IT’S SEEDING TIME AGAIN IN MANY AREAS OF THE COUNTRY

Prep for overseeding in the Desert
During the month of October, golf courses in the sunbelt areas of the country are faced with a huge task. Overseed, yes overseed. This process is different in each region and requires a ton of work for it to be successful. In the desert regions, winter nighttime temps drop into the 30’s and 40’s and warm up into the 70’s during the day. These temp changes make the Bermudagrass go dormant and turns it brown. Overseed is a must during the winter months when golf demand is at highest point of the year. The goal with a desert overseed is to completely cover the bermudagrass with ryegrass. Period. Any areas of bermudagrass still thriving in the fresh new ryegrass stand will stick out like a sore thumb in December. These courses will be growing this new crop for the next 7 months then they flip the switch and grow bermudagrass for the rest of the year. I wish it was that easy. These superintendents work magic during this process.
Verticut prep of fairways for overseed
In Florida, I call this seeding process interseeding. The goal here is to have 60% stand of bermudagrass and a 40% stand of ryegrass. Only areas in north Florida have nighttime temps in the 30’s and the rates might be higher. South Florida has only a hand full of cold days a year that knock back the bermudagrass and seed is not needed. With seed comes the stripes. Many clubs that push for green at any cost want to see a bang for their buck. “Hey Sup stripe it up baby”. Somehow they think that your growing bentgrass and they want the place to look like their club up north. Just relax and play it as it lies.

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HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS PLAN FOR GOLF COURSES

Hurricane Irene track
Just what you want to see on your computer screen on a monday morning, your course is in the cone of death. That’s right a hurricane might be headed your way. After a look at the computer models and a peak at the ocean water temps map, you have to start to make some decisions. Living in South Florida, you have to become some what of a meteorologist and keep your day job as a golf course superintendent. I have gone through at least five major hurricanes and over a dozen tropical storms in the last eighteen years. I have put together a plan and procedure booklet that lays out what to do to protect the course and employees while a hurricane is headed your way.
High ocean water temps feed hurricanes
Phase 1 – Hurricane Watch means a disturbance is approximately 24 hours away. This is used with the understanding that hurricanes are quite unpredictable and forward movement can drastically change.
– The superintendent must commence the collection and place indoors all lose objects such as trash cans, benches, flags, tee markers, etc.
– Check trees and shrubbery and remove limbs which may damage utility wires or other property.
– Remove coconuts from trees.
– Top off main fuel storage tanks.
– Fill all mowers and carts with fuel.
– Turn off all power supplies to pump stations.
– Back up the irrigation programs from your computer and take it with you.
– Go over generators and start them.
– Update your employee contact information and explain that you will call them when to report to work. Let them take care of their families and homes and you will have a better chance of them coming to work when you need them. Send them home early.
– Assist the clubhouse staff with the installation of shutters over the windows.
– Take a video of your maintenance building and each hole of the golf course. I did this at Doral, when we had hurricanes Wilma and Katrina headed our way, and the videos turned out to be worth a few million dollars. Doral lost thousands of trees and the videos showed what we lost.
– Check your chainsaws and have extra blades.
– Have your outside tree crews on stand by and expect them charge full price. They have been waiting for this storm all year.
– Make sure you have a cell phone charger for your car or truck. Cell phone towers work 8 hours on batteries, so if the storm is that bad you only have a few hours to call staff and tell loved ones that you are alive. Even if you phone is charged, it will not work them those towers shut down.
Phase 2 – Go home and take care of your family and home. If a Cat 3 or more is coming your way, send the wife and kids out of town. You will lose power for days or even weeks. They don’t need to deal with that and your attitude that the golf course is being blown apart.
Phase 3 – Comunicate with staff and members during the storm and after the storm moves through. Your clubhouse will become a safe haven for members and staff to get there life together and take a warm shower. Use Twitter to do this and get the word out if you can open the clubhouse.
Phase 4 – After the storm, take video, count the trees down, and don’t turn on your pump station. You will burn it up because the power supply will be dirty. Wait a few days to turn it on. Review the course and reach out to staff and start the clean up.

Good luck and let’s hope you don’t need to use my plan in your career.

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S & P DOWNGRADE WILL HURT GOLF

Money in Golf by Eric J. von Hofen
Just when things were showing signs of picking up in the golf world, the last two weeks of financial news has struck fear back into the business. The politics of Washington D.C., problems in Europe and unemployment figures here in the U.S. have cast a shadow on the world economy. The stock market has lost 10% in the last two weeks alone, and is still trending down. Things are so negative that gold, investor’s “safe haven”, hit an all-time high and then sold off from it’s high point during Thursday’s 500 point drop.

On Friday night, August 5, it was announced that the S & P rating for the United States was downgraded from AAA to AA+. What does this downgrade mean for everyone? For starters, the amount of interest the U.S. government pays on it’s debt goes up. Rates on car loans, mortgages, credit cards and student loans will be going up. This downgrade will hit the pocket books of the American people, and discretionary spending on golf will be no exception.

I was traveling last week in New York and was a guest at a few clubs in Southampton. You could feel it in the air. Everyone was talking about the problems facing the country. This morning on the range tee in Miami, a buzz of “whats going to happen next?” was heard down the tee line. If the members are taking cover, its only a matter of time that conversations about cut backs at clubs will take place.

This downgrade will give golf courses enough of an excuse to delay capital expenses and cut back on operating budgets…just what we don’t need to have happen. Many superintendents have been asked to do more and more with less every year. This next inevitable round of cuts may be the breaking point for many guys.

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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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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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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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Turfunderground’s Top 5 Golf Predictions for 2011


I gave this a ton of thought and really think I hit the mark.  You probably thought I was going to predict easy stuff,  like who was going to win the Open or the Master’s.  Well not today.   Today I went after bigger targets, and below are my top 5 predictions sure to take place in 2011.

1. Tiger Woods takes over for David Fay at the USGA. He moves the USGA headquarters to Jupiter, Florida.
2. The PGA of America announces that they will hold the 2017 PGA Championship in the State of Florida. They will move the event to mid April, so it will not be during hurricane season.
3. More golf courses are opened rather than closed in the United States.
4. Titleist is purchased by Dubai World. Headquarters is moved to Abu Dhabi and all golf balls will have a picture of The Burj Khalifa on them, the tallest building in the world.
5. The PGA TOUR drops it’s no camera and cell phone policy for patrons and players. They just request you turn off the flash. Tour players Daly, Casey, Westwood, Mahan, McDowell, Watson, Cink and Poulter all love the change and tweet their entire rounds. They each pick up 1,000,000 followers on Twitter the first day.

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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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Dalit Bay Golf and Country Club in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Eric von Hofen in malaysia
The Dalit Bay Golf and Country Club is surrounded by the 400 acres of the Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort.  The course was designed by Ted Parslow. Brian Distel was just there to meet with fellow superintendent Goh Yat Hing for a tour of the course and to develop long range plans for the operation.  Brian reports that nine holes of the course are cut out of the jungle and the other nine border the Tambalang and Mengkabong rivers.  Mr. Hing has USGA spec greens grassed with Tifdwarf Bermudagrass and 419 Bermudagrass fairways, roughs and tees. There are 15 golf courses in this area, none of which are under construction.  The population in this region is 617,000 people.

Dalit Bay has an aqua range that has 15 hitting stations.  This range gets a ton of use throughout the year because it’s the only game in town.  Warming up on this range prepares players to see water on each hole, which is what they will experience as they play the course.

The climate has year round high levels of  humidity and receives over 100 inches of rain a year.  The course is located very close to the equator.  This tropical region is full of clay soil that runs through the Kinabalu mountains. The fairways and tees are capped with sand and the rough is pure clay.

While you are there you can meet the areas icon, the Orangutan. You will also have unexpected encounters with hornbills that glide right overhead. Peacocks walking by during breakfast, a friendly bear cat greeting you from a tree and iguanas and squirrels crossing your path are all part of the magic of this remarkable resort.

Thanks Brian and keep them coming from your travels.

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Golf courses feeling the cold in Florida early this year

Eric von Hofen new #17 green
This year’s golf season in the Sunshine State kicks off to a cold reception in December.  Over the last two mornings, golf course superintendents have arrived at work to find temperatures in the 30’s and frost in some areas.  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.  I’ve received reports that courses in the Palm Beach and Jupiter areas were covered with heavy frost and play had to be postponed until it melted.  The Naples area was hit just as hard.  Greg Norman’s Shark Shootout kicks off Thursday at Tiburon in Naples with another fun field of PGA TOUR players, including Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson, Fred Funk, Matt Kuchar and Anthony Kim.  Thursday morning might be interesting if we have another night that produces a heavy frost.
Eric von Hofen and green temps

Last winter Florida was knocked around by cold fronts that swept through the state on a weekly basis.  We had four days that produced frost on golf courses in Miami, which is a rare occurrence in South Florida.  Bermudagrass loves to grow when soil temperatures are above 58 degrees.  As you see in this picture, we are well below that.  I have not mowed greens for the last two mornings, trying to keep the turf we have.  Green speeds have increased to above 12 on the Stimpmeter even without mowing. So stay tuned this weekend to the Shark Shootout to see quick greens and the affects of the cold weather.

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