Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Where's Winter, Decemblur, New Assistant, and Merry Christmas!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Tuesday, December 22nd and last month I posted CLICK HERE about how the continuing education season gets busy when the growing season is behind us.  Guess someone should have told Mother Nature because I'm pretty sure the golf course shouldn't look this green this time of year, at least not naturally.
Last year's painting of the dormant turf canopy (AKA #LiquidOverseed) was a huge hit, and we made arrangements to do the same this season using an even better product.  Now if winter would just arrive we could proceed according to plan.

Just last week Mrs. Greenkeeper wondered when I was planning on assisting her with some necessary Christmas shopping.  It seems half the month was already gone and I hadn't realized it. You see, the first two weeks of December were a blur as I was afforded not one, but two amazing opportunities to represent Carolina Golf Club.  First I attended an event called the Golfdom Summit sponsored by Golfdom Magazine.  This event brought together 50 superintendents from all across the country along with 15 industry sponsors for some meetings, discussions, candid conversations and amazing networking opportunities.  It was truly a one-of-a-kind experience and it was an honor to be invited and included with so many great superintendents.  I even managed to meet a true legend and arguably the single greatest female golfer of all time, Annika Sorenstam.
Following the summit I made a brief stop in Pinehurst for the final two days of the annual Carolina Golf Club Ross Retreat.  Then I was off again, this time to Wake Forest University and the phenomenal Graylyn International Conference Center to attend the 2015 Syngenta Business Institute. The SBI is an intense professional business curriculum tailored for golf course superintendents.  The class was limited to 26 attendees and we were selected based on our applications and written essay. I applied last year and was not selected but fortunate enough to make this year's roster.  The experience was truly one-of-a-kind (I know, I said that earlier).  These two events could not be any more dissimilar, but both were extremely rewarding and worthwhile.  Over the first 10 days of December I met some truly fabulous superintendents and we shared loads of information with each other.  It's an interesting bond we have, a brotherhood if you will.  For those interested here's a brief SBI Recap by another one of our industry publications, Superintendent Magazine.

In other news, please welcome David Sherwood to the Carolina Golf Club family.  David joins my team as 2nd Assistant Superintendent.  David is originally from Breckenridge, Michigan (about 30 miles west of Saginaw).  Although a Michigan man at heart (Go Blue), David is a graduate of the renowned turfgrass program at Michigan State University.  

David Sherwood
Prior to relocating to Charlotte in 2014 with his wife Rebecca and daughter Arianna, David worked at The Ridge Golf Course in Breckenridge, Twin Bridges Golf Course in Merrill, and was Assistant Superintendent at The Sawmill Golf Club in Saginaw.  For the past year David has been on staff at Quail Hollow Club as Assistant-In-Training.  I am excited to have David on my team and look forward to him boosting our operations at Carolina Golf Club! 

Well, that's all for now.  It's time to head home and pack as Mrs. Greenkeeper and I hit the road tomorrow for Virginia to spend Christmas with family.  For those of you looking to sneak in a round of golf either Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day the weather looks warm, but rainy.  Make sure you don't wear your new golf shoes because conditions are already saturated (over 3 inches rain this month) and tomorrow is supposed to bring even more heavy rain to our area (2015 will go down as one of the weirdest weather years in memory).  I will return Monday, December 28th and until then my family and I would like to wish everyone at Carolina Golf Club a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Geico, Eddie and the Cruisers, and Gratitude!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, November 25th, the day before Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday of the year).  In a moment I will share with you a small list of things I'm thankful for this year.  I guess you could say it has become an annual tradition, but before I do I want to review the policies regarding Thanksgiving Day golf and then share some perspective why there is more to be thankful for this year than in the past.

Tomorrow Carolina Golf Club is closed.  The gate at the street will not be open and the clubhouse will be locked (we will at least make sure the restrooms adjacent to the snack bar are open).  All club employees are off in order to spend time enjoying Thanksgiving with their families.  I do not know if you fully understand the significance of this gesture, but let me assure you my staff truly appreciates the opportunity to catch up on a little sleep and spend quality time with their loved ones.  When you work in the golf industry you spend your holidays at the golf course [it's what you do ;) ] because that is when the folks we work so hard to please all year are off work and desire to play this game we all love and enjoy.  But on this day folks wishing to get in a quick round before the turkey, or maybe a quick nine afterwards are welcome to do so, but it is golf in its purest form, people walking and enjoying the grandest of games simply for the love of it, and maybe to get out of the way in the kitchen at home.  

My Thanksgiving day starts with a cup of coffee (okay, two) and a drive through the clubhouse gate. I patrol the entire course making sure everything is in order and nothing is out of place.  If there is no concern for frost I will exit through the back gate by the Turf Care Center and return home to my family.  After all, grass doesn't know what day it is.  If there is a likelihood for frost I will hang around behind the clubhouse and converse with whoever arrives to ensure no one inadvertently damages the turf before the frost lifts.  The forecast for tomorrow morning calls for a temperature in the lower 40's meaning no frost expected tomorrow, so come early if you wish and if I don't see you, Happy Thanksgiving!

When I was in high school there was a popular movie on HBO called Eddie and the Cruisers.  The 1983 cult film was centered around a popular 60's rock band and the mysterious "death" of its leader, Eddie Wilson.  The band was trying to create a follow up album to their smash debut, but it seems problems swirled around the band and the studio sessions for the never released Season In Hell.

As I reflect on the events that will forever mark 2015, there have been times when I thought this was a "Season in Hell".  My team and I managed the golf course through multiple weather extremes such as winter kill, heat and drought, and flooding rains.  We've dealt with internal personnel issues and said goodbye to former coworkers.  And my family and I have endured the death of my grandfather, my mother-in-law fell and broke her hip, and recently my aunt underwent surgery to remove kidney cancer.  I do not share these things with you to invoke pity or sympathy, but merely to say this year was definitely more difficult than others.  You see, it's easy to be thankful in a year of prosperity like last year (CLICK HERE), but it's the truly difficult and challenging years that strengthen you and make everything more worthwhile.  Despite the challenges and setbacks of 2015 the golf course has come shining through, and my team's hard work continues to produce the best product in the city for your enjoyment!  

This year I am thankful for:

10. The Carolina Panthers!  Hey, the Panthers are 10-0 and on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  Having grown up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, I never had a hometown team before.  When my wife and I moved to Charlotte ten years ago I was not a Panthers fan, but over the years my love for my "hometown" team has grown and evolved.  Besides, everyone in the Queen City is so much friendlier when the Panthers win. #KeepPounding

9.  Frank Beamer!  In February of 1997 I walked into Frank Beamer's office to introduce myself.  I was the new graduate assistant sports turf manager and I noticed his door was open.  Coach Beamer had just won the Sugar Bowl over Texas in '95 and was a few weeks removed from going toe-to-toe with Tom Osborne's Nebraska Cornhuskers in the '96 Orange Bowl.  Coach Beamer took the time to make me feel welcome and explain my role would be important in our program's future success.  I have never forgotten that moment and I am thankful for everything he did the past 29 years for our beloved alma mater, Virginia Tech! Ut Prosim! #ThanksFrank

Virginia Tech Fighting Gobblers!

8.  The USGA!  A few weeks ago the USGA announced the 2018 Mid-Amateur Championship is coming to Charlotte Country Club, but we will play a significant role as we serve as the companion course during the stroke play portion of the tournament.  After successfully hosting the 2014 NC Amateur I didn't think it possible for Carolina Golf Club to be part of something on a larger scale, but a USGA national championship is about as big as it gets!  Let the countdown to the 2018 #USMidAm begin!

7.  Recognition!  Earlier this year I mentioned how Carolina Golf Club received some recognition in Tom Doak's new book, The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, Volume 2.  What we have at 2415 Old Steele Creek Road is special, and now folks outside are starting to take notice.  Kind of gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling folks sometime mention. 

6.  Jordan Spieth!  The 2015 PGA Tour Season was one for the ages with Jordan winning 5 times including the Masters and U.S. Open, then falling one stroke shy of a playoff for the Open Championship at St. Andrews.  With the likes of Mr. Spieth, Rory McIllroy, Jason Day, and a host of others I think the future of the game of golf is in good hands.  You can catch Jordan in prime time and late night this week as he defends his Australian Open Championship down under!

5.  My Staff!  I alluded earlier not everything was a bed of roses this year in golf course maintenance land, but through it all there still exists a dedicated and loyal staff working their tails off making me look good!  We endured a lot this year and I genuinely appreciate each and every one of them.  When you see them on the course please let them know you appreciate their efforts too!
Golf Maintenance 2015
4.  Support!  I can't thank the Board of Governors, the Greens Committee, and Roger Wolfe, CCM enough for their support this year!  As I stated above this was one for the ages as we endured multiple weather related hardships all in one calendar year.  I know I am very fortunate to work for a group of people that love golf like I do, and put the golf course first and foremost in their hearts. Thank you all for your support this year!

3.  Golf!  I list it every year because quite simply without this grand game invented centuries ago none of this is even possible.  I thank God every day for the game of golf, it is not just a game you and I play, but it is the life I live!  

2.   Faith!  I mentioned the Man upstairs just moments ago and I am not worthy of the blessings He's bestowed upon me since I arrived on this piece of property over ten years ago.  A young Natalie Wood once told Maureen O'Hara, "Faith is believing in something even when common sense tells us not to."  Years like this one can test a man's faith... and I'm thankful mine is stronger than ever!

1.  Family!  This is the part when my vision gets blurry because I can't express eloquently enough the true love and appreciation I have for Mrs. Greenkeeper!  She has been a rock this year supporting me through a challenging year fighting the elements, supporting me in the loss of my hero, and supporting her mother in a difficult time of need.  I am so thankful for her and everything she does for our family! Later tonight our children and grandchildren will arrive to celebrate Thanksgiving with us.  I can't wait to join hands around the table tomorrow and tell each of them how much I love them, how thankful I am for them, and tell them how much I love their mother!

    Happy Thanksgiving,

    Matthew Wharton, CGCS

    Friday, November 13, 2015

    Big News, Saying Goodbye, and No Time To Rest!

    Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, November 13th and earlier this week some exciting news I vaguely hinted about in January (CLICK HERE) was finally announced.  That's right, I'm talking about the United States Golf Association bringing the 2018 Mid-Amateur Championship to Charlotte Country Club in late September of that year.  Carolina Golf Club will serve as the companion course for the 36-hole stroke play portion of championship qualifying before the field is cut to 64 players advancing to match play at Charlotte Country Club.  Here is the LINK to the official press release courtesy of the USGA and here is the LINK to the story as it appeared in the Charlotte Observer earlier this week.  Granted Charlotte Country Club is hosting the championship, but believe me any level of involvement with a USGA national championship is major league.  The tournament countdown has already started at Golf Course Maintenance!

    In other news, today I said goodbye to four young lads that have been just an absolute joy to mentor. Sky, Sing, Pong, and Aek (pronounced Ache) are heading home to Thailand.  This marked the sixth consecutive year we used international interns through the World International Student Exchange to serve as seasonal staff.  Over the past six years we have hosted young men from Ukraine, Moldova, Ireland, England, Thailand, and Philippines.  This year's class was our best ever with these four young men from Thailand joining two others (Joe and Gift) from the Philippines.  Joe and Gift will be with us a few more weeks.
    From L-R: Sky, Aek, Pong, Sing

    Group Selfie!
    The photos above were taken back on April 11th.  That's Joe in the red cap turned backwards and Gift sporting the throwback Montreal Expos cap.  Notice how much dormant turf was still evident in the rough, what a strange weather year 2015 has been!  

    Speaking of weather, did you know we received just under six inches rain in the month of October (5.71") and thus far we received an additional 7.17 inches in November!  That's right, over 7 inches rain just in the first two weeks of November this year.  Seems our usual wet summer and dry fall decided to switch places on us this year.  As the growing season for bermudagrass comes to a close things have definitely been challenging with regards to making pre-emergent herbicide applications, Spring Dead Spot fungicide applications, and winter colorant applications.  Thankfully we decided to split the pre-emergent applications this year so we do have the first one under our belts.  We will get cranking again soon now that conditions permit our 300 gallon sprayer on the fairways without damage.

    With the traditional busy fall golf season now in the rear-view mirror (save for the upcoming Pig Roast Shotgun next weekend) you might think there would be time for us hard working superintendents to rest.  Quite the contrary as education season kicks off next week with the annual Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association Conference and Show.  As a member of the Carolinas GCSA Board of Directors, not only will I be attending the conference this year but I will also play a role behind the scenes.  Assistant Superintendent Ben Albrecht will be with me in attendance as we represent Carolina Golf Club and attend various seminars, lectures, and the trade show.  This year I'm also a speaker as I will be joining Tony Nysse, Golf Course Superintendent of Old Marsh Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and Pat Jones, Publisher and Editorial Director of Golf Course Industry magazine in presenting a professional development class on communications.  The three of us will attempt to help other superintendents and assistants better understand the role social media plays in today's society, and how they may be able to better use the various platforms to their advantage. Funny, it was this time two years ago (CLICK HERE) I joined Twitter and now they have me teaching a class on it, not sure what to make of that!

    Oh well, hope everyone enjoys the sunshine while it hangs around a few more days.  Brace for the cold temperatures moving in and don't be surprised if we have a frost delay either morning this weekend.  We pride ourselves at Carolina for making the effort to get you, your fellow members, and your guests on the course as quickly as possible.  We only ask you be patient and enjoy a second cup of coffee!

    See you on the course,

    Matthew Wharton, CGCS

    Friday, October 23, 2015

    Fall Course Conditions, Overseeding, and Sergio Garcia!

    Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, October 23rd and it's been nearly three weeks since my last update.  In that short span we've endured significant rainfall, hosted two major club events, initiated golf course treatments to prepare for winter, and did something for the first time in a decade.  Continue reading below to find out about these things and more in greater detail.

    When we last met here the golf course was closed as significant rain impacted the Greater Charlotte area.  That day alone (Saturday, October 3rd) saw us take on 2.65 inches rain.  Coupled with the rain received on October 1st and 4th means we received 3.53 inches during the first four days of this month!  These rain events made the first positive impact to our irrigation reservoir since April as the level rose between three and four feet.
    Since that time blue skies and mild temperatures have returned creating some fabulous golf conditions.  I mean, is there really a better time of year than now.
    Last weekend was the Senior Men's Championship and they really hit the jackpot with regards to perfect weather.  Consecutive cloudless days with low humidity meant green speeds were just where they should be this time of year, and it was a pleasure to prepare the golf course in this manner for them.  Congratulations to Paul Spadafora as he took home this year's title (his fourth overall)!  As an added bonus, members of the Donald Ross Society played that same Saturday behind the championship and other member play.  It was the first time most had seen Carolina since the restoration (and first time at all for some).  I had the good fortune to introduce myself and speak to some of the group, and each seemed genuinely impressed with the treasure we have tucked away here.  Being an honorary member of the society (so named in 2007) made this occasion even more special.
    Recently Carolina Golf Club received some other favorable press as the newest volume of Tom Doak's The Confidential Guide To Golf Courses was released.  If you are not a golf course architecture nerd like me, then perhaps you're not familiar with the book.  Anyway, Volume 2 takes a look at golf courses located in the southern U.S. as well as Central and South America.  I don't know about you but I find it very rewarding to know all the hard work we've put in to making Carolina something special is not being overlooked.  You should all be proud to know your golf course is highly regarded.
    Currently there are 60 members and 60 guests enjoying the best of conditions as they compete in our 2015 Fall Member-Guest.  Considering the perfect weather and perfect playing conditions I'm surprised we didn't think of this before.  I sincerely hope everyone has a wonderful time.  Believe it or not despite all these references to perfect weather and perfect conditions, it will not be long before winter is upon us.  Last week we made both a late season fertilizer application to all bermudagrass areas as well the first of two split pre-emergent herbicide applications for the prevention of poa annua and winter weeds.  

    One other thing we did in preparation for winter was overseed the primary driving range tee with perennial ryegrass.  This is something new for Carolina as we have not performed this practice during my time as golf course superintendent.  Prior to this year our protocol has been to close the driving range tee for winter when Daylight Savings Time ends and relegate all practice and lessons to the artificial turf.  Many of you do not like hitting from the artificial turf and have expressed a desire to continue using the primary tee during the winter months.  The tee is in dire need of renovation after seven years of continuous use since opening in spring 2007, so I thought now was the best time to experiment with overseeding since I will be renovating the tee next spring.  

    The plan is to close the back tee for winter in order to preserve and protect it during the dormant season.  This will provide everyone with a wonderful surface to use next spring while the primary tee recovers from renovation.  In order to remove the overseeded ryegrass and simultaneously smooth and level the tee we will be utilizing a new process called Fraze mowing.  Rather than try and explain the process I've shared a brief YouTube video for you that does a wonderful job showing how one machine can remove unwanted plant material, thatch, etc. and leave behind a smooth, firm surface once the remaining plant material generates new shoots and leaves in a short time.  FRAZE MOWING 

    And speaking of winter, by now many of you have probably heard this year sees a return of the phenomenon known as El Nino.  This most likely means here in the Charlotte area we can expect cooler than average temperatures in addition to higher than average precipitation levels (cold and wet).  Here is a brief video by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explaining the relationship of El Nino to weather patterns across the U.S.  CLICK HERE  

    That's all for now.  I'm off to watch some of the Member-Guest action and start thinking about course setup for next week's Tough Day!

    See you on the course,

    Matthew Wharton, CGCS

    Saturday, October 3, 2015

    Course Closed... Current Condition Update!

    Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Saturday, October 3rd and I want to quickly update you on current conditions as they relate to the flooding rains received early this morning.  The decision to close the golf course was made early this morning (before sunrise) as the Charlotte Metro area received heavy rainfall associated with an upper level low pressure system bringing moisture from the Atlantic Ocean onshore.  At approximately 6:30 am the radar picture looked like this:

    Shortly after 10:30 am the "firehose" of rain had shifted slightly to our southwest bringing an end to the rainfall for now, so I quickly trekked onto the course to assess the situation.  I found 2.65 inches rain in the gauges, two small trees uprooted (not in play), minor debris (sticks, leaves, and pine needles) scattered about by the cold, gusty winds, and standing water as the course slowly drains down from this event.  
    2.65 Inches Rain!

    Dead Tree Right of 11 Cart Path

    Small Willow Right of 16 Cart Path

    Scattered Sticks and Leaves
    Creek Fronting 16 Green
    Overall, I would say the golf course came through this event with flying colors.  The golf course will remain closed as conditions are currently unplayable, but at least for now we haven't sustained any significant damage.  Also, despite the rain having stopped water levels are elevated in the two upper ponds and all that water is flowing to our irrigation lake.  This first video is water flowing from the upper most pond under the cart path at number 18:  

    This next video is water flowing from the middle pond fronting number 18 through the overflow into the irrigation pond:

    As for the irrigation pond, I captured several photos on Thursday in advance of this forecasted rain event.  I will wait to post those along with new photos depicting the before and after once this rain event is over in the next day or two.  The good news is the lake has already risen approximately two to three feet and will continue to rise for quite some time.

    Looks like a good day to put your feet up and cheer for your favorite football team.  Stay tuned to Twitter, the CGC App, and The Greenkeeper for more updates as this system continues to impact our region.

    Stay safe and stay dry,

    Matthew Wharton, CGCS

    Friday, September 18, 2015

    A Difficult Time!

    Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, September 18th and there is much to discuss about the golf course, recent weather, and upcoming agronomic activities, however there is something I need to say first if you will permit me this opportunity (I promise I will try to be brief). When I started this blog in November 2011 the purpose was simple, to share information about golf course maintenance activities and course conditions with you.  But, I didn't want to bore you with dry scientific lingo about growing grass (believe me, I once wrote a Masters Thesis), so I have tried through the years to weave and inject my personality and sense of humor into the words.  Over time, I think people have gotten to know me through the blog and I have appreciated the opportunity to express myself.  

    In December 2013 (CLICK HERE) readers of "The Greenkeeper" were introduced to the most special man in my life, my grandfather John M. Hankins, Jr.  What many of you don't know is my mother and I lived with my grandparents and to say I was raised by my grandparents is an understatement.  I will not bore you with all the details of my life, but needless to say my love for the grand game of golf flowed through him, and I owe my entire college education to him (he always said, "Matt, you can't have too much education.").

    One week ago today the world was reflecting on the events of 9/11.  I changed holes early that morning then returned to the office to code invoices and update the blog.  Many people were posting inspiring messages on Twitter last Friday and one I saw in particular from Terry Davio* inspired me to include my whereabouts on that fateful day in my blog post. 
    I started writing and was nearly finished recounting my experience as an Assistant Superintendent of Augustine Golf Club in Stafford, Virginia (about 50 miles south of Washington, D.C.) when my phone rang.  It was my mother and she called to tell me my grandfather had passed away, and the world once again stopped turning!

    Needless to say I never completed what I was writing as my wife and I hurried to Virginia.  I received many condolences via text, email, and tweets the past week and each has been special (it is good to know you have friends in this world that truly care about you).  They say you can count your true friends on one hand, but a close friend of my grandfather told me at the visitation, "Matthew, Johnny didn't have enough hands!"  

    I'm happy to be back at Carolina and thankful I have a wonderful team that worked so hard in my absence.  One of the certainties about being a professional turfgrass manager is grass doesn't know what day it is.  Those of us in the business that share the passion call it turf life, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.  As of this week, the USDA Drought Monitor unfortunately reveals more of North Carolina under abnormally dry or moderate drought conditions than one month ago, but the good news is Mecklenburg County has been downgraded from severe to moderate status.

    In fact, with the recent rainfall the past two weeks (1.95 inches) you wouldn't realize the golf course had been enduring severe drought conditions if not for the dying trees scattered around the property. The drought has really taken a toll this year on red oaks.  Last month we removed nearly a dozen dead trees from the golf course and currently there are nearly a dozen more in need of removal. Before my staff can begin safely removing dead trees we have some major work to accomplish first.

    This coming Monday and Tuesday (September 21st and 22nd) the golf course will be closed all day for greens aeration.  This is a major agronomic event involving the removal of large cores, topdressing heavily with sand, and knowing when the greens heal they will once again be the best in town.  I can hardly wait!  We will also take advantage of this time Monday and Tuesday to wrap up our sod project.  The staff has been busy this week "buttoning up" random areas throughout the golf course with new turf, most notably cart path edges because it's human nature to "pull over" when parking thus always driving over turf with two tires.  Maybe someday I will make a capital request for concrete curbing around tees and greens, but until then turf is going to wear out and need to be replaced.  Of course, not all the sod is being used to repair worn areas adjacent to cart paths.  Some of it was used to replace a cart path.

    Upon completion of greens aeration it will be time to make our fall pre-emergent herbicide application in order to prevent poa annua from inhabiting our dormant turf canopy this winter season.  We also have one more fertilization treatment to make to all bermudagrass areas, so you can see this is a busy time in Golf Course Maintenance.  It is my goal to complete all necessary projects in a timely fashion so you may enjoy some of the best golf conditions of the year. After all, nothing could be finer than fall golf at Carolina!  

    See you on the course,

    Matthew Wharton, CGCS

    *Terry Davio is a graduate of NC State and previously worked at Greensboro Country Club.  He is now golf course superintendent of Lake St. Catherine Country Club in Poultney, Vermont.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2015

    Chicken Little and Severe Drought!

    Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, August 12th and there was exactly 0.40 inch rain in our gauges this morning thanks to the final line of storms that passed through the Queen City last night between 9:00 and 10:00 pm.  This rain event was our single largest since receiving 0.45 inch on June 27th, exactly 45 days ago (Dog Days).  To say the Dog Days were hot and dry this year would be a huge understatement as we only managed to record 0.88" total rain with nothing substantial to soak the ground and definitely nothing to generate runoff into our irrigation lake.  We'll talk how the drought status and irrigation lake level are impacting current turf management practices and what it all means for course conditions as summer slowly winds to a close.

    Tomorrow play begins in the 97th PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, a golf course Pete Dye designed on the Wisconsin banks of Lake Michigan to resemble an Irish links per the request of owner Herb Kohler.  Although unconfirmed, I personally think the Whistling Straits logo resembles Mr. Kohler too much to be coincidence.

    This is the final major championship of the year, and here's hoping the action gives us another compelling and dramatic story to go along with what has already been a terrific year of major championship golf!  Of course I'm pulling for Jordan Spieth but I believe the Wanamaker Trophy will most likely go to one of the tour's bombers this week. Look for guys like Bubba, DJ, Henrik Stenson, and even Rory if he knocks the competitive rust off to be there come Sunday.  Also, don't be surprised if there is a playoff as both previous PGA Championships contested at Whistling Straits (2004 and 2010) required extra holes to determine a winner.

    Carolina Golf Club is fortunate to have a full membership and waiting list.  Believe me, there aren't many clubs across the country that can boast such a statement at this time.  Sometimes I find it difficult to remember many of you (more than half) joined the club after we reopened following the 2007/08 restoration.  This explains why many of you have been asking me and my assistants lately about our irrigation water supply.  Questions like, "when are we going to run out of water", "have you ever seen the lake this low", and "how long will it take to fill up the lake" have become far too common.  Allow me to put this current drought into perspective and hopefully ease your concerns.

    Prior to the restoration the golf course only contained the two upper ponds (flanking either side of number 18 cart path).  The pump house was located to the right of the cart path at the foot of the 10th tees (area now behind number 2 green).  The two upper most ponds are fairly shallow and as such it was not uncommon during prolonged periods of dry weather to purchase water from the city for irrigation.  The construction of the irrigation lake was for the purpose of eliminating that need.  

    The dam was constructed creating an irrigation lake with 7.4 surface acres at full pond and storage of over 21.5 million gallons.  The riser and spillway is 20 feet, 6 inches in height and the pump intake is located five feet above the bottom providing us access to approximately 15 feet and a very generous amount of water with which to irrigate the golf course in times of need.  

    Lake Level on Aug 7th
    This year has seen two extremes as the golf course exited winter dormancy with damage and injury from cold temperatures.  When warm weather conducive for bermudagrass growth finally reached our region in May rain literally stopped falling (0.11 inch total rain in May).  As we were attempting to push bermudagrass to regrow and fill-in those areas affected by cold temperature injury we were forced to irrigate more than we would have liked.

    June saw record heat in our region as the temperature reached 99 or 100 F numerous days with little rainfall.  We finally caught a break at the end of June when we received 0.95 inch on June 26 and 0.45 inch on June 27!  That was the first and last rainfall of significant impact prior to last night since April.  The rain from those two days did wonders for turf recovery as the blistering heat took its toll on the golf course, but the dry ground soaked up every drop and we did not gain any runoff into our reservoir.    

    Lake Level at Spillway Aug 7th

    July brought the arrival of the Dog Days of summer and as I stated above, they set in dry.  We only managed 0.64 inch rain the entire month (all of the "nickel and dime" variety).  This season has been taxing to say the least on our irrigation source.  As this abnormally dry weather coupled with abnormally high temperatures has continued to persist our drought status has slowly worsened.  Last week portions of Mecklenburg County, including Carolina Golf Club were finally upgraded to Severe Drought status. 

    During this time we have made constant and numerous adjustments to our management of the golf course.  We have continued to irrigate as needed but run times have also been reduced in order to conserve.  Hand watering and the use of wetting agents on putting greens is common place, but this summer we have resorted to these tactics on tees to prevent turf loss.  Also, most people understand raising mowing heights on bentgrass greens in the summer to ensure plant health and survival, but did you know we raised our height of cuts on all bermudagrass areas for the same reasons.  Tees, fairways, approaches, and green surrounds all adjusted to provide the turf with a greater capacity for photosynthesis, all in effort to reduce the environmental stress on the plant.  Finally, lack of sufficient rainfall is an amazing plant growth regulator (how frequently have you been mowing your lawn this summer) and as a result we have scaled back our typical mowing frequency, again in effort to reduce stress on the plant.

    Last night's rain brought about the first positive movement in our lake levels in three months.  We are back to approximately 8 feet below full pond meaning we still have another 6 feet plus at our disposal. There are exactly 325,851 gallons of water in one acre foot.  The current lake footprint is conservatively 4 acres (down from 7.4 at full pond) thus 4 x 325,851 = 1.3 million gallons.  Multiply that by the conservative depth of 6 feet (1.3 x 6 = 7.8) and you get approximately 7.8 million gallons of irrigation water remaining.  As the Dog Days come to an end and with football season right around the corner, there is lower demand for water to sustain plant health with shorter days and cooler average temperatures.  In other words our already curtailed water use will be curtailed even more prolonging and preserving our supply.  Not to mention a change in our weather pattern means we may finally see a greater likelihood of receiving rainfall less infrequently.

    To answer your question, yes I have seen the lake lower than this... much lower.  The restoration grow-in during 2008 was very difficult as we were in the midst of the worst drought on record.  As for how long will it take to fill the lake back to capacity, that depends.  The watershed area for our lake is 129 acres.  If one inch rain ran off all 129 acres it would generate 3.5 million gallons.  Over the years I have seen small, severe thunderstorms raise the lake level several feet and I've seen large volume soaking rains do little.  The good news is every day I do not irrigate the level is rising as we have continuous flow from our two upper ponds spilling across into our reservoir.  Despite the somewhat shocking appearance I assure you the sky is not falling and I believe our lake has served us very well this difficult and challenging season.

    One final note, despite all the factors mentioned above I believe we have managed to maintain and present a golf course for your enjoyment that exceeds expectations, especially when viewed in the context of this year's climate challenges.  The golf course has played extremely firm and fast, and quite frankly the putting greens have never been better this time of year.  I sincerely hope you have had the opportunity to get out and enjoy the course because who knows, this time next year we may all be crying about too much rain!  

    See you on the course,

    Matthew Wharton, CGCS

    Friday, July 17, 2015

    Course Update, Junior Campers, Staff Update, and The Open!

    Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, July 17th and second round of the 144th playing of The Open Championship at St. Andrews is back underway after a lengthy weather delay this morning.  But before we talk about The Open I want to bring everyone up to speed on recent course projects, our irrigation water supply, a fun experience I recently had, and introduce you to our new Equipment Manager.

    Over the past two weeks my team and I have topdressed all fairways and approaches with 10 tons per acre of sand.  This is just the first of many applications over the coming years.  It is our intention to only make these applications during the active growing season for bermudagrass (June-August) with the goal to apply a minimum of 30 tons per acre annually.  
    Over time the sand will accumulate making a well drained layer sustaining our fairways and other closely mowed areas.  Another benefit with regular topdressing is the smoothing of the surface as minor dips and other imperfections are slowly smoothed out with sand topdressing making for a tighter, firmer playing surface.

    During the same time span we core aerated all tees and collars.  We removed the cores, fertilized, and topdressed with sand.  The removal of cores is to alleviate the compaction from these high traffic areas in an effort to promote new growth and deeper rooting.  These cultural practices are key components to building stronger, healthier turf in advance of next winter.

    It doesn't take a meteorologist to figure out we haven't received much rainfall in recent months.  One needs only to look at your neighbor's lawn, I know mine looks like toast!  Since the end of April we have received less than 3 inches rain here at Carolina.  Considering the warm temperatures we have been experiencing this summer, it is no surprise to see the lower irrigation pond level.  
    Cove Right of Number 2
    The cove running along the right side of number 2 fairway is actually shallow (about 5 to 6 feet).  The bulk of our water supply lies in the main body where depths range from 12 to 20 feet deep.  As of today we have used approximately 14 million gallons water irrigating the golf course year-to-date.  To put things in perspective we only used 18 million gallons total in 2014!  
    Current Water Level at Spillway
    If you were not present during the construction and grow-in during 2007 and 2008 it would be easy to be alarmed by the current water level.  My team and I have been and continue to be very conscious water users as we have been implementing conservation methods all season (hand watering, reduced run times, wetting agents, etc.).  The reality is there is more water remaining in the lake than used to this point and although it may be less attractive, the purpose of constructing this lake was to supply water to the golf course when needed.  The good news is my sources indicate a significant change to our current weather pattern could be in store by the first of next month trimming temperatures and increasing our chances of some beneficial rainfall.
    Last week the Golf Professional Staff conducted the second of this summer's three Junior All Sports Camps.  I want to thank the Golf Professional Staff, and especially Steve Stahl for inviting me to address last week's participants.  
    It was truly a thrill for me to have the opportunity to speak to the campers and provide a little "show-and-tell" with some of the tools of greenkeeping.  Hope to do it again someday!

    You may recall I announced on June 1st Bob Hall, formerly of Skybrook Golf Club had accepted the offer to become Equipment Manager of Carolina Golf Club.  Bob originally hails from Andes, New York (in the Upstate) and is a 1995 graduate of SUNY, Delhi with a degree in Turf Management.  Prior to moving south Bob worked at both SUNY Delhi Golf Course and Ouleout Creek Golf Course.  He and his wife Maria relocated to the Greater Charlotte area in May 2001 when he started with Skybrook Golf Club.  
    Placing Fairway Unit on the Lift

    Checking Height of Cut and Sharpness
    They reside in Kannapolis and have a 5-year old daughter named Abby.  When not ensuring our fleet is in top condition Bob enjoys Abby's baseball games and is a devoted family man!   

    In the beginning I mentioned a significant weather delay at this year's Open Championship.  In case you were not yet awake here is a highlight.
    As an avid golf historian I am pulling for Jordan Spieth to do something that has only been done once before (Ben Hogan, 1953) but there are many great players in the mix and regardless of who wins I am certain the conclusion to this most cherished championship will be thrilling.  I sincerely hope each of you enjoys The Open!

    See you on the course,

    Matthew Wharton, CGCS