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.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Pace of Play Issues

Recently I was touring the course and came upon what appeared to be a towel left behind on the #4 green and was surprised to see it start moving.

He or she must have crawled out of the creek leading to the #9 & #1 lake near the bridge on #4 and crawled all the way across the green holding up play all the while. 

Fortunately the group playing the hole warned me about the urination defense mechanism that a turtle deploys upon being picked up, so I grabbed the spraying reptile while holding him or her at bay and put him back in the pond. 

So no animals were harmed, nor any greens keepers urinated on, and play resumed to a normal pace.