A Tale of Two Golf Courses Barry Caselli
  January 7, 2009

Hello all.

I wrote the following true story last night, but my DSL internet connection became so slow, suddenly, that I was not able to paste it into an email and send it. I only just now got a fast enough connection to get into my email.
I would like to tell a story if I may.  This may get a bit long. But hopefully you can get an understanding of what itís like where I work. After watching a video on the ENTS site, of some destruction at a golf course in Massachusetts, it made me think of the golf resort where I work.
It is located on U.S. 9, which runs up the coast of NJ. We have one golf course east of Route 9, built in the coastal marshes, and one course behind the hotel, on the west side of Route 9. That one was carved out of the Pine Barrens. The Bay course was built sometime around 1917.  On the golf course there are a couple of tiny remnant Atlantic White Cedar swamps, and a couple of hardwood swamps (Red Maple, Sour Gum, Sweet Bay Magnolia). Sometime during mid-century there were Eastern Red Cedars planted all over this course, mostly shielding tee boxes from nearby fairways. There were also some Norway Spruces planted maybe in the 1930s or so. I know of one red cedar that is very big.
Half of the Pines Course was built in the 1950s, and the rest was built later. For some reason they planted Eastern White Pines, Eastern Hemlocks and Scotch Pines all over the course, maybe in the 1950s. All the Hemlocks are gone, having succumbed to the HWA. Most of the Scotch Pines have also died. But why would anyone plant hemlocks, white pines and scotch pines in the Pine Barrens? That makes no sense to me. On a few holes on this course, there were dogwoods planted, also maybe in the 1950s. Those were quite beautiful while they were there.
Now for the story. In the mid 1990s we had no superintendent. That lasted a couple years. Then they finally found one for us. Immediately upon starting there he took tours of the golf courses, and determined that the Pines Course fairways had some sort of turf problem. He studied the problem and finally told us that they suffered from a lack of air-flow over them. (Remember that this course was carved out of the Pine Barrens. The fairways were built narrow on purpose, for seclusion.) So he decided we need to start a big project of cutting the bottom limbs off all trees, from the ground level, up to about 4 or 5 feet up from the ground. Previous to that project, no trees were ever cut or trimmed unless they were dead or severely damaged from a storm. This golf course covers a lot of land. There are areas of woods between one golf hole and another that are quite large, so thereís a lot of woods on that golf course. It was very secluded, and was designed
 that way. The problem was, he put chain saws in the hands of workers who hadnít the foggiest idea of what they were doing. They knew nothing about proper tree cutting. They also canít follow instructions very well. All of the guys with chainsaws, and their supervisors as well, took matters in their own hands, and decided to take the project further than just trimming branches up. In fact they took the project much, much further than that! They were supposed to trim the branches of every tree along the fairways, and 20 feet into the woods as well. But what they decided to do was to go all the way through the woods, from the edge of one fairway, to the edge of the fairway on the other side of the woods, with every tract of woods on the course! Not only that, but they decided to take out every standing dead tree and every log. Also every red cedar, every dwarf sumac, every wild cherry, and every sassafras. I overheard them telling stories to each other
 about how they were enjoying watching animals running out of their homes in the standing dead trees.
Meanwhile the new superintendent, after just 2 weeks there, said he was going back home to Georgia to check on the sale of his house. But we never saw him again. So we were without a superintendent for a while again. Then they finally hired one. After this new guy was around a while he hired himself two assistants. These three guys, since that time, have basically done nothing but cut trees down. Thatís almost all they think about. The forest that the Pines course was built in consists of various species of oak, and Pitch Pine. Since Iím a mechanic now, I donít get involved in the tree cutting. But I hear all about it. The three bosses I mentioned, plus the supervisors and most of the workers, are all involved in tree-cutting. In the winter when thereís less to do, they cut trees down just for something to do to pass an 8 hour day. There is no rhyme or reason to how they decide which trees need to go. In fact there doesnít seem to be any
 justification for any of the trees they have ever cut down. Some reasons given are, to give sunlight to a specific tee box, to prevent acorns and leaves from falling on certain fairways, and I donít know what else. Many of the trees theyíve cut down were nowhere near any turf. In fact many years ago when cartpaths were put in, they were put in away from the fairways, in many cases running through the woods along each fairway. A previous superintendent tried to convert all the ground between the fairways and the cartpaths into turf. But that turf never did well. Now our guys are cutting all the trees down between the cartpaths and the fairways. They think that the reason the grass doesnít grow well there is because of the trees. Thatís nonsense. I know for a fact that itís because the golfers drive their golf carts on the grass next to the cartpath instead of on the path itself, and that turf never existed till just a few years ago.
I know of one majestic oak tree that was between the 16th green and the 15th tee that was cut down, and it didnít shade any turf at all! It was one of the most beautiful single trees on the course, and also one of the largest. In the last 8 or 9 years or so, these guys have cut hundreds upon hundreds of mature oak and Pitch Pine trees down, besides the other stuff. I remember counting the rings on a cut Pitch Pine, and stopping at 120 before I was all the way through to the edge. A few years ago the superintendent announced that he ďdoesnít likeĒ dogwood trees. Consequently he had all of them removed from that golf course, even the ones that were planted just a few years before he arrived there. The 12th hole has never looked the same. What a damn shame.
Again, they put chainsaws in the hands of people who had no idea of what they were doing, supervisors included. These guys donít know the first thing about what trees belong or donít belong there, and they have no idea of whatís native or isnít native. When they start taking trees out that are nowhere near any turf, I really wonder. To them, cutting trees down is just something to do, and itís a lot of fun. Thatís all it is. Trees mean nothing to them. When they look at a tree, what they see is something that needs be removed, and then they invent reasons. Maybe 40 years ago there were rhododendrons planted all over that course, especially near the tee boxes. Since then they have reproduced, and they can now be found growing wild in the woods, right along side the native Mountain Laurels. The Mountain Laurel in the there is spectacular, by the way. A few years ago one of the assistant superintendents decided that the rhodos need to go. I
 overheard him say once that ďthey never bloom anywayĒ, which is nonsense, since they bloom twice a year, and are quite beautiful. So in addition to removing trees, theyíve been removing rhodos, even deep in the woods. And the guys with the saws canít tell the difference between rhododendron and mountain laurel, so they are ripping out mountain laurels as well, as I say, even deep in the woods. Also, no matter which trees they decide to remove, or which rhodos they decide to remove, itís okay, because those guys can do no wrong when it comes to tree removal. Tree removal is an obsession with the three bosses, though no substantial, meaningful, legitimate reasons have ever been given for doing it. By the way, the three bosses are all non-native New Jerseyans.
In the last 10 years the Pines course has been ruined. The dirt service roads are full of giant puddles and potholes because no maintenance is ever done to them. Where those roads go up hills they, are badly rutted. The turf along cartparths and next to the woods is completely gone, and nearly 100% of that is from cart traffic. I know this to be a fact, but the bosses donít see it. The sand traps are ruined from golfer abuse and lack of proper daily raking. The Ladyís Slipper Orchid and Indian Pipe (native plants) population is down nearly to zero because of the forest being gutted the way it was. Yet, as I say, these guys can do no wrong. Near every tee box, all the trees have been removed, supposedly to bring sunlight to the tees, yet there has never been a change in the turf as a result of those trees being removed, not the slightest change. I saw that coming. Removing the rhodos from along the tee boxes has also not effected any change in the
 turf, which I also saw coming. And these are the guys with college degrees in turfgrass management, not me. I just have common sense, along with local knowledge.
Yet the golfers continue to play there, and pay exorbitant amounts of money to do it, and they also have no respect for the property. As I say they perpetually ruin turf with their golf carts. So in the last 18 years Iíve seen a beautiful pine barrens golf course ruined, from many different factors. And no one sees it except those of us who have been around longer than 15 years or so.l
Meanwhile, on the Bay course, theyíve also been removing trees, at nearly the same rate. Theyíve mostly been taking out red cedars, for no apparent reason. At the 10th tee there used to be the largest Norway Spruce on the property, but they took it out, for no apparent reason. In fact they removed most spruces from the bay course.
Also, around the hotel theyíve been taking out trees, (or having them professionally removed), again with no legitimate reason. A couple years ago a large Chinese Elm was removed from near the golf shop, and all the golf shop personnel could say was ďIím glad that eyesore was finally removed.Ē!
So I hope that at least some of the members found this to be of interest. Unfortunately in New Jersey Iíve never heard of the existence of a shade tree commission or anything like one, so there doesnít seem to be any governing body that would be concerned about this. That property is officially outside the jurisdiction of the Pinelands Commission, so I know they canít say or do anything either. I have simply had to witness it happening. And when upper management in the company has visited the property, the tree removal has never been an issue. But I donít think any of them have been around often enough, just once or twice a year, and they are not old-timers either.
So thatís it. I hope I didnít put anyone to sleep.

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