Thursday, September 25, 2014

It's Been a While

April 25th of 2014 was the last time we saw rain this year... until today!  While I wouldn't qualify it a rain event per se, it is nonetheless moisture falling from the sky and causing the pavement to smoke in relief.  We probably won't get anything measurable from this, but we may be able to turn the sprinklers off for a day.

Since April 25th, we have been doing a lot of items to best manage this drought.  The highlights are continually punching/ aerating, lots of lime and more to come, continual irrigation audits, and changes to the irrigation programming.

We have solid tined fairways 3 times this summer while roughs and tees have been done twice now.  All three surfaces are getting core aerated as we speak and will be followed up by another application of lime.  The holes allow for better water penetration and the lime (calcium) is helping with sodium which has risen to 12% of the base saturation on fairways.  We were at 9% sodium in May and less than 5% is desirable.

Our irrigation man, Rolando, has been rocking with nozzle adjustments and pressure adjustments which has alleviated 75% of the nozzle issues we've had on the course.  Along with his help, we have made changes to the irrigation programming that have helped maximize efficiency.  Some of those changes were changing the flow set-point from 1800 gpm to 1300 gpm, only allowing 2 sprinklers to run per irrigation program at one time, and changing the priorities on the programs.

With the later, Tom Jackson of Sierra Pacific/ Rainbird has always stressed this and I never put much into it.  The theory is that by changing the sprinklers start time priority, the sprinkler will run at different times every night and the odds of the sprinkler running while windy every night are reduced. I still doesn't make sense to me that it has that big of an impact, but we are seeing the results and I can make sense of that.  

It really has been an exciting year learning how to best manage the drought and we have learned a lot that will have forever lasting impacts to how we manage water going into any irrigation season; drought or no drought.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hold The Salt Please

While sampling fairways this week, I pulled some cores that really show me just how bad our salts are this year.  I'd venture to guess that retirement communities use less salt annually than I currently have in the fairways.  

This picture came from 1 mountain fairway and is in a thin dry area surrounded by green grass.  The salts haven't been flushed from winter rains and because the salt concentration in our irrigation water is higher this year due to low reservoirs, the accumalation is very dramatic.

We have just applied calcium in the form of lime and next week we will be spraying a product in combination with wetting agent that should help break down both the salt and high bicarbonates.  

The winter rains can't come soon enough.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

New Energy Efficient Shop Lights

About two months back, a representative of Silicon Valley Energy Watch approached us with energy saving opportunities that included the shop lights.  We previously had the large 250W metal halide fixtures as shown.  They took approximately 3 minutes to come up to full strength, but the lighting was good... Or so I thought.

Silicon Valley Energy Watch assured me that the high bay 175w T8 shop lights replacement fixtures were going to be as good or better than the traditional metal halide lights.  They didn't look like much before they were juiced, but I was surprised by just how bright they are.  They also come up instantly which is a nice benefit.

The real benefit though is the energy savings which equals cost savings.  It is estimated based on our usage that these lights will save us $500 per year.  Not bad for lights that are only on for 4 hours per day.  

Friday, June 27, 2014

Micromanaging water

One of the problems that is not realized during this extended dry period is the fact that the winter rains haven't come and flushed out all of the salts that accumulated in the soil after a season of irrigation. This flushing allows our bare turf areas that turned because of salt stress to recover.  To give a numerical number to describe the problem, our fairway soils this time last year had an average sodium percentage of 2.25ppm.  This year the average sodium percentage is 8ppm.  With this much sodium in the soil, despite the soil profile being saturated, the plant will take up the sodium causing something called wet wilt.  

To begin to address the problem, I need to knock down the sodium. I have taken the steps of applying both gypsum and potassium sulfate to the fairways.  The gypsum will help remove some of the sodium in the soil and because  potassium is easier for the plant to uptake than the sodium, we should see (we have seen) a positive improvement.  

With the sodium problem being addressed, we are now beginning to aerate and fill in voids of turf that were salt stressed last year.  This is a difficult task in the sense that it is hard to keep such small areas of turf moist throughout the day and using the sprinklers is an incredibly inefficient use of our water.   

To solve this problem, I turned to a page from my first year in turf back home in Michigan and that was to fill up the sprayer and go water the small spots.  While it eats up labor hours, 100% of the water is going where we need it and it is actually  faster than pulling a hose down the fairway like you see us do for dry spots.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

New Range Tee System

After the range project was completed and prior to opening, I thought that we needed to develop a system for moving the ropes on the range.  Our range is tricky in that it needs to be set at proper angles to avoid, or at least try to avoid, hitting balls towards 9 Mountain.  It is also very small considering we accommodate over 70k rounds per year and the tee is only 21,000 square feet.  Previously, we would rotate through the tee in only 4 weeks leaving a lot of gaps between divots.  Luckily we do have  mats in the back and we utilized them Monday through Wednesday.  

 What we have now is a series of dots on the tee marked off every three feet on the left, middle, and right side.  They were all measured off the back line with the proper angle set.  Starting in the back, we would put the first day on the range on marks 1 & 3 leaving a 6ft teeing area.  The next day, we put the ropes on marks 2 & 4 effectively splitting the previous days worth of divots with the back rope.  

With this system in place, we made it 7 weeks and a day before we utilized the entire tee!  What this means for us now is that we will be on the grass tee from Wednesday through Sunday until winter comes.