Friday, April 26, 2013

In Case You Missed It, Refresher and Don't Do That!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Friday, April 26, 2013 and it is still cold.  Okay, maybe not cold but considering May is just 5 days away it sure felt more like October this morning than late April.  I guess many of you must like the Rolling Stones because my last blog post shattered the record with 208 online views (the previous high was 152 back on October 5th).  Thanks for reading and I hope everyone got the "Paint It Black" reference.  It has been three weeks since my last post but now with The Masters behind us, the PGA Pre-Qualifying Tournament in the books and Men's Guest Day about complete now seemed like a good time to catch my breath and catch you up on a few things.

Although it doesn't feel like spring today, a couple of weeks ago the Yoshino cherry trees in the parking lot were in full bloom.  I snapped a couple of photos early one morning before anyone arrived to share in case you were not able to make it out to the club during that glorious period.

Special Blossoms!
Dawn of a Glorious Day!

My wife and I lived in Northern Virginia for 5 years after I completed graduate school and I remember each spring the local news in Washington D.C. would go crazy about the cherry trees surrounding the tidal basin and when the blossoms would be at their peak.  On this morning I thought our trees looked just as spectacular as those around the tidal basin in our nation's capital.  By the way, I am extremely happy to be in Charlotte and do not miss those days at all!

Moving on, last time I mentioned how everyone should utilize the range space provided and manage their divots by hitting balls placed at the back edge of the divot made from striking the previous ball.  I even shared the following public service announcement:

On the morning the range tee opened for use (April 11th) I took the liberty of hitting 20 balls from two adjacent stalls using the above methods and taking photos with my phone.  I used a 6 iron for each shot and primarily focused on taking a divot more so than striking the ball (funny how that seemed to create excellent contact).  Anyway, the results are below:

20 Balls Total
10 Balls Each Strip!

The long strips will heal more quickly as the turf grows in from both sides and I have left more turf for the next person.  The "shotgun blast" depicted on the right leaves less good turf for the next person and more closely resembles someone in need of a lesson.  Give this method a try, it not only will help the turf on the range tee but it may also improve your ball striking!

Before I wrap up I want to mention a few things about the course.  Despite the abnormally cool spring and lack of rainfall the past three weeks (0.59" total the past 21 days) the golf course is in excellent shape for the current conditions.  The fairways are firm and fast with lots of ball roll.  The greens are firm, yet receptive with smoothness and good speed.  The grasses in the natural/native areas are beginning to seed and overall the golf course is slowly waking from a long winter's nap and coming to life.  I know right now the forecast looks bleak for the qualifying tournament this coming Monday but my staff and I are still planning on presenting your golf course in it's best shape possible.  We will be working late Sunday evening with a full mowing scheduled as we prep the golf course for tournament conditions. 

One final note, be mindful of where you drive your golf cars as traffic is one of the biggest deterrents to bermudagrass green-up, growth and development.  If you don't believe me just pay attention next time to areas that were roped off most of the winter compared to others.  Also, please do not park your golf cars near teeing areas unless you are permitted as a flagged rider.  This person is providing an excellent example of something you should not do:

Don't Park Here!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Rolling Stones, Divot Management and Irish Luck!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Friday, April 5, 2013 and what a difference a week makes.  This time last week the trees were bare and the course was dormant brown.  Now the trees are either blooming or beginning to produce leaves depending on species and the bermudagrass is beginning to wake from one of the longest winter hibernation periods in decades.  A colleague of mine told me this morning he heard a report this was the 3rd coldest winter on record for our area.  Of course the rapid breaking of dormancy by the bermudagrass this week was assisted thanks to some perfect timing and near perfect conditions.  You may recall during the warm March experienced last year we treated our tees and fairways with Iron Sulfate in order to darken the turf canopy (paint it black).  The darkened surface absorbs the energy from the sun and raises the soil temperatures, which in turn aids the process of bermudagrass green-up (kind of like the effect you feel on your back when wearing a black or navy shirt on a sunny day).  Anyway, the process works best when the turf canopy is wet (the near 0.75" rain that fell over Easter weekend produced the right moisture conditions) and abundant sunshine is available (Monday seemed like the first sunny day in ages). 
We sprayed all the fairways this past Monday.  This picture taken on the 5th hole looking back towards the tees shows the effect in the early stages as depicted by the irregular spray pattern along the fairway/rough margin.  The level of darkening has increased each day this week.
#5 Fairway
We sprayed all the tees this past Tuesday and again the picture below depicts the effect along the edge of treated vs. untreated.  You can also clearly see a significant amount of green leaf blades in just a short period of time.
#5 Back Tee
We received over an inch of rain last night so once again we enter into a weekend with golf car restrictions but the forecasted temperatures for Saturday and Sunday (65 and 71 degrees respectively) along with some sunny skies should continue to produce mass greening of the short cut turf on the course.  These temperatures are also a welcome change for the recovery of our bentgrass putting surfaces.  It has now been 2 1/2 weeks since aeration and the cold conditions kept the grass in check and prevented healing in a timely fashion.  Our mowing this morning was the first where we collected more grass than sand in the buckets so we have turned the corner and I expect rapid healing between now and next weekend!
Although the driving range tee appears to be the greenest place on the property when viewed from the back of the clubhouse (it too was treated with iron sulfate this week) up close you can see it needs a little more time before we unleash everyone.  I have discussed the matter with both the Greens Committee and the Golf Professional Staff and we will open the grass tee line on Thursday, April 11th (coincidentally day one of the Masters).  I want to thank everyone for their patience and understanding this year as we have all endured a longer than normal winter for a change.  I also want to take this opportunity to share a photo with you that depicts the proper way to use the range with respect to taking divots.
The Preferred Method!
If we can all utilize the range tee with the divot pattern depicted above we will have the best conditioned range tee in the city!  This method maximizes the use of the entire tee surface and also grows in faster.  So think long, narrow strips!
Finally, last time I mentioned I would share more information on the new seasonal staff so I would like to introduce them to you.  These guys come to us from Hidden Creek Contractors, Inc. in Bakersville, NC (the same service provider we have used since 2010). 
Hard Working Lads!

From left to right we have Roman, Anatolie, Viorel, Ion, Paul and Fionnbharr.  Roman, Anatolie, Viorel and Ion are from Moldova while Paul and Finn are from Ireland.  Finn is a very experienced golf course employee having worked for nearly five years at a course back home in his native land.  These guys have been working extremely hard for nearly three weeks and I am most pleased not only with their efforts and work ethic but also their pleasant demeanor and personalities!  Earlier this week they spent close to three days reworking every bunker on the course to ensure proper sand depth, firmness and smoothness to the bunker floors.  I managed to play Wednesday afternoon and unfortunately found myself in multiple greenside and fairway bunkers.  Although this was hazardous (pun intended) to my score it provided the opportunity to test their work and I found the bunkers to be fantastic (firm and smooth with proper depth to play the shot required).  Next week they will be trained to walk mow greens and as the growing season fast approaches so does their responsibilities and duties.  These guys are all far from home but in good spirits so please let them know you appreciate their being here to help me provide you with the best playing conditions in Charlotte!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent