What Lies Beneath

This week, an irrigation team from Toro will be scanning our fairways with a specialized machine. This unit will drive up and down each fairway and collect a wealth of data indicating what lies beneath the turfgrass you see at the surface. The PrecisionSense machine will greater identify how every sprinkler in the fairways is performing, tests for soil salinity, identifies heavily compacted areas, and raises awareness about impending turf stress. Yes, we are in our third year of using a new irrigation system and the system itself is running well.  However, we did not change the soil, the topography, or the grass types on the golf course and this new technology is part of the irrigation package we installed several years ago and will allow us to optimize the efficiency of our irrigation system.  Furthermore, PrecisionScan will help to maximize conditioning through our foliar fertility program. All the data will be compiled and transferred into Google Earth images and we will soon be able to make necssary changes to the irrigation system along with performing cultural practices to help improve upon conditioning throughout the entire golf course.

Some of the benefits include:

•Inefficiency of the irrigation system by showing moisture content in the soil
•Salinity levels and impending drought stress related to excessive salt in the soil
•Wasted water due to runoff and water/nutrient absorption deficiencies due to compacted soils
•Dry and wet areas related to topography
•Turf stress based on any and all of the above

Rain Dance

In June of 2010 (3.00″) we recorded more rain than in January 2010 (2.70″). That broke an all time record as it normally never rains in June. December was the second driest on record. As the crazy weather continues, we head into the second week of January with our dry spell continuing. Most other Bay Area courses are not all that concerned about the lack of rainfall. They have on-site wells, irrigation ponds/lakes, use recycled water, or do not have to pay $2,500 per acre foot like we do. Being at the mercy of the City of Santa Cruz, we are very concerned if drought restrictions are imposed in the coming months. That would significantly impact the amount of water we can use and potentially how we can use it. Having said that, the work that has taken place over the past several years with the installation of the new irrigation system greatly improving our efficiency with water use and the conversion of 30-acres into naturalized areas, has set us up to better withstand future drought restrictions. The most recent drought period was in 2009 when we had to cut back 30% or (17-million gallons) in water usage during a six month period beginning in May. That year, we irrigated 80-acres whereas we currently irrigate 68-acres. While we are currently working on alternative water sources for the future, we still have to be concerned about what is currently going on with the weather pattern and the potential for drought restrictions in 2012.

If rain clouds do not appear in the coming weeks, we may be getting desperate

Irrigation Adjustments

We are now just over a year removed from the completion of a completely new irrigation system. We’ve made it through most of the major “tweaking” that goes along with the installation of a new system, which allows us to get much more detailed in the adjustments that we are making. Starting tomorrow we will be taking the makeshift tool shown in the picture above and begin measuring the degree arc of every part circle sprinkler head on the golf course, and then inputting those numbers into our central irrigation database.

Having more accurate data in the computer instead of just labeling every head as 180 degrees will give us the ability to know to a much greater extent how much water is actually going out on the course. It will also help us maintain much better irrigation uniformity, especially on and around the greens, creating more consistency throughout the course.

Update on Our Native Grass Program

The native grasses that were seeded in January and February are doing quite well.  The blend of six-grass types were selected because of their drought tolerance along with their shorter growth habit and while they may look like a weed patch right now, they are doing what they are supposed to.  Keep in mind that these grasses have not received any water since the last rain fell in May. The main goal with our conversion to native grasses is to reduce the need for unnecessary inputs throughout the course, thereby contributing to environmental sustainability and conservation of our natural resources.  By eliminating 25-acres, we will save approximately 15,000,000 gallons of water per year, which translates into an economic savings of $110,000.  This figure does not account for the reduction in fertilizer, emissions from mowing equipment, and labor that will accompany the reduction in water.  Currently, these areas may not look appealing and what you may have expected from “native grasses,” however the finished product will look very natural, aesthetically pleasing, and serve as a dramatic complement to the classic Alister MacKenzie design.  

Progress Report

It’s been a while since our last update regarding Pasatiempo’s move toward water conservation, so there are several things to cover. The new irrigation system installation has been completed on the front nine and everything is programed and running by our central control. This is a huge relief considering to the 80 degree weather that is fast approaching. Holes 10, 17, and 18 are completed on the back nine, and they are getting ready to start pulling laterals and installing heads on number 11.

We have finished spraying out areas for future native grass conversion throughout most of the back nine, and have hydroseeded about four more acres of new area over the past two weeks on holes 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. The first areas we seeded several months ago on holes 1, 5, and 6 have really started to progress with the warmer temperatures and we now have six to eight inches of growth in the native grass areas that border these holes.

We’ve also completed the relocation of the 9th forward tee out of a future native grass area into line with the rest of the 9th tee complex. We were able to use the sod from the existing tee and transfer it over to the new location once the prep work was done.

Irrigation Installation

The white trenches in this picture represent the location of the sub-surface drip irrigation system that we’re installing on all of our bunker noses to keep them watered in the most efficient way possible while minimizing unwanted over-spray onto other playing surfaces as would be the case with larger “pop-up” style irrigation heads. We’ve fabricated a special blade that attaches to a string trimmer which has made the trenching portion of the installation process much more stream-lined, and saved us many hours of labor. Following installation of the drip tubing we fill the trenches with sand and then apply divot mix in order to re-grow the turfgrass which completes the process.

In the case of this picture we had logistical issues with trying to complete the installation of lateral irrigation lines on the third tee and keep the hole open for play at the same time. We ended up having to move all of the tee markers forward to a temporary tee until the rest of the tee complex was done being worked on. Other challenges have included the issues of saturated soil from the heavy rains over the past several weeks and extremely undulated terrain which have, at times, made it difficult on the equipment and the turf.

The main-line installation has definitely been the most obtrusive part of the whole process; however, when they are done the only evidence of them being there is the fresh sod work. The main-line trench in this picture is about eight feet deep and a muddy mess but the contractor did an excellent job of putting it all back together when they were done.

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.