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

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