Thursday, July 26, 2018

Hybrid Bermuda Trail Update

Anyone playing the club lately has likely noticed some square roped off areas of turf in the middle of #'s 2, 5, 8, 12 &16 fairways. These are trials for a potential  Hybrid Bermuda Turf Conversion Club Corp is seriously considering for Granite Bay. Some of these trial plots have been in place for over a month and we are getting ready to take the ropes down and let everyone experience the durability and playability we have been bragging about with hybrid bermuda. 

Hybrid Bermuda Test Plot  # 2FW

Hybrid bermuda will take a much lower height of cut then what we currently mow our cool season turf fairways at in the summer. With that in mind we wanted to get them cut down prior to opening the areas so they would mimic the finished fairway product when we convert. We vertical mowed, topdressed and used a heavy roller on them last week to get them prepared for a shorter cut and we anticipate actually mowing them down and opening them up the first part of August. 

#12 Hybrid Bermuda Tee at GBGC cut at 0.400" (approx 7/16")

These trials are being conducted for our fairways for the potential  fairway conversion as early as 2020, however another part of the overall turf conversion plan is converting the areas around the greens or what we refer to as green surrounds. We have already started and made a large push just this week  to convert our green surrounds to overseeded hybrid bermuda. Overseeded hybrid bermuda is a combination of both warm season hybrid bermuda and cool season perennial ryegrass, the best of both worlds. The particular variety of hybrid bermuda used for overseeded sod for green surrounds is not as pertinent  as it is for fairways as we will always overseed green surrounds  but not fairways. We do not plan to overseed  fairways because of  the water use required in overseeding these large areas is hard to justify any longer in California, explaining the fairway trials to get the right variety for GBGC.

Many sports field operation's including ATT Park  in San Francisco have been installing overseeded hybrid bermuda for quite awhile despite the cooler weather in the San Francisco Bay Area not being ideal for growing warm season grasses like hybrid bermuda. 

The turfgrass the San Francisco Giants play off of is overseeded Tiffway II Hybrid Bermuda
These sports fields made this shift decades ago primarily for the firm playability and durability that hybrid bermuda provides. The ryegrass overseeded into the bermuda grass provides the aesthetic green color even during periods of bermuda dormancy, although the hybrid bermuda doesn't go fully dormant in the mild San Francisco climate. Eventually the ryegrass will out compete the hybrid bermuda in the Bay Area because of the lack of summer heat, but these sports stadiums re-sod on a regular basis and have found that they have to re-sod less frequently once they started using the overseeded hybrid bermuda products. I use ATT park as an example because I love the  San Francisco Giants, but all sports playing fields in the Bay Area have been using this combination for quite some time.

For the summer weather we experience at Granite Bay the overseeded hybrid bermuda is perfect combo year round for our green surrounds. The ryegrass will thrive in the winter and spring and the hybrid bermuda will thrive in the summer. We can refresh the ryegrass with additional seed in the fall if need be, and the cycle will repeat itself. Our plan has always been  to get some of this green surround work done prior to when we do the  fairway turf conversion. So now that the trial plots are installed and weeks away from opening, we have begun strategically stripping turf to install overseeded hybrid bermuda in the surrounds. 

Our plan for this summer and next is for our experienced golf course maintenance staff to remove and prepare areas of surrounds for re-sodding and our sod contractor to install the sod. Work around issues are:
  • Member Play & Events
  • Strategic Removal Providing Members Relief in Areas Under Construction
  • Required Sq. Ft. Minimums for a Contractor Install 
We started the first wave or preparation recently on #5 and #6 primarily because we had some bad areas to left of #5 and the right & back of  #6 green. The #6 green surround in particular was a good area to get our feet wet in large area sod prep as it is not a high traffic area for members. We needed to establish how much we could achieve in a given amount of time so we could coordinate delivery and installation of the sod and this area is proving to be just the ticket. In addition to what we now have prepared we plan to strip out the approach grass in front of #5. This was a request from the golf committee and it just happened work out as far as our installation minimums went so, BOOM a Win /Win. The request was made because members were curious how the new hybrid bermuda would perform while trying to run a ball up on the green. #5 approach is typically soft but soon to be firm.

Felipe removing sod by hand after cut with a sod cutter.

Miguel scraping up old sod into a pile to be loaded up and removed.

Enrique doing some minor shaping to get surface water away from the green.
Sod growers and installation crews are at a premium right now so getting firm installation dates is a moving target. The areas mentioned above have been stripped as of July 25th are tentatively scheduled to be re-sodded sometime next week, the week of July 30th - August 3rd which should give you an idea of the scheduling challenges. We will just have to play these areas as ground under repair up to re-sodding and two weeks after to allow the sod to root. We will be able to walk on the sod and retrieve balls but we will ask golfers to refrain hitting off the areas until ready.

Large roll sod installation at Bernado Heights early June 2018.
I went down to see first hand a hybrid bermuda fairway sod install.

Green surround areas that we are targeting for strip and replace this summer are #7, complete #5, behind the driving range tee as well as the completion of #4 & #12. Summer throws many a challenge our way so our efforts may be a bit of a moving target as well. We'll just have to see how it goes but suffice it to say we wont be handing any of our allotted capitol sod money back. That you can count on.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

GBGC Starts Hybrid Bermuda Trials

We have all heard the famous quote regarding the definition of insanity as doing the same thing and expecting a different result. As a company we have tried different things to make our current blend of cool season turf work here at Granite Bay and  in my 10 seasons here, I have always gone  into the summer season optimistic  that our new strategy for the new season will make all the difference. Sometimes the strategy helps but more often then not we are in the same position at the end of summer that we have always been. Honestly after what seems like a lifetime of taking care of golf course turf in this transition zone I have always known that  the best shot at overall success is turf that can make it through our summer weather. 

The insanity needed to stop, therefore we have started down the road of exploring options for a turf conversion here at Granite Bay Golf Club which is something I believe will be a game changer for the course and club. We are looking at converting our fairways from the  cool season mix of grasses that are currently in place to warm season Hybrid Bermuda turf.  Additionally we are looking at converting our  green surrounds from primarily cool season turf to Overseeded Hybrid Bermuda which is the best of both worlds providing durability and aesthetics.

There are multiple reasons we are considering a turf conversion which fall into three major categories.

  • Playability - Fast & Firm
  • Durability - Traffic
  • Sustainability - Less Water 

Turfgrass Research Facility UC Riverside.

The mix of  grasses that currently make up the playing surfaces at Granite Bay are of the cool season turf variety. From a playability standpoint they do well in the winter and spring but really struggle in our decomposed granite soil's during the heat of summer leading to the historical loss of turf. This turf loss varies from year to year depending on the intensity of the summer, but always leads to a fall where we are trying to recover from these summer losses. Additionally trying to sustain our current cool season turf requires more water then ideal for golf in the summer and  seed germination for recovery in the fall requires more water then ideal for golf as well. Converting from a cool season variety to warm season hybrid bermuda would change this scenario drastically and would provide the playing conditions in the summer and fall the we have always desired.

Valley Sod Farm Harvesting Big Rolls

There isn't a more durable turf then hybrid bermuda. And in the summer when it is thriving it will be much better suited to take the traffic of member and tournament events without the need of excessive traffic control measures. The History of Hybrid Bermuda is interesting. My  synopsis is hybrid bermudas were the product of plant variations in common bermuda grass that were noticed on golf course greens in the southern US as far back as the late 20th century. These variations were studied and bred and crossed bred until parent clones were developed. These clones are sterile meaning they do not produce viable seed therefore have to be vegetatively propagated with sod or sprigs. This breeding continued through 21st century developing varieties that are fine textured, dense, drought, wear, disease & insect tolerant. Varieties that are commercially available today include the above mentioned characteristics as well as shorter and less pronounced dormancy periods. This is because the main downside to  even hybrid bermuda is a dormancy period in the cold weather. However today's hybrid bermudas have a very short, less pronounced dormancy period's and come out of dormancy much earlier and quicker then their great great great grandparents, common bermuda. Additionally there are many "tricks of the trade" that are helping turfgrass managers keep hybrid bermuda green through the winter  which we will address in future updates.

Dr Glenn Burton - Hybrid Bermuda Plant Breeder

Playability and durability are the things we as golfers and turf managers primarily care about. However the big elephant in the room is water use. The day is coming and actually here when the State of CA will be telling us all  how much water we can use and when. The CA golf industry has its challenges, water use being at the forefront and our industry is telling golfs story of sustainability, but changes they are a coming. The conservation mandate entitled "20 by 2020" became law a few years back and  had a specific focus on a Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance. These laws and ordinances will be the defining issues of this golf club moving forward and 80 acres of cool season turf along with its associated water needs are a real threat. Converting to hybrid bermuda which requires less irrigation would fit much better in this new conservation  world California is moving into. 

There is  much more to discuss including local comparisons and specifics, winter strategies as well as the potential conversion process and details. I look forward to addressing these items as well as members concerns. However first things first. The most important thing is we get the right hybrid bermuda for Granite Bay Golf Club. Therefore we have begun to install trial plots searching for the right grass for our situation focusing on upcoming winter performance primarily as summer performance is almost a given. Below are pictures of  sample plot installation with some explanations. 

A laid out sample plot in the middle of #5FW

Removing existing sod with sod cutter

Adding a little extra sand and organic matter

Incorporation of sand into existing soil.
We wanted to mimic the potential construction process as close as possible 

A little fine grading prior to laying sod

The first of our chosen Hybrid Bermuda cultivars newly installed on #5 fairway the week of June 18th. After 3 days it is already sending down substantial roots. We are installing 2 more plots the week of June 25th  on holes #12 & #16. An additional 2 plots will go down the week of July 9th after the 4th of July week on holes #2 & #8. All plots were put down  near the 150 yard marker in the fairway and will be roped off as GUR until approximately the week of July 23rd & week of July 30th. Then let the trials begin.