Friday, March 27, 2015

March Madness, Weekend Update, and the Driving Range Tee!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, March 27th and if you're here to check on your brackets, or view a funny SNL skit then I'm afraid you have come to the wrong place.  Granted, the membership of Carolina Golf Club was buzzing yesterday with all the possibilities surrounding a Sweet 16 containing UNC, NC State, and Duke.  Unfortunately UNC fell to Wisconsin before I could wrap up this post, so I guess it is now up to the Wolfpack and Blue Devils to represent Tobacco Road.

They say with age comes wisdom, and from the looks of this Throwback Thursday post I shared yesterday I would venture to say I have finally concluded March is my least favorite month!
In my younger days I used to tell people the only good thing to come out of August is September, but after dealing with colder than average winters the past few years I have finally realized March can be pretty ugly.  Yes, I know in mid- to late-March we finally see the colorful blooms of Forsythia, Bradford Pears, Yoshino Cherries, and Saucer Magnolias to name a few, but bermudagrass is slowly attempting to wake from a long winter hibernation, greens have just been aerated and trying to heal, trees have yet to leaf out, and the entire property just looks out of sorts to me.  Not to mention temperatures are a roller coaster as we transition from winter into spring, quite frankly I find it maddening!

I walked the course Wednesday morning mostly to assess aeration recovery, but also get an early feel for the state of post-winter bermudagrass health.  Compared to the springs of 2013 and 2014 our putting green recovery is way ahead and I am very pleased thus far. 
Looking at the early stages of bermudagrass green-up it is still way too early to tell.  Yes, there are new green bermudagrass leaves popping up throughout the golf course, but overall this past winter was cold enough and long enough to send the bermudagrass turf into a deeper state of dormancy, and that takes a little longer than usual to recover from (this may be a blessing in disguise; more later).

I can tell you your golf course maintenance team has been very busy since my last post.  We have treated all the bermudagrass areas on the golf course with pre-emergent herbicide to prevent crabgrass and goosegrass from disrupting your game later this year.  We have also been making similar treatments to the natural/native areas for the same.  We are also treating random natural/native areas with a different herbicide to combat annual ryegrass invasion.  Obviously we were very busy with putting green aeration just last week and my staff has been diligently pruning shrubs and mulching landscape beds as we prepare for Easter Sunday in a couple weeks.
For those of you planning golf activities at the club the next two days I would like to share with you the latest forecast for Charlotte.
Courtesy of Brad Panovich
The important thing to notice here is the morning low temperatures the next two days.  The approaching cold front responsible for the current rain is predicted to bring a Canadian air mass that will plummet temperatures to near freezing tomorrow morning (33 F) and well below freezing (23 F) Sunday morning.  Think about that for a minute... 23 F Sunday morning!  Now, if you are a warm-season grass plant trying to slowly emerge from a lengthy winter dormancy period how do you think you would respond to a hard freeze?  Notice temperatures climb back into the mid-70's by the middle of next week and you can begin to understand how someone in my profession can develop a dislike for March.

For those of you that do not remember the devastating Easter freeze of 2007 let me refresh your memory.  On April 8, 2007 the temperature in Charlotte was 21 F and the effects were devastating to plant material throughout the entire city.  Bermudagrass was set back a solid six weeks because of that freeze as fully emerged plants were sent back into a dormant state.  I mentioned earlier I thought we may be experiencing a blessing in disguise this time around and here's why.  In April of 2007 we were coming off a milder winter and bermudagrass was waking up earlier.  We experienced three consecutive days with temperatures in the 80's prior to that harsh cold blast and those warm, early spring temperatures contributed to bermudagrass being near fully emerged when it was exposed to the freezing conditions (temperatures were also in the 20's the morning before).  This weekend that is not the case as most of our bermudagrass turf has yet to emerge.  We will be covering the blue tees on holes 6 and 9 tomorrow in order to protect them, but hopefully the fact spring green-up is delayed compared to prior years we will be spared an experience like 2007.

Which brings us to the last question, when will I open the driving range tee.  It is amazing how frequently the golf shop staff gets asked this question after just a few green leaves emerge.  I can tell you the tee is nowhere near ready for use and we will need to evaluate the impact of this weekend's temperatures.  The best answer I can give you is the tee will open at the appropriate time, just please be patient.  I know, it's maddening.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS

Friday, March 6, 2015

Youthful Reminder, Tough Love, and GIS Recap!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, March 6th and last week I was in San Antonio representing Carolina Golf Club at the 2015 Golf Industry Show (GIS).  Many of you members might be wondering what is the GIS, and others might be wondering why I was in attendance.  Now, I can tell you the GIS is the single largest golf course maintenance trade show in the world, and I was there to learn about new products, equipment, and technologies in an effort to make your golf experience at Carolina Golf Club better.  But rather than tell you this, I thought today I would show you!  Before I do, let me quickly share some weather related statistics that hopefully sheds some perspective on this year's winter.  I am also going to quickly mention a couple of important golf course related things that are not just on the horizon, but literally right around the corner.  After that we will learn about this year's Golf Industry Show.

Most people understand winter begins on the day of the winter solstice and continues until the spring equinox, but meteorological winter is the period from December 1 through February 28 (hey, I don't make these rules I just pay attention to them).  Anyway, I believe most people here remembers the "Polar Vortex" of last winter and how cold the country was throughout most of the northeast and even this far south.  Well, did you know that here in Charlotte, NC this year's winter was actually COLDER than last year.  Last year the daytime temperature average (high and low combined) during meteorological winter was 42.4 F.  This year the average was 41.1 F!  Also, February 2015 wrapped up as the 7th coldest February in Charlotte history and coldest since 1978.  Many of you have commented for years about how we don't have "winters like when we were kids".  Well this year we did and oddly enough, when I was growing up in Virginia we only attended school one day the entire month of January during the winter of 1977-78 because of snow.  I was in the fourth grