Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Labor of Love!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Tuesday, June 18th and Mother Nature continues to disrupt the aeration schedule.  Remember when you were younger...no much younger than that, and your mother would take you to see the doctor.  You would get that strange feeling, you know of anxiety (that pit in your stomach) because you knew there was a very good chance the doctor was going to give you a shot.  Funny thing is I still get that feeling, every time I aerate the fairways.  You dreaded the shot even though it was going to make you better and I dread fairway aeration for many reasons even though I know in the long run it is what makes our fairways great! 

I want to shed some light on the fairway aeration process but first I need to bring everyone up to speed on where we stand with the task and how it affects your course access tomorrow.  Yesterday we were hit with a thunderstorm just before 6:00 pm that brought our operation to a halt shy of completing the first nine holes.  Today started slowly with dark, gloomy skies and lingering wet conditions from last night's storm.  We picked up where we left off with the aeration but the clean-up process (more on that later) was placed on hold.  Just prior to mid-day the sky appeared to be clearing and a breeze picked up (both of these extremely helpful in the clean-up process) but then suddenly we were clipped by a small, passing shower that dampened the day.  Fortunately once that system passed the clouds did part bringing bright sunshine and windy conditions.  Around 2:00 pm we were able to start back with the clean-up process and we began to make noticeable progress.  With the crew's spirit picking up and plans in place for a late night Mother Nature showed once again golf is an outdoor sport and those of us trusted to care for her playing fields are at her mercy. 
Two Days In A Row!
A thunderstorm unloaded on us just prior to 6:30 pm halting operations once again.  As it currently stands we will only open the front 9 holes tomorrow at 12:00 noon along with the driving range and short game practice area.  The back 9 holes will remained closed until Mother Nature permits my staff and I to complete the task (sometime later in the day).  The problem isn't necessarily the aeration process (we only have three more fairways to go) so much as it is the clean-up process associated with aeration.  The cores have to be dragged in order to break them apart and then chopped (mowed using an old mower) to break them apart even more.  The playing surface then has to be blown in order to remove any lingering chaff and debris before the hole is playable.  When dealing with Piedmont clay soils you cannot perform the above mentioned tasks in wet conditions unless you want to make mud pies, thus it is a little like Goldilocks (this fairway is too wet and this fairway is too dry but this fairway is just right!)

Why do I aerate the bermudagrass fairways, especially when they seem to be perfect?  The answer is simple, to make them better.  Aerating the fairways and roughs alleviates compaction, allows for greater water infiltration to the roots, allows oxygen to enter the root zone, prevents thatch build-up and promotes an overall healthier turf. 
Right in the Action!
Healthier turfs can be mowed more closely and more frequently providing superior playing conditions.  Healthier turfs can better withstand traffic and recover from wear which is critical considering the number of rounds played annually at Carolina.  Having said all that the process isn't easy.  For one thing, aeration is SLOW!  When aerating fairways the proper speed is just under two miles per hour!  Granted the machine itself is large (able to aerate a swath 80 inches wide in one pass).

Blazing Speed...Not! (1.95 MPH)
Big Machine!

However we have approximately 26 acres of fairways which equates to 1,132,560 square feet and our machine can aerate approximately 66,924 square feet an hour thus you see where I'm going.  Not to mention you have to stop to refuel and change the tines because it takes three sets of tines in order to complete the fairways and it takes approximately 30 minutes to change all the tines thus you see where I'm going.  Just like the pain and soreness associated with a new exercise regimen (No Pain, No Gain) nothing but good things come out of the pain of aeration.  It is our commitment to the basic agronomic practices at Carolina that permit us to have fairways others tweet to the rest of the cyber world are second to none and therefore that is how I overcome that pit in my stomach this time each year!

If you search the archives of The Greenkeeper you will see on June 5, 2012 I posted about last year's fairway aeration and there is a picture of yours truly doing my best Mike Rowe (Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs) impersonation.  This year one of my newer staff members Ernest Brooks (Ernest relocated to Charlotte from near Richmond, VA and worked for one of my good friends at Lake Chesdin GC) was relegated to that task and here are a couple of shots of Ernest in action earlier today.

Ernest Brooks
Pig Pen!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

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