Friday, November 10, 2017

Seasons Change!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, November 10th and much has changed since my last update.  We wrapped up a warm and mostly dry (3.76 inches rainfall) October with a fabulous Fall Member-Guest and Tough Day.  We encountered our first "official" frost on Monday, October 30th but only in the rough as closely mowed areas remained frost free that morning due to soil temperatures.  The frost did manage to initiate the dormancy process in the rough and over several days things began to change.  
Each year as the color begins to fade in the rough I receive a few comments and questions.  The color contrast creates a unique look to the course that many find appealing, albeit none of us wish it looked that way year round.  I'm also asked why it turns brown in such an irregular pattern.  The short answer is convection, but rather than attempt to explain that phenomenon I thought I would link a one page article that will satisfy your curiosity better than I can. CLICK HERE to learn why the rough looks like "Tiger Stripes" each year after the first frost.

Pretty cool huh, I keep thinking our good friend Brad Panovich is going to feature the frost/convection/tiger stripes phenomenon on the news one evening, definitely a good science nerdy segment just waiting to happen.  Could even use some cool footage of Carolina and the Charlotte skyline, just saying.

Last weekend closed the books on the 2017 Tournament Season with a thrilling sudden death playoff finish to the annual Carolina Invitational.  Our winners this year were the team of Joe Jaspers and Jim "Bubba" Aughtry with a winning score of -13.  
Jim Aughtry and Joe Jaspers
They defeated River Run's Steve Harwell and Greensboro's Justin Tereshko when Jaspers calmly sank a short but breaking putt for birdie on No. 18 moments after Harwell's relatively short birdie bid stayed out.  This was the third Invitational title for the team of Jaspers and Aughtry having previously won in 2009 and 2012.  If you're thinking the name Tereshko sounds familiar it's because earlier this year he won the North Carolina Amateur contested at River Run CC after previously finishing runner-up each of the past two years.   

The golf course definitely held it's own with the strong field only playing to a stroke average of 70.71 in round 1 and 69.89 in round 2.  Tough hole locations were definitely the talk of the competitors but Mother Nature didn't make it any easier with a back-door cold front bringing cooler temperatures on the heels of near record highs earlier in the week.  Saturday morning was also a bit breezy as the front arrived making it difficult on the players.  Our own Stephen Woodard and Brett Boner finished 5th after a brilliant final round 64, unfortunately the defending champions got off to a slow start on day 1 that left them too far back.
Keeping on the subject of change, one other is the recent time change.  The end of Daylight Saving Time each year signals a change to our range usage procedures.  For those unfamiliar with our "off-season" policies we close access to the Back Tee (far end of practice range) and all participation at the Primary Tee is limited to mats only Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  We overseeded the Primary Tee and will open the grass for use Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays weather permitting.  This has worked well the past few years enabling folks to enjoy hitting from natural turf through the winter months while protecting and preserving turf for use come winters end.  In other words, our tee simply isn't large enough to accommodate daily use throughout the winter when turf isn't growing and recovering.  Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Before I go, I have one more change to announce, and it's a big one.  I have a new assistant because former Senior Assistant Ben Albrecht is now the golf course superintendent at Birkdale Golf Club in Huntersville.  Ben served as Senior Assistant since December 2014 and had been a member of my staff dating back to 2008.   I want to thank Ben for his tireless effort the past nine years and wish him the very best as he embarks on this next chapter of his career.  I'm very happy to announce Matt Claunch has been promoted to Senior Assistant.  You may recall I introduced all of you to Matt (CLICK HEREwhen he joined our staff in late May.  Eric Sosnowski has been promoted to Assistant Superintendent.  Eric has worked tirelessly as our Assistant-In-Training since joining the team in September 2013.  
Eric Sosnowski
Originally from State College, PA he is a 2013 graduate of Penn State University with a B.S. degree in Turfgrass Science.  He loves NASCAR, the Philadelphia Eagles and has even been known to wow the patrons at the Hickory Tavern in Steele Creek on Friday nights with his karaoke talents.

Well, that's all for now.  With tournament season in the rear-view it's time for refreshers and seminars as conference season kicks off next week.  Matt and I are headed to Myrtle Beach for the annual Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show.  We're looking forward to representing Carolina Golf Club as we learn about the latest trends and emerging technologies in golf course management, all in an effort to make Carolina even better next year.  

The coldest air of this fall season arrives in town tonight, so don't be surprised if we have a brief frost delay tomorrow and possibly Sunday morning this weekend! CLICK HERE for a brief video courtesy of the United States Golf Association explaining the importance of why starting times are delayed when frost is present on the golf course. Thank you for your patience!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Augtober, Field Trip, and Overseeding!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, October 11th and yet it feels like late August outside.  When we last gathered I shared with you some data regarding the plentiful rainfall received at Carolina Golf Club this summer, and an additional 3 plus inches fell within the first two weeks last month.  In fact, the remnants of Hurricane Irma dropped nearly 1.5 inches rain on the Queen City exactly one month ago (Monday, September 11th) but that was the last rainfall until this past weekend (26 consecutive days).
In fact, the warm late September temperatures combined with bright sunshine and no rainfall allowed the golf course to finally reach her full potential with some firm and fast conditions.  You could begin to recognize some discoloration along and under the tree lines on September 29th indicating the trees were out competing the turf for water.   
No. 8
No. 15

Late last week I traveled to Atlanta to this year's U.S. Mid-Am.  The purpose of my visit was fact finding as I spent time at both the host club (Capital City Club, Crabapple Course) and the companion course (Atlanta National Golf Club).  I was on site both for the final day of official practice rounds and the first day of stroke play competition.  The visit proved to be very informative and worthwhile.  There will be much to do in the next 345 days, yes, next year's event is already less than one year away (Sep 22-27, 2018), but I'm certain it isn't anything we can't handle.
Banners at Practice Tee (Atl Natl GC)
Spectator Info (Atl Natl GC)

While there I also spent time with my peer from Charlotte CC, John Szklinski and Patrick O'Brien of the USGA (Green Section Agronomist, SE Region).  Patrick invited us to assist him with data collection and we got the chance to take a few Stimp Meter readings between the morning and afternoon wave of competitors on Day 1.
A good portion of my visit was dedicated to non-turf logistics, like temporary lighting (tournament play starts very early), evacuation plans, portable toilets, and other spectator related items like stakes, ropes, and mobility scooters.  
Portable Lighting Range Tee (Atl Natl GC)
Evacuation Site (Atl Natl GC)
Evacuation Vans (Atl Natl GC)
Mobility Scooters (Atl Natl GC)

In all, there is much to discuss and plan but that's why I made the effort to visit this year's location to help with our preparation.  I also had the opportunity to meet with Kyle Marshall, Director of Golf Course Maintenance at Capital City Club and Course Superintendent Michael Studier, CGCS.  Kyle and Michael have spent the past three years developing some pretty amazing native areas and I will definitely have conversations and compare notes with them once they've completed hosting this year's event.
Capital City Crabbapple No. 1
View From Clubhouse Back Porch (Capital City Crabapple)

Anyway, with my field trip in the rear view mirror it was time to get back to work yesterday with our first Maintenance Tuesday in quite some time.  There was much to be done considering our last Maintenance Monday was one month ago and we were rained out that day by Irma.  

That's right, you read that last one correct as we overseeded the entire primary Practice Tee yesterday.  This decision was made at last week's Greens Committee meeting and hopefully these unseasonable warm temperatures will assist with some rapid establishment for your enjoyment this coming winter.  That's all for now, it's a busy time of year with Outings, Fall Member-Guest and the Invitational.  I believe there's even a Tough Day in there somewhere.  Guess I'll go and start thinking about Tough Day hole locations.  ;)

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Friday, September 1, 2017

Thick & Lush, Metallica & a Trip to the Spa!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, September 1st and although autumn doesn't begin for another 3 weeks astrologically, yesterday marked the official end of summer meteorologically (how weather records are kept).  The summer of 2017 (June-August) will be remembered at Carolina Golf Club for lush, thick, green conditions as rainfall (15.44 inches) was plentiful this year after two consecutive dry summers.  In fact, we received more rain in August alone this year (5.62 inches) than we did all of summer last year (5.54 inches).  The most common remarks and comments I've heard the past few weeks revolve around how thick and challenging the rough is this year.  I agree, it's as dense and uniform as I've ever seen it.  In fact, it's beautiful.  

Now, before you assume my evil twin is laughing at your pain and suffering while you attempt to extricate your ball from the rough, I'm referring to the definition evident across the golf course because of the uniformity we've achieved this season.  Areas in the past where rough has struggled to grow because of either high foot traffic or repetitive golf car traffic managed to produce thick, dense turf providing a cohesive look across the property.

Even the teeing areas and bunker faces have a crisp, well defined appearance about them.  Perhaps the best comment I heard this summer came from one of our senior members about a month ago.  We chatted briefly after his round and he told me, "I know you like to be in control of the water, but the golf course never looked this good when you're in control."  Now you might think a comment like that would sting a little, but I understand where he's coming from.  Irrigation is actually only a supplement to natural rainfall, not a total replacement.  The past two summers we received very little natural rainfall taxing our irrigation supply and producing a very lean golf course which is a little less pleasing to the eyes of some.  I guess the USGA still has more work to do on the whole, "Brown is the New Green" initiative.
Black Tee No. 7
Left Greenside Bunker No. 14

Of course with summer in the books my team and I will focus our attention on next week's greens aeration.  But that doesn't mean we aren't excited about preparing the course for this weekend's Club Championships.  In fact, we've been readying the greens for this coming weekend for the past several weeks.
Pay close attention to the time stamps on the two tweets above and you notice we've been at or below pre-summer mowing heights for the past three weeks.  We will make one more height of cut (HOC) adjustment this weekend in an effort to provide everyone the best possible playing conditions.  Of course the rainfall we received yesterday (0.62 inches) and the forecast for today will work against us to some degree but rest assured the putting greens will be smooth and the hole locations will be a fun challenge.

Before I get back to aeration I wanted to share two more items with you.  Recall last time I mentioned we postponed fairway topdressing until immediately after the week of the PGA Championship.  We applied 300 tons of sand to all tees, fairways, and approaches week before last, even yours truly got in on the action as we scrambled to complete the task after rain interrupted operations for two days.

We will make one more topdressing application before the season is over, but for now enjoy the smooth, tight conditions made more possible from this cultural practice.

My team and I are counting down the days until next year's U.S. Mid-Am.  We are just a little over a year away until we assist our neighbors on the east side testing the best career amateurs in the country.  As part of the preparations I had Patrick O'Brien, USGA Green Section Agronomist for the Southeast Region on site last Friday for a half-day visit.  
Examining Soil Profile No. 10 Green
Patrick and I spent about three hours together touring and examining all 18 holes.  We focused our attention mostly on the mowing pattern changes to the golf course, but also discussed the summer season and its impacts on turf health along with our cultural practices.  Afterwards my two assistants, Ben Albrecht and Matt Claunch joined Patrick and I for lunch and an educational discussion.  In all it was time well spent and I'm happy to report things are looking good on our end as we head into fall.

Now, back to aeration. Tuesday and Wednesday of next week the entire golf course will be closed both days to allow me and my greenkeeping team to aerate the putting greens.  We have 122,607 square feet of bentgrass (just a skosh shy of 3 acres) spread across 22 surfaces (1-18, Large putting green, Small putting green, Chipping green & Nursery green).  The process is very labor intensive with core removal, applications of soil amendments, sand topdressing and hand brushing but the end result is well worth it.  Think of it like a trip to the spa, the greens will spend two days getting deep tissue massage and other beneficial treatments readying them for our favorite time of year... fall golf at Carolina!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Waterlogged, Major Moments, and By Appointment Only!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is August 15th and the backside of summer is upon us.  With just three more weeks till greens aeration (friendly reminder fall greens aeration will be September 5th and 6th) one can easily see why some of us are excited for more comfortable temperatures, lower humidity, and hopefully less rainfall.

As I write this we are under CPO (cart path only) conditions as thunderstorms rocked the Queen City and dropped 1.25 inches rain on the golf course last night.  Considering we topdressed fairways yesterday you might think all that rain was perfect for washing in the sand, but when you realize we were only halfway complete with the project you realize all that rain has delayed operations today.  Oh well, you can't have it both ways so you just make the best of it.  

Speaking of rainfall, our total thus far for August (4.07") has already exceeded our total for all of July (3.44").  Couple that with the twenty plus inches we received April through June and you begin to realize this has been an extremely wet golf season.  I don't recall the last time our irrigation lake was at full pond on August 15th, perhaps never.  And somehow, despite the wet conditions we have managed to mostly keep up with regular golf maintenance and our putting greens have not thinned too severely as experienced in prior wet summers.

In fact I'm very pleased with the recovery we've made these past three weeks after the rough patch encountered in mid-July.  And even though we have warmer than average temperatures in the immediate forecast I have already initiated steps to prepare the greens for the upcoming Club Championship (Sep 1-3) less than three weeks away (stepping down HOC, etc.).

Well, it's hard to believe just 48 hours ago the golf world's eyes were on the Queen City as Justin Thomas persevered at neighboring Quail Hollow Club winning the 99th PGA Championship.  I did manage to take advantage of some early Saturday morning rain at Carolina Golf Club and ventured over to see the action that afternoon.

Also, I'm very proud of the fact three of my staff members, Senior Assistant Superintendent Ben Albrecht, Assistant Superintendent Matt Claunch, and Equipment Manager Bob Hall were part of the volunteer effort to assist Keith Wood and his team with their preparation and presentation of the golf course.  
Matt Claunch Mowing Collars
Ben Albrecht Mowing Tees
Whatever It Takes! MC Flymowing.
There was a large contingent of volunteers, both locally and from abroad and it was a great opportunity for them to experience that environment.  More often than not the time spent networking and sharing information is more valuable to one's growth and development than performing actual tasks assigned.
If you look closely at the picture above you will recognize Bob and Ben (Ben is behind Bob facing the other direction).  Contrary to the caption, my team members made their way back to CGC each day between morning and evening shifts to ensure we did not fall behind and our equipment was ready to go each day.  Thanks Guys!  
I included the above just because the sheer number of staff working on one hole simultaneously is a little eye opening.  No wonder sustaining true championship conditions day in and day out is challenging.

In other news, I recently ran across an interview with our restoration architect, Kris Spence.  Kris is this month's Feature Interview on the popular golf course architecture website Golf Club Atlas.  GCA is probably best known for their ongoing Discussion Group where members (I've been one for several years) discuss the topic of golf course architecture, but they also provide a Feature Interview each month.  I was thrilled to discover Kris had been interviewed and even more thrilled to read the kind things he said about our work together at Carolina Golf Club.  You can access the interview by CLICKING HERE.

I've been a member of the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association since 2005 and a member of their Board of Directors for nearly the past three years (I'm currently in the first year of a second consecutive two-year term).  Due to a life changing experience (albeit a good one) our Vice President resigned from the board a couple weeks ago.  In response the current Secretary/Treasurer was immediately appointed to VP and yours truly was appointed to the position of Secretary/Treasurer for the remainder of this year's term.  Officer's positions are one-year terms.  I'm humbled and honored to be selected by my peers and I'm most appreciative of the opportunity to represent Carolina Golf Club each and every step of the way.

That's all for now, but before I go let me remind everyone we are less than one week away from the highly talked about solar eclipse (August 21st).  Don't forget to obtain properly approved eye protection before viewing the eclipse as you can permanently damage your eyes without it.  I am curious to see how this once-in-a-lifetime event impacts our next Maintenance Monday... stay tuned!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Monday, July 31, 2017

Care 4 Carolina!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is July 31st and we are now just one month away from the start of this year's Club Championship.  With the first two months of summer in the books let's recap what happened the past thirty days and take a quick look ahead at next month.  

Remember, July came in on the heels of three consecutive wet months and when last we met (CLICK HERE) a few greens had encountered some difficulty with the sudden change in the weather when June ended.  Our rainfall this month was much closer to average (3.44 inches), but that total is only approximately half the amount the golf course received each of the previous three months.  With an abundance of soil moisture from spring and early summer, the ability to finally groom and mow regularly, and the use of growth regulators you get some amazing definition and course conditions.

Of course when the weather is ideal for bermudagrass things sometimes gets a little touchy on our bentgrass putting greens, and the middle of July saw Mother Nature really turn up the heat.  It's not uncommon during those times for the turf canopy to begin to thin and this certainly was the case a couple weeks ago.  I was very pleased with the progress made last week and with this current respite from the hot and humid dog days I see even more progress and a quicker pace of recovery.

A couple of other things that took place this month was all hardwood trees were trimmed removing their lowest, downward growing limbs and branches to assist with sunlight penetration to the turf below as well as enhance recovery and playability.

The difference may be subtle and that was our intent as we want to keep things looking natural while improving the characteristics.  

This month also was the launch of Care 4 Carolina or #C4C.  The Greens Committee and Golf Committee would love to see a little more effort as it applies to respecting and caring for the golf course in general.  Ball marks are always a nuisance but during the hot, humid summer months they take even longer to heal and the scars become quite unsightly.  Also, both committees are strongly in favor of reducing/eliminating litter on the course.  And when I say litter I'm referring to broken and/or discarded tees. Not only are these items unsightly, but more importantly they damage mowers if not picked up daily.

So that pretty much sums up July.  August begins in less than ten hours and that means we are now just ten days away from the start of the 99th PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club.  After Jordan Spieth's exciting victory in The Open Championship a couple weeks ago he will venture to the Queen City with a chance at history going for the career grand slam.  We were scheduled to make the second of three fairway topdressing applications this week, but I decided it might be best to wait until after the championship considering there is an anticipated demand for client and guest golf next week.  Also, I'm pleased to announce three of my staff will be members of the volunteer effort so hopefully next post I may have some cool photos of their experience to share.

Well, that's all for now.  Looks like I'm going to manage to just sneak this post in under the July deadline but please remember to Care 4 Carolina.  Besides, if you treat the course with care and respect she may reward you with pars and birdies.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG