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 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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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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Use Science to See if Your Greens Aerification Program is Working or Not

Eric von Hofen and Soil Profile on Tifeagle green
Dr. George Snyder of the University of Florida has a great system to track and determine if your aerification program is working or not. I have been working with him for a number of years tracking thatch, percolation rates and organic material levels in Tifeagle Bermudagrass greens. We have been pulling soil samples from the same greens and locations for over 6 years. Maintaining Tifeagle greens in South Florida is very difficult because the growing season never stops and it rains 70 inches a year. Greens have to drain and the roots have to get oxygen. My golf course has very poor water quality and every night I water the greens, I know that I’m closing down the percolation rate and growing organic material. This is the main reason why I aerify my greens 4 times a year and verticut them 25 times. I use Dr. Snyder’s tests to see where I stand two times a year. We pull samples in the Spring to see how bad things have gotten during the Winter and then we pull them again in the Fall to see how much we corrected with an aggressive aerification program. The following information explains this testing process in more detail. Please forgive me for taking out some of the tables and charts in efforts to shorten this post.
Eric von Hofen and


On September 28, 2010, greens 11 and 15 were sampled as they have been in the, past. Four 2-inch diameter “undisturbed” cores 0-3” deep were taken from the back to front of each green. In addition, these same greens were sampled to a depth of approximately 8 inches using a 3/4th inch diameter coring device. Eight cores were collected and composited on each green. The verdure/thatch layer, which will be termed “thatch”, was separated from the lower organic matter (OM) stained layer subjectively by cutting with a knife at the depth where resistance to cutting decreased substantially. The thickness of the layers was recorded, and both the thatch layer and the underlying organic matter-stained layer were retained. Organic matter was determined on these layers as weight loss following ignition in a muffle furnace at 550C. Mineral particle sizes were determined on these samples by passing the ignited residue through a nest of sieves using a RoTap shaker. For this analysis, material from greens 11 and 15 was combined to provide a sufficient quantity of sample for the analysis.

Saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat) was measured on the 0-3” cores which contained the grass and thatch, generally following the procedures specified by the United States Golf Association (USGA Green Section Record, March/April 1993). However, it should be noted that the USGA procedures were designed to predict the suitability of root zone mixtures for greens construction, and not for analyzing undisturbed cores from existing greens. For example, the procedure calls for compacting the mixture prior to analysis. For the undisturbed cores, laboratory compaction does not seem appropriate and was not conducted. The USGA procedures do not assume that turf is present, as it was in the 0-3” cores. Seven, 1/4th inch holes were drilled 1-1/8 inch deep in each core and Ksat was again determined to gauge the effect of the thatch layer on Ksat.

Results and Discussion

On the average, the thatch layer averaged 0.9 inches (0.89 inch on green 11, 0.95 on green 15), which is the thickest it has been since September of 2008 (Table 1). The underlying OM-stained layer averaged about 3 inches (3.1 inches on green 11, 3.0 inches on green 15), which continues the steady increase in stain depth that has been occurring for years (Table 1). I feel this might be growing due to a heavy topdressing program that adds a quarter inch to a half inch of new sand every year to the greens.

Although the stain layer is increasing in thickness, the organic matter (OM) content of the OM-stained layer below the verdure and thatch averaged 1.8% by weight (1.8% in green 11, 1.9% in green 15, Fig. 1), which is the lowest it has been in over 4 years (Table 2). Concern has been expressed about OM accumulation in greens in amounts greater than 3% (USGA Green Section Record, Jan-Feb 2004, pgs. 11-15), although this information was primarily developed for bentgrass greens. Regardless, the stain-layer OM content is well below this value.

Organic matter in the thatch/verdure layer (termed “thatch”) averaged 7.5% (Table 2), being 7.5% in both greens. In the past, the OM content of the thatch has been lower in the fall than in the previous spring. This fall, however, it is unchanged from the previous spring sampling, and is greater than in the previous fall samplings (Table 2). While I am not aware of published recommendations for thatch OM, I believe low OM is conducive to water and air permeability in the thatch.

Saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat) averages somewhat greater than it was a year ago, although it is lower in green 11 than in this past April (Table 3). The USGA has recommended Ksat values of 6 to 12 inches per hour for root zone mixes used for greens construction (USGA Green Section Record, March/April 1993), and it is well known that Ksat generally decreases as a green matures (USGA Green Section Record, March/April 2010). However, the values observed on these two greens still are well within the USGA specifications for new greens and are greater than those often observed in mature greens. The variation in Ksat among cores within a green, as illustrated by the coefficient of variation calculation (CV), has been greater in the spring than in the fall (Table 4). This trend continued for green 15. The CV for green 11 was unusually low in the spring, so the CV is higher this fall, but it is only a little higher than in previous fall measurements (Table 4). On both greens, Ksat was lower for sample D, which is the front of the green, but this may just be a coincidence.

Based on the observation that drilling holes through the thatch increased Ksat more in cores that had lower Ksat before drilling than in cores with higher Ksat, and that this relationship was fairly strong (Fig. 2), thatch is having some effect on Ksat. However, the overall Ksat values on the original samples are quite good, and average well within the 6-12 inch range that the USGA has given as a criteria for a root zone mix used in new greens construction. Favorable Ksat is being maintained in these greens regardless of the influence of the thatch.

Based on previous measurements, the mineral particle size ranges are within USGA recommendations for putting green construction in the > 3-inch region of the greens, which is assumed to be the material from which the greens were constructed (Table 5). However, in the thatch there is less coarse+medium sand and more fine sand than is recommend (Table 5). There is a trend for very coarse and coarse sand to increase with depth, and for fine and very fine sand to decrease with depth (Table 5). This is the opposite of what generally is considered to be conducive to air and water penetration and movement in the root zone. If the profile is not entirely consistent throughout, water and air movement is improved by having increasing coarseness in texture towards the surface.

There has been a trend for coarse sand in the thatch to decrease over time, and for fine and very fine sand to increase over time (Table 6). However, these trends appear to have been arrested, or reversed, in the most recent sampling (Table 6).


Even though the depth of the stained layer below the thatch has been increasing, the content of OM in this layer is under 2% (by weight), and has been decreasing for four years.

Thatch thickness is greater than in recent samplings, and the OM content of the thatch is greater than in past fall samplings.

Saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat), a measure of root zone porosity, is in a favorable range

The texture of the root zone is less coarse in an upward direction, but the trend in the thatch has slowed or reversed.

Dr. George H. Snyder and Eric J. von Hofen

Fig. 1. Stain-layer organic matter and saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat) over six years of testing.
  eric von Hofen

For more information or testing with Dr. Snyder please contact him at

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What are you doing with the data from your soil sensors?

What are you doing with the data from your soil sensors? Many golf courses have installed soil sensors in greens, tees, fairways, and landscape beds to help manage water use. This trend was very popular 3 to 5 years ago and has hit a wall with the slow down in the development of new golf courses. The sensors tell you sodium levels, moisture and temperature of the soil where the unit is buried. The units that I purchased update every five minutes with data. Now what do you do with that data? The picture below is a overhead shot of a green complex showing where the unit is buried in the green.
I use this data for a wide range of topics. I monitor the sodium levels daily due to the fact that we are pulling water from four wells that have high level of sodium in the water. Every night we water, we are contaminating the turf with salt. A good Miami down pour is welcome once a month. When this happens, I can see the sodium levels invert showing the top layer(root zone) drop and spike in the lower level of the sensors. This is about 5 inches from the top of the turf.

This picture above shows 20 days of data from both sensors. I use this screen shot to educate my staff and golfers when it comes to the affects of rain and cold weather. Last winter, Miami had four mornings with frost and the greens lost some color but they picked up a ton of speed. We had a low soil temperature of 27.2 degrees for a few hours. Bermudagrass likes a soil temperature at 58 degrees or above. I printed this out and posted it in the locker rooms for everyone to see. Some people understood it and others could care less. They just loved the fast greens and asked why they could not be like this all year.

The biggest reason I use the sensors is to cut back on water use. I now have a way to see what’s happening below the turf. I hold off on watering a day or sometimes two after heavy rains. This saves on water and electricity and helps the course play firm and fast. Turfunderground would like to hear what you are doing with your sensors. Please let us know.

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Turfunderground takes you to see The Wall-Roger Waters

After 30 years for first playing The Wall, Roger Waters brings the show to South Florida. Even if you are not a Pink Floyd fan, you would be after you saw this show. Roger plays the entire album cover to cover. He starts the concert with In the Flesh and a huge fireworks display with a plane that flies over the crowd and crashes into the stage. Check out my video below showing the opening.

During the entire show, Roger’s team builds the 35 foot wall that is completed by the intermission. After that the flying pig comes out over the crowd for two songs. The video clips and light show was a one of a kind. The place went crazy when Another brick in wall was played. The entire building shook. The final cut of the show the Wall comes down. If you have never seen Roger perform you should see this concert. Also you should see Roger hit a golf ball. He is a big time golfer and loves to play in the Hamptons during the summer months.

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Back to the brooms in the bunkers

The rain has stopped in South Florida and so has the use of rakes in the bunkers. The golf season has kicked off and the course conditions have to be perfect. I decided to go back to the brooms for smoothing out the edges instead of rakes. I bought soft brooms and extendable aluminum painting poles from Home Depot for a few bucks and they work great. Employees like them and it makes it easy to change the depths quickly for each bunker face. We rebuilt the bunkers this past summer(which I will be finishing up that video and post soon) and we added fingers and faces back into the design. We took them back to a Donald Ross look. They turned out great and the brooms have taken things up a few levels. Members are enjoying the new look and the golf ball is now releasing off the bunker faces, the way they were designed.

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The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fl

The amazing Biltmore hotel was built in 1925 and includes an 18 hole Donald Ross course. The hotel has withstood the test of time and is a true gem of South Florida. The Hotel is located 6 miles from the airport and 5 miles from downtown Miami. The course has a great layout with plenty of water and tropical landscape. The pool is the largest in the state of Florida and is a sight to see. The Spa has been redesigned and provides a first class experience. This place is prefect for a winter getaway. Check out my video to see just how beautiful it is.

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The Eagles Concert in Miami

Just another night in South Florida. I was at The Eagles concert and I just happened to bump into Mr. Nick Price enjoying the show. He said he loved the Eagles and they were putting on a hell of a performance. Nick knows everything about putting on a show for the PGA TOUR and now the Champions Tour. Nick is was great to see you and I wish you well in the upcoming season.

The concert was great. All the boys were there playing their hearts out. Glenn Fry, Don Henley, Tim Schmit and Joe Walsh who stole the show. Each of them played their hit songs from over the years. The show started at 8:15 pm and ended at 11:42 pm. They took a 20 minute break and that was it. Well worth the money. You name it and they played it.

I ran some video so you could see the Band. Enjoy. These guys are true legends and professionals.

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Early Order Chemical and Fertilizer Programs

Are you taking advantage of the many early order programs offered by almost every company today? If not, you should. Many companies such as Bayer, Syngenta and Dow are all offering some great programs that will help you save your Club some money. All you have to do is get the list of the products on the early order programs from the company’s rep and review what they have to offer. Then you have to see how your yearly programs fit into the system and then pull the trigger. Products such as Syngenta’s Primo can be ordered at todays prices and you can take delivery this Spring or Summer. We use a ton of Primo in the summer in South Florida so our saving can be huge. If you purchase enough products, that are enrolled in the program from one company, many times there is a rebate back to the property for every thing you bought. Time is ticking, many of the programs end in November and December, so get with it.

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