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Superintendent takes environmental stewardship to another level

By |  September 3, 2013

Although you may not be familiar with The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Tennessee course’s superintendent, Paul L. Carter, CGCS.


Paul L. Carter, CGCS, Superintendent at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay. Carter also serves as Director of Agronomy for all nine Tennessee Golf Trail courses.

On his way to winning TurfNet’s Superintendent of the Year in 2011 and several awards from the state of Tennessee and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), Carter has taken the art of environmental stewardship to new levels at The Bear Trace and the other eight Tennessee Golf Trail courses where he serves as director of agronomy.

Although Carter has become well known as a superintendent, he started his career on the landscaping side.

“I was getting a landscape design degree at Auburn University and did an internship at the Country Club of Birmingham in Alabama, expecting to be on the landscape crew,” he said. “I ended up on the turf crew instead and immediately fell in love with it. I started taking turf classes and the rest is history.”

Located in Harrison, just 20 minutes outside of Chattanooga, The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay is a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course and Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. What that means is the animals are treated just as well as the players.

The course is a very comfortable home to wood ducks, mallard ducks, deer, wild turkeys and the course’s most famous residents: a family of bald eagles.

Famous birdies

After a pair of bald eagles made their home in a 125-foot pine behind a green in 2011, Carter decided to publicize his new guests by installing a webcam overlooking their nest. The Eagle Cam website, funded in part by the United States Golf Association (USGA), became wildly popular almost overnight. Through May of this year, the site already had 170,000 unique visitors from 114 different countries. The website is currently down but will be back up in November.

The eagles aren’t the only feathered friends that get special treatment at The Bear Trace. Carter’s crew built special mallard tubes in one of the ponds, protecting them from predators. The innovative nests have been the number one hit on The Bear Trace blog, which has become a must-read for many superintendents. Wild turkey feeders have been installed around the course, featuring a unique design that thwarts even the most determined squirrels.


The picturesque 18th green at The Bear Trace. The course blends perfectly with its wooded and water-lined surroundings. Photo: The Bear Trace

Going green

To further the environmental stewardship at The Bear Trace, Carter replaced his gasoline-powered golf course equipment with battery-powered options including seven Jacobsen ECLIPSE 322 riding greens mowers from local Jacobsen dealer Ladd’s. To make this switch, the course used funds provided by the Clean Tennessee Energy Grant Program. Carter uses three of the mowers for greens and the other four for tees and approaches.

According to Tennessee government officials, the new equipment will provide an estimated 300 percent decrease in annual operation expenses and a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

“The Jacobsen ECLIPSE mowers fit perfectly with our overall philosophy,” he said. “The wildlife was here first and we need to provide them with a better habitat without polluting their land with noise, emissions or hydraulic fluid.”

Earlier this month, the course marked its 50th mowing day of zero emissions. Carter calculated that in the four months of operation, the use of electric-powered equipment allows the course to eliminate the use of 700 gallons of fuel – translating to a cost savings of $2,332.

Going orange


One of the mallard duck tubes Carter’s team installed. The tubes have been the biggest hit on The Bear Trace blog. Photo: The Bear Trace

Prior to the fleet of Jacobsen ECLIPSE mowers, Carter hadn’t run a piece of orange iron in years.

“I honestly didn’t know what to expect when it came to quality-of-cut,” he said. “I was beyond shocked at what I found. We are simply getting the best quality-of-cut I have ever seen in my career and I’ve used all three brands of mowers. It’s to the point where I tell people I wouldn’t go to another course without Champion greens or Jacobsen mowers.”

About the Author:

Kelly Limpert is the former digital media content producer for North Coast Media. Limpert completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. When she isn’t creating content for Golfdom‘s digital and social media platforms, you can find her working for Landscape Management.

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