Friday, December 10, 2010

Early Winter Progress

We are all aware the weather plays a big part in golf course conditions along with the progress we make in golf course maintenance. Winter months are not nearly as stressful for the golf course as summer but cold and rain definitely effect playing conditions and hinder progress on  planned projects. So far this season we have received twice as much rainfall as we have the previous two seasons. More rainfall equates to more cloudy days and no sun to dry things  out which has the course in the wettest winter condition it has been in in many years. This week is the first full week in over three years that we have not been able to mow the course  and allow carts off the path because of conditions that are too wet. Extended forecasts call for a wetter then normal winter so if these prognostications hold up we could be in store for more of this.

          Granite Bay Golf Club - Rainfall Comparisons in Inches

                                                   2008          2009          2010
                       September           0.00            0.13           0.00
                           October           0.53            2.53           3.17
                        November          2.16            0.70           3.60
                December 10th          0.00            1.00           1.60
                             Total             2.69            4.36           8.38

The aggressive aeration that the putting surfaces received in October has really paid off during this wet early winter as well. The surfaces are firmer and drain much faster then in previous years after winter storms. However rolling the surfaces when they are wet creates excessive compaction which might work well for green speed but not for overall green health. So we have not been able to roll the surfaces since the onset of the storms. Look for green speeds in the nine foot to ten foot range when we are not rolling and in the ten foot plus range when we can sensibly get the roller on them, hopefully soon.

Despite the wet weather we have been making some decent progress on our 2010 - 2011 winter project goals since we finished core aeration of all of the turf grass surfaces in early November. As a reminder the three primary areas we plan to focus on this fall and the upcoming winter are:
          1. Fairway Sand Trap Renovation
          2. Tree and Brush Trimming and Clearing
          3. Irrigation Triangulation
Granite Bay has 21 total fairway bunkers and 5 practice bunkers between the range and the practice chipping area. Our plan for fairway bunker renovation is not as aggressive as last winter with green side bunkers primarily because we desire to make progress in the other areas mentioned above. We have currently completed 3 fairway bunkers of the 21. Our goal would be to complete another 10 or more through the remaining winter and tackle the rest after fall aeration in 2011. I probably don't need to remind you that weather plays a significant role in the amount of progress we can make with this type of work and although we accomplished allot last winter dealing with just normal rainfall it looks like weather will be more of a deterrent this year then last. We'll just have to work between storms and see how it goes. In addition to the bunker work planned this winter, we hope to finish the practice bunkers around the chipping area later in the year when we have some renovation work planned for the entire area.  More on this to come.

#2 fairway Bunker Complete

#2 Fairway Bunker Drainage Pattern

#13 Left Hand Fairway Bunker - Completed

As I mentioned in the last update we have a substantial amount of tree and brush clearing we hope to take care of this winter as well. The Granite Bay Golf Committee came up with a list of areas that were priorities for the membership and we plan to tackle many of these areas. However as I mentioned in our last update, we need to open up some areas around greens providing more light and air movement to help with the overall health of these areas. These struggling areas  include the practice green, #7 green, #13 green, #14 green and #16 green.
Practice Green After Pruning

Practice Green Before Pruning

#7 Green after Pruning. 7:00 AM Picture

Since our last update we have completed tree pruning around the practice green, #7, and #16. We have started and plan  to complete the pruning around #13 and #14 next week and then start on the Golf Committee list ,starting with  the willows in the pond on #1 & #9 that are blocking the vision of those two holes. While we are in the area we  plan to start clearing in front of the #10 tee exposing the granite rock formations and returning the appearance while standing on the tee to more of the original vision and intent of the hole. We plan to take the last three weeks of December and beyond, if that what it takes to accomplish all of this work.

#16 Green Surround After Pruning

Irrigation triangulation is just a fancy way of saying we need to move some sprinklers so they can be more efficient when we start irrigating next year. We understand that this work is not as  impactful as exposing the rocks in front of #10 tee or pruning trees around the greens,  I only mention it to emphasize its importance. It is tedious and time consuming work albeit necessary and we don't want to start irrigating next year without completing all of it. So when you see us out there trenching, digging and making a mess around the greens just be assured that this work will help  create better conditions next summer.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Winter Plans

We are wrapping up core aeration of all of the playing surfaces at Granite Bay this week. If it seems like we have been working on aeration for awhile  its because we have. This is the first time since my tenure here at Granite Bay that we have taken the time to core aerate all of the turf at one time. As I have explained in the past, core aeration involves not just poking a hole but extracting a core and removing it  from the surface as opposed to solid  tine aeration where a hole is made in the surface of the turf but no core is removed. Both processes have different benefits. Core aeration is more disruptive and labor intensive but actually removes a portion of the   accumulated organic matter or thatch. Solid tine aeration supplies necessary oxygen to the root zone, as does core aeration, but does not address removal of excessive organic matter which is a real issue  here at Granite Bay. However the process is less labor intensive allowing us to get more done in a shorter period of time and the surfaces recover more rapidly.

Core Aerating around #16 green
Fairway aerator removing cores from fairways

We got started in September in the rough on some holes trying to get a head start and keep disruption to a minimum. An unseasonably warm early fall caused us to hold off a bit as any type of aggressive cultural practice such as core aeration during stressful weather can actually set the areas back rather then the intended improvement. Aggressive core aeration of the putting surfaces was performed in early October and the unseasonable weather continued and actually helped us with rapid recovery on the greens. Following the greens we completed fairways, then resumed the rough areas followed by the approaches to the greens and now just finishing the surrounds of the greens.

Seeding thin areas in the rough on #13

 The process requires some drying to both remove the damp messy cores and to get topdressing sand into the holes where sand was applied. Putting surfaces were done on days when we closed the course and the majority of the fairways were done on subsequent Monday afternoons following tournament events. The rest of the areas were done systematically during member play  by doing the actual aeration or core removal in the morning, allowing for some drying followed by removal of the cores and applying topdressing. Thanks to all members who put up with the disruption and noise during these processes. Bottom line these necessary procedures to the entire golf course take the better part of two months to accomplish. Core aeration along with normal golf course maintenance is all we can accomplish during this period of time.

Which brings us to whats next? What are our plans for this coming winter? We always look forward to the winter months because with any kind of luck and cooperation from nature we can get allot done. There are three primary areas we plan to focus on this fall and the upcoming winter.
  1. Fairway Sand Trap Renovation
  2. Tree and Brush Trimming and Clearing
  3. Irrigation Triangulation
Starting next week we plan to start the renovation process on our fairway sand traps. Our plan is to use the same drainage system in the base of the sand traps and not extend the drainage into the faces of the traps as extensively as we did on the green side traps. This should allow for a consistent firm face of the trap and minimize the depth of sand on the face and maximize ball settling into the base of the trap. The faces of the fairway traps will probably washout more readily then the green side bunkers but  the traps will not be able to hold water in the base which is currently not the case. The totality of this final phase of bunker renovation will play out similar to last year. We have some capitol funds left from 2010 that we need to use by year end. That is what we will start with. If our capitol allotment for 2011 is approved early and weather cooperates we will continue through the winter of 2011.

#7 green shaded in the morning
                                                                                     Also next week we plan to start brush clearing / tree pruning in areas  that we did not make as much progress as we wanted to last  winter  because we put all of our resources into finishing green side bunkers. This work will be very visual and dramatic for all of us so we are excited about getting started. First things first, we have to address some green surrounds which tree growth and the associated shade are effecting turf quality on the greens. Greens surrounds that we plan to address in the next couple of weeks are: Large Practice Green, #7, #13, #14 & #16. Following the trimming around these greens we plan to start trimming the Arroyo Willows ( grayish colored shrubby willows) on the pond edges of #1 & #9 along with associated vegetation. Our goal is to maintain the natural look of the pond while re-establishing the original vision of the initial tee shot on #1 and the approach shot on #9. Following this area we plan to attack the area in front of #10 tee, again re-establishing the original vision of the hole and exposing much of the dramatic granite rocks in front of the tee. Another area we would like to address this winter is in front and around the #14 tee.

Practice Green in complete morning shade
 The third of our three goals for this winter is to continue to work on irrigation sprinkler triangulation improvement focusing on putting surface surrounds. You will have to trust me that this work will make a substantial difference in turf quality in these areas, improving irrigation distribution and enhancing irrigation management and scheduling efficiencies. I don't want to bore you with the details but again want to reinforce the importance of this work and our commitment to getting putting surface surrounds addressed this winter.

Current view from the granite tees on #1

Current view from granite tee #10

As we progress through these goals I will share details with you as usual. Weather always plays a big part in progress at this time of year but we will hope for the best and  see how much we accomplish come spring time.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Granite Bay Tees

Any one who has been a member of Granite Bay Golf Club for any length of time recalls our original tees and how we have been painstakingly replacing the original turf on them throughout the years. Newer members might be wondering about the inconsistencies in firmness versus softness and why some of them look just awful. This update will address all of these issues and let you know both the short and long term  plan for fixing them.

Our tees were originally seeded with creeping bentgrass which is a cool season grass commonly used for putting surfaces in our area. Not many courses in our area, none to my knowledge, started with bentgrass on their tees. This is  primarily because of the  intense maintenance requirements  for bentgrass and it's inability to recuperate on a teeing area  during the summer months. In the early years of the club it was nearly impossible to keep grass on some of the tee's during the warmer parts of the year as any charter or long time member can attest. Because of this, the decision to replace the bentgrass was a given.

Newly Sodded Club Tee on #12

This decision was made almost 12 years ago but back in those days allot was going on. The Club was going through a management transfer from the original ownership group to Club Corp and the members had a lot of pressing issues such as lack of grass on the greens, lack of cart paths etc. When it came to the tees, turf replacement started with the very worst areas and then progressed as other teeing levels took their place in the infamous pecking order of "next worst". It was not one big capitol project for there were many other needs vying for those precious capitol funds. The replacement sod was purchased through the maintenance budget as areas became unacceptable. Currently we have re-surfaced close to 80% of all the original bentgrass teeing areas on the course.

The replacement turf choice was a variety of hybrid bermuda called Tiffway II. This is a warm season, fine textured hybrid bermuda that produces a durable, firm surface with a high recovery rate ideal for  teeing areas. The new hybrid bermudas have a much better cold tolerance then their Great Grandfather common bermuda allowing them to hold on to color longer and come out of dormancy quicker. However dormancy of the bermuda was never going to be a big issue on the teeing areas  because the plan was to always over seed with ryegrass in the early fall, allowing them to be green all winter long.

Installing New Sod #6 Club / Cobble / Pebble Tee's
We are currently dealing with some of those "next worse" tees.  The Cobble tee on #2. The combo Club, Cobble & Pebble tee on #6. The Club tee on #12 and the Cobble tee on #17 are all currently being re-sodded. This leave us with only 22% of all of the teeing areas left on the course to re-sod. Our plan is to next year utilize a combination of sprigging and sodding of the remaining tees bringing some closure something that was started long ago.

#6 Club / Cobble / Pebble Tee in need of new turf.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fall 2010 Aeration Progress

Anyone who has ever spent any amount of time on a golf course will inevitably be confronted with the  process of aeration to the turfgrass playing surfaces. There is some truth to the appearance that it always seems like we pick the most inopportune time for golfers, either in the springtime coming out of winter, or in the fall  when summer recovery is in full swing. Unfortunately  the simple truth is  that these procedures  have to be done while the turf is actively growing so the surfaces can adequately recover.

In turf, aeration is a cultivation process that provides for air to move or circulate in the root zone and soil. Air in the soil is necessary for most of the  turf grass plants basic functions and we can trace many of our turf problems here at Granite Bay to a lack of air in the root zone. Aeration also relieves soil compaction and when done by pulling a core, the process can be the most effective way of removing excessive organic matter or thatch which actually seals off the soil from air infiltration. Our overall problems will  only compound if we are not diligent at sticking to a routine aeration program on all of the turf areas here at Granite Bay.

#3 Green being core aerated.

Organic matter (we call them plugs) removal

We just finished aeration of the putting surfaces utilizing a more aggressive approach then has ever been applied to our greens. Over the years our greens have become soft and spongy which is a result off a over accumulation of organic matter otherwise known as thatch. The USGA states "In our experience, golf courses with successful mature greens have been on a core aeration program where 15% to 20% of the surface area has been impacted each year."  (USGA Green Section Record - Core Aeration by the Numbers July 2001) The greens at Granite Bay have been aerated twice per year since their inception. However we have typically impacted only 10% to 12% of the surface per year utilizing a minimal disruption aeration approach. hence the problems we had this past summer and our adopting recommendations by the USGA.

Total material removed from 2 greens, #10 & #11

Applying topdressing sand

Finished after brushing, sweeping, blowing and rolling

Organic matter is not just an issue with our putting surfaces. It has accumulated throughout the course and is the source of our soft conditions. The removal of it via core aeration and de-thatching is tedious and time consuming work that need to be done in a timely fashion so the surfaces recover as quickly as possible. Again as I mentioned above if we don't stay on a annual regimen of core aeration of all of our playing surfaces twice per year, our soft and mediocre conditions can persist. It is definitely one of the  necessary evils of golf course maintenance

Putting surfaces were completed the week of October 4th. Front nine fairways will completed the week of October 11th, back nine the week of October 18th along with the back nine rough. That leaves us two weeks to address the putting surface surrounds which we plan to core aerate and aggressively seed.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why We Get Soft In The Summer

We have been getting comments from members recently regarding golf course conditions mainly pertaining to wetness and / or softness of the playing surfaces. Admittedly at this time of year  the moisture level in the fairways can be  up and down from day to day and even morning to afternoon on any given day. There can be many causes from sprinkler heads that stick during the evening, a leaking irrigation pipe or a miscalculated irrigation program. Some are outside the realm of control and planning and some we have to continue to work on and improve.  That being said the softness that seems to historically accentuate at the end of the summer comes from two primary culprits. Firstly the heavy decomposed granite soil type that our turf is growing on, and secondly the cool season turf blend we currently have established.

Different shades of green reveal examples of different patches of Bentgrass & Ryegrass on #4 fairway.

Light grey / green large patches - Bentgrass
Darker green - Ryegrass #4 fairway

Our fairways at Granite Bay are composed of an approximate 50/50 mix of bentgrass and ryegrass. These turf types are not necessarily blended together but have developed into independent "patches" of the varying species of turf woven throughout the course. To review, the course was originally seeded with ryegrass in 1994 and bentgrass was inter seeded shortly thereafter in 1995. The thought of original ownership regarding the bentgrass inter seeding was that it was a superior surface to ryegrass and would be unique to our area giving the club an competitive advantage. The conversion from Rye to Bent was not immediate and  when ownership changed in 1997 to Club Corp along with turfgrass management strategies the bentgrass was still spreading.

Ryegrass patch (red flag) adjacent to Bentgrass (white flag) #4 fairway.
Notice the gray green color of the Ryegrass area as it is starting to stress out.
( Cross section photos below are from these areas)

The main problem with managing these two cool season grasses  together is that the water management and  thatch development are very different for both species.  Bentgrass in our climate can be watered deeply and infrequently along with requiring more cultural practices (aeration & de thatching) to control thatch. Ryegrass needs nightly watering in the summer but does not develop as much thatch and hence does not get as soft as a bentgrass surface. Bentgrass is more heat tolerant in our area and tends to hold up to traffic better then ryegrass but again a ryegrass surface is generally firmer despite it's higher irrigation requirement. Trying to maintain these two species literally side by side is difficult and this difficulty culminates at summers end in the way of  soft playing surfaces in the bentgrass areas  and drought & heat stressed ryegrass areas.

Bentgrass cross section with 3" thatch layer #4

Bentgrass thatch layer moisture holding capacity #4

Ryegrass cross section. Minimal thatch and dry #4.

Close up view of a ryegrass patch #4 fairway

Comparing our fairway surfaces in the summer to some of the warm season or bermuda surfaces in the area is not proportional. Eight months out of the year the fairway surfaces at Granite Bay are comparable and at times can be superior. Four months out of the  year the bermuda fairways of say Cata Verdera or Northridge, as  examples, will be firmer  and you will get more ball roll. Dormant bermuda in the winter and spring can be a suitable playing surface although not as aesthetic. However in a wet year, the dormant surface can be sloppy and impassable with carts. All of the turf species grown in this area, both warm season (bermuda) or cool season (bentgrass & ryegrass) have their definitive ups and downs.
 Last year as an example when we tried to lean a little more on the dry side we experienced an unacceptable level of turf loss and dry spots without significantly firming up the bentgrass areas. With that in mind we decided to go in yet another direction with irrigation management this year and water less with our automatic system at night and have  dedicated afternoon water staff to both hand water hot spots and cool heat stressed turf down in the late afternoons. We continue to  make daily targeted adjustments to our irrigation regimen in addition to the dedicated hand watering program and I actually feel good about the direction we are going.

Typical drought stressed ryegrass patch adjacent to a bentgrass patch 2009 #17 fairway

However your perception is our reality and our desire is to provide the fast and firm conditions you want. The current unique blend of turf in our fairways make these goals a challenge but we will not give up. All of us are living in trying economic times and the short term reality for Granite Bay's turf is to work with what we've got. Long term  there are options to contemplate, nevertheless remember there is no perfect turf species for this area and even if there were the  living & dynamic nature of this outdoor surface we play this great game will vary from season to season by default. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cart Traffic On Stressed Turf - How you can Help

The article above outlines one of our largest challenges in maintaining the turf here at Granite Bay. As I mentioned above we do daily targeted irrigation adjustments which includes turning irrigation off  in some targeted areas for multiple days to dry out the bentgrass. When we do this it stresses out the ryegrass patches in the afternoon until they get some hand watered. The labor intensity of handwatering does not always allow us to get to every ryegrass spot every day.

Ryegrass area in afternoon stress surrounded by bentgrass

Typically when this stress occurs and receives irrigation from handwatering or the automatic system that coming evening it rebounds adequately until the next afternoon. This situation can be prevalent all summer but particularly acute late summer early fall as the bentgrass thatch (sponge) has become saturated and we attempt to dry the course out.

Another stressed out traffic area in the rough on #12 in the afternoon

Again these areas will revive but in this weak state cart traffic can be very detrimental. This is where you can help. Recognize these areas by their grey / brown color  and do not drive on them with golf carts. The tracking can last for weeks and can be very unsightly. We have all seen it.

Cart Traffic damage on a section of turf that is being nursed back. The tracking remains for weeks

This is an area where the membership can really help. Not everyone reads these updates so if we spread the word to our fellow members we can really minimize some  ugly damage.

Drive on the Green - Stay away from the Grey  is the rule of thumb. If anyone can come up with a better catch phrase then that, lunch is on me.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fall Aeration Schedule

Fall is just around the corner and with it comes aeration. We've done enough talking about excessive thatch and its detrimental effect on our playing surfaces and this is our oppurtunity to do something about it. Core aeration's is one of the best ways to deal with excessive thatch. Not only does the mechanical removal dilute the accumulation, the air added to the soil via the process creates a healthy environment for the soil where soil microbes can do their job and help degrade the thatch itself.

The removal process is disruptive as we all know so we want to keep everyone informed as to the what's and whens of this fall's aeration. Below is a schedule of what we will be doing. We have naturally come up with plan to work around the events coming up at the end of September.

                                        Granite Bay Golf Club Fall 2010 Aeration Schedule

Week                              Process                                                        Comments

August 30 - September 3           Start Core Aerating Rough                                              Get started on an area that will not
                                                                                                                                          effect events late in September

September 6 - September 10      Overseed  bermuda tees & approaches                         For effective overseed we cant wait till
                                                                                                                                          mid October.

September 13 - September 17     Continue Core Aerating Rough                                      Minimal effect on Events

September 20 - September 24     Continue Core Aerating Rough                                      Minimal effect on Events

September 27 - October 1          Continue Core Aerating Rough                                       Minimal effect on Events

October 4 - October 8                Aerate Putting Surfaces                                                   1/2" tines on 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 centers

October 11 - October 15            Core Aerate & De-thatch Fairways                                Afternoon procedures

October 18 - October 22            Core Aerate & De-thatch Fairways                                Afternoon procedures

October 25 - November 5           Core Aerate Green Surrounds                                        Time consuming, tedious work

Putting Surface Soil Testing Completed

We recently had physical soil testing done on three of our greens to help determine the cause of the isolated setbacks we had this summer. The greens tested were #7, #3 & #12. Seven and Three were tested because of their chronic year to year mediocrity in the summer months, and twelve was sampled as one of our healthier greens.

The testing did not reveal anything we did not already know but did provide scientific validation of how we need to move forward to provide the consistent, firm and fast putting surfaces you desire. As I have explained in previous updates, the bottom line is we have excessive organic matter or thatch accumulation in the top two inches of our putting surfaces  needs to be removed by more aggressive core aeration and deep vertical mowing. The good news is that the USGA greens mix below the top three inches is what should be expected with 16 year old greens and should be able to sustain a healthy surface once we get caught up with thatch removal.

The following are experts from the summary of the  ISTRC testing. As you will see they recommend  a minimum of 20% surface area displacement per year. We plan to target 25% to 30% for the next couple of years to get caught up. Good news is we can accomplish this using smaller 1/2" holes in a tighter pattern rather then using the larger 5/8" holes which take longer to recover. More details on how we plan to accomplish these goals to come.

"All three tested greens have an accumulation of plant-deposited organic matter & thatch within their upper 3 to 4 inches, which is the source of the high water holding & water porosity properties. Without open aerification holes we would estimate the root zone would support infiltration rates at or below 2 in./hr."

"A build up of organic matter and/or thatch is often a gradual process that occurs when the rate of plant-deposited biomass exceeds the rate of microbial decomposition and the physical removal through hollow coring & verti-cutting. As cumulative 1st tier organic contents (sum of the upper 4”) exceed 7 to 8 percent or 2 to 2 ½ percent, by inch, our testing & research has shown it becomes increasingly more difficult to keep the root zone open & breathing as well as maintain desirable firmness & green speed."

"Over the years we have been conducting an ongoing study into the annual displacement percentage and its impact on the aging of greens. Frequency has been a common measure of aerification; however with the wide range of tines & setups it provides very little information as to the true impact of aerification."

"Our goal through this study has been to establish a quantifiable measure for aerification and through its correlation to the physical properties help establish appropriate short & long-term programs. Given the current conditions, age of the greens, and their turf-type an excellent goal for your greens would be at least 20 percent annual surface area displacement (calculation based on the OD of the tines)."

 The newer aerifiers, quadtines, blocks, and deep verticutters have allowed many superintendents to significantly increase their annual displacement without increasing the frequency per year. For example, the Toro ProCore using 10 tine block and a ½ inch tine provides a good balance of displacement, ease of fill and recoverability."

"With greens that are prone to sealing off, it will be important that you also supplement the larger tine aerifications or deep verti-cuttings with regular venting using non-disruptive equipment such as the HydroJect, Planet Air, needle/pencil tines, hollow/solid quads, bayonet tines, star/cross tines, slicer, or deep spiker. Venting has proven to be extremely beneficial to the health of the turf and promoting gas exchange, particularly when done on a regular basis." "Improving the ability for the root zone to breathe will not only encourage a deeper, more sustainable root system but also enhance microbial activity to aid in the natural decomposition of the organic matter & thatch."

"The current testing has established an initial benchmark of your greens. We would recommend that you continue to monitor your greens with regular testing. The information derived from regular testing will allow you to monitor the aging process of the greens, evaluate the effectiveness of the current cultural practices, modify the program based on hard data, make adjustments to the program to meet the individual needs of specific greens, and detect problems before they affect the health of the greens."

Matt Pulis, M.S.

Southern Blight Update

The Southern Blight infestation that we experienced primarily around green surrounds in July could have been much worse. However the below normal summertime temperature's in both mid July and August helped stop the disease threat, and actually allowed us to germinate cool season ryegrass seed which is normally a difficult thing to do in the summer.

As I explained in an earlier update, we treat around the greens preventively for this disease but conditions became favorable even with the protection. The weather change and another curative treatment allowed us to get the pathogen under control and the unseasonable weather facilitated recovery sooner rather then later.

However some of the areas were close to greens and with the associated traffic along with the importance of the area we decided to re-sod the area. The areas we addressed with sod were #7, #10, and #17 greens. We still have a patch to do at the right bunker on #4 and we will address that next week.

Southern Blight area behind #2 green early July

Recovery of the same area mid August

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pond Work Completed

Aqua Mog working in Georges Lake

I stretched out a long series in our course reports last year describing the history, function and issues we have with the two ponds on our property. This explanation culminated in the first ever aquatic vegetation removal from primarily around our pump station intake area in George’s lake or the lake adjacent to holes #1 & #9.

As with any new procedure there were learning curves to work out. The first on was that the contractor showed up with this massive piece of equipment called an “Aqua Mog” which was on a large trailer moved by a large diesel truck. Communication prior to the equipment’s arrival could have been better as we had to lay down protection along the cart path on #9 to maneuver the piece of equipment into the pond.

The “Aqua Mog” was like a large floating excavator that removed rotting vegetation at the ponds bottom around the pump station intake along with some shoreline vegetation that had crept into some shelves along the 9th fairway side of the pond. We had budgeted only two days of work with the “Mog” and probably could have used its services for another day but budgets are what they are.
The combination of the selective spraying and the “Mog” work has created a different environment in George’s Lake this year. The Azolla or floating red vegetation is not present but its absence as I suspected creates an environment for filamentous algae. So far we have been able to keep the algae in check but we still have some summer left.

Bottom line is our ponds are just one other part of the course that need to be maintained and prior to the work that we did this year nothing has been done. We made progress this year but need to keep up on aquatic vegetation much like we need to keep up on thatch removal in the turf.


Since our last course update we have had several members express interest in serving on our Audubon Resource Advisory Committee.

What Is A Resource Advisory Committee?
"A resource advisory committee is a group of individuals with expertise and qualifications in specific professions, who volunteer their time to advise and assist in maximizing a property’s environmental benefits and minimizing potential negative impact to the surrounding community and natural resources. The areas of expertise may include, but are not limited to, ornithology, native plants, energy efficiency, waste management, water management, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM)."

Why Organize A Resource Advisory Committee?
"Every property that joins the Audubon Signature Program is required to form a resource advisory committee. Individuals associated with property in the process of being developed are extremely busy and will find themselves increasingly so as construction moves forward. Appointing appropriate people to the resource advisory committee will relieve the burden of Signature Program implementation by spreading responsibility to various individuals. In addition, people with special interests or expertise should be focusing their attention on that specific area.” (Forming resource Advisory Committee – Audubon International)

An advisory committee was formed during construction which was a integral requirement of achieving Audubon Signature Sanctuary Status. My thought was that we re-form our advisory committee to re-invigorate awareness of our unique status as a signature sanctuary and continue promote and educate our members and community of Granite Bay’s environmental stewardship. My thought was to have this be a sub-committee under the umbrella of the golf committee and I am fairly certain we can get a discussion on the agenda of the next meeting.

After the next golf committee meeting I hope to reach out members who have already expressed interest and move forward. Any one receiving this correspondence wishing to serve on this committee could contact myself or any golf committee member. I can be reached at 791-4930 or e-mail at

I really think this can be an exciting opportunity for everyone at Granite Bay.

Recent Course Tour with Kyle Phillips


We recently had the pleasure of spending an entire morning with Kyle Phillips, the lead golf course architect of our very own Granite Bay Golf Club. The meeting was the idea of Dan Becker who had questions regarding the golf course aging and what we should do when, as example, the inevitable tree dies and effects the strategy of any given hole. Dan’s concern, as was ours, that moving forward we maintain Kyle’s “original intent” with say tree replacement or potential additions to the course. Kyle graciously agreed to meet with us so a group of golf committee members and management basically spent the morning letting Kyle reminisce about his original vision for our club.
I am sure many of you have heard some details from members who attended the walk-around. My intention in this segment is to give you a general overview of the meeting from the eyes of Golf Course Maintenance and will highlight some details in future additions.
This was the first time Kyle and I had met. He is extremely engaging, gracious and down to earth along with his staff of Mark Thawley and Roby Seed. My prism of looking at a golf course has always been primarily from the view of maintenance. It was a transformational experience for me to listen and then look at the course from their different perspective. I now consider the meeting a highlight in my career. Most of his criticisms on changes to the course arise from the “change of vision” and their unintended consequences. Cart paths were a particular bone of contention with Kyle. He understand totally the need for paths from a business standpoint particularly when ownership / vision changes. However in his opinion, some of them could have been incorporated into the original design without as much aesthetic disruption to that vision.
One big positive thing I took from the meeting was that we all; member golfers, golf course maintenance staff and management and golf course architect are on the same page as far as far as the encroachment of the native areas blocking the vision on certain golf holes. He loved the exposed rocks throughout the course as we all do and encouraged more. He showed me where original fairway lines were and how, in many instances, our fairway lines have receded over the past 16 years. Standing on tee boxes he said “WOW” on numerous occasions regarding how tree and vegetation growth had encroached and on the ride to the next hole expressed his sympathy by stating “man, you got you work cut out for you”
The lines and flow of the holes, tree planting and not tree planting, Granite Bay history although it only been eighteen years are all things we touched on. I look forward to future visits. It’s good for Granite Bay. It’s good for me. Thanks Kyle for the great vision that is Granite Bay Golf Club and for spending a day with us discussing it. I for one will never look at the placement of a ball washer the same.

What’s going on with the Greens? Part II

In our last update I explained that the primary cause of the decline of our putting surfaces was we have developed an excessive thatch layer over the years. This excessive thatch layer developed from not being aggressive enough with core aeration and cultural practices. The buildup of organic matter has in effect sealed off the greens from air movement into the soil and to the roots. Oxygen is crucial in the root zone for any plant to convert the simple sugars created by the plant during photosynthesis into usable food for cell division.

Anaerobic black layer in removed turf on #14 green
This lack of air also creates an anaerobic black layer in which certain bacteria, who thrive in environments without air, attack the thatch layer as a food source. In doing so, this aerobic bacteria release a by-product of hydrogen sulfide gas which is toxic to roots. This is why we need to continue to vent the greens by poking small holes in them allowing the toxic gas to escape and oxygen to reach the root zone. Fortunately the surfaces have recovered to the point that we can now lightly topdress with sand after we vent them as opposed to a few weeks ago when their condition was much more precarious. Working even light applications of sand into a putting surface can be stressful by itself to a healthy green and devastating to a weak one. However topdressing really helps with putting quality as it smoothes the surface and fills the dimples of the spiking holes.

As I explained in the last update this thatch has to be removed mechanically via core aeration and deep vertical mowing. Both of these processes will remove portions of the excessive thatch layer and allow oxygen back into the soil. In our climate these processes too stressful to do in the heat of the summer particularly when the surfaces are already suspect. This is why we typically do this type of cultivation work in the spring and fall.

You can see why keeping things in balance is crucial when maintaining a modern day putting surface. The demands we put on them to roll true and fast can only be achieved when we have a firm and healthy surface. We know that to get back in balance we have to be more aggressive with our core aeration this coming fall and next spring but how aggressive and how long do we have to be this aggressive? I could speculate but a definitive answer will be found by doing some physical soil testing.

Chemical soil testing is concerned with maintaining an appropriate balance of nutrients. We perform chemical soil testing on our greens at least annually. Physical soil testing is an entirely different animal as it is concerned with maintaining an appropriate balance between air and water properties in conjunction with the soils ability to supply nutrients. Physical soil testing has never been done to our greens after establishment primarily because of its expense. At this point I believe it is crucial to give us a roadmap on how we need to proceed with our greens moving forward. I will have results from this testing in approximately four weeks and will share the high and low lights with you then.

We will be limping through the summer with our greens. We have re-sodded bad areas and will continue if necessary. We will be spiking and light topdressing on a regular basis just to keep oxygen moving into the root zone and gasses displaced. Rolling will continue but we can not cut the greens down as tight as we have done in the past at the risk of further decline.

With the help of sound science along with diligence and patience at aeration times, I am optimistic that we will have the firm, fast and healthy putting surface’s we all desire. Definitely more to come.

Preparing for sod on #14

Installing sod #14

Completed sodding #14

The Return of Southern Blight

I am of course stating the obvious that the summer season is a taxing one on the turf here at Granite Bay. Any golf course with primarily cool season grasses will inevitably have some issues July and August. Granite Bay is no exception. Of course our main issue through July so far has been putting surface decline and the resulting performance or putting inconsistencies as we reacted to the decline. When the greens “go south” every other issue seems to magnify. One of those issues that we are battling is a pretty decent outbreak of a disease called Southern Blight (sclerotium rolfsii).

Southern Blight infestations have been steadily increasing here at Granite Bay for the past six to seven years. We typically see the disease in higher mowed turf or “rough” around greens, tees and fairways. It is a nasty looking disease pattern which has really taken a toll this season at the same time, to add insult to injury, the putting surfaces were in decline.

We treat areas that have a history of the disease preventively but we had a stretch of perfect conditions which facilitated infection in new areas. We treated again once new infection became evident and the disease spread has stopped.

Southern blight has small fruiting bodies that over winter in the thatch and explodes when environmental conditions become right. I think I have mentioned that thatch is not only an issue in our putting surfaces but also it is an issue through out the turf here at Granite Bay. There is no guarantee that going aggressively after the thatch in rough and green surrounds would eliminate the threat or infection of Summer Patch. It does however make sense that by removing the excessive organic matter that the pathogen over winters in and creating a healthier environment for the plant, that disease pressure would be mitigated. Bottom line is excessive thatch is the common to most of the problems we have with our turf here at Granite Bay and we must get more aggressive at removing and controlling it.

"Sclerotina" or fruiting bodies of Southern Blight in the thatch layer

Souther Blight behind #2 green

Traffic Control

Pro Active Traffic Control Program – Under Way

As I mentioned in the previous newsletter that we were planning to initiate a pro-active traffic control program here at Granite Bay. Golf carts are a part of everyday life in golf and with that reality comes a major stress for turf especially as the weather starts to heat up. We have all witnessed what golf cart traffic can do to the turf. We have started this program and have already noticed a difference with turf quality on two of our most challenged areas as far as traffic is concerned, holes #10 & #6. We have alternated closing these holes to cart traffic with success and plan to continue through the summer months.

When we installed the concrete cart path to the left-hand side of the #12 green we never intended to use it 100% of the time. If we did the turf directly adjacent to the entrance of the path would be worn to dirt. This is why we alternate opening & closing that path to keep the adjacent turf from wearing out to dirt. We installed that path because from what I understand the left hand exit was the traditional exit before the installation of the original paths and crossing the fairway with a path then would have been aesthetically unacceptable. The preferable traffic pattern when the left-hand path is closed would be to the right and around the green.

To the left and around the green is also the preferable traffic pattern on #10 where the same original design principles applied, avoiding at all costs crossing the fairway with a cart path. A majority of cart traffic gravitating to the left on this hole is what creates the one of the biggest traffic control issues on the course. The flow of traffic goes to the left to #11 tee, which I also assume was tradition, trampling down a narrow band of turf to the walnut shells behind the tee. The more traffic that can get in the habit of going right and around the green will help this area immensely and potentially limit the hole's closure.

Another traffic control myth, in my opinion is the use of the 90-degree rule saves turf. For one, most people don’t use it and if they do, they go 90 degrees to the rough line and wear out the rough. Scattering golf cart traffic rather then channeling is much better for the turf. I would much rather carts use the simple rules of;
  •  Using paths as much / whenever possible
  •  Follow the directional signs
  •  Avoid driving on stressed turf

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Final Thought on Thatch

If you recall, thatch is something I have addressed in these course updates on a few occasions previous to this one. Most all of the problems we have with health and playability to all of the turfgrass surfaces here at Granite Bay can be directly correlated with the development of excessive thatch. 

This situation did not just develop, it has been accumulating for years, but it is imperative that we reduce its current accumulation mechanically if we are to have playing surfaces we can be proud of. It starts there. Not aggressively removing it for the sake of keeping surface disruption to a minimum will not serve any of us well, both now and in the future.

Thank You


Audubon International is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to fostering more sustainable human and natural communities through research, education, and conservation assistance. As I stated in our last update our status is something to be proud of and highlight and will now be formally a part of our course updates.

Granite Bay has been a member of Audubon International since 1993 and became certified at the bronze level in May of 1998. We are one of only six certified golf courses in the state. During our certification one of the requirements was to form a resource advisory committee consisting of at least two club members.

I believe one of the first things we need to do is to reform our advisory committee since it has been, to the best of my knowledge, inactive at least since my arrival here at Granite Bay. The re-formation of this advisory committee I hope can be an agenda item at our next golf committee meeting. If there are any members that have any input or would like to serve on this committee please contact me preferably before the next golf committee meeting on 8/10/10.

Some of the items I would like to address through the Granite Bay Audubon Resource Advisory Committee are:
  • Proactive Native Oak Tree Replacement Plan.
  • Creating a Nursery of our own Native Oaks for Replacement
  • “The Wild Life of Granite Bay” – Positive Identification & Documentation of Birds and Wild Life that make Granite Bay their Home.
  •  Existing Native Oak Inventory & Mapping
  • Involving the Memberships Children as much as we can with all items mentioned above as a required Audubon Educational outreach.
This is kind of exciting when you think about some of the different things the club has to offer besides golf, food & drink. I truly am looking forward working with whomever willing, and really taking advantage of our Audubon status and taking it to a new level.