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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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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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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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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The El Camaleon Golf Club at Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Mexico

Eric von Hofen
Eric on a site visit with his brother, Superintendent Kurt von Hofen at his Greg Norman designed El Camaleon Golf Club at Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

This one of a kind course will host the PGA TOUR’S Mayakoba Golf Classic, the only PGA TOUR event outside of the United States, February 23-27, 2011. Make your travel plans now so you can get out of the cold weather and enjoy the Cancun area this winter.

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El Camaleon Golf Club at Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Mexico

Eric on a site visit with his brother, Superintendent Kurt von Hofen at his Greg Norman designed El Camaleon Golf Club at Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

This one of a kind course will host the PGA TOUR’S Mayakoba Golf Classic, the only PGA TOUR event outside of the United States, February 23-27, 2011. Make your travel plans now so you can get out of the cold weather and enjoy the Cancun area.

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