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

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