Thursday, February 9, 2012

Winter Conditions and Flags, Topdressing and Trees, Alanis Morissette!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Thursday, February 9, 2012.  WCNC's Brad Panovich told me (and every other viewer watching the evening of February 1st) the Charlotte metro area had one day with high temperatures above 70 degrees during the months of December and January combined.  We had experienced 13 days with high temperatures of 60 degrees or more during that same time span and a whopping 52 days of the mercury rising to at least 50 degrees or more!  That's right, 52 out of a possible 62 days during December 2011 and January 2012 we had high temperatures reach at least 50 degrees.  Throw on top the combined rainfall during those two months (5.61 inches) and you realize why we have had a soggy golf course mostly this winter.

It seems from all the surveying I have done with my peers at other courses around the area it has been soggy everywhere!  All of my superintendent buddies have exclaimed how their courses are wetter this winter than most.  With the extremely soggy conditions in our region we have spent quite a bit of time restricting carts to the paths at all times.  Even flags (waivers for certain riders to access the fairways when normally closed) have been hard to come by this season!  One very important thing for all golf car operators to understand (flagged rider or not) is anytime access to the fairways is granted that does not translate to an open invitation to ride anywhere and everywhere at your discretion.  It is always imperative when riding the fairways to use common sense and avoid the lower lying and wet areas.  Sometimes when cart restrictions have been lifted the lower areas may still be marginal yet we are trying our best to accommodate you and allow you to ride the fairways for better pace of play.  We are counting on you to avoid damaging the golf course by using good judgement.  So thank you for your cooperation!

What's that "white stuff" on the fairways and approaches you ask.  It is sand topdressing.  We have been diligently applying light amounts of sand topdressing to problem areas (poor soil, etc.) on the course this entire winter.  This practice helps improve the existing soil profile of these areas as well as help firm the approaches fronting the putting surfaces.  We have also been making a concerted effort to topdress the areas exhibiting the highest amount of earthworm activity (higher than normal due to the warmer than normal winter conditions).  Although earthworms are beneficial organisms in the soil (nature's aerators) they can be problematic on the surface when their populations get too high.  The abrasiveness of the sand topdressing is unpleasant and forces them to relocate helping to redistribute the population to more manageable levels.

Back on February 1st I had the pleasure of meeting our architect Kris Spence along with Tom Gilmore at Gilmore Plant and Bulb, Inc. in Liberty, NC to select trees.  Last year the club contracted Kris to produce a Master Tree Plan for the golf course in response to the loss of trees experienced the past four years to construction, drought and storms.  The Greens Committee carefully reviewed the plan Kris submitted and elected to plant several of the proposed trees this year.  Yesterday Kris was on site to mark the actual planting locations for the trees we selected.  That concludes the tree update portion of this blog.  Check back for future updates once more progress is made.

As I wrap up this edition of The Greenkeeper I am eager to get home and pack my clubs for the Ross Retreat!  I am privileged to accompany so many of our esteemed members to the Pinecrest Inn for camaraderie and golf on some classic Donald Ross gems this weekend.  However, isn't it ironic we experience such a warmer than normal winter, plan a golf trip and the bottom falls out of the mercury (forecasted Sunday morning low of 23 degrees in Pinehurst).  Good grief!     

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

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