Thankfulness: Perspective on Georgia GCSA and Beyond

A view from the 15th green at East Lake Golf Club, with Atlanta's skyscrapers in the background. 

A few things have happened in my professional life recently which have made me extremely grateful for how things are..... (read on to see what I mean).

This week one of our promising groundsmen is leaving East Lake to again take a position as a car salesmen. As he tells me how much he loves golf and working at East Lake, he also tells me, "They are what everyone says they are!", referring to car salesmen. He recounts stories of questionable workplace ethics as he hangs his head in disappointment. Envisioning myself working in an environment like that makes me nauseous. (I'm sure there are some great car salesmen out there, God bless you and I hope I buy from you.)

In hosting the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents' Annual Meeting earlier this week at East Lake, we experienced a very contrasting industry culture. The reality that we attend these meeting in order to connect, share advice, and offer a helping hand is significant in light of the way things could be. I have "grown up" in this industry attending seminars and meetings, rubbing elbows with Superintendents I look up to, and learning from the best speakers in the country. I have been taught by great men before me how to be a professional in every personification of the word, and for that I am thankful beyond words.

Monday night I was honored by the Georgia GCSA as the Assistant Superintendent of The Year. As I have reflected over the past few days, I am first humbled, but also overwhelmed by the fact that I am a product of the association and the industry that we work in.    

I am thankful that in our industry we support each other. Superintendents mentor young Assistants knowing that one day they will be the next "hot shot" Superintendents. Chemical and equipment companies pour LOTS of money back into educational events rather than flashy advertising. Leaders in our industry agree to devote time to develping a seminar that will teach others how to replicate some of their life's greatest accomplishments.  Across state lines and throughout this country this process is repeated as our industry strengthens itself from within, not waiting for someone from the outside to do it for us.

I am a product of our Industry, and for that I am thankful. 

Jason Tharp
Assistant Superintendent 
East Lake Golf Club

Photos from the 2015 GGCSA Annual Meeting at East Lake Golf Club

Tenia Workman Georgia GCSA Executive Director introducing the next speaker.

The East Lake Food and Beverage team did a phenominal job providing meals.

Catching up with industry friends.

Clear skies, how about that!

John Deere is always a tremendous sponsor of the Georgia GCSA, and this year was no acception.

Greens #1, with #2 in the background.

A special thanks goes to Caroline McGill of East Lake Golf Club for the fantastic photos! Thank you!

A Miraculous Recovery

Well, let's chalk this one up to hard work, good weather, and the resiliency of Tifway 419 Bermudagrass. Many of you have seen the less than stellar conditions that resulted from 3.85" of slow steady rain over the course of the Tour Championship. Since then we have made what is, in my opinion a miraculous recovery. Many areas are still far from perfect, but the amount of recovery that we have made in thirty-three days has far exceeded our expectations.

Our first step was smoothing the surface with one of our Tru-Turf greens rollers. Next, we set out to re-expose the surface tissue by washing the mud off and standing the leaves / stems back up with debris rakes. Additionally we followed with some potassium + nitrogen (10-0-20@ .75lbsK/m). Then nature and the good Lord took over with some warm temperatures for October (highs in the upper 70's) and sunshine.

From left to right: Hector, Kevin, and Banks use debris rakes to stand the surface tissue upright, while Ryan finishes up smoothing the surface with the roller.

Bermudagrass in most situations is a very tough and resistant turfgrass (it's main weaknesses are shade and temperatures below 20 degrees generally speaking). Specifically at East Lake, we have Tifway 419 bermuda in our roughs, and most of our tees, collars, and chipping areas. In this specific situation, our recovery has been reliant on the strength of bermuda's network of stolons and rhizomes. After high traffic with saturated soil, intensive rolling, and aggressive raking, the majority of damage done to the plant was loss of leaf tissue. In our opinion, the very most important recovery factor was the ability to get the surface tissue clean and upright where fresh air and sunshine were once again available.

We are extremely proud of our team's effort to help these areas recover, and very thankful for the recovery we have experienced.

Now, on to the next one. The East Lake Cup pairs the top four NCAA men's and women's teams against each other in match play format. The event will be live on The Golf Channel November 2nd and 3rd from 2:00pm -5:00pm ET.

As always, thank you for reading! We love the conversation of turfgrass and golf course maintenance so please reach out to us on twitter @eastlakegcagro

-Jason Tharp
Assistant Superintendent
East Lake Golf Club


PGA TOUR Championship Volunteer Program

Good morning!

We are now one month after the the 2015 PGA TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola here at East Lake Golf Club and looking back, our volunteer program was the most successful we've ever had! Because of the support of all of our sponsors, we were able to provide a first class experience for our volunteers.

The Volunteer Oasis had a constant supply of TV coverage, food, and Coke beverages for the Agronomy team.

In all we had 92 volunteers come from all across the Eastern United States to make the Tournament a huge agronomic success. As you can see above, our new "Volunteer Oasis" was a great venue for everyone to gather before and between shifts for food, meetings, and good conversation. Every single meal of the week was catered by many of our sponsors. We had everything from eggs, grits, bacon, and biscuits, to BBQ, pizza, brats, and pork chops. Needless to say, everyone was well fed throughout the week.
Our tremendous sponsors provided meals, snacks, jackets, hats, shirts, hotel rooms, and too many other things to count. It is important to note that we only reached out to companies who provide products or services that we use on a daily basis here at East Lake. We are proud to be sponsored by every one of these great companies. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Additionally we wanted to Thank Dr. John Kaminski of Penn State University for brining twenty of his senior turfgrass students, and professors Charles Granger and Ashley Wilkinson for bringing seven of their turfgrass students to Volunteer at the PGA TOUR Championship. We as a management team here at East Lake believe very much in giving back to the next generation of upcoming industry professionals. We put emphasis on spending time with everyone we could, talking turf, industry, and fielding any questions that came about. Thank you so much again for coming, it was a pleasure having all of you, and we hope it was a tremendous experience for you! Hope to see you again next year!
A photo from Saturday night of East Lake staff with Penn State students, Horry Georgetown students, and other volunteers from across Georgia and the East Coast!


Outside of the shop, it was down to business. The course was in great shape coming into the week, and with the help of our volunteer staff, the course was maintained to perfection every morning and night.


PSU senior JP getting after it!

Assistant Charles Aubry with his eyes on the prize...

East Lake crew waiting on golf to clear while sporting hats, shirts, and jackets provided by John Deere and Bayer. Thank you!

Bunker care procedures changed slightly everyday according to environmental conditions. Here Charles gets everyone on the same page.

Crews waiting for fairway mowers and blowers to clear #5 fairway.

East Lake's Jon Garbe and PSU's Dylan getting ready to rock and roll with NBC in the background.
As you can see on the radar behind me, things were about to change....

The entire team showed tremendous effort and resiliency even when the rains came!
Radar, radar, radar.......

If you have not had a chance click over to Turf Republic to check out all of the coverage from throughout the week.

The East Lake Agronomy Team with PGA TOUR Championship and FedEx Cup champion Jordan Spieth. You could not ask for a better champion. Very gracious with and without the cameras, and very appreciative of our team's great effort throughout the championship.

Thanks for reading, and recapping the 2015 PGA TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola with us. We hope that many more qualified golf course maintenance employees and students are able to join us for the 2016 championship! If you are interested, send an email to or and we will get you on the email contact list for next spring.

-Jason Tharp
Assistant Superintendent
East Lake Golf Club


So, you think you want to host a PGA TOUR event? ***Updated***

***Revised: In our last blog post (below), we showed some photos of some of the damage remaining after the tournament was over. One of my goals of that post was to show people that hosting an event, while enjoyable in many ways, sometimes has its challenges. It is amazing how many people seem to think that the day after a Tour event, all the hospitality and TV towers just "disappear" overnight and everything is back to normal. Hospitality takes about three months to build for The TOUR Championship, and approximately five to six weeks to tear down. It is a major production!
However, I did a horrible job of conveying that despite the challenges, the rewards of hosting such an event make the challenges worthwhile. The chance to prepare a golf course for some of the world's best players is a privilege many of us will never experience. Of greater importance are the many charities that PGA Tour events support all over the world. The PGA Tour gives far more money to charity than any other professional sport by a very wide margin. I apologize to the PGA Tour for making it sound like hosting an event is more trouble than it is worth, for nothing could be farther from the truth!

-R. Kepple CGCS***

The 2015 TOUR Championship sponsored by Coca-Cola will be a hard event to forget. From the player comments about the course conditioning (all positive!) to the crowning of a great champion (Jordan Spieth), it was a great tournament. However, the rain that began falling Thursday evening after the first round and continued through Tuesday following the tournament turned this great tournament into an enormous challenge for the Agronomy Team. It was a struggle to keep vendors, television crews, tour volunteers, Shotlink crews, and ecology crews on the concrete paths. The following photos are a small sample of the challenges we face as our growing season starts to end.
Six green/seven tee area
The small green area in the middle of this area between our first green and second tee, is where a sign stating "No Cart Zone" stood.
This used to be our short game practice area. A little mud obviously didn't keep the cart drivers away.
Behind bleachers on left side if first tee
Same area as above, viewed from opposite side.
Between first and ninth fairways
Between first fairway and second green
10 Tee on left, Behind #18 bleachers on right

Right of #10 green
Right of #10 fairway
Between #15 tees and #17 rough

Annual Summer Maintenace Closure: Part 2

Greetings all,

Thursday July the 9th, the golf course here at East Lake Golf Club has reopened for play following our annual summer maintenance closure. It was an extremely productive ten days. As the course heals into tournament ready conditions, we are excited for our members and guests to experience the benefits of all of our hard work. Specifically, players who frequent our facility will notice: greens that are firmer and faster, tee boxes and chipping areas that are tighter and firmer, fairways that display healthier turf growth, and uniform rough growth across all areas of the course.
In Part 2 of our 3 Part series recapping our Annual Summer Maintenance we will discuss the rest of our maintenance practices from the past ten days.

Putting Green Verticutting

Saturday morning we started our verticutting processes on greens, due to multiple bouts with heavy rains we were not able to complete this process until late Monday night. In all the process required 10.5 hours of work from 12 people (126 total man hours). Our regular process was slightly altered due to conditions following aeration, and the depth of the verticutting. First, we had to brush the greens surface in order to smooth clumps of sand left behind the Dryject process. Normally, Dryject is a much cleaner process, but the increased amount of sand on the putting surface following our hollow tine aeration in combination with the constant stream of water used to clean the rollers on the Dryject machine resulted in some minor clumping of sand on the putting surface.
An example of putting surface conditions before (left) Dryjecting, and after (right).

Additionally, a double hollow-tine aeration with 5/8" tines significantly affects the smoothness of the putting surface. Anytime maintenance is performed to the surface of the greens, we want the machine to contour to the surface with extreme accuracy. To accomplish this we brushed (to smooth the sand) then rolled (to smooth the surface) the greens before the verticutting process began. This double rolling accounted for the 6th and 7th roll performed on the greens post aeration.

Next, we began the verticutting process. For this process, Howard and Chris set our verticutting blades at .200" below roller height (or .2" deep into the green). This depth allows us to aggressively remove dead grass deposits which soften the putting surface. Additionally, this process forces the Bermudagrass to grow in an upright, neutral position (reducing the effects of grain) and creates new growing points where stolons were once connected. Everytime we verticut greens we backtrack, two directions, downhill first, meaning we always make our first pass downhill in a specified direction, then the second pass is made on the same line uphill. This is done until the entire green has been completed, then a second predetermined direction is preformed in the same manner until completed. The second direction creates a 45 degree angle from the first direction. We find that this 45 degree angle greatly minimizes the affect on ball roll durring the healing process.
Verticutting putting greens. Downhill first, 2-8, then back-track. (and the storms were rolling in...)
Normally, both directions of the verticutting are completed before the sweep-n-fill brushes remove the organic matter from the green. For this specific application, the depth of the verticutter blades were removing so much organic matter, we felt that the sweep-n-fills needed to be used after the completion of each verticut direction. The amount of organic matter being removed was so great that we had a team member use a back pack blower to remove additional organic matter which spilled out of the side of the sweep-n-fill.
Sweep-n-Fill on putting greens. Uphill only, same direction as verticutters. Look at all of that organic matter being removed!
Once each direction of the verticut and sweep-n-fill were completed, a buffalo blower was used to again remove any remaining organic matter on the surface of the green. Because organic matter is less dense than sand by nature, a blower at an almost horizontal orientation does a great job of picking up and moving the organically while leaving the sand in place.
Putting surface condition post sweep-n-fill, pre-mow.

Lastly, a backtrack mow was performed at regular mowing height. Needless to say, much sand passes through our reels during this mow, and thus we choose to not use buckets to catch what clippings are cut. Following the backtrack mow, the buffalo blower made a pass across the green, again to remove organic matter. You might be picking up on a theme here.......... REMOVE ORGANIC MATTER!!!!!

Bunker Perfection

As compared to our green's processes, bunker perfection is very simple: remove any bermudagrass runners in the sand, fix any bunker liner abrasions, and check to ensure that we have 2" of sand on the face of the bunker and 4" of sand in the bottom. When significant rain is expected soon after this process we will also use a plate tamp to compact the sand on the faces of the bunkers. We have found that if the sand does not have time to settle, we are more prone to bunker washes when it rains.

Rough Aeration

Our rough aeration process was completed similarly to our fairway aeration. We used a John Deere Aerocore2000 mounted with 3/4 side-eject hollow tines. The hole spacing was 3"x3". This year we aerated three passes around the fairways, the walk paths from tee to fairway, and also some of the green's surround rough. Next, we allowed the plugs to dry and reincorporated the soil back into the subsurface.

Reshaping of Lake Banks #10 / Silt Dredging #2

Our lake renovation iniative has been a huge success! From an engineering perspective, the purpose of the lake in front of #2 green is to contain any silt deposits that come on to our property through the stream which feeds it. It has certain been effective! Previous to the dredging, the center of the lake was only inches deep, now it is twelve feet deep! In all, nearly 5000 cubic yards of material were removed. In addition to the dredging, we took this opportunity to reshape the banks surrounding the #2 lake. It now has a very aesthetically pleasing look, which will also be easier to maintain.
Number two shaped and ready for sod.
Number two Completed!
The lake banks on #10 had slowly eroded through the years due to animal inhabitants, and normal weathering. Parts of the bank had become very difficult to maintain, and were not aesthetically up to par. Medalist's expert shaper made quick work of molding the new contours of the lake bank. Historically, #10 and #18 get a tremendous amount of foot traffic during The Tour Championship, this year we are excited to present this upgrade to all of our patrons.
Number ten tee here, with an example of some of the previous conditions on the left, scraping and shaping on the right.

Number ten completed! Looks great!