Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Abuse, Wx Brad, and Goodbye to Summer!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, August 31st and I'm very happy this day has arrived.  Today marks the end of meteorological summer (Jun-Aug) and the summer of 2016 definitely was one for the record books.  If you recall the last time we were here, I shared some information with you regarding July's warmth, how humid this summer was compared to last year, and about how those environmental stresses impact our putting green health and performance.  Now that we are ready to officially close the curtain on summer 2K16 I have some updated information on where this summer ranks with others and what I propose we do to regain the upper hand before next year.

But before I do that I must share something disturbing with you.  This past Sunday someone decided to hit a golf ball from off the 11th green.  This is a very uncharacteristic act and I do not know who did it, but I do know the Golf Staff has been working diligently to help uncover the mystery.  

Crime Scene

We discovered the damage early Monday morning with the divot still lying in the bunker (they didn't even think to replace their divot).  I think the most troubling aspect is the evidence clearly shows this was done purposely as opposed to it being an accident.  How do I know this?  Rarely, but on occasion someone might miss a short putt and attempt to knock their ball away from the hole with their putter and inadvertently make contact with the putting green damaging the surface.  In this instance the divot is not located anywhere near the hole location as the hole was cut nearly in the center of the green Sunday, and the direction of the swing and resulting resting place of the displaced divot indicates this person was walking off the green and decided to stop and take a swing at a ball.  Inexcusable.  To make matters worse we found another divot taken from the same green yesterday afternoon.
Different Divot
Located Near Front of Green

A different divot made at a different time but also located on the 11th green.  Thank goodness we are less than a week away from aeration so these greens can recover from this abuse.

Now back over to Brad Panovich for an update on this summer's weather!
As you can see from the chart above, the summer of 2016 ranked as the second hottest summer all-time in the city of Charlotte finishing just above the infamous summer of 2010 (more on this later). You will also notice the summers of 2011 and 2015 occupying the top 10 meaning we've endured a few memorable ones recently.  But more importantly than just warm temperatures alone, we tied a record this summer for the most consecutive days with nighttime low temperatures above 70 F.  
For 30 consecutive mornings the temperature never dropped below 70 F and the majority of that streak saw the temperature well above that mark.  One thing interesting to note regarding this record is the summers of 2010, 2011, and 2015 do not appear in this top 10 list meaning despite those hot years we never came this close to enduring a stretch like experienced this year.  

Now why are nighttime temperatures so important you ask.  One of the first things they teach you in turf school is the power of the number 160.  When daytime highs (90's) and nighttime lows (70's) combine to total 160 or above it means you've reached environmental conditions highly conducive for cool-season turf decline.  In fact there is an entire book dedicated to the subject of summer bentgrass decline.

What's interesting is the first page of the book references how creeping bentgrass declines in summer months and it can be very difficult to establish the exact cause due to the complex interrelationships of the many factors that contribute to the decline complex.

So let's review what we do know.  The summer of 2015 (last year) was very hot and our greens exceeded expectations.  I recall multiple conversations held with the Greens Committee last season where everyone expressed how pleased they were with the overall health and performance of the putting greens.  Last summer was very dry (5.92 inches rain Jun-Aug combined) and with us in control of the water we were able to survive a top 5 scorcher.  

The summer of 2016 was hotter than last year (refer again to chart above) and drier than last year from a rainfall perspective (only 5.49 inches rain Jun-Aug combined this year).  But the humidity levels experienced this summer for prolonged periods during the last two months made all the difference.  We encountered some disease pressure and general thinning of the turf canopy.

I will say if there is one positive of thinning turf, it's how it highlights the importance of aeration.  Notice how the spring aeration pattern is revealed where the stronger plants survive the environmental stress.

As I referenced last time, fans modify the micro-climate and allow the turf to cool itself, permitting the plants metabolic processes to function normally.  In the summer of 2010 we quickly learned the micro-climates of putting greens located along the perimeter of the property were compromised versus those within the interior of the golf course, and five new fans were installed that summer (bringing our total to 8).

Existing Fan Placement
The fans located at holes 12 and 16 were installed during the grow-in of the restoration in 2008 and the fan located at hole 1 was installed in May of 2010 (before the you-know-what hit the fan) pun intended.  Holes 7, 8, 11, 13, and 14 were added later that same year as a result of severe turf decline.  

If we take a closer look at this aerial view we can identify three more putting greens located on the boundary, Hole 9, the Putting Green (PG), and the Chipping Green (CG) and two of those three definitely encountered some thinning this summer (9 & PG).  One other green that struggles in severe summers is Hole 2.  You wouldn't expect the micro-climate of this green to be compromised when viewed from above but this green would certainly improve its performance with a fan. 

Future Proposed Fan Placement
I think it's safe to say the summer of 2016 revealed the areas where we can most improve our defenses in order to provide even better playing conditions for you and your guests.  Not every summer will be as hot or muggy as this one, but when the next one comes along I want your greens and your course to be ready.  

And speaking of the importance of aeration, remember upon the conclusion of the Club Championship this holiday weekend we will be closed both Tuesday and Wednesday (September 6th and 7th) for putting green aeration.  We will aerate with 1/2 inch tines on a tight spacing designed to impact approximately 10 percent of the surface area.  We will remove the cores and topdress heavily with sand.  To learn more why courses aerate and the benefits of aeration CLICK HERE to read a brief PSA courtesy of the USGA.  That's all for now...

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

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