Friday, July 22, 2011

On Course Bunkers Complete

In April of 2008 the Granite Bay Golf Club Maintenance Department embarked on a bunker renovation project which we can now say is complete, at least for the on course bunkers. The project was  originally slated for completion in 2010 however capitol funding was delayed in 2009 which effected the projects conclusion. We are ecstatic to have this project behind us as it has been taxing at times to keep up with normal golf course maintenance tasks along with keeping up with our construction goals. We still have many plans to continue moving the property forward from  the pruning and  brush clearing  work we have already started to installing cart path curbing, tee re-surfacing and continued irrigation system enhancements. However the job of renovating 67 bunkers with over 2 acres of surface area is larger in scope then any other golf course project on the horizon and I am sure everyone is glad that we are finished. 

The last completed fairway bunker on #9.

The "old" Granite Bay Bunkers were only 14 years old when we started the renovation process but had aged more rapidly then most due to some bad luck early in the life of the club. Granite Bay opened all 18 holes for play in December of 1994 which was directly proceeded by the 1995 La Nina storms which produced rainfall events of up to 5" in 24 hours. These storms washed the sand off the faces of the brand new bunkers and proceeded to erode the decomposed granite (DG) faces. This action moved native soil material onto the washed out sand in the bottom of the bunker mixing it with the sand and contaminating it. Maintenance crews attempted to remove the obvious top layer of emulsified DG from the bunker sand after the storms subsided but the weather patterns were persistent in contaminating the sand further after every event. Every subsequent winter storm that has washed out the bunkers since 1994  added to this contamination, producing bunker sand with very low percolation rates and a drainage system that was rendered ineffective from silt and fine sand and clay.

Winter storm November 2007 below #14 green


Familiar sight in the winter prior to renovation. #15 greenside
bunker November 2007.
 Our renovation goals were to prevent this type of contamination from happening again.  We settled on a somewhat unorthodox drainage system that we believed would rapidly move water out of the bunker during a rain or deep irrigation event. The thought was the quicker we could get the water out of the bunker the less chance for exposure of the native soil leading to washouts and contamination because the sand above would not load up with water and stay put. We did spray a liner to prevent erosion in the inevitable event of some washout but our overriding concept to prevent native soil contamination of the sand was to provide an avenue to get the water out of the bunker quickly. We also felt that if we could prevent this type of contamination that this drainage system would remain functional for a much longer period of time then a traditional 4" perforated drainage pipe. There are bunkers in the eastern part of the country with much higher average rainfall amounts then ours, with the same type of drainage system we used here at Granite Bay that 10 years later drain the same as they did when first installed. That's what we were and are looking for at Granite Bay and what I believe could set our bunkers apart in the future.

Recent view of the drainage system in the fairway bunker
on #9

Drainage chambers used in our drainage system.
Notice the amount of light or the size of the drainage slits.
When coupled together and wrapped in a geotextile fabric
and surrounded by sand, this voluminous subsurface system
almost sucks the water out of the trap.

Traditional 4" drain pipe. Historically slows down
and becomes almost ineffective over time.

We realize that just because we have completed renovation and have replaced the drainage system and sand that our work is not done with these bunkers. Bunkers in general require allot of maintenance, particularly for a part of the course that is deemed a hazard. The almost constant moving of sand from the trap to the surrounding turf areas from players and maintenance equipment causes a structural change to these areas that requires diligent attention. Hand or mechanical raking, monitoring proper sand depths on faces versus bases, trimming, sod replacement, irrigation enhancements are a few of the necessary tasks to maintain the  original vision of our bunkers and facilitate a fair test of golf. We already know just from last winters storms that with the new sand, drainage system and a bunker liner in place these traps don't hold water nor contaminate the new sand. This should result in our ability  to devote the same amount of time to these bunkers as in years past yet achieve better results.  

No Rest For The Weary
Practice Area Renovation Project Begins Monday July 25th

We plan to start working on the short game area  starting next week. The end result is something I know many of you have been looking forward to for quite some time. My goal is to chronicle weekly or at least biweekly progress of this project via this course update. The push for starting and completing this project right now is twofold. First to provide durability I think the area should  have at least a contingent of warm season turf in the way of hybrid bermuda and we are running out of time to get it propagated for this season. Secondly many of the member's who use the area are looking forward to a functional area to practice.

Creating this functional area is a bit of a challenge as we are limited by it's overall size. That being said the scope of work includes removal of the scraggly oak below the green and pruning two of the trees at the back of the area hopefully achieving at least a little expansion to the size of the  area. Next we want to fill the entire lower area to create  a more usable grade when chipping to the green. Additionally we plan to slightly expand the size of the green, remove the left hand bunker and make two bunkers out of the one bunker on the right. The project is the brainchild of our own Craig Johns who will be intricately involved in the "ongoing" design process.

Current view from below the short game area.
Scrub Oak to be removed and fill to be brought in
to soften / flatten the lies in front of the green.

The following is an outline of construction goals and timing.

Week 1.       7/25 - 7/29  Tree trimming and removal. Identification and protection of irrigation heads.  Removal  of sod and transferring usable sod to #6 & #8 tees. Hauling of additional sand as fill. Start shaping of approach and surrounds.

Week 2-4.     8/1 - 8/19  Continued shaping of the area, expansion of the green, expansion of the irrigation system, re-shaping of the left hand bunker(s). (3 weeks)

Week 5.         8/22 - 8/26  New sod around green and new bunkers. Install hybrid bermuda sprigs.

Week 6-9.      8/29 - 9/23  Grow in the warm season hybrid bermuda sprigs. (4 to 5 weeks)

Week 10.        9/26 - 9/30  Overseed with bluegrass & ryegrass.

Week 11-12.  10/3 - 10/14  Grow in  cool season bluegrass & ryegrass. (3 to 4 weeks)

Week 13.        10/10    Tentative Re-open

Rough concept of what we want to do to the short game area

I do not anticipate being able to re-open the area sooner then early October, if anything I could seeing us re-opening later then the October 10th goal. We'll just have to see how it goes.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer Update

It has been far too long since we have done a course update and  have allot of things to cover. We have been contributing daily golf course maintenance information to the very well received daily e-mail communication that is generated from the proshop. However that communication piece is void of many of the details that many members have told me they appreciate. So I'll make a attempt at brevity and cover some things that have been happening since spring.

Weather is by far the story of 2011. An extremely wet winter led into one of the wettest Springs I can recall in our area. Many members asked did all of this rain and cool weather help or hurt the course? Granite Bay always thrives in cooler weather and conversely struggles in hot weather. The rainfall amounts filling reservoirs at least puts the drought talk at bay for this year so for this course, the weather helped. Financially other areas of the Club struggle when it rains and our daily fee sister courses have a hard time recovering from this kind of a spring but anytime we at Granite Bay  don't have to turn the sprinklers on we are thankful. We even received a cool weather system in late June that produced a half a inch of rain which was extremely helpful.

Afternoon storm in May 2011
We have received a couple of mini heat waves so far, one in June and another in July. Both of these heatwaves were proceeded by a substantial cool down and thus far we have kept turfgrass losses to a minimum. All of the irrigation work we have been doing has helped substantially along with increased efforts in automatic system adjustments and hand watering with hoses. So far so good, but there is still a ways to go.

Recent handwatering on #4 green
All of the playing surfaces at Granite Bay have one thing in common and that is a thatch layer that has become excessive over the years. As a recap thatch is the spongy layer of accumulated organic matter directly below the surface of the turf. Some is necessary, excessive amounts can be detrimental to playing conditions and turf health. Core aeration is one way to keep up with thatch production and aggressive core aeration can help move the situation to desirable levels.

Springtime core aeration of the fairways
Naturally there are down sides to the actual process of core aeration which include temporary surface disruption which can actually be hindered by how we do the job. Let me explain.  First the overriding principle of the cleanup process during core aeration is that the extracted cores must be allowed to dry before we can effectively remove them from the turf surface. This is not an issue with putting surfaces because Granite Bay has traditionally closed alternating nines to accommodate putting surface aeration and removal of cores from the putting surfaces requires a different process altogether. Our issue lies in the aeration of the fairways and green surrounds. We have traditionally not alternated closing of front nine and back nine when we have aerated these areas. This has necessitated our rushing to remove the cores while they were still to wet to properly process in an attempt to stay ahead of players. This has resulted in both a substandard job and the inability to complete the process in a timely manner. Rushing to complete  a given area causes us to smash wet cores into the turf surface further complicating recovery and  turf aesthetics. Additionally it takes over 60 days to core aerate the entire golf course providing we have good weather so when done twice a year in the spring and fall we can approach up to  half of the year to complete the two entire process.

Smashed core's the  result of  processing and removing them  before they properly dried.

After discussing this situation with Mitch and Brad along with some members of the golf committee, the golf course maintenance department garnered support for some more alternating front and back nine closures to accommodate these processes. The results will be our ability to finish the entire process at least for greens, green surrounds & fairways much more rapidly and even more importantly in my mind produce results that will look better and recover quicker.

 Because we need dry weather, these alternating closures will have to be somewhat fluid. We will target Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays and of course take advantage of Mondays where there are no golf course events sold. Obviously we will be working near putting surface aeration dates which club events typically steer clear of anyway so hopefully this will work out well for all of us. We will communicate specifics via morning updates, newsletters and this course update. Hopefully everyone can see the advantage of a few more alternating closures so we can get this necessary chore done in a timely and proper fashion.

Putting Surface Progress
The aggressive core aeration that we started last October to our putting surfaces has already begun to yield results. Root depth on our greens has increased and the anaerobic black layer conditions have improved as well. In review we started a much more aggressive core aeration regimen to our putting surfaces last fall then had been utilized in the past reacting to substandard conditions last summer. These conditions were the result of excessive organic matter accumulation. The aggressive process doubled the amount of surface area affected during core aeration, increasing from 5% per aeration event to 10% per aeration event. The perceived downside was that recovery would be prolonged due to removing larger cores and removing more of them because of using a tighter pattern. I think we all noticed that that was not the case last October and this past April. We actually recovered as rapidly or maybe even at a slightly accelerated pace. Was this due to ideal weather both times or our creating a healthier root zone environment, logic would dictate a little of both.

Jogi agressively core aerating #4 green
in April.

Vertidrain deep tine aerifyer on putting surface.
Just one strategy applied weekly that is helping
our greens stay healthy.
Consistent putting quality week in and week out is still a work in progress with these greens.  The level of health has improved due to the changing of aeration strategies and has allowed us to get more aggressive with surface management techniques such as vertical mowing, topdressing and growth regulator applications. Additionally our rolling regimen has stepped up where we are rolling greens up to six times per week. That being said our varying degrees of poa / bent mix throughout the course's greens  still present some challenges for both putting quality and putting surface management.  Additional challenges, as you know, are produced by trees which restrict air movement and obstruct light particularily on #7, #13, #14 & #16. Pruning to these areas this past winter has helped but we still need to be diligent in keeping these trees pruned and some potential removals moving forward. The good news is that  the healthier the rootzone becomes, the more we can engage in technique's that can mitigate the adverse effects to putting that poa anuua can produce. Will we ever be able to completely eliminate it ? Probably not but we can reduce some of the negative effects it contributes to inconsistent putting quality.

Specific plant growth regulator effect on Poa Annua
substantially stressing the Poa while not effecting the Bentgrass.
Cart Traffic Control
We sure opened a can of worms last week when we attempted a trial run on restricting cart's to paths only in the afternoons when temperatures exceeded 100 degrees. Communicating  the roll out of this trial was admittedly less then ideal although naturally the intent was to protect course conditions. The action solicited much feedback from the membership some positive, much negative and all valid. I suppose one of the positive things that came out of the trial was the multitude of opinions that can aid in framing a solid policy moving forward. Let me state this up front that we currently do not have a formal policy for restricting cart traffic to paths during hot weather. Additionally this is not something that we concocted. Other local golf clubs have used similar restrictions and I am sure were met with the same reaction along with support that we are currently experiencing. Lets look at some facts.
  1. Cart traffic is hard on turf especially in the summer months.
  2. We typically do not have that many days over 100 degrees.
  3. Most damage occurs in late afternoon when the vast majority of traffic on the course is done during extremely hot days.
  4. Modest restrictions particularly during the summer months should result in improved turf conditions.
  5. We will not please everyone with additional cart restrictions.
 First and foremost the  golf course maintenance department's purpose is to not only provide great conditions but to protect these conditions for our members. That being said we value each and every group of members concerns here at the club and sincerely attempt to accommodate all wishes. If possible it would be nice to come up with a policy that both protected the course and maintained our members benefits in using their course.

Perhaps like the Adopt a Green program, which has significantly reduced ball mark pressure on the putting surfaces we could start another member awareness  program called Cart Conduct. Using morning updates, course updates and newsletters we could constantly inform members of voluntarily using the cart paths whenever feasible, players paring up in carts, following a strict 90 degree back to the path not the rough line and above all educating members with pictures of stressed out afternoon turf and the damage carts do to it and their responsibility to avoid these areas. 

We will keep the above mentioned Cart Conduct concepts in front of the membership and hope it will have the same results as Adopt a Green. If not, we could adopt a  policy that would restrict carts to the paths after 3:00 PM on days that the forecasted temperature is to climb to 100 degrees and above. Handicap flags would still be available. I don't think the policy would need to be any more complicated then that. We would communicate  upcoming restrictions via the morning e-mail blast in addition to this course update and the printed newsletter.

Recent cart damage on stressed turf.

Until Next Time
My Original intention in getting these Course Updates out was to do them every two to three week's not months. The information we provide to the morning e-mail blasts doesn't really convey the details of what we have been doing and why. I didn't include all of the info I wanted to in this update because I didn't want to overload. Our next update, which we be in the next few weeks,  will cover  the long awaited completion of our bunker project and the renovation of the practice chipping area. Hopefully we'll be reporting about good golf course conditions as well. Thanks as always for your support.