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 could 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's much better into 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.

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