Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Happy Birthday Donald J. Ross!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Wednesday, November 23, 2022 and the 150th birthday of our favorite golf course architect, Donald Ross. I will have a little more about Mr. Ross to share before we conclude, but I would like to start with an announcement, followed by a project update, and of course mention a few particulars about tomorrow.

On Monday I was joined by Dr. Jordan Booth, USGA Green Section Agronomist for the Southeast Region. Dr. Booth was here to conduct a course consulting service visit per my request. During our visit we were also joined by General Manager Billy Cleveland and Green Committee and Board of Governors member Jon Jarrett. Although we focused a great deal of time on our putting surfaces, Dr. Booth and I also discussed fairway composition, topdressing, and drainage, and he witnessed the ongoing bunker renovations.

Dr. Booth Hole 1
Mr. Cleveland Looks On

Mr. Jarrett and Mr. Cleveland Observing
The CCS is essentially a house call where turfgrass checkups are conducted. When we were under contract with the USGA as the 2018 U.S. MidAm Co-host we were the recipient of annual complimentary half-day visits for a number of years leading up to the event. Since that time the Green Section has undergone changes with tenured agronomists retiring or relocating to other regions. This was Dr. Booth's first visit to Carolina Golf Club and we look forward to his report in the coming weeks, as well as future visits.

Another thing that took place Monday was our friends from Arborguard were on hand to trim and prune back overhanging and protruding branches from several trees growing along the left side of Hole 9 and right side of Hole 10. This work was first mentioned in the Ross Report distributed October 7th but our busy calendar of events pushed the work into November. Special thanks to Mrs. Greenkeeper for snapping this pic as I was busy with Dr. Booth. I think the next opportunity you have to play these two holes you will be pleased with the final results as they maintained a natural appearance of the trees while creating extra space for you to work or shape the ball.

Arborguard Hole 9
As for our bunker renovations, Golf Course Services continue to progress through the golf course in reverse order currently working on Hole 13. When Hole 13 is finished, most likely early next week, 39 of the 71 bunkers scheduled for renovation this year will be complete. In other words we will have passed the halfway mark! For that we are thankful.

Installing Capillary Concrete Liner Hole 13
Speaking of thankful, tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and once again all club facilities are closed with no staff on hand as we celebrate with our families. Those turkey junkies wishing to get their golf fix before, or after dinner are welcome to walk the course with their family and friends, including four-legged ones. The forecast for tomorrow morning is a low of 38 degrees so I do not anticipate any frost to form on putting surfaces, so feel free to come early if you wish. And if I do not see you, Happy Thanksgiving!

Now back to Mr. Ross, 150 years ago Donald J. Ross was born in the town of Dornoch, Scotland. Donald was only five years old when Old Tom Morris improved the links at Royal Dornoch Golf Club in 1877. We do not know if that particular visit by Old Tom made a lasting impression on young Donald, but we do know years later Donald would apprentice under Old Tom at St. Andrews before returning to Royal Dornoch to hone his skills as a player, club maker, and greenkeeper.

Young Donald Ross, Courtesy Links Museum, Dornoch
In 1889 Donald emigrated to the United States and embarked on the most prevalent career as a golf course architect. He is credited with the design or redesign of over 400 golf courses before his death in 1948, including our very own Carolina Golf Club ninety-three years ago in 1929. We owe what we have and much of who we are at CGC to Mr. Ross, so it brings me great pride to extend birthday wishes to the G.O.A.T. of golf course architects. Click here to read about how Royal Dornoch and Pinehurst are coming together today to celebrate our architect's legacy. 

And if you're interested in hearing and learning more about Donald Ross I have included the links to two past episodes of The Talking Golf History podcast. They were recorded in January 2020 with Bradley Klein, friend of CGC and author of Discovering Donald Ross. Hope you enjoy History of Donald Ross Part 1 and History of Donald Ross Part 2

Happy Thanksgiving,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Where Does That Go?

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Thursday, November 10th and I want to share something with everyone that came from a conversation yesterday afternoon. A foursome was playing the 14th hole just as I was inspecting the renovation work in the back greenside bunker. The internal drainage had been exposed, which piqued their curiosity.

Firstly, all 81 bunkers and all putting greens on property have an internal network of drain pipe and gravel installed during the 2008 restoration. Our contract on this bunker renovation calls for the removal of all drain pipe and gravel, pipe is then inspected, cleaned, and reinstalled with new gravel. 

Their question was where does the water go because they could not see the pipe exiting the bunker. I explained how the outfall from the back bunker is tied into the drainage of the front bunker, then is piped underground across the fairway, and eventually makes its way underground to the stream channel in front of 17 tee. I could tell from their reaction that was slightly mind blowing so I thought it would be a good idea to take a few photos from our existing Drainage As-Built and share with you the detail.

Photo A

Photo B

Photo A above depicts 14 green with its three greenside bunkers. The first red arrow depicts the pipe connecting the back bunker to the front bunker as mentioned above. The second and third red arrows highlights the pipe making its way across the fairway and rough towards a drainage basin behind the 4th green. You will also notice pipes coming from 14 green and the left greenside bunker appear. Photo B then shows the pipe connections as the network traverses behind the back of the 4th green.

Photo C

Photo D

The red arrows in Photo C pick up the pipe as it makes its way parallel to the golf car path between Holes 4 and 17. Photo D highlights the pipe as it finally terminates in the stream channel fronting the teeing areas for Hole 17. That's right, excess water on Hole 14 travels through an underground network of pipes across three holes to reach one of our three ponds on the golf course. 

As you examined each photo hopefully you noticed how the internal drainage for the 4th green and other bunkers eventually connect to this same "highway" carrying water away from the playing surfaces to our retention ponds. 

Another great benefit to the Capillary Bunker system we are installing is how it expands the drainage capacity. Before, water had to pass through the sand then enter into the pipes. Now the entire bunker floor acts like a drain as the two-inch layer of capillary concrete carries water away making the entire floor space of the bunker part of the drainage system. 

View from behind 17 Right Greenside 

The photo above shows the view of the capillary concrete going in the right, greenside bunker on Hole 17 yesterday with the internal drainage network visible in the background. Now the entire bunker floor is part of the drainage network. 

So, there you have it. Just a little something in case you ever wondered. Feel free to reach out or ask any questions you may have. In the meantime be cautious as the remnants of Nicole make their way to the Queen City. We are expecting several inches rain between tonight and tomorrow along with some gusty winds, so please be weather aware.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Monday, October 31, 2022

Trick or Treat!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Monday, October 31st and as we close the books on another month I want to bring everyone up to speed on our ongoing bunker renovation as well as some other work that will begin later this fall.

It's hard to believe we are practically one month into our bunker renovation project with Golf Course Services, Inc. (GCS). Over the past four weeks we've conducted a Club Championship, Member-Guest, and Tough Day competitions. We've hosted two outside outings, and were open for a federal holiday. Yet despite those hurdles we managed to work together to complete 19 bunkers to date, with 4 more scheduled for completion this week. 

Please recall, there are 81 total bunkers on property and 10 of those were renovated last season. This leaves us with 71 bunkers to renovate this year and to be on the cusp of having 23 bunkers under our belt in the first 32 days isn't too shabby. But it's not the number of bunkers that's most important but rather the surface area. 

Our 81 bunkers comprise about 68,000 square feet of surface area. That's roughly 1.5 acres of bunker sand! By the end of this week GCS will have renovated approximately 16,000 square feet of bunker floor this season, or roughly 24% of total surface area and 27% of the surface area to be renovated this year. In other words, we still have much to do before we complete this course improvement. 

In an effort to minimize as much as possible the impact to the events previously mentioned plus the upcoming Carolina Invitational we specifically targeted fairway bunkers and thus a good portion of those recently completed are smaller pot sized bunkers, especially on Hole 7. 

A refresher of the renovation process is the removal of excess sand splash build up on the grass face, returning the bunker cavity to its original shape, inspecting the drainage and reinstalling with new gravel, resodding the grass face, installing the capillary bunker liners, installing new G-Angle bunker sand. 

As GCS made their way across the heart of the property renovating fairway bunkers we sometimes found ourselves on more than one hole at a time. I am happy to tell you beginning next week following the conclusion of the Carolina Invitational the plan is to return to Hole 17 (Hole 18 is completed) and renovate the two remaining greenside bunkers which will complete Hole 17.

GCS will then progress through the golf course in reverse order, meaning they will next move to Hole 14 (Hole 16 is bunkerless and Hole 15 is completed). Following the completion of Hole 14 they will proceed to Hole 13 and so on. This way any potential disruption to your scheduled round should only be one hole and you will always complete your round playing holes unencumbered with freshly renovated bunkers.

We will continue to inform the Golf Professional Staff each day where the work is taking place and you will continue to receive the regular email updates too. The weather has been extremely favorable thus far with little rainfall. We've only received 5.43 inches combined in September and October and that includes 2.40 inches in one day (Ian). Hopefully this trend continues for several more weeks.

In other news, Arborguard was on site October 24th and removed the large dead pine tree to the right of Hole 5. They are scheduled to return November 7th, 21st, and 28th as needed to complete the prearranged tree work I referenced in the most recent Ross Report. Following the conclusion of all necessary tree removal we will have all stumps ground and patch the areas with new sod. 

And speaking of tree work. In case you hadn't noticed, my team has been busy removing low hanging and downward growing limbs along the boundary of Hole 14 as well as from the pine trees separating Holes 5 and 15. This will permit more sunlight to the turf below and perhaps make a little more room to get an off-line shot back into play. 

Lastly, we are now only four weeks away from the beginning of our drainage project on Holes 2 and 8 with the folks from TurfDrainage Company of America, Inc! As I mentioned in the Ross Report, Turf Drain are the leaders in golf course drainage and will install their patented system on Holes 2 and 8 between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Dennis Hurley, from Turf Drain made a site visit in late May spending over half a day evaluating the property and discussing our drainage needs. A drainage master plan was developed and it was decided by the committee and Board to tackle the two most pressing areas first. We are really looking forward to this upcoming course improvement. 

A friendly reminder to repair your pitch marks and ball marks, rake footprints in the bunkers, and fill divots with the sand provided in order to help us make the course even better for your next round.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Thursday, September 29, 2022


Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Thursday, September 29th and our region awaits the arrival of Ian. Ian made landfall yesterday afternoon on the southwest coast of Florida as a strong Category 4 Hurricane. My thoughts and prayers go out to so many friends and peers in Ian's path!

As of 11:00 pm last night Ian's remnants are expected to make their way across Florida then turn back inland and head for the Queen City as if running a post corner route. The good news is local meteorologists expect Ian, or what is left of Ian by the time it arrives to be mostly a rain event in our area. 

Courtesy Brad Panovich, WCNC

Now, we have seen more than our fair share of tropical induced systems pass across our region in recent years. In 2018 we endured Florence just before the U.S. Mid-Am and Michael a few weeks later just prior to Fall Member-Guest. And it was just two years ago we had four named storms (Sally, Beta, Delta, and Eta) with varying impacts to the golf course. 

I stated earlier the forecast is mostly rain and I'm hearing we can expect a total somewhere between three and five inches (75-125 mm). That is a lot of rain, but we are currently in our longest dry spell since late April into early May as the last recorded rainfall at CGC was sixteen days ago. The other aspect is this rain is expected over several days so the golf course should absorb a great deal of needed moisture before the ground becomes saturated and runoff begins to refill our irrigation reservoir. If you haven't noticed we remain about five feet below full pond dating back to our driest June in ten years. 

Rain Expected Next Few Days

I guess you could say if a tropical system was going to visit we are about as ready as one could be. Let's all be good scouts and get prepared. I hope the power and communication lines remain intact for everyone and Good Lord willing the cleanup afterwards won't be too daunting. 

In other news, we have several course improvement projects in the queue. I hinted at these in my last post and I've detailed them in the soon to be released Ross Report. What I can tell you is one of these projects will start next week! 

That's right, the bunker renovation will commence Tuesday, October 4 as the team from Golf Course Services, Inc. will be back on site as we make our way through the remaining 71 bunkers on property. Here's a link Click Here from last year highlighting the process for those needing a refresher.

Stay warm, stay dry and stay safe!

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG 

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Looking Ahead!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Thursday, September 8th and putting green aerification is in the books for 2022! We performed a hollow-core aerification with 1/2 inch diameter tines on a tight 1.5 x 1.3 inch spacing producing 73.8 holes per square foot. Considering we have 122,607 square feet of putting green surfaces, we created just over 9 million holes impacting just under ten percent (9.28%) of the surface area. 

In other words, this aerification was designed to impart maximum impact as we enter into a busy fall event schedule. The holes were back filled with soil amendments and nearly 50 tons of sand creating channels to help provide oxygen into the root zone and move water quickly from the surface down through the soil profile. Here is a great USGA Course Care Video illustrating the reasons why we aerify.

We managed a fortunate break with the weather this week too. Although Monday's rain dampened everyone's holiday golf, the 1.01" of off-and-on showers gave the golf course a much needed thorough soaking. It had been exactly one month (1.04" on Aug 5) since CGC had received that much rain and with the trees outcompeting turf this time of year it was really starting to show in parts of the rough. Also, with the rain moving through the region on Monday we managed to stay dry both days to get the job done. ;)

Now with aerification in the books, and the days getting noticeably shorter it is time to set our sights on fall, and winter. Next on our agenda will be fall preemergent herbicide applications. Each year we treat over 100 acres of Bermudagrass tees, fairways, and rough with preemergent herbicide to manage unwanted winter annual grasses - most notably annual bluegrass (Poa annua). In other words, this annual treatment is what keeps our dormant Bermudagrass canopy "clean", without it the winter playing surface would be dotted with little Poa plants. This process takes multiple days and we typically target our applications for the end of September.  

We have a few other projects on the horizon including some needed tree work, bunker renovations, and more designed to improve course conditions and ultimately your playing experience. I have outlined these in the upcoming Ross Report quarterly newsletter, so be sure and keep an eye out.

Football season is here, which means it truly is the best time of year to play golf at Carolina. Don't worry, the greens will heal before you know it. In the meantime, best of luck to Brett Boner and Hayes Brown as both players represent CGC in the 2022 U.S. Mid-Am at Erin Hills. Practice rounds are today and tomorrow and stroke play qualifying rounds are Saturday and Sunday. 

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Beware of the Dog!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Tuesday, August 16th and I am happy to report the Dog Days of Summer are officially in the rear-view mirror! I don't know about you, but this year's version was one of the steamiest I can remember and the data backs it up. 

I know it's been a bit since my last post so let's take a look at a brief refresher then move forward from there. You may recall June was hot and dry. In my last post I mentioned June 2022 was the 16th warmest all-time, including our first official triple digit high temperature in seven years when the mercury reached 101 degrees on June 23rd. And I also referenced the 1.59 inches of rain the entire month made June 2022 the driest since 2012, an entire decade. 

That pattern changed right around Independence Day when the golf course received nearly 3 inches rainfall (2.98") over a period of seven consecutive days. As my late grandmother would have said, "Dog Days are setting in wet this year." And she would have been correct.

When the Dog Days arrived the pattern switched from a dry one to an extremely humid one which fuel thunderstorms. I do not believe the dew point ever dropped below 70 degrees, which is very humid, and by the time July ended we had received nearly 6 inches of rainfall (5.98").

What does all this mean you ask? Basically we went from hot and dry which are good conditions for managing turf when adequate or abundant irrigation resources are on hand (we used 5.5 million gallons in June), to hot and wet which are difficult conditions for managing turf as we are no longer in control of the water (only 2 million gallons were needed in July) and keeping up with the growth rate of bermudagrass is a challenge. We have applied more plant growth regulator this season than any other I can remember. 

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the Dog Days of Summer or the term's origin or meaning it comes from the Romans. They recognized the star Sirius, also known as the dog star because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (large dog) will rise and set in conjunction with the sun each year. The Romans named the period for 20 days before and 20 days after this conjunction "dog days" after the dog star. The Romans also thought Sirius gave off additional heat due to its brightness and the extremely hot weather associated with this period. 

Canis Major
In our latitude this period typically occurs beginning on or around July 3rd and wraps up around August 11th. Many years it is not uncommon for our weather pattern to extend well beyond the definition of dog days, but this year they started and stopped nearly on the button when the dew point finally dropped to comfortable levels throughout the day during our recent Guest Day on August 12th! And the relief lingers based on this recent 10-day forecast:

WCNC, Brad Panovich

So what does all this mean for the golf course going forward? Well, the lower temperatures and lower dew points should make for better putting surface quality as the bentgrass can recover with overnight lows finally reaching the 60s. In fact we started lowering the height of cut today as the extended outlook indicates the worst of summer is behind us. 

But, even if the heat and humidity should return, the days are getting noticeably shorter and we are now just three weeks away from putting green aerification. Time to enjoy the last few weeks of summer and set our sights on fall.

In other news, our friends with Arborguard Tree Specialists were on site yesterday to finish up a project we started back during fairway aerification week. During our course closure in July they were able to remove several overgrown understory trees on the right side of Hole Number 1, beyond the right fairway bunker leading down to the corner by the greenside bunker. Yesterday they returned to prune the encroaching growth from the large oaks flanking both sides of the fairway, and the result is a natural appearing removal of 17 years of growth and overhang.

Before (May 20th)

After (Aug 15th)

My apologies for not capturing a better view of the before and after on the righthand side, but trust me, the next time you play the first hole you will immediately notice the difference. This will vastly help your game and our ability to grow healthy turf on this section of the golf hole. 

Now, back to enjoying the rest of summer and setting our sights on fall.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Aerification Week Recap!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Thursday, July 14th and the 150th Open Championship is underway at The Old Course at St. Andrews! I don't know about you, but I have felt like a kid in a candy store all week trying to absorb all the content about the amazing history of the golf course and town. I'm hoping for a little magic on the course the next few days and a feel good story come Sunday afternoon. Hope you get an opportunity to take in as much golf as you like and enjoy the competition too.

I wanted to recap the cultural practices performed on the course last week and talk a little about the decision to move the process from June to after July 4, but before I do let me bring you up to speed on the abrupt change in our recent weather.

You may notice our irrigation reservoir is several feet below full pond. This is a direct result of June 2022 being the driest June at Carolina Golf Club since 2012! We only received 1.59 inches rain the entire month of June this year and one-third of that total came in the last week so we were really dry with just a few days to go.

On top of the dry conditions June 2022 was the 16th warmest all-time, including our first official triple digit high temperature in seven years! That's right, the last time Charlotte recorded a high temperature of at least 100 degrees was back in 2015 before setting a new record of 101 degrees on June 23rd. 

So the hot and dry conditions really had the course a little toasty on the edges and playing firm. Then the pattern changed just as aerification week began. It actually started with a thunderstorm that disrupted Independence Day festivities when 1.05 inches rain quickly fell at 2:00 pm.

For seven consecutive days we received measurable rainfall tallying 2.98 inches. Needless to say, the pump station has enjoyed some well deserved time off and luckily after the 4th, all the other rain events took place in the early evening or overnight hours meaning it did not interrupt our cultural practice activities. In fact, if it is going to rain nearly 3 inches at the golf course I want it to be after spreading nearly 300 tons of sand on all tees, fairways, approaches, and surrounds. ;)

So, while you were away all the fairways were verticut to a depth of 4.75 mm removing countless cubic yards of thatch. Following the debris removal the fairways were circle mowed to clean and make them ready for sand topdressing. Sand is applied at the rate of 10 tons per acre and then brushed in using old driving range mats towed behind utility vehicles. Mother Nature then supplied the water overnight and the fairways are healing rather quickly.

Lots of Debris

Cleaning it Up

Ready for the Sandman


Dragging it In

While all this is happening, we were also core aerifying all the tees, removing the cores, topdressing with sand, and dragging in. All the approaches and closely mowed green surrounds were also topdressed and solid-tine aerified. It really is a large undertaking and my team and I are extremely thankful you allow us the time to perform these cultural practices in a safe and efficient manner. 

I mentioned above this process used to take place in June but recently has been repositioned on the calendar to closely follow Independence Day. This decision was approved by the Committee because closing the course this time of year gives the putting greens a nice break during what is typically some of our warmest weather. The reprieve from traffic in mid-summer really helps the greens to recover and better tolerate the remainder of our summer schedule. In fact we vented the greens on day 1 of aerification week before equipping the machines with the tines needed to aerify the tees.   

In other news, we recently completed the summer mowing of our warm-season native areas. You may recall the areas predominantly consisting of fine-fescues are mowed in late winter and early spring, but the areas dominated by broomsedge and bluestem are mowed in the summer. 

With these tasks behind us the team is now tackling the dam and it is time to reapply growth regulator to tees and fairways to help us manage the rate of growth and quality of cut. 

Enjoy The Open,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG