Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in Review

The approaching year end gives us  an opportunity to reflect on the past years successes as well as setbacks and as most years Granite Bay Golf Club can point to some of each. The historic continuing drought was a big part of the golf course maintenance story in 2015, and continues to be the defining issue of the season as we approach years end however not the only thing to look back on.

Weekly light topdressing is something we committed to
in 2015 and believe contributed to a more consistent
putting surface throughout the year.

2015 Drought

In April 2015 after 4 years of drought which included one of the the driest years, the warmest year & the year with the lowest measured accumulation of snow, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order directing the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to impose restrictions to achieve a statewide 25% reduction in potable urban water usage through February 28, 2016.

The executive order (EOB-29-15) stated “The Water Board shall impose restrictions to require that commercial, industrial, and institutional properties, such as campuses, golf courses, and cemeteries, immediately implement water efficiency measures to reduce potable water usage in an amount consistent with the reduction targets mandated by Directive 2 of this executive order”. Responding to the Governors Executive Order the SWRCB adopted a conservation regulation which placed each urban water supplier into one of eight tiers which are assigned a conservation standard, ranging between 4% and 36%.

Current conditions of Folsom Reservoir is pretty bleak, however we still
have the winter ahead of us with unanimous El Nino predictions.

Granite Bay resides in the San Juan Water District (SJWD) service area and was assigned the highest conservation level of 36%  based on residential gallons per capita per day (R-RGPCD). By the end of the year we achieved the 36% reduction from 2013 use in raw water purchased for golf course irrigation and through November our combined potable water meters on the property had reduced 40% from 2013.

Even with the unanimous prognostication's from weather forecasters of a strong El Nino winter to hit the west coast, many doubt it will be enough to end this historic drought. Through December the States reservoirs are filling and more importantly the mountains have above average snow however these reservoirs were so depleted over the last four years that it will take allot of El Nino to fully recover. My suspicion is we are in for another year of mandated reductions which could lead into a new normal particularly with another CA State government mandate "20 X 2020" which requires a 20% reduction from all Californians by the year 2020.

Non of the States Reservoir's are looking reallygood at this point of the season.
The Good News is the Snow Accumulation. 

2015 Early Winter and Spring Flash Flood

Despite another year of below average rainfall we did experience some drastic weather that changed the landscape here at Granite Bay. On December 12 2014 we experienced a strong storm that brought 4" of rain in two days. A good portion of that rain fell in the early evening of December 12th causing Linda Creek to overflow it's banks and move a large rock that was stabilizing the creek bank near the bridge abutment on #14. The rock moved off the bank down into the creek exposing soil directly near the bridge abutment to further erosion in subsequent storms. 

As it turned out we didn't get any more substantial rainfall from January through April 2015 contributing to the continuing Statewide drought. One thing lead to another and we didn't get to properly stabilizing the exposed soil near the bridge abutment with the exception of some temporary old concrete rip rap to protect from El Nino this winter. Our permanent plan is to remove the temporary rip rap once the El Nino threat has past and stabilize the entire creek bank with rock on top and in front of a geo-textile barrier to prevent further erosion issues.

Another destructive weather event occurred in May where a unexpected flash flood went over the course creating a substantial mess and damage. This is the storm that collapsed the library patio cover and washed out our walnut shell areas like we have never experienced in 20 years. We received just under 3" of rain and hail, 2" of which came down in one hour. That's the definition of a frog strangler.

The hail that brought the patio cover down.

Summer 2015 Turf Loss and Fall Recovery

Because of the drought and its associated restrictions we decided against aggressive core aerification of green surrounds and fairways in both the fall of 2014 and spring of 2015 because of the amount of irrigation water it takes to recover from such an event. This calculated omission along with irrigation reductions and a warmer summer helped produce some stressed turf areas throughout the course that we needed to recover from in the fall.
Typical Granite Bay turf stress in the summer.

Our corporate Agronomist's visited Granite Bay during this stressful period and concluded if we are going to continue to try to hold onto cool season turf  from July through September we would need to start applying more protection to fairways and green surrounds for disease which is commonly  part of the stress equation in the summer months. This would require more resources which we we able to secure in the way of seed for recovery this past fall and disease prevention products for 2016.

