Thursday, May 29, 2014

Just 7 More Days, A New Cart Rule, and What Comes Next!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Thursday, May 29th and I would like to take a moment and bring everyone up to speed with current golf course conditions, as well as what to expect as we enter into summer.  2014 has been a very busy spring golf season.  We hosted two qualifying tournaments for the PGA Tour Wells Fargo Championship.  Just three weeks ago we had a very successful Member-Guest, and this past weekend we conducted our annual Member-Member Championship.  The Member-Member is one of only two member tournaments annually contested over 54 holes (Men's Club Championship).  With an even bigger event next week, my staff and I used the Member-Member to fine tune what we want to accomplish with regards to golf course conditioning.

Although some effects of the cold winter and cool spring still linger in a few places, overall the golf course has been in remarkable condition for the events previously mentioned.  Firm and fast fairways make for a fun test of golf, and one area that has not shown any ill effects the past month is the putting surfaces.  I do believe right now the greens are the best they have ever been with regards to the combination of surface firmness, smoothness and speed, and that is what we have been striving for as we head into our final event this spring... the 54th North Carolina Amateur Championship conducted by the Carolinas Golf Association!

Hopefully by now you have seen the letter from Will Barr, Club President mentioning the historical significance of Carolina Golf Club hosting the CGA's North Carolina Amateur Championship.  I can assure you, we here in golf course maintenance are very excited for the club and the challenge before us.  In a memo I recently presented to my staff outlining our work schedule next week I wrote, "Carolina Golf Club is honored to have been selected as the host club for the 2014 North Carolina Amateur Championship.  This year's tournament will mark the 54th playing of this competition.  The tournament will consist of two days of practice rounds (June 3-4) and 72 holes of stroke play (June 5-8).  This is the single biggest event ever contested in the history of Carolina Golf Club.  Our job is to prepare and present the golf course to the competitors each day in peak condition.  Our members are very eager to showcase their golf course to the best amateur players in the state, and it is our mission to ensure our members are not disappointed.  I have absolutely no doubt we will be successful in our mission!"  

Next week I will be blogging about our experience as we prepare the golf course for this prestigious championship.  I will not be emailing daily updates (Twitter followers will receive notification), but feel free to check out the website each day for a behind the scenes look at what goes into preparing a course for true championship golf.

In other news, from this moment forward I respectfully request all cart traffic on the golf course be limited to the fairways.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  When weather conditions permit golf car traffic on the course (which is most of the time), please access the fairway quickly and then REMAIN ONLY in the fairway until you exit back to the path prior to reaching the green.  I am making this recommendation in an effort to grow consistent turf in the roughs.  Carolina is a popular place to play, and we do a fair number of cart rounds.  High traffic volume increases compaction leading to thin, low growing areas with poor performance and this is detrimental to overall golf course definition.  I know this will take some getting used to, and yes you may need to walk a few extra steps to reach your ball in the rough, but over time you will see a dramatic improvement in turf color and density in these areas.  Thank you in advance for your cooperation!

As we close this year's spring golf season and transition into summer here are a few key notes on what to expect on the golf course before fall.  We will be aerating the putting greens June 9th and 10th.  This is a small core aeration (0.25" diameter tine size) we perform annually at this time of year.  This aeration targets the compaction from the extensive mowing and rolling associated with our busy spring season, and helps promote gas exchange in the root zone as we enter the critical hot and humid months.  We will also be installing the fans on those greens equipped with them for the remainder of the summer season.  Friendly reminder these fans are critical tools for our bentgrass greens, as they assist with air circulation in those portions of the property with compromised micro-environments and I ask you refrain from turning them off.

June 16th and 17th marks our annual fairway aeration.  I already know what you're thinking, but this year you will be pleasantly surprised as we will be performing a solid tine aeration (no cores) and topdressing with sand (remember the old bunker sand we replaced this past winter).  Over the next two months (mid-June through mid-August) we will be making every effort to cultivate healthy bermudagrass turf on the golf course.  We will be aerating, topdressing, fertilizing, verticutting, etc. on tees, collars, approaches, fairways and roughs in order to assist the turf in fully recovering from the ill effects of last winter and ready itself for another busy fall tournament season.

Finally, I know several of you are wondering when we will open the newly constructed range tee located at the far end of the range.  That tee will open for use on Wednesday, June 11th.  Until then...

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Firm Greens and a Fungus Among Us!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Thursday, May 15th and the rain appears to have set in, so there is no better time than the present to blog about what's going on at Carolina Golf Club.  Earlier this morning there was a tornado warning issued for Mecklenburg County, but fortunately we were not affected.  Since my last post the month of May has brought some much needed warmer weather to our region.  Thirteen of the past fourteen days have seen high temperatures at or above normal, and for the past eleven consecutive days temperatures have been in the 80's F!  That is good news for our bermudagrass tees, fairways, and roughs!  The golf course is looking more and more each day like her old self rather than some semi-dormant piece of land that overslept and is trying to shake off some cobwebs.  Granted there is a cold front associated with this rain we are currently experiencing that will bring some chilly morning temperatures the next few days, but I do not expect to see any adverse effects on our bermudagrass playing surfaces.  That is good news with our Member-Member Championship and the North Carolina Amateur Championship right around the corner!

Last week was our annual Member-Guest tournament and many of you had very positive things to say about the condition of the golf course.  I want to thank you on behalf of my staff for your kind words!  After the damaging winter and cold spring I was starting to worry about this year's event.  I mentioned to several members in conversation maybe the golf course had looked better in the past this time of year, but I really don't think it had ever played any better.  The fairways were firm and fast and I was paid the ultimate compliment by one of our members when he said, "Matthew the greens are so firm it is hard to find a ball mark!"  When you have bentgrass greens, that's the way they should be.

I do want to share with you some information about our bermudagrass turf, and explain some things you may be noticing and possibly curious about.  The first is thin areas.  Currently on the far right side of the first fairway along with some areas on five, eight, fifteen and eighteen you will find turf that is suffering from winter injury.
First Fairway
Although all the golf course turf was affected by the harsh winter, these areas were more greatly compromised by their individual environments.  On the first hole this area stays in constant shade caused by the shadows from the line of trees on the south side of the fairway.  In 2010, this turf actually suffered winter kill and had to be replaced with new sod, but a closer inspection this year shows many surviving green plants.

It's Alive!

The other areas I mentioned were compromised by the extremely wet conditions experienced this winter.  Nearly 20 inches of rain fell on Carolina between December 2013 and March of this year.  Throw in another 8 inches last month and these areas spent more time under water, even with internal drainage.  Last week we verticut these damaged areas to break up the crusty layer that formed and was inhibiting bermudagrass regrowth.  We will pay these areas extra attention with fertilizer treatments and topdressing and everything will be good as new before you know it.

Another bermudagrass topic I want to discuss is a fungal disease commonly called Spring Dead Spot (SDS).  SDS is noticeable after the bermudagrass breaks winter dormancy and is seen as mostly circular, depressed patches of straw-colored turf.  The patches may range anywhere from 6 inches to 3 feet in diameter and are slow to completely fill in and grow over with healthy turf.

Spring Dead Spot
SDS typically occurs in mature turfs (more than 5 years old) and with our golf course renovation/restoration occurring in 2008, we now find ourselves dealing with this issue.  SDS is a confounding turf disease because it is incited by three different fungal pathogens Leptosphaeria, Ophiosphaerella, and Gaeumannomyces each with their own specific environmental triggers, thus the severity of SDS may not be consistent from one year to the next.  What we do know is although the disease symptoms appear in the spring, the fungal agents living in the soil typically infect the plants in the fall, as the plant begins to enter winter dormancy.  Last spring we noticed SDS in certain portions of the golf course and mapped those areas in order to apply fungicides last fall.  We are mapping the course again this year for the same purposes, and also to compare the severity from year-to-year.  Also, I  was recently asked by the Virginia Tech Department of Turfgrass Pathology to submit samples for some research they are conducting on the disease, so hopefully our assistance will benefit us down the road.

Earlier I mentioned the comment about the firmness of our putting surfaces.  In order to promote good water infiltration and assist oxygen entering the root zone it's important to vent the surfaces regularly.  This past Monday we vented the putting greens with needles tines and then rolled the surfaces smooth.  The holes are so small you don't notice them but they work like magic and are critical to the long term health of our greens.
During the venting process intern James Dennett spotted this view from behind the 6th green and shared it with me.  The clouds really caught his eye, especially in black and white!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent