Country Club Capitalization – Are You Doing it Right?

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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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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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