Friday, August 12, 2022

Ball Marks

Recently we have had to put out signs to remind some of  our Members about their responsibility of repairing ball marks on greens. I know the very active segment of our golf membership are passionate about repairing ball marks and educating those who are not as passionate,  and it is time that the message comes from golf course maintenance as well.  Your golf course maintenance staff is limited in what we  can do with ball mark repair ahead of mowing greens in the morning. We start at 4:30 AM and work with vehicle lights and headlamps for the first few hours of our day as it is dark. Once a mower runs over a elevated ball mark, or even a slightly elevated pitch mark, the scalped turf will  die and will need to recover from creeping grass around the scar or be repaired with sod or sand. 

The most effective & successful repair of a ball mark or a pitch mark depression is the proper repair made immediately after the ball mark was made.

Our greens have matured substantially since October but they are still young and developing root mass and depth. And it's their first summer after their initial planting, so we are not taking any chances with them. This means at times they might be wetter and softer then they will be in the future and these conditions lend to deeper ball marks, although very evident  and should be repaired by the golfer.

We repair massive ball marks every morning that had to have been visible the day or evening before to the Member  Golfer that created it. Below are examples of what we come across on a regular basis as we prepare the greens for daily play. 

Very visible ball mark prior to GCM repair.  Monday AM ahead of brushing in topdressing sand. 

Another evident ball mark prior to GCM repair on Monday AM as well

This is not a ball mark, but a divot taken out of #2 green sometime on Sunday 8/7/22. 

None of us are fans of signs on our Private Golf Club as it is implied that with the privilege's of being a Member of Granite Bay Golf Club comes responsibility of basic golf course care. That being said, I agree with the Golf Committee that we need to do something and try to get everyone on the same page.

The USGA provides tips for ball mark repair in the linked article in which has a nice video as well. The 5 steps for properly repairing a ball mark are reprinted below.

1. The proper technique for ball mark repair is easy and fast.

Insert the ball mark repair tool behind the ball mark and gently pull the top of the tool toward the center. Continue working around the ball mark, pulling the surrounding turf in toward the center of the indentation. Avoid using a lifting or twisting motion because this can damage turf roots. Once you have finished pulling turf in toward the center, gently tamp the area down with your putter to create a smooth, firm surface

2. Unrepaired ball marks cause lasting problems

Failing to repair a ball mark may seem like a minor oversight, but there are lasting consequences. Unrepaired ball marks can take weeks to heal, during which time they can cause balls to bounce off line. The damage to the putting surface is also an entry point for weeds that can cause serious problems.

3. Certain putting greens are more vulnerable to ball marks than others.

Any putting green that typically receives high, lofted approach shots will be more susceptible to ball marks. The putting greens on par-3 holes are a perfect example. If you recognize that a putting green is prone to damage from ball marks, it is important to be mindful of repairing your own ball mark and a few unrepaired ones nearby.

4. Soft conditions mean more ball marks.

When putting greens are wet or soft, ball marks will be more of an issue. This is just one of the reasons why superintendents work hard to promote firm playing conditions with aeration, topdressing and other maintenance practices. If excessive thatch accumulates beneath the putting surface, ball marks and other turf issues will be more problematic.

5. Almost any pointed tool can be used to successfully repair a ball mark.

Many different tools have been created to repair ball marks, including single-pronged and fork-shaped tools. Almost any pointed tool, including a golf tee, can be used to effectively repair a ball mark. Using the proper technique is the key to success.

Traditional ball mark repair tool that I like using when repairing ball marks and pitch marks. The tool is beside a ball mark that is recovering as grass is moving into middle but who knows how long that repair process has taken. 

I understand that  most Members who read these Course Updates repair both their own  and other ball marks constantly and I thank you for your care as well as your continued efforts to educate fellow Members.

Progress on this front will need to be collaborative effort, so we will step up our efforts in GCM to catch the errant mark that escaped the responsible party before mowing, and of course our continued mission is to work on maturing and firming these greens. Firmer greens will not necessarily make ball marks a thing of the past, but will help, although it will take time. At the end of the day, the responsible party for the ball mark or pitch mark is the golfer who made them. The best quote from the  USGA Article is:

"Repairing ball marks is one of the easiest ways that golfers can help superintendents deliver high-quality playing conditions. After hitting a great shot onto the putting green, fixing your ball mark and a couple nearby is an excellent way to celebrate".

Thank You for your Help!

Friday, August 5, 2022

Continuing The Growin

We have always indicated that 2022 would be a grow-in extension of our 2021 golf course renovation, and if you were following progress, you would have to concur. All golf course renovations have a frenzied nature about them and our 2021 renovation was  no exception as we simultaneously re-built greens & bunkers and converted fairways to hybrid bermuda. This chaotic at times, and intense pace was carried out while racing against mother nature's deadlines, as well as rushing to get our Members back out on their golf course  prior to the cold of winter

One of the late and frenzied operations  of last year was the sprigging of #12 fairway and the recovery of #17 fairway. Seventeen fairway was our beta hybrid bermuda fairway sodded in 2019 and was used as a sod farm during the 2021 renovation. Hybrid bemuda will regenerate itself after sod removal, but  #17 was in varying stages of recovery as fall approached in 2021 and #12 was the last hole to be sprigged on the last day of August. Neither of these scenarios left much time for hybrid bermuda recovery or establishment from sprigs as days were getting shorter and the warm weather required for hybrid bermuda establishment was waning. 

Fast forward to now, the summer of 2022, and the warm weather opportunity to finish what we started with these two fairways last year. In July we started an aggressive fertility campaign on these two holes as well as weaker areas in other fairways to get the hybrid bermuda establishment that dident completely fill in during our initial  grow-in season of 2021. This fertility campaign is very similar to what we did in 2021 to get the sprigs to cover before opening. Below are some on going examples of those efforts for those of you that are interested. We will continue these efforts through September while the Santa Anna is actively growing. 

Because of the late sprigging of #12 fairway last year on the last day of August, we dident have much warm weather left in the year to adequately grow in the hybrid bermuda sprigs. The warm late summer  / early fall in 2021 provided more warm growing weather then anticipated, but #12 & #17 were still behind the other fairways in establishment. We decided that it would be prudent to inter-seed these fairways with cool season grass for the winter months then transition those grasses out of the fairways in the summer of 2022.

This picture from #12 fairway illustrates some of these overseeded cool season turf areas that are starting to thin  from summer heat while trying to grow in Granite Bay. The surrounding Santa Anna hybrid bermuda that established last year is starting to fill in the voids of the cool season turf that is checking out.

Frequent applications of fertilizer, two to three times per week, will fill in the voids that are depicted in the previous picture. How do we know this? It was exactly what we did to grow in sprigs in 2021.

Larger areas of cool season overseed from 2021 that has now checked out will require some sod repair despite our current fertility regimen on #12 & #17. We plan to start re-sodding these areas this week into the next.

We still have some good Hybrid bermuda establishment weather ahead of us, at least six weeks. Finishing what we started and filling in the voids is imperative during this time. We will be aerating and topdressing all of the fairways in mid August (more on the scheduling of this next week) which will be beneficial for the work described above as well. 

Thanks for your support and patience. The Best Is Yet To Come!

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Recent Greens Spiking

Below are the pictures of the steps we took for spiking / aeration of the new putting greens this past Monday 7/25/22. We were watching the weather forecast and decided a 98 degree high for the forecast was about as good as we were going to get in July having postponed the Monday prior. Turned out to be quite pleasant and we experienced no weather related issues. For those that are interested, enjoy the pictorial of the process all the way through Tuesday AM.

Step 1 Aerify Middle - The size of the cores depicted here are deceptive. They are actually 1/4" wide by 1/4" long after  the associated sand is removed in the cleanup process. This lines up with the strategy I wrote about last update of doing small timely cultivation events to minimize disruption for both putting quality as well as poa encroachment. Above picture also depicts a new aerifyer that is larger and more productive.

Step 2 Aerify Perimeter - To minimize any injury to the putting surface when operating the larger aerifyer we opted to use our smaller aerifyer in the perimeters of the putting surface.

Step 3 Cleanup - We use an assortment of blowers & shovels to remove all of the little cores. This is the labor intensive, time consuming step.

Little cores piling up during the clean-up process

Little cores appear larger then they are in this close-up picture.

Step 4 - Rolling the green. Little tufts around the small holes need to get rolled out. 

Step 5 - Applying sand topdressing. The USGA Green Section recommends targeting 30 cubic foot (cu. ft.) of topdressing sand per 1000 square feet (M) per year on putting surfaces. The application above represents approximately 2 cu. ft. / M and it will fill the small aeration holes nicely. We routinely lightly topdress the greens at rate of approximately 1 cu. ft. / M but will still struggle to get to that 30 cubic foot per year. Especially because we dont want to have to do large aeration events where topdressing amounts can be in the range of  4 - 5 cu. ft. / M. 

Step 6 Brushing - Topdressing sand needs to be brushed into open aeration holes and turf canopy. This can be a stressful process if the putting surface is stressed or temperatures are too warm. Typically we will have to go over the green in varying patterns a couple of times to get the sand worked in.

Finished product after brushing. These small holes make it difficult sometimes to get the sand worked into the holes. Moisture level in the sand or in the green itself making sand wet causes it to bridge above small open hole. Too much brushing to break this bridging can cause damage to the bentgrass leaf blades so we try to wait as long as we can to start brushing. Its a balance because too dry can cause damage as well, especially when it is warm. 


Step 7 Irrigation - We would not irrigate the putting surface prior to a cultivation event like core aeration but definitely want to immediately afterwards for multiple reasons. First the process of opening the greens up exposes them to the elements and potential 
desiccation, so we want to re-hydrate. Secondly having all of these open holes allows us to easily irrigate the entire putting surface profile to complete saturation subsequently resulting in irrigation field capacity where there is a perfect balance of air and usable water for the plant. Getting the entire putting surface to this balance is not always easy in the absence of the open passageways provided by aeration. This is one of the main reasons we greenskeepers are always trying to poke holes in the turf. 

View of #1 green after initial irrigation following aeration.

Step 8 - Rolling on the morning after aeration. We like to keep the mowers off of the newly aerated green at least a day after the aeration process. Rolling smooths the surface out and makes them playable.  

Step 9 - After we roll the greens we blow off any imperfections and  accumulation of sand. 

I wrote about our poa annua prevention strategy last week as it related to spiking and aeration. We need to have flexibility to do these cultural practices outside seasons of poa germination. This means we need to carry out these practices in the summer and need to be careful undertaking them in extreme temperature's. Therefore we need to be flexible and adjust to  summer weather forecasts.

Neglecting these proactive cultural practices is easy and happens all the time, usually to the playing surface detriment. Golfing events and weather and "the greens are perfect, why are you poking holes in them?", all play a part in neglecting doing the right things for the short and long term health of the playing surfaces. It's a WIN, WIN if we can stick to doing a few timely micro tine aeration or spiking events per year that accomplish agronomic necessities, mitigate poa encroachment and at the same time maintain a very playable putting surface. 

Friday, July 22, 2022

Spiking Greens Next Week

We are planning on  core spiking our new greens on Monday 7/25/22 to allow some important air exchange in the rootzone as well as remove some developing thatch. Our aeration plan for these new putting surfaces is to do frequent, non invasive aeration events at the proper time of the year to avoid the larger, more invasive events in the future. We have already core spiked these new greens once, and afterwards they were a little sandier then normal, hardly any noticeable holes, very puttable and were completely healed in a couple of days.

Old picture of a solid tine spiking event on our old greens as I dident get any new pic's the last time we spiked the new greens. Size of the holes and pattern will be the same, but we will actually pull a little core of the organic layer we need to reduce.

Same hole pattern and size of hole we will be ding on Monday.

Light topdressing afterwards

Brushing in the sand after light topdressing. We irrigate afterwards to further wash the sand off of the surface.

Poa Prevention

A strategy that is related to aerification events is poa annua encroachment. Poa seed likes to get started in aeration holes and poa annua infestation will be a battle with these new greens despite the availability better tools to combat it's encroachment.  One strategy that we plan to employ is to not aerate, or open up the greens, when poa is actively germinating and producing seed. In our area, poa starts to germinate as early as late August early September and continues through the spring of the following year. Therefore our best line of defense against poa getting started in our greens is to have a dense stand of bentgrass prior to it's germination period. That means most of our cultural practices on the greens need to happen in late May through mid August. 

The danger of aerating in the summer is the high temperatures associated with this time of the year. Aerification practices of any type, although necessary,  are inherently stressful to the plants. When you add high temperatures to the mix it can be risky. Good news is we are planning on small frequent aeration events which by scale are less risky and at the same time substantially less impactful to putting quality. Additionally, with fewer Monday events we have more flexibility with scheduling around extreme weather forecasts. 

This image shows current state of our rootzone on the #9 green. This is in an area that had a full 8" of new rootzone mix. Great news is we have good rooting deeper even then 8". The thatch layer is something we need to keep an eye on and remove via aeration and replace with sand which will allow air into the rootzone encouraging a strong microbial population which in turn will feed on this organic thatch further reducing it. Additionally we need to step up light frequent sand topdressings and dilute this thatch layer at the rate of growth.

Above image shows not only root depth but root density of the same sample. The rooting mass is strong enough to support the entire rootzone sample. A much different story then when we opened the course in October 2021. Not all of our greens have this type of root mass or depth, but are all improving day by day, even in the summer months which typically takes a toll on the roots of a putting surface. 

Tuesday the greens will be a little sandier then normal but will putt just fine.  By Thursday we should be pretty close to normal. 

Aeration and cultural practices on putting surfaces are just something we have to do and these practices are likened to  Benjamin Franklin's famous exhortation, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". I'll update with fresh pictures next week.

Thanks for your support. The Best Is Yet To Come!

Friday, July 15, 2022

Fairway Drainage

I mentioned in a  recent course update that we would be starting drainage work in the very near future and indeed we have begun. I believe I mentioned also that this is a fairy normal state of affairs on a new golf course or newly renovated golf course. New golf courses, including Granite Bay in 1994, had underground drainage systems installed to accommodate surface water running off the turf and into a catch basin or drainage inlet. These  original drainage inlets are normally associated with low areas or depressions that were purposeful during construction to pick up running surface water. 

Drainage work that occurs after construction or renovation can be an expansion of the underground drainage system, but more often then not are what we refer to as French Drains. According to Wikipedia, these type of drains - 

 "may have been invented in France[2] but Henry Flagg French (1813–1885) of Concord, Massachusetts, a lawyer and Assistant U.S. Treasury Secretary described and popularized them[3] in Farm Drainage (1859)." 

Drainage patterns become very evident after we start to irrigate and  usually follow the flow of water and tie into the existing underground drainage. 

Granite Bays french drain installation is a simple trench with 4" perforated drainpipe surrounded with 1" gravel, followed by some sand and replacement of the sod which was removed prior to trenching. The above internet image shows a fabric liner that we do not use. From our experience these geo textile fabrics slow the water infiltration and end up clogging the drain entirely.  A few pictures below are worth a thousand words for those who are interested.

First drain we did was the approach area in front of #10 green.

Step 1 is removing sod where you want to trench. This area is left hand side #4 near new fairway bunker. 

Next trenching and soil removal. Soil need's  to go and make room for porous drain rock and must be manually scooped up and hauled off.

After everything is cleaned up its time for a little gravel on the bottom of the trench, then........

Installation of the drain pipe, then ........

Installation of the gravel over the drain pipe, approximately 8-10 inches, then .......

Replacement of the removed sod after a couple inches of some sand for the sod to root into.

Finishing touches include topdressing sand to even out the area. This will require a few applications to get the disrupted area smooth for ultimate playability.

This image of the soil profile in a drainage trench is an example of what we have been dealing with here at Granite Bay since our inception. Very difficult soil to get turf to thrive in. At least now with the Santa Anna Hybrid Bermuda up the middle we have a crop that stands a fighting chance.

Look for us to continue to work on drainage through July and August. This allows us to irrigate more efficiently without the highs and lows of reacting to boggy, wet areas by turning off sprinklers surrounding the area to dry out the bog, resulting in drying out the turf associated with the irrigation these turned off sprinklers are designed to provide.

Thanks for your patience. The Best Is Yet To Come!

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Happy #1 Birthday GBGC Fairways

It was indeed just a year ago this week when we started the sprigging process to convert our fairways at Granite Bay Golf Club from a mix of cool season turf varieties to warm season Santa Anna Hybrid Bermuda. The process we used to convert the fairways is called sprigging which involved shredding big rolls of sod into little pieces, disking them into prepared soil, rolling, flood watering followed by allot of fertilizer, more watering and rolling, then BOOM! a fairway. Sounds simple, but in reality, it was a stressful time filled with learning curves and setbacks and questions such as "is this going to work?". 

Fast forward a year and we have the foundation of what will be, with a little more time to fine tune and mature, some extremely fast, firm and sustainable fairways that wont be susceptible to the stresses of summer any longer, along with superior playability year round to our previous cool season blend.

The first big roll of Santa Anna Hybrid Bermuda about to be made into sprigs on #1 fairway
June 28, 2021

Starting the sprigging on #1. GM Kevin Marshall is so excited.

Hard to believe this turned into fairway turf.

Fairways we started playing on 4 - 5 months later.

Fairways we are playing on a year later.

10 months after sprigging

Fine Tuning Continues

We have been continuing to fine tune this young golf course since the 2021 renovation and are starting to see some expected and unexpected issues that will need immediate and long term attention. The expected items include irrigation of Hybrid Bermuda fairways directly adjacent to cool season rough and installation of drainage to move surface water off of the plying surfaces where it now accumulates. 

Surface Drainage

Drainage work after a renovation or on a new golf course is pretty normal. These areas become evident after either sustained rain in the winter or after you start irrigating. We didn't get much rain this past season and when it did rain it rained in buckets, then dried out relatively quickly. Although many of these drainage areas were known, we started seeing others when we started to irrigate. We've been making irrigation adjustments to buy some time knowing that we would sooner rather then later have to start installing surface drainage. Sooner has come, and we will begin installing drains on #10 approach and #12 fairway the week of July 4, 2022. I'll do a course update then on process, plans and progress of this surface drainage work.

Approach on #10. The contours of this area in particular were all changed in 2021 and the necessity of a surface drain very predictable. If we reduce irrigation in the area too much to dry the approach area down,  the tall fescue surrounding the bunker at the top of the picture will really struggle. This is a great example of an area that needs a surface drain now, and some supplemental irrigation to independently water the fescue in the future

Supplemental Irrigation

I've mentioned irrigation on the edges of fairways and rough as being a big challenge. This challenge won't go away with irrigation programing and adjustments in many cases. Bottom line we have cool season and warm season turf growing right next to one another with different irrigation needs and wants that are irrigated with the same irrigation heads in many cases. The above picture illustrates this well. The ultimate solution will basically be supplemental irrigation in our cool season rough areas that will provide adequate independent irrigation. 

I am hoping to make a starting push on this work during the Winter of 2022. Much more to come on this as it will be a key to our success in the future. Below illustration of the beginning of the fairway on #10 is another simple example of what we are facing now, and planning for the future solutions.  

Above is a copy of a new updated irrigation map.
Blue 10F #'s indicate fairway head's, red 10R #'s indicate  rough head's. If you locate 10F1 & 10F2 you will see by their proximity to the rough /  fairway line that they irrigate both cool season rough turf as well as warm season fairway turf. One area can get dry very easily, while simultaneously the other is wet. Short term help can be achieved by installing a surface drain. Long term solution will be  installing supplemental irrigation for the cool season rough.

Unexpected Circumstances

The one unexpected issue I have observed so far with our new Santa Anna Hybrid Bermuda fairways is seedhead production and how it can affect aesthetics particularly in the spring.  Most varieties of Hybrid Bermuda do produce sterol seed heads on stems or stalks that don't  cut very well when mowing and leave a straw like appearance. 

The Santa Lucia Preserve Golf Club in Carmel Valley is a golf club I toured in 2017 in preparation for our Santa Anna conversion as they had converted their fairways to Santa Anna a few years prior. The Santa Anna fairways at "The Preserve" are what I consider the gold standard for Santa Anna fairways, and what we are striving for here at Granite Bay. They are dealing with the same issues like seedhead production and irrigating cool season rough next to their Santa Anna Fairways. The Preserve's Superintendent shared with me last week, a study that was just concluded at The Preserve by Dr. James Beard from UCR on Santa Annas seedhead production. Dr. Beard and his department are probably the most active turfgrass researcher's in California and a valuable resource for Golf Course Superintendents in the state on a variety of turf issues.

The study's results will be available shortly with good news on timing and application of  certain products that  can prevent seedhead production and the straw coloration associated with it.

Above is a good closeup of Santa Anna seedhead.

Clean Santa Anna Fairway after seedheads were removed with vertical mowing

Granite Bay Golf Club. What a Treat!

Last week I got these pictures of Granite Bay wildlife one morning at sunrise and wanted to share. 


The good news, as far as I am concerned, is we have a superior turf to what we had and complete irrigation coverage and system, including a new pump station to irrigate this turf. Additionally we are in a part of the State, that at least at the moment, have a adequate water source to irrigate with. That being said, we will have a water conservation story to tell this year and  in the future at Granite Bay, and have an even better story to tell farther in the future when we have the enhancements in place that I spoke of above. 

The first birthday of fairway sprigging brings to my mind at least, of how far we have come since last year. There is much left to be done which seems formidable at times, but much has been accomplished since that first sprig hit the ground on June 28th, 2021. Our work continues. Thanks for your patience and support. The Best Is Yet To Come.