FAIRWAY STRIPES – SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED

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 MIAMI STYLE

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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TURFUNDERGROUND TAKES YOU TO THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

Eric von Hofen at the Cannes Film Festival
For over 60 years during the month of May, actors, film makers, directors, investors, and on lookers from around the world take over the French Riviera for the Cannes International Film Festival. I have been lucky enough to be invited to Cannes and think it is the best festival in the world. When you arrive at the airport in Nice, you know you just landed in a special place. The French put on a show like no others. Everything is first class and the access to the movers and shakers is top notch. Champagne flows on the yachts and the deals are made on the next big movie release. Which by the way, the yacht parties are where you want to be.

The rules are if you are attending one of the movies, small or short, you wear a tux period. This unwritten dress code just sets the stage and the feel of the event. Another point, if you are attending a movie showing and you don’t speak the language suck it up and watch it. Remember it’s an international festival. This brings you closer to the film makers and you just might learn something. I have meet people in the crowds from around the world and have stayed in touch with them. It’s pretty cool. Last point, take the time to fill out the grading card when the movie if over. Everyone involved in the production of it really wants to hear your comments.

This video shows you a quick look on the action taking place in Cannes. Enjoy.

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GOLF COURSE LANDSCAPE DONE RIGHT

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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TWEETS STOP DAYS AFTER MANY PGA TOUR EVENTS

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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EFFECTIVE MOLE CRICKET CONTROL

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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OPEN ASSISTANT GOLF COURSE SUPERINTENDENT POSITION

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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ARE YOUR GREENS READY TO HOST A MAJOR EVENT?

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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CAR DISPLAY’S PGA TOUR STYLE

Now that tax payers TARP money has been paid back and the economy is picking back up, we will see more of the car companies get back into bed with the PGA TOUR. Ten years ago there were 10 events sponsored by car companies. When things got bad a few years ago, it was not cool to spend money on a golf event. Car sponsorships dried up and ran for the hills. Different time and place today. I have hosted a few PGA TOUR events, like the Bob Hope Chyrsler Classic and the Ford Championship at Doral, and I have to say they spend the money to get their product on stage. Take a look at this video and see what goes into getting those cars and trucks ready to shine for Saturday and Sunday TV.

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