Friday, May 25, 2012

Traffic Control in Palce

As the seasons change different environmental stresses start to affect the playing surfaces her at Granite Bay and these stresses require different strategies to protect the turf. We can all agree that the stress level of the playing surfaces  at Granite Bay are more elevated  in the summer months then they are in the spring, fall or even winter. Golf cart traffic is one of those stresses that can really take it's toll in the summer months, and it is one that we can put some control measures in place to mitigate this stress. Of course golf carts are a way of life on most golf courses including Granite Bay, and can be attributed in part to the growth and success of  modern day golf by making the game accessible to more players. However uncontrolled cart traffic channeled into concentrated areas will wear turf down to a dirt path. We have all witnessed many examples here at Granite Bay of cart worn turf.

Traffic Control in place on #2

Protecting the turf is why we initiate traffic control measures by alternating wear patterns and alleviating traffic on entire holes giving that hole some relief. This proactive approach, which we initiate in the early spring, was at the behest of the Granite Bay Golf  Committee.  I was asked awhile back about traffic control on the course and if we had a actual plan and rotation that we follow. The answer is yes and no. As I mentioned above, golf cart traffic is more acute during the summer months then any other season of the year. In the spring and winter  if the course is too wet we restrict cart access to paths anyway so there is rarely a need to rope off a entire hole to control traffic. When it is dry enough for carts to travel on the turf during those months it is normally not hot enough to cause stress so we again do not need to rope off entire holes. In the late spring and summer months when high  turf stress periods begin,  we have certain holes that are prone to intense channeling of cart traffic. We have experienced very positive results by proactively relieving the traffic in these areas.

Cart Directional Sign
Hole #10 is the greatest example of this as most carts enter just beyond the ladies forward tee and then travel  in a direct route to the left side of the hole to the #11 tee. Another example of intense channeling of golf cart traffic is the exit area on #13 although course design is somewhat prohibitive for traffic control. The course was originally designed primarily as a walking course so only a few paths were part of the original concept. After some time, the concept changed and  continuous cart paths were installed. Starting the path up the right hand side of #13 would necessitate crossing the fairway at some point which is not desirable, so the path was installed left. Roping off this fairway would be difficult for many Members because they would have to navigate the steep hill above the path to get to their ball. This is the reason we do not rope #13 for proactive traffic control even though it has a traffic issue exiting the fairway.

Unsightly cart traffic on a drought stressed portion of turf.
Our goal in golf course maintenance is to prevent the majority
of these areas by hand watering  but there will always be some
to contend with. Players can help by identifying these areas
 which typically appear in summer afternoons and avoiding them
with golf carts.
So our traffic control rotation plan is somewhat fluid taking into consideration  above mentioned examples.  Starting in the late spring  we try to keep one hole on the front side and one hole on the back side roped off to relieve cart traffic. We typically keep the ropes in place for 2 to 3 weeks to give the hole a good rest. Par 5's are generally not roped off as they have numerous options for carts to enter or exit and fortunately do not have the traffic issues as other holes. We have not up to this point roped off  #13 because  of the above mentioned access issues along with perceived  pace of play and safety issues. If it seems like #10 is roped off more often on the backside, it is because it is due to its exhibiting the most traffic worn turf in the past. When we shift the ropes more often then not we are looking to see what hole could benefit the most from the relief. Course access flags are  available in the Golf Shop for Members that have physical limitations and we leave access points in the fairways when we rope them off.

90 Degree Rule vs. Carts Scatter

After observing golf cart activity and driving habits for awhile I have come to the conclusion that the 90 degree rule is rarely observed and can be counter productive as a traffic control measure.  First for the rule to be effective players would have to return to the cart path after playing their shot, drive forward on the path and take a 90 degree line to the next shot. Exiting the fairway cut of grass and driving up the rough line only compounds traffic issues encouraging concentrated traffic at the fairways edge which subsequently  causes worn out turf. Secondly it appears that  most golfers don't follow the rule anyway. The 90 degree rule's implied meaning to most of us is  that carts don't have to remain on the path.  Another observation, and I could be wrong, but if everyone followed the strict meaning of the  90 degree rule we might have a hard time maintaining the 4:13 pace of play that is part of our Granite Bay culture.  The only time that I am in favor of a strict interpretation of "90 degree rule" are times following a rainy period and we are allowing carts off the path and ask that a strict 90 degree back to the path or shells be followed.

90 degree rule. What does it really mean?
Therefore in most instances scattering traffic on the course is much better then 90 degrees back to the rough line. Naturally golfers riding carts should follow  directional signs and enter and exit at points that are designated by stakes and chains and or signs, keep carts away from greens and avoid stressed out areas particularly in the afternoon during the summer stress periods. These stressed out areas can be identified by the grey or brown hue that's highly visible in the afternoons. The "90 degree rule" is still the term that we all know and  there is no need to create confusion by changing terms especially because most players already scatter.

In a Nutshell
  • Use cart paths or walnut shells whenever possible. 
  • Scatter traffic up the fairway rather then taking a 90 degree line back to the roughs edge and wearing a path there.
  • Avoid stressed out turf areas identifiable by a brown or smokey gray color particularly in the afternoon.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Sand, More Sand"

Old Tom Morris
A story is often told of Old Tom Morris when asked what made his greens so good. His reply was "Sand, mare sand and the Sabbath" Most courses today are not blessed with the good sandy links land of St. Andrews, but greenskeepers like Old Tom understand the benefits of sand topdressing for golf playing surfaces. It's common throughout golf to utilize sand topdressing in varying amounts and frequencies for putting surfaces yet the investment to purchase and ship quantities enough to apply to fairways is prohibitive for most operations. 

Spreading sand on fairways at Granite Bay

Light sand topdressing on the practice green

However I am happy to report that Mitch has worked his magic with the powers that be at Club Corp. and secured funding for Granite Bay to start a topdressing program not just for this season but for seasons to come. The results with sand topdressing are cumulative so as the years go by and we continue to topdress, we will  see a progressive firming of our fairway surfaces.  Our plan for this season is to double up in landing areas and around drainage inlets in the fairways which when coupled with continued emphasis on irrigation management, should help produce firmer summer surfaces this year. This is a exciting addition to our maintenance program and  we are looking forward to these multiplying results. 

Core Aeration Progress

Last Wednesday 4/25/12 the weather forecast in the morning had changed from the previous day's forecast of 70% chance of rain to a 30% chance of rain according to the weather channel. A 30% chance of precipitation on many occasions has amounted to nothing and we wanted to get going and complete the core aeration of the rough so we decided to proceede. We  core aerated the rough on holes #1, #2 & half of #4 before it started to drizzle. This drizzle evolved into light showers which stalled our cleanup process. These light showers turned into actual rain during the evening producing 1/2" of precipitation on the extracted aeration cores rendering them impossible to pick up.

Core aerating rough last week.
We actually started the fairway topdressing this morning because of more forecast-ed  rain and I didn't want to make the same mistake twice in two weeks and continue with core aeration in the rough. It is a challenge to get all of this aeration done between weather and spring time golfing events but we'll keep at it and continue to keep you informed of progress and set-backs. Thankfully the crucial areas of fairways, green surrounds and greens are completed thanks to aforementioned alternating F9 & B9 closures.

Wet aeration cores from 1/2" of rain.
Impossible to clean up until dry.

Tee Leveling & Re-Surfacing

We have gotten to that time of the year that golfing events hinder our ability to complete tasks such as core aeration of the rough prior to morning shotgun tournaments so to remain productive this week and next we plan to get some tee leveling done. This work actually works out pretty well because the turf on the tees is in decent shape and we are able to remove it, level the sub grade and put a good portion of the sod back down on the newly leveled tee. We have identified four  tee areas that are in need immediate leveling namely Tournament and Granite on #18, Granite on #13 and the Pebble Tee on #11. We understand that         there are a few more that could use some help, however these are the four levels we will take care of this spring. 

Tournament and Granite Levels of #18 tee in the process of
leveling and re-surfacing

Both levels on #18 are in the process of being completed today, Thursday 5/3/12. We will have to take some hybrid bermuda sod from the rear of Granite #13 to complete them, but plan to completely strip this tee next  week move that sod to Pebble  #11 after leveling, and replace the sod on #13 with new the week of 5/14/12. While Granite #13 is bare players will get a variety of looks with the markers placed at the rear of the club level and the front of the Tournament level.