Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My grandfather introduced me to the game of golf and so much more.

I can remember my first round of golf ever. It was at a little nearby pitch-n-putt course. It was with my grandpa, Jim, who is furthest to the right above. He and my father introduced me to the game. I am very fortunate that we got to play so many times together over a 30 year period. And so very sad to have lost him Tuesday. He was 86.

He was an Air Force pilot, he ran his own business, he gave me my first stock, and he taught me how to play the game. He had an incredible feel. I can vividly remember him holding my young hands and working on my grip while we would chip heaps of balls to the laundry pole in his back yard.

One day when I was in my 20's, we were playing at his home course, Sunset. The greens there were so fast that he used to say, "On in two, off in three." He watched me putt off a few greens in our times there. We were both on the first green in two, and grandpa was warning me about the putt. The pin was in the back up against the steepest part of the green - actually a nearly impossible place for the flag. He encouraged me keep it below the hole. I was still young, and I sent my ball heading past the cup, but at just a right speed so that it passed by the hole up the slope and rolled back down into the middle of the cup. Birdie! He looked at me half with a wink, half with a wily grin. I think we started playing competitively at that moment. Our games were at a similar level for many years. There was an extended period where for several matches in a row, not only did we tie, but also at the same score.

We last played together a couple years ago. It felt like it was going to be our final round. I soaked in every minute and reveled in seeing him play - he still had a great touch. I was chuffed to hear that later he and my aunt started playing at that very same pitch-n-putt course.

I moved to Texas in 2000 - much less golf together, but more phone calls. Every phone call I would tell grandpa I loved him. He knew what to do if his B-29 was falling out of the sky; it did once. He wasn't used to having someone tell him he loved him over the phone. So after several years of getting used to saying he loved me too, one day he beat me to the punch. His exact words were, "I love you. Ha, I said it first!"

The love was always there, it was just a little easier for him when he made it playful. Just like when we played golf together. There wasn't a moment on, or off, the course that we didn't know that we loved each other.

I love you grandpa.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Wolf Point is a jewel"

Pictured above is our 7th green taken just a few days ago.  2010 has been a challenging year for the blog as well as business.   I've been working on leads from around the world, and that has slowed down my ability to post and limited what I can comfortably post. In January I will share some near misses, projects in the works and hopefully tales of one course ready for some improvements.

It is still the rare bird that gets to see Wolf Point... and this is what the last visitor/potential client had to say:

"I love your design work. The course is a jewel."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Golf course native areas naturally

Scott J Morrison from Turfhugger recently found something interesting on my website and asked me a few questions about what we did at Wolf Point. The following is from the Turfhugger blog:

"We let the native areas come back naturally without irrigation. Typically irrigation is installed to establish the perimeter and then abandoned after grow-in. Using the irrigated method causes the grow-in to be thicker than the native environment and is a continual maintenance battle to thin out."

This statement demonstrated 3 things to me...

First, the natural areas in reference were not an afterthought or "filler", nor are they a fancy "look how green we are, our natural areas grow quicker than our turf" statement. I've seen that at a few courses where public opinion of the golf course was not exactly supportive. Of course successful establishment is key to long-term health, but there's a difference between "gardening" and "natural".

Secondly, water conservation is a primary goal even during course grow-in. This is seldom the case in most projects who often rush to have picture perfect conditions of all things on the property right off the starters block.

Third, a management plan considering season and competitive non-native species had to be implemented simultaneously.

So I asked him to expand on this statement with an example, this is what he had to say...

"When Don Mahaffey and I built Wolf Point there was a single mandate, minimize lost balls in long grasses and keep the course challenging and interesting enough to play every day. That translated to 80 acres of fairway and no rough.

We planted Emerald Bermuda on the greens and surrounds and 419 in the fairways. We considered Emerald across the entire course, but decided on 419 in case we ever wanted to grow a rough. The Gulf Coast of Texas gets 45 inches of rain a year on average – sometimes all in one month.

We viewed our irrigation system more as insurance vs. required worst case perfect coverage. Our client could withstand some mottled looks at times. We chose a large rotor spacing and minimized use of part circles. Even around the greens we used full circles – the greens construction was similar to the surrounds there is no reason for ins and outs. We used this approach around the perimeter and outside of the fairway too. As a result the edges get less irrigation than where there is head to head coverage.

Then we transitioned to the native areas where we have no irrigation. It took a little time for any disturbed areas to re-establish, but at no cost. Don spread a wild flower mix in some areas that have grown periodically. Today outside the playing surfaces the area looks natural because it is natural. It is cleared annually and changes with the seasons. "

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tuco Visits Wolf Point Club

Who is Tuco Ramirez? Tuco is a 3.7 handicap who has been known to make double eagle and an ace in successive rounds. Tuco has seen 80+ of the World's Top 100 Golf courses. He has partied with the Foo Fighters and in 2008 he correctly predicted the rise of Gold and steep fall in the stock market.

What did Tuco think of Wolf Point?

"I've seen most of the top golf courses, modern and classic in the world. And Wolf Point is easily one of the top modern courses ever built in this bandito's humble opinion. Especially if one considers the mandate Nuzzo and Mahaffey were given and the amount of money spent, this isnt a layup or home run, this is a miracle course. For someone who loves links golf like myself, I can only envision the joy the owner of Wolf Point faces on a daily basis. Here he has a course that can play great in any wind, from any direction, not lose a ball yet play shots the way a shepard did across a lunar landscape in Scotland long ago."

"The 14th is perhaps my favorite hole. Again Mike has scattered bunkers through the landing zone on this 530ish par 5. Curiously, he also left a wonderful standout Texas Oak tree to guard the left side of the fairway. What may not be evident from this prospect is that Nuzzo did not build a simple green here for those even approaching with a wedge. The green appears to have taken the contours of the underbelly of a crab's exoskeleton -- it looked mean, nasty and sharp. The owner particularly loves the pin placements on this hole because of the challenge. I also loved putting them as Mahaffey has the surfaces at a perfect stimp for the contours."

"I really had to marvel at this golf course. Wolf Point was a shock to my system. It is beauty in its own way, like a perfectly timed bank robbery."

Monday, October 11, 2010

STGCSA Meeting & stellar golf course superintendent blogs

2 outlooks on social media:
"Dig your well before you are thirsty"
"I'm doing it, just in case it's true." -- Justin Leonard on why he was seaming the Pro V1

I will be talking to the STGCSA about blogging and social media (twitter, linkedin & facebook)
Here are the survey results regarding what the group would like to learn the most about.

Superintendent’s reasons for a blog and their feedback:
  1. Improved communication
  2. Monitor interest of membership – website traffic
  3. Higher quality info vs. mass e-mail and newsletter paragraph
  4. Timely information vs. monthly newsletter
  5. Less re-writing about the same subject over and over and over
  6. Can send a link vs. e-mailing photos which are often blocked
  7. Prime information source – not pro or green chair or member rumors
  8. Members have a huge appetite to know stuff, but hard to take the time to learn
  9. Blogging has been the best thing I’ve done in a long time!
  10. The members rave about it!
  11. Pictures help members visualization.
  12. Send out a mass e-mail after updating the blog to drive traffic.
  13. Long gone are the days of a member starting a misinformed discussion in the grill room.
  14. If I hear any type of misinformation on any subject I can squelch it in minutes and back it up with facts, pictures, links to articles from industry professionals and universities.
  15. In short, the benefits of the blog have been worth every second I’ve spent on it.
Here are some interesting recent blog posts by superintendents and examples of different ideas to share.
  1. Before & After - Arrowhead Country Club
  2. Invitational - Northland Country Club
  3. Ball Marks – Stockton Golf & Country Club
  4. Bald Eagles – The Minikahda Club
  5. Lightning - Onwentsia Club
  6. Pin locations - Northmoor Country Club
  7. Benefits of Golf – San Luis Obispo County Golf Courses
  8. Results of maintenance – Stockton Golf & Country Club
  9. About the super – Cinnabar Hills Golf Club
  10. Gang Mower - Wolf Point Club
  11. Research & Development – Hawks Landing Golf Club
  12. FAQs - Oakland Hills Country Club
  13. Turfgrass Terminology – Paul Sabino, The Farms Country Club
Forget the Newsletter - write your own blog:
Get started
Instructional video

Lastly, 5 things I couldn’t work without and whole heartedly endorse:
Very own free radio station - Pandora
Music jukebox – Grooveshark – for after I use my monthly free hours of Pandora
Photo + video management & sharing – Picassa
Browser – Chrome
Camera – Canon Powershot

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happy 10th Birthday Nuzzo Course Design

My firm is 10 years old.
My goal has always been to make any golf course as good and as enjoyable as possible.
Pictured above is #12 at Wolf Point.
I’m thrilled that every golfer who has played Wolf Point thinks it’s as fun as I do.

Some player comments:

“the most natural looking golf course I’ve ever seen”

“the 16th green is probably my favorite on the entire course, which by the way is like trying to pick out your favorite Victoria's Secret model.“

“After MUCH reflection, my round at Wolf Point was probably the greatest round of golf I've ever played. I've only experienced a similar feeling once in my life.”

"Wolf Point looks like Shinneock meets St. Andrews."

“If Scotland is like Wolf Point, I want to go.”

“Wolf Point’s bunker positioning is clever, they look so random, and they aren't.“

“I have a hunch that Wolf Point might just be the biggest undiscovered gem in the entire world.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fix Ups Made Simple

The Summer's Golf Inc issue arrived this week. Inside is an article I wrote with the help of a couple friends. Don Mahaffey, our project superintendent and Ian Andrew a fellow architect from Toronto. Both have had many years of great experiences helping clubs improve - even with practical budgets. I believe we can make any course more fun, often inexpensively.

I wrote the article after hearing anecdotal stories about new owners of bankrupt golf courses who hired architects that subsequently put forward grand plans to make the course get on the top magazine lists. Why waste a million dollars to be the 7th best course in a city? There are better ways to improve a golf course - with both the player and owner in mind - not just to improve the architect's accolade web page.

Here is the link to the Golf Inc. article

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A golf course on the ocean.

I don't like to publicize close calls where we almost got to build a golf course - they could come back - and it is depressing - which was the case with the picture above.
We visited this site twice - they were great visits for a number of reasons.
We could have built a hell of a golf course here.
My fingers are crossed, if not for here for somewhere almost as nice.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Red Velvet Cow Killer

These insects would spook me a little each time I saw one. This time I got a little braver to get a good picture - not knowing if the red was a danger warning - or a mimicking warning. Glad I didn't pet it as it gets its nickname, cow killer, for their extremely painful sting.

It is a Mutillidae in the wasp family - also called a Red velvet ant. Pictured above is a female - they thankfully don't fly!
A&M Link

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A bunker and its surrounds

Pictured above are the two bunkers on the 9th hole. Don and crew have been letting the native vegetation creep towards the bunker. It is less detail maintenance work, and from time to time it needs to be cut back. It helps create an irregular (not man made) look and transition back to the native areas. I like it, and it is easier said than done.

There are a few more bunkers around the course that I hope continue to have the surrounds grow towards the outside edges - especially #7. I'll show some examples on other courses that I like, and don't like, next.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Little Linksters!

I was visiting with Matt and his new superintendent at Swanson's Golf Center. The Little Linksters were getting a lesson and having a core training session. It looked both like a lot of fun and challenging. It would have been impossible to do this at the old facility.

Each area or piece of equipment is a separate station for a golf/fitness exercise.
Next time I'll get a picture of them all in action...

Can your facility teach the game like this?

This wasn't little linksters but the Junor Golf Academy - a combination of golf and fitness.
For the little linksters they mow one of the target greens down tight and have them play on the range as if it were a par 3 - part of our initial concept for the range.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

City of Laredo Golf Course

The City of Laredo recently selected 5 design/build teams to interview for their planned municipal golf course. Here is the article. Unfortunately we were not selected as one of the finalists.

What was notable about this request for qualifications?
31 teams in total submitted
Each team included a golf course architect and builder - it is a turnkey project including infrastructure and clubhouse.
The initial meeting was standing room only - there were more architects and builders than at the Golf Industry Show.

Above is the aerial of the site on the Rio Grande. The property was donated to the city by a local developer. The water rights are essentially free. The city has $6.6 Million to spend on the project - and that was including the bottled water we were given during the site visit - they had no room for over-spending.

It is a very cool site with lots of features - big arroyos, arid vegetation and good materials to build a course.

When the city announced that the $6.6MM included the clubhouse and infrastructure, there was an audible groan from the attendees. Most, if not all, thought it was way too low.

Our team thought it was more than enough. If I write more about the proposal I'll describe how our team was formed -- I think we were the best team for the city.
I wasn't originally going to submit, because of the difficulty in winning a municipal project -- the team was too good to not submit.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Don on #7

Don and I had a match recently. I had a 3 up lead until we got to #12. There is definitely a home field advantage. I haven't beaten Don or our client in too long!

I have to settle for good pictures of Don hitting out of our bunkers. At least this was a cool new angle on #7. This is the last hole we built, and it went through several changes - the end result is that it turned out very well - it gets high marks from both of us.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nice Try!

I got a nice call today from a gentleman who was traveling to the area of the golf course. He had a bet with his friends that there was a course - they didn't believe him - and he was determined to win his bet, and try and find a great place for them to play. Turns out he won his bet - but won't be getting to play.

If he ever did make it into the clubhouse he'd better watch out for our new friend... see above. He does help keep out the uninvited guests. He is over 12' long.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Don Mahaffey's 7 tips for successful gang mowing

Don Mahaffey's 7 tips for successful gang mowing

1. Send out a trim mower to edge out features and fairway perimeters. The gang unit will work a lot faster if he’s not trying to mow a perfect edge and the trim mower will help to keep a “high-end” look.

2. Treat the gang units like every other cutting unit. For some reason people think a gang cutting unit is indestructible or can’t go dull. Big reel, small reel, powered or not, they gotta be sharp and well adjusted. No short cuts here.

3. Don’t irrigate the night before you mow.

4. Get the right unit for the application. You can’t mow fairways with a 5 blade unit. 11-blade units are rare so you’ll probably have to buy the reels and install yourself. But you can get an excellent cut with the right unit.

5. Keep the turf lean and don’t let it get puffy. This goes for all mowing, but especially so for gang units because of their weight. They’ll take big ugly bites out of thatchy turf. If that happens, It’s not the mower, it’s your grass.

6. Alter directions just like you would with any other mowing equipment.

7. Use some of the money you save gang mowing to throw a few more crew parties.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Here comes the Gang Mower

The following is from Don Mahaffey our project and golf course superintendent extraordinaire. Here is his great post from earlier in the year regarding 19 things a golf course can do to lower maintenance costs. The top of his list included something you don't see every day - a Gang Mower - pictured above. He has received several inquiries from around the world once word got out - here Don's take on how it REDUCED THE FAIRWAY MOWING MAN HOURS BY 50%:

When Mike Nuzzo and I started building Wolf Point, we had a few instructions from our client, the owner of the course. Chief among those instructions was he wanted the course outrageously good and he wanted it maintained in a practical manner. Since we were in a very windy area, hard against the South Texas coast, we knew the course needed some width to be playable. The wind blows all the time here. Both Mike and I are huge fans of the Old Course at St. Andrews and we used her as inspiration for a lot of what we did. One of our challenges was to build this big golf course and yet find a way to keep maintenance costs reasonable. One of the ways we decided to do that was design the course so we could cut the fairways with a large pull behind gang mower.

How does mowing equipment like a large gang mower affect design? We made sure any bridges we needed were large enough to handle the tractor and mowing unit. Turned out that with a transport frame a standard 10 ton bridge was fine. Anywhere we had fairway bunkers close together we made sure there was not only room to pull the gang between them, but room enough to alter the path so as not to create permanent tire ruts. This required bunkers being a minimum of 20 feet apart, which was no problem. If we felt they needed to “play” closer together than that we simply shaped the bunkers to gather shots and beefed up the drainage so that they would still be dry if they were gathering water as well as balls. We knew we were going to have dew paths from greens-tees-fairways and we built those paths so the gang unit could mow them as well while traveling from one hole to the next. To create more width we have a number of shared fairways that melded perfectly with the use of a large production mower.

We use a Toro 7-gang (above), wheel driven unit that we found used and refurbished over the winter. We installed 11-blade reels along with going through each unit and adding a new coat of paint. We have the unit set at .500, ½ inch, and we are very pleased with the quality of cut. We took one of our lightweight fairway mowers out of action and converted the cutting units to thatching reels. So now, we have a dedicated fairway verti-cutting machine. We slice the fairways as time allows and right now the plan is too vert-cut every fairway once a month. I believe one of the keys to a high quality of cut with gang units is too keep the grass thinned out. Puffy turf scalps with any mowing equipment but really scalps with a gang unit since there is no front roller. Keep the turf thinned out and not only does it cut better, it plays better as well. We cut our fairways twice a week and apply a growth regulator in conjunction with foliar feed every 21 days.

We maintain Wolf Point’s 80 acres of fwys, 4 acres of greens, and 10 acres of rough, along with other Ranch duties (like bailing hay) with 4 people plus myself. The only way that’s possible is with equipment that can get the job done well and in a practical time frame. Our gang unit helps us do that and I will be surprised if we didn’t see a little more of this approach as golf participation stagnates while maintenance costs continue to increase.

Check back in a few days for Don's tips to a successful gang mowing operation.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Houston Chronicle Names Swanson's Best Practice Facility

Swanson Golf Center
Matt Swanson’s Golf Center is the one-stop practice facility, with a driving range, short-game practice area, teaching pros and club fitters on hand to take your game to the next level.
It was the clear choice, mainly because it improves and expands so well on the basic concept of a driving range.

The results
1. Swanson Golf Center.....19.3 percent of vote

Insiders say:
Swanson received an even stronger endorsement.

The best golf in Houston and beyond
Golfers are used to making a lot of decisions. Perhaps that’s why so many of them volunteered for the somewhat daunting task of participating in a survey that included choices galore.
Golf Guide 2010 reveals the pulse of the more than 1,000 area golfers who filled out the survey at

To compare the thoughts of the average player and those inside the golf industry, we also made a separate version of the survey available to more than 300 club pros, superintendents and others who make a living at golf, a group we’ve dubbed the insiders.
Here is the link to the full article

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Golf Architecture Magazine

I've been busy on many smaller proposals, back to the blog soon.

In working on some new materials, I keep coming back to last years Golf Architecture Magazine article by Adam Lawrence. I get's better each time I read it - click the image above to read for yourself - even if you've read it before. website.

Monday, February 15, 2010

How many 7 year old's can play your golf course?

How many 7 year old's can play your course?
He does have a hell of a swing.
This is The Old Course at St. Andrews - they even let me play it backwards a few years ago.
There is room for someone who doesn't carry it too high or far to play the course in its entirety -- and have fun!
Notice some of the greens - they are beautiful and over 400 years old - kind of anyway.
I didn't see him lose a ball either.
How many 7 year old's are even allowed on your course?
Check out his video playing the Himalayas too....

Monday, February 8, 2010

When The Saints Go Marching In

New Orleans is a great city.
This week with the Golf Industry Show in San Diego, I bet they would have rather of been in New Orleans for a great party and Mardi Gras too.

The GIS decided not to return to New Orleans in 2012. Too bad.
I read it was because of the turnout to the show last year.
Hard to believe the small turnout was mostly to blame on the city.

This blog is coming back to life, a busy January - one city proposal amongst several smaller items have kept me away.

Who dat?
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