Thursday, December 20, 2018

Hybrid Bermuda Trial Progress

The Winter Solstice this year is on Friday December 21st. The day marks the shortest day of the year, just under 10 hours of sunlight. From this day we add approximately one and a half minutes of sunlight every day until the Summer Solstice in late June. Perhaps a more fitting definition of the winter solstice is mid winter rather then the beginning of winter as many calendars depict because more light will enter our part of the world everyday. And this matters for our golf course turf because the system is a living plant that needs sunlight. 

Long shadows in the afternoon on #12 on 12/13/18, close to Mid Winter

Short Days & Hybrid Bermuda Trials

 And no more is this need for light evident then with our hybrid bermuda trials. The shorter and cooler days have had the expected effect on the trial patches and I am admittedly  overdue providing you with an update. Putting these  trial patches in the middle of landing areas places them right in front of golfers and as the trial patches seasonally change without continued explanation's of what is going on, opinions and speculations can run the gamut.

 So what I would like to do in a few short bullet points to update the facts of where we are currently at with our turf conversion project and the beginning phase of it, our hybrid bermuda trials.

GBGC Trial #12  10/24/18

GBGC Trial #12 12/18/18

"The Project" Phase I - GBGC Hybrid Bermuda Trials

  • We are currently still in a trial phase. 
Our turf conversion project is all encompassing. The three main components of which are: 1. The Turf, 2. Soil, 3. Irrigation Enhancements. All of these components require  research, testing and evaluation. We are currently in the process of conducting physical soil analysis with laboratories that specialize in sports turf to determine best method and potential amendments for preparation of the soil for our fairway turf surfaces. It was always our intent to look at the further irrigation changes to our irrigation system so we could independently water fairways completely separately from the rough. A turf conversion is the ideal opportunity to make these further changes. And of course getting the right turf is paramount to a turf conversion. The hybrid bermuda varieties that were only installed seven months ago require  continued evaluation and testing which is exactly what we are doing now.

  • Golf Course Playability for our Members has always been the main motivation for this turf conversion plan.  
 The #1 complaint that we have received from members for over 20 years has been summer conditions therefore playability is the driving motivation of a cool to warm season turf conversion at Granite Bay. 50% of all of our golf rounds are played between the months of June and October at precisely the time of the year where our  cool season turf is experiencing acute environmental stress. Most of the months of October and November and sometimes into December we have traditionally been recovering from the impact of summer in one degree or another. Amending our underlying soil structure as mentioned above as well as enhancing irrigation coverage will not change the inherent environmental stress of a Granite Bay Summer on cool season turf. 
  • Water cost and availability of irrigation water for golf course turf is a huge, defining issue in California.
If playability is 1A as a motivator for a turf conversion, water availability is 1B. The State of CA is in the process of further establishing water use protocols for all of us and we as managers would be derelict in our duties not to recognize and plan for it. Our current main water issue here at GBGC, besides the water use perceptions of the golf industry in general, is a consistent availability of this resource both now and into the future. This will become even more acute when we have our next water shortage or drought and CA starts telling us all how much and when we can use the water that we all think we have a right to. Cost is not a major issue for GBGC currently due to a great deal made with our water provider 25 years ago, but it is unlikely to remain that way. Hybrid Bermuda can use as much as 40% less water then cool season turf and survive on even less. The same cannot be said for cool season turf. This project has to be about sustainability as well as playability. 
  • We chose to observe the trials to go into dormancy without utilizing any methods to mitigate the dormancy aesthetic issues in year one. 
The aesthetics of the Hybrid Bermuda trial patches are different then the surrounding cool season turf.   Now that we are in mid winter, however there are different strategies  that we can employ that will mitigate the completely dormant look. Raising the height of cut in October, using iron  and fertility to mask the dormancy as well as high end timely pigment's are all strategies that are widely used on dormant or off color hybrid bermuda to make it more aesthetically pleasing in the winter. Additionally there is some anecdotal evidence that as the  current sod trials mature their winter hardiness will improve as well. (see below picture) Through mid winter this year we have chosen to observe the trials without employing any of these aesthetic mitigation methods so we could ascertain any significant differences.  We look forward to seeing how quickly the hybrid trials start to regain their color as we start adding a minute and a half of daylight every day starting the end of the week.

The center green patch in this picture taken on 12/18/18 is a patch of Hybrid Bermuda
surrounded by common bermuda at a local golf club. This patch is the same CA hybrid
 variety that we have on #12 and has been on this fairway for 3 years. The GC Superintendent
at this club has extensive experience with common and hybrid bermuda fairways stated  that
the depicted hybrid patch never went completely dormant when compared to the common
bermuda surrounding it, but as it matured has exhibited better winter color every subsequent
year after installation.


Our own trials and research will continue, and because of this there are no more details on the project to share at this time. I will say hybrid bermuda turf conversions are being done and contemplated all over the State of CA including Northern California for the same reasons we are looking at one.  We are not the first golf club to contemplate this conversion and we wont be the last . And at no time of the year will the drastic aesthetic changes of off color hybrid bermuda be more apparent then right now. I understand that there are bound to be valid questions and differing opinions and I apologize for not communicating in a more timely fashion. We want to get it right and do this for the right reasons and we want our Members to be excited, proud and happy to be a part of this great Golf Club. We believe in this project and are willing to make a substantial capitol investment to make it happen. The project has always started with playability but has to be about sustainability as well. And even though many of us are not thinking about it now, I am thinking about it and planning for it all time. And that "it" is Summer.

Thank you!

On behalf of all of the employee partners here at Granite Bay I would like to thank the Granite Bay Membership for their generous contribution to the employee holiday fund. I know the GCM employees have always been surprised and grateful for the extra funds at the Holiday Season. 

Mucho's Gracias y Feliz Navida y Ano Nuevo!