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