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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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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New TifGrand Bermudagrass Preforming Well and Living Up to it’s Claims.

eric von hofen and tifgrand bermudagrass
In June of 2009, I kicked off a small tee addition project here at the 1926 Donald Ross designed Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables, Florida. We wanted to add some length to a few of the holes and give us more options in setting up the course for play. The entire course was designed on only 105 acres, this includes a clubhouse, tennis courts, parking, and one pond. The course plays tight and now measures just under 6,600 yards with the new tees.

During the project, I knew that we where going to be challenged growing turf on one of the four new tees. The tee surfaces on the entire course were grassed with paspalum in 2003. I was worried about the placement of the new tee on the 5th hole because of shade. As you can see in the picture, this tee is covered with shade from the Live Oak trees for most the day. I contacted Pike Creek Turf to see if TifGrand was available yet and if I could get my hands on some. I was able to get 500 square feet from the test program that Pike Creek Turf was participating in with Dr. Wayne Hanna and Dr. Kris Braman, world renowned turfgrass breeders, from the University of Georgia.

The turf came in sod form and was rooted down in less than 6 days. We mowed the new sod with a walk mower 11 days after we planted it. We have been applying light levels of fertilizer and keep the water controlled. TifGrand has shown me that it can handle the von Hofen test and that it can grow very well in the shade. When I’m asked by other turf managers or developers about the latest and greatest turfgrass, I tell them that what ever the claim is, test it yourself. I also tell people to look at a new bermudagrass in January and check it again in June. It might look great in the summer and look dead in winter. We have to find a balance on what you are looking for. Cost is the next factor. How much will it cost to maintain the new grass and will the membership put up with the maintenance practices that have to be done in order to produce the best playing conditions.

TifGrand growers claim it’s the world’s first seed and pollen sterile(triploid hybrid) Bermudagrass scientifically developed to thrive in 60-70 % continuous shade. It is attractive, dense turf and uses less fertilizer and less water then 419 bermudagrass. I like how it has performed and suggest you consider using it on your next project.

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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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Riviera Puts Ross Back In It’s Bunkers Part 1

Eric von Hofen and Riviera CC #18 green

Riviera Country Club was designed by Donald Ross in 1924 but it was not called Riviera. The course, located in Coral Gables, Florida, was called the Miami Biltmore Golf Course and was part of a 36 hole design with a resort. The North and South Courses were built at the same time. During the great depression and World War II the resort and courses were abandoned. The government took over the resort and turned it into a military hospital. It was run as a hospital until the mid 1980‘s and then sold to the City of Coral Gables. The City renovated the resort and returned it to its intended glory. In 1948, a group of Coral Gables businessmen, led by Mr. McCormick, set out to purchase 17 holes located south of Bird Road from the government. They were successful and Riviera Country Club was born. The gentlemen had the task of building a clubhouse and adding a hole, successfully completing the 18 hole course.

Over the next 62 years the 105 acre course has been tweaked by some of the best Architects in the business. In 1962 Golf Course Architect Dick Wilson was the first to get his hands on the course and his marching orders were to eliminate a few of the bunkers and make the remaining bunkers smaller. Mark Mahannah worked on a few greens and added some bunkers back. David Wallace worked on tees. Lloyd Clifton worked on bunkers and green surrounds. In 1993, Architect Brian Silva, a Donald Ross historian, came into the picture and Riviera has never looked back. Mr. Silva found room to add a driving range and chipping practice area. He also added a pond, which is the only body of water on the property. The installation of the pond never affected any of the original Ross designed holes. In 2003, Mr. Silva restored several putting surfaces and replaced some of the Ross bunkers that were taken out by Mr. Wilson. At that time the course was re-grassed; the greens with TifEagle Bermudagrass, the collars with TifSport Bermudagrass, the tees with paspalum and the fairways with 419 Bermudagrass.

Eric von Hofen and Riviera CC #17 green

With 17 years of wear and tear the bunkers had to be rebuilt. Miami receives over 65 inches of rain each year and that rain creates havoc for the bunker sand. Where Riviera is located, coral rock is the main soil make up, not sand like other areas of Florida. That coral rock works its way to the surface in the bunker and contaminates the sand. There were areas of the bunkers that surface water from the greens and approaches washed into, exposing even more coral rock. The coral rock pieces range in size from as small as a quarter to as large as a baseball.

The following video shows you the layout of the course and the design of the old bunkers before the construction started. In the video I show every hole. I also show you #17 Greenside bunker and the damage that takes place after a 2.75 inch rain. Part 2 in this series will be the details of the construction and design work with Brian Silva.

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