major hurricanes and over a dozen tropical storms in the last eighteen years. I have put together a plan and procedure booklet that lays out what to do to protect the course and employees while a hurricane is headed your way.
High ocean water temps feed hurricanes
Phase 1 – Hurricane Watch means a disturbance is approximately 24 hours away. This is used with the understanding that hurricanes are quite unpredictable and forward movement can drastically change.
– The superintendent must commence the collection and place indoors all lose objects such as trash cans, benches, flags, tee markers, etc.
– Check trees and shrubbery and remove limbs which may damage utility wires or other property.
– Remove coconuts from trees.
– Top off main fuel storage tanks.
– Fill all mowers and carts with fuel.
– Turn off all power supplies to pump stations.
– Back up the irrigation programs from your computer and take it with you.
– Go over generators and start them.
– Update your employee contact information and explain that you will call them when to report to work. Let them take care of their families and homes and you will have a better chance of them coming to work when you need them. Send them home early.
– Assist the clubhouse staff with the installation of shutters over the windows.
– Take a video of your maintenance building and each hole of the golf course. I did this at Doral, when we had hurricanes Wilma and Katrina headed our way, and the videos turned out to be worth a few million dollars. Doral lost thousands of trees and the videos showed what we lost.
– Check your chainsaws and have extra blades.
– Have your outside tree crews on stand by and expect them charge full price. They have been waiting for this storm all year.
– Make sure you have a cell phone charger for your car or truck. Cell phone towers work 8 hours on batteries, so if the storm is that bad you only have a few hours to call staff and tell loved ones that you are alive. Even if you phone is charged, it will not work them those towers shut down.
Phase 2 – Go home and take care of your family and home. If a Cat 3 or more is coming your way, send the wife and kids out of town. You will lose power for days or even weeks. They don’t need to deal with that and your attitude that the golf course is being blown apart.
Phase 3 – Comunicate with staff and members during the storm and after the storm moves through. Your clubhouse will become a safe haven for members and staff to get there life together and take a warm shower. Use Twitter to do this and get the word out if you can open the clubhouse.
Phase 4 – After the storm, take video, count the trees down, and don’t turn on your pump station. You will burn it up because the power supply will be dirty. Wait a few days to turn it on. Review the course and reach out to staff and start the clean up.

Good luck and let’s hope you don’t need to use my plan in your career.

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Bayer's Topchoice product
I have to say that I love when people and companies keep their word. This spring, I contracted to have over 30 acres of turf treated with Bayer’s Chipco Choice for control of mole crickets. Chipco Choice’s active ingredient is fipronil which is very safe and effective at ultra-low doses. The product was sliced into the turf with perfection and carries a six month guarantee. We hit the tee tops, collars and all of the fairways.Mole cricket damage on 419 Bermudagrass

The application provided 98% control and I recently noticed small areas of cricket break through on a few fairways. I picked up my phone, took a picture of the damage, sent it to my vendor and within less than a week, I had Top Choice at my door step to treat the areas. Great job Bayer, and way to stand behind your products.

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Money in Golf by Eric J. von Hofen
Just when things were showing signs of picking up in the golf world, the last two weeks of financial news has struck fear back into the business. The politics of Washington D.C., problems in Europe and unemployment figures here in the U.S. have cast a shadow on the world economy. The stock market has lost 10% in the last two weeks alone, and is still trending down. Things are so negative that gold, investor’s “safe haven”, hit an all-time high and then sold off from it’s high point during Thursday’s 500 point drop.

On Friday night, August 5, it was announced that the S & P rating for the United States was downgraded from AAA to AA+. What does this downgrade mean for everyone? For starters, the amount of interest the U.S. government pays on it’s debt goes up. Rates on car loans, mortgages, credit cards and student loans will be going up. This downgrade will hit the pocket books of the American people, and discretionary spending on golf will be no exception.

I was traveling last week in New York and was a guest at a few clubs in Southampton. You could feel it in the air. Everyone was talking about the problems facing the country. This morning on the range tee in Miami, a buzz of “whats going to happen next?” was heard down the tee line. If the members are taking cover, its only a matter of time that conversations about cut backs at clubs will take place.

This downgrade will give golf courses enough of an excuse to delay capital expenses and cut back on operating budgets…just what we don’t need to have happen. Many superintendents have been asked to do more and more with less every year. This next inevitable round of cuts may be the breaking point for many guys.

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