Thursday, January 22, 2015

Colonel Potter, Touring Pros, 50 Shades More, and Sad News!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Thursday, January 22nd and it looks like winter is getting set to make its return to the Queen City.  I sincerely hope you have been one of the many who recently dusted off the clubs during this welcomed "January Thaw" because I think us fair weather golfers are in for another onset of cabin fever.  For those out there that want to claim the game of golf is dead or dying, Colonel Potter says, "Horse Hockey!"  One only needs to look at the recent effects of the "January Thaw" in comparison to the conditions experienced during last year's "Polar Vortex" winter to fully understand the power of weather on our beloved game.
Colonel Potter!
In January of 2014 there were 401 total rounds of golf played at Carolina Golf Club (not too bad for a club full of diehard golf lovers that play on any day that ends in "y").  Now look at what several consecutive days of temperatures above 60 F will do when they coincide with a federal holiday weekend.  Friday through Monday we had rounds of 63, 134, 134, and 111 respectively for a 4-day total of 442!  That's right, we had more rounds played this past weekend than all of January last year!  So, on behalf of golf lovers everywhere I say Mother Nature please hurry up with winter and let's get to spring!

I am happy to report I was one of those 63 rounds this past Friday and I managed to squeeze in one more yesterday afternoon.  According to the most recent GHIN update from the Carolinas Golf Association I had not played golf since the Ross Retreat (December 5-7) and had not enjoyed a game here at Carolina Golf Club since November 11th!  The golf course is truly in excellent condition for the middle of January.  After an extremely wet end to December and wet start to January (nearly 4 inches rain over that 30 day period), the course has finally dried out enough to reestablish firm, fast conditions.  In fact two of our Touring Pro members could be seen taking advantage of the excellent course conditions as they prepare for the start of the upcoming tour season.

One thing I noticed as I recently played the course, and am frequently asked this time of year is why the greens take on such an unusual appearance.  The term for this uneven color distribution is mottled or mottling (meaning marked or diversified with spots or blotches of a different color or shade).

Closer View
Splotchy Appearance

You see our putting greens are a blend of two different varieties of creeping bentgrass, A1 and A4.  Both A1 and A4 bentgrasses are what we call improved hybrid varieties, meaning they were developed through breeding efforts where varieties with particular characteristics or traits were crossed with others in order to develop grasses with overall improved characteristics (i.e., lower mowing height tolerance, improved heat tolerance, disease resistance, etc.). 

With the bentgrasses it seems winter always brings out a little separation or segregation within the turf stand.  Think of it like this, imagine going to a family reunion and all the cousins with blue eyes sat together while all the cousins with brown eyes sat at a different table, and all the cousins with red hair sat at another different table, etc.  These little "patches" of turf with slightly different colors or textures are just the genetic differences expressing themselves during cold weather stress (A1 and A4 were bred for greater heat tolerance).  These visual differences have no impact on ball roll or putting green smoothness.  In fact, when I had an opportunity to speak with young Mr. Day on the practice putting green yesterday, he expressed to me these greens must be the best in town.  We like to think so Kelvin! ;)

Finally, I have some sad news to share.  I was informed yesterday that Amos McDowell passed away this past Sunday.  Many of you may not know who I am referring to, but my staff knew Mr. McDowell well.  You see, Amos lived across the street from the entrance to the club and periodically would wander across and make his way up and down the right side of hole number 8 looking for golf balls along the fence.  He always carried a club with him to aid his walking and he could be seen hitting a few short shots every now and then.
Amos McDowell
I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. McDowell countless times and he always had a story to tell.  He grew up right here in Charlotte with our beloved Hazel Brown and also knew Dr. Charlie Sifford, who got his start in golf caddying at Carolina Golf Club as a teenager.  From the golf course maintenance staff our thoughts and prayers are with his family as he was a "friend of the game" and his presence always brightened our days.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS

Friday, January 9, 2015

Cruising Altitude and 50 Shades of Green!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, January 9th and later today the PGA Tour finally gets things started again with first round play in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Maui, Hawaii.  I always enjoy the first two tour events of the calendar year because it is nice to relax on the sofa and watch golf in warm, sunny Hawaii while it is pitch dark and bitterly cold outside at home.  Golf in prime time... we need more of it!

Yesterday I met with the Greens Committee to discuss the 2015 maintenance budget.  If I could summarize the theme of the conversation in a few words I think I would say 2015 is a year to "level off".  Now before you jump to conclusions or begin to think we are cutting back on course conditioning, let me explain.  From 2005-2008 we were under constant construction and renovation as we implemented all four phases of the Master Plan.  This was a constant climb to reach new heights previously unattained in the history of the club.  In 2009 we leveled off.  The club and staff both needed an opportunity to "catch our breath" after four years of construction and improvements (I know at that time I was tired of seeing dirt).

The summer of 2010 taught us to rethink our strategies and agronomic programs and we then pointed ourselves in the direction of a new goal, the 2014 North Carolina Amateur Championship.  We hosted the CGA's Mid-Amateur Championship in 2011 as a stepping stone and we made significant improvements to the course during the past few years (additional drainage, new bunker sand, new tees, and new range tee) as we readied ourselves for this historic occasion.  Along the way the club also added a new patio, renovated the dining room and office space, and added much needed storage.  Now that 2015 is finally here it is once again time to level off and allow everyone an opportunity to catch their breath.

There are big things on the horizon for Carolina Golf Club just a few short years down the road (not at liberty to discuss at this moment) and we are not trying to coast between now and then, but we definitely want to keep the train on tracks and keep it between the lines.  My staff and I plan to use 2015 as an opportunity to make small improvements and tweaks to the golf course and our programs.  We want to refine the way we do things this year and next because soon it will be time to accelerate down the runway and begin soaring to even newer heights!  Until then, just sit back and feel free to roam around the cabin as we enjoy a season of golf at Carolina Golf Club at cruising altitude.

Led Zeppelin's Starship

On New Year's Eve Mrs. Greenkeeper and I enjoyed a night at the movies (yes, she is still willing to date me after 18 years of marriage).  During the previews we saw the theatrical trailer for the much anticipated 50 Shades of Grey (Valentine's Day release for those of you wondering).  No, I didn't read the book series but I'm aware of the phenomenon.  If I had to describe the trailer in one word ...steamy!  Of course, it is anything but steamy here in Charlotte right now as temperatures dropped well below freezing Wednesday and remained there all day yesterday and most of today.  In fact we were below freezing for more than 40 consecutive hours.  Currently the golf course is frozen but we are open for play for any brave souls who find themselves needing to "cool off".

The decision to color our closely mowed turf areas (tees, fairways, and surrounds) this year has received rave reviews based on the feedback I have.  I am glad most everyone has found this improvement to their liking but you might be wondering why all those areas I mentioned do not look the same.  We started using colorants (pigments, dyes, and turf paints) about five years ago as a way to provide definition to the target greens on the practice range during the winter dormant season.  Some years we expanded to include the range tee, par 3 tees, small approach fairways, and even the event lawn when extra product was at our disposal.  This past year we decided to go for it, and I made arrangements to try several different products in order to determine what gives us the best results.
Dec 2013
One Year Later

I am sure everyone remembers yellow and blue make green and just like going to your local home improvement store and looking at color swatches, not all turf colorants are the same shade of green (there are a surprising number of products available for turf on the market today).  How long these products last are a result of many factors.  They are susceptible to breakdown and degradation when exposed to UV light.  Traffic is another factor along with application rates (more product takes longer to breakdown than less).  Thus golf holes with a southern exposure might fade more quickly than a northern one and golf holes with no golf car traffic, like our par 3's and hole number 2 may hold up better than others.  Of course the color and texture of the natural turf underneath plays an important role, so there are many reasons why you see different shades of green.  Currently the tees look more like my mother's turquoise jewelry from the mid to late 1970's, our fairways look more natural, our driving range tee is another shade of green, and the target greens have a bluish hue.    
Number 9
Number 3

Range Tee and Target Greens
In order to maintain the appearance these products must be periodically reapplied.  We only have a small amount remaining to reapply for this winter season, thus things appear more faded now than I would normally like.  We will touch everything up one final time either later this month or first of February.  The committee and I are discussing costs and procedures necessary to implement the practice again in the future in a manner which permits us to reapply more frequently achieving a balanced, uniform look without the peaks and valleys experienced this year.  For the record, our original product we've used the past few years is the best performer.  It has the most natural appearance compared to the newer ones we have experimented with.

That's all for now, I need to check on a few things out on the course before heading home to watch some golf!  Bundle up and here's hoping we can all get out to play soon! 

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Course Closed!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, January 7th and before I leave the office for the annual CGC Fantasy Golf Draft I wanted to inform everyone we have made the decision to officially close the golf course and practice facilities for tomorrow, Thursday, January 8th!  This decision is necessary in order to adequately protect the golf course and practice facilities during extreme conditions.


Temperatures tonight are expected to drop to near single digits and will remain below freezing all day tomorrow.  With lows reaching back into the teens tomorrow night we are looking at a period of nearly 40 consecutive hours below freezing.  

At this time we are scheduled to reopen at 11:00 am Friday, January 9th.  Please be sure to check with the Golf Shop for more details.  Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as we experience a brief taste of what our friends and colleagues up north endure.

Stay warm,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS