Thursday, July 5, 2018

GBGC Starts Hybrid Bermuda Trials

We have all heard the famous quote regarding the definition of insanity as doing the same thing and expecting a different result. As a company we have tried different things to make our current blend of cool season turf work here at Granite Bay and  in my 10 seasons here, I have always gone  into the summer season optimistic  that our new strategy for the new season will make all the difference. Sometimes the strategy helps but more often then not we are in the same position at the end of summer that we have always been. Honestly after what seems like a lifetime of taking care of golf course turf in this transition zone I have always known that  the best shot at overall success is turf that can make it through our summer weather. 

The insanity needed to stop, therefore we have started down the road of exploring options for a turf conversion here at Granite Bay Golf Club which is something I believe could be a game changer for the course and club. We are looking at converting our fairways from the  cool season mix of grasses that are currently in place to warm season Hybrid Bermuda turf.  Additionally we are looking at converting our  green surrounds from primarily cool season turf to Overseeded Hybrid Bermuda which is the best of both worlds providing durability and aesthetics.

There are multiple reasons we are considering a turf conversion which fall into three major categories.

  • Playability - Fast & Firm
  • Durability - Traffic
  • Sustainability - Less Water 

Turfgrass Research Facility UC Riverside.

The mix of  grasses that currently make up the playing surfaces at Granite Bay are of the cool season turf variety. From a playability standpoint they do well in the winter and spring but really struggle in our decomposed granite soil's during the heat of summer leading to the historical loss of turf. This turf loss varies from year to year depending on the intensity of the summer, but always leads to a fall where we are trying to recover from these summer losses. Additionally trying to sustain our current cool season turf requires more water then ideal for golf in the summer and  seed germination for recovery in the fall requires more water then ideal for golf as well. Converting from a cool season variety to warm season hybrid bermuda would change this scenario drastically and would provide the playing conditions in the summer and fall the we have always desired.

Valley Sod Farm Harvesting Big Rolls

There isn't a more durable turf then hybrid bermuda. And in the summer when it is thriving it will be much better suited to take the traffic of member and tournament events without the need of excessive traffic control measures. The History of Hybrid Bermuda is interesting. My  synopsis is hybrid bermudas were the product of plant variations in common bermuda grass that were noticed on golf course greens in the southern US as far back as the late 20th century. These variations were studied and bred and crossed bred until parent clones were developed. These clones are sterile meaning they do not produce viable seed therefore have to be vegetatively propagated with sod or sprigs. This breeding continued through 21st century developing varieties that are fine textured, dense, drought, wear, disease & insect tolerant. Varieties that are commercially available today include the above mentioned characteristics as well as shorter and less pronounced dormancy periods. This is because the main downside to  even hybrid bermuda is a dormancy period in the cold weather. However today's hybrid bermudas have a very short, less pronounced dormancy period's and come out of dormancy much earlier and quicker then their great great great grandparents, common bermuda. Additionally there are many "tricks of the trade" that are helping turfgrass managers keep hybrid bermuda green through the winter  which we will address in future updates.

Dr Glenn Burton - Hybrid Bermuda Plant Breeder

Playability and durability are the things we as golfers and turf managers primarily care about. However the big elephant in the room is water use. The day is coming and actually here when the State of CA will be telling us all  how much water we can use and when. The CA golf industry has its challenges, water use being at the forefront and our industry is telling golfs story of sustainability but changes they are a coming. The conservation mandate entitled "20 by 2020" became law a few years back and  had a specific focus on a Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance. These laws and ordinances will be the defining issues of this golf club moving forward and 80 acres of cool season turf along with its associated water needs are a real threat. Converting to hybrid bermuda which requires less irrigation would fit's much better into this new conservation  world California is moving into. 

There is  much more to discuss including local comparisons and specifics, winter strategies as well as the potential conversion process and details. I look forward to addressing these items as well as members concerns. However first things first. The most important thing is we get the right hybrid bermuda for Granite Bay Golf Club. Therefore we have begun to install trial plots searching for the right grass for our situation focusing on upcoming winter performance primarily as summer performance is almost a given. Below are pictures of  sample plot installation with some explanations. 

A laid out sample plot in the middle of #5FW

Removing existing sod with sod cutter

Adding a little extra sand and organic matter

Incorporation of sand into existing soil.
We wanted to mimic the potential construction process as close as possible 

A little fine grading prior to laying sod

The first of our chosen Hybrid Bermuda cultivars newly installed on #5 fairway the week of June 18th. After 3 days it is already sending down substantial roots. We are installing 2 more plots the week of June 25th  on holes #12 & #16. An additional 2 plots will go down the week of July 9th after the 4th of July week on holes #2 & #8. All plots were put down  near the 150 yard marker in the fairway and will be roped off as GUR until approximately the week of July 23rd & week of July 30th. Then let the trials begin.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

23 Days Left of Summer

New Assistant Superintendents - Miguel & Ryan

We began the search for Jogi's replacement immediately after he announced he was leaving Granite Bay to take a new Golf Course Superintendent position at Empire Ranch Golf Club. We didn't have to look far as Miguel Machuca was already in place and eager to accept the added responsibility. Miguel and I have been working together for 15 years taking care of golf courses locally with Club Corp and he joined the staff here at Granite Bay in 2010. Miguel is well respected by the GCM staff as well as the GBGC Membership and has a "lead by example approach" to training and instructing young greenskeepers. I refer to him as the "meticulous one" because of his tireless attention to detail.

Ryan Mooney & Miguel Machuca
To fill Miguel's spot we went outside of the GBGC golf course maintenance department and were fortunate to land Ryan Mooney from most recently Woodcreek Golf Club in Roseville.  Ryan worked summer jobs at Cobblestone Creek CC in Victor, NY while pursuing his BA degree in History from St. John Fischer College. He couldn't get golf out of his system while pursing a teaching or museum position to go along with that history degree, so  he decided to go back to school and get a turf degree and pursue a career as a Golf Course Superintendent. His Turf Certificate from UC Riverside lead him to a internship at the Riviera CC for a couple of years and a season at Valley Hi in Elk Grove. One of  Ryan's primary task's will be selective perennial weed control here at GBGC so we are very much looking forward to his success in this area and his addition to our GCM staff.

Summer Blues - Only 23 Days Left!

Jogi's has always said that 1996 was the hottest year we ever experienced here at Granite Bay Golf Club logging 35 days over 100 degrees. However by all measurements 2017 has been the hottest in at least the last 9 years.  Our weather station here the the club has recorded 24 days above 100 degrees so far. Of those 100 degree days 7 were 105 degrees, 1 was 106 degrees and 3 were 107 degrees. What made these numbers even worse was the intensity of two distinct heat waves. The first one was in the very first part of June (6/18 - 6/23) where we had 6 days where the average high temperature was 106 degrees. There was somewhat a reprieve through the rest of  June, then we got hit with the second distinct heat wave in early July (7/6 - 7/10) which lasted 5 days that averaged 103 degrees for the high. 90 degree Summer heat records were set in Sacramento and reflected at the course as there was not one day in the month of July where the high temperature was below 90 degrees. In fact the lowest high temperature we recorded in July was 93 degrees on 7/1. It never got any better then that.

Above is a synopsis of summer heat weather data compiled from our weather station for the last 9 years. The data for 2017 YTD is through August 28. Accuweather forecast for Granite Bay has another 6 days of triple digits in their forecast which will move 2017 numbers even higher. 

Everything we do in the summer is a reaction to heat and what it does to our cool season turf. Heat is what drives us to rope off areas to mitigate the effects of traffic. Heat is the main contributor of weeds, disease and insects thriving in the summer and the reaction from GCM to mitigate their damages despite all of our proactive measures to prevent them. It is unfortunate that the effort to hold on to what turf we have through the summer conflict with fast and firm playing surfaces that golfers desire. However finishing up the summer with a viable stand of turf where we don't need to do massive amounts of reseeding is in everyone's best interest.

Summer Weeds

Last year in July, I wrote about  Granite Bay Golf Club Perennial Weed Control and have linked those articles above. The details regarding perennial weed varieties we battle here at Granite Bay and options for control  were actually outlined pretty well so if you are interested in those details click on the link.

Some weed control updates are worth addressing however that reveal more insight into the control task at hand. The Knotgrass mentioned in the above updates has gotten worse, not better this season likely due to the intensity of the summer, fertility levels and moisture content. We are currently using the same strategy of spot treating areas with a selective herbicide  however we are going to step up application frequency's and rates. This might seem like the "definition of insanity" but it is all we are resourced to do at the moment. Hopefully the intensified strategy will push this weed back enough to mitigate the amount of re-sodding we plan on doing next season, which is the strategy we will be budgeting for in 2018.

Recent selective herbicide application on Knotgrass is doing it's job.

Dallisgrass is another perennial weed we fight here at GBGC however I'm not as concerned about it as it's somewhat slow to spread. Still difficult to control with selective herbicides but we don't have large populations in the primary playing surfaces and Typically control it in those areas by just digging it out and covering hole with divot mix and seed. We do apply the same  herbicide strategy for Knotgrass to Dallisgrass in the periphery and have had some containment success.

Dallisgrass at GBGC

Goosegrass being controlled selectively

Only 23 More Days!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Jogi's Leaving

After 23 years of service to Granite Bay Golf Club and it's members, Jogi Choung, our long time Assistant Superintendent has accepted the Golf Course Superintendent position at Empire Ranch Golf Club in Folsom.

Jogi came to the United States in 1984 from Punjab, India and started working at Cameron Park CC while attending night school to fine tune his English and Agronomic's. In 1994 Jogi followed Jim Ferrin, Granite Bay's first Superintendent, to help with the growing in of a new Golf Club in Granite Bay. He has been here ever since.

Jogi has always described himself as a "Farmer" and has been the steadying presence in Granite Bay's Golf Course Maintenance Department for over two decades. He is more then just a leader to everyone on the crew, he is a friend. He never raises his voice, always has a smile on his face and has always maintained demeanor that everyone gravitates too. We will all miss him but are happy for him with his new opportunity and that he will still be a part of the Club Corp family.

Jogi's last day at Granite Bay is Tuesday August 15th and we are having a little send away fiesta today, Thursday August 10th at 12:30 PM in the golf course maintenance yard. Anyone reading this that wants to bid Jogi farewell is more then welcome. Miguel & Enrique are making tacos as well.  

Jogi and Matt down in a hole

Jogi making irrigation adjustments via IPad

Saturday, July 8, 2017

75 Days Left of Summer

The Summer of 2017 started off with an intense heatwave here at Granite Bay. The six days between June 28th and July 2nd we averaged 106 degrees for a high. This is the type of heat that will leave a mark on the cool season turf that comprises most of the playing surfaces here at Granite Bay. We did experience a reprieve as the heatwave was thankfully followed by some much kinder weather ushered in by the beloved delta breezes, but the intense heat did leave behind some isolated damage and we have another similar heatwave predicted for this week. Below are a series of pictures that chronicle some of the issues the golf course is currently dealing with along with what the golf course maintenance department is doing to mitigate the damage.

From afar the golf course looks good, has many areas of dense turf and really good color.

However up close in some areas you can see typical heat related issues. Above picture depicts a disease called Southern Blight that we treat proactively for. Obviously our proactive treatments were not enough for this specific patch of Fairway turf on #16.

The heat also plays havoc with cart paths in some areas. Cart path buckling here is caused by soil expansion underneath. The above picture depicts the area directly after the forward tees on #5. There is another raised area on #9. The soil on #5, #8, #9 is somewhat different then the rest of the course in that it has a higher clay content then decomposed granite. The three paths on these three holes are the only paths we have experienced this type of heat related lifting. We will repair by using a concrete saw and remove a 3" section of concrete creating an expansion joint. 

Putting surfaces took a hit from the intense heat as well and are now starting to exhibit the stress from root loss particularly the poa annua patches. The past few summers we have not experienced the type of heatwave we experienced the beginning of July and the poa on our greens fared pretty well. But as I said, 106 average highs temps for 6 days will leave a mark. Above Miguel is hand spiking and seeding weak areas with bentgrass seed on the practice green. In fact we closed the practice green on Friday 7/7/17 as much of the high side of it is thinning. Tilleys practice green is still open.

#7 green has thinned out at the back of the green as well. All of the greens have been spiked to improve air exchange in the root zone and this one has received additional spiking  and seeding as well as placing GUR ropes around the weakest area at the back.

Additionally we have put out the portable fan to help with surface air movement on this troublesome green and have tree trimmers scheduled to thin the Live Oaks behind the green creating more air movement. The past few summers #7 has been pretty good and we thought we might have turned the corner with it. However the heatwave we experienced has highlighted our vulnerabilities and proved there is more work to do. 
The #3 green is at least for now proving to be a success story. Tree thinning allowing for substantially more air movement in the area has really paid dividends on this chronically bad green in the summer months. However if you look really close even in this picture you can see a yellowing of the poa annua patches which is all related to root loss and heat stress.
#3 fan up and running during the summer months contributing to the greens success story.

Many tee boxes on the course were the first visual casualties of the heatwave. The perfect storm of intense heat and traffic took it toll on several tee levels. Picture above depicts the granite level on #1 at the conclusion of the heatwave. 

GCM re-surfacing. We also took the opportunity to expand this level and have plans to expand the level below in the hopefully near future. 

#1 granite level growing in. Hopefully it will be ready for some use in a few weeks.

The granite and club levels on #5 took a hit from the heatwave as well. The hole will play short for you granite and club players while we re-surface.

These tee boxes needed to be leveled and expanded as well. We will finish the expanding and leveling process next week and install the sod.

Your GCM staff will continue the good fight and battle to mitigate further setbacks as we not only deal with issues from the early July heatwave but future heat that the next 75 days of  summer (as of 7/8/17) is bound to bring. Summers are hard on turfgrass in the west and particularly hard on cool season golf course turf.  We cant control the weather but we can manage the irrigation, prevent disease and insect damage as much as we can, re sod areas when able and live with some damage when we have to. 

It's Only 75 Days !

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wedgewood Vegetation Management

The community of Wedgewood, our southern neighbors have recently contracted with the Vegetation Management Company, Goat Central to start clearing out accumulated brush for fire prevention in 15 acres of Linda Creek Ravine. Granite Bay Golf Clubs Property line to the left of #14 is adjacent to the area that Wedgwood has hired the contractor. We have allowed the contractor to install temporary fencing slightly onto the golf course property just below the bridge on #14. It will take three weeks to clear  the 15 acres at Wedgewood and I understand afterwards the process will be moving over to Granite Bay Hills. Evidently this is quite common for local associations and large home-sites that have these fuel load reduction needs to utilize Goat Central for this type of vegetation management.

Installing the temporary fence along the actual property line would have been an onerous task and possibly not as a successful containment as installing in the location below our #14 bridge. This Green Vegetation Management Procedure is approved by the  California Regional Water Quality Control Board as well as the US Department of Fish and Game according to Goat Central proprietor Roy Austin. 

Containment fence beginning pin high to #14 Tee.

Fencing traveling through the Linda Creek Ravine below GBGC's #14 bridge.

Crossing over main fork of Linda Creek heading up left side of #14

We have temporarily moved the out of bounds stakes in 5 yards or so to accommodate the fence up the left side of #14. This should take only 3 weeks  and we will get a little berry and poison oak clearing out of it as well.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cart Path #1 Bridge Complete

As planned, we completed the demolition, forming and pouring of the broken concrete near the beginning of our #1 bridge today, Tuesday June 27th 2017. Traffic was routed around #10 to #1 where all play for the day started on the pebble tees. We will have to play that way tomorrow, Wednesday 6/28/17 and will open the bridge to cart and foot traffic on Thursday 6/29/17. Below are some pictures of the process for those who are interested.

Detour over #10 bridge, around #10 to the #1 Pebble Tee

Miguel completing early AM demolition of the existing concrete.

Lifting a big chunk to drop and break

Enrique getting some grading done ahead of concrete contractors. I neglected to get a picture of us digging out the surface Oak Tree roots that caused the damage in the first place. The root material amounted to a couple of cart loads.
GB moving concrete with Toro Workmen.

Dumping concrete into formed cavity

J&S Asphalt concrete crew getting concrete in place.

Concrete finishing
Finished product.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Cart Path Repair #1 Bridge

All of us who play and work at Granite Bay Golf Club have been dealing with a bumpy patch of concrete leading onto the #1 bridge for awhile now and we are finally getting it repaired this coming Tuesday 6/27/17.

The damage occurred gradually from the roots of a maturing Valley Oak that was likely planted 20 years ago right near the entrance to the bridge. 

A small challenge in making this repair is we will need to close the bridge for a day or two while we pour new concrete and allow the concrete to cure. During this time we will need to route all cart and foot traffic to the #10 bridge and around to the #1 fairway. We will have the temporary traffic pattern marked plainly and hopefully not experience major traffic jams on the #10 bridge. 

The detour will add 800 to 900 feet to a walkers round that day so prepare for some extra exercise.