Thursday, June 1, 2017

Getting Ahead!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Thursday, June 1st and much has happened since my last update.  In the past month we've hosted two major club tournaments, aerated greens, I've welcomed a new assistant, and started Jedi training of a new intern.  Let's get caught up and along the way I may share a few more items of interest.

Last time I mentioned how April was the warmest ever in Charlotte history and it was a wet month with well over 6 inches rain (LAST POST).  Would you believe May was even wetter!  That's right we had just over 7 inches (7.07") rainfall at Carolina Golf Club in May.  With meteorological spring in the books it's refreshing to know soil moisture levels are not at a deficit and the irrigation lake is at full pond as summer officially begins.  Also, with that much rain last month it's amazing we completed both the Member-Guest and Member-Member events without any negative weather related impacts. We definitely dodged a few bullets those two weekends.

I hope each of you will welcome the newest addition to the greenkeeping team, Assistant Superintendent Matt Claunch.  Matt was born in Baltimore and his family relocated to Charlotte when he was very young.  He's a graduate of Charlotte Catholic High School and earned a Turfgrass Management Certificate from Penn State University in 2015.  
Matt Claunch
His previous golf course experience includes both Providence Country Club and TPC Piper Glen locally.  The past two years Matt has been working in South Florida with a brief stop at The Floridian before most recently becoming 2nd Assistant Superintendent at Pine Tree Golf Club in Boynton Beach.  For those of you that enjoy the course related information provided on Twitter you can find Matt @MCClaunch where he has a great eye for detail and promoting the course and team in a positive manner.
Matt joins Sr. Assistant Ben Albrecht, Equipment Manager Bob Hall and Assistant in Training Eric Sosnowski as my senior staff.  Welcome home!

Also new to the team in Zac McMurry.  Zac is from Kings Mountain, NC and just completed his first two semesters at Catawba Valley Community College where he studies Turfgrass Management. Please help us welcome Zac to the Carolina Golf Club family!
Zac McMurry
If you were paying attention then you already read a glimpse of everything the team accomplished this past Tuesday.  Greens were core aerated (quad tines) with cores removed and rolled for smoothness.  This pre-summer aeration has always been critical to determining the level of success we experience each summer.  Why you may ask?  Simple, oxygen is critical to life and these holes alleviate a lot of stress we impart on the greens during the last few weeks of May with all our tournament preparation (mowing, double mowing, rolling, etc.).  And as you can see, after just 48 hours the greens are well on their way to a speedy recovery.
So what's next you ask?  In the next 15 days we will be converting the area immediately adjacent to number 13 green to bermudagrass with sod.  At the same time we will sod other places such as cart path edges and other high traffic areas where the bermudagrass turf doesn't meet our standards.  Of course with this being the beginning of summer the fans will be installed very shortly.  There will be new ones this year at both the Putting Green and Chipping Green along with hole Number 2.  We will be converting the area immediately right of the tee complexes at hole Number 9 to fescue.  We will start by treating the existing bermudagrass with non-selective herbicide so don't be surprised when this area turns brown.  

Men's Guest Day is 15 days away (June 16th) and then immediately following the U.S. Open at Erin Hills we will be closed for two days for fairway aeration (June 19th and 20th).  It's a busy time but the mood is upbeat and positive in Golf Course Maintenance with fresh blood and projects to keep things exciting.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

April Showers, Pardon Our Progress, Earth Day, National Golf Day, and R4R17!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Tuesday, May 2nd and it seems I've let another 4 weeks pass since our last update.  My apologies but we have been busy, so let's get caught up. Mother Nature has been very generous recently making sure we do not get too far behind on rainfall. April saw 6.69 inches of rain fall on Carolina Golf Club which is more than double the typical average for this time of year. Not only was it a wet month, but April 2017 will go down as the warmest April ever in Charlotte history.  
The extended outlook has cooler than average temperatures in the region for the first half of May so maybe we will finally get to experience some "normal" spring like conditions before summer arrives officially next month.

If you were enjoying the club during the middle of last month you may have been surprised by the level of activity on the 9th hole as well as near the clubhouse and the Event Lawn.  Service Plumbing Co. installed a new potable water line to supply both the pool house and clubhouse.  Our existing service line had aged out and in order to overcome inadequate pressure issues, etc. a new line was needed.  In order to minimize the disturbance to the property the decision was made to install the new line via boring.
City Water Feed Enters Property No. 9
Preparing to Pull Conduit Underground

Bore Pit Left No. 9 Green
Bore Pit Outside Corner of Clubhouse

I worked closely with Service Plumbing Co. and their subcontractor overseeing all aspects of the boring operation (no pun intended). We bored under the 9th hole and then turned and continued to bore up the hill between the pool house and clubhouse, before finally wrapping around the back of the clubhouse under the Event Lawn.  The network of underground utilities and irrigation definitely made for some tense moments, and I'm happy to report despite a long week with multiple open holes the new supply is in place and operational.  And my staff has everything buttoned back up.

Saturday, April 22nd was Earth Day and Wednesday, April 26th was National Golf Day.  To kick off Earth Day activities the CEO of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, Rhett Evans appeared on Golf Channel's Morning Drive to talk about the positive impacts golf has on the environment. CLICK HERE TO VIEW VIDEO.  Personally I take great pride in knowing our little urban golf course does much good for wildlife habitat and the environment, especially considering our proximity to the city center.

If you follow me on Twitter you might be wondering what all the recent fuss is with this thing called Rounds 4 Research.  R4R is a program born in the Carolinas, the brainchild of Tim Kreger, Executive Director of the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association.  During the recession state funding was cut from many programs, including Turfgrass Science at our land grant institutions.  We are blessed in the Carolinas to have not one, but two excellent turfgrass programs with amazing faculty, and etc. in Clemson and N.C. State Universities.  Tim saw a way we, golf course superintendents, could give back and help these programs that are so vital to our long range success. Rounds 4 Research is an online tee time auction (May 1 through May 7, 2017) where golf courses (public and private) donate one foursome to the cause, and the proceeds generated are used to fund future turfgrass research projects. Since inception the Carolinas GCSA has donated nearly $350,000 to Clemson and N.C. State Universities to fund projects that directly impact and benefit golf courses in North and South Carolina.

For the first three years the program was run in-house at Carolinas GCSA Headquarters in Liberty, SC.  The program was successful and grew as neighboring states joined the cause which led to an agreement where the program is now managed and operated by the Environmental Institute for Golf (EIFG), the philanthropic organization of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).  As a member of the Carolinas GCSA Board of Directors I serve on our R4R Committee, but I also serve on the newly created GCSAA R4R Task Group.  Considering my involvement both regionally and nationally I have attempted in my own little way to help spread the word, how will anyone know to go online and bid if they don't know about the program.

In the very first year of the program I was invited to join a group led by Bill Anderson, CGCS (retired Director of Golf and Grounds Agronomy, Carmel Country Club) and the late Jim Gerber (former superintendent, River Falls Plantation in Duncan, SC).  The three of us along with Todd Armstrong of Smith Turf and Irrigation made an effort to support the program in that first year (2009) and procured the winning bid on a stay and play package at Belfair Plantation in Bluffton, SC outside Hilton Head.  Needless to say by the time the four of us were able to coordinate our schedules we were deep into 2010, but we were treated like royalty as we stayed on site in a cottage overlooking the 18th green on one of the two meticulously maintained courses on property.  We enjoyed some good golf, food and drink, and deep conversation and camaraderie.  Considering Jim would unfortunately lose his battle to brain cancer a few years later in 2013, I am so glad I accepted the invitation and spent time getting to know a fellow superintendent!

Yes, Rounds 4 Research is a great program and probably hits a little closer to home with me for multiple reasons so I ask you to please forgive me for just a few more days as I attempt to spread the word about this important program and its service to my industry that ultimately benefits us all.

Well, with this update out of the way it's time to focus on our busiest month of the season.  Our annual Member-Guest is next week (May 11-13) followed by our Member-Member just two weeks later (May 27-29).  I can't believe I'm typing this but we are actually scheduled to perform our summer maintenance small tine aeration on Tuesday May 30th.  Next thing you know we will be reinstalling our fans along with a few newer ones and it will be summer.  In the meantime, enjoy your golf and perhaps check out the Rounds 4 Research auction, you never know what great deals might be available. 

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Aeration Update, A New Look, & Pimento Cheese Sandwiches!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Tuesday, April 4th and it's the best week of the year for golf lovers.  That's right, it's Masters week!  But before we discuss egg salad and pimento cheese sandwiches, Rae's creek, and the likely contenders for this year's green jacket, let's look back at what's transpired on the course the past few weeks and also take a peek ahead.

Greens aeration lasted three days this year thanks to Mother Nature's sense of humor.  After enjoying the warmest February ever in Charlotte, March turned out to be... March.  It's a transitional month with winter departing and spring arriving, and you can get some crazy conditions like temperatures in the low twenty's immediately after aeration.  Day 1 started with a frost delay of nearly two hours.  We have 22 bentgrass surfaces and we managed to aerate 17 of them before steady rain halted operations that afternoon.  
Day 1
White Healthy Roots
Day 2 dawned with lingering rainfall that finally ceased about 9:30 am.  Once we were able to resume operations we completed aeration and core removal and topdressed 12 of the 22 greens before dark. We wrapped up topdressing on Day 3 without ever delaying play, of course only one foursome braved the freezing conditions that day ;)
Thick Coat of Sand
Despite the challenges and the delayed recovery brought on by the cold temperatures in week 1, I'm happy to report our putting greens are now ready for the exciting season ahead.  In fact, our new fleet of walking greens mowers arrived just in time as the turf pushed through the topdressing.  The golf course has been outfitted with new flags, new flagsticks, and refurbished cups as we welcome spring and the new golf season ahead.
One thing you will soon see soon is modifications to the mowing patterns on the golf course. Fairways will become more narrow in some places while closely mowed green surrounds will become enlarged.  Actually there are a handful of closely mowed green surrounds that will shrink to only a collar width, but by and large there is more expansion around the greens than contraction.  These changes are all part of the USGA's recommendations for how we present the golf course to the competitors in the 2018 U.S. Mid-Am.  

We are implementing the suggestions this season and allowing the USGA to review them when they return this fall.  On a side note, these mowing alterations may have an impact on our course rating. Head Golf Professional Knox Martin has been in contact with the CGA and they will be on site to re-rate the golf course in a couple months taking into account the changes to hole number 7 (additional fairway bunkers and mounds) as well as these new mowing patterns.

Yesterday saw us fertilize nearly 100 acres of bermudagrass turf.  Rather than take multiple days both now and later this spring to accomplish our objective I opted this year to have the course bulk-spread courtesy of Harrell's LLC.  The product we applied yesterday will provide a prolonged, slow feed to our bermudagrass turf over the coming months meaning you won't encounter us applying it and disrupting play.  
Now that we've managed to feed the property it's time to begin mowing regularly and before things get too crazy my team and I still need to install our anchor poles and trench power to the new fan sites mentioned last time.  We also plan to enhance some drainage while the trencher is on site for the power runs.

And with that out of the way it's time to focus our attention on a little "toonamint" just down the road. When you consider Dustin Johnson is not just the current number one player in the world with three consecutive victories, he's also a South Carolina native.  Why is that so important you ask, have you noticed that state's current hold on national championships?  It would be hard to bet against him.
L-R Football, Women's Basketball, and Baseball
But when you consider Jordan Spieth has competed in 3 Masters and never finished worse than second, it would be hard to bet against him too.  That's why I'm taking Lee Westwood (huh?!?!).  Don't ask me why, his name just popped into my head as I was making another pimento cheese sandwich. Enjoy the Masters!

P.S., Still waiting for my invitation to play Augusta National from 1988 Masters Champion and two-time World Hickory Open Champion Sandy Lyle.  If you're looking for someone to join you for a quick round I'm just up the road.  Just saying ;)

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Above Average, Fact Finding, & A New Era!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Tuesday, March 7th and much has happened since our last time together.  Since returning from a very successful Golf Industry Show in Orlando, Florida your golf course maintenance team has completed all spring pre-emergent herbicide applications to our bermudagrass tees, fairways, and rough.  We recently began mowing all cool-season natural/native grass areas and we've made two fertilizer applications to the putting greens in preparation for aeration this coming Monday and Tuesday (March 13-14).

But before I get too far ahead, let's look back at the past two months in what was one of the most bizarre winter periods I've experienced living in Charlotte.  The first five weeks of 2017 was a roller coaster of temperatures as we would enjoy very mild temperatures during the middle of the week and colder periods on the weekends.  
After the roller coaster came to a stop February moved full steam ahead into Spring.  In fact not only was February 2017 tied for the warmest ever in Charlotte, but it was warmer than our normal average temperature for the month of March!
Courtesy of Brad Panovich, WCNC
The mild temperatures contributed to confused plant growth as bermudagrass tried to wake from dormancy on more than one occasion only to be knocked back by the occasional frost.  Also, our bentgrass putting surfaces are awake much sooner than expected which hopefully translates to a speedy aeration recovery in the coming weeks.

Recently I acquired a new book about our favorite golf course architect, Donald Ross.  The book is called The Life and Times of Donald Ross and was written by Chris Buie.  Chris is a native of the Pinehurst area and resides in Southern Pines. 
Although I acquired the book around Christmas with all of my recent travels I really only began to enjoy it this past weekend.  Imagine the thrill when I discovered Chris had discovered a newspaper article from 1933 telling the story of Mrs. Dunavant, the widow who hired Donald Ross to design Carolina Golf Club.  I reached out to Chris and he was kind enough to share with me a PDF of the syndicated story which he included in the book.  

Niagara Falls Gazette, Jan 12, 1933
The Life and Times of Donald Ross

I think it's an amazing story that a recently widowed woman had the foresight to convert her dairy farm into a championship golf course.  Thank goodness she did or we wouldn't be enjoying our favorite layout today.  If you're interested in learning more about Mr. Buie's book you can CLICK HERE.

Tomorrow I am meeting with the Greens Committee and for the first time in over 6 years there will be a new chairman, Ed Oden.  It was a pleasure working closely with Stephen Woodard the past 6 years, and he has agreed to remain on the committee for continuity but a new era begins as Mr. Oden now takes the helm.  To his credit he has served on the committee for numerous years, even predating Stephen's tenure as chairman.  He is a golf historian, classic architecture enthusiast, and a course rater for Golf Week.  Our goal will be to bring everyone on the committee up to speed of all the renovation projects conducted in my tenure (believe me it's more than you think), our biggest challenges and obstacles we've had to overcome the past several years, and focus our efforts on making sure we present Carolina Golf Club to the participants of the 2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship the best we possibly can.  It should be a fun meeting.

Friendly reminder the golf course will be closed this coming Monday AND Tuesday (March 13th & 14th) for greens aeration.  Once complete we will soon begin installing the anchor poles and trenching power to new fan locations (No.'s 2, Putting Green, & Chipping Green) approved by the Committee and Board last year.  Although March just arrived, summer is just around the corner!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Throwback Thursday!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Thursday, February 2nd (Groundhog Day) and it's hard to believe the first month of 2017 is now in the books.  Where does the time go these days! When last we met here I was trying to prepare everyone for the approaching winter storm, and the course did in fact close for five consecutive days due to snow and ice cover.  Shortly after the winter storm I traveled to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to speak at the Tennessee Turfgrass Association Conference, and then a few days after returning Mrs. Greenkeeper and I traveled across the pond to experience BTME.  You may recall back in November I talked about "Conference Season" and my busy January.

Since returning from Harrogate, England the outpouring of support has been humbling to say the least.  I admit I wasn't originally planning to blog about the trip, but many members at last week's Annual Meeting asked me to share, and once President Hilaire gave his address which included recognizing my achievement and the following standing ovation, how could I not.  So let's travel back in time, actually it's just two weeks to when I was awarded the Master Greenkeeper Certificate by the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association.
Our journey began on Saturday, January 14th.  We flew from Charlotte to Philadelphia late that afternoon then departed Philadelphia and flew overnight to Manchester, England.  We arrived just before 8:30 am on Sunday morning, January 15th and I had prearranged car travel from Manchester to Harrogate where we would be staying. Our accommodations for the week was The Majestic Hotel.
The Majestic!
The hotel was built at the turn of the century opening in 1900!  The interior matched the exterior with museum quality fixtures and furnishings.  We spent the better part of Sunday trying to acclimate to our new surroundings and the five-hour time difference.  With BTME not officially getting underway till Tuesday that left us Monday to experience and explore more of the historic town.
Cottage Homes Overlooking The Stray
War Memorial

Historic Pub


Trying to "Blend In"

Leave it to me to be nerdy and seek out some turf while exploring the town.  Harrogate was originally a "Spa Town" containing bath houses and natural springs known for their healing properties.  In the latter part of the 20th century the city reinvented itself as a major convention center with the Harrogate International Centre.  Surrounded by traditional shops and restaurants, the HIC truly is a fabulous venue for meetings and exhibitions.  As our day drew to a close I was excited to experience the largest professional turf management conference outside of the U.S.
Harrogate International Centre

The Royal Hall

The Royal Hall was where I gathered early Tuesday morning to hear golf course superintendent Neil Cleverly from the Olympic Course give a no holds barred account of all that went into building, growing-in, and presenting the Olympic Course for the 2016 Olympic Games.  Neil's story was truly a riveting adventure and inspiring to think of all the obstacles he and his team had to overcome.    

The interior of the Royal Hall is simply breathtaking and it is impossible to adequately describe its beauty.  All I can say is I was excited knowing I would be on that very stage later that same evening. I attended a seminar after lunch with good friend Rodney Hine from Boston Golf Club.  Rodney and I attended the 2015 Syngenta Business Institute together and it was awesome to see him and a few other friends across the pond attending BTME courtesy of TurfNet.

Our Master of Ceremony for the evening was the witty and charming Naga Munchetty, journalist and golf lover from the BBC.  Her sense of humor and quick delivery kept everyone entertained throughout the evening.  She was first class all the way and accommodated numerous photo requests following the proceedings, even ours. David Callanan, MG, CGCS and I were just relieved she didn't ask us any questions on stage!
BIGGA Chairman Les Howkins, MG Presenting Award
MG No. 39 & MG No. 69

Mrs. Greenkeeper & Naga Munchetty 

David Callanan, MG, CGCS (MG No. 71)
A few other highlights of our trip included reconnecting with former employee, James Dennet and finally meeting in person a few Turf Twitter connections in Dr. John Dempsey and Lickey Hills GC Greenkeeper Dave Collins.
There were many other great memories and I met so many wonderful people, but I would be remiss if I didn't recognize one very special couple.  I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Sami Strutt, Head of Member Development for BIGGA and her husband Lee (MG No. 31).  Lee and I were in the same GCSAA CGCS graduating class three years ago and the two of them along with Mrs. Greenkeeper pushed me to see this process through.  We celebrated the occassion with a traditional English dinner at the beautiful William and Victoria restaurant in the heart of Harrogate.
Overall the entire trip was a very humbling and emotional experience.  The award will forever serve as a constant reminder to never be complacent and strive for more.  I am so glad we decided to make the effort to journey over and experience BTME in person, and I promised everyone we will return some day.  It's good to be home, however I have one more business trip before the growing season returns.  I am headed to Orlando, Florida next week for this year's Golf Industry Show.  For those of you following on Twitter I will be sure to share some of the experience with you, and when I get back I look forward to seeing you out on the course.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG