Friday, August 30, 2013

Headaches, Favors and Stewardship!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Friday, August 30th and I wanted to bring everyone up to speed on our overhead power line removal project as well as share something from earlier in the week I hope you enjoy.  You may recall my post on July 26th A Little Perspective, What it Means, What's Happening and Back on Track! where I showed you some photos of Pike Electric Co. installing a new transformer as well as installing underground cable in a new ditch left of the golf car path on #9.  I am happy to report as of this past Tuesday the poles have finally been removed from the property.  The events that transpired the past month to reach this goal have been nothing short of eventful, after all we are talking about working with public utility companies!

The purpose of this project was to have all overhead lines removed from the property.  The poles belonged to Duke Energy Co. but the club's phone (AT&T) and cable (Time Warner) were also attached to these poles.  Before the poles could be removed the club had to reach an agreement with both AT&T and Time Warner regarding future services.  It was determined Time Warner needed to install new underground cables to service the club and they did so about one week after Pike installed the new cables for Duke Energy.  AT&T showed up about one week later to remove their overhead lines from the poles and Pike also removed the overhead electric lines from the poles leaving Time Warner holding up traffic.  Several unanswered emails and phone calls later (and another week) and finally Metro Tech (A Time Warner contractor) showed up on the 20th of this month to transfer the club's service to the new underground cables and remove the overhead lines from the poles.  I met with the foreman and we agreed on the best route that would allow him to get his line truck near the poles and perform the task without damaging the golf course.  He then promptly left and a crew did not return till the following day (without the foreman I spoke with).  Things looked a little like this...

Not Cool!

Not the best first impression!  However, I was able to turn this incident into something positive as I explained to him the fee for pulling him out with our Cat 277 skid loader.  It seems one of the two ropes by the clubhouse flagpoles was needing replaced and they had just the equipment we needed.  Now the state flag flies with Old Glory once again!

Tow Fee!

Anyway, with Time Warner Cable now out of my way I immediately began pleading with my contact for this project at Duke Energy to send Pike back to the club to remove the poles.  As I stated above, they arrived Tuesday and now things look a little different.

Removing the Poles!
What Poles?
Ready for Reestablishment!

With the poles finally removed and out of the way my staff and I can begin to repair these areas and reestablish grass.  We will be replacing the damaged bermudagrass near the tee and the area near the end of the golf car path shown in the picture above with sod (scheduled for delivery next Wednesday).  The larger swath adjacent to the path will be reseeded with both our fine fescue and native short mix blends to reestablish the natural/native area.  My crew has already applied compost in advance.  This coming Tuesday the area will be tilled, hand raked, hand seeded and mulched with Seed Aide.

In other news, earlier this week I received an email from an esteemed member with a link to a story about the golf course superintendent at Merion Golf Club and his approach to golf course maintenance and the environment.  Here is the link for those of you interested and the member's email to me:

Below is a link to an article about the superintendent at Merion.  I wanted to share it with you because his approach seems so enlightened to me.

I used to think the quality of a golf course was how "perfect" it was, every blade the same, no blemishes. In recent years I have gotten to see some of the more noted classic courses: Cypress, Shinnecock, National, Merion, etc.

As described in this article, all of them have a variety of grasses and a multi-textured look. It is the quality of playing surface that matters most.

Merion has gone to some length to be "Eco friendly". I wonder what things we do in the interest of environmental stewardship?

I thought this may very well be the best question anyone has asked me in my 8+ years at Carolina and below is my reply:

Thanks for the article!   I really appreciate you sharing and I appreciate and value your comments regarding quality golf courses.  If the modern day golf course superintendent is not a friend of the environment then he or she is in the wrong business.  We are caretakers and stewards of God's creation and it is important we do the best we can to preserve and protect the environment.  I am very proud of the fact although we are very much an urban golf course, we are home to blue herons, red tail hawks and mallard ducks plus we have coyotes, deer, rabbits and squirrels wandering around the property as well.  The other day I watched two white egrets fly over the course and stop off for a visit.

Many members of the golfing and non-golfing public assume golf courses use too many chemicals, fertilizers and water when the opposite is the case.  I use soil test analysis to determine the nutritional requirements for our golf course.  This way we are only applying what is needed to sustain the plant versus over applying by simply guessing.  When making fertility applications we make every effort to remain a safe distance from all bodies of water to help prevent needless runoff and contamination.  As for our irrigation practices, I have had a reputation as a water miser for many years now.  I believe in only giving the plant what it needs, when it needs it thus maintaining a lean, firm and fast golf course as opposed to a lush, green oasis (when this occurs you know we have received lots of rain).  We even implemented soil moisture meters into our regimen last year to assist our efforts in only watering when and where necessary and further fine tune our process.

Another example of how Carolina Golf Club practices environmental stewardship is through the creation of the natural/native areas (over 20 acres).  These areas are non-irrigated after establishment thus another way we are conserving water.  They also receive no fertility after establishment thus another way we are reducing inputs.  I also use plant growth regulators on all short-cut turf areas throughout the growing season.  These products help reduce the number of mowings required each week to sustain a quality playing surface thus we have reduced fuel consumption and therefore reduced emissions.

I hope this helps everyone have a better understanding of how the things my staff and I do each and every day to your golf course impact our environment and you can take solace knowing we are doing our best to be good stewards and caretakers of this beautiful property!

Take care,

I hope you enjoyed the updates and lesson this time.  In the blog piece I linked near the top from July 26th I talked about a feeling I would get on Friday afternoons when I take in the beauty of the golf course and enjoy the fruits of the week's labor and efforts to produce this outcome...Well, it is Friday afternoon and I've got that feeling again!!!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Monday, August 19, 2013

Discovery Channel, Several Thousand Words and Short Circuit!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Monday, August 19th and just when you thought it was safe to go back in the wait Shark Week was two weeks ago...just when you thought firm and fast was back...the strange year gets stranger.  Last time, I mentioned the possibility of an announcer's jinx when I blogged about the lack of high temperatures so far this year and sure enough we did endure our longest heat wave of the season (August 9th - 13th) along with a prolonged dry period of nearly 3 weeks from late July into mid-August.  During this stretch we monitored the putting greens closely as this occurred while we hosted the second round of this year's Charlotte City Amateur Championship.  Also during this time the remainder of the course began to blossom once again into a lean, mean, fighting machine...with gnarly rough.  Prior to Saturday morning the golf course was firm and fast for the first time since late May/early June... before we all moved to Seattle for the rest of summer.  Anyway, easy come easy go I guess as over two inches of rain has fallen on Carolina Golf Club since, I am not complaining.

Mondays we typically mow everything associated with the driving range and practice facility (i.e., driving range tee, target greens, short game fairway, driving range landing area (a.k.a. range floor) and all rough).  We also mow all tees, fairways and approaches on the golf course along with as much rough as possible in a full day.  Today we managed only to mow the driving range tee along with some rough (here and there) as all other areas were saturated from the steady rains over the past two plus days...not to mention we endured two significant rain periods today. 

Fear not, with a full crew and a day to ourselves I managed to think of something productive for the guys...verticutting greens!  Actually, we did this last year as my post from August 22, 2012 Here's What Happened and Why, What to Expect and More Entomology! explains.  You see, one of the ways we assist bentgrass during the summer months and alleviate stress is by raising the mowing heights but we also change the rollers on the mowers from grooved to smooth.

Smooth Front Roller
Grooved Front Roller


Grooved rollers help to stand the turf more upright and allow for a closer, tighter cut (important when mowing at heights less than 130/1000ths of an inch) however they are extremely abrasive (especially on mounds and turns) during the hot, humid months of summer when the turf grows less vigorously and thus can be damaging.  Smooth rollers actually elongate the leaf blade slightly before the reel cuts and abrasion is greatly reduced on sensitive areas.  It is important to note the abrasion experienced with grooved rollers is tolerable to almost negligible during the fall and spring when bentgrass grows most vigorously.  After mowing with smooth rollers for the past 10 weeks (we typically switch rollers around the small aeration following Memorial Day) the turf is more prostrate in growth habit and thus verticutting helps to stand the turf back up and allow for closer mowing once again.
Verticutting Blades

Yes, you read that right...with closer mowing comes tighter surfaces and tighter surfaces leads to smoother, faster putting greens.  Anyway, today's weather prolonged the verticutting process and prohibited the topdressing mentioned in last year's post but we will topdress in the next day or two when Mother Nature cooperates.  We did manage to follow up today's verticutting with a mowing using the grooved rollers reinstalled on our walk mowers.  We removed lots of grass and organic debris allowing the turf more room to breathe and creating space for topdressing sand to migrate to once applied.  This whole process is just one more agronomic function we perform annually to create the best greens in Charlotte.

Sean Bigg Verticuts with "Johnny 5"
A Closer Look

Daniel Dygowski mowing #15
James Dennett mowing #7

What a Difference!

A little info about some of the folks mentioned above.  Sean Bigg used to work for Kris Spence many years ago at Greensboro Country Club.  Daniel Dygowski is a turf student at CPCC and was one of two summer interns this year along with Jeremy Smith.  James Dennett is an intern from England here through November.  Johnny 5 is what we affectionately call our oldest triplex mower...can you tell?

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent