Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tournament Week, What is That, That Time Again and My Two Cents!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is May 23, 2012 and it is Member-Member week at Carolina Golf Club.  With the 3-day (54 hole) Member-Member Championship scheduled for this coming Memorial Day weekend it can only mean it is time for more rain!  I don't know why but recently (going back to last season) it seems the best way out of a dry period is to begin course preparations for one of our major tournaments.  Two weeks ago we received 2.25 inches rain during the week leading into the Member-Guest tournament and this morning I arrived to find just over 1 inch of rain in the gauge as storms moved north through Charlotte as most of us were probably getting ready for bed last night.  Of course there are storms in the forecast for this afternoon, evening and tomorrow too. 
Perhaps you have seen some of my staff members (assistant superintendent Shane Harrelson pictured using the Fieldscout TDR 300) walking the putting surfaces with a strange device in their hands recently and wondered what they are doing.  I acquired two soil moisture meters that are helping bring putting green management at Carolina into the 21st century.   Prior to now, knowing the
water requirements each putting surface needed to get through the day was based solely on experience and in some instances gut instinct.  Although still true today, now we are able to assign a value to those conditions where experience alone was all we had prior.  By monitoring the greens daily we can determine how wet they truly are after an irrigation or rain event and how quickly or slowly (depending on the weather) they begin to dry.  In other words, the tools allow us to quantify the minimum amount of soil moisture the plant needs to make it through the day without wilting.  Armed with this knowledge our irrigation practices (hand watering or overhead sprinklers) are more precise thus we use less water and our putting surfaces are even better than before!

Many or you already know but I wanted to give you a friendly reminder next week we will be aerating the putting greens.  This late spring/early summer aeration utilizes the smallest tine size available to us (half the diameter of the tines used in early spring and fall).  The purpose of this aeration is to create even more holes prior to the onset of summer conditions so we can maximize the amount of oxygen to the turf's roots for greater summer survival.  Also, not only will we be aerating the putting surfaces but this is the first of two scheduled aerations for the fairways (the other is mid-July).  Tees and roughs will be aerated upon the completion of the greens and fairways.  In other words, it is going to be a little "messy" out here (especially in the early morning dew) so please plan and schedule your golf accordingly.

On a final note, it was so nice last week to receive well wishes from many of you regarding both my tenure at Carolina as well as my opportunity to play our architect's masterpiece, Pinehurst No. 2!  Prior to the start of my round last Thursday morning I spoke with the starter and inquired how the modifications to the course had been received by most of the resort guests.  He told me it was 50/50 (either they loved it or hated it and there really wasn't any middle ground).  Having played the course I understand why because the lack of lush, emerald green rough is not pleasing to the eye of everyone however I am not a member of this demographic.

View of the 1st green (2nd hole in the background).

View of the 12th green complex.

The newly "recreated" sandy, waste areas give a totally different look to the golf course than most American golfers are accustomed to.  I found the "scruff" as I called it to be very playable and even the caddy in the group mentioned how it is easier for resort guests to find and advance the ball as opposed to before when their only option was to hit a wedge back in play.  Of course the scruffy areas contained wire grass, pine needles, pine cones and various weeds.  They will evolve with the seasons and mature over the next couple of years before the U.S. Open returns in 2014 making for a very interesting championship.

I read the sign to the right of the first tee with the quote from Donald Ross about this being the finest test of championship golf and the requirements of such (long, accurate tee shots, strong iron play, precise putting, etc.) and took a deep breath.  We played the blue tees (6930 yards, par 72) and 18 holes later I was mentally exhausted.  I totally understand what Mr. Ross meant about this being the finest test of "championship" golf as I do not recall anywhere in the round where I could catch my breath.  I have never seen nor played another course that requires and demands your full attention and concentration on every tee shot, approach, recovery and putt.  The new "old" look blew me away and I loved the entire experience!

How did I play?  I hit 8 greens in regulation and only made one birdie (the par 4 13th).  I am proud to say I never 3 putted and my flop shot impressed the caddy in our group.  I bogeyed the two closing holes as the mental grind was getting the best of me (choke) and my score was 39-38...77!  A day and a round I will never forget!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happy Anniversary, How Wet Is It, New Faces and Donald Ross!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is May 16, 2012 and it is a very special day for me!  My late maternal grandmother, Margaret Hankins was born on May 16th.  Granny reared me as my mother and I lived with my grandparents from the time of my birth through the completion of seventh grade.  My granny meant the world to me and I always enjoy spending this day remembering her and how special she was to me (she would have been 91 years old today).  Granny passed away in 1996 and I am welling up with tears now thinking about how much I miss her!  I hope she would have been proud of me!  On a happier note, it was exactly seven years ago today I began working as the the golf course superintendent of Carolina Golf Club!  It has been an honor and a privilege...and fast (time really does fly when you get older).  Anyway, I want to wish a Happy Birthday prayer to my granny and Happy Anniversary to me!

Recall April was a fairly dry month with less than two inches rain total.  We went the entire first week of May without any rain and the news outlets were reporting moderate drought conditions for our region and a deficit for the year of nearly five inches.  Scratch that!  Last week during the Member-Guest tournament we received 2.26 inches rain mid-week with 1.9 inches falling overnight Tuesday (8th) into Wednesday morning (9th).  The course became saturated and we had to become very creative in order to accomplish the fairway mowing around the shotgun starts of the event.  From the reactions I received, I believe my staff and I were very successful.  This week we have taken on another 1.52 inches rain with nearly 0.4" coming in a stray, rogue storm that passed through last night!  Again, we have standing water in several fairways and golf cars are restricted to the paths.  In fact, it is so wet the late Johnny Carson would say even the ducks need goulashes!  The majority of this rain fell hard on Monday and the course started to dry with the sunny weather yesterday but last night was unfortunately a setback!  Anyway, we are now up to 3.78 inches of rain for the month of May and all in the last week (that is a month's worth in seven days).  Hopefully we can dodge the forecasted showers and storms for this afternoon and things look dry through the weekend so conditions should improve each day!

In other news there are two new faces on the golf course maintenance team I would like to introduce to you now:

Jeff Rockwell is a native of Charlotte and comes to us from Charlotte Golf Links where he was the assistant superintendent.  Jeff also used to work on the maintenance staff at Providence C.C.  He attended Wofford College and also Central Piedmont Community College's Turfgrass Management program.  Jeff has an eleven-year old son named Justus and he loves being on the golf course!

Larry Pigeon is the first person to serve a summer internship with my team here at Carolina Golf Club!  Larry comes to us from Oklahoma City where he has been studying turfgrass management at the Oklahoma City campus of Oklahoma State University.  He has also studied at the University of Arkansas.  Larry's prior golf course work experience includes Cherokee Trails Golf Club, Oak Tree National and most recently Willow Creek Golf and Country Club all located in Oklahoma.  Larry has two children, a son Jonathan who resides in Oklahoma City and daughter Mercedes who resides in Tampa, Florida.

My team and I are excited to have Jeff and Larry join our ranks and I will blog more later about Larry's internship and the projects he will be working on when our other intern, Sean Hatch (from Central Piedmont Community College) joins us in a couple of weeks. 

Well, that's all for now as I am off to the sandhills this afternoon to closely inspect several golf holes designed by our favorite, Donald Ross.  I am joining a group of guys for a casual "warm-up" round of golf today at Mid-Pines and then tomorrow morning I will get my first ever look at Pinehurst #2 (I am excited).  Tomorrow afternoon are 18 more holes at Pine Needles so I am very blessed and grateful for this opportunity to spend time up close and personal with Donald Ross and his masterful creations!  Until next time...

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Qualifiers, Different Opinions and Driving Range Tee!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Tuesday, May 1, 2012 and we finally completed the Wells Fargo Qualifying Tournament earlier this morning.  That's right, we had to return to the course this morning to resume the playoff for the final qualifying spot as we ran out of daylight yesterday evening before the playoff could be completed.  Ten individuals carded 66's and played off for the final two qualifying spots (a 64 and a 65 had secured the other two available qualifying positions).  After five extra holes (10, 18, 10, 18 and 10) we had identified one other qualifier and were left with three individuals vying for the final spot.  Play resumed on 18 this morning at 7:30 am and after one birdie and two pars the 2012 version of the qualifying event was in the books!

