Chameleon Grass

While we have been irrigating as needed to certain areas of the golf course, the long periods between significant rain events is creating changing turf conditions particularly under the trees and adjacent to cart paths.  Around the majority of tree skirts the grass is changing from green to brown.  Sure, we could spend labor hours watering these hours by hand, but thin turf under trees during the winter time is not particularly high priority.  Likewise, our water is some of the most expensive in the state of California and we treat it that way.  Spending money to keep turf green under trees during what is supposed to be the rainy season would not be rational.  With rain finally forecast for January 19-20, it will only take a good storm or two and these areas will bounce right back.  We have seen this particular drought stress in three out of the past four January’s and they all recover with one significant rainfall.


Winter Drought Stress-Jan2012

Trees on the golf course significantly impact turfgrass health especially during drought periods

Todel Nuisance

Nematodes…or “todes” for short can be a devastating issue. They come and go as they please and are more problematic when the greens are under stress. This December, we have had a significant outbreak of these aquatic parasites, most likely resulting from the late aeration of the greens on November 14th. The anguina pacificae nematode is unique as it has only been identified on a small number of courses along the Pacific coast of Northern California. This particular nematode forms galls on the shoots of Poa annua and causes significant damage to golf course greens. While disease and most other pests can be controlled, the Anguina pacificae currently is the most devastating pest of Poa annua putting greens on these Northern California golf courses. On Poa, it induces “stem” galls at the crown of the plant that sequentially contain developing juveniles, adults, and eggs. Initial symptoms on turf consist of small yellow patches, which enlarge and may coalesce as the nematodes spread Young, infected plants may die and, when the infestation is severe, a rough, uneven putting surface results.

Nematodes in the drainage swale on the 4th green

Nematodes creating a distinguishable pattern on the 14th green

There is not a lot we can do about this little pest. There are billions upon billions of todes in our greens and no one chemical or product would completely wipe out the entire population. Instead, a healthy approach must be used to combat this issue. Raising mowing heights, additional fertility, and reducing stress as much as possible. Several companies or products claim to be the “cure-all” … although the ultimate cure seems to be re-grassing the green surfaces with bent grass. Our warm summer temperatures and less fog in Santa Cruz help to keep the nematode issues to a minimum, but the winter timeframe is when they typically appear most damaging. Cool nights and shorter hours of sunlight do not allow the turfgrass to grow out of nematode damage very quickly. Until the grass grows at a quicker rate, some putts may have to cross over these depressed areas creating a “todal” nuisance.

Trees a Crowd

120-year-old Coastal Live Oak tree that split and quietly fell during the March 19th storm
How the wide open, right side approach shot appeared after the oak tree was lost

The first two of three oak trees added to the right side of the 14th fairway

During the March 19th storm, we lost seven trees total when the intense wind and rain storm ripped through the golf course.  Losing the massive 120-year-old coastal live oak along the 14th fairway was a tough.  Not only was that tree there before the golf course was ever built, but it is had impacted shots for many generations.  With that tree gone, the right side of the fairway had no protection.  MacKenzie intended shots to play from the left side and the angled green complex clearly identifies his intention.  Looking over several pictures from the 1930’s, there were (3) trees that stood on the right side of the 14th fairway.  When the final soldier fell, it was time to bring back the design intent.  Three coastal live oak trees were transplanted in the same location as in the 1931 aerial photograph indicated.  

Third tree added to frame the right side and bring back the original design of the 14th hole

Ghost of MacKenzie

A view from the 2nd fairway showing how the 3rd green complex looked in 1929

Photo taken two years ago with the massive Monterey Cypress adjacent to the right side of the 3rd green
Following the March 19th storm the cypress was severely damaged and was completely removed

Turf managers know the problems trees can possess on the ability to grow healthy grass.  Architects know the fine balance between trees and turfgrass.  Dr. MacKenzie never intended a tree to be planted adjacent to the third green and felt that the severe green complex would be a fair enough test for the 235-yard uphill par 3.  The massive monterey cypress tree that grew on the right side of the green complex impacted shots for nearly 50-years and MacKenzie intended the right side to be a bail out area.  If you hit a shot that landed under that tree or had to hit through it, up to the third green, you almost guaranteed bogey.  The ghost of MacKenzie roared through on the night of March 19th when a massive wind storm took out the majority of the tree.  It was so severely damaged that the decision was made to remove the remaining stump and limbs.  Upon driving through the club entrance, one is now made aware of the famous MacKenzie bunkering as it is no longer hidden by the cypress tree.  From an architectural standpoint and a turfgrass manager standpoint, we all agree that this was a good thing.  The third hole is now more reminiscent of how the green complex looked in 1929.

Winter Has Arrived

It looks like winter is here in full force. We’ve seen rain totals of almost 3″ over the past five days, and we are well ahead of our normal rainfall amounts so far for the year. Along with the rain, record low temperatures are being forecasted over the next several days. As usual, our staff will be doing everything that they can to keep the golf course conditioned at the highest level possible; however, certain operations will be limited due to the inclement weather.