Friday, December 16, 2022

Weather Considerations

The sport we love is played outside on a living, breathing plant and weather will always play a big part in golf course conditions, as well as golf course maintenance practices. Weather in our part of the world can be somewhat predictable spring and fall, and less predictable summer and winter, and the unpredictable extremes of summer and winter and how they effect the turf is what we are always trying to mitigate.

 Measures such as  changing the grass type, or adding sprinklers, or applying products to prevent disease, or slow growth, or coerce the plant into staying green, it goes on and on. Many times these measures are successful in providing more consistent & aesthetic playing surfaces, many times weather wins out. 

How weather effects the course is not an excuse we use for varying conditions, it's a reality and a part of the game's charm. Upcoming pictures highlight recent GBGC weather related events as well as some our our weather related planning tools highlighting how weather tracking and data  is important in the day to day planning of golf course maintenance operations that ultimately affect course conditions. 

The recent storm of 12/9/22 - 12/12/22 brought only 2-1/2" of rain but some pretty fierce winds that brought down this 100' Digger Pine to the right and below of the sixteenth green. Dan Becker reports it has been leaning progressively a little more every year towards Linda Creek below it. Couple pictures below one an idea of the scale of the tree. It fell in a tricky location and will take us some time to process it and get it removed. This is a great example of a weather event unexpectedly affecting the golf course maintenance operations.

Frost delays are not super charming, but a common weather related consequence in the winter months. We are experiencing  more freezing days this year then the past few winters.

Predicting Weather & Making Plans

None of us have to rely exclusively on local weather broadcasts any longer to get our weather forecasts and data  as all weather information and much more is available at our fingertips.  

Its a way of life in golf course maintenance to be looking at the 10 day forecast several times every day, particularly in the winter and the summer. Weather forecasts are one of the main planning tools we use to determine all sorts of tasks for  the upcoming day and week from frost delays in the winter  to hand watering in the summer. 

We also try to look at long range forecasts to get an idea of what might be coming a little farther down the road. I like the Weather West website authored by Daniel Swain. He doesn't post on his website or social media unless he sees a significant change, most of the time before any other forecasters.  Weather drives allot of  planning decisions in golf course maintenance, so attempting to stay ahead of it is helpful.

 Mr. Swain has gained notoriety most recently with his co-
authorship of the scientifically published Climate change is increasing the risk of a California megaflood.  

A synopsis of Mr. Swains  scholarly article entitled    Climate change makes catastrophic flood twice as likely contained this picture from the 1862 flood.

Most of us are aware of the ongoing California Drought and the how it effecting all of us. The  State Department of Water Resources is the clearing house for all data collected  about water in California, and frequently updates the many graphs like this one of Folsom Reservoir (FR). FR is the source of the water that we irrigate the golf course with and  as well supplies fresh water for most of the residences in the area. With the recent December rainfall, the current trend line is starting to make an upward turn towards normal. I look at this graph at this time of year as the reservoir starts to fill as it is lifeblood of our operation.

I also look at this Snow Accumulation chart  after storms to get an idea of the real water storage mechanism in State, which is snow in the mountains.  The overall  213% of normal through mid December is a good start, but we have a long way to go and if the past two water  seasons are harbingers, this snow could dissipate as quickly as it arrived. Lets hope that is not the case.

One big picture trend that seems to be continuing is the lower snow accumulation in the Northern Sierra which has the largest reservoir in the State, Shasta. The 5000 foot difference between the Trinity Mountain Range that feeds Shasta, versus the higher Sierra Nevada's that feed's Folsom  and many of the smaller reservoirs in the middle of the state, is making a big difference in snowpack  during the drier, warmer winters we have been experiencing.

Granite Bay Golf Club has a weather station pin high and to the left of  the #12 green and can collect  and store site specific weather data use for historic tracking, planning and calculating site specific Evapotranspiration Rate or ET used to calculate irrigation replacement. This chart shows the accumulation of  18 years of GBGC rainfall data. This GBGC rainfall data is only relevant for our purposes. Snow in the mountains, Folsom Reservoirs  level, long range prognostications from weather scientist's, all posses more relevant weather planning data. 

Another weather related app that we use is called Sun Seeker. This cell phone app is a solar tracking and a compass that is very helpful for golf course operators to help determine the scope of  tree pruning and thinning. The app is a good tool to sell the necessity of tree thinning and pruning. Trees admittedly are an integral part of a parkland style golf course such as Granite Bay,  but the shade cast by them is one of the main detriments to quality turf. 

Screenshot of the Sun Seeker app in use on #13 green.


I'm stating the obvious that weather plays a significant role in the game of golf. It drives golfers decisions to play or not to play and it's considerations play a part in everything we do in golf course maintenance.  We cant do anything to change the weather, but we can plan for it, and around it, both short and long term. I like the adage "plan your work and work your plan" at the same time "dont worry about what you dont have control of". 

The Weather Outside Is Frightful, But The Fire Is So Delightful....   Merry Christmas!

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