After hosting this tournament for three consecutive years I thought now would be a perfect time to express some observations plus answer some questions I seem to receive each year.  I want to start by saying I do not choose the hole locations for either the pre-qualifying or qualifying tournaments.  Neither does Jeff (Jeff Peck, Head Golf Professional).  The PGA Tour through the cooperation of the PGA Carolinas Section conducts the tournaments using our course and facilities.  Cory Armstrong, Tournament Director, PGA Carolinas Section and his staff communicate with Jeff and I usually the week prior and then arrive on Tuesday prior to the pre-qualifying tournament to begin marking hazards and out-of-bounds for the tournament.  You may wonder why they do this when the course is already marked for competition.  The PGA marks the course as to how it best suits their needs for the event!  This means they may take a hazard normally marked yellow and change it to red or install temporary out-of-bounds markers between the first and second holes to eliminate the possibility of any competitor playing the first hole by way of the second.  On Wednesday they choose their hole locations and supply me with a hole location sheet.  On the morning of the event, one of the PGA staff members travels with the member of my staff responsible for the task of cutting the new hole placement and the PGA staff member observes to ensure the hole is located in the proper place.  The PGA staff member also positions the tee markers in the locations they desire and marks them with paint in case a marker should become accidentally moved or dislodged during the course of play.

Cory and his staff have been great to work with the past three years and yes, they do consult with me regarding potential hole locations, tee placements, etc. but at the end of the day it is their responsibility to make the decisions.  It has been interesting to observe the changes they make regarding the hazards each year and the difference in philosophy among the PGA Tour versus governing bodies such as the USGA or the Carolinas Golf Association (CGA).  It is my opinion based on my observations and questions the past three years governing bodies view hazards from a more formal point of view and the tour uses a somewhat "watered down" approach.  By this I mean the tour takes all possible scenarios into play (e.g., a player hits a shot into a hazard guarding hole A from a position while playing hole B...) and thus concludes the easiest solution to all possible scenarios is to make the hazard red as opposed to leaving it marked yellow.  It is also my observation many of you have failed to notice these changes the past three years thus you are all accomplished players who never hit into the hazards or you are not paying attention to the hazards and their respective markings while playing.  Either way, now you know and if anyone is interested in a more technical answer I will be happy to explain it on site sometime...just flag me down and wave me over and I will share my knowledge with you and your friends!

Getting back to setting up the course, the responsibilities of my staff and I are to prepare the course for each day of competitive play.  We mow and roll the greens late the evening before along with mowing tees, fairways and approaches.  The morning of the events, we mow the greens, rake the bunkers and remove the dew if necessary from the tee boxes and fairways along with cutting the hole locations and painting the lips of the cups for greater visibility.  We put in many hours working hard to ensure your course is presented in its best possible fashion.  It is something we really enjoy and our "little taste of the big time" certainly changes up the routine in our world.

In other news, you may or may not have seen the email yesterday regarding the current state of the driving range tee and our plans for action.  For those of you that didn't receive the message we closed the tee this morning and aerated with our smallest aerator and filled all divots.  All the artificial teeing squares were removed from their stations and the turf rotated 180 degrees then reinstalled (this was done to help even the wear on the surface from this season's use).  Tomorrow the tee will be fertilized and watered prior to the arrival of players (minor postponement due to the playoff this morning) and we will continue to use the artificial teeing locations at least through Thursday.  I will reevaluate the tee's condition Friday morning and decide whether or not to reopen the turf at that time.  It is important to understand the warm March (80 degree days and 60 degree nights) brought our bermudagrass turf out of dormancy earlier than ever this year but April's cold spells (30 degree nights) with many days in the 60's stunted the bermudagrass turf from growing.  Remember, bermudagrass is a warm-season grass and there is a difference between greening up and actually growing.  Right now, the turf may be green in color but it has not been growing substantially enough for the divot patterns on the tee to fully recover in a timely fashion.

I hope this information helps you have a better understanding of how the PGA conducts the qualifying tournaments at Carolina Golf Club and how the driving range tee is going to be pretty darn good in just a few days.  The Greens Committee will be meeting Wednesday, May 9th.  If you have any comments, questions or concerns feel free to contact Stephen Woodard (Committee Chairman) at his email or myself.   We encourage and welcome the feedback.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent