Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Winter Solstice, Milli Vanilli and Happy Holidays!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, December 21, 2011 and the first official day of winter.  Actually, winter begins precisely at 12:30 am December 22nd this year when the tilt of the earth reaches its southern most point and while we all eagerly await the arrival of the winter solstice, and the official start of winter, it seems enough rain has moved into the region to fuel rumors of a Milli Vanilli reunion.  A trace of rain fell late yesterday evening and this morning it started raining while I was in route to the club.  A quick glance at the radar indicated today was going to be a washout and the forecast for the next several days all show... rain!  In fact at the time of this writing over an inch of rain has already fallen.  As our good friend Charlie Brown would say..."Good Grief"!

Anyway, I know some of you are probably thankful the temperatures are warm enough so rain is all we receive and there are some of you wishing the mercury would fall and we could have a white Christmas!  I guess we can't have our cake and eat it too but at least with the holidays here there should be plenty of cake!  I just wanted to take a moment and wish everyone at CGC a Merry Christmas or a Happy Hanukkah or perhaps you remember Seinfeld and Kramer's holiday, Festivus!!  Whatever your beliefs and celebrations I just wanted you to know my family and I wish you a very happy and joyous time this season.  We are off to the commonwealth just north of here (Virginia) to see our families and I am looking forward to spending time with them and of course eating more than I should.  I will be back the first part of next week but until then I want to wish each of you again a joyous Happy Holidays!! 

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Friday, December 9, 2011

Trees, Brown Patch and More "Snow"!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, December 9, 2011 and we are enjoying another beautiful afternoon at Carolina Golf Club!  Yesterday I met with the Greens Committee and I wanted to bring you up to date on our discussion as well as point out a couple of other items.  We (CGC) have been working with our architect Kris Spence on a Master Tree Plan for the past few weeks.  A tree plan is a document that provides guidance in selection of both specimen and placement of future tree plantings as well as guidance with any potential future tree removal.  Some of you recall we lost numerous trees the first two years following the restoration of the golf course due to stress from construction as well as drought.  This year we lost several more due to intense thunderstorm damage (lightning and/or high winds).  We contacted Kris to get his thoughts on replacing the lost trees and yesterday we met to review and discuss his plan.  At this time that is where we are... in the discussion stage of the plan and I will share more with you when there is more to share :)

I was asked the other day about some odd, irregular shaped, discolored patches appearing in the bermudagrass turf.  They are occurring most notably in the approach of hole number 9 and the beginning of the fairway of hole number 14.

This is Rhizoctonia Blight or Brown Patch on bermudagrass turf.  This is a foliar blight disease of turfgrass caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani.  The fungus occurs naturally in the soil and when the environmental conditions are ideal (continuous cool, damp weather) an outbreak may occur.  I should note continuous cool, damp weather is the ideal conditions for an outbreak to occur and affect warm-season turfgrasses such as bermudagrass.  Brown Patch is caused by warm, humid weather on cool-season turf (yes, this is the same disease affecting your tall fescue lawns every summer).  It is uncommon for Brown Patch to have long term deleterious effects on bermudagrass and with colder, drier weather on the way I suspect we won't be seeing it much longer.  However, it isn't everyday you can see something that mainly exists in the back pages of text books and to an agronomist like's kind of cool.

Last time I talked about the covers on selected bunker faces and the reasons why.  I also mentioned we would be covering a few selected tee boxes.  We accomplished that task earlier this week and thus the appearance of more snow exists (especially as you drive into the club). 

I was asked recently if I intended to remove or "peel" the covers back from the bunker faces if the weather became "really nice".  There are no plans to remove the covers from the bunker faces until the end of winter mainly because a ball striking the bunker face will come to rest in the bunker just as it would if the ball encountered the uncovered dormant turf canopy.  In other words, there is nothing to be gained by removing the cover from the bunker faces from the standpoint of playability.  The tees however are a different story.  As you can see in the photo above, provisions have been made with temporary teeing grounds however that space is limited.  I am sure Mother Nature will provide exceptional weather at times over the next three months and when the conditions permit we will "peel" the covers back and allow play from the proper teeing grounds.  In the mean time, please remember these turf blankets have been installed to protect the course and help provide the best playing conditions during the growing season.  Thank you in advance for your understanding!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Friday, December 2, 2011

Guns N' Roses, Jack Frost, Mother Goose and Snow?

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, December 2, 2011 and it is a beautiful day at Carolina Golf Club "'cause nothin' lasts forever, even cold November rain"... thank you Axl Rose!  We received over 3 inches of cold November rain this year with 9 measurable rain events.  That is tied with September for the second highest total of measurable rain events this year (March and June contained 10 events each). 

I sincerely hope you recall my email from November 8th where I explained the reasons why the golf course takes longer to dry from soaking rains this time of year.  If not, here is an abridged version: 1.) Shorter day length – during the fall and winter shorter days means less sunlight to assist drying the turf.  2.) Low sun angle – the sun is lower in the sky and less intense thus less effective as a drying agent (even when temperatures are above normal).  3.) Dormant turf – after the first hard frost the bermudagrass turf goes dormant until spring and therefore it is not using moisture from the soil like when actively growing.  4.)  Colder temperatures – cold temperatures slow down the rate of evaporation compared to spring and summer.  Anyway, as you can see 9 measurable rain events in a month is more frequently than once per week and thus we had lots of cart path only days last month, however I am pleased to announce today we do not have any cart restrictions!

The third item in the list above mentions frost and Jack Frost has certainly been visiting CGC of late.  Many of you may know but for those that do not there is a very important reason why we delay the start of play during frosty conditions.  Walking across a golf green covered with frost can cause much damage even death to the fragile putting green turf and thus golfers who appreciate a quality putting surface will be patient during frost delays.

Why does frost cause problems?  The putting surface is an extremely fragile environment that must be managed carefully and professionally.  Every green is a collection of millions of individual grass plants, each of which is a delicate living thing.  Obviously, Mother Nature never meant for these plants to be maintained at extremely low mowing heights (2.5 mm) for prolonged periods and this stress makes greens vulnerable to attacks from insects, disease, heat, drought, cold and even frost.  Frost is essentially frozen dew and it forms when the temperature (or wind chill) is near or below the freezing point.  The ice crystals form on the outside of the plant and can also harden or even freeze the cell structure of the plant.  When frosted, the normally resilient plant cells become brittle and are easily crushed.  When the cell membranes are damaged, the plant loses its ability to function normally.  It's not much different than cracking an egg, once the shell is broken you can't put Humpty Dumpty back together again!  Although you won't see any immediate damage if you walk on frosted turf, the proof will emerge within 48 to 72 hours as the leaves die and turn brown and since just one foursome can leave several hundred footprints on each green, the damage can be very extensive.  A short delay while the frost melts can preserve the quality of the greens, prevent needless repairs and may even save you a few strokes the next time you play.  So, in advance I would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding while we wait for the frost to clear oftentimes between now and next spring.

And finally, is that snow on several of the bunker faces?  No, it is merely a turf blanket we are using this off-season to preserve and protect the bermudagrass turf from winter damage. 

The blankets were installed this past Monday and will remain in place until spring.  These particular bunker faces have struggled with winter survival the past two years due to cold temperature related injury caused by a combination of shade and a northward orientation.  We believe covering them for the winter season is the best option to ensure their survival.  We will also be covering a few selected tee boxes in the coming weeks to assist with similar problems associatied with their post winter dormancy transition the past two seasons.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lots To Be Thankful For!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and hopefully many of you will spend the day with family and friends.  I hope you are able to congregate together and enjoy a traditional feast.  I can visualize the women strategizing their Black Friday shopping plans while the men fall deep into a turkey coma during the second half of the afternoon football game (hoping this is me).  To all the members of Carolina Golf Club I want to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

After many years of loving birthdays, Christmas and other holidays I think I have finally realized Thanksgiving is truly my favorite holiday of the year.  I love being with my family and just enjoying our simple time together.  Of course, it helps to have an eight year-old granddaughter who can do no wrong keep the mood light!  I have been blessed to be the golf course superintendent of CGC since 2005 and every year I find more reasons to be thankful, not just at Thanksgiving but throughout the entire year!

This year I am thankful for…

  1. my family!
  2. my faith!
  3. my short game (most of the time)!
  4. my newest and most loyal best friend, Solomon!
  5. normal fall temperatures for the first time since I moved to Charlotte!
  6. a hard working and devoted staff!
  7. the support of the Board of Governors and General Manager!
  8. the support of the CGC membership!
  9. the relationships and friendships I have developed with many of you over the years!
  10. being entrusted to care for the greatest golf course in all of Charlotte!
I am also extremely grateful and thankful for my wife and family!  Putting up with a man who works all the time, complains about the weather and stresses over his college football team is no walk in the park and she probably deserves a medal!  Plus this year she has tolerated my complaining over a recent slump in my golf game.  It seems when the summer weather finally broke and I was able to get back on the course my swing from spring was nowhere to be found!  If anyone should locate it please phone the golf shop and let either Nick or Steve know...thanks!

Carolina Golf Club, thank you again for everything you have done for me and my family!  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and…

...see you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Carts on Path, The Presidents Cup and Solomon's Birthday

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is November 23, 2011 and thanks to both a passing shower night before last and the line of storms that passed through during last night's evening news the golf course will be restricting all golf cars to the cart paths for the entire day!  Today's forecast calls for high winds and with tomorrow being a walking only day (the club is closed for Thanksgiving) hopefully we will be able to get you back on the fairways in time for Black Friday.

I wanted to share some information with you regarding the Presidents Cup matches held last weekend in Australia at Royal Melbourne Golf Club.  I developed a deep appreciation for RMGC prior to moving to Charlotte and it was my interest in RMGC and particularly their putting greens which spawned my friendship with my mate David Warwick (superintendent of Avondale Golf Club just north of Sydney).  Anyway, David and I were trying to email back and forth during the matches last week and he was kind enough to point me in the direction of the Australian Golf Course Superintendents Association website  If you go to their site and click on the "News" tab (second from left) you will be able to access The Presidents Cup Cut Special.  There you will find seven installments, one from each day last week that contain interviews with Richard Forsyth, course superintendent as well as players and captains of both teams and tons of pictures.   Anyway, I know it is not for everybody but I certainly enjoyed it and thought I would pass it along.  By the way, David informed me the good guys lost :)

In other news, my dog Solomon celebrated his first birthday this past Sunday, November 20, 2011.  He and I stopped by the vet the day before and he weighed in at 107.5 pounds.  We spent most of the day enjoying the nice weather in the back yard with his new ball and tug rope!

Later today I will post something Thanksgiving related!  Until then...

...see you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Maiden Voyage and Thanksgiving Tee Times

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is November 21, 2011 and you are looking at my maiden voyage into the world wide web of blog.  I hope many of you find this format more useful and entertaining as well as informative.  It is my intention to use this format more frequently than the current member emails. 

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and the club will be closed on Thanksgiving day to allow staff members to celebrate with their families.  All members and their guests are welcome to come and walk the course on a first come-first serve basis.  Currently the morning low for this coming Thursday is forecasted to be 39 degrees.  In order to ensure we do not suffer any turf damage to potential frost on the putting surfaces we are requesting first come-first serve tee times begin at 9:00 AM.  My staff and I thank you in advance for your cooperation.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent