Mayakoba Golf Classic Sets New Guinness World Record

most people taking a golf lesson at one time
Today the Mayakoba Golf Classic made it into the Guinness Book of World Records™ by hosting the largest ever golf lesson on the grounds of El Camaleón Golf Club in PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mèxico.

Today’s impressive attendance of 1,073 people, witnessed by officials from Guinness, surpassed the old record of 1,032 people recognized by Guinness World Records™ which occurred on October 9 of 2010 at Pine Valley, Beijing, China.
Most people ever taking a golf lesson
It took over three hours to set up for the event and the course had to borrow a few hundred golf clubs from other local golf courses in order to pull off the world record. Some participants traveled over 45 minutes to be a part of history. Once the people arrived at El Camaleon, they were checked in, received a number and a white shirt so officials could track who was participating. The 30 minute lesson was conducted by PGA TOUR player Esteban Toledo. According to the Mayakoba Classic officials, Esteban Toledo said, “This was one of the most incredible things I have participated in my career. I have given golf clinics before to maybe 400 people. But never in front of over a thousand people. At one point, I was a little bit nervous because I wanted to make sure we broke the record but also learned something as well.”
The Mayakoba Golf Classic is celebrating its fifth year on the PGA TOUR. Past champions are: Fred Funk, Brian Gay, Mark Wilson and Cameron Beckman. The Classic will be played on February 23 -27, 2011.

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What Should Be In Your Golf Course’s Long-Range Plan?

Eric J. von Hofen planting a Live Oak tree
If you listen to the news, anyone in the golf business should be running for the hills and filling out an application at the local grocery store these days. This goes for the members too. Golf rounds have declined and the NGF reported again today that more courses closed in 2010 then opened. Those courses that have had a long-range plan is place have come out on top during the market meltdown over the last two years. I have found a pattern of success at operations that have been proactive and set up a committee that has tackled these tough issues.

In order for these long-range plans to get off the ground and stay on track, you need to have longevity on the committee. Usually the past presidents of the club are the best fit. These individuals know the history of the operation and have served their time. They usually are long time members and have the time to met once a quarter. During these meeting topics can be covered very quickly with little time wasted on bringing new people up to speed on what’s going on.

With so many moving parts in running a successful golf course operation, a long-range committee needs to look at the following areas to keep the club and course on track.

1.Membership– What is the trend at the club? How are you handling membership pricing and dues?
2.Staff– How is the club retaining and rewarding it’s best employees? Turn over is expensive and you would like to continue to get that member pour from the server who knows what you drink and eat as soon as you walk in the door.
3.The golf course-Many say it’s the most important thing and I have to agree. Understand the history of the course and when it was built. If it was designed by a classic architect, don’t mess it up. Get a professional that understands the design thoughts and don’t let a group of low handicap players redesign the course to fit their games.
4.Water– Understand the irrigation system and how it works. This alone could be a million dollars or more if you need to replace it. Just because the pipes are out of sight and out of mind doesn’t mean your irrigation system is doing it’s job. Is your club taking measures to conserve water? You might be surprised on what you find out.
5.The clubhouse-What upgrades are needed to maintain the building and provide new services younger members with families might want to use on a daily basis. Here I would listen to these folks, because they will be around for many years to come.
6.Capital Equipment-What does the kitchen need to cook 600 people Thanksgiving dinner or that 300 people at a weeding? How about equipment to mow the greens and fairways. Have you priced out a new rough mower lately? I will save you the trouble and tell you they cost as much as your wife’s BMW. These expenses have to be planned for.
7.Landscape-Yes, good old plants and trees. Believe it or not, but they too have a life expectancy and need to be cared for. Develop a plan with an architect that knows what the heck these trees and plants will look like 40 to 50 years from now. Work off of the plan and add plant material over time. Try not to install the entire design in two months and expect them to grow 20 feet in a year. Remember this apart of a long range plan.

I hope you use these seven items as building blocks to put together or enhance your clubs long-range plans. Good luck out there.

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Some Top Golf Resorts Set To Change Hands By The End Of The Month

Eric von Hofen and LaQuinta Hotel
In todays complex financial markets where debt is packaged and sold down to the street, sometimes two or three times, you might not know who owns your golf course or home. The housing market is still lagging the economy, but shows small signs of working thru the inventory. During this process of people foreclosing or trying to do a short sale, are finding out that their mortgage companies don’t know if they are allowed to go forward with the process because they don’t own the debt. Five years ago when times were good and everyone was buying anything and everything thinking that it was going higher, big investment firms like Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Dubai World and CNL did the same.

They bought buildings, hotels, resorts and golf courses. Some of these deals were huge and cost billions of dollars. Now just like many of us with our houses under water the investment firms are upside down on these deals. These firms are shopping the debt hard and are at a cross roads on their investments. Many have to sell the debt on the paper and are looking for more funding to keep these golf course and resorts open. My sources tell me that we will see some big name places change hands or even close up shop if they can not find a partner. South Florida Business Journal reports that the Doral Golf Resort and Spa – home of golf’s famed Blue Monster – is among eight hotels set to change hands at a Jan. 28 auction. Dax Scharfstein, managing director and general counsel of New York-based Carlton Advisory Services, told South Florida Business Journal that his company was hired by CNL AB LLC to find qualified bidders for the $200 million mezzanine loan on the corporate debt of the hotel company that owns the Doral property and seven others.
The other hotels to be included in the auction are:
Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa in Maui, Hawaii
La Quinta Resort & Club and PGA West in La Quinta, Calif.
Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix
Ritz-Carlton, Orlando
JW Marriott Orlando at the Grande Lake Resorts
JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix
Claremont Resort & Spa in Berkeley, Calif.
Let’s see which lucky company gets to pick up these properties for song and dance.

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Monument Doing the Trick on Taking Out Paspalum in Bermudagrass Fairways

Eric j. von Hofen
I wrote a post back in December about paspalum looking good but sometimes in the wrong places. We have paspalum tee boxes and now have been faced with paspalum popping up in areas where it should not be, like in the fairways. We have had a hard time removing it and end up spraying the areas with Roundup two times, then come back cut these areas out and install new 419 bermudagrass sod. Not anymore!
eric von Hofen
Monument to the rescue. We have been spot spraying these volunteer paspalum areas and have had great success. We are using 1/2 oz/gal of MSMA and .04 oz/gal of Monument with a 1oz of sticker. Two applications and it’s gone. No more sod work just some spot fertilizing to get the bermudagrass growing again to fill in the dead spot. Give it a try if you have this problem.

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New TifGrand Bermudagrass Preforming Well and Living Up to it’s Claims.

eric von hofen and tifgrand bermudagrass
In June of 2009, I kicked off a small tee addition project here at the 1926 Donald Ross designed Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables, Florida. We wanted to add some length to a few of the holes and give us more options in setting up the course for play. The entire course was designed on only 105 acres, this includes a clubhouse, tennis courts, parking, and one pond. The course plays tight and now measures just under 6,600 yards with the new tees.

During the project, I knew that we where going to be challenged growing turf on one of the four new tees. The tee surfaces on the entire course were grassed with paspalum in 2003. I was worried about the placement of the new tee on the 5th hole because of shade. As you can see in the picture, this tee is covered with shade from the Live Oak trees for most the day. I contacted Pike Creek Turf to see if TifGrand was available yet and if I could get my hands on some. I was able to get 500 square feet from the test program that Pike Creek Turf was participating in with Dr. Wayne Hanna and Dr. Kris Braman, world renowned turfgrass breeders, from the University of Georgia.

The turf came in sod form and was rooted down in less than 6 days. We mowed the new sod with a walk mower 11 days after we planted it. We have been applying light levels of fertilizer and keep the water controlled. TifGrand has shown me that it can handle the von Hofen test and that it can grow very well in the shade. When I’m asked by other turf managers or developers about the latest and greatest turfgrass, I tell them that what ever the claim is, test it yourself. I also tell people to look at a new bermudagrass in January and check it again in June. It might look great in the summer and look dead in winter. We have to find a balance on what you are looking for. Cost is the next factor. How much will it cost to maintain the new grass and will the membership put up with the maintenance practices that have to be done in order to produce the best playing conditions.

TifGrand growers claim it’s the world’s first seed and pollen sterile(triploid hybrid) Bermudagrass scientifically developed to thrive in 60-70 % continuous shade. It is attractive, dense turf and uses less fertilizer and less water then 419 bermudagrass. I like how it has performed and suggest you consider using it on your next project.

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Use Science to See if Your Greens Aerification Program is Working or Not

Eric von Hofen and Soil Profile on Tifeagle green
Dr. George Snyder of the University of Florida has a great system to track and determine if your aerification program is working or not. I have been working with him for a number of years tracking thatch, percolation rates and organic material levels in Tifeagle Bermudagrass greens. We have been pulling soil samples from the same greens and locations for over 6 years. Maintaining Tifeagle greens in South Florida is very difficult because the growing season never stops and it rains 70 inches a year. Greens have to drain and the roots have to get oxygen. My golf course has very poor water quality and every night I water the greens, I know that I’m closing down the percolation rate and growing organic material. This is the main reason why I aerify my greens 4 times a year and verticut them 25 times. I use Dr. Snyder’s tests to see where I stand two times a year. We pull samples in the Spring to see how bad things have gotten during the Winter and then we pull them again in the Fall to see how much we corrected with an aggressive aerification program. The following information explains this testing process in more detail. Please forgive me for taking out some of the tables and charts in efforts to shorten this post.
Eric von Hofen and


On September 28, 2010, greens 11 and 15 were sampled as they have been in the, past. Four 2-inch diameter “undisturbed” cores 0-3” deep were taken from the back to front of each green. In addition, these same greens were sampled to a depth of approximately 8 inches using a 3/4th inch diameter coring device. Eight cores were collected and composited on each green. The verdure/thatch layer, which will be termed “thatch”, was separated from the lower organic matter (OM) stained layer subjectively by cutting with a knife at the depth where resistance to cutting decreased substantially. The thickness of the layers was recorded, and both the thatch layer and the underlying organic matter-stained layer were retained. Organic matter was determined on these layers as weight loss following ignition in a muffle furnace at 550C. Mineral particle sizes were determined on these samples by passing the ignited residue through a nest of sieves using a RoTap shaker. For this analysis, material from greens 11 and 15 was combined to provide a sufficient quantity of sample for the analysis.

Saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat) was measured on the 0-3” cores which contained the grass and thatch, generally following the procedures specified by the United States Golf Association (USGA Green Section Record, March/April 1993). However, it should be noted that the USGA procedures were designed to predict the suitability of root zone mixtures for greens construction, and not for analyzing undisturbed cores from existing greens. For example, the procedure calls for compacting the mixture prior to analysis. For the undisturbed cores, laboratory compaction does not seem appropriate and was not conducted. The USGA procedures do not assume that turf is present, as it was in the 0-3” cores. Seven, 1/4th inch holes were drilled 1-1/8 inch deep in each core and Ksat was again determined to gauge the effect of the thatch layer on Ksat.

Results and Discussion

On the average, the thatch layer averaged 0.9 inches (0.89 inch on green 11, 0.95 on green 15), which is the thickest it has been since September of 2008 (Table 1). The underlying OM-stained layer averaged about 3 inches (3.1 inches on green 11, 3.0 inches on green 15), which continues the steady increase in stain depth that has been occurring for years (Table 1). I feel this might be growing due to a heavy topdressing program that adds a quarter inch to a half inch of new sand every year to the greens.

Although the stain layer is increasing in thickness, the organic matter (OM) content of the OM-stained layer below the verdure and thatch averaged 1.8% by weight (1.8% in green 11, 1.9% in green 15, Fig. 1), which is the lowest it has been in over 4 years (Table 2). Concern has been expressed about OM accumulation in greens in amounts greater than 3% (USGA Green Section Record, Jan-Feb 2004, pgs. 11-15), although this information was primarily developed for bentgrass greens. Regardless, the stain-layer OM content is well below this value.

Organic matter in the thatch/verdure layer (termed “thatch”) averaged 7.5% (Table 2), being 7.5% in both greens. In the past, the OM content of the thatch has been lower in the fall than in the previous spring. This fall, however, it is unchanged from the previous spring sampling, and is greater than in the previous fall samplings (Table 2). While I am not aware of published recommendations for thatch OM, I believe low OM is conducive to water and air permeability in the thatch.

Saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat) averages somewhat greater than it was a year ago, although it is lower in green 11 than in this past April (Table 3). The USGA has recommended Ksat values of 6 to 12 inches per hour for root zone mixes used for greens construction (USGA Green Section Record, March/April 1993), and it is well known that Ksat generally decreases as a green matures (USGA Green Section Record, March/April 2010). However, the values observed on these two greens still are well within the USGA specifications for new greens and are greater than those often observed in mature greens. The variation in Ksat among cores within a green, as illustrated by the coefficient of variation calculation (CV), has been greater in the spring than in the fall (Table 4). This trend continued for green 15. The CV for green 11 was unusually low in the spring, so the CV is higher this fall, but it is only a little higher than in previous fall measurements (Table 4). On both greens, Ksat was lower for sample D, which is the front of the green, but this may just be a coincidence.

Based on the observation that drilling holes through the thatch increased Ksat more in cores that had lower Ksat before drilling than in cores with higher Ksat, and that this relationship was fairly strong (Fig. 2), thatch is having some effect on Ksat. However, the overall Ksat values on the original samples are quite good, and average well within the 6-12 inch range that the USGA has given as a criteria for a root zone mix used in new greens construction. Favorable Ksat is being maintained in these greens regardless of the influence of the thatch.

Based on previous measurements, the mineral particle size ranges are within USGA recommendations for putting green construction in the > 3-inch region of the greens, which is assumed to be the material from which the greens were constructed (Table 5). However, in the thatch there is less coarse+medium sand and more fine sand than is recommend (Table 5). There is a trend for very coarse and coarse sand to increase with depth, and for fine and very fine sand to decrease with depth (Table 5). This is the opposite of what generally is considered to be conducive to air and water penetration and movement in the root zone. If the profile is not entirely consistent throughout, water and air movement is improved by having increasing coarseness in texture towards the surface.

There has been a trend for coarse sand in the thatch to decrease over time, and for fine and very fine sand to increase over time (Table 6). However, these trends appear to have been arrested, or reversed, in the most recent sampling (Table 6).


Even though the depth of the stained layer below the thatch has been increasing, the content of OM in this layer is under 2% (by weight), and has been decreasing for four years.

Thatch thickness is greater than in recent samplings, and the OM content of the thatch is greater than in past fall samplings.

Saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat), a measure of root zone porosity, is in a favorable range

The texture of the root zone is less coarse in an upward direction, but the trend in the thatch has slowed or reversed.

Dr. George H. Snyder and Eric J. von Hofen

Fig. 1. Stain-layer organic matter and saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat) over six years of testing.
  eric von Hofen

For more information or testing with Dr. Snyder please contact him at

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Why Are The Fairways So Good This Year?

Eric von Hofen
Sometimes you have to go through hell to get to heaven. Same is true when preparing bermudagrass fairways for the winter golf season. Every summer we schedule a heavy verticutting on the fairways which removes five semi truck loads of thatch. This thatch accumulates all year long and if not removed it shuts down the drainage to almost zero. In a area of the country that receives almost 70 inches of rain a year this process is key to having good fairways. While the fairways are ripped up from the verticutting we take it a step further and run the spiker over them. This helps reduce compaction and gets oxygen to the root system. The next step is to circle mow the fairways, taking the rest of the grain out of them.  The height of cut is lowered to .375  for this part of the process.  We then double vacuum the fairways and get ready for the fertilizer/Ronstar application.  The following day we treat the fairways with TopChoice for mole crickets. The fairways take about a month to recover from all of this work.  This is a small price to pay to have perfection for seven months out of the year.  Please watch the video below showing how we verticut fairways.

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First Day of Winter and Golf Courses are Off Color

Eric von Hofen and frost damage on bermudagrass
This year’s golf season in the Sunshine State kicks off to a cold reception on the first day of winter.  I wrote a post last week explaining just how cold it has been in Florida and it has not let up.  Normal temperatures during this time of the year are in the mid 70’s during the day and low 60’s at night.  But not this year. Over the last two weeks, golf course superintendents have arrived at work to find temperatures in the 30’s and frost in some areas. In the picture above, it shows that the roughs on golf courses in Miami are damaged from the frost. Normally we have two or three days of cold weather a year and the turf bounces back when it warms up. Golf courses up and down the east and west coasts of Florida have been hit very hard. Palm Beach County is home for many snow birds living in gated golf communities are realizing that for the second year in a row the turf behind their homes will be dormant. Those golf courses that chose to overseed the roughs will look good while others will look brown and in need of water. It just needs sun and a few 80 degree days and we will be back in business.
Eric von Hofen
This picture shows frost on a paspalum tee box in Miami. It is a shame that this has to happen during the high golf season when so many people come from around the world to enjoy the sun and emerald green fairways of Florida. This Holiday season, golfers will have little to show off at their home courses. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that January will bring some warmer days. We need to see some green fairways to see some green in the cash register.

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Helminthosporium on TifEagle Bermudagrass Greens

eric von hofen
Almost over night we see the results of Helminthosporium on our TifEagle greens. This is the first time this year we have seen any signs from our little friend. We have had two weeks of well below temps that have taken the soil below 50 degrees. This was just enough to increase the pressure of the disease and for us to see the damage. One good thing is that we have had full sun and no rain. This will help bring the soil temps back up above 58 degrees and start growing turf again. I plan on starting a program of applying fungicides on a 14 to 21 day rotation. I will use Heritage, Insigna and Daconil for control and prevention of the leaf spot this winter. It has been 32 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 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.
Eric von Hofen

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Is your electric company ruining your golf course irrigation system?

Eric von Hofen
It seems to happen at the worst times – Friday at 2:30pm, the night before the member guest or the day after you punched the greens in the middle of summer.  You come to work and as soon as your headlights hit the driveway you know something is wrong. You can tell that the system did not run. The investigation begins. You head to the office and check the computer and everything looks like it ran. Now you grab your cart and head to the course.  I have four pump stations so I get my battle plan together and head to the main one first.
Eric von Hofen
Jackpot.  I walk in to check the VFD and it’s out and this time it’s still smoking.  “Great, we lost another one”, I say.  I call my irrigation tech and tell him to check the faults on the other three stations.  He reports back and says that two are showing low pressure faults and the other is showing a high pressure fault.  Now I know that the other three pump stations have not been damaged.
Eric von Hofen
I get on the phone and call Florida Power & Light for service.  I tell the FPL rep that I have lost another VFD and I need the power shut down to this station and I would also like to know if we had a power surge.  I get a ticket number and three hours later the truck shows up.
Eric von Hofen
The FPL guys open up the magic vault with their keys and after three minutes of being in there they say everything is fine.  Looks good.  I say, “What?  Are you kidding me?  The VFD is still smoking.  How can you say everything is fine?  What about a power surge?”  They say we might have had a “line event”. I say a power surge and they say no. What is a line event then? I call it a power surge and they call it a line event, ok moving on.  They tell me to call the claims department.  I have that number in my phone also, so I dial them up and put in a claim.  Four days later the rep calls me back to tell me the claim has been denied.  After 40 minutes of going back and fourth with the guy we still don’t get the new $7,100 VFD paid for.  I explain that this is the third drive in four years and we have spent $23,000 on fixing them.  He says, “Sir we don’t pay claims on past history”.
Eric von Hofen
The entire world works off of history, from health care, car insurance, job history,  stock market and police records.  But not the electric company. Houston we have a problem.  How can they work like this?  I would love to hear from you if you are having the same problems and your golf course is suffering because electric companies don’t want to pay up.

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