Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Golf Course Maintenance Weekly 8/23/16

Clarification of Cart Scatter Rules

We have had a few members ask regarding our new approach to cart traffic on the golf course so we wanted to clarify our new scatter rule again. "What is this blithering 90 degree rule"  was just one article linked to a google search on the infamous 90 degree rule. It was written by a British golfer when confronted with a 90 degree cart rule in America. Evidently carts are the exception in Great Britain whereas  they are commonplace in America. During this google search I also found as many definitions of "The 90 Degree Rule" as there are golf clubs that post their rules on line therefore not really helpful in acquiring a definitive history of the rule.

One could speculate that the 90 degree rule came into effect sometime after Merle Williams, an early innovator of the electric golf cart, began production in 1951. Because continuous cart paths likely followed the golf cart, it is also easy to speculate that the 90 degree rule came about as club officials observed ill effects of these new vehicles and limited their use in one fashion or another to the rough.

Granite Bay's and many golf clubs definition  of  the 90 degree cart rule  basically was was to  drive along cart path until you are at a 90 degree angle to your ball, then enter the hole to you ball and play it. Next drive back to the rough line and precede to a 90 degree angle to your partner's ball and repeat the 90 degree process eventually exiting the hole to the cart path near the green.

Our observations using this definition of the 90 degree rule was and is: 

1.    For those who observed the 90 degree rule, driving along the rough line created concentrated traffic resulting in extreme turf grass wear and loss along with severe compaction in those areas.

2.   Most people dident observe the rule and entered the hole at a traffic controlled spot (ropes) then drove up the fairway  playing balls along the way and exited near the green.

 One of the main tasks of golf course maintenance is controlling traffic to alleviate concentrated wear, as golf carts are a big component of the game and they do play a part in turfgrass wear. Concentrated traffic will result in  turf grass death therefore spreading out the traffic to avoid these concentrated traffic areas is essential, and was the main problem with our original 90 degree rule directing travel along the edge of the rough. Ideally cart traffic should then be spread out or scattered on the course avoiding at all cost this concentrated traffic.  In a sense our scatter rule is a controlled version of what we observed most golfers doing anyway and  a different way of saying carts allowed on the course or what many have understood industry wide to be the meaning of the 90 degree rule. So here is what we think is the best way to not concentrate golf cart traffic which commonly end in turf grass death.

1. Use Cart Paths Whenever Possible

We are stating the obvious here, but the more cart traffic on the concrete cart paths, the less wear and compaction on the turf grass playing surfaces.

2. Enter At or Beyond the Green Stakes

The green stakes are an indicator of the starting point on where we would like carts to enter the golf hole. There is absolutely no harm in entering after the green stakes  say 90 degrees from your ball as this does not produce concentrated wear which is the main thing we are trying to prevent with all of our traffic control measures.

3. Exit Before or At the Red Stakes

Exiting the turf back to the path needs to happen before or at the red tipped stakes. We do not want cart traffic close to putting surface or putting surface surrounds.


4. Please be Patient with Seasonal Cart Restrictions

Seasonal cart restrictions are necessary during wet weather in the winter months and extremely hot weather in the summer months to protect the turf. We are blessed with a golf course that drains well after a rain and carts can get back on it relatively quickly even after a significant rain event. We have gone to roping some select holes where we asses the unique  natural concentrated traffic patterns ( example #10 in above picture) to be so damaging that roping off for extended periods of time has proven to be a successful practice.  ( Does everyone remember what the above area used to look like in the summer before current traffic control measures?) 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Golf Course Maintenance Weekly 8/11/16

Summer is Almost Over

We are 42 days away from the fall equinox which marks the beginning of the rejuvenating season of fall and the departure of summer. This is important time for the turf at Granite Bay because the majority of turf types we maintain on the course are what are known as cool season varieties of turf. Cool Season Turfgrass Varieties do much better in the cooler times of the year and thrive in temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees. The 95 days of summer between late June and late September do not have many days that the daytime high temperatures are in the mid 70's to mid 80's so it is not hard to understand why the turf on the course often struggles during the summer particularly when temperatures exceed 100 degrees.

The lack of heat tolerance inherent in  these cool season varieties of turf combined with the fact that much of it is growing on very dense, non draining decomposed granite soil completes the picture of our summer struggles with the cool season turf.

#16 Fairway typically gives us troubles  during the summer months. It's still one of those holes that can go south very quickly as we adjust irrigation between too wet or too dry. It's had its moments this year but has remained fairly stable.
We can say the same thing about #9 as described above of #16. We still have to fight the wet and the dry.

This picture is a great illustration of some of the challenges we have always faced here at Granite Bay. This was a sprinkler that was leaking in the #8 fairway that we repaired just this morning. You can see the brownish soil towards the bottom of the hole that is decomposed granite. Its hard as a rock (granite) and dry as a bone. Directly above it is a gray layer of clay that is moist but dense and does not allow the free lateral movement of water. Directly above that is the fairway sod that easily peels away from the heavy soil beneath it.

This picture continues the illustration of wet conditions we experience in many areas. The turf layer above the dense clay or decomposed granite holds onto moisture that has no place to go. Its not as simple as just turning off the sprinklers as the same sprinkler that irrigates a wet area inevitably waters an area that is dry as well.  We mitigate with hand watering but we can't hand water the entire 80 acres of turf. 

The Good News

Fortunately Granite Bay did receive some added resources to the golf course maintenance budget that did make a difference this summer season. We got extra funding for disease prevention as well as fertility, topdressing sand and manpower. Extra manpower hours were primarily spent on hand watering and detail work. Combined with the lack of any real drought restrictions this year and fruition of capital spending on the irrigation control system which delivered more individual sprinkler head coverage, these resources by all accounts have lead to some of the best late summer conditions at Granite Bay in recent memory.

#3 Green in a healthy state into August

We can't say that we are perfect. There are still  wet spots and dry spots that we are constantly adjusting irrigation to mitigate. However the greens are good, green surrounds are good and  absent any real turf losses, fairways are better than most seasons at this point and the rough has many areas that have allot of real good grass. Bottom line there is allot more viable turf going into fall that will spring back when the weather changes and we will not have as much recovery to do at a time of the year that golf activity really starts to pick up.  However our battles are not over yet. We still have 42 days.

Installing a "French" drain in one of these soft spots in #4 recently. French drains are relatively shallow and use gravel and perforated pipe. the herringbone pattern pictured above carried both surface water and accumulated soil moisture typically to a tie in to our subsurface drainage system. This is a good way to deal with these nagging soft areas on the golf course.

Another french drain we completed in July in that chronic wet area in #8 adjacent to the cart path. This area is in pretty good condition today and the turf around it is much better as we are able to irrigate adequately for the dry without making the fairway wet.