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Written by Chris Tritabaugh on Dec 17, 2014 12:33:44 PM

Tree Removals-December 2014

Last week the HNGC staff and Vineland Tree Care completed a number of tree removals around the golf course; these removals were completed in order to satisfy the needs of both Hazeltine and the PGA of America. I wanted to take a moment today to write about the decision making process when it comes to removing trees on the golf course. There are several considerations made whenever a tree is removed; the ultimate goal is for the removal to make the golf course better. With that, a point by point look at the considerations made when removing a tree.

  • At Hazeltine National, we desire to maintain a population of trees, which complements the golf course, while being consistent with native populations. This list includes but is not necessarily limited to oaks, hard maples and elms.
  • Ash trees, which can ultimately be expected to succumb to Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), will be removed as time moves forward. It is important to note that the Green Committee has identified the ash trees deemed to be “important to the strategy of the golf course.” These ash trees will be put on a program of insecticide injection, which has shown some ability to protect trees from EAB.
  • Trees, regardless of species must not negatively impact the condition of golf course turf. Golf is played on turf, not trees and in the battle for resources between a tree and turf; the tree will always win.
  • Our desired species must be carefully maintained for appearance and safety. Most of Hazeltine’s desired tree species were on this property for many, many years prior to the construction of the golf course. The area on the south end of the golf course was a dense hardwood forest and thus many of these desired trees grew for 50-100 years or more with no maintenance and less than desirable space for proper growth and shaping. The lack of maintenance during these tree’s formidable years has left many of them in difficult condition today. This is not anyone’s fault, but rather a simple byproduct of the property’s history. Our population of desired tree species is vast and it needs proper maintenance in order to keep them healthy. However, there are situations in which the condition of a tree in unable to be improved through maintenance, which bring us to our next point.
  • This tree on 14 was removed for "line of play" purposes, but it showed a large amount of decay. This tree on 14 was removed for "line of play" purposes, but it showed a large amount of decay.

    Dangerous trees of any species, unable to be maintained, must be identified and removed. There is never a reason to take a chance with the safety of a tree. A decayed tree can come down at any time, without any warning, in any type of weather. The potential for any of our members, guests or spectators to be injured by a falling tree is not worth the risk of keeping the tree. The photo on the right is one such example.

  • Trees will be pruned or removed in order to keep them from blocking lines of play, and/or creating a "double hazard."
  • Coupled with the above points, when trees, especially non-desired species have a negative impact on the visual beauty of the golf course, their removal will be carefully consider.

With the above points as a guideline, I wanted to walk, hole-by-hole, through the tree removals completed last week.

1-Trees between the tees and practice area were removed in order to improve first tee spectating during the Ryder Cup. These removals were requested by the PGA.

2-Amur maples next to the blue tee and crab apples right of the fairway bunkers were removed in order to improve spectating opportunities for the Ryder Cup. These removals were requested by the PGA.

IMG_3671 This oak at the back of the fourth tee had too much trunk decay needed to be removed for safety purposes.

4-Trees were removed and pruned on both the left and right side of the tee and fairway. This work was completed in order to open the line of play to the green side bunkers and eliminate a “double hazard” situation. These removals were requested by the PGA. In this area, we also removed three dangerous trees which had significant decay in the trunk. (Photo on the right)

9- Amur maples to the left of the tee complex were removed, in order to improve spectating opportunities for the Ryder Cup. These removals were requested by the PGA.

10-Two silver maples and an ash tree right of the upper fairway. Silver maples are “soft” maples and are not a desired species. These also cast a large amount of shade on the tenth fairway during all times of the year.

12-Removals and pruning right of the fairway bunkers and short and right of the green in order to eliminate a “double hazard” situation. This work was requested by the PGA.

14-Removals and pruning were completed to both sides of the hole between tee and fairway. This improves the line of play, opens shots to the fairway bunker and gives great options off the tee without losing the “chute” effect. This work was requested by the PGA.

15-A silver maple was removed on the left near the second set of fairway bunkers. When the bunkers were renovated this fall, there were significant tree roots in the drain tile. This tree was the culprit and thus its removal was necessary. In addition, this tree also created a “double hazard” situation, thus it satisfied two criteria.

15/16 Hillside-The non-desired species have been removed from this hillside, exposing 6-8 desired species. This work will result in a better view from the approach into 15 green, as well as providing much more sunlight to the 16th tee.

IMG_3658 Vineland Tree Care crews pruning the sprawling oak on 17.

17-Non-desireable species were removed left of the tee complex, in order to offer more light to the tee. Non-desirable species were removed around the creek to the right of the tee box, in order to expose the water feature and desired oak trees. This work may also provide spectating opportunities for the Ryder Cup. The work last week also included maintenance pruning around the golf course. The most noteworthy of this work was the pruning of the sprawling oak near the 17th green. (Photo on the right) In general, this tree is in poor health and there is a large amount of decay. However, not yet is the decay to the point of making the tree unsafe. The arborists from Vineland have said with proper care and maintenance, this tree could stand for another 50-100 years.

It is worth noting that a number of the removals noted above satisfy more than one of the criteria for removal of a tree. When more than one criterion is able to be satisfied; the removal becomes a no-brainer.

Tree removals on golf courses always create discussion. As you read the points above, we hope it will help you to understand our thought process when it comes to removals. A well thought out tree maintenance and removal plan will make Hazeltine’s trees and golf course better.


Chris Tritabaugh

Golf Course Superintendent