Monday, July 16, 2012

Fairway Aeration Cancelled, Goldilocks and Other Stuff!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Monday, July 16th and things are very different now compared to when I last posted.  Last time, we had just endured four consecutive days of triple digit temperatures and I was lamenting about the lack of rain during the month of June.  Last week brought us a stationary front to our north and much more comfortable temperatures (low to mid 80's) for most of the week as cloud cover became the norm.  We did receive a nice overnight rain Tuesday night into Wednesday morning (0.68 inch).  This was the highest total for a single rain event dating back to May!  Things changed more drastically when the cloud cover lifted and the sun returned late Friday afternoon mixing with the humid, unstable atmosphere.  We received one inch of rain in the form of a moderate thunderstorm late afternoon on the 13th.  The golf course responded fairly well to the needed moisture as fairways soaked up the rain and bermudagrass began to take on a more vibrant and colorful appearance.  Late Saturday afternoon brought the most severe weather as a flash flood thunderstorm dropped 2.25 inches rain!  Bunkers were obliterated and the course went from fabulous to carts on path overnight!  Another small shower passed over last night leaving behind another 0.22 inch rain and now suddenly we have received a total of 4.15 inches in the past five days and 4.49 inches for the month of July....Good Grief!  I never thought for a moment when I met with the Greens Committee this past Thursday (7/12) and was asked if we were going to proceed with the scheduled fairway aeration we would have to cancel because of conditions too wet!

Speaking of too wet, one thing I hear most often from members during periods of extended wet weather is, "You must be loving all this rain?".  The answer may surprise you, not exactly.  Let me explain.  When it comes to management of bentgrass putting greens in the humid southeast, the best case scenario for overall plant health in the summer is dry or near draughty conditions (this is assuming hot is a given).  When this is the case I have the ability to control the moisture the plant receives via our irrigation system and hand watering practices.  We are better able to manage the greens and prevent them from becoming too wet during periods of extremely hot weather leading to better quality putting surfaces (this is representative of the conditions we were enjoying all of June and right up through the extremely hot weekend prior to my last post).

Beginning on July 3rd and continuing for most of that week the temperatures dropped back into the mid to upper 90's with higher levels of humidity.  Turf diseases are most prevalent during hot and humid conditions with the real culprit being the humidity because the moist conditions provide the right environment for fungal growth.  During periods of hot and wet conditions such as experienced the past three days the over abundance of soil moisture can cause root zone temperatures to increase to levels detrimental to bentgrass roots.  Also, the over abundant supply of water in the root zone displaces oxygen leading to anaerobic conditions which causes bentgrass turf to decline leading to a severe thinning of the canopy and otherwise "yucky" conditions.  In other words, all this rain lately (severe thunderstorm rain) only makes the bermudagrass green and helps fill up the lake.  It is not a cool, slow soaking rain that would be most beneficial to the health of our putting surfaces and that is why I am not always happy when it rains...and my wife thinks I am crazy!

In other news, you may have noticed a certain red oak tree located on the right side of number four near the cart path.  The tree appears to be dying as one side of its canopy has turned brown.

Leaf Scorch
Turns out this tree suffers from a bacterial disease called Bacterial Leaf Scorch.  This is the second consecutive year this tree has exhibited these symptoms and this past Friday I met with Barry Gemberling of Arborguard (consulting arborist) to look at this tree and a few others.  Barry explained how the disease affects the tree and assured me it is both treatable and not immediately life threatening to the tree.  However, if left untreated over time the disease could lead to a premature demise.

Also, I mentioned some things last time about the seasonal staff and already I have endured two more desertions (Igor and Marin).  At this time we have 5 seasonal employees present and we are waiting for number 6 to arrive either tomorrow or the next day.  We have suffered 5 defections total this season and quite frankly frustrated does not begin to describe what I am experiencing.  I am not going to mention names or promise pictures at this time but if things work out with these newer guys I will post at a time I feel is appropriate.  If you would like to learn more about this issue and the potential reasons I am being told are responsible I will be happy to discuss with you if asked.  I will mention this problem is widespread this year and we are by no means the only golf course affected.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Catch Up, Staff Photos, Dry, Divot Management and Happy 4th!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Tuesday, July 3rd and I need to inform you of a few items before the fireworks tomorrow.  This is the 3rd blog post since the last member email informing readers of an update.  Therefore, if you haven't checked in on your own lately (please consider bookmarking "The Greenkeeper" to your favorites and stop in from time to time) then you need to scroll down and get caught up!  On Friday, June 22nd I posted "Congratulations, Ratings, Dress Code Revisited and Staff Update!" and this past Friday, June 29th I posted
"Benefits, Good Scouts, They're Back and "Solomon Says"!".  These two posts contain lots of good information regarding the collars, the putting surfaces and the Eastern Cicada Wasp along with some staff information that is obsolete.

Let me explain...on Friday, June 22nd the "Staff Update" portion of the blog contained the following:  "On Tuesday, June 5th I posted "Fairway Aeration, Perseverance, Dirty Jobs, Defections and Don't Turn Off the Fans!" and mentioned some staffing issues we were experiencing. I am happy to report we are back to full throttle with our staff numbers as two young lads (Ivan and Dmitri) arrived this past Sunday (June 17th) from Moldova. Ivan is our first "repeat customer" as he was employed here last year through the program. He experienced some issues regarding his visa application and that is why he is arriving late in the season. Also, I informed you about a young lad getting ready to start his employment with us after his high school graduation (Jeremy Smith). Jeremy's first day was June 11th. At this time I do not have pictures of these young men but I promise to include them next time."  Since that time Ivan absconded (last week).  This was a very disappointing situation considering Hidden Creek and I worked so diligently to expedite his return.  Anyway, he has been replaced with a young man named Marin who actually arrived late yesterday and started today (we are happy to have Marin join our team)!  I do not have a picture of Marin ready at this time but here are the photos of Dmitri and Jeremy Smith I promised.


Jeremy Smith

If you are wondering what some of the discoloration in the fairways and tee boxes might be it is simply dry conditions.  We concluded the month of June with exactly 1.58 inches rain.  That is significant because that is the lowest June in my tenure at Carolina!  The average for June over the past 6 years was 4.18 inches and even the last 3 years averaged 4.41 inches.  Heck, we received 2.56 inches in 2007 (the drought year)!  Anyway, what this means is we need rain.  Irrigation systems, no matter how modern and sophisticated are not a substitute for natural rainfall as irrigation water merely supplements the rain we receive and helps to fill in the gaps when rain events are more than a week apart.  When we go two full weeks without significant, measurable rain the bermudagrass turf does not show any ill effects but by week three you can start to see issues rear their heads.  It is important to understand even though the turf is discolored the playing surface is fine and the turf itself is just naturally reacting to the current conditions and taking steps to preserve itself.  Bermudagrass will enter into a semi-dormant state during extreme dry periods and will green-up once again when rain graces us with her presence.  Most every discolored spot in the fairways is either a remnant of a construction haul road, the water line project, sewer line project or just an area where the soil used was less than ideal.   In the meantime, playing conditions are great and the appearance is merely cosmetic. 

Moving on, I would like to share with you a couple of photos I took two weekends ago on the driving range tee.  Many times in the past I have written about the preferred method of taking divots on the range tee and there is even a posting on the bulletin board between the men's locker room and pro shop detailing the necessity to have a tight divot pattern as opposed to a "shotgun blast" approach.  See below and allow me to explain:

This is an example of the WRONG way to practice or warm-up!

This is a BETTER example!
In the two photos above the top illustrates the improper method of practicing as the divots are completely scattered within the designated area.  This will actually take much longer to recover than the preferred method shown in the top half of the bottom photo.  You can clearly see 5 distinct elongated divots (this is where the next ball is struck from the back edge of the divot created by the previous ball, and so on...).  That is the preferred method of practicing and warming-up which helps to minimize turf disruption and preserve the longevity of the practice area.  Next time out give it a try and if you are not sure about how to proceed, check with Jeff Peck or another member of his professional staff...they will be happy to help!

That's all for now.  I just wanted to get everyone caught up with everything going on with the golf course.  Right now the greens are withstanding the extreme high temperatures and humidity and conditions are very good.  I hope everyone enjoys a happy and safe 4th of July and I am looking forward to...

Seeing you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent