NCGA Area of Emphasis: Agronomic Principals and Practices

Cultural Practices At Pasatiempo we feel that plant and soil health are the keys to growing great turfgrass, and that proper plant and soil health is achieved primarily through good cultural practices. We aerify greens with 5/8” hollow tines twice a year, and use a Planet Air or bayonet tines every six to eight weeks to relieve soil tension in between spring and fall aerification. Like the greens, we use hollow tines to aerify fairways and tees each spring and fall, and knife tines throughout the rest of the season to break up surface tension and increase water percolation.
Top dressing is done on a light and frequent basis (every two weeks accompanied by a verti-cut) throughout the year on the greens, and we apply sand to the fairways five to six times per year.

Proper fertilization and water management are two of the main contributing factors to our cultural program. We use a “spoon feeding” method of fertilization on greens, tees and fairways, with spray applications scheduled every 10 days on the greens and every 21 days on the fairways and tees. We also conduct several granular organic fertilizer, and soil amendment applications on the fairways and roughs to help build up the biological profile of our soils.

Our views on water management have been discussed at length in previous blog posts, but with our new irrigation system in place we now have the ability to be much more efficient with how we water the golf course. We are now able to put the water where it is needed rather than having to overwater certain areas in order to keep other areas alive. This will have a direct affect on the rest of our cultural program, and will allow us to maintain a firm and fast playing surface while keeping the turf healthy at the same time.

Chemical Use Pasatiempo has been Audubon Certified for over a decade, and therefore we have a major focus on our environmental impact. This is a constant consideration when we evaluate our chemical use. All of our disease management is done on a “spot and treat” basis, and our thresholds are relatively high considering our level of maintenance. Due to our climate we don’t have the intense disease and insect pressure that other areas of the country face; however, we do see fusarium patch in the cool months, and yellow patch, waitea patch, and anthracnose in the warmer season.

NCGA Area of Emphasis: Irrigation and Water Use Efficiencies

As we all know by now; we are currently installing a new irrigation system at Pasatiempo as part of our move toward environmental stewardship and improved course conditioning. The old system was extremely inefficient and unreliable, and with the increasing focus on water use and efficiency in Northern/Central California, we didn’t have many other options than to upgrade. The irrigation installation company (Leibold Irrigation) has completed all but two holes of the golf course, installing all new mainline, lateral lines, wiring, heads, and satellites. As we move forward we will be spending the remainder of the irrigation season working with representatives from Toro’s irrigation division to adjust sprinkler arc and angle, nozzles, and run times to create the most efficient and affective irrigation system possible.

We will also be using the latest technologies in irrigation to manage our irrigation system as well as our turfgrass. These technologies and innovations include individual head control, iPhone/iPad applications, new Toro VP satellites, and sub-surface drip irrigation around our bunkers. Although the new system and innovative technologies will be a great improvement it will, by no means, eliminate the need for “old fashioned” techniques such as hand watering and daily course monitoring. As most of our readers also know we have eliminated almost 30 acres of what was once irrigated turfgrass throughout the golf course and replaced it with native grasses that will be completely un-irrigated, which will be a major factor in reducing our overall water use.


Currently our water supply is from the city of Santa Cruz, and consists of extremely valuable and expensive potable water. Our system is under constant pressure from city mainlines that enter the golf course in three different locations. Our plan for the next two years is to install a pump and mixing station to accommodate the use of recycled water from the city of Scotts Valley. Although this will be less expensive and provide a good use for water that otherwise would be piped into the Pacific Ocean, we will be faced with new challenges including increased salt levels in the soil that accompany the use of recycled water which can lead to many different issues in turfgrass management.


Due to my extensive irrigation background, along with the training I have received since coming to Pasatiempo (hands on experience with the installation of the new system, Toro Site-Pro training, etc…), I feel confident that I will be able to assist in the implementation of our new irrigation plan, and I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.

NCGA Area of Emphasis: Special Event/Tournament Preparation

We recently hosted the Western Intercollegiate Golf Tournament at Pasatiempo. This is one of a handful of premier collegiate events in the United States, and definitely one of the top events on the West Coast. This tournament has a storied history with Phil Mickleson and Tiger Woods being just two of the names on the long list of well-know PGA Tour players who have competed in this event over the four decades that it has been held at Pasatiempo.

Last year the conditions were extremely difficult with the winning score being several over par (which was mostly due to the green speeds being upwards of 12 feet on the Stimp Meter). This year the goal was to keep the presentation of the golf course difficult yet extremely fair for all of the teams. Due to the extreme undulations of the Alister MacKenzie designed greens, we knew that the key to maintaining the integrity of the event was going to be by controlling the speed of the greens.

This year our plan was to keep the green speeds at around 10 to 11 feet on the Stimp Meter so that the scores would be more representative of the talent of the players rather than let the golf course run them off the property again. We accomplished this by not lowering the cutting height past what is normal for daily play (.115), and only single rolling during the days of the event. We did come in and mow the greens in the evening prior to the start of the event due to excessive growth rate that was a result of the late-season rains that we have been having in the Santa Cruz area this Spring. The greens were double verti-cut and top-dressed one week prior to the start of the final round, and mowed and rolled for four days leading up to the start of the event.

Because our goal at Pasatiempo is to provide tournament conditions on a daily basis there wasn’t really many things that we did differently from our daily maintenance routine other than some minor detail work that we focused more on during the week leading up to the tournament. We had started burning in our fairway mow pattern several weeks before the event (a dark/light block pattern that can be seen in the picture featured at the top this blog), and other than that there were just minor adjustments that were needed on the maintenance end of the operation to prepare for this event.

The set up for the tournament was set two weeks before the first round by myself and our head golf professional; Ken Woods. We set four hole locations based on historical tournament data and used white paint to mark the locations. On the days of the event we had two of our staff cutting cups and myself supervising the set-up and using hole-in-white to paint the cups. The only thing out of the ordinary was that we had to cut two locations in each green on Saturday. Because the players were playing 36 holes on Saturday and were started in a “shotgun” format, there wasn’t any time in between rounds to cut the new locations, so the players were instructed to move the flag stick to the new location after the completion of their first 18 holes.


In the end we had a very successful tournament with coaches, players and tournament officials very happy with the golf course. The winning team was the 4th ranked Oregon Ducks with a team total of 12 under par, and the 6th ranked UCLA Bruins coming in second with a total of 6 under par.