New seeder purchased for seeding
improved varieties of bentgrass
into putting surfaces and 2015
fall recovery

Irrigation Controller Installation in 2015

We completed Phase I of our irrigation controller replacement in 2015 as scheduled. Phase II is slated to be funded in 2016 and we are trying to get it funded early so we can complete the installation process in the first part of the year. Replacing these controllers will benefit us more then just replacing 20 year old electronics. Replacement will facilitate single irrigation head irrigation control to a much higher degree then we currently have. Before we started this project we had 40% single head coverage. Upon completion we will achieve 90% single head coverage. The main advantage to single head coverage is we can control the amount of water each individual sprinkler head applies helping with both dry and wet spots in the summer along with producing                                                                   water savings.

Miscellaneous Traffic Control Changes 2015

We did adopt some different golf cart traffic control measures in 2015 that we hope moving forward will have a positive effect turf grass conditions particularly in the summer months. First we plan to continue to rope off  different holes in the summer to proactively protect the turf from the damages of cart traffic. In the past we roped along walnut shell lines allowing concentrated cart traffic under the Oak Trees inhabiting the shell areas. This added compaction combined with drought was not the best thing for our Oak trees as outlined in a course update entitled Golf Cart Traffic & Native Oaks. Therefore when we rope off a hole in the future we will no longer follow the walnut shell lines but the cart path to eliminate that concentrated compaction. I hope we all agree a few more steps is worth it to do all we can to protect these assets.

Another traffic control measure we put in place late in 2015 was the use of small white and green stake delineating where to enter and exit the golf hole with your golf cart. We have observed many members adhering to the protocol and this will make a difference in managing the wear and tear of cart traffic. Look for the three small white and green stakes at the beginning of the hole and the same trio closer to the green on and enter from the cart path on the first set and exit to the cart path on the second set. Golf course maintenance will move those stakes throughout the week to distribute wear. Simple as that.

A simple traffic control delineation protocol
adopted in 2015

2015 In Conclusion

From the entire Golf Course Maintenance Staff we would like to thank you the Granite Bay Members for your support of our efforts in 2015 and throughout the years. The dynamic nature of maintaining a living breathing "game board" presents unique challenges along with opportunities to exceed expectations. That is our goal, and we appreciate your encouragement and recognition of those efforts. 

Bagpiper on #10 in the morning during
2015 Jones Cup. 

Miguel Machuca was presented in 2015
Granite Bay Golf Club's Employee of the
Year for 2014.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Golf Cart Traffic & Native Oaks

We recently had a consultation with a Certified Arborist regarding the creation of a preservation plan for the native oaks on the property. I'm certain we all agree that the native oaks at GBGC are a crucial part of the course's aesthetics's and design concept and a strategic preservation and replacement plan is a prudent action.

Native Blue Oaks protecting the right flank of #10.


The original golf property was considered a Blue Oak (quercus douglasii) woodland as Blue Oaks were, and still are the dominant native species. The secondary species often associated with a Blue Oak woodland are Interior Live Oaks (quercus wislizeni). There were  approximately 4400 oaks on the property before construction and approximately 1100 removed during construction. The original design and course in 2014 did not include walnut shell areas and had wall to wall irrigated turf throughout the property. Areas such as #6 & #7 and large area between #1, #11 & #10 are good examples of  areas of solid turf in  the golf courses original state. 

After losing over a dozen or more large Blue Oaks very early on in 2004, the decision was made to remove irrigation and add walnut shell in many of the strategic areas. This is because  summer irrigation, particularly near the trunk of some Oak trees keeps the root crown, which is directly beneath the trunk, wet and causes a crown rot that is a death sentence for many California Native Oaks. This required the removal of turf and re-triangulation of the irrigation system then spreading the walnut shells. Oak trees can take and actually use summer water on the periphery or drip line but when irrigated with the consistently necessary for turf near the trunk, native Blue Oaks commonly struggle then fail. 

The removal of irrigation from the Oak trees root crown area saved the trees from crown rot but  created the unintended consequence of excessive heat near the feeder root system  inside of the drip line. In a Blue Oak Woodland's natural state there would be several inches of mulch consisting of decomposing grass and leaves. This mulch not only helped the soil retain moisture from winter rains, but also insulated the the feeder roots from the summer heat. According to the arborist we consulted, this heat in the summer is another major stress to native Oak trees that had been accustomed to this thick layer of mulch.

Existing Blue Oaks in walnut shell area #1

Planted valley Oaks in #1 walnut shell area.

Another stress to these Oak trees according to the arborist is the compaction we are creating with golf cart traffic,  particularly on the holes we have roped off like #10 & #1. Allowing the traffic to concentrate in these walnut shell areas could have a deleterious compacting effect on the root system of these existing Blue Oaks which are already suffering from heat and from drought the past few year's.

We don't have the option of installing a thick layer of mulch in these areas as we need to provide a lie in which to play golf. We certainly don't have any control over how much rain we are going to receive in any giver year although if this drought continues I can see us setting up  supplemental irrigation for the trees. We do however have control over cart traffic in these areas. Therefore when we set up traffic control on a hole in the future, we will set the control rope up on the cart path edge rather then the walnut shell edge. Understandably this will require a few more steps on roped off holes but we must do what we can to protect our trees.

Compacted walnut shell area on drip line of  Blue Oak walnut shell area right of #10

Moving Forward

We did get some California Native Trees planted two years ago to replace trees that we lost along with proactively planting for trees that we suspect will lose in the future. A course update from a few years back entitled Tree Planting & Restoration detailed our strategy of replacing trees. In the future I am going to propose we get a batch of trees annually in our capitol and proactively plant more trees that we suspect will need replacement in the future. Obviously if we get them planted now they will be closer to maturity when we have to take the tree down that we have designated as needing replacement someday.

Proactive planting of a Valley Oak to replace
 the old Blue Oak in the foreground. Proactive
plantings need to remain somewhat remote from
the tree it is replacing as we don't want to damage
new tree when old one falls or in removal process.

Friday, October 2, 2015

2015 Fall Aeration

September 23rd was the  2015 Fall Equinox, the day I circle on my calender as soon as summer starts in late June. The fall or autumnal equinox is special because it marks the time when cool season turf can really start to recover and thrive as opposed to the 12 weeks or  specifically 88 days of summer. And because Granite Bay Golf Club is predominately a cool season turf golf course it is the time that we recover from our summer turf setbacks.

It also marks the time of the year that we start to aerify the golf course which can help with the aforementioned recovery process. We have front nine, back nine alternating closures starting on Tuesday, October 6 2015. 

2015 Fall Aerification Schedule

  • Tuesday 10/6/15         Course Closed   Core Aerify Putting Surfaces
  • Wednesday 10/7/15    F9 Open  Aerify / Seed B9 Fairway / Rough
  • Thursday 10/8/15       B9 Open  Aerify / Seed F9 Fairway / Rough
  • Tuesday 10/13/15       B9 Open  Continue  Aerify / Seed F9 Fairway / Rough
  • Wednesday 10/14/15  F9 Open  Continue  Aerify / Seed B9 Fairway / Rough

Aerificarion Process Fall 2015

Four years of drought and Granite Bays total reliance on  Folsom Reservoir as it's golf course irrigation source has taken it toll on many of the turfgrass areas throughout the course. Mandatory reductions of 25% in 2014 and 36% in 2015  along with the lack of deep soaking rain for trees and turf have left the soils dry. 

We've managed these reductions avoiding wholesale loss of turf but not without our  issues.  As much as the golf course needs an aggressive core aeration right now we have to be careful because this drought is not over. We still have a mandate to reach a 36% conservation from a 2013 benchmark and aggressively opening the golf course up with aeration would require more water for recovery then we currently have.

Therefore our plan is to core aerate greens and spot aerate fairways and rough. We will be rolling the dice and seeding all of the areas that have thinned out this summer and hope that the forecasted 95% chance of a strong El Nino event will soak and establish the seed throughout the winter. Hopefully this forecasted event will at minimum ease the drought restrictions in 2016 at which time we will aggressively core aerate the entire property in the spring. Hope is not a strategy but the scientific forecast does give me some. Time will tell.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

New Location for Bunker Rake Placement

At our most recent Golf Committee meeting the age old question of  where sand traps rakes should be placed was discussed. In  the USGA article, Experts Explain: Bunker Rake Placement, the topic is broken down because as the article explains "There is no rule on bunker rake placement"

The 2012 article goes on to explain that "The USGA recommends placing rakes outside of the bunker and parallel to the line of play, preferably along the outer edge of the bunker so that it will reduce the overall chance of it coming into play while eliminating its influence of a ball within a hazard"

After a reflective debate the committee agreed with the USGA recommendation's so golf course maintenance placed the rakes outside of the bunkers on the morning of 9/30/15. Driving the course the same afternoon afternoon confirmed this change will need some getting used too as many rakes were placed back in the bunkers. Unintended consequences such as more run over rakes and golf course maintenance issues are inevitable and anticipated but for now Granite Bay is going to "Rakes Out".

Friday, August 28, 2015

Traffic Control

We all know that cart traffic can be hard on the turfgrass playing surfaces here at Granite Bay,  particularly in the summer months and preventing this damage that may occur was a  topic of discussion at a recent golf committee meeting. A couple of changes were discussed and we recently adopted these strategies we hope will help. One of the changes was the addition of traffic indicators directing cart traffic onto a golf hole and another set of indicators directing traffic off of the golf hole.

These traffic indicators are  six inch green and white stake's that are set out in sets of three. On set at the beginning of the hole and one set at the end. These indicators are where carts should enter and most importantly exit the course to the cart path. Golf Course Maintenance will rotate these sets to control wear in these entrance and exit points. We understand this is new to Granite Bay and will take some getting used to, but if observed properly we should be able to control wear and tear on the turf a little better. The exit indicators near the green are the most important indicators as this would be the furthermost point in which carts should be near the green without being on the path.  Once out on the golf course we ask that carts avoid obvious stressed areas and utilize the paths as much as possible.

The other change is we expanded the number of holes we rope off in the summer from two to four. I know this is not a popular move but we ask your patience as we try to hold onto the turf that we have during the trying times of late August through early September.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Wetland Plantings in Full Bloom

This is a early morning shot taken by Michele McCormick right here at Granite Bay.

One of the simple pleasures of being a part of this spectacular property and one that I hope everyone takes advantage of, is the opportunities to observe nature and golf interact. An opportunity to stop and smell the roses or in this particular case the Rose mallow.

Hibiscus Moscheutos Luna White is a perennial plant that was incorporated around our wetland lakes during construction. One of the common names used for this variety of Hibiscus is Rose Mallow or Swamp Mallow. These are hardy plants that can take some cold weather unlike the Hibiscus that is grown in Hawaii, San Diego or the San Francisco Bay Area. They are pretty prolific in our ponds and wetlands right at the moment and in full bloom so take the opportunity to stop and smell the Rose Mallow. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Granite Bay Putting Surface Update

We are currently in the early stages of inter seeding new varieties of Bentgrass seed into our greens here at Granite Bay. Everyone is probably aware that our greens are made up of varying percentages of different kinds of grasses. They were originally planted with Creeping Bentgrass and over the years have been infiltrated with Poa Annua (poa - sounds like Boa Constrictor). This infestation is a common evolution of a putting green in Northern California, particularly greens that are 20 years old as there are no 100% effective products to keep the poa out.

There are multiple problems with poa infiltrating putting surfaces particularly during the transitioning process from bent to poa. First, all poa is not the same. When cut at putting green height, poa annua develops a tremendous amount of seed which remains viable in the soil even if it doesn't germinate right away. When it does germinate it starts cross pollinate and produce different bio types. Bio types with deeper rooting and finer texture (dark - green poa) are certainly more desirable then the bio types that have shallow roots (yellow-green poa) making the plant very susceptible to summer stress.

Another inherent problem with poa is it ability to coexist with the deeper rooting bentgrass.  What typically happens as poa populations increase is you start to irrigate more frequently to protect the poa and  bentgrass roots become shallower because of the more available water near the surface. At this point it is difficult to "dry down" a green that has a substantial poa population  because of poa's shallow root depth   Drier greens are firmer and by default faster and smoother with out having to do anything else. Many areas in Norther CA have 100% poa greens that perform well primarily because they are old and the more desirable bio types have dominated over time and have eliminated the less desirable ones. However that type of consistent performance has been elusive here at Granite Bay as this "transitioning" is still in process and we have to putt over varying bentgrass patches and poa annua biotype patches.

Recent sample from #10 at GB. Sample depicts root depth in the 2.5" range

Web picture showing the rooting potential of bentgrass. 

New Bentgrass Varieties

Recently David Dube, a regional director of Agronomy for Club Corp visited the property and we toured the course and looked at all of the greens. His opinion was we needed to start getting newer varieties of bentgrass seed intermixed into our greens and at much higher rates and implement these seeding events more frequently then we have been accustomed to.  The reason for the frequency and higher rates is, it is difficult to get an new grass plant established in an already dense stand of turf but you can win the battle attrition if you can stay at it. The overall thought is to out compete the poa seed bank with newer bentgrass varieties, all of which were bred specifically to compete against poa annua.

 These newer varieties of bentgrass,  primarily because of their shoot density, have shown to be very competitive against poa. They are not quite the creeping type of creeping bentgrass that was seeded on our greens originally. We plan on introducing a few different new varieties into the greens and see what dominates in our particular  micro climate's. The varieties are Dominator and T1. Dominator is a blend of Tyhee and 007 and T1 is a stand alone variety. I'm not concerned about multiple varieties of bentgrass because that is exactly what we have now. My main concern is the individual varieties ability to crowd out and compete against poa annua creating a stand of deeper rooting fine textured grass that can be dried down.

Inter seeding Process

The inter seeding process itself is a little tricky because we still need to provide an acceptable putting surface. Timing is crucial as well. The summer months provide  the best opportunity to compete against poa because the long days and heat naturally slow down poa and make it less competitive. Conversely the heat can be hard on young bentgrass seedlings so the surfaces need to be kept moist but not too wet. 

Spiking pattern prior to broadcast seeding.

Light topdressing after spiking, vertical mowing and seeding

Recently we spiked and vertical mowed the greens and followed this process up with a heavy seeding of Dominator which was brushed into the turf canopy and spiking holes. All of this was followed by a light topdressing of sand. We will have to forgo applications of growth regulators, which we apply on a fairly regular basis, as these types of chemistry's can be hard on young seedlings. Our goal is to make this process as seamless as possible maintaining putting quality to an acceptable level throughout, because one seeding will not be enough. We will have to repeat the above mentioned process on many occasions throughout this year and the next if we have any hope of out competing the poa annua.

As you can see, bentgrass seed's are very tiny.

Broadcast interseeding Dominant bentgrass into
practice green at Granite Bay.

One future addition to our equipment arsenal that I hope will help with our conversion efforts is a seeder attachment that was designed for just this process. The video below depicts the operation which is advantageous on several  different levels. First using a a seeder like the Maredo will cause no surface disruption and can be operated by one person. Secondly, because of the precise placement of the seed into the green, we can expect higher germination rates at much lower seeding rates compared to broadcast spreading of the seed. This is extremely beneficial in that these new bentgrass varieties run any where between $10.00 and $13.00 per pound so if we can get more viable plants using less seed we can repeat the process more often increasing our odds for success.

What to Expect

What I am hoping to see is further increases in our bentgrass population and particularly more of a blending of the bent and desirable poa species. A total conversion of new bentgrass varieties is likely to much to expect, however over time if we keep at it who knows. Again deeper bentgrass roots and increased root mass overall means we can water less frequently creating a firmer surface by default. A firmer, drier surface will provide more consistent performance. 

As seamless as we hope to make this process it wont be totally painless. There will be times that we need to raise the height of cut on the greens to allow for new bentgrass proliferation. There will be times we have to delay growth regulator applications and add a little more fertility as well which will effect putting consistency. However you will know successes are being made if the greens seem firmer under foot and ball marks are becoming less of an issue. These attributes are examples of an improving root system. 

New bentgrass germinating in spiking holes prior to mowing.


All of this comes at a cost which Club Corp is totally behind especially if we can head off a costly and excruciatingly painful and  inconvenient re-surfacing project. We are seeing increased bentgrass populations already primarily due to some adjustments we have made with fertility & plant bio-stimulator's and  we are experiencing firmer conditions due to consistently light sand topdressing the greens on a weekly basis this year. We are just starting to see germination of new bentgrass varieties from the seeding's we have done thus far, all of course the newer varieties that compete much better with poa.  Based on these results I am optimistic we are heading in the right direction.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Drought Update

A article in last Sundays Sacramento Bee regarding a potential historic drop in Folsom Reservoir levels  really drove home the alarming reality of what we all face in Granite Bay and at the Golf Club. We all currently have a  36% water use reduction from the 2013 target year to comply with. However the worst case scenario if the reservoir is forecasted to drop below the 120,000 acre foot (AF) level is that the San Juan Water District (SJWD) along with other local districts can enact a Stage 5 Water Emergency in which no outdoor watering is permitted. Even though the article leads with the bad news, the article contained some positive notes that I have confirmed with my contacts at the SJWD.

As you can see the FR lake level is starting a step decline due to unanticipated increased releases.

 Most of the good news comes in the way of infrastructure improvements within the district. The SJWD planned and received approval for a pricey infrastructure project to pump back water from Sacramento Suburban Water District (SSWD) which has groundwater resources to share. This pump back agreement and the potential future merger with SSWD gives the district access to groundwater so they are not totally reliant on surface water from Folsom Reservoir. Another infrastructure improvement project that is nearing completion is a connection from the Placer County Water Agency (PCWA) which has surplus surface water and an agreement with the SJWD to deliver it in times like these. One positive thing in this arrangement for GBGC is the water delivered from PCWA can only be used for customers in Placer County.

In proactive category  the US Bureau of Reclamation is building and planning to deploy  the emergencybarge that will pump water from the middle of the lake to the intakes near the dam that feed the City of Folsom, Roseville and the SJWD who also wholesale's water to the cities of Citrus Heights, Orangevale & Carmichael. At 120,000 AF level in FR these intakes are compromised, hence the need for the barge.  This is good news for residents of these communities although if they are using or getting close to using the barge we would likely be at a Stage 5 Water Emergency which prohibits outdoor watering, not so good news for GBGC.

This is an image of a barge in lake Travis that is/was used for pumping
water to local communities. Perhaps similar to what is to be deployed in FR?

Current Conservation Levels

Currently GBGC is doing well on the 36% reduction mandate. Golf Course irrigation dropped slightly below the 36% mandate in June but will recover and be at the 36% mandate by the end of  July. On the aggregate of our potable meters at the clubhouse and GCM building we have acheived 40% savings from 2013 through May. One of the big conservation numbers the SJWD has to report is Residential Gallons per Capita per Day (R-GPCD) to the SWRCB. In May, SJWD's  R-GPCD conservation from 2013 was 49%. In June, a much warmer and drier month the R-GPCD was 40%. This is good news as our area is joining with all Californians and producing some good conservation results.

What GBGC is Doing and How You Can Help

It goes without saying that most of all of our water use comes in the hot summer months. The golf course is predominantly cool season turf that cannot survive without some water. To meet the conservation mandate we have the irrigation in certain areas of the course that are not directly in play turned down. As we did in 2014 we will step up our hand watering efforts putting irrigation water precisely where it is needed  to compensate for the reduced run time's from the automatic sprinklers. We have and will continue to apply high end wetting agents to soil areas that have become dry. These surfactants are an immense help in getting these soils wet again. Additionally we will have increased cart restrictions on days when the forecast temperature is above 100 degrees, and we plan to have additional holes roped off completely to cart traffic. We understand cart restrictions are a hardship for many, but the restrictions are temporary, and necessary to protect the turf during these difficult times.

What you can do to help is simple. When carts are allowed on the course drive on green turf. Don't drive on brown and stressed areas. Use the walnut shells and cart paths as much as possible. These simple measures will go along way in avoiding more cart restrictions during this summer of drought.