Friday, July 26, 2013

A Little Perspective, What it Means, What's Happening and Back on Track!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Friday, July 26th and Mother Nature continues to remind us we are at her mercy.  For those of you unfamiliar I have been a golf course superintendent for the past 11 years and have been working in this industry since 1988 and I don't recall a season like this, at least not in Charlotte!  The big talk this year has been the abundant rainfall but has anyone else noticed the absence of extreme high temperatures?  I'm sure most of us recall the past three summers and their sweltering temperatures so I looked up the total number of days the temperature reached 90 degrees or above for the months of May, June and July 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 and what I found may surprise you.  In 2010 we had experienced 47 total days of 90 degrees or more with several hitting triple digits and 2011 brought us 51 days also with several topping 100 degrees.  Last year at this time we only suffered through 36 days 90 degrees or above and so far this year we have a grand total of 8 (that's right, I said EIGHT) and nothing above 93 degrees.  With the high humidity levels typical of summer's dog days it is easy to assume it is always 90 degrees or more and the heat index has certainly exceeded 90 on numerous occasions this year but the reality is thus far 2013 is the year without a summer (I shouldn't have said that, now I have jinxed us and August will probably be brutal).

I won't bore you with rain totals and details but you know the old saying, "when it rains, it pours"?  Well, when dealing with turf, and your home lawn too when it rains weed pressure becomes excessive.  You see, grassy weeds such as crabgrass and goosegrass are prevented using herbicides that create a barrier in the soil.  The weed seed still germinates but the plant is unable to survive growing through the barrier.  These chemical compounds have a residual that keeps them in place for months and they typically provide season long control.  However, these compounds do break down over time and conditions such as heavier than normal rainfall erode this barrier quicker than usual and this leads to the emergence of undesirable weeds before the season ends.  I would be willing to wager if you look closely at the lawns on your street you will probably see more crabgrass than normal.  Wet years are weedy years and not only does the pre-emergent herbicides breakdown quicker but the wet conditions make treatments with post-emergent products difficult because the rain either washes the product away or just makes the area so wet you aren't able to get application equipment into certain areas.  Ok, enough lamenting but I just wanted you to understand the differences you see in turf caused by the prevalent weather conditions.  Wet years leads to lush, green turf but weeds and diseases are more prevalent.  Dry years leads to firmer, healthier turf with weeds and diseases less prevalent.

So, you're wondering what that big ugly scar running adjacent to the 9th hole is.  The Greens Committee and the Board of Governors decided to remove the last remaining overhead power lines on the property to enhance the club's entrance, etc.  This project was approved back in the winter and originally scheduled for March but you can imagine what working with public utilities can be like thus this past Monday crews from Pike Electric Company were on site to install a new transformer and bury new cables that will provide the club's new power service.

Pulling Cable
New Transformer

What Ditch?
The next step in this project is making all the connections necessary with the new cables and transferring the service from the old, overhead lines to the new underground lines.  Once this step is complete a separate crew will come in and remove the overhead lines and power poles.  When the poles are removed my staff and I will repair the area and establish grass.  I will keep you posted...

When I first started in this business I remember the feeling of satisfaction that would come over me on Friday afternoons as I would take in the overall appearance of the golf course and recognize how all the work we had completed that week had come together to produce a beautiful picture.  After well over 20 years in this business I still get that feeling... and after numerous weeks of being unable to mow the golf course as frequently as necessary it feels good today to look across Carolina and see the beautiful results of a great week of production by the staff...enjoy!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Old Man is Snoring and A New Tee!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Friday, July 5th and the course just reopened for play a few hours ago.  Yes, I said reopened.  Earlier this morning a pop-up shower parked over the course and quickly dumped close to an inch of rain causing massive surface flooding and prompting a brief closure of the golf course.  Now you are asking yourself how is it possible only an inch of rain could cause such problems.  Our course has taken on more rain on numerous occasions, heck our course surface drains better than most on the planet (especially in the hot summer months) and we rarely have to restrict cart traffic.  The answer is saturation. 

It's Raining It's Pouring...

For just over a month (we received 7.48 inches rain in June) we have been stuck in a quirky weather pattern which is bringing tropical moisture (high humidity) along with daily showers and thunderstorms and even now the 10 day forecast doesn't show any signs of letup.  The constant moisture is making it extremely challenging to dry the course for necessary mowing and play.  Unfortunately all this water has no place to go as the soil is completely saturated like a sponge unable to absorb another single drop.  Each morning this week I have emptied the rain gauge and watched our fairways take on the appearance of a lush, tropical oasis while lamenting the fact I am unable to mow them.  July is only 5 days old and the rain total for the month is already close to two inches!  #goodgrief!

In other news, Kris Spence was on site recently to look at some potential course modifications he has proposed to the Greens Committee for their consideration.  One involves a new tee on the 14th hole for use when playing the hole as short, drivable par 4 (we currently use the existing forward tee for this purpose during some tournaments).  Kris chose a location to the left and nearer the cart path.  He suggested we go ahead and mow the existing rough down to a playable tee height and give the area a try to see if we like it.  My staff and I layed out the tee this past Monday.

Mowing It Out!
Ready for Topdressing!

It looks pretty rough right now but give it another week or so and you will be surprised.  I plan to put the area in play for the British Open Shootout on the 20th.  The hole will measure somewhere between 285 to 295 yards but the angle creates an interesting perspective of the landing area.  Also, the tee's location brings the trouble on the right side of the hole more into play for those players choosing to go for the green.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent