Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Aeration Recap, More Matts & the Course Reports!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Wednesday, June 19th and I want to give you the lowdown on the cultural practices performed during Aeration Week.  I'll share some of the posts from that week depicting the action and talk a little about how the course is recovering and what you can expect in terms of course conditions in the weeks ahead.  I'll also bring you up to speed on some newer developments within the Agronomy department, and then cap things off with a share of something I think some of you will really gravitate towards and appreciate.  Let's get started.

For the first time in my tenure the golf course was closed for five consecutive days to perform cultural practices to all playing surfaces.  We first began topdressing fairways in the summer of 2014 when we reused the old bunker sand that had been replaced the prior off-season.  That was also the first season we solid tined the fairways to prevent pulling the clay soil to the surface and mixing with the applied sand.  That resulted in a commitment from the club to topdress fairways regularly during the growing season and we have only solid tine aerated since.

This year we implemented a vertical mowing operation to fairways and approaches prior to the topdressing and solid tine aeration.  The primary purpose of vertical mowing is to remove thatch but our efforts are also focused on altering the overall texture of our bermudagrasses.  Notice the plural as our fairways consist mostly of 419 hybrid Tifway bermudagrass, plus Celebration bermudagrass, Common bermudagrass, Latitude 36 bermudagrass and mutated off-type bermudagrass (most likely related to 328 hybrid Tifgreen bermudagrass).  

This potpourri blend of grasses results in fine textured areas (419 and off-types) and others more coarsely textured (Common and Celebration) growing alongside each other.  By vertical mowing the playing surfaces we are cutting both stolons (above ground stems) and rhizomes (below ground stems) and hopefully creating more growing points closer together, which over time should help the plants increase leaf density and blend the grasses together more uniformly.  The end results the committee and I hope to achieve will not happen with just one vertical mowing, so this is a process that will continue going forward, and similar to the topdressing commitment, a noticeable difference should occur within a few years.

Following the removal of the vertical mowing debris we topdressed all the fairways and approaches with 300 tons of sand (about 10 tons per acre).  The fairways were then solid tine aerated with 3/4 inch tines and the sand dragged in.  The entire process took four plus days thanks to great weather (no rain and comfortable temperatures) and a dedicated team putting in extended hours (12-14 hours Mon-Thu).  When Friday arrived we only had one fairway remaining to be solid tine aerated and thankfully we completed that operation before the rain moved in.

After 26 consecutive dry days the golf course received over an inch of rain that Friday followed by another two inches combined late Saturday and nearly all day Sunday.  That three inches of rainfall was well timed and beneficial to the putting greens as we topdressed with nearly 60 tons of sand and SOLID tine aerated using 5/8 inch tines.  That is correct, we did not remove a core this time but chose instead to create large sand channels in the upper portion of the root zone to promote better water infiltration in advance of our normal summer thunderstorm season.  Other than some normal needle tine venting as needed along the way, this is the last planned putting green disruption for 2019.
As you can see from the photo in the tweet above just one week following our major course disruption things are coming back into form quite nicely.  Or as my friends across the pond would say, "the course is in good nick".

And speaking of, I'm happy to report we have more new faces in the Agronomy Department.  Please welcome Nick Corigliano and Shawn Winks to Team CGC!  Nick is originally from Rome, NY now residing in Huntersville while Shawn hails from Syracuse, NY and lives in Rock Hill, SC. 
L-R Nick Corigliano, Shawn Winks
In Action On No. 4
Must be something about New York as the two have quickly made a formidable pair mastering bunker preparation and I'm excited to get them trained to mow greens and tees next.

Also, I have two new assistants that have joined Team CGC.  Matt Miller is originally from Landis, NC outside Salisbury.  He previously worked at both Warrior Golf Club in China Grove and The Revival Course at the Crescent in Salisbury prior to entering Central Piedmont Community College to study Turfgrass Management Technology.  While enrolled at CPCC he worked at Quail Hollow Club, including the 2017 PGA Championship before jumping ship to Carolina Golf Club in February of last year.  Matt was an instrumental part of our team for the 2018 U.S. Mid-Am but after graduation last December he decided to give another aspect of our industry a try.  After deciding he missed the golf course he reached out a few weeks ago expressing a desire to return.    
L-R Matt Miller, Matt Rollyson
Matthew Cole Rollyson was born in Fredericksburg, VA and lived in Charlotte till 2011 before his family moved to Brownsburg, Indiana outside Indianapolis.  Matt R. recently graduated from Purdue University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in Turfgrass Management and Science.  He previously worked at both West Chase Golf Club in Brownsburg and Wolf Run Golf Club in Zionsville, IN before broadening his professional turfgrass horizons with a summer internship with the New York Red Bulls last year.  I met Matt Rollyson through my connection with Dr. Cale Bigelow of Purdue University and we are very excited to have him back in the Queen City.

Speaking of new assistants and guys named Matt, the arrival of Miller and Rollyson could not be better timed as it coincides with the departure of Senior Assistant, Matt Claunch.  Matt C had an amazing opportunity to return to Pine Tree Country Club in Boynton Beach, FL and considering he just proposed to his girlfriend (she said yes by the way) life has definitely accelerated for our young photo wizard.  

I'm very happy to report CGC is better for Matt Claunch having been here and I thank him for everything he did for the golf course and golf maintenance operation.  We all wish him the best in his future endeavors, I know he's going to do great things.  

Eric Sosnowski has been promoted to Senior Assistant.  Eric has been a dependable, loyal, trustworthy and hard working member of the Agronomy Department for almost six years and I am excited for him to have this opportunity.  You may recall Eric hails from State College, PA and is a 2013 graduate of Penn State University with a bachelor's degree in Turfgrass Science.  I guess with him and Rollyson (Purdue) being in the same office it will make for an interesting ACC/Big 10 Challenge come basketball season!  

In other news, Curtis Tyrell, CGCS, MG is hosting a podcast called The Course Reports. CLICK HERE  His aim is to speak with the superintendents that are hosting televised events in an effort to give the listener inside information about the turf and course conditions.  Sure, lots of us in the superintendent community are listening to hear and learn from our peers, but Curtis is really targeting you the golf fan to enhance your viewing experience.  So if you like podcasts, this one is worth checking out. 



See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Aeration Week and New Faces!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Thursday, May 30th and I wanted to briefly touch base with you on what is going to take place on the golf course next week.  By now you should have received an official Club email with lots of information which also contained a message from Greens Chairman Ed Oden.  Hopefully his message answered any questions some of you may still have about the recent tree removal, if not I will be happy to speak with you the next time we cross paths.

Ed also took the time to explain the thought process behind Aeration Week.  In the past we always aerated greens in the spring (March) and fall (September), with a third, small-tine aeration in early June to bridge the gap between the two major operations.  Last year with the U.S. Mid-Am taking place the third week of September we were not able to aerate that time of year resulting in us moving the September aeration into the early June calendar slot.  Subsequently we did not aerate greens again until March of this year (9 months).  

The feedback last fall was overwhelmingly positive and thus the decision was made to continue with that model going forward.  What is different this year is the fairway aeration that normally takes place after Father's Day is being moved up to coincide with the greens aeration.  The thought behind overlapping the cultural practices is to minimize the course disruption to the membership.  In other words everything heals at the same time versus one area recovers before another is disrupted.  We'll give it a go next week and we welcome your feedback.  

So exactly what can you expect when the course reopens for play on Saturday, June 8th?  All greens will have been solid tine aerated and topdressed, tees will have been core aerated and topdressed, approaches and fairways will have been vertical mowed, solid tine aerated and topdressed.  We will also be aerating and topdressing the Range Tees, Short Game Area and Target Greens.  With the practice areas scheduled to reopen mid-week we will be targeting those areas Monday and Tuesday along with the putting greens.

This also means if you like videos of topdressers slinging sand or slow motion videos of aerators in action then you're in luck.  We will also get all our fans reinstalled and ready the golf course for the upcoming summer activity.  I know, it already feels like summer and with two tournaments (Member-Guest and Member-Member) now in the books, the golf course is ready for a trip to the spa. ;)
In other news, Mr. Oden's email also addressed how we've been operating below full staff.  Only three of our normal six seasonal interns have arrived and with some attrition we experienced this winter it's been challenging the past two months locating and recruiting new staff.  I am happy to report we've had some recent success and you have probably noticed a few unfamiliar faces on the team.
L-R Anthony, Trent, Colton and Jacob
Please welcome Anthony Baxter, Trent Martinez, Colton Long, and Jacob Walker to Team Carolina!  Anthony is 22 years old and from Mount Holly.  Colton is 21 years old and from Denver, NC while Jacob is 25 and hails from Lincolnton.  Anthony, Colton and Jacob are full-time members of the team.  Trent is a Civil Engineering major at the University of Colorado in Boulder and here as a summer intern.  These lads are giving it their all and we appreciate their efforts, especially in this heat.  Let them know you appreciate them when you see them.

And I want to express my heartfelt thanks to member Graham Stevens.  It's small acts such as below and kind words of encouragement that make our efforts each day worthwhile.  Please know we're working hard each and every day to make the course better than the day before.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Friday, May 3, 2019

Course Update and National Golf Day!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Friday, May 3rd and it's finally starting to feel more like spring in the Carolinas.  Dare I even say a few days have felt more like early summer.  You will not hear any complaints from me or members of my department as these conditions are long overdue this year.  The golf course has really started to come alive and the recent dry spell means the return of firm and fast conditions.  I know you're loving the 30 plus yards of extra roll.  :)
Coming Together
You may be surprised to learn we received more rainfall in April (4.48 inches) than March (3.82 inches), but only 0.24 inches of rain has fallen since tax day (April 15th).  So after a record setting September through February (over 40 inches) and over 8 inches rain from March 1 - April 15 it appears Mother Nature has finally turned the faucet off.  Before you know it we will all be watering our lawns and complaining about the lack of rain. ;)

As course conditions continue to improve it's the rough that is currently lagging behind, but that isn't entirely unusual for the first of May.  We have completed two full mowings of the rough over the past three weeks.  The first at a slightly higher height of cut than the most recent.  We stepped down to remove as much of the lingering dormant chaff as possible to assist sunlight penetration to the canopy below.  When Bermudagrass breaks dormancy it produces all new leaves and shoots, the dormant material does not green back up.

If you look closely you will notice a considerable amount of traffic control (stakes) has been reinstalled on the course.  Cart traffic greatly impacts Bermudagrass green up, and not in a good way.  Being mindful of this as you make your way around the course and avoiding higher trafficked areas when possible can assist with turf recovery.  You will also notice we have used our aeravator in some of the most highly trafficked areas to alleviate compaction and assist recovery.

Last time CLICK HERE I talked about the removal of several trees and the reasons behind those decisions.  Since that time all the stumps have been removed, and we even transplanted a new tree - tree management means more than just tree removal.  
The stump holes have been marked as GUR - Ground Under Repair and we will continue to fill and level them to prep for new turf.  Currently the sod work in these areas is scheduled for the week of May 13th.

In other news we've been trying to hire new staff for several months now, and it's been challenging.  We've recently landed two new guys and another is scheduled to start in two weeks.  Most folks inquiring to our postings either do not respond back when an attempt to schedule a meeting or interview is made, or fail to show for said scheduled interview.  And it's not just an issue at Carolina Golf Club, or locally here in Charlotte.  I've shared many experiences with peers all across the country and labor, or the apparent lack-there-of is a major hurdle facing our industry and many others right now.  Which leads me to my next topic.

As chapter president, I was part of the GCSAA contingent that converged on Washington, D.C. earlier this week for National Golf Day.  This was the 12th annual NGD put on by the We Are Golf coalition http://wearegolf.org/ with the purpose of telling lawmakers about all the great things golf does for the economy, environment, fitness and others, and also issues affecting our businesses like the current labor situation.  It's important they know and understand who we are and what we do and the impact we make at home in their states and districts.  

I must say I found the entire experience truly awe inspiring and humbling.  Over 200 people (mostly golf course superintendents from more than 40 states) participated in a community service project the day prior on the U.S. National Mall. Nearly 20 separate projects were carried out, everything from mowing, aerating, and seeding, to planting flowers, pruning shrubs, and other necessary detail work.  I was assigned to team Green Thumb and our task was the pruning of junipers at the Korean War Veterans Memorial.  
Green Thumb
We arrived before park visitors and took a moment to absorb the memorial and all its meaning.  We then went straight to work sprucing up the memorial as hundreds and thousands of park visitors strolled by.  Sometimes visitors asked who we were and what we were doing.  When we answered they thanked us, which was humbling, but when we saw the countless veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam pass by it was hard not to get choked up in their presence and we thanked them for their service.

Honor to Give Back
















The next day we all converged on Capitol Hill to conduct meetings with Senators and Representatives.  In all 244 individual meetings were conducted with lawmakers and their respective staffers to discuss important issues impacting the golf industry.  It was an eye opening experience to see what goes on behind the scenes and behind closed doors in D.C., but very rewarding and worthwhile.  And it was really cool when I bumped into a Carolina Golf Club member as I exited our meeting with Senator Burr's Legislative Assistant.  Small world!
We Are Golf
Meeting With Senator Tillis' Office

Here's a link CLICK HERE to a feature about the event on Golf Channel showing Team Green Thumb and many others in action.  Anyway, the sun is shining, birds are chirping, grass is growing and it is time for you and your friends to come out and enjoy a round of golf at Carolina Golf Club before heading over to Quail Hollow to take in some Wells Fargo Championship action.    


See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Trees, Pops and ICYMI!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Tuesday, April 9th and I have much to report since my last update.  For the second year in a row, March was colder than February.  After completing my degree I worked for superintendent Rick Owens, CGCS at Augustine Golf Club in Stafford, Virginia.  He used to say it didn't matter whether you aerated bentgrass greens on March 1st, March 15th or April 1st... they will heal April 15th.  Some years when it's warmer than average that isn't the case, but I have definitely heard Rick's words in my head in 2019.
The last twenty-one days of March were not only one of our driest periods in the past six months, it was also colder than average.  I counted a dozen mornings the low temperature was below 40 F and there were two mornings during that stretch it dipped below 30 F.  Thankfully it looks like spring has finally arrived in the Queen City as we had our first 80 F day yesterday in advance of a strong line of storms.  The storms dropped just over one inch of rainfall on freshly fertilized tees, fairways and rough.  Call it serendipity or perfect timing, either way we need to mow as soon as the course dries sufficiently.  

In other news, you may have noticed a few trees have been removed recently and several of you have inquired as to exactly the reason(s) why.  The Greens Committee with the blessing of the Board of Governors and having consulted with our architect is implementing a long-range tree management plan primarily focused on identifying trees that either pose a risk to human safety and/or adversely impacts turf health.  For example, the large oak nearest the small putting green was in declining health, even requiring a last second removal of dead limbs prior to last year's U.S. Mid-Am.  The location and lean of that tree posed significant risk to our members and guests and thus was removed.  And the group of pines in the natural area to the right of the 3rd green cast shadows on the green which contributed to lengthier frost delays.  
Large Declining Oak Near Practice Green
Shadows No Longer On Putting Surface No. 3































Yesterday we removed a large Willow Oak at the bottom of the hill adjacent to the cart path on Hole No. 6.  This tree had significantly impacted our ability to grow quality turf for a number of years.  We started with a ring of mulch and thin Bermudagrass just under the drip line before establishing fine fescue last season.  The natural surface flow of rainfall and runoff made growing grass around the base of that tree extremely difficult and with it removed we will now have the ability to grow healthy Bermudagrass which can better tolerate golf car traffic as that is the preferred location for accessing the fairway.  Not to mention it also brings the right fairway bunker into clearer view and prominence.
Willow Oak No. 6
At this juncture we only have two more pine trees scheduled for removal along with a transplanting from our nursery to replace a tree in decline.  Tree management isn't simply tree removal.  Once that is complete we will have all stumps ground and install new turf as the season gets underway.

It is Masters Week and that means our annual shootout this Saturday will be an exciting time for everyone participating.  The Masters is my favorite tournament of the year for a multitude of reasons and this year is no different.  However, this Saturday will also be a somber one for me and my team as we attend the memorial service for our fallen teammate, Cleother Young, Jr.  

By now many of you know Cleo, or Pops as he was affectionately known by the staff passed away last Wednesday, April 3rd while performing his normal duties on the course.  He was an integral member of my team and the first new hire I made when we began rebuilding the staff during Phase IV of the restoration back in 2008.  For the past eleven years Pops performed a variety of tasks to ensure the golf course always looked and played its best, and he looked after us as much as he looked after the course.
Cleother Young, Jr. 1953-2019

I am humbled by the outpouring of kindness and support you have shown to Cleo's family and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Your generosity means the world to me and my staff and we greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness and well wishes for Cleo's wife Kathy and their family during this difficult time.  Memorial Service Details 

This past Saturday evening I texted Stephen Woodard to congratulate him on a fine first round in this year's Carolinas Mid-Amateur.  Friday's first round was canceled due to inclement weather and Stephen was only one shot out of first place following his fine play on Saturday.  Stephen texted back to say thanks and offer his condolences for Cleo as he received the member email announcing his passing.  I encouraged Stephen to go out and win one for Team CGC to which he replied, "I like that idea".  

Well, with everything we've experienced the past six days it sure was thrilling to get word late Sunday evening that Stephen's final round 70 and 36-hole total of -5 was good enough to secure the victory!  Congratulations Stephen!  Well played!  CLICK HERE for the write-up on Amateurgolf.com.
Nice Hat and even Nicer Smile Champ!

And one other thing, if you don't follow on Twitter you may have missed a thread I shared March 30th commemorating an exhibition match played here in 1932 featuring Walter Hagen.  I think you can access here via Kris's retweet.

Enjoy The Masters everyone and Rest in Peace Pops!


Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG  

Friday, March 22, 2019

Waiting on Spring!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Friday, March 22nd and the Madness has begun.  Congrats to the Wofford Terriers on their First Round victory last night over Seton Hall.  The Southern Conference Champions haven't lost in months and were fun to watch.  I believe I need to schedule a nap sometime today if I'm going to see one second of my beloved Virginia Tech Hokies.  Thanks NCAA for playing the East Region in California (insert eye roll emoji).  Anyway, it seems all it took to put an end to six months of record rainfall was aerating the putting greens.    

Last time I shared some data and statistics on how much rain had fallen in the Queen City dating back to September. Click Here  Even the first ten days of March were wet with nearly three more inches.  Since then we've barely received over three-tenths and never more than eight-hundredths at any one time.  When you have freshly aerated greens, heavily topdressed with sand, the one thing you would appreciate from Mother Nature is a solid half-inch or more in one dose.  Murphy's Law I suppose.

But please don't misconstrue my words above, I'm not complaining.  I'm merely explaining why as the second post aeration weekend arrives the greens still look and putt very similar to last.  Growth and recovery has been hampered by the below average temperatures, and when you closely examine the most recent 10-day forecast below you'll notice several more mornings with low temperatures in the mid-30's.  

The good news is Spring has to arrive eventually.  We are three weeks deep into Meteorological Spring, Daylight Saving Time has been going for nearly two weeks, and Astrological Spring arrived day before yesterday.  In other words the temperatures eventually have to catch up with the season.

In other news I made a quick trip out to Lawrence, Kansas as a member of GCSAA's Membership Recruitment and Retention Task Group.  The past three years (2016-2018) I served on the Conference Education Task Group and my time with them had expired, so it was nice to be invited to serve in a new capacity.  
Great collection of superintendents from all across the U.S. and my good friend Andrew Morris from C.C. of Peoria was on the group so it was a thrill to be able to spend time with him.  Andy and I met the old fashioned way, sitting beside each other at a Golf Industry Show seminar in 2006.  We hit it off and have remained good friends since.  It's one of, if not the best things about this business, the Brotherhood. :)
Andy Morris
That's all for now, I'm headed out to cut cups and setup the golf course behind the roller as we prepare for your Friday enjoyment.  Good luck to everyone's teams today and the remainder of the weekend.  Not sure which is more maddening, the basketball or the weather. ;)


See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Forging Ahead, Chicken Dinner and The King!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Thursday, March 7th.  I'm sure you're all familiar with the proverbial saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  I never dreamed the lemons in this case would be enough water to make over 139 million gallons of the tart, summertime elixir.  Let me explain.

If you've wondered recently if it has ever rained this much in Charlotte, the answer is NO.  The past six months have been record breaking, as in the all-time wettest September through February ever, and Charlotte weather records date back 141 years.  We recorded 41.07 inches rainfall at the golf course during this period.  The city of Charlotte receives about 40 inches rainfall annually, meaning we received one year's worth of rain in half the time!  
Now take into account the past six months are the six months of the year with the slowest plant growth (turf is either preparing for winter or dormant during winter) and you gain a better understanding of the existing course conditions.  And if that doesn't impress you, here are some other numbers about the recent wet weather that may give you a different perspective.  One acre foot of water (that's water twelve inches deep across an entire acre of surface area) is 325,851 gallons.  An acre is 43,560 square feet for those wondering.  If we convert our rainfall from inches to feet we get 41.07/12 = 3.4225 feet of rainfall.  If we multiply that by the total number of irrigated acres maintained on the golf course (125) we get 3.4225 x 125 = 427.8125 acre feet of water.  Multiply that by the number of gallons in one acre foot and we get 427.8125 x 325,851 = 139,403,130.9375 gallons of water fell on the golf course this fall and winter.

And how much water is 139 million gallons you ask.  It's more than the total amount applied to the golf course through the irrigation system since 2012!  That's right, we've only applied 131.7 million gallons combined the past seven years (2012-2018) for an average of 18.7 million gallons per season.  And it turns out it wasn't just the Queen City, as this past winter (December-February) was announced to be the all-time wettest in U.S. history.
Moving on, despite the wet conditions my team and I continue to forge ahead.  We managed to get started on spring pre-emergent applications yesterday as we identified the driest of holes and the process will continue again today.  This isn't the latest we've ever made these applications as each year can be different but considering Forsythia (indicator plant) bloomed early thanks to the warmer than average February, the saturated conditions were frustrating.  So take home message, if you haven't treated your home lawn for crabgrass it isn't too late, but don't delay.
Above Avg Temps
It's also time to clean up and prep our cool-season native areas.  We will be mowing and removing the cuttings in these areas like we do each spring.  This allows us to treat with pre-emergent products for crabgrass management and encourages new seedhead production which will flourish in May and turn golden brown in early June.  At this time I would like to sneak in a friendly reminder the golf course is scheduled to be closed this coming Monday and Tuesday (March 11 and 12) for greens aeration.  This will be a repeat of last year's process where we will both deep solid tine and core aerate the greens prior to topdressing.  Just hoping we don't repeat the temperatures from last year!
March Aeration 2018 - Brrrr!
Despite the wet conditions the 2019 golf season is upon us.  Congratulations to Brett Boner and Stephen Woodard on their victory in the Pine Needles Invitational Four-ball this past weekend!  The lads carded rounds of 64, 66, and 67 at Pine Needles, Mid-Pines, and Pine Needles respectively for a 197 total (-19) and a six shot victory!  Well played gentlemen.
Winner Winner!!
Always good to get that first win out of the way early.  We're so proud of you both, team CGC!  Here's the write up from our good friends at AmateurGolf.com.  http://amateurgolf.com/golf-tournament-news/23571/Boner--Woodard-cruise-to-six-shot-win-at-Pine-Needles-Invite 

And don't forget golf fans today is Round 1 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Florida.  I miss the King and I'm rooting for Justin Rose since he selected an awesome way to honor and pay tribute to Arnie with his twitter account this week.  Nice avatar Justin, I'm sure Arnold would approve with his signature thumb's up!

See you on the course... soon I hope,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG


Monday, February 18, 2019

Current Conditions, What's Ahead, and Artificial Turf!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Monday, February 18th and the golf course is once again saturated.  We received 1/2 inch of rain overnight and coupled with the 1/2 inch of rain that fell just before dawn on Saturday, and rainfall from earlier last week, looks like I brought the wet stuff back from California.  I referenced during my last update Crisscross the weather in Charlotte was expected to be warmer and drier than San Diego during my stay at the Golf Industry Show, and it was.  While conditions in southern California were colder than average and wet, Charlotte was sunny and warm, pushing near record highs as seen below on Feb 5th!
In fact, the first 10 days of February was the driest stretch we have experienced in Charlotte since mid-July of last year.  How wet are things now you ask.  The golf course has received 1.72 inches rainfall this month, but all in the past seven days.  And there is more in the immediate forecast as there is at least a 50% chance or greater each of the next six days!    
Brad Panovich
One other weather related impact to the golf course is that unseasonable warm spell you enjoyed while I was on the west coast started to wake things up.  Not only are trees and shrubs around the Queen City showing early signs of spring, the bermudagrass definitely has a greener appearance than before I left.
Feb 17, 2019
Feb 17, 2019































If you thought you were imagining things, you're not, the turf is slowly waking up.  Albeit earlier than I would prefer as long-range extended forecasts are pointing to 2019 as similar to 1959.  What happened then you ask.  It seems a ridge over the southeastern U.S. dominated in February despite all indications a colder pattern should have taken place, but the cold finally arrived in March of that year.  Let's hope that doesn't happen.
Feb 1959
Mar 1959





































With all this talk about wet conditions and grass greening up too early I thought I would share with you something I experienced during my round of golf on The Old Course at St. Andrews exactly one month ago today.  Did you know St. Andrews and many other links courses in the U.K. require players to use a small mat (piece of artificial turf) during the winter months.  Why would they do this you ask.  To preserve and protect the golf course as the turf is not growing and unable to recover from divots.   
The mats are relatively small and fit easily in the front pockets of a caddie bib or the side pouch of a carry bag if you're hoofing it yourself.  The rules of use are simple, when playing from the fairway the ball must be placed on the mat.  If your ball lies in the rough then you may play the ball as it lies.  If you're playing a putter from the fairway then the mat is not required, and as a result I played fewer than ten shots the entire round, and I don't think it cheapened my experience in any way as the smile on my face below can attest.
Alec in blue, Gordon in red
I will say hitting shots from the small mat takes getting used to.  My playing partners, Retired Director of Greenkeeping Gordon Moir and his neighbor Alec were very adept and proficient as you would expect and I, on the other hand bladed my first attempt over the Swilcan Burn and first green.  I subsequently struggled to make clean contact on the next few attempts before finally getting the hang of it, and it got me to thinking.

Our fairway turf goes dormant every winter and doesn't recover from divots too.  But what really got me thinking was how wet our golf course was, especially in late December just before I traveled across.  We had 8 inches rainfall the month of December and the course was soaked.  It was hard to walk, let alone play a well struck shot.  Perhaps a mat would allow one to hit the ball cleanly during saturated conditions and avoid the subsequent face full of mud so prevalent during the winter dormant season.  It seems to me that is the biggest thing I witness during the winter months, players exhibiting frustration with trying to play full shots or pitch shots from near the green off the dormant canopy, especially when the ground is soft.

Anyway, it's just a thought.  I know it seems odd coming from a traditionalist like me but if you're only interested in getting some fresh air and having a little fun, then maybe there's some merit to it.  After all, if it's good enough for the Home of Golf who are we to disagree.  Besides, before I departed the U.K. to return home Gordon surprised me with my very own mat to commemorate my experience, and I have it and the ball I used proudly on display at home with my collection. :)


See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG