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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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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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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Hammock Beach And Golf Resort In Palm Coast, Florida

The Club at Hammock Beach Resort Par 3 Course and Eric von Hofen
This is one of those places that will never get built again. The course sits next to the ocean and provides great views with plenty of wind. The Resort and Club is full service with many units having views of the course and ocean. The Par 3 course(mini golf course) there is one of the best live turf courses I have ever seen. The attention to detail is there and it’s fun to play. If you are traveling through this area of Florida, stop in and take a look at the courses and some real estate at The Club at Hammock Beach. The video takes you on a quick tour of the Jack Nicklaus designed golf course at Ocean Hammock in Palm Coast, Florida. This video was shot and edited by Turfundeground’s Eric J. von Hofen

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A Flyover Of The Legendary Blue Monster At Doral In Miami, Florida

This video was shot and edited by Turfundeground’s Eric J. von Hofen. It shows the layout of the legendary Blue Monster golf course during the 2005 PGA TOUR Ford Championship. Doral has been hosting a PGA Event every year since 1962. Doral will be hosting the PGA Tour in March during the WGC event.  The world will be watching again in two weeks.

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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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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 Turfunderground.com


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 phdlaboratory@hotmail.com

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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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