Monday, February 18, 2013

Brief Respite, Snow Day and Flag Gate!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Monday, February 18, 2013 (President's Day).  It was recently brought to my attention my weather fascination isn't met with enthusiasm by all readers and some folks just skip over the opening paragraph or two of "The Greenkeeper".  I appreciate the feedback and will make an effort to minimize my talking about the weather in future posts...however this is not one of those times.
According to the National Weather Service thunder snow is reported annually throughout the entire United States on average about twelve times each year making it one of the rarest weather phenomenons!  This past Saturday saw Charlotte receive thunder snow late that afternoon (between 4:30 and 5:00 pm at my house).  Ironically I was supposed to be in Pinehurst with Roger Wolfe, Jeff Peck and 17 esteemed members for the annual Ross Retreat thus I "should" have missed it.
If you are unfamiliar with the Ross Retreat it is an annual weekend trip where Roger, Jeff and I take a sizeable group of members to Pinehurst during the "off-season" to stay at the famed Pinecrest Inn (once owned and operated by Donald Ross) and play golf at classic Ross layouts such as Pine Needles, Mid-Pines and Southern Pines.  The group dines together Friday and Saturday nights and a draft for the next day's teams is conducted with much good natured ribbing.  Saturday dawned just shy of 40 degrees with mostly cloudy skies.  The first tee time was 9:30 am at Pine Needles and after breakfast the group made the short trek from the Pinecrest down Midland Road.  Large snowflakes began to fall as the groups warmed up for their round and when Jeff Peck's group made their way to the first tee precisely at 9:30 am things looked like this...
Putting Green at Pine Needles
My group was third in line and by that time I knew the course was not playable and sure enough Jeff led his group back in from the first green to explain to everyone the greens were unputtable.  The conditions looked like this...
Putting Green (foreground) and First Fairway at Pine Needles
Unfortunately everyone determined this year's event would have to be cancelled with the piling snow and bone chilling forecast for that night so the majority of the group returned to Charlotte.  When I arrived back at Carolina Saturday it was just a little past 1:00 pm and there were several groups on the course.  I stopped by the office briefly before heading home and taking Solomon for an afternoon walk.  I swear I thought the sun tried to come out briefly between 2:30 and 3:00 pm but by the time he and I arrived back at the house just before 4:00 pm it was much colder and there was something familiar in the air.
Early yesterday morning my faithful companion and I traveled around Carolina to check on the course and view the awesome beauty that is a golf course covered in snow!  We made sure everything was ok and got in a little fun before heading home.
Solomon inspects the course conditions
View from behind 4th green
Play time!
It is difficult to believe this snow event happened on the heels of an absolutely beautiful Friday in the Carolinas.  Friday was sunny and mild with temperatures in the lower 60's and gorgeous skies!  Unfortunately, the golf course had received rain Monday, Wednesday and Thursday last week and was not able to accept traffic from golf cars despite the beautiful conditions.
Restricting golf cars to the paths is never a fun decision because you know you are directly affecting the golfing experience of a member and their guests, yet ultimately it is my responsibility to preserve and protect the integrity of the golf course.  Sometimes this means making unpopular decisions.  Carolina has a policy permitting those with needs to display a flag to designate their ability to exit the cart paths and ride portions of the golf course when others cannot.  There are times when we inform the golf shop the course is too wet to permit flags.  Recently on those days when flagged riders are permitted we have been experiencing occurrences with other riders displaying flags for convenience.  This directly contradicts the establishment of the flag policy.  If you truly care about the golf course then please observe the policies in place to help us preserve, protect and maintain your golf course.  On the other hand if you are a flagged rider that does not mean you are given cart blanche to go where no man has gone before.  It is imperative you exercise caution and extreme care when exiting the cart path and riding the golf course under adverse conditions.  You need to use common sense and avoid low lying areas and ride the high ground.  Stay in the rough as much as possible and do your best to operate your golf car in a manner to minimize surface disruption and damage.  If you are unable to do so we will have no choice but to prohibit your use of flags on marginal days.  Thank you for your cooperation!
See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Friday, February 1, 2013

What Drought, New Equipment, Fairway Topdressing and Led Zeppelin!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Friday, February 1, 2013 and I am happy to inform everyone I was finally able to upload the photos to my blog post from January, 17th (No Pictures...).  I updated the title to reflect the change (No Pictures...Wait a Minute!) so be sure and check it out down below.

I will be brief here but you recall Mecklenburg County had reached severe drought status last month.  Since that time we have received considerable rain.  December ended with a grand total of 4.15 inches and our most recent event Wednesday night brought our monthly total for January to 4.45 inches.  So, how did all this rain affect our status?  Here is a refresher of the map from December 18, 2012 depicting Mecklenburg County under severe drought status:

Mecklenburg County Under Severe Drought
Last week was the first time Mecklenburg County was depicted in a downgraded category of moderate drought (with some portions labeled abnormally dry) and you can tell from the current map released yesterday conditions have improved across the entire state:

Improved Conditions

According to my files this was the 4th consecutive year in which I presented a State of the Golf Course presentation at the Annual Member's Meeting.  I want to thank those individuals in attendance for your time and attention as I appreciate the opportunity given me by the Board of Governors and General Manager, Roger Wolfe to address the membership in that forum.  One of the items I mentioned in my annual presentation is an update on the new equipment we will be receiving as part of our lease package.  For those unfamiliar with the club's protocol with respect to turfgrass maintenance equipment, the club made the decision just prior to the course reopening following the restoration to lease the "meat and potatoes" of our turf equipment fleet.  In other words, if an item goes out the door on a daily basis (e.g., utility vehicles, greens mowers, tee mowers, fairway mowers, etc.) we lease it and if it is specialty equipment or equipment with a long "shelf life" (e.g., tractors, skid loaders, sprayers, aerators, etc.) we purchase those.  One of the benefits to the leasing program is every four years the older equipment is replaced with new making us able to take advantage of changing technology.  2013 is the year we replace all utility vehicles and walking greens mowers.  Toro has made some technological advancements to their walking greens mowers and utility vehicles in the past four years so it is exciting to both have new stuff and also know the new stuff is state of the art!

Mid-Duty Workman
Heavy-Duty Workman

Flex 2100 Walking Greens Mower

Last time I mentioned we would soon be topdressing fairways with the old bunker sand removed during our bunker renovation project.  I am happy to report just prior to Wednesday evening's storms we were able to start this project.  We spent the better part of Tuesday and Wednesday of this week applying sand topdressing to key portions of fairways where the soil structure needs the most improvement.

Topdressing 8th Fairway
The topdressing will help modify the soil characteristics over time transforming the red clay to more closely resemble a loamy soil which is ideal growing medium for turf (note: this will take years and tons of sand).  We topdressed either all or a portion of the following fairways: 4-11 and 13-18.  We will also topdress tees and soon reapply topdressing to the same fairways mentioned above.

And finally, next week I will be attending the 2013 Education Conference and Golf Industry Show of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) in San Diego.  I will be meeting with vendors and industry representatives learning about new products and technologies to help us grow better turf.  I will be attending accredited seminars and lectures on a variety of topics as well as viewing the largest collection of golf course maintenance needs on display at the Golf Industry Show.  My classes this year include "Management of Fine Fescues for Native Rough Areas of Golf Courses" and also "Greens Aerification and Water Management by the Numbers"...  I know, sounds absolutely riveting doesn't it!  I look forward to taking in all the show has to offer and learning new tips and techniques to apply to Carolina when I return.  Until then...

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent