Rain clouds over South Florida
Be careful for what you wish for is the saying. Well that’s the case for sure in many areas of Florida. With record cold temps this winter and a drought for most of the spring, we have finally seen a good amount of rainfall in July. Here in Miami we have received about 10 inches and Naples has seen about the same. Palm Beach area has reports of 8 to 11 inches for the month.
Drought Monitor map
Looking at the drought monitor map, you can see that many areas are out of the red. This is great for anyone that is trying to grow something in the State. All of the wild fires are reported to be out and things are getting back to normal in the Everglades. Lake Okeechobee is now at 10.28 feet and climbing. Many areas in Texas and Arizona are dealing with a record breaking drought of their own. These states are have some rainfall headed their way this weekend. Let’s hope they get some good rains and the turf starts growing again.

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Fairy ring
Fairy ring shows up after a three year hiatus. Summer time is here and soil temps are at their peak and boom out comes the fairy ring. Yes, it’s that time of the year when our mushroom producing friend shows his face and tries to kill the greens.

On Monday morning we did not have any signs of fairy ring and by Wednesday afternoon we could see the rings of decline with mushrooms starting to show up. What changed so fast you may ask? We started the third round of aeration on the Tif-eagle greens and the soil temps are at 95 to 100 degree. This is all it took to let the fungi wake up and take off. Remember that there are over 60 different fungi that can be associated with the symptoms. The odds are against you not experiencing this problem in your turf management career.
Fairy ring on tifeagle bermudagrass
I went to the office, picked up my Fieldscout moisture meter and headed back out to the three greens I noticed with the rings. I tested the moisture inside the fairy ring and then outside of the ring and was shocked at the difference.

Moisture meter
Inside the moisture was 22%.

Fieldscout meter
Two inches away the moisture was 33%

We sprayed a strobilurin fungicide along with a wetting agent this morning and watered it in for six minutes. I do not spray any preventive fungicides and only treat when I know the problem will not go away by itself. We have not sprayed any strobilurin based fungicides for six months so it should work in one shot. I will keep you updated on the process of keeping the disease in check and when the rings disappear. I would love to hear your story about dealing with fairy ring.

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Hand watering fairways during the 2011 south florida drought by Eric von Hofen
Growing turf in South Florida this year has not been easy.  This past winter brought with it below normal temperatures, with many areas of the state dealing with frost delays and brown turf.  We just can’t seem to catch a break and the hits just keep on coming.  The National Weather Service predicts the drought for this area will last well into the wet season.   Here in Miami, we’ve only had 11.25 inches of rain so far this year.  Naples reports in with only 10.4 inches and Palm Beach with 13 inches of rain this year.  The rainy season usually starts around the middle to end of May.  Hurricane season begins on June 1st and lasts until November 30th. At the rate we’re going, it doesn’t seem like it will ever rain again.

southeast drought monitor by Eric J. von Hofen
The drought monitor shows just how bad the conditions are around the state.  South Florida Water Management District and local water utilities have implemented water restrictions for all golf courses in our area.  Surface water usage must be reduced by 15% and effluent water usage from utilities must be reduced by 35%.   These cut backs change every month because the permitted usage amount during the summer rainy months reflects the historical rain fall that is supposed to happen.  One problem now, it has not rained in the month of June and usage has been cut big time.

Low lake levels by Eric J. von Hofen
To make things worse, many golf course irrigation lakes are drying up and the water level is below the intakes on the pump stations.  The courses that can still pump water are reporting that the water quality is so bad that they are holding off on using it.  The chlorides are high as the water in a swimming pool and the pH is in the 9’s. At this point there is not much you can do other than watch your course burn up and pray for rain.  Courses are going to cart paths only and moving the aeration practices back because you can’t water enough to keep the place alive.  This is how bad it is down here.

I have been using the Harrells Symphony wetting agent product to pull me through these hard times.  We have been spraying the greens and tees with this product and the results have been outstanding.  Hand watering during the day is broken up into teams for the approaches, tees and greens.  The rough is left to fend for itself.  Plant material is stressed out also and water wagons are being used to keep the non native plants alive during this drought.

Golfers have been understanding so far because their yards are also burning up.  Let’s hope things change soon and we get some nectar from the gods.

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by Eric J. von Hofen
Over the last few months I have noticed a trend while attending and watching professional golf events on TV and around the world. I have even shot out a few Tweets about it and I think I have hit a nerve with some people. Question: Should fairways be striped or not? It seems like I might have lost my mind or I don’t know which country I’m in. This year there have been more courses on the European Tour that have striped their fairways than courses in the United States. Also the European Tour players are dominating the world rankings. This picture above is from the BMW PGA Championship on the West Course at the Wentworth Club in Surrey, England. What is going on? Are we slipping?
Torrey Pines by Eric J. von Hofen
We all know this course. Torrey Pines has hosted some big events over the years and it’s one of the greatest layouts in the world. Does that fairway look inviting to you? When I see this in my travels, I think damn, another victim. The asset manager or penny pincher strikes again. I can just hear it, “mow them all in one direction and we will save some money”. Or “we can say we are going green and cutting back”. Whatever! I think courses have lost their eye on the goal line.
Eric von Hofen at Kingsbarns Golf Links Scotland
I have played courses in Scotland, like this one above (Kingsbarns), and thought they did a great job with the mowing lines and patterns. The checker board look would be just too much.
Doral Blue Monster by Eric J. von Hofen
This picture shows the 16th hole at Doral during the PGA TOUR event in 2005. Guests paying $350 to pay the Blue loved the look and expected it to look like this.

I heard Jack Nicklaus tell a story in person about when he played the Masters in the 80’s.  He would pick a white mowing line and hit his tee ball at it to get a few more yards of roll. I grew up watching the Bear and loved the stripes at Augusta. Then they were gone. But Jack still wanted the fairways at Muirfield Village checker boarded. I mowed those fairways at Muirfield in the summer of 1990 and have to say they were perfect. Each pinch point and landing area was laid out perfect. You could never hit a white line of the tee because the pattern would not allow it. Let’s see how they will look and play this week.

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Greens Aeration by Eric von Hofen
It’s that time of the year when putting greens around the State of Florida go to the spa, yes the spa. Aeration on Tifeagle bermudagrass greens is a must and is well under way by now. I like to punch holes in the greens at least four times a summer. May kicks off the first time, followed by June then July and the last time in August. This has greatly helps the control of thatch and improves the Ksat levels. Remember we get over 65 inches of rain a year.

I first circle verticut the greens and collars. We then bring on the Toro Procore, collect the cores, clean off the greens, and then apply a heavy topdressing of coarse sand. Out come the drag brushes, one brush to fill in the holes and one the finish groom the greens. An application of Harrell’s 17-1-10 is put down to help the greens recover, we turn on the water and sit back for the next three days. The greens will be brushed one to two more times this week and rolled to level them out. We will mow them later in the week.

Check out this HD video of the aeration process and how we do it Miami style.

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mole cricket by eric von hofen
It’s amazing just how much damage this little guy can do to your perfect conditioned golf course. When you get a few thousand of them flying around your course at night looking for a mate and something to eat, the damage can be extensive. They love the warmer temps and are most active during a full moon. Areas taken over by mole crickets can look like someone went crazy with a 9 iron. See the picture below.
mole cricket damage in 419 bermudagrass by eric von hofen
During the months of March and April the mole crickets first become active in the bunkers. The crickets work their way into the greens and tees then to the fairways and roughs. Damage to bermudagrass can be so extensive that areas will have to be sodded if you don’t get things under control quick.
Mole cricket control
Chipco Choice provides one year of control for mole crickets in the areas that have been treated. At $300 an acre it’s a deal. Sod and your time responding to a full box of complaints is not worth it.
Choice applicator for controlling mole crickets
The application machine is attached to a small tractor which is driven over the areas you want treated. A small slit is produced in the turf where the Choice dropped into. You can treat 5 acres an hour with a good operator. A rate of 25 lbs per acre is required in order to get the full year of protection. If you have a mole cricket problem, Chipco Choice is the only way to go.

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Assistant Superintendent position
Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables, Florida is looking to fill an open assistant golf course superintendent position. Riviera is a 1925 Donald Ross designed course. The Club is located one mile from the University of Miami in historical Coral Gables. Riviera is on the list of Top 100 Platinum Clubs in America. This is a full service five star Club. We have 1,100 members with 575 of them being golf members. The golf course will be going through a re landscaping project this summer. More details on the Club:

Course Type: Private Membership
Annual Rounds: 26,000
Open Year Round: Yes
Primary Grasses: Tifeagle Greens, Paspalum Tees and 419 Bermudagrass Fairways
Staff: Crew of 23
GCSAA member: Preferred
Education: Bachelors or Associates Degree in Turfgrass Management
Experience: Must have three years of golf course experience. Warm season grass experience is a plus.
Salary: $40,000 to $42,000 per year.
Benefits: Health insurance, annual vacation, meals, dues paid for GCSAA membership, golfing privileges, and 401(k)
Duties: Golf course maintenance, payroll, record keeping, fertilizer/pesticide applications and irrigation management.

Send resumes to: Eric J. von Hofen at turfunderground@gmail.com

Postion available immediately. Application deadline is April 29, 2011
Eric von Hofen and Riviera CC #13 fairway bunkers

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Fieldscout Meter by Eric J. von Hofen
Over the last few weeks, I have had the chance to ride shotgun with a few PGA TOUR Agronomists during PGA events and I have to say I’m very impressed. Bland Cooper, CGCS and PGA TOUR Agronomist, took me through the steps on how the TOUR has taken tournament preparation and hosting to a whole new level. They have put every new tech gadget available on the market to use and have built a sound agronomic plan around them.
Eric J. von Hofen in Mexico

During advance week the data collection and charting begins. They first look at height of cut on the greens and the speeds that are produced in the AM and PM. Morning and afternoon soil moisture readings are collected and then plugged into another chart. This data is collected using the FieldScout TDR probe. The probes are an inch and a half long and easily pierce the turf with no problem. Within seconds the data pops up on the screen and after three sites are probed, a average is displayed on the screen.
By Eric J. von Hofen

The superintendent and PGA TOUR Agronomist both have their own FieldScout probes. They walk each green in a grid-like pattern mapping and collecting the soil moisture data. During this process the data is averaged and areas in need of water are located. This need of water could be 30 seconds to 3 minutes with a hose. Overhead irrigation is not used at all.

All of this is happening while there is yet another series of data collection occurring. Firmness, yes firmness is measured. This too is collected in the AM and PM. This is the missing piece to the puzzle. When this information is charted and overlaid with Stimpmeter and moisture readings, it shows where the performance of the greens is headed for the week. Basically the height of cut did not change for the entire two weeks. Green speed was increased by decreasing the moisture and pure rolling. When the greens moisture read around 25% to 30%, it made for the best conditions after rolling. The TOUR does not want the greens dried out below these levels.
eric von hofen

Next time you are watching a PGA TOUR event on TV, just think what goes on behind the scenes to make those greens so good. It takes a sound plan in place and a year worth of work to get things right. These PGA TOUR Agronomists really know their stuff. The saying should be “TOUR Agronomy, These guys are good”.

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Tif-Eagle Greens Are Growing Again And Ready For A Circle Verticut

Eric von Hofen and Toro
It is that time of the year once again.  Soil temps are up, and  the Tif-Eagle bermudagrass is alive and growing aggressively.  The active growing is taking place on top while the thatch is growing under the surface. Tif-Eagle produces a ton of thatch that has to be removed, otherwise your green speeds will pay the price. To remove thatch, I use a proven method in a Tif-Eagle putting green. I started using this trick back in Naples, Florida, 10 years ago when I grew in the course at Calusa Pines Golf Club. Using this method and pulling cores three to four times a year will produce outstanding results. Remember that you have to feed your greens before, during and after to rip them up. Check out my video below showing my method of circle verticutting on a Tif-Eagle green.

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At The 2011 Golf Industry Show Size Didn’t Matter

Toro booth at the GIS 2011 show in Orlando, Eric von hofen

Just like another golf season, we have another Golf Industry Show in the books and they seem to come and go quicker every year.  It’s hard to believe that golf turf industry professionals have been meeting, on and off, like this since 1927.  The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and the National Golf Course Owners Association teamed up to host this year’s event and they did a good job with what they had to work with.  The show was much smaller but the quality was there.  It seemed like the education offered was taken and enjoyed.  Lacking was any education for the guys that were taking the Club Managers path to better themselves or to become a Club Manager.  I also missed seeing the touch of class the Club Managers added to the show over the last few years.  For many attendees of the GIS, this was the only chance to rub elbows with the guys that hire superintendents or golf course architects. Many of the other decisions at the clubs are made by the men on the ground, the Superintendent. The show provided a good match for Superintendents looking for purchasing equipment or learning about the latest and greatest turf drug.

The floor of the GIS 2011 in Orlando, Eric von Hofen

I did feel like there were still a lot of guys missing from management companies and from the west coast.  There were a fair amount of guys from Europe that made the trip, which was good to see.  The buzz was that many could not make it because they were saving up for Las Vegas next year.   The college students and professors I spoke with all said that enrollment was down, but that it was not a bad thing.  The students that are enrolled now in the turf programs are there for the right reasons.  There were a few big name golf course architects noticeably absent from the show and the ones present asked many of us on floor for any job leads, big or small.  One guy even asked me the same question two times.

Over all this years show was worth the trip.  Going forward, I understand that there are talks about making more changes to the show and conference.  This is smart to ensure the financial stability of the GCSAA and NGCOA.  Good luck to our new CEO of the GCSAA, Mr. Rhett Evans, working through all of that. See you next year.

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