Polo and Peter Millar by Eric J. von Hofen
Ask any of my former employees and they will tell you my saying. If you dress like a farmer on the golf course, they will treat you like one. As a result, I have always dressed up the part and have kept my golf shirts on the cutting edge. I have based this list off of price point, durability, cut, and style. Superintendents spend just as much time on the golf course as some teaching pros but we have different needs in our shirts. Here it is, the top 5 shirts superintendents must have.

1. Polo by Ralph Lauren
2. Peter Millar
3. Fairway and Greene
4. Donald  J. Ross
5. Nike Golf

I’m not much into the performance materials(polyester), although they do provide some better UV protection than the cotton threads. To me they seem hot and tend to have a “plastic” smell. Nike Golf makes some that don’t smell.  My preferred material for the shirts listed above is cotton. Hit up your golf pro and have him get you the same deals they get from the manufacturers. You can get these shirts at cost and you will look like a million bucks watering that green.

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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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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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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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Part 2 of Riviera Puts Ross Back In It’s Bunkers

Eric von Hofen and Riviera CC #14 bunkers

Eric J. von Hofen, Director of Agronomy at Riviera Country Club with Golf Course Architect Brian Silva working in the fairway bunker complex on hole #10.  Brian has worked on and restored many Donald Ross courses throughout the United States.  Brian has a great approach to each project. He believes there was an oversimplification of style or character on what a Ross bunker was or was not. The vast majority of the bunkers at Riviera had to be restored because they merely had grass faces down to the sand level. As more and more vintage photos and plans of Donald Ross bunkers become available, the plans and “as built” photos suggest bunkers that are more involved in shape and style. And the bunkers that result from this study do a good job of what bunkers should do – they grab the attention of the players and suggest alternatives of play as one stands on a tee or in a landing area in preparation of an approach shot.

Eric von Hofen and Brian Silva

We had four sets of teams working on the bunkers at Riviera.  The first team was in charge of removing the old sand and old liner.  The second team removed the sod in the areas that were going to be impacted by the new design so we could tie in the new contours to the existing grades. During this phase the new bunker was painted out and rough shaped.  The third team, also known as the finish crew, came back to do the hand work.  The fourth and final team consisted of in-house Riviera employees that installed 419 Bermudagrass sod from Pike Creek Turf.
Eric von Hofen
Originally we had bid an average of 4 to 5 inches of sand that had to be removed in each bunker.  This picture shows that some bunkers actually contained 18 to 24 inches of sand.  This created problems for us and for Ryan Golf.  Together we worked through this obstacle and thankfully this happened on only a handful of holes.  Removing the large volume of sand from the bunkers produced a completely different appearance, giving them a much deeper look.
eric von hofen
The decision to use bunker liners, and the actual installation of the liners, requires quite a bit of research.  The design of the bunker demands protection from washouts.  A thicker liner is required to hold the sand in place, allowing the water to run behind the sand so it does not wash out.  A softer and more shallow bunker design allows for a thinner liner to be used.  A thinner liner translates to a lower material cost but not necessarily a lower installation cost. When it comes to liner installation, labor is labor and the contractor will need to be paid for his time, regardless of how thick or thin the liner may be.  As stated earlier, the design of the bunker needs to protect the bunker from washouts.  This goes for greenside bunkers as well as fairway bunkers. This can be a challenge depending on the area you have to work with. Adding fingers and noses to the bunkers helps with this process by adding more surface area of grass to break up the water flow. The drawback to the sexy shapes and sizes to the fingers and noses is that it will require more bunker liner material to be installed.
Eric von Hofen
The odd angles suck up the liner material because it’s hard to make the tie-ins work and fit together. This process creates a lot of waste of the liner material. The cost can sky rocket if you get too crazy. Then you have the process of deciding to install liner in just the faces or the entire bunker. Here at Riviera we had to do every bunker on the golf course because of the coral rock base the course is built on. We went with a thinner liner to control cost and paid a lot of attention to the design and flow of the surface water. We were then faced with another problem, and that was, “How do we attach the seams of the bunker liner together on a coral rock base?”.  We could not just install a metal staple every few inches because the staples would bend and break when we would hammer them into the rock and sand base. A Liquid Nails product rated for extreme heat was used for attaching the seams of the liner together. A small bead of glue was placed on one side of the liner and the two edges were placed together. Ryan Golf’s, Buddy White,  came up with that idea and it worked. With the liner in place, staples were then hammered in and the bunkers were then ready for sand.

The video below captures the restoration of #8 greenside bunker at Riviera Country Club.

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Riviera Puts Ross Back In It’s Bunkers Part 1

Eric von Hofen and Riviera CC #18 green

Riviera Country Club was designed by Donald Ross in 1924 but it was not called Riviera. The course, located in Coral Gables, Florida, was called the Miami Biltmore Golf Course and was part of a 36 hole design with a resort. The North and South Courses were built at the same time. During the great depression and World War II the resort and courses were abandoned. The government took over the resort and turned it into a military hospital. It was run as a hospital until the mid 1980‘s and then sold to the City of Coral Gables. The City renovated the resort and returned it to its intended glory. In 1948, a group of Coral Gables businessmen, led by Mr. McCormick, set out to purchase 17 holes located south of Bird Road from the government. They were successful and Riviera Country Club was born. The gentlemen had the task of building a clubhouse and adding a hole, successfully completing the 18 hole course.

Over the next 62 years the 105 acre course has been tweaked by some of the best Architects in the business. In 1962 Golf Course Architect Dick Wilson was the first to get his hands on the course and his marching orders were to eliminate a few of the bunkers and make the remaining bunkers smaller. Mark Mahannah worked on a few greens and added some bunkers back. David Wallace worked on tees. Lloyd Clifton worked on bunkers and green surrounds. In 1993, Architect Brian Silva, a Donald Ross historian, came into the picture and Riviera has never looked back. Mr. Silva found room to add a driving range and chipping practice area. He also added a pond, which is the only body of water on the property. The installation of the pond never affected any of the original Ross designed holes. In 2003, Mr. Silva restored several putting surfaces and replaced some of the Ross bunkers that were taken out by Mr. Wilson. At that time the course was re-grassed; the greens with TifEagle Bermudagrass, the collars with TifSport Bermudagrass, the tees with paspalum and the fairways with 419 Bermudagrass.

Eric von Hofen and Riviera CC #17 green

With 17 years of wear and tear the bunkers had to be rebuilt. Miami receives over 65 inches of rain each year and that rain creates havoc for the bunker sand. Where Riviera is located, coral rock is the main soil make up, not sand like other areas of Florida. That coral rock works its way to the surface in the bunker and contaminates the sand. There were areas of the bunkers that surface water from the greens and approaches washed into, exposing even more coral rock. The coral rock pieces range in size from as small as a quarter to as large as a baseball.

The following video shows you the layout of the course and the design of the old bunkers before the construction started. In the video I show every hole. I also show you #17 Greenside bunker and the damage that takes place after a 2.75 inch rain. Part 2 in this series will be the details of the construction and design work with Brian Silva.

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Back to the brooms in the bunkers

The rain has stopped in South Florida and so has the use of rakes in the bunkers. The golf season has kicked off and the course conditions have to be perfect. I decided to go back to the brooms for smoothing out the edges instead of rakes. I bought soft brooms and extendable aluminum painting poles from Home Depot for a few bucks and they work great. Employees like them and it makes it easy to change the depths quickly for each bunker face. We rebuilt the bunkers this past summer(which I will be finishing up that video and post soon) and we added fingers and faces back into the design. We took them back to a Donald Ross look. They turned out great and the brooms have taken things up a few levels. Members are enjoying the new look and the golf ball is now releasing off the bunker faces, the way they were designed.

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The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fl

The amazing Biltmore hotel was built in 1925 and includes an 18 hole Donald Ross course. The hotel has withstood the test of time and is a true gem of South Florida. The Hotel is located 6 miles from the airport and 5 miles from downtown Miami. The course has a great layout with plenty of water and tropical landscape. The pool is the largest in the state of Florida and is a sight to see. The Spa has been redesigned and provides a first class experience. This place is prefect for a winter getaway. Check out my video to see just how beautiful it is.

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