Friday, December 2, 2022

Winter Conditions at The New Granite Bay

Last year in 2021 we re- opened the golf course  in October after a major renovation. The eight month project included re-surfacing the  greens, tees & fairways, converting the fairway turf from a cool season assortment  grass to a singular stand of warm season Santa Anna Hybrid Bermuda, as well as  completely re-designing & re-building the bunkers.  The  golf course was still being grown in the winter following this re-opening in October 2021, and therefore was not a great example of a typical winter. Additionally we were cart path only through the entire winter into the spring of 2022, and the rain year was historically dry, highlighting this unusual first winter.

Fast forward to today to our first typical winter, and what we can expect as we move through it into the spring of 2023 and beyond. The winter season's declining daylight hours & solar radiation, along with lower overall temperature's, frosty mornings and potential rainfall all cause turf grass growth to slow down in the transition zone that our area resides. All of the pictures below highlight this, and also tell the story of what we might expect moving forward in the winter with the new Granite Bay.

Good graphic on where we live and the challenges of turf grass management in a true transition zone where there are distinct seasonal differences that can support both cool and warm season turf. 

Our new greens are now 100% creeping bentgrass just like what they started with in 1994. Creeping bentgrass in my experience acts like both a warm season grass and a cool season grass in our climate. It is less susceptible to summer heat then our previous poa / bent greens but slows way down in the winter when days are short and temps are low. The reason why they are generating the speed they are right now  is because the bentgrass is hardly growing and we are hardly irrigating them. When temperature's warm up spring through fall, creeping bentgrass starts to actively grow and  performance depends on the culturing practices of mowing, rolling, sand topdressing etc. In the winter we just mow them and they are off to the races. 

What To Expect In The Winter With Our New Greens: Expect the speed to continue as they wont start actively growing again until early spring. The down side to minimal growth is ball marks will not repair themselves as rapidly. Ball marks have been an issue with these new greens since we opened in October of 2021. Its every players responsibility to properly repair their ball mark after hitting the green.

Our new fairways are 100% warm season Santa Anna Hybrid Bermuda. The best is yet to come on these fairway's as we continue to culture and sand topdress them. This grass thrives in the hot summer and fall months, slows down in the late fall, and stops growing and goes dormant in the winter. It wakes up in the spring and starts the cycle over again. Even though it stops growing in the winter, hybrid bermuda can be a very good playing surface, particularly when it is not getting allot of rain. This dormancy that Hybrid bermuda will experience like all bermuda grass is one of the perceived disadvantages, as it not only stops growing but can turn brown. We have treatments that can mitigate the color scenario but can do nothing about it's growth interruption.

What To Expect In The Winter With Our New Fairways: Both of the above pictures are examples of  our new warm season Santa Anna Hybrid Bermuda Fairways right next to our cool season Tall Fescue Rough in early December 2022. Color is still pretty good in part because of our choice of the  Santa Anna variety, and in part because of bi-weekly pigment and iron treatments. We will continue these type of treatments every other Monday, but as we progress into the depth of winter in January expect a browner shade of green. The sharp definition of cool season Tall Fescue on the fairway / rough edge will provide a crisp contrast. Additionally,  the puffiness of the fairways are a result of our raising the height of cut on the fairways prior to their slowing growth habit. This was recommended to us as a best management practice for bermuda fairways in the winter because if they are too short and go dormant, the turf can get worn down to dirt from cart and everyday activity. 

What To Expect In The Winter With Our New Fairways (part 2): Above picture shows an unfortunate reality of dormant bermuda, lack of divot recovery. These divots will recover rapidly once the fairways wake-up in the spring but until then, they will be  filled with sand.

What To Expect In The Winter With Our New Fairways (part 3): These pictures were taken in early December 2022 and closely depict both the puffiness from raised height of cut and gray-green color the Santa Anna takes on in the winter. You can also see remnants of the green pigment treatment we applied to help reflect the green chlorophyll still remaining in the plant. Some of the bermuda course's in the south and desert that do not overseed but use turf paint and apply it to their fairways providing a green color on the straw brown bermuda. We have opted, at least for now, to use the above mentioned pigment and iron,  ceding the bright green look for a more natural grey - green  winter color. Expect the fairways to continue to go off color but hopefully remain a shade of grey - green and  still framed nicely by the distinct green of the Tall Fescue Rough.

Our tees were all re-surfaced with Santa Anna Hybrid Bermuda like the fairways, but many levels are just too small to get through the winter without  being overseeded. Therefore we did overseed our tees this fall but purposely at a medium / light rate so the overseed would not be overly competitive with the Santa Anna Hybrid Bermuda when it awoke in the spring. We will have to see how this strategy plays out this winter, and adjust accordingly next season if necessary. Additionally as I've mentioned in previous updates, bermuda in general does not like shady conditions and the course has an abundance of shade from trees particularly in the winter months when the path of the sun is at a lower angle.

What To Expect In The Winter With Our New Tees: Many of our tees have always struggled in the winter months. Turf growth slowing down, small tee levels and shade associated with many levels are all a bad combination for success and unfortunately our 2021 renovation didn't universally address this issue. More tree pruning to mitigate shade issues as well as construction of new additional tee levels are all on the table for future improvements.

What To Expect In The Winter With Our New Golf Course:
A little frost, hopefully allot of rain for the big picture, and some clear weather in between so you can enjoy the Oasis & Home Away from Home that is Granite Bay Golf Club as described in some recent surveys. 

We in GCM want to thank our Members for all of your support and hope you all are having a great start to this Holiday Season! The Best Is Yet To Come!

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