Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mayan Apocalypse...Just in Case!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Thursday, December 20, 2012 and I have a couple of things to share with you before the Mayan apocalypse tomorrow (more on that later).  Last time I mentioned how the Charlotte area is in moderate drought.  We did receive just over a half-inch rain this past Sunday evening (0.56") which was most helpful and greatly needed but overall it was not near enough as our current drought status was upgraded from moderate to severe as the monitor below indicates:

Mecklenburg County in Severe Drought

Moderate Drought Two Weeks Ago

Ironically, I was researching my blog post from this time last year and discovered quite a different tune with regards to the weather and more specifically, rainfall:

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Wednesday, December 21, 2011 ... 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"!

Needless to say that is not the case this year and our drought status may not even matter after tomorrow morning.  Tomorrow morning at precisely 7:11 am marks the arrival of the winter solstice and the beginning of winter.  It will also mark the precise end to the 13th Baktun of the Mayan long count calendar and some experts predict there may be a cataclysmic catastrophe caused by gravitational forces due to the perfect alignment of the earth, sun and the dark rift in our galaxy.  This morning the First Warn Weather Team updated their forecast for tomorrow and Saturday...just in case:

Meteor Showers on Friday!

Now, I have spent some time researching the Mayans, their calendar and these apocalyptic predictions.  Thanks to the History Channel, H2, Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, Nat Geo and the internet I believe everything is going to be ok.  This rare video I discovered and shared below shows a group of scientists explaining how the earth will be spared of these predicted catastrophes:

In the event these scientists fail in their efforts it has been a pleasure knowing and working for each of you on this fabulous Donald Ross golf course!  In the event the world is spared I want to wish everyone at Carolina Golf Club a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanza or Happy Festivus (gratuitous Seinfeld reference)!  Whatever your beliefs and celebrations just know my family and I really wish you and your families a very happy and joyous time this holiday season.  Good Lord willing we are off to see our families for a few days and will be back soon but until then I want to wish each of you again a joyous Happy Holidays!! 

See you on the course...

Fingers crossed!

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Friday, December 7, 2012

Labor Surge, Bunkers, Trees and Drought!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Friday, December 7, 2012.  On this 71st anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor I want to take a moment to thank all those members of Carolina Golf Club (past and present) for their service to this country!  Without the sacrifice of you and so many others I would not have this opportunity and I am forever grateful!  Also, only 17 more shopping days till Christmas so why not check out the Golf Shop at Carolina tonight from 5:00 till 9:00 pm for their annual balloon sale!
Some of you may recall earlier this year I lamented about the number and timing of defections from some of our seasonal staff.  At the end of October I managed to get two young lads originally dispatched to Muirfield Village Golf Club outside Columbus, Ohio and a week later four young men originally dispatched to Allegheny Country Club outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  These six joined the three remaining members of my seasonal staff to form a "labor surge" that carried us through last week (Sunday, December 2nd was their last day).  During the "surge" we were able to accomplish many tasks but one important project I want to highlight is the removal and thinning of underbrush growing in the wooded areas adjacent to the first, eighth, eleventh and thirteenth holes.  Prior to the onset of this project your eye would stop at the edge of the woods as if looking at a wall.  Now your eye continues to see beyond the wooded edge into the forest canopy providing a cleaner look to the property and easier to find golf balls!

Piled for Chipping!
Chipping Debris!

Last blog post I mentioned Golf Course Services, Inc. would be returning to renovate a handful of greenside bunkers.  The old sand was removed and the original bunker cavity inspected for any potential issues.  Areas where grass lines had migrated were restored back to original and new sand installed, compacted and smoothed to perfection. 
Greenside Bunker #4
Greenside Bunker #4 Restored
I am happy to report all scheduled work for now is complete (I know, that was fast) and here is the list of improved bunkers: Hole number 1 (left and right greensides), Hole number 2 (left greenside), Hole number 4 (left greenside), Hole number 10 (left, right and back greensides), Hole number 11 (left, right and front greensides) and Hole number 17 (left greenside).  For those of you counting at home that is a total of 11 bunkers.  Keep in mind the right greenside bunker on Hole number 2 was renovated this summer along with the practice bunker.  Try them out and let me know what you think.  I am hopeful we will do more before the end of next year.
I recently traveled to Liberty, NC and the home of Gilmore Plant & Bulb, Inc. to select more oak trees to be planted on the course.  These plantings were approved by the Greens Committee and are in keeping with the Master Tree Plan created by our architect, Kris Spence.  The trees began arriving Wednesday morning and yesterday my staff wasted little time getting started.
A New Red Oak on Number 1
There will be a total of 18 trees planted on the golf course and I know that sounds like more than a few but eight of those are to be planted to the right of Hole number ten near the lake.  Four others are to be planted in the natural/native areas between the first and second holes, three trees will be planted between the fourth and seventeenth putting greens (cart path enclosed triangle area) and one across the cart path above the sixteenth tee.  In other words, the large majority of these trees are being planted in mostly out-of-play areas as enhancements to the overall landscape with minimal impact on direct play.  There are two oak trees going in on the left side of Hole number one near the existing cluster of three large trees guarding the left side of the fairway.  These two new oaks are to serve as replacements to be enjoyed by future generations of Carolina golfers.  
For those of you not paying attention lately we need rain.  After a wet finish to summer with July, August and September combining for nearly 20 inches rain we have received only 1.87 inches rain in October and November combined!  In fact the monthly total of 0.64" in November, 2012 is the lowest total of any month since I have been the superintendent at Carolina eclipsing the previous low of 0.69" in November, 2007.  Earlier this week our area was classified to be in moderate drought.
Drought Monitor Index
This is also the first time since the renovation and reconstruction of the golf course in 2008 our irrigation lake is below capacity (full pond) during the fall/winter months.  The two images below were taken earlier this morning and are a reflection of the lack of adequate rainfall during the past two months combined with the need to still irrigate (albeit less than during the summer growing season).
Exposed Pond Bank
Bottom of Debris Guard Exposed
Now, I am not trying to be alarming but I will say from my decades of experience the worst droughts have historically followed extremely dry winter periods.  I will continue to monitor the situation as technically the first day of winter is still two weeks away and there is plenty of time for this dry period to subside but I want everyone to understand a good soaking rain is long overdue at Carolina Golf Club.
See you on the course,
Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bob Ross, George Clooney, GCS Returns and Many Thanks!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, November 21, 2012 and tomorrow is Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday of the year) and I have much to be thankful for that I will share with you in a moment, but first I do have a few items I need to address.
When I was in college there was no better way to take an afternoon nap than turning the television to PBS and watching Bob Ross paint!  Within about 10 to 15 minutes Bob's voice (he would have made a great golf announcer) would have you "sawing logs".  Anyway, this past Monday we painted the target greens on the driving range.  This is the third consecutive winter season we have done so and this year I decided (at least for now) to experiment and expand to the golf course.  We painted the teeing surfaces of all four par 3 holes.  The paint is merely aesthetic and a viable alternative to overseeding (most all bermudagrass putting surfaces are painted now).  Give me some feedback and let either me or members of the Greens Committee know what you think...who knows where this may lead?
Painted Tee Surface #16
Unpainted Tee Surface #8
Some of you may know I have a dear friend in Australia who is also a golf course superintendent, David Warwick of Avondale Golf Club in Pymble (just north of Sydney).  David and I met many years ago at the national education conference and trade show of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) and have kept in touch ever since.  I like to refer to David as my "Big Brother Down Under" and he has been a valuable friend and supporter through the years.  Anyway, back on March 23rd in an update titled "Colonel Kilgore, Bunkers and Pitch Marks!" I shared a course care video of his on ball mark repair, or pitch mark as they say down under, and I promised I would share something else.  I apologize for taking so long but I wanted to share this course care video about divots.  This time of year we transition from green sand to white as the course begins its hibernation period (merely aesthetic) and it got me to thinking, although the course is going dormant and we will not be mowing for several months doesn't mean we should take the task of properly filling divots lightly.  Also, David skyped me this past Saturday evening so he is fresh in my mind.  Ladies, he fashions himself to be another George Clooney but I will let you be the judge.
Beginning Monday (November 26th), Golf Course Services, Inc. will once again be on site as we begin a small, off-season project to refurbish some bunkers in need of renovation.  Old sand will be removed and replaced with new in the same fashion we renovated both the practice bunker and right, greenside bunker on hole two earlier this year.  GCS will begin with the left, greenside bunker on number 4 (APPLAUSE) and we will be targeting several others in need.  At this time, the golf shop, GCS and I have not worked out the logistics of how we will handle play with their staff working in greenside bunkers but I wanted to at least give you the heads up well in advance.  There are approximately a dozen bunkers slated for renovation and the GCS crew will be on site for several weeks.
As I stated earlier, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I hope you will spend the day with family and friends.  For those of you planning on a relaxing round of golf at Carolina please remember we are closed tomorrow with no staff on site and golf is walking only.  Of course Solomon (turned 2 years old yesterday) and I will venture out to check the course and make sure nothing is missing, damaged, broken, etc.  The current forecast is calling for morning low temperatures near 36 or 37 degrees around 6:00 am.  We could potentially have frost with these temperatures and it is important not to walk on the putting surfaces if there is frost!  Please use caution and good judgement when enjoying the solitude of the course tomorrow!
As promised, I am thankful for many things this year and they include...

  1. my faith!
  2. my loyal companion, Solomon! 
  3. the great game of golf!
  4. being the superintendent of the greatest golf course in all of Charlotte!
  5. the hardest working golf course maintenance staff in North Carolina!
  6. the support of Carolina Golf Club! 
  7. the friendships and relationships I have developed with many of you at Carolina!
  8. seeing the sun rise over this beautiful golf course almost everyday!
  9. for Jeff Peck and his helpful advice with my finicky golf game!
  10. that the 2012 football season is almost over!
At this point last year I expressed deep, heartfelt thanks to my wife and family! I stated something along the lines of her tolerating me and my idiosyncrasies (a man who works all the time, complains about the weather and stresses over his college football team) and how she deserves a medal for doing so!  Well, this year is no different and I am just thankful me and the dog are both allowed in the house :)

To all the members of Carolina Golf Club I want to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

That Time of Year Again!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Tuesday, November 6, 2012 and as the country heads to the polls to decide our next president my staff and I are busy with the beginning of some "off season" projects and other maintenance.  The Carolina Invitational wrapped up early Sunday evening as another historic success and your golf course received nothing but rave reviews from all the participants.  I will spare you the details and results as I am sure you will be receiving a full detailed description of the event in the near future and I do not want to steal the spotlight, but I can say you missed a great tournament if you were not able to attend.

Of course with the Carolina Invitational each year comes the change from daylight savings time back to standard time.  Although we have one more tournament yet to prepare for this season (The Hazel), the time change ceremonially signifies the end of the golf season for the year and my staff and I transition into winter project season.  One other important item the time change signifies here at Carolina Golf Club is the closing of the bermudagrass range tee for the season.  Per our standard operating policy the artificial teeing area will be used indefinitely as we give the bermudagrass tee some much needed time off in order to preserve and protect it for use next season.  A friendly reminder the artificial teeing surfaces hold a golf tee and thus the need to "cheat" in front is not necessary (this behavior also damages the bermudagrass turf due to the inordinate amount of foot traffic concentrated in such a small space over the winter months).

Artificial Teeing Areas

Earlier I mentioned some "off season" projects and we wasted little time getting started today.  The vegetation growing along the creek bank crossing the 11th and 13th holes was cut back.  These plants are required as part of our wetlands mitigation in exchange for the creation of the damn and irrigation lake.  It is the desire of the Greens Committee to maintain them as small as feasibly possible while simultaneously appearing natural.  This has been a challenge due to the growth habit of these willows and birches thus we are cutting them back in order to get a fresh start.


The willows are being cut back to only 6 to 8 inches of trunk and we will attempt to limit the new growth next year from getting bigger than desired.  The birch trees are being topped at approximately 5 to 7 feet in an effort to limit their size development and prevent them from overtaking the tee shot from the 13th tee.  Upon completion in this area we will repeat the process along the creek crossing the 4th and 17th holes.

Work in the natural/native areas is still ongoing as we continue to spread seed, compost and starter fertilizer to areas targeted for improvement.  We are irrigating and using portable sprinklers in an effort to achieve germination and establishment.  Although we have seen some moderate success the current weather pattern is extremely challenging.  We wrapped up the month of October with less than 1.25 inches total rain (1.23") and we have received only 0.17" in the past three weeks!  Add these dry conditions to the cold temperatures we are experiencing and you have a recipe for delayed response when attempting to germinate seed and establish new growth.  Despite these conditions I am optimistic our efforts will yield the desired results and our natural/native areas will impress next season.

In the coming weeks you will see the staff begin our annual edging of the cart path network.  We will again soon be planting trees approved from our Master Tree Planting Plan this fall/winter.  I am also planning to utilize our seasonal staff's remaining time (about 31/2 weeks) to initiate a major thinning and removal of underbrush growing along the 1st, 8th and 11th holes.  This will aid tremendously in both the overall look and cleanliness of these golf holes but also improve air circulation.  These are just some of the improvements you can expect to see on the course this "off season". 

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Friday, November 2, 2012

You're Invited!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Friday, November 2, 2012 and the Carolina Invitational begins tomorrow morning!  Now, perhaps you may be asking yourself what is the Carolina Invitational or perhaps you don't fully know and/or understand what the Carolina Invitational is.  If so, then you probably do not know why I am happy it is here so let me see if I can help you better understand the nature of this event and its significance.

Invitational Flag

Before I do I want to share with you a conversation I had earlier this morning with two of our members as they enjoyed their round.  I was asked about the Invitational by one of our members as he told me a story about playing golf this August at Scioto C.C. in Columbus, Ohio.  While there he met a Scioto member who recognized Carolina Golf Club and stated he was planning on being here in November for the Invitational.  Our member was a bit taken by surprise of this occurrence and his story got me to thinking...why is it many of our own members do not know about the Carolina Invitational or it's reputation while there are those outside our gates even hundreds of miles away who do?  Sidenote: Scioto C.C. was founded in 1916 and designed by Donald Ross.  It was the home course where a young Jack Nicklaus learned and mastered the game. 

The inaugural Carolina Invitational was held in 1999 and the tournament has been contested every year since with the exception of 2008 when the club reopened after being closed for 11 months to undergo renovation and reconstruction.  The format consists of two-man teams playing better ball (four-ball) for 36 holes.  The field is all amateurs by invitation only from around the region and beyond.  Carolina has hosted participants through the years from as far north as Massachusetts, west to Texas and south to Florida (this year's field includes participants from Connecticut, Ohio, Virginia and Georgia as well as North and South Carolina).  Previous entries have participated in the Masters, U.S. Opens, U.S. Amateurs and U.S. Mid-Amateurs.  Many have been state amateur champions from North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. 

The Carolina Invitational

The point of this story is this event belongs to Carolina.  This is the club's tournament and not the property of the Carolinas Golf Association, PGA or any other sanctioning body but rather Carolina Golf Club.  Carolina Golf Club invites the participants and sets the field.  The goal is to get the best amateur players from around the region to compete for the title of Carolina Invitational Champion.  Many who have participated in the past have loved the event for its first class field and first class treatment but ultimately they love this tournament for the first class Donald Ross golf course!  It is my privilege and honor to maintain this golf course for you everyday but it is always nice to have the opportunity to showoff your course on your behalf to those who truly appreciate this grand game and its finest courses.   The Carolina Invitational is special and I invite you to come out this weekend and spectate.  You will see not only some great golf but you will also see some wonderful appreciation and gratitude from some special golfers.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Friday, October 26, 2012

Two is Better Than One, Tough Day, No Bueno and Mr. President!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, October 26, 2012 and I would like to start by saying thank you!  For those of you making "The Greenkeeper" a part of your day I really appreciate you.  After struggling with low viewership numbers over the summer (69 average views per post for the 10 blog posts between May 23rd and September 6th) the numbers have risen dramatically to 123 average views per post for the last 4 blogs!  Thank you again and help spread the word!

It is that time of year again as the local news media talk about fall foliage, peak and past peak.  In golf course maintenance land this is known affectionately as "leaf wars".  The daily task of keeping the course clean of leaves and debris can be demoralizing at times (especially when the wind blows) but I tell my staff they should think of it as job security.  Anyway, when the course starts to look like this...
More Leaves

...we break out the big artillery, and the decibels and the scene is more like this...

Two Tractor Blowers!
...when dealing with leaf clean-up two tractor blowers beats one all day long!

Two days ago my staff and I had the fun of setting up the golf course for our annual Tough Day event!  Anytime we set up Carolina for a tournament it is special but the annual Tough Day is extra fun as the name implies.  Of course we moved the tees back and I selected hole locations I sincerely hope would have made Donald Ross proud (think final round of club championship, extreme).  As much fun as I had selecting the hole locations I believe my two assistants, Shane Harrelson and Brett Stowers may have enjoyed themselves more as they put the finishing touches on the putting surfaces as the following picture clearly demonstrates:

Two Rollers!
...when you are setting up the course for Tough Day two rollers beats one all day long!

Last time I mentioned something about an unfortunate incident and I guess I didn't realize what a cliffhanger I created.  Have you ever missed a short putt and in your moment of disgust and disappointment taken your putter and knocked the ball off the putting surface?  I am sure many of you can relate.  Well, the next time you think about reacting as described above please pause and think about what may happen if your hand-eye coordination isn't too good.  I mean if you can't make the two footer you just missed are you sure you can safely hit the ball without hitting the turf?

My radio is sitting where the hole was located
This unfortunate incident occurred on the 17th hole during casual member play following the conclusion of the Donald Ross Challenge.  Fortunately this person immediately reported this to the Pro Shop and apologized for the accident.  Although the incident was no bueno I appreciate the honesty displayed by one of our members!

In other news, many of you may know four years ago I was elected to the Board of Directors of the North South Turfgrass Association (NSTA) and have served stints as Secretary, Treasurer and most recently Vice-President. 
The NSTA is one of 13 local associations comprising the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association and the CGCSA is our regional chapter of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.  At the NSTA annual business meeting held yesterday at Cedarwood C.C. my peers elected me the 2013 President.  I am humbled and honored to be recognized by my fellow superintendents in the greater Charlotte area as their leader and I look forward to representing Carolina Golf Club at the highest level!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Drainage Wrap-Up, What is That, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hummocks!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Thursday, October 18, 2012 and below I have 10 pictures for you to see and I have much to describe so let's get started.  Since my last post the crew from Golf Course Services, Inc. wrapped up all the drainage improvements we planned and then we managed to add a couple more locations since we were under budget.  The drainage plan on 7 was completed followed by enhancements on 6 (short of the fairway), 2 (landing area), 10 (right of the fairway), 5 (left side of fairway) and 15 (left side of fairway).  Many thanks to J.D. and his team from GCS for the fabulous denoted by my special inspector!

Solomon inspects the additional drainage in 7
We actually unearthed a small fresh water spring in this area on number 6.  Not surprising considering all the stories from the older members regarding this property "back in the day".  This drainage addition will make life much better for the walkers!

New drainage on 6
Although golf car traffic is not permitted on the second hole this drainage was added to assist with mowing operations and playability during the winter season when the bermudagrass turf is dormant.

More drainage on 2
This long line of new drainage will be a tremendous asset in permitting golf car traffic on the tenth hole during the winter months.  This past winter it was nearly impossible to get a golf car through this swale to the fairway!

New drainage on 10

On the day I took the picture of the drainage work on the tenth hole I spotted this critter making its way up the bank between the green and white tees.  It is a green horned caterpillar or tomato hornworm (Manduca quicquemaculata ) and I don't know where it was going.

Green Horned Caterpillar
Perhaps in the past few days you have noticed an interesting aroma coming from parts of the golf course.  If so, that smell is the compost we have been applying to our natural/native areas in efforts to improve soil conditions and grass establishment.  We have been interseeding several natural/native areas with our native short mix seed in efforts to bolster and enhance their performance and appearance.  More on this work in a future Greenkeeper.  This concludes the Lynyrd Skynyrd portion of this blog post!

Last week Stephen Woodard (Greens Committee Chairman) and I hosted Kris Spence to look at proposed tree planting locations in keeping with the master tree plan Kris prepared for Carolina last year.  During that visit Kris recommended we remove the tree affected with bacterial leaf scorch (Monday, July 16th: Fairway Aeration Cancelled, Goldilocks and Other Stuff!) and change our grassing strategy around the mounds.  (Sidebar: Do you think we need a catchy nickname for these features?  I know there are some out there for a few of the bunkers on the course and areas near them but what about these mounds?  Does dew drops, chocolate drops, Hershey Kisses or Himalayas strike a chord with anybody?  Maybe you would prefer hummocks?  I don't know, it is just a thought.)  He also recommended we remove all the cool-season grasses and replace with bermudagrass sod in most of the flat terrain and the largest, most prominent mound features would be reestablished in the native short mix (native grasses).  Thanks to cooperation from the Greens Committee and Board of Governors we turned this project into a quick one with GCS still on site!

Area is stripped of all grasses yesterday!
The GCS team worked late yesterday removing all the grasses from the area and picked up this morning as they continued to prep for seed and sod.

Inspection of prep work early this morning!
Ready for grassing!

At this stage my staff treated the mounds/hummocks with compost and hand seeded.  We applied a pre-plant starter fertilizer to the entire area and then turned things back over to the GCS team.  They covered the newly seeded mounds with erosion control matting and stapled into place.  Once the sod truck arrived early this afternoon grass started to go down (green side up, of course) and the area took on a whole new look.

Looking Good!

What a Difference!

This renovation will make a tremendous difference to the overall appearance in that area of the golf course but also to the flow of golf car traffic as it exits both the fourth and seventeenth fairways.  Greater options will be afforded to me where I can place the exit point preserving turf conditions nearer the green.  I will post again first part of next week and include more pictures of this area plus talk about the war on leaves and an unfortunate incident.  Until then...

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dottie Pepper, Soggy, Collars, Special Guest and More Drainage!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Friday, October 5, 2012 and I am wondering if anyone is still reeling from the Ryder Cup loss this past weekend?  I mean, we had it right there in the palms of our hands.  For two days our American lads were kicking butt and you felt there was no way we could lose...then Ian Poulter happened!  Much has been written or said about the 10-6 deficit the Europeans faced and overcame to win the Ryder Cup 141/2 to 131/2 on Sunday but the reality is they were behind Saturday afternoon 10-4 with two matches on the course!  Ian Poulter and his partner, Rory McIlroy were trailing in the fourth and final match of the day and Ian Poulter put the entire European team on his back and birdied 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18!  By winning their match and the point this propelled the European team to only a four point deficit and paving the way for the Sunday schellacking of the good guys!  What can you say but "Well played Euros" as they totally outplayed our boys on the final day!  Here's looking to 2014!  You thought I was going to reference Dottie's infamous words from 2007, "Chokin' freakin' dogs" here didn't you?

Things have been a little soggy here at Carolina of late.  A squall line of storms passed over the course late last Friday (September 28th) evening dropping 0.75" rain.  We then had rain off and on Saturday and received more rain Monday and even had a short downpour this past Tuesday.  During this time the conditions were mostly cloudy and humid with little wind and thus the course became surprisingly wetter than expected.  Yesterday was the first day we were able to permit golf car traffic on certain fairways and it was also the first day we were able to mow short cut turf.  Thankfully, the sun made its way out yesterday afternoon and with the 10 day forecast looking cool but pleasant ideal golfing conditions are not too far away!  On the bright side, the rain was very beneficial to the putting surfaces in assisting with aeration recovery.  The putting surfaces are growing rapidly at this time evidenced by the amount of clippings in the mower buckets each morning.  We are approximately 80-90% healed after only 10 days and it will be just a couple more till we achieve complete healing then you will begin to see an increase in ball roll and putting speed.

Some of you have been wondering about the collars since the greens were aerated and asking questions.  The discoloration you see is the byproduct of the collar region being aerated.  I decided to aerate the collar, despite the late date on the calendar for bermudagrass because the compaction in that region threatened the overall health and winter survivability of the turf.  You should have seen the aerator jumping when we made the pass around the collars (an indicator of soil compaction severity) compared to the sand based putting surfaces.  Anyway, I am confident the collars will heal completely over the next several weeks (it will take a little longer for bermudagrass turf to grow and fill in this time of year).  We will begin topdressing treatments to the collars next week with green sand.  This will help both mask the discoloration but also draw a little extra heat from the sun.  We are making other modifications to our agronomic programs this fall and winter in an effort to minimize and eliminate problems with turf health in the collar region next spring.  I will blog more about those efforts at a later date.

This past Tuesday, October 2nd I treated the Greens Committee to a visit from a very special guest...Mr. John Szklinski, Golf Course Superintendent, Charlotte Country Club.  I invited John to spend the better part of the day with me before meeting with the committee in the early afternoon.  You may recall it was about this time last year when we (Carolina Golf Club) made the decision to abandon fine fescue alone in our natural/native grass areas and switched to a seed mixture containing fine fescues and other warm season native grasses (bluestem, blue grama and side oats grama).  John has been establishing and maintaining Charlotte Country Club's natural/native areas from this seed mixture since 2007 so I thought it would be beneficial to have him evaluate our progress, make suggestions and answer any questions or concerns shared by the committee.  John had never seen Carolina and was immediately impressed with the "views and vistas" present on the property as we toured the course together upon his arrival.  We later gathered in my office to compare and contrast our respective staff sizes, budgets and resource allocations.  After a brief lunch off site we returned and met with the Greens Committee.

John Szklinski speaking with Greens Committee
After a brief discussion period we all headed onto the course together to take a closer look at some of our natural/native areas.
The Committee looks on as John talks about Native Grasses
John explained to the committee about micro-climates and their effect on fine fescue establishment versus the other native grasses in the mixture.  He talked about soil composition and structure and shared with us the compost he uses to modify the areas at Charlotte CC where the soil is poor.  I was sincerely thankful for John to take the time away from his facility to come and lend me a hand.  He was most informative and provided insight into some other tweaks and modifications we could easily adopt to get the most out of our natural/native areas.  Besides, it is not every day you get the opportunity to have your course inspected by a superintendent that once hosted the United States Open (John was the superintendent of Southern Hills C.C. in Tulsa, OK when they hosted the 2001 U.S. Open won by Retief Goosen).  I appreciate John's willingness to share information with me and help Carolina Golf Club achieve her desires!

Despite the rain, Golf Course Services, Inc. continue to work on the drainage project.  Although they were unable to work this past Monday because of the rain, on Tuesday they managed to start and complete a small improvement on the right side of number 5 (in the bottom of the landing area in the rough).  Due to my time spent with Mr. Szklinski and the Greens Committee that day I do not have pictures for you.  Since then they have been tackling number 7 again and the progress is a little slower when the area is saturated.

It's a soggy job!

JD Downey surveys the situation.
Although things have been slower this week due to the conditions they have still managed to nearly complete the seventh hole (possibly complete it today).  Next week they will be working on numbers 2, 6 and 10 to wrap up the course improvement project.  I will keep you posted.  Until next time...

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Loss of Dignity, Failed to Mention and New Drainage!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Thursday, September 27, 2012 and I want to show you some of the drainage Golf Course Services, Inc. has been installing the past couple of days.  However, before I do I feel it is necessary to recognize those competitors this past weekend who felt the 2012 Club Championship was a bloodbath and henceforth will be known as "The Club Championship from Hell".  I apologize if the challenging setup removed some of the fun for you in this year's event!  Keep in mind as I stated here two days ago, the date on the calendar along with the weather and our preparations led to a culmination with the golf course providing one of the sternest tests of golf in years.  Perhaps I allowed my enthusiasm for the course conditions to get the better of me and cloud my judgement at times but know I was merely trying to showcase what our wonderfully restored Donald Ross design is capable of when given the proper chance.  It's at times like these I like to borrow a quote from the United States Golf Association and modify it to fit Carolina, "I am not trying to embarrass the best golfers in the club, I am merely trying to identify them."  Having said that I promise to file 2012 away in the memory bank and strive for a stern but fair test of golf in 2013 while yielding more opportunities for lower scoring! 

Now back to fun soon as the aerated greens heal :(

The other day when blogging about the aeration of the putting surfaces I failed to mention something which hadn't happened here in quite some time but unfortunately happened as we were ready to embark on our mission Monday morning.  If you check the July archives of The Greenkeeper you will see on July 16th I posted "Fairway Aeration Cancelled, Goldilocks and Other Stuff!"  If you scroll down to the "Other Stuff" section I talk about the frustrations this year with staff desertions/defections.  At that time we had endured 5 desertions/defections this season and after that post things settled down quite nicely.  The replacements we received fit in quite well and two months past with no issues... and no warnings.  Unfortunately, I was met Monday morning with the announcement three guys went AWOL Sunday evening!  The timing of their decision would not have been good at any time, but on the first day of putting green aeration I cannot repeat the words uttered that day.  I must offer up a big kudos to those members of my staff that pressed on!  We managed to make it work after two very long days!

Now back to drainage!

Golf Course Services, Inc. has wrapped up installing the additional fairway drainage on number 8 and have now started working on number 7.  Here are some photos detailing the project thus far:

Trenching Across Fairway

Pipe, Gravel and Sand

Gonzalo Checks The New Catch Basin

Compacting the Trench

Putting the Turf Back in Place


Here is the first look of the work currently going on at number 7:

Removing the Turf and Trenching

View From Other Side

I will post more photos next week.  Until then...

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Congratulations, Weather Tidbits, Aeration and Golf Course Services!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Tuesday, September 25, 2012 and we have just wrapped up putting green aeration for this year!  More on that later, first I want to congratulate Reid Waller for winning the 2012 Club Championship!  Reid birdied the final hole to secure a one stroke victory over Brett Boner in a final round filled with some riveting see-saw action between the two competitors.  The tournament, moved this year from Labor Day weekend to this past weekend (along with a perfectly timed cold front), afforded me an opportunity to provide some of the most demanding and challenging conditions to date since the course reopened.  Preparations for this event started back in late August with well timed fertility treatments to the putting surfaces.  As the days continued to shorten and the nighttime temperatures became more and more favorable for the growth of bentgrass roots, mowing heights were gradually lowered.  Members playing the course over the past three weeks should have noticed a progression as the greens became smoother and smoother as well as faster.  The entire procedure was timed to peak September 21-23 and I am so pleased with the response from the putting surfaces as they produced perfectly challenging conditions...take that Tour Championship!  At this time, I would be remiss if I didn't also offer a heartfelt congratulations to Marsha Gaspari on her victory in the 2012 Ladies Club Championship!  Marsha's victory came on the first hole of sudden death after her and Joanie Mashburn were tied after 36 holes.

I complimented Mother Nature earlier as she gets a very big assist with the conditions of the golf course during the Club Championship (cooler temperatures and lower humidity equals faster putting greens).  There were two interesting articles in the Charlotte Observer this past Saturday.  Bruce Henderson's article on zoysiagrass lawns becoming more popular ("Lawns Taking a Less Thirsty Path to Green") made reference to this past July as being the 3rd hottest on record (dating back to 1895).  Also, Steve Lyttle's piece "Wet Autumn in the Offing" noted this past July was the hottest in nearly 20 years and the Climate Prediction Center is predicting temperatures and precipitation to be above normal over the next three months.  Considering we are already at 4.88 inches rain for the month maybe they are on to something...guess we will just have to wait and see!

I guess at this point you have heard enough about the weather and you want to know what I did to the greens yesterday and today and when your golfing conditions will be back to normal.  The fall aeration of our putting surfaces is the same as spring. In other words we are more aggressive with a larger tine size (equates to a larger hole) and we topdress very heavily (more sand). 

Looks a little something like this!
The June aeration with its smaller tines and no topdressing is merely a bridge between the two major aerations where we impact a greater percentage of the surface area in an effort to remove unwanted thatch and make room for new roots to grow and develop.  I was asked prior to the final round of the club championship by one of the competitors what would happen if I didn't aerate the greens and I answered simply they would die.  I know that may sound extreme but you can reference the March 17th blog entry "Rabbit Season, Green Acres, Old Dogs and Robert Duvall" for a refresher on why aeration is so vital to the long term health and sustainability of bentgrass putting greens.  The greens will take a week or two to heal but the weather is ideal for bentgrass growth right now so I don't believe it will take too long.  I have annually aerated on the 3rd or 4th Monday of March and September so now is the time to take your buddy up on that offer for a guest round at his place if they were one of the courses to aerate a little earlier.  We all aerate at roughly the same time of year but different weeks work best for each course depending on a number of factors including but not limited to tournament schedules, outings, and etc.  I personally prefer later in September because bentgrass roots die in July and August due to the extreme stress of high soil temperatures.  By the end of August and into early September the roots of the plant are very short and the mechanical stress imposed from aeration is not to be taken lightly.  By giving our putting greens a few extra weeks to regrow some roots I firmly believe they tolerate the process better and heal more quickly annually providing the best putting surfaces in town every October and November!

I mentioned last time Golf Course Services, Inc. would be on site during this time to install some additional subsurface drainage on a few holes (2, 6, 7, 8 and 10).  I am happy to report the crew began work yesterday on the 8th hole and work continues there today.

Golf Course Services, Inc.
Trenching in drain along cart path #8

They will be working at Carolina for a couple of weeks or more depending on the weather, etc.  In an effort to accommodate the important work they are performing for us, starting tomorrow we will be shortening the golf hole where they are currently working.  Their plan is to work on only one hole at a time until complete.  In an effort to prohibit holding up their progress and more importantly placing them in potential harms way, my staff will relocate all tee markers (green, white, blue and black) to the fairway beyond the area where they are working.  You will still be able to play the hole it will just play shorter for a day.  Thank you in advance for your cooperation and I plan to post more pictures and updates to the blog showcasing their work so please check back!

Until next time...

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Weather Update, You Won't Believe This and Coming Up Next!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Thursday, September 6, 2012 and football season is finally here!  Why would I be so excited about football season you ask...because football season brings football weather... and football weather brings the absolute best conditions to our bentgrass putting surfaces!  Speaking of weather, the past two weeks Mother Nature has reminded us summer isn't officially over with high humidity levels and afternoon thunderstorms.  Labor Day weekend felt more like the 4th of July but I have seen the extended forecast and heavenly conditions are just around the corner.  In my last post on August 22nd I stated the rainfall for that month was 6.71 inches and that's exactly how we finished as we received no additional rain between August 21st through September 1st.  So far this month we have received two plus inches (2.24) dating back to an afternoon shower which briefly interrupted play during the second round of last weekend's Senior Club Championship on September 2nd and continuing up through this past Tuesday evening when we received 1.5" (the bulk of our total thus far).

Congratulations to Paul Spadafora, Senior Champion Golfer of the Year!!
In other news, yesterday morning we were greeted with the remnants of some late night vandalism.  Now, before you go jumping to conclusions the vandal or vandals were not neighborhood juvenile delinquents but rather the nocturnal, four-legged variety!  While in route to the driving range tee to begin set up for the day I received a call from the greens mower operator on the 3rd green bringing to my attention this...
Hole Dug in Front Middle of 3rd Green!
Upon closer inspection I found the paw prints in the nearby left bunker confirming my suspicion of Coyote(s) and the damage upon closer inspection appeared as follows...
Coyote Damage (Closer View)
I have been working in this business for over 20 years and I have seen many things but this was the first time I have witnessed physical damage to a putting surface of this magnitude caused by an animal.  Fortunately we have the resources to repair damage such as this and about 30 minutes and 11 hexagonal plugs from our nursery green later the area looked like this...
Not Too Shabby!
Moving on, as I stated earlier cooler, dryer weather is just around the corner and we have one club championship in the books and two more on the horizon.  The ladies are up next on the 15th and 16th and the men will determine their 2012 champion the following weekend over 54 holes contested the 21st through 23rd.  Of course there is Guest Day on the 14th and you can expect my staff and I to do everything possible to have the course looking and playing its best!  I am excited about the condition of the playing surfaces thus far as we transition from summer conditions to fall and expect great things for all the upcoming events!
Remember the course will be closed for TWO days (Sep 24th and 25th) to aerate the putting greens following the Men's Club Championship as we prepare the greens for even better conditions for the slate of events in October and November.  Also, Golf Course Services, Inc. will be on site at that time to begin installing additional subsurface drainage to key areas on the 2nd, 6th, 7th, 8th and 10th holes.  I will be taking pictures and posting their work to the blog quite a bit during that time so stay tuned.  Until next time...
See you on the course,
Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent