DROUGHT LEAVING IT’S MARK ON SOUTH FLORIDA COURSES

Hand watering fairways during the 2011 south florida drought by Eric von Hofen
Growing turf in South Florida this year has not been easy.  This past winter brought with it below normal temperatures, with many areas of the state dealing with frost delays and brown turf.  We just can’t seem to catch a break and the hits just keep on coming.  The National Weather Service predicts the drought for this area will last well into the wet season.   Here in Miami, we’ve only had 11.25 inches of rain so far this year.  Naples reports in with only 10.4 inches and Palm Beach with 13 inches of rain this year.  The rainy season usually starts around the middle to end of May.  Hurricane season begins on June 1st and lasts until November 30th. At the rate we’re going, it doesn’t seem like it will ever rain again.

southeast drought monitor by Eric J. von Hofen
The drought monitor shows just how bad the conditions are around the state.  South Florida Water Management District and local water utilities have implemented water restrictions for all golf courses in our area.  Surface water usage must be reduced by 15% and effluent water usage from utilities must be reduced by 35%.   These cut backs change every month because the permitted usage amount during the summer rainy months reflects the historical rain fall that is supposed to happen.  One problem now, it has not rained in the month of June and usage has been cut big time.

Low lake levels by Eric J. von Hofen
To make things worse, many golf course irrigation lakes are drying up and the water level is below the intakes on the pump stations.  The courses that can still pump water are reporting that the water quality is so bad that they are holding off on using it.  The chlorides are high as the water in a swimming pool and the pH is in the 9’s. At this point there is not much you can do other than watch your course burn up and pray for rain.  Courses are going to cart paths only and moving the aeration practices back because you can’t water enough to keep the place alive.  This is how bad it is down here.

I have been using the Harrells Symphony wetting agent product to pull me through these hard times.  We have been spraying the greens and tees with this product and the results have been outstanding.  Hand watering during the day is broken up into teams for the approaches, tees and greens.  The rough is left to fend for itself.  Plant material is stressed out also and water wagons are being used to keep the non native plants alive during this drought.

Golfers have been understanding so far because their yards are also burning up.  Let’s hope things change soon and we get some nectar from the gods.

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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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Blue Monster Gets Some Of It’s Trees Back

Doral Blue Monster Hurricane Tree Damage and Eric von Hofen

Doral opened in 1961 and has been thru it’s ups and downs ever since. Over the years, Doral has hosted a PGA TOUR event every spring on the world famous Blue Monster. This tournament is played just months before the kick off of the hurricane season. In 2005, while I was the Director of Agronomy, Doral was hit with two massive hurricanes. Katrina hit on August 23, 2005 with winds of 130 mph. The hurricane left Miami and as we all know headed for New Orleans. Doral’s five courses suffered major damage with over 2,000 trees affected. The entire months of September and part of October were dedicated to clean up and opening of the courses. On October 24, 2005 hurricane Wilma paid a visit to the Blue Monster. This time the damage was more extensive because many of the trees that where stood back up blew over again and the tap roots were broken killing many of the trees.
Doral Blue Monster Tree by Eric von Hofen
Over 4,200 trees located around the resort property were damaged from both hurricanes. It will take years for the Blue Monster to grow it’s teeth back. In the fall of 2010, Doral embarked on a massive tree replanting program.
Live oak tree planted at Doral by Eric von Hofen
There were 500 trees planted on the Blue course and smaller landscape beds were added around the tee boxes.
New trees at Doral by Eric von hofenThese new coconuts on the right side of #18 will provide a different look at the green for the players for sure. This new plant material will continue to grow in over the years and restore the look of a true PGA TOUR landmark in Miami. Take a look and this never seen before video of the Blue Monster hours after the course was hit by a hurricane.

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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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