Blinded by the White

Adding new white bunker sand creates a dramatic new look

 

Over the past several weeks the maintenance crew has been refreshing the bunkers by adding a new layer of white sand.  This process is done every two years to replace sand that has been washed out during the rainy season and also replace sand that is lost on a daily basis due to players splashing it out with their shots.  This project is very labor intensive as the crew goes throughout the bottoms and faces of each bunker and spreads out the existing sand to equal levels.  Any grasses that have germinated along with any bermudagrass runners are removed, then a fresh 1-inch layer of white sand is added to the entire bunker.  While the process takes nearly one month to complete, the bunkers will all look better and play better with an even distribution of sand.  Regardless of what type of bunker sand we use, this process would need to be completed on a regular basis to ensure the sand depths are even and the playability of the bunker sand is optimal.  The club chose to use the bright white Augusta bunker sand when the restoration process began in the early 2000s.  This brighter type of sand highlights the bunkering and showcases the impressive MacKenzie design, however, the white sand contaminates quickly and this process will continue every one-to-two years depending on the severity of the rainy season along with analyzing how much play the course receives.

 

Notice the difference in color between the new sand and older sand

 

 

Blue Line Special

All bunkers were sprayed with a product that prevents grass from intruding into the sand.

 

As part of our springtime regimen, the maintenance crew has been spraying out the bunker edges.  This herbicide prevents bermudagrass “runners” from intruding into the sand and eliminates any weeds growing along the edges.  The blue color is from a marking dye that allows the applicator to see where the product has been applied.  To help wash away the blue color, these springtime applications are timed when rain is eminent or when we are planning to irrigate that same night.  With rain this week, it was an ideal opportunity to complete this project and help prepare the bunkers for the upcoming summer season.  The bermudagrass is actively growing along the bunker edges as the recent warm sunny days have heated up the sand and created an ideal growing environment for this aggressive type of warm-season grass.  Knocking out the bermuda in the early growth stages will then allow the more desirable grasses of ryegrass and fine-fescue to fill-in along the bunker edges.

Ring Around the Bunker

 

Each winter season there are several inquiries as to why the edges of the bunkers dry out so fast, causing the grass to turn brown.  Even more prevalent this season with the consistent cold nighttime temperatures in December through early January, many of the bunker edges are browned out.  This has created a unique look…but it has nothing to do with drying out.  The grass around many of the bunkers edges is bermudagrass, an aggressive warm-season type grass that goes dormant once the first frost hits.  Over the years we have incorporated more fescues into the bunker noses as these grasses will stay green throughout the year and are drought tolerant.  The bermuda actually helps us in the summer season as the bright white sand reflects a lot of heat and negatively affects the poa and ryegrass that surrounds most of the bunker noses.   Even though the bermudagrass is quite aggressive, expect more of the fescues to fill in over the coming years, thus reducing the brown edges.

5 Years in the Making

View of the 9th Green Complex during Spring 2009 with landscaping behind MacKenzie Clubhouse

View of the 9th Green prior to installation of new bunker

An original pair of bunkers rested behind the 9th green when MacKenzie designed the golf course back in the 1920’s.  Over the years these bunkers were filled in and the area was landscaped.  Additionally, a cartpath directing players to the 10th tee eliminated the furthest left side bunker.  During the renovation of the golf course in the 2000s, these original bunkers were supposed to be put back to match the original design.  There was no way to eliminate the cartpath to add a bunker and the club elected not to remove the necessary landscaping for the other bunker to be built.  In the winter of 2009 the maintenance staff took out all the overgrown landscaping below the clubhouse and converted this area to native grasses.  Jim Urbina, who has been instrumental throughout the restoration process came on-site on September 12th and carved out a new bunker on the back left side of the green complex.  MacKenzie’s vision was to alter the depth perception from a player’s approach shot from the 9th fairway.

Current view of 9th Green Complex with the addition of new bunker

El Nino Wreaking Havoc

Over the past week we have witnessed fairly dry weather for the most part, despite the nearly two-inches that fell last night.  With the break in the rain the maintenance crew has been able to catch up on most of the mowing and clean-up following the ten inches of rain that fell during the last half of January.  One area that remains an issue is the bunkers, which we oftentimes forget are hazards.  Due to the vast amount of damage that was caused during our last series of storms, as well as the ongoing sub-surface irrigation installation around the bunkers they are not in as good of shape as during the prime golfing season.  For our golf course maintenance staff it becomes a “catch 22” because when we rake the bunkers the sand becomes fluffed up and much more mobile, therefore eroding more severely when it rains causing us to have to spend valuable time and resources in repairing these areas only to watch them wash away with the next rain.  However, when the bunkers are not raked as often they will become compacted by the rain and somewhat unsightly.  As the irrigation installers make progress on the subsurface system, and we feel that we will not be wasting time or resources, and the maintenance crew will follow behind the irrigation crew and edge, cleaning, and then add new white sand to the bunkers as we prepare for the upcoming season.  Moving forward, you should recognize improvements in this aspect of the golf course’s maintenance program, primarily based simply on the optimal weather that accompanies the spring season.  Rest assured that we are doing our very best to produce a high quality product on a daily basis for our members and guests while at the same time responsibly manage the funds and resources that we have available to us with regard to the bunkers.

Sub-Surface Bunker Irrigation

As part of the new irrigation system we are installing subsurface irrigation to all bunkers on the golf course. This technology allows the bunker edges, noses, and surrounds to be watered more efficiently.

    Numerous features include:

1) Keeping the sand dry and thus improving playability
2) No wash outs caused from excessive overhead watering
3) Can water at any time of the day with no disruption
4) More efficient use of water as it directly impacts the root zone
5) Reduction and possible elimination of labor needed to hand water noses
6) Significant reduction in costly surfactants and chemicals applied to “hold” water in the soil
7) Eliminates the use of maintenance-intensive pop-up sprinklers around all the bunkers

This new technology will benefit the property and significantly improve bunker edges and surrounds.