Golf With A Purpose - not just a motto

The East Lake Golf Club's motto since 1996 has been "Golf With a Purpose".  The club has been an economic engine for a neighborhood restoration that very few people ever would have believed could work.  For a terrific story written for Golf Digest, please click on the attached link:  At East Lake, a community built with golf's help sees a dream realized - Golf Digest

If you read the attached article,  you will have read that the Drew Charter School just graduated its first Senior Class.  This class was the first  to go from Kindergarten to 12th grade in the neighborhood school that was part of this remarkable project.  Eighty-two seniors graduated and every single one has been accepted to various colleges!

Because this was the first graduating class at our local school, and employees of our department have to be at least eighteen years old, this has never been a source of labor for the East Lake Agronomy team.  Fortunately for us, this has changed.  We recently reached out to the College Counselor at Drew about several seasonal positions we have unsuccessfully tried to fill.  Within a day we received calls from several interested candidates.  As these candidates were interviewed, it became readily apparent how well the Drew Charter School and the East Lake Foundation's work has prepared these young adults to succeed.  The candidates were on time, articulate, very involved in activities in and outside of school, and were outstanding students.  Each individual interviewed said that being able to contribute to the success of our department would be a gratifying endeavor as they help support their surrounding community.  Both Senior Assistant Charles Aubry and First Assistant Dustin Bucher, who interviewed these outstanding individuals, said the experience left them "invigorated and prideful that our careers are helping to support a model that is truly working!"  These young adults have been raised in an environment that has taught them how to make responsible decisions using the resources provided to them, and the coolest part is they are excited to begin the next phase of their life by striving to give back to that very environment that has nurtured them. 

Indeed, "Golf With a Purpose" is alive and well at East Lake, and we are all better men and women because of it!

Getting Tournament Ready: Volunteers Make the Difference!

The Agronomy team has recently launched our volunteer sign up for the 2017 TOUR Championship and we are already seeing great participation numbers! We cannot thank our volunteers enough for their support in helping us to achieve our goals; they truly are what makes the difference!  Every year we make a continued effort to improve the volunteer program to ensure that ALL of our volunteers are satisfied and feel as though their time was well spent. Our goal for this and future years is to develop a “Once in a Lifetime” experience for our volunteers. Our Agronomy Team is putting our heads together to come up with new ideas and features during the 2017 TOUR Championship “Volunteer Oasis” to ensure this goal is met. Take a look into what this program has offered in the past, and look forward to what is coming this year!

If you are interested in participating in the 2017 TOUR Championship Agronomy Volunteer Program, you may sign up here:

TOUR Championship Volunteer Video from Turf Republic TURFTUBE™ on Vimeo.

To gain a better understanding of how our property has changed over time, please take a moment to view our architect Rees Jones giving a tutorial on the history of the East Lake property. Many changes were made on the back nine in 2016 to create a more volatile ending to the TOUR Championship. A 4-hole playoff with Rory McIlroy draining a birdie on #16 to clinch the TOUR Championship and Fedex Cup certainly validated all the hard work put in by our Agronomy staff and volunteers last year.

Rees Jones shares his vision on the East Lake Golf Club layout from Turf Republic TURFTUBE™ on Vimeo.

It cannot be overstated the importance that our volunteers have on creating the agronomic success of the TOUR Championship. We are making an extended effort to ensure that we will meet our volunteer’s needs and desire’s this year by asking direct questions in our Volunteer Sign Up, focusing on what our volunteers wish to gain from their experience at East Lake. We’ve had tremendous support in years past and we are VERY excited about what is in store for the future. Thank you SO much to all that have signed up already for the 2017 TOUR Championship! We’ll see you in September!

2016 TOUR Champ Highlights from Turf Republic TURFTUBE™ on Vimeo.


Charles Aubry
Senior Assistant Golf Course Superintendent

To cover greens or not to cover greens, that is the question...

 After what can only be described as a very mild winter, with some extremely warm January and February days, we received a short blast of cold air that dipped our temperatures down to 26 and 24 degrees this past Wednesday and Thursday mornings.  The dilemma that ultradwarf bermudagrass greens growers faced was whether to cover the greens - and probably burning some overtime hours doing so - or not cover.  As we approached the first cold evening, our soil temperatures were in the mid-50's, and had been in the lower 60's the week prior.  Additionally, we were expecting only three cold days and two cold evenings, followed by projected highs of mid 50's, then mid 60's for two days, then 70's for a few more.  There was a lot of email chatter going on among Atlanta superintendents as this weather approached.

Here at East Lake, we may be a few degrees warmer than many of the clubs in the metro Atlanta, as we are an in-town course.  We have been growing roots since mid-January, spoon feeding the greens with small amounts of potassium nitrate, micronutrients and Harrells BioMax 4-0-0 to promote continued production of carbohydrates.  Because we felt so good about the health of our greens and their ability to quickly recover from the cold temperatures, we decided to not cover.  If we had just gone through a long, cold winter, had just started to break dormancy and had soil temperatures in the low 40's as this weather approached, we would have covered.  As it turned out, everything looks fine, with only a slight loss of color on our greens.  Fortunately the Meyer zoysiagrass fairways, despite getting some frost Thursday morning, also appear to have made it through the cold without losing color.  We even were able to accommodate 20 guest rounds on Wednesday (with a high of 43 and wind chills in the low to mid-30's!) that we would not have allowed if we covered, so our decision was a win-win for the club.  By looking at the "big picture" of our turf's health, our soil and atmospheric conditions in our location and the projected length of the cold and quick return of warm temperatures the East Lake Agronomy team felt very comfortable with the decision.
 Above is a photo of our practice green with the 8th and 6th fairways in the background.
This is a photo of our 18th green with a TifGrand approach and Meyer zoysiagrass fairway showing good color one day after the two cold nights and cold days. 

The "Happy" Committee

The New Year is off and running and I think we can all agree that the Groundhog was not on his game for this year’s forecast.  February is coming to a close and temperatures have been more like mid-spring than late winter. As a result, the turf is starting to green up earlier than expected this year and the Agronomy department is excited and ready. I am especially pumped this year at East Lake because I am fairly new to the club and look forward to the months ahead leading to September and making a positive difference with our team.

East Lake has always strived to be a leader in the industry and we realize we are nothing without a great team. Appropriately, leaders in our Agronomy department have developed a program we affectionately call “Happy Committee”. I have been given the honor of leading this program with the help of Mandy Rowell and Lola Harper from our staff. The main goal is to keep our employees happy by doing small things to let them know that they are appreciated for all the hard work they do on a daily basis.

One of the things we came up with was to reward employees for positive performance. When an employee goes above and beyond on a given task, he/she receives their choice of either a Tour Championship or East Lake Cup flag. We have given out several already this year and the crew really seems to appreciate it and take pride in the flags. I hope in the future to get some signed by some of the Tour professionals/ East Lake Cup participants to be highly sought-after prizes.

I have purchased a dartboard for everyone to use on breaks that is mounted in my shop so guys can listen to music and hopefully build bonds.  We have done surprise breakfast biscuits for the crew. We have also implemented monthly birthday cakes to celebrate the employee birthdays for that month, as well as farewell cookies and cakes for years of appreciated service. We will be doing quarterly cookouts on property with our first being March 31st. Our gracious General Manager/COO and Director of Golf, Chad Parker,  has been kind enough to volunteer to cook for the crew as well for the first annual cookout. We plan on adding a horseshoe pit on site for everyone, as well as corn hole and ladder golf. There are many other ideas we are working on to include and I’m excited to be a part of this great department and club I now call home.

I hope in return the Happy Committee will create stronger bonds within our team and allow us to grow with each other to strive “as a team” to be the best Agronomy team in our industry.

Wesley Holsenbeck

Equipment Manager

East Lake Golf Club

Does Green Sand Inhibit Root Growth?????

First off, wow! Quite the response from the Twitterverse on this subject. I was not expecting such an engaged conversation to commence over the blog, but the constructive dialog is certainly welcome, and after all, is why a lot of us use the outlet.

I'll be as transparent as possible when presenting our situation to the audience, and try to cover all questions that came up.

A) The layer that was created and has caused the root inhibition at a depth of 1.75" in our profile was a 65 sieved sand. The sand was painted green and then kiln dried.

We absolutely believe that the physical properties that correlated with the sand could, and probably are, contributing to the root growth inhibition. Another observation of this sand, but only when painted green, was when it was wetted it became an almost paste-like substance. Without the paint, the sand did not do this. This "pastiness" was part of the reason we moved away from the sand which was supported by university researchers. We're not big fans of trying to grow roots in paste.

Again in regards to the particle size alone, we do know of other situations where that same material (sometimes green, sometimes white) was used for routine topdressing from grow in, and from those individuals standpoints, was a contributor in creating a poorer quality plant.

B) We fully support the comment made that there could be many different factors leading to the root inhibition. Topdressing rate, paint/pigment, particle analysis, kiln dried, all could be playing factors.

We understand that paints and pigments may act differently based on numerous things. Does a pigment coat, and bind to the sand particle in the same manner as paint? I have purchased green sand that was dyed with a paint, but not kiln dried. After a few irrigation cycles and a good rainfall, all of the green had been washed off the sand. It's my understanding the kiln drying of the material helps to solidify binding of the paint to the sand particle. Again, it makes sense that those paint molecules are blocking CEC exchange sites, but so far there is no research we know of to support that. If you choose for this to be your thought process, regardless of particle size, there would be some negative effects from the paint.

If you sprayed pigments over sand, would the pigments wash away after rainfall or irrigation? Again, I am not sure, I have not tested this. And if a paint or pigment is washing off, would your plant potentially be taking it up in the rhizosphere? And would that “washing” alleviate any potential CEC deficiencies on the sand particle? Again, I do not know, but it is definitely something to take into consideration.

And yes, "a visible layer does not necessarily mean a physical layer". Sure, if the green sand was a 45 sieved sand it would obtain the same physical properties of the white 45 sieved sand we use now and potentially may have not caused any issues. So yes, there is a chance that the same situation could have arisen if white 65 sieved sand was used in the same quantity over that same period of time. What we do know is that our ISTRIC tests show that the green 65 layer has not effectively inhibited our infiltration rates in that 2" lift of profile. So if water is infiltrating the layer adequately, what is causing the roots to stop growth at this interface?

There is not much research I know of to support the negative effects of kiln dried sand, but the principals behind it may be contributing negatively. We all know glass is made from sand. I have heard wetting agent product developers say that kiln drying sand is essentially an initial step in creating glass. Basically, heating the sand to those temperatures causes that sand to become more of a glass like substance (however small in quantity), and develop more hydrophobic qualities. Obviously this could be an issue with root growth and penetration.

We could create an entirely new blog and conversation on the negative health effects of kiln dried sand or the positive topdressing qualities it presents, but for now we won’t go there. I digress.

So, is it the paint or the physical properties? In this situation, we cannot positively say. And we are not blaming one or the other. We simply know what the physical characteristics of the sand were, that it was painted, kiln dried, and that it created a negative layer in our profile that inhibited root growth. To alleviate any doubt we went away from both of the characteristics to improve the plant health and have seen a much more positive response in the plant. Also, going back to the original post, when the layer was removed, roots thrived. Using dyed green 45 sieved sand may not cause any issues, but we would rather not chance it.

While we are still awaiting more research to come about dyed sands, there is some limited research on the effects of directly applying paints and pigments to greens. GCSAA published this research 15 months ago. Hopefully this may help you formulate some more of your own ideas and opinions on whether or not dyed green sand is a suitable choice as your topdressing material.


Charles Aubry
Assistant Golf Course Superintendent