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Man vs. elk

By |  May 3, 2018 0 Comments

Capillary Concrete installation in progress on Forest Highlands GC’s No. 3 fairway bunker.

A mature elk weighs more than 700 pounds. Imagine that stomping around in your bunkers every day.

Drew Annan, CGCS at Forest Highlands Golf Club, Flagstaff, Ariz., doesn’t have to imagine it. He’s seen it just about every day since he started at the club 30 years ago.

“I saw 28 of them this morning,” Annan groans. “Elk are the real problem here. They stand in the bunkers and they feed on the capes so they don’t have to bend over as far to eat. It’s the damnedest thing.”
One man’s bunker, apparently, is an elk’s buffet.

The elk at Forest Highlands have done a number on the bunkers over the years. No bunker liners were installed when the course opened in 1988. The heavy hooves of the animals churn up the clay into the sand, resulting in severe contamination. Annan tried his best to combat the situation.

“We took the bunkers that had been impacted the most and we tried a soil stabilizer and we tried a textile liner,” Annan says. “Over time, the textile liners failed miserably. They start to float to the surface… sand would filter through them. We couldn’t consider them a long-term solution.”

Tom Weiskopf, who built the course with Jay Morrish, told Annan about the positive experience he had with Capillary Concrete at Torrey Pines.

“I heard that Capillary Concrete did well from a frost/heave standpoint,” Annan says. “I went with them, based on the recommendation from the mountain guys in the area and from Weiskopf.”

Last fall, 41 bunkers got the Capillary Concrete treatment at the course. Annan says the installation process was smooth. Ted Fist, head of U.S. business operations for Capillary Concrete, was on site to monitor and train the crew on the first couple bunkers before cutting them loose. A local concrete company maintained the necessary specs of the material, and with the “terrific work” of DHR Construction, they were off to work.

Bill Abbey, superintendent of Forest Highlands GC’s Canyon Course, puts the final touches on the No. 12 greens bunker.

“You measure it, throw it in the back of a Workman, drive it out and shovel it into place,” Annan says. “You roll it with a paint roller to put the finish on top. By the next morning you can walk all over it.”

Though there has been no play on the bunkers since installation (the course has been closed for the winter), Annan loves what he sees so far.

“We’ve moved some sand around in the bottom of the bunkers to inspect the Capillary Concrete,” Annan says. “We’ve had a pretty good amount of freezing and thawing this year. And I’ll tell you, it’s damn near perfect. I could not find anything like little rocks that chipped off. It looks great. And I can take a 1-inch hose at 60 psi, and I can’t move water on these bunkers — it sucks it right on in.”

That’s a good thing, too, because the elk aren’t going to give him a break any time soon.

“We run them off when we see them, we yell at them, we throw a golf ball at them,” Annan says of the beasts. “But there’s nothing you can do about them at night. You can tell they’ve been lying in there all night. But the members love seeing them around, so we don’t do anything to discourage having them around. They’re a nuisance animal with a mesmeric value.”

Photos: Drew Annan

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a 18-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. Jones can be reached at

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