Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 Aeration

Aeration of turfgrass has a multitude of benefits. It includes a variety of techniques that punch small holes in the turf & soil surface as a means of relieving soil compaction. This loosening of the soil facilitates air and water movement in the soil improving root growth and mass. Additionally the process produces a firming of the surface when aeration is done in conjunction with sand topdressing. We include sand topdressing with aeration on putting surfaces, teeing surfaces and approaches leading up to the greens.

Another huge benefit of aeration when you actually remove the aeration cores from the ground is the removal of the associated thatch with the core. Thatch is excessive organic matter consisting of roots and stems that form the soft mat directly below the green leaves of the turf stand. Excessive thatch is the main culprit of the soft conditions we experience at Granite Bay in the summer because it acts like a sponge retaining a portion of applied irrigation. We need to continue to reduce this excessive organic matter to improve conditions. We have some different plans to accomplish that goal this year, in part, which I will now explain.

As planned we will start aerifyng the entire golf course beginning next Tuesday 4/6/10. We will start with the green’s which really need an aeration to get the bentgrass going & growing so as to catch up with the patches of Poa Annua. These two different growth rates definitely contribute to sporadic bumpiness we have been experiencing in the afternoons. We have not been able to roll the greens as much this spring to date because of the hit and miss rain storms which would have helped with this bumpiness. Rolling the greens when they are wet just compacts them further ultimately hindering rather then helping the situation. We hope to aerify and topdress a portion of the tees immediately following the greens and finish up what we missed the following week.

We plan to core aerify the fairways along with deep vertical mowing to remove additional thatch the following Monday 4/12/10. What fairways we do not complete on that Monday we will complete on Tuesday 4/13/10 after the ladies clear the front nine. The approaches to the greens will be done at the same time followed by sand topdressing.

Rough areas or the tall grass areas between holes and surrounding greens and tees will be core aerified the last two weeks of April. Because the cores are typically damp and prone to being smashed into the turf, we will ask during this process that carts remain on the path on the holes we are working on. A wet plug is difficult to pick up much less a smashed down wet plug. Once we clear the hole of cores we will re-open the hole to cart traffic.

As I have mentioned previously this course has a fifteen-year accumulation of organic matter that has become excessive. Again it is the primary cause for the soft surfaces we experience in the summer. We have done some work on inhibiting further development and reducing accumulation the past two years but lets face it we have been busy with any number of projects improving the course. Now as we get closer to completing the bunker’s (at least the greenside bunkers) we need to start focusing more efforts on our playing surfaces. I think we have come up with a good aggressive plan for core aerifying all of the surfaces this spring, and we have some non aggressive, unobtrusive plans for this summer that we calculate will really help with surface softness up the middle. There will be definitely more to come on this subject.Bottom line is most everyone knows that aeration is a necessary evil. However we feel it is legitimate to expect the most rapid recovery of the putting surfaces as humanly possible.

Core aerating putting surfaces
Aeration Plugs
Picking up the aeration cores

Applying topdressing
Deep solid tine aeration

Brushing in the topdressing

The Aging of Our Ponds

Part Three – The Aging process

I apologize for leaving many of you hanging regarding this four part series, “The Aging of our Ponds” which I started back in October of 2009. In the process of soliciting information from aquatic biologist’s for solutions and strategies for our ponds, I got distracted with the busyness of all that we have been doing and neglected to follow-up. And I know many of our members are curious about the ponds and are following this series because of the comments I have received. Again I apologize for the information delay. Here’s a re-cap of what we have covered so far.

In Part I of this series we covered “The Function of Our Ponds”, that they hold more then just strategic value to hole #’s 1, 9, & 3 but are crucial for irrigation water storage. Without irrigation water there is no Granite Bay Golf Club. In Part II we covered “The History of our Ponds” which discussed in part the regulatory concessions that were imposed during their construction. This included the replanting and establishment of the natural vegetation immediately following the pond’s construction. This natural vegetation lends to the beauty of the course, but contributes to the natural aging process that potentially impedes water storage and flow to our pump station.

In Part III it is time to cover this actual aging process, or what is referred to as “Eutrophication”. The following definition excerpts are from Wikipedia. “Eutrophication is frequently a result of nutrient pollution such as the release of sewage effluent, urban stormwater run-off, and run-off carrying excess fertilizers into natural waters. However, It may also occur naturally in situations where nutrients accumulate (e.g. depositional environments) or where they flow into systems on a ephemeral (short-lived) basis. Eutrophication generally promotes excessive plant growth and decay, favors certain weedy species over others, and may cause a severe reduction in water quality.”

Golf course turf is an incredible user and filter of nutrients, limiting or eliminating their contamination of streams, lakes and ponds. Therefore most of the aging or Eutrophication of our ponds can be attributed as a “Naturally occurring… depositional environment.” This means that when all of that vegetation surrounding our natural ponds goes dormant in the winter, the biomass remains in the ponds which both add and deplete nutrients as this biomass decays. Additionally the north end of George’s Lake (#1 & #9) is fed by Linda Creek, which can feed the pond with sediment and potential nutrient run-off from upstream.

All of these mostly naturally occurring inputs along with virtually no maintenance to these ponds over the years have produced an environment, which certain aquatic weed species have flourished from year to year as well as an substantial expansion of the shoreline vegetation.

The last two years since my arrival at Granite Bay, George’s lake has been covered with a weed called Mosquito Fern (azolla spp.) and Duckweed (lemna spp.). These are both free floating aquatic weeds that are unsightly but actually help with water quality by shielding the sun which heats up the water establishing other more noxious weed species such as Filamentous Algae (cladophora spp.). In the years prior to my arrival George’s lake was starting to have a real problem with Creeping Water Primrose (jussiaea repens). Pests such as the above mentioned algae and water primrose are not only unsightly and invasive but cause some real problems with irrigation water flow to the pump station. This is because their underwater structure fills the water column obstructing flow as well as clogging intake screens and filters.

Bottom line our pond’s need to be managed better. We need to do more strategic herbicide applications to prevent and keep in check both unsightly weeds such as Mosquito Fern and noxious weeds such as Water Primrose and Filamentous Algae. Along with strategic herbicide applications we need to reduce the encroaching vegetation and remove or harvest the excessive biomass. Our specific plan will be covered in Part IV - The Solutions for our Ponds. Stay tuned.

Summer photos of Georges Lake
Closeup of filamentous algae

 Creeping primrose

Ahead of Schedule

What Should We Do?

Our original plan was to take the month of March and complete the traps on #15. After that our plan was to commence with greens aeration as scheduled followed by aeration of the rest of the course. Following the aeration we planned to finish the rest of the greenside bunkers on #13, #17 and #12 well before the Mac Cup. However because we are ahead of schedule, and on a roll so to speak, we have decided to tackle the two bunkers on #13 starting next week and complete them both in two weeks.
Based on the success of moving the sand out of the bunkers on #15 and fixing the area on #16 we thought we would execute a similar move on #13.

The exit for carts to approach the green on #13 is through a small narrow area that has drainage problems right in front of the large rock next to the cart path. The turf in this area always struggles and the primary culprit is concentrated cart traffic funneling into the only space they can logically exit. We plan to strip off about 3000 sq.ft. of sod and soften the area with the sand removed from the traps on #13. This will definitely help the current situation by encouraging, with movable directional signs more of a scattered golf cart disbursement to the path from the fairway.

Some may argue that this “softening” detracts from the original design and strategy of the hole. However you could argue the cart path was not part of the original design and strategy of the hole and its presence dramatically alters what happens to shots over there.
The specific area is about 80 feet along the cartpath from the large rock to where the turf flattens out to the path. We will re-sod on April 1st and the area should be open for play at that time and to cart traffic weeks afterward when the sod is firmly established.

Traffic worn area #13

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Winter Progress

As I mentioned above I would have never thought we could have accomplished as much as we did the past 6 weeks with the normal wet weather patterns that Februarys bring, but we did and could not be happier. Outdoor construction is difficult if not impossible when soils become saturated but by strategically working on smaller bunkers first, that could logically be covered during storms, we were able make steady progress.
We started with the three bunkers on #8 which presented some interesting challenges. Once the sand was removed and we were down in the base of the right hand bunkers we checked the grades and found that there was very little fall from the bottom base of the bunkers to water level in the lake. This makes it hard for water to exit the bunker and the likely culprit of why these bunkers were chronically wet. In order to accommodate both our large drainage chambers and the above mentioned fall issue we had to raise the base of the bunker particularly the right front.

#8 front right bunker

#8 front right - covered to preserve moist liner

#8 right rear - low water table

Through the entire bunker renovation process we have consciously avoided changing the original design intent with the lone exception of the left-hand bunker on #16. This situation on #8 was a one where we had to raise the bottom of the bunker to assure the new drainage system functioned properly.

After we finished the three greenside bunkers on #8 we proceeded to #9 and completed the three greenside bunkers there. Most of our bunkers have supplemental irrigation heads around the edges, which we have been replacing as part of the renovation process. This entire supplemental system around the bunkers and adjoining turf on #9 was totally inadequate so we redesigned and replaced that irrigation as well. Little ancillary additions like this will really pay off come July and August and we have taken care of a bunch of it this winter.

Drainage pattern rear bunker #9 green

Filling #9 bunkers with sand

Supplimental irrigation installation around bunkers on #9

Greenside bunkers #9 complete

After the bunkers on #9 we took went to # 4 and took care of the two front right bunkers. The rear bunker on #4 we were not able to address because the severe slope around the area had become to wet because of weather. When we do this work there is a lot of traffic in and out of the area along with heavy equipment and I thought it would be better to wait until a drier season rather then damage the area just to finish the entire green complex. We finished all the greenside bunkers on #8 & #9 and two of the greenside bunkers on #4 in the month of February averaging two bunkers a week. Next was the month of March and the monster bunkers on #15.

Excavation of the right greenside bunker on #4

Excavation of the right hand approach bunker on #4

We were right on schedule to start the three big bunkers around #15. Weather was forecasted for hit & miss rain through the first part of March. We desperately wanted to continue progress and came up with an idea that would facilitate our wishes.

First these bunkers were too large to realistically cover with plastic between storms. Removing the old sand from the trap could be accomplished during marginal weather but not digging drainage ditches. This is because as we typically dig the drainage ditch we place the removed soil on the faces and base of the trap and compact it to restore the trap to its original shape. This dirt even though compacted, if rained on would have the potential of washing down the slope and making a muddy mess, which would have taken days of good weather to dry out halting progress.
Excavating sand out of one of the monstor bunkers on #15

Excavated and clean but no drainage ditches
Another unrelated project that we had promised to complete was the softening of the front right portion of the #16 hole down in that sloppy wet area. This was a project really driven by the GBWGC to give many of their members a fighting chance to approach the green after their shots careened off the fairway slope and ended up in this slop.
#16 fairway softening
#16  graded with old sand from bunkers on #15
#16 sodded
So to maintain renovation momentum we decided to strip the sod in the above-mentioned area on #16, remove ALL of the sand from ALL THREE of the traps on fifteen and transfer the sand to #16. To make a long story during the next three weeks culminating this week we completed the re-grassing on #16 and completed the renovation on the greenside traps on #15. We finished two weeks ahead of schedule along with knocking the project #16 softening project off the list.

#15 drainage pattern

That was more golf course under construction at one time than we typically like, but the circumstances somewhat forced the bold move and now it’s done.
Filling bunkers on #15
Finished product on #15

What’s Next?

For the next two weeks we will be busy with #13. Additionally we plan to start refreshing walnut shells and catching up on springtime stuff.

Starting the week of April 5th we are going to aerate this golf course. I will do a course update before then and explain all of the different strategies we plan to implement this year.

I know “Just when the course is getting good those guys go out there and punch holes all over the place”. Of course we all understand that this process is a necessary evil and your maintenance department will do everything it can to minimize disruption. That being said I have to tell you that this course really needs an aerification. More details to come.

Core aerating #18

Soft Sand

When I arrived at Granite Bay the number one task at hand was to renovate bunkers. It was far and away the largest member concern reflected in our annual member surveys. Upon arrival I immediately embarked on developing a plan for renovating our bunkers and during this research found out two things. First there are many different ways to skin a cat when it comes to bunker renovation. Secondly it is not uncommon for consternation to get stirred up when the members have to start negotiating new sand.

Hopefully everyone is in agreement that the bunkers needed renovation. All you would ever have to do is try to play Granite Bay on a sunny day after a rainstorm and find that every trap was a lake. Or even on particular days during the summer months where you experienced casual water in the bottoms. The bunkers that we renovated in 2008 & 2009 are on the soft side now because we are not irrigating yet and they have not received any rain recently and the surface sand is dry.

The bunkers that we renovated this year just in the past six weeks are extremely soft because we had not compacted them until today. The reason for that is that typically after we add the sand to the bunker we flood the bunker with water and compact the sand with equipment. The sand is added to the trap the day after we spray the liner on the base and because of the cooler damp weather we experienced the past six weeks, the liner in the traps that were renovated were not completely cured when we filled them with sand. Applying the essential water for compaction at this point would not have been prudent for it potentially might compromise the liner.

We did compact the freshly renovated bunkers on #4, #8, #9 & the two of the bunkers on #15 today. The front left monster bunker was not compacted today because it’s liner was sprayed on Wednesday and was not cured enough to add water.
All of these traps will continue to firm up as they age. Its is the nature of the beast. Will golf balls play out of this new sand and sit up like they did in the old traps which had a thin layer of sand mixed with decomposed gravel and would not drain for anything? Probably not.

Freshly filled bunkers #9