Friday, March 21, 2014

Aeration Wrap-up, Tributes, New Gadget, & Next Week!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, March 21st and spring officially arrived yesterday...I don't know about you, but that certainly seemed like one of the longer winters I can remember.  Actually, I don't believe we have seen or felt the last of Old Man Winter, but we are not here to dwell on that now...the sun is shining high in the skies over Carolina and tomorrow is supposed to be even better...but the putting greens are aerated :(

Yes, the putting surfaces were core aerated this week, but the secret to great bentgrass putting greens in the humid southeast is core aeration!  For you new members or those not familiar with The Greenkeeper you can CLICK HERE to discover more about why core aeration is important.  If that doesn't satisfy you, CLICK HERE to read even more.

I would be remiss if I didn't give praise to my staff for their effort this week!  Core aeration is a laborious task by itself, throw in three days of clouds, rain, mist, fog, and even freezing drizzle and you can see where things got a little challenging.  It was so dreary this week we may have suffered from vitamin D deficiency!
First Green of the Day!
Last Green!

You may notice in the first two images the aerator operators are bundled up just as much on the last green as they are on their first one.  Monday was a cold, damp day!  Day 2 saw us band together to begin the clean-up process since the weather wasn't very cooperative on Day 1.
Core Pushers!
We managed to get all the greens cleaned off on Tuesday, but we were unable to begin topdressing. Here's a question for you, "How do you know it has been a crazy winter?"  When the sand plant is iced over and cannot deliver topdressing for your spring aeration!  That's right, we had just a light "glistening" or "shimmering" on the trees here in Charlotte Tuesday morning due to some light freezing drizzle.  Up the road in Marston, NC (between Rockingham and Pinehurst) they experienced enough ice to shut down operations and deliveries for the day, so our topdressing sand didn't arrive until Wednesday morning.

Spread it on Thick!
Sweep it in!

We're Done
With spring aeration behind us we now set our sights on final preparations before growing season arrives.  In the coming days/weeks we will be treating all natural/native areas for spring/summer weed control.  We will be installing new sod to the right of the cart path on number 11.  We will also spread fresh mulch in the beds around the clubhouse, parking areas, and on the golf course.

This past Monday was St. Patrick's Day but it was also the birthday of Bobby Jones.  When I was growing up watching golf I thought Jack Nicklaus was the greatest golfer to ever play the game.  I have spent the majority of my career in the golf course maintenance industry in the Tiger Woods era, and some may argue his abilities and accomplishments.  When I read Mark Frost's book, "The Grand Slam" a few years ago I became convinced Bobby Jones is the greatest golfer to have ever played the game.  Last time I commented about our bunker project and how we were compacting the sand to prevent plugged lies.  One of your fellow members sent me an email with a link to an awesome video. CLICK HERE to enjoy a look back at a different time in our country's history and receive a lesson in proper bunker close attention around the 6:00 minute mark!

Real quick I want to mention a new addition to The Greenkeeper.  If you look to your right at the top of the page you should notice a box containing my Twitter feed.  This is called a gadget or widget in computer lexicon.  I recently saw this feature on Adam Garr's blog page and thought it would be nice to incorporate this feature here for those of you not on Twitter, but would like to gain access to the course information I post.  Adam is the golf course superintendent of Plum Hollow Country Club in Southfield, Michigan outside Detroit.  If you think we have had a bad winter you should check out Adam's blog at PHCCGREENS.BLOGSPOT.COM.

That's all for now.  I hope you get out and enjoy the nice weather today and tomorrow before things turn off cold again.  This coming Monday and Tuesday I will be in Pinehurst representing Carolina Golf Club at the USGA Green Section's SE Regional Meeting.  Check the Twitter feed for updates.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Course Projects, Greens Aeration, and The CGA!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Thursday, March 13th and Old Man Winter is making his presence felt once more.  The cold, blustery conditions today are definitely a far cry from the 78 F and 77 F high temperatures enjoyed Tuesday and Wednesday in the Queen City.  Of course, March always has been the most erratic in this region as we transition from winter to spring.  Large temperature swings are not uncommon as March usually feels more like a roller coaster than a slow, gradual warm-up.  Enough about the weather for now, last time I promised some information about course conditions and agronomic practices, and later I will wrap up with thoughts on spring.

In the past few weeks my staff has been busy carrying out several projects geared to improve course conditions as spring weather arrives.  First, all the bermudagrass turf was treated with pre-emergent herbicide (Ronstar Flo) for the prevention of crabgrass and goosegrass.  We do this annually to prevent these two annual, grassy weeds from invading our tees, fairways, and roughs. We will also be treating all of the natural/native areas with a combination of two pre-emergent herbicides (Gallery and Barricade) to prevent annual grassy and broad leaf weeds.  The natural/native area application is scheduled for next week.

Another project that has recently kept us busy is compacting the newly installed bunker sand.  The sand was compacted at the time it was originally installed, and we have received over 15 inches rain dating back to December 1st, but I noticed golf balls are still encountering plugged lies in these refurbished bunkers.  It is important to note plugged lies are quite common in new sand until enough time elapses for proper settling to occur.  We are using our vibratory plate-tamp to work through the bunkers again in an effort to reduce/minimize the likelihood of plugged lies occurring.  As of today my staff has compacted the sand on holes 1-9, 14-18, and the two practice bunkers, so we are close to wrapping up this project.

Last week I had a small crew make their way around the property trimming and removing low hanging branches from numerous hardwood trees.  This was done to promote greater sunlight penetration to the turf below.  If doing this simultaneously promotes your chance at an easier recovery should your golf ball come to rest behind one of these specimens, just consider yourself fortunate!

The big ticket item on the upcoming agenda is of course greens aeration.  We are scheduled to aerate the putting surfaces this coming Monday and Tuesday (March 17-18).  The golf course will be closed BOTH days to permit me and my staff adequate time to perform this important agronomic task, essential to the long term health and performance of our beloved putting greens.  Right now the early forecasts for Monday are a little "iffy" so please check with the golf shop early next week for course availability should we carry over into Wednesday.  I do not see that being necessary at this time (at least not for holes 1-18), but things could change between now and then. 

Of course before we tear them up it is time for the annual Carolina Cup!  This Saturday and Sunday kicks off our member tournament season with the first official event of 2014.  Best of luck to those two-man teams participating this year.  Have fun!

In some other news, preparations for the 54th North Carolina Amateur Championship, to be contested at Carolina Golf Club June 5-8, are underway!  Early last week we met with Andy Priest, Director of Tournament and Internet Operations from the Carolinas Golf Association to discus many details regarding the event.

The CGA is very excited to bring their second oldest championship to Carolina and me and my staff are honored to prepare the golf course on your behalf!  Speaking of the CGA, we also met last week with Michael Dann, Director of Handicapping and Course Rating to measure the new tees and discuss their impact to the course ratings.  Michael is working on the formulas and will be in contact with Head Professional Jeff Peck soon.

Finally, I told you I would share my early thoughts on when spring might arrive.  After one of the coldest winters to affect the entire U.S. in decades, my sources tell me do not expect a rapid warm-up.  Having said that, spring will eventually arrive here and I am hoping we will be able to treat the golf course before the end of this month to enhance bermudagrass green-up.  For those of you in the know, you may recall we did not make our annual Iron Sulfate applications on our tees and fairways until April 1st last year (CLICK HERE), so if we are able to successfully treat the golf course before the end of March after a winter like this year's, I would say we are fortunate.  Just like you, me and my staff are ready for winter to be over, ready for spring to arrive, ready to see some green grass, and ready for some golf!

See you on the course, 

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Friday, March 7, 2014

Construction Update and Weekend Golf!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, March 7th and the golf course is currently closed due to unplayable conditions.  Over two inches of rain has fallen in Charlotte since late yesterday, with more expected, and the golf course is saturated with widespread areas of standing water.  More on these conditions and their impact later.  First I want to bring everyone up to speed on our golf course renovation projects, then we'll discuss course conditions and what to expect this weekend.

In my post from January 17th, Bunkers, Tees, Twitter, and More! I mentioned our contractor, Golf Course Services, Inc.(GCS) had wrapped up the bunker renovations and we were getting started on a few tee projects. First, a new back tee for number 13 was built.  Architect Kris Spence was on hand to locate and design the tee.
Architect Kris Spence and JD of GCS
Next, we moved to the new range tee located at the far end of the driving range.  Again, Kris designed the tee and GCS performed the construction work.  This project took a little longer than hoped due to the two snow storms experienced in late January and mid-February, but I am happy to report this project is also complete.  I posted several photos of this project on January 29th, Winter Weather, Project Updates, and The GIS! and here are a couple of the finished product.  The tee's large size does not allow for photos to accurately capture the features. This project turned out better than anticipated, and you will just have to wait and see it in person to truly value and appreciate what has been created for your enjoyment.
View of Range From New Tee
View of Short Game Area From New Tee

We then moved on to the most notable change to the golf course, the teeing areas for numbers 14 and 18.  You may recall in that same post from January 17th I referenced a new option emerging with respect to the teeing areas of those two holes.  The original idea was to join the back tees of the two holes in a fashion similar to what currently exists on holes 6 and 8.  However, when examined in the field that day Kris developed a stronger plan that required additional discussion at the committee level and board approval.  To their credit, the Greens Committee and Kris met on a very cold day in late January to hear Kris's idea and review its merits.

To make a long story short, the new plan was approved and the design change implemented. Essentially what we have created is a new tee for number 18 significantly lengthening the golf hole. Kris explained to the committee when Ross designed the hole the pond fronting the green did not come into play off the tee, but rather was a hazard to be navigated on the approach shot into the green.  Unfortunately, with modern technology and agronomics the pond had become a reachable hazard from the tee while simultaneously being blind to the player. Lengthening this hole allowed us to restore the hole to be played as Ross originally intended.

How did we do this?  This was accomplished by constructing a new tee in the area where the back tee for number 14 used to be located.  In order to do that, we had to relocate the back tee for number 14 to the right side of the golf car path. In the process, a few trees were removed, another relocated, and another trimmed significantly.  Also, the old golf car path was removed and a newly routed path installed providing better flow and accessibility.  
Clearing For New Tee #14
Kris Spence Aligning New Tee #14
Small White Oak Being Transplanted

Sand Cap Installed and Compacted New Tee #14

Newly Routed Cart Path Installed

New Back Tee #18
New Path Between Back Tees #'s 18 & 14 
Although the new tees for numbers 14 and 18 are complete, they along with the newly constructed tee for number 13 will remain out of play for the near future.  The sod needs time to take root and provide stability to the newly constructed areas before they will be ready to accommodate traffic.  I know there are many of you anxious to try out the golf holes from the new tees, but please exercise patience as we allow nature to take its course.

This renovation project is nearly complete as GCS has just a few loose ends to tie up.  It has been a long, cold, and wet four months (GCS started on the bunkers November 4th), but the benefits to the golf course and your member experience will be evident soon.  It has been fun working with Kris and JD on this project.  Many days reminded me of the fond times we have shared during the other projects we have all worked on together helping make Carolina what you enjoy today.  This job also reunited JD and I with Paul Yandle of The Maplewood Company.  Paul helped us relocate the small oak tree.  His company did quite a bit of tree transplanting for us during both the course restoration in 2008 and the driving range construction project in 2006.  We also brought back Charlie Trapasso of Union Paving Contractors out of Monroe.  Charlie and his company paved all the cart paths during the course restoration project in 2008.  It was almost as if we "got the band back together".

Real quick before I wrap up.  The golf course is extremely wet and the next two days are forecasted to be nice days...with very busy tee sheets.  We will be carts on paths everywhere both days.  Also, those of you who use push carts, or trolleys as they say in the U.K., need to exercise caution proceeding.  Push carts have very narrow wheel bases and actually can apply more pressure to the turf per square inch than an actual golf cart (especially the motorized varieties equipped with heavy batteries).  Under extremely soggy conditions they can be damaging to the turf, so I ask you operate them with this in mind.  Keep to the high ground when possible and avoid low lying areas.  If everyone, walkers and riders, will be mindful and respectful of the course the next two days it will pay big dividends to course conditions later this spring and summer!  Thanks in advance!

Next week I will have another update with regards to course conditions, recent and upcoming agronomic practices, and what to expect from Mother Nature this spring.  Until then...

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent