Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Let's Get Caught Up!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, April 30th and it's been way too long since my last post!  My sincerest apologies loyal readers for making you wait... now if I can just come up with something worth it.  Since our last time together I have attended The Masters, had the golf course inspected, took an exam (more on that in a future post), and hosted two qualifying tournaments for the PGA Tour... all while wondering what the heck is up with this weather!
Usually this space is reserved for the obligatory weather recap.  Some of you may wonder why I am so fixated on something I cannot control, but golf is a game played on a surface comprised of millions (perhaps billions) of living breathing grass plants, all exposed to Mother Nature's elements.  The weather helps "paint the picture" or "tell the story" as they say.  Much has already been said about the winter experienced over most of the country this year, but thus far spring hasn't been very "spring like" either.

April 2014, Charlotte Douglas International Weather Data 
The calendar depicted above comes from Weather Underground, and one of the things you should notice is the color coding for actual temperatures.  April started off quite warm but then quickly dropped below average for several days.  This pattern repeated itself all month like a roller coaster leaving turfgrass plants confused.  Also, not only did we experience large temperature swings this month, but April 2014 was the wettest month here at Carolina (with 7.97 inches rain) since August 2008 (8.59 inches, mostly courtesy of Tropical Storm Fay).  Needless to say me and my staff are ready for some good ol' Carolina blue skies and warm temperatures.  Its time for some sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat, and a green golf course!

Nice Hat!
Recently we completed hosting two qualifying tournaments for the PGA Tour's Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club.  This was the 5th consecutive year Carolina Golf Club served as the qualifying site.  156 players without status on either the PGA or tours teed it up this past Thursday for the right to advance to Monday's Event Qualifying Tournament.  Only the top 50 and ties from Thursday were paired with those tour members not already exempt into the Wells Fargo Championship field.  63 players advanced from pre-qualifying and we had 101 total tee it up Monday for only 4 spots in this week's PGA Tour event... not great odds.  As has become customary, there was a dramatic playoff for the final spot with three young men playing holes 10 and 18 in sudden death for the final entry into this year's tournament.  After 8 grueling holes, and nearly running out of daylight, Fielding Brewbaker from Salem, Virginia won with a par after his opponent's tee shot found the water leading to an unfortunate bogey.  
Sidenote: Fielding had to go through pre-qualifying last Thursday to get into Monday's Event Qualifying Tournament, and made the cut Thursday on the number!

For me and my staff, these qualifying tournaments are our "little taste of the big time" as we pull out all the stops to provide true tournament quality conditions for each event.  We want to showcase Carolina Golf Club on your behalf to these individuals playing our favorite game for a living as a true classic maintained to the highest standards.  
From the feedback I received from several members who caddied Monday, I believe we were successful once again, and have one of the better reputations on tour among qualifying sites.  I would be remiss if I didn't give a huge thank you to my staff for all their efforts this past week... wait, I did!

In other news, for those of you that may have missed it earlier, the newly constructed tees this winter are now open for your enjoyment.  Although the Carolinas PGA Section did not use the new tee on 13 (they opted to play the hole as a 470 yard par 4 for pace of play purposes), they did use the new tee on 18 this past Monday. 
Although these new tees are ready for play, the newly constructed tee at the back of the driving range is still a little ways off (it has only received one mowing as of this time).  We are working diligently to complete the grow in of what we hope will be a wonderful addition to our already outstanding practice facilities.  We will inform everyone of its status just as soon as we can.

Of course preparing the golf course for tournaments is hard work but it is also a lot of fun.  I mean, who doesn't enjoy showing off every once in a while, and no tournament says "showing off" more than Member-Guest!  Next week is the annual Carolina Member-Guest and me and my staff are ready to help you show off your golf course to your esteemed guests!  Each day the course gets better and better and I expect the golf course to be in fantastic condition when your guests arrive.  Looking forward to it!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Monday, April 7, 2014

Aeration Recovery, Bermudagrass Green-up, Biodiversity, and The Masters!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Monday, April 7th and day one of Masters week! It has also been pouring rain all morning and all I see as I look across the course is standing water. Between one to two inches of rain is expected today (so much for firm and fast), so you can expect golf cars to be restricted to the paths for a few days this week.  

It has been exactly three weeks since we aerated our putting greens and I would like to share with you my thoughts.  Despite some weather related challenges experienced during the process, overall I am pleased with the results.  After spending a good deal of time on the greens this weekend during course setup, I can say I am also a little disappointed and pleased at the same time.  I am disappointed with where the greens are after 21 days compared to my expectations, but pleased they are ahead of last year's spring recovery.  My thoughts are the greens are recovering about one week behind compared to normal.  This weekend the greens looked like greens aerated two weeks ago as opposed to three.  Granted, we did experience six mornings with low temperatures at or below freezing within the first 10 days after aeration this year (including back-to-back mornings of 24 F on March 26th and 27th).  Temperatures that low don't just slow the plant's metabolic processes, they bring things to a halt.  Thankfully temperatures since April arrived have been more conducive for bentgrass growth and recovery, heck the temperatures last week were good enough to start waking up dormant bermudagrass!

This past week we applied Ferrous Sulfate to the dormant leaf tissue on all tees and fairways in order to darken or "stain" the bermudagrass canopy.  This is the third consecutive year we have performed this application.  The effect generated allows us to enhance the post-dormancy green-up of the bermudagrass plant. 
Essentially, what we are doing to the turf is creating a warming effect, similar to that feeling you get when you wear a black or navy golf shirt on a sunny day.  The darkened canopy draws and retains more heat from the sun which in turn helps wake up the sleepy plant from its winter hibernation.  
This year's application went very well and the golf course has continued to slowly green-up this week despite temperatures dropping back below normal over the weekend.
Last week our lake management service provider, Solitude Lake Management, was on hand to stock our three ponds with a variety of fish species. 
In general, stocking fish helps create a balanced ecosystem that is better able to maintain itself and have better overall water quality.  Some of the fish species stocked include Fathead minnows, Bluegills, Shellcrackers, Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish, and Triploid Grass Carp.  The Fathead minnows eat mosquito larvae.  The Bluegills eat aquatic insect larvae.  The Shellcrackers target mollusks and help break the cycle of parasites affecting fish health and fish populations in some ponds.  The bass and catfish add great recreational value.  The grass carp will eat many submersed aquatic weeds and are widely used in the U.S. to help reduce the amount of chemicals introduced into water bodies to control certain aquatic weed species.  Overall, having these fish species in our ponds will just help us have better ponds, and cleaner water.  Just remember...Catch and Release!

Okay, The Masters is finally here and that can only mean one is time to reopen the driving range tee!  Close but not exactly.  We will open the grass portion of the range tee later this week but expect to be back on the artificial turf early next week until the bermudagrass begins to grow regularly. Right now the turf is greening-up as it exits winter dormancy, but it is still not quite ready to grow vigorously and recover from divots and wear. When using the range tee it is always important to use the tee in a manner that helps promote healing and recovery.  Just look at the difference this example shows!
Proper Driving Range Divot Management

We will use the range tee sparingly these next couple of weeks until long term warmer weather arrives. Until then, enjoy The Masters and I look forward to seeing you on the course!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent