New Equipment Manager: Wesley Holsenbeck

We have welcomed another new face to our team! Wesley Holsenbeck was hired on as our Equipment Manager and started with our department on October 3rd, 2016. Wesley has already shown tremendous value and talent, and has continued to help improve our Equipment operation. Please read his brief biography:

Wesley Holsenbeck is a dedicated Equipment Manager. He began his love for golf in 1991 at TPC Sawgrass in Jacksonville, Florida where he was born and raised. He studied in Gainesville, Florida and moved on to broaden his horizons in the Carolinas. After many years turning his craft, he moved back to Florida briefly to resort golf equipment management. Wesley now resides in Atlanta, Georgia where he is enjoying being an integral part of his operation in the Atlanta golf scene at East Lake Golf Club.

The rough is, well, rough. Here's why.

We know the rough is very difficult to play from right now, and we have tried to work the height of cut down as quickly as possible to alleviate that. However, since temperatures were in the 90’s during the TOUR Championship, the rough grew throughout the tournament, and by week’s end we had rough over 4” tall. After discussion with the UGA Turf Team, we brought the height of cut down in ¼” stages, and are now at 2 ¼”. We will stay at 2 ¼” until we are dormant. I will explain this decision below.
Plants, including grass, collect sunlight through their leaves, and then through photosynthesis and other processes, that sunlight is converted into carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are the energy plants use to grow and survive. They are stored in the plant roots. As we enter the autumn season, day length becomes shorter and shorter and light intensity decreases as the sun angle drops lower in the sky. With warm season turfgrasses such as bermudagrass and zoysiagrass, we try to create as much opportunity as we can to collect sunlight during the autumn months so the plant can store as many carbohydrates in the roots as possible before dormancy occurs. Those carbohydrates will be used in the spring when the plant begins to break dormancy. If the plant does not have enough carbohydrate reserves to allow the plant to begin growing in the spring, the plant dies. This is one of the common causes of "winterkill" in warm season turf. This situation is made more dangerous if we have a few "false starts" of dormancy break in the spring - when we get a warm spell that begins the process of breaking dormancy and then we get another frost that re-starts dormancy. If this occurs without enough carbohydrate reserves to break dormancy more than once, much of the turf will not be able to break dormancy.
Our limiting issue with the rough right now is we have now removed 1 ¾” of leaf material from the bermudagrass at a time when all scientific research tells us we should be promoting as much leaf surface as possible. The amount of leaf material removed can best be seen by the loss of green color in the rough. If we don’t have leaves, the plant cannot gather sunlight and cannot produce carbohydrates reserves. To make this scenario worse, every time we mow – and especially when we scalp as we have done for three weeks – the plant uses carbohydrates to try to recover from the wounds created by mowing. It is a very bad cycle for us as we approach this winter. Hopefully, with the warmer than normal temperatures we are getting this fall, and especially this week, we will push out some new leaves and gather some extra sunlight. However, I feel we have pushed our mowing as far as we dare and I cannot in good conscious remove any more leaf material from our rough. Once we have had a few frosts – hopefully after the East Lake Cup finishes on November 2 – the bermudagrass will lose its vigor and will become less difficult to play from. Unfortunately for our members and guests, this is the scenario we have with two televised fall tournaments. At least we don’t grow the rough to 3 ½” before the TOUR Championship anymore!

Ralph Kepple, CGCS
East Lake Golf Club

Making the Difference

The year of 2016 certainly threw its fair share of curveballs at our Agronomy Staff. As we kicked off the New Year our team waited in limbo on the green light to begin an encompassing renovation to the back nine of the course. As we waited Mother Nature greeted our staff with record rainfall in February, forcing progress on our drainage projects to advance at snail’s pace. Finally the light turned green on the renovation and we started…….3 days later. As renovations came to a close in May, Mother Nature was kind enough to greet us again with nearly 1.5 acres of Meyer Zoysia fairways that failed to transition out of winter. Sod projects ensued just in time to get us to the next cross road of 2016 - exceptional drought levels.

We spent the remainder of the summer continuing to grow and challenge ourselves to elevate course conditions year over year. This year we incorporated monthly verti-cutting and topdressing on our fairways, included an additional dryject process on greens (on Memorial Day), and started a HOC adjustment on a nearly biweekly rotation in our roughs.

There are many other things I could continue to banter about; however the reasoning for this post is simple. We try to hold ourselves as a department in a humble, genuine manner. No matter how good the course conditions we create are, we always know there is room for improvement and strive to get there. This year we were able to create the best playing conditions on record for the TOUR Championship. As we reflected upon our hard work we had to ask ourselves, what made the difference? Simply put, and as we all often know, it was the team we had developed within our department.

I would like to briefly point out the changes and impacts each of these individuals had on our success.

First, we terminated our intern program and developed it into a full time Assistant in Training Program. The selected candidates were Davis Watts, Auburn University, and Codie LaPlante, University of Massachusetts.

Davis was responsible for Irrigation Management throughout the summer. I have yet to meet an individual as young as Davis who has the extensive knowledge and capabilities to manage moisture as Davis does. We struggle annually to achieve adequate moisture and coverage in our fairway drain lines. Davis expertly managed the moisture levels on the course in a drought stricken year using sustainable watering practices (a moisture meter and a hose), and did an outstanding job.

Codie was responsible for the majority of the plant protecting applications throughout the golf course, but primarily for making all of the greens applications. Codie grew tremendously over the course of the summer and developed his ability to make accurate and wise decisions when applying products throughout the course.

We incorporated a new Second Assistant Superintendent into the team. This was Dustin Bucher. Dustin came to us from the University of Georgia Golf Course and had past tournament preparation experience preparing for the back-to-back U.S.
G.A. Men's and Women's Open Championships at Pinehurst.

Dustin’s primary responsibility was managing the P.M. staff which was made up of 8 people, primarily college students. Dustin’s primary projects were to complete dry cuts, greens verti-cutting, fairway verti-cutting and topdressing, as well as and trim and detail work in the PM behind our last tee times. Dustin managed the PM Crew extremely well and carried out all of his projects with the highest quality. Dustin’s ability to manage these projects in the late afternoon allowed for other members of the staff and management team to rest knowing the course was in qualified hands.

We redeveloped our Horticulture team and brought in a Golf Course Landscapes Manager/Arborist, and hired on a Property Entrance and Perimeters Agronomist. This allowed us to spread out the workload amongst 3 qualified individuals to carry out the expectations associated with our club's landscapes.

Preston Watts was hired on as our Golf Course Landscapes Manager/Arborist. Preston spent copious amounts of hours renovating our golf course landscape beds and performing surgery on trees throughout the course. His efforts created a playing canopy which allowed players to advance their ball, while still penalized by a poor shot. His efforts have greatly increased the aesthetics of the property and his attention to detail shined through during the TOUR Championship.

As we continue to grow and develop I cannot go without recognizing the already outstanding staff that makes up our team. It is through their countless hours and guidance that the new members of our team our able to integrate into our department with such success. Our average tenured employee in our Agronomy department is 6.5 years and that is something we are very proud of. So, thank you again to a great staff for all of their extensive efforts throughout a challenging summer to create the golf course that they did. We could not be more proud of them!

 Front Row L to R: Codie LaPlante, Danny Ayala, Enrique Cruz, Adrian Moreno, Greta Hill

Second Row L to R: Preston Watts, Hector Arborleda, Jaime Marcia, DeShontey Berry, Tour Championship and FedEx Cup Champion Rory McIlroy, Charles Aubry, Davis Watts, Dustin Bucher, Saul Lopez-Herrera

Third Row L to R: Zaire Lemond, Colin Spellman, John Julian, Ralph Kepple, Jason Tharp, John Banks Woodrick

Not Shown: Mandy Rowell, Chris Lewis, Howard Horne, Kevin Vassar, Hector Lopez, Chris Smith

Charles Aubry
Assistant Golf Course Superintendent

Why are we scalping rough instead of cutting higher?

If  you have recently played at East Lake you may have noticed scalped areas in the rough. This was not a mistake, but a new plan given to us by Bland Cooper, our PGA Tour Agronomist this year. In recent years we have waited until about two weeks prior to The Tour Championship to raise our rough to its final height-of-cut (HOC). What has resulted is inconsistent lies - some balls settled down and some stayed up in the canopy. Bland has told us this is a result of a "false crown" that developes in bermudagrass rough when you bring the HOC up in stages. His solution has been to raise the HOC for 3-4 mowings, then lower the HOC from 1/4-1/2" in order to remove the false crown. What you see in the photos is the result of lowering the HOC from 2 1/4" to 2". To reduce the amount of debris created by this process, for this mowing we only mowed out to our normal spectator rope lines since spectator traffic squashes the rough outside the ropes. We will now bring the HOC back to 2 1/4" until two weeks before the tournament. The expected result is no false crown and tender new tissue that will allow the ball to nestle down consistently.

Our driest stretch since 2012

Showers and storms throughout the metro Atlanta area have been very spotty since the first part of March, and it seems we have been missing the showers much more than receiving them.  Of course, there are advantages to that:  We have not had to push up bunkers in a very long time (after a fall and winter stretch where it seemed that was a daily occurrence), construction projects were able to progress in a timely manner, we have been able to control moisture on greens and tees to a large degree and so on.  With the construction projects we completed from February into mid-May, however, we had several acres of sod installed that required lots of water.  As a result, our lake level is down to a level even lower than it was in 2012 when Bill Haas hit his miraculous shot from the edge of the water onto the 17th green during a playoff to win the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola and the FedEx Cup.  Below is a screen shot taken as Bill was about to play his now-famous shot, and below that is a photo of the pond level as it stood this morning.  If you compare the drain pipe sticking out into the water, you can see that water level is even lower now than it was in 2012.  (You can also see a lot of golf balls!!) Yep, we could use a bit of rain!

2016 PGA TOUR Championship Volunteer Program Launched

Annually the top 30 players in FedEx Cup points from the PGA TOUR collide at East Lake Golf Club to compete for in the season ending TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola and the $10 million FedEx Cup prize. At the heart of our agronomic success are the volunteers that helps us produce world-class tournament conditions. Today we are excited to launch our 2016 TOUR Championship Volunteer Program.
Today (March 2nd) we began accepting volunteer submissions for the 2016 TOUR Championship (September 19th-25th). If you are interested in volunteering please read the volunteer letter below and follow THIS LINK to the Application Form.

In addition to many industry professionals, we have been pleased to partner with multiple university turfgrass programs to provide students with a hands-on introduction to tournament golf. Last year we hosted student volunteers from Penn State, Horrey Georgetown, and the University of Tennessee.
Image result for penn state turfgrass logoImage result for horry georgetown logo Image result for university of tennessee turfgrass logo
Annually, through the support of industry partners such as John Deere, Bayer, Syngenta, Harrell's, (and many more) we are able to provide a first-class experience for our volunteers. In 2015 we had our first "Volunteer Oasis" complete with a large gathering area for meals and pre-shift meetings, and a lounge area complete with A/C, six leather couches, and two flatscreen TV's for off time between shifts. We are definitely looking forward to having these ammenities again this year, and would like to thank all of our industry partners who have made this tournament a huge agronomic success year after year.

Welcoming volunteers onto our team for that week is one of our favorite parts of hosting this major tournament. Volunteers new and old become more like family by the end of the week as we work through all of the challenges thrown at us throughout the tournament. At East Lake we are all about staying on the cutting-edge of Agronomic practices, and part of that pursuit is the sharing of ideas amongst industry professionals. We enjoy fielding questions about our agronomic practices and getting feedback from others on how they've been successful.

Volunteer positions are available to all golf maintenance industry professionals. We have a limited supply of hotel accommodations available for out of town volunteers. These accommodations are likely to be filled by early May. If you are interested in volunteering, the letter below contains much more specific information. Please read through it and follow the link to the signup form to complete your submission. Click here for our volunteer application submission form
If you have any questions or inquries concerning volunteering, please don't hesitate to let us know. We would be happy to help.
(And don't miss the 2015 photo gallery below the letter!)

Jason Tharp
Assistant Golf Course Superintendent
East Lake Golf Club

Dear Golf Course Volunteer,

We would like to thank you for your interest in working as an Agronomy volunteer for the 2016 TOUR Championship Presented by Coca-Cola. Without your help, we would not be able to provide tournament golf course conditions and accomplish our goal of another successful tournament.

We strive to make everything run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.  Please take a few minutes to review all of the attached information carefully to determine if you can commit to all requirements.  It is also important to please check your schedule before responding.  Volunteers will be required to work the same shift(s), a minimum of two days.    This year’s TOUR Championship dates are Monday, September 19th to Sunday, September 25th.   Mechanic volunteers are needed a week or two before the tournament.

Positions are open for consideration to both new and prior volunteers and will be filled based on golf course skills, schedule availability and previous year’s performance.  To be considered for a volunteer position, anyone interested must fill out the attached Volunteer Information Link completely and return it to me no later than July 15, 2015. This year we are using an electronic volunteer form. Within this email, there is a link for you to click on. Once you click on it, fill out the form and then click the submit button.  This form is required every year for each volunteer and it will help us place you in a position best suited to your skills.  

One of the perks of volunteering for this event is a free volunteer play day and BBQ lunch here at historic East Lake Golf Club.  Caddies are available with notice at a discounted rate of $100 for 2 bags.  Note that volunteers must be paired so that each caddie will carry two bags. The 2016 TOUR Championship Volunteer Play Day will be on March 20th, 2017. In addition to the play day, you will be given the opportunity to purchase advance discount PGA tickets for any friends or family that would like to attend.


Mandy Rowell
Administrative Assistant/Volunteer Coordinator
(404) 687-2454

Ralph Kepple, CGCS Jason Tharp, AGCS Charles Aubry, AGCS
2640 Glenwood Ave. S.E. 2640 Glenwood Ave SE 2640 Glenwood Ave SE
Atlanta, GA 30317 Atlanta, GA 30017 Atlanta, GA 30317
(404) 687-2449            (404) 687-2454 ext. 370 (404) 687-2454 ext. 371

Due to safety and security reasons, we have a few rules we must enforce.  If you are caught breaking any of the following rules, you will be asked to leave and not allowed to return for any future events including the play day.

  1. There will be no drinking alcohol before or during any scheduled shift.  
  2. Guests are not permitted.  If someone is not on the list of volunteers, they will not be permitted through the Agronomy gate.  Guests must enter through the main gate with a ticket.  Advance discount tickets will be available for purchase.
  3. All cell phones must be on “silent” and allowed in designated areas only.  
  4. Back packs are not allowed; please leave them at home or in your car.
  5. We strive to look as professional as possible and we require everyone to follow the same dress code.  Please see Dress Code below for more information.
  6. Cameras will not be allowed Thursday through Sunday.
  7. We are only supplied enough badges for 1 day’s worth of volunteers.  You will be required to return your badge to the volunteer check in/out EVERYDAY.  
  8. You are required to check out and return any assigned or borrowed equipment before leaving the property every day.
  9. Meetings before every shift is mandatory and it’s your responsibility to know when you are expected to be present.  Please allow extra time for check in.
  10. This year’s shifts are scheduled to start with a 6:00 am meeting.  Breakfast is scheduled to begin between 5:15 and 5:30 am.  Afternoon shift will begin with a 3:00 meeting.  Dinner will be served BEFORE the meeting, starting at 2:00 pm. We will have snacks available between the end of the morning shift and dinner.
  11. Saturday’s volunteer schedule may be altered due to NBC’s air time commitments.
  12. Every car will be required to have a parking tag.  You may request one at check in and you are required to have it hanging from your mirror to avoid being towed.

We will have a limited amount of rooms at the Downtown Decatur Courtyard Marriott this year. We will accommodate as many people as possible. We will put 2 people to a room.

Hotel Room will depend on:
  • Distance away from East Lake Golf Club (at least 2 hours)
  • How many shifts you are working
  • How many years you have volunteered at East Lake


We supply:
  • Dry Fit Golf Shirt. 1 Shirt for 3 or less days worked and 2 for 4 or more days worked. All shirts must be tucked into your pants.
  • Ear protection if necessary
  • Ball cap style hat

Volunteers should supply:
  • Pants or Shorts: Khaki (Cargo style not permitted)
  • Shoes: Flat bottom soled shoes (no healed), tennis shoes are acceptable.
  • Rain Gear


Working in the Golf Course Equipment shop during The Tour Championship involves redundant mower maintenance and checks, staging of equipment for morning and afternoon mowing operations and reaction with resolution to a variety of urgent mechanical needs. You will also observe the crew and volunteer staff to ensure no mistakes are made in haste, and monitor mowing operations to ensure safe and proper operation. The ability to maintain composure and a helpful, friendly, “can do” attitude while remaining flexible is the most important virtue needed for this volunteer staff opportunity. While many volunteer staff are needed to complete course preparation for tournament play each day, preparation and maintenance of the course is also very hectic in the time leading up to the actual tournament. During this time the equipment usage escalates. Nearly every machine is running daily and the need for maintenance is highest at that time. For this reason any assistance volunteered those two weeks prior to tournament week are appreciated by the equipment repair staff.


Office volunteers will be required to work at least three shifts this year, as we have expanded the number of volunteers this year.

Since you will be assisting with volunteer check-in and check-out, you will be required to arrive 30 minutes prior to each scheduled shift.  This position works hand in hand with the Assistants and is vital to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

While working in the office during The Tour Championship it is imperative to be detail oriented.  Duties involve checking in and out of the volunteers which can be very hectic at times.  You will be responsible for keeping track of each person and everything that is assigned to them, such as uniform items, equipment keys, radio’s with headsets, badges, parking passes and flashlights.  

We will also need your help stocking food and drinks in the Volunteer Oasis.  In addition you may be asked to briefly relieve the Gate Security Guard for various reason as well as coordinate between the Gate Security Guard and the Food and Beverage Manager with any deliveries that arrive through our gate.

Going onto the golf course to view golf will only be allowed between shifts, during down time, as with all other volunteers.