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.

Not Your Normal December

It seems as though most parts of the United States are feeling unseasonably warm weather this winter and East Lake is no exception to that. Currently we are going through a 3-day warm spell that is bringing low temperatures in the high 50's, and daytime high's in the low 70's. Our average high temperature for this time of year in Atlanta, Georgia is 55 degrees.

The unseasonable weather the past few months has presented our Agronomy department with added challenges, from disease management all the way to grain production in greens. Immediately after the TOUR Championship at the end of September we begin preparing our MiniVerde greens for dormancy. The cultural practices of grooming, ultra-grooming, verti-cutting, brushing, and topdressing are greatly reduced. Walking greens mowers are changed to smooth rollers and heights of cut are raised. In preparation for the first frost our goal is to raise canopy height to help protect the crown of the plant as well as increase leaf tissue, giving the plant the opportunity to build and store more carbohydrates for winter dormancy and spring green up. The higher H.O.C. also aides in avoiding excessive greens speeds throughout winter dormancy. With the increase in leaf tissue and reduction in cultural practices comes an increase in grain build up. Typically by this point in the year we have had one, if not multiple, hard frost occurrences on our greens. This weather event leads to a loss of turgidity in the plant leaves and stems, helping to decrease the grain effect on ball roll. Needless to say, we have not had this hard frost occur yet this year and grain build up has begun to significantly impact the surfaces of the greens.

To combat this, our team has taken an approach that is used weekly during our growing season to combat grain. Ultra-grooming. There's a first time for everything, and this year is no exception to that. Each Ultra-grooming blade is spaced 1/4" apart and offset from the previous blade. The process helps pull excessive material from the canopy, cut off runners on the surface "renegades", stand stems upright, and removes fatter leaf blades helping to produce a truer putting surface.

While 70's is warm for December, we know it's not nearly warm enough to sustain growth for substantial recovery of Ultradwarf Bermuda grass. That being said, the purpose and depth of the ultra-groomers was set to help alleviate grain issues without causing unrecoverable damage.

Material removed from one ultra-grooming unit on one green
The greens were backtrack ultra-groomed in the direction of the grain. The first pass was made going downhill with the grain and then again on the same pass going uphill. The day after, the greens were cross cut with a brush attachment on a J.D. SL 180. While green speeds did not greatly increase after performing the practice, the consistency in speeds from uphill to downhill putts and in-grain to with-grain putts greatly increased. We also saw a tremendous change in the balls ability to roll true and not "fall off" due to excessive grain on slopes.
Charles Aubry
Assistant Superintendent
East Lake Golf Club


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