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

Friday, January 6, 2017

Winter Storm Warning!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, January 6th and I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year!  The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for the Charlotte area and I thought I would take this opportunity to give each of you an idea how the golf course may be impacted over the days ahead.  Obviously public safety is far greater than when golf will be played at Carolina again, so hopefully I can help make things more clear for those that haven't been paying close attention till now.

The winter weather event is expected to start later today as rain then change over to snow and continue through the overnight hours potentially lasting till midday tomorrow.  Based on the information I have been watching this is what I call a plowable snow event, meaning totals could reach four or more inches.  Last night WCNC Chief Meteorologist Brad Panovich shared the graphic below that details both the timing and impacts this winter storm may have.

I think it's a blessing in disguise this winter weather is arriving overnight tonight into tomorrow morning.  This should make life much easier for those hard working individuals clearing public roads. Now, a snow storm of this magnitude will completely cover the entire course making it unplayable, thus you can expect the golf course will be closed for play tomorrow.  But that is only the tip of the iceberg.  If we take a closer look at the full 7-day forecast below you will see something frigid this way comes.

The cold arctic air moving into our region behind this system is bitterly cold.  We are talking single digit temperatures and when the Mercury falls that far BELOW freezing it means this white stuff is going to persist.  I think there is a strong probability the golf course could remain closed due to lingering snow cover until the middle or latter half of next week, especially if we receive as much snow as forecast.

There is some good news.  The snow will insulate and help shield and protect the turf underneath from the frigid temperatures.  Therefore I do not anticipate any winter related injury or damage to the turf directly resulting from this winter weather event.  However, damage may occur if folks attempting to transform the golf course into a sled run do not use good judgment. 

Whenever you trek through virgin snow it becomes compacted and can quickly turn to ice.  Ice takes much longer to melt than loose, airy snow so if venturing onto the course it is imperative to make sure no one in your group walks across the putting surfaces (Keep Off The Greens).

So hopefully you've stocked up on essentials and your'e ready for Snowmageddon 2017.  Put on a pot of cocoa, bundle up and let's see how Old Man Winter rings in 2017 in the Queen City.  Stay tuned for updates from Carolina Golf Club.  We will be sending emails to notify you about potential closures and/or operational schedule changes.  We will also be sending Push Notifications via the CGC App and I will continue to provide information via Twitter (@CGCGreenkeeper) as well as share updates from Brad Panovich (@wxbrad).  Hopefully the inconvenience we all experience from this storm will be minimal and as soon as the course thaws I will ...

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Look Back and Holiday Wishes!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, December 21st and earlier this morning at 5:44 am the winter solstice occurred marking the official start of winter.  Considering it was 25 degrees as I made my commute this morning I'd say the conditions are very appropriate.  Today is also known for being the shortest day of the year.  In fact, it is my understanding we will have 9 hours and 47 minutes of daylight in the Queen City today. If that isn't good enough for you then I suggest you have a long look at the map below to determine where you might spend the solstice next year.

When I see the ranges of available daylight north of the border I'm thankful for what we have right here at home. No complaints from me  :)

Looking back through older posts from this time of year, the solstice as always been a theme, but as I was pondering what to post today I drew inspiration from another superintendent, Paul Carter, CGCS.  Paul is the superintendent of The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay just outside Chattanooga, TN. This past Monday I ran across Paul's blog where he reflected back on a challenging year Farewell 2016 and I started thinking about the different challenges we faced this year.

Ironically, Paul and I just met barely over 12 months ago while attending the 2015 Syngenta Business Institute together, and we have become fast friends.  Our friendship was forged not only as fellow golf course superintendents, but turns out we are the same age and we originally hail from the same part of Virginia.  Paul's hometown of Wise is the hometown of my father Sam and is a mere 23 miles from my hometown of Castlewood (Appalachian brothers).  I saw Paul again in January when he spoke at the 9th annual Turfhead Summit at Bryan Park in Greensboro.  His presentation on the environmental efforts employed at Bear Trace by him and his staff was so good, I made sure he was our keynote speaker at this year's Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show in Myrtle Beach last month.  Also, we got to hang out together again in Kansas this past October when we each served as Chapter Delegate for our respective GCSAA chapters.  
It will be my pleasure to return the favor next month when I speak at the Tennessee Turfgrass Association's 2017 Conference and Show.  

Anyway, this past year we saw bermudagrass still holding natural color as late as January 5th as a result from the record warm December 2015 CLICK HERE. At this time some of you may be wondering why after experimenting with pigments and paints on tees and fairways the past two seasons we have returned to a natural dormant appearance this year.  We discussed this at great length and ultimately the Greens Committee decided to forego the process this year as we reevaluate the merits versus the costs associated.  
Au Naturel
Next came spring and we finally broke ground on the Event Lawn project.  I think most everyone will agree the project exceeded everyone's expectations as we successfully regraded the area to better accommodate our needs, and finally created a true and proper championship tee for hole No. 10. CLICK HERE 

Shortly after spring greens aeration the winds began to blow, and they blew non stop.  In fact, the windy conditions slowed putting green recovery efforts for a while CLICK HERE.  I'm happy to report the winds did finally stop and course conditions were superb for our spring events.  The month of May was busy with Member-Guest and Member-Member and then along came June and we began topdressing fairways CLICK HERE.  The golf course really shined during the month of June and I remember standing on the 17th green the morning of July 1 thinking things beneath my feet were pretty darn good.  

One thing is certain in the business of professional turfgrass management, Mother Nature will humble you.  The first half of 2016 was full of positives and the next thing I know the heat and humidity experienced in July and August was so oppressive that healthy putting greens quickly became stressed CLICK HERE.  Elevated overnight low temperatures was the biggest factor that ultimately lead to the summer of 2016 being ranked as the second hottest of all-time in Charlotte.  I don't recall a year I was happier to see aeration day arrive and the warm conditions lead to an extremely quick recovery CLICK HERE

My team managed to produce some superb conditions as we navigated through a warm and busy fall golf schedule, and the scars of summer slowly faded to a distant memory.  Once we wrapped up the Carolina Invitational in early November we closed the books on a successful 2016 event season and turned our sights towards another course improvement project.  The extended period of dry weather experienced between October 8 (Hurricane Matthew) and November 29 allowed for uninterrupted working conditions and the new bunkers and mounds on Hole No. 7 turned out great CLICK HERE

Well there you have it, a brief look back on the ups and downs of 2016.  Overall I would have to say despite the challenges we faced it was another great year at Carolina.  The golf course always shines through in the end and there were too many positives to allow anything negative to overshadow.  This is my final post of 2016 and so I will wrap up with Christmas and Holiday wishes for each of you and your families over the coming days.  But before I go allow me to remind you the club is closed both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  If you are coming to the course for a peaceful walk or to try that new club Santa leaves you, be mindful not to come too early if frosty conditions are expected.  Here's a look at the current 7-day forecast courtesy of WCNC.
Frost Likely Saturday Morning
Saturday morning currently poses a threat for frost, but considering the Panthers host the Falcons I'm sure most everyone will be in the friendly confines of Bank of America Stadium.  #KeepPounding

Mrs. Greenkeeper and I are departing this evening to spend a few days in Virginia celebrating Christmas with our children and grandchildren.  We'll be back soon and we are looking forward to the promises, hope, and excitement a new year brings. Here's hoping 2017 exceeds everyone's wishes!  

Merry Christmas,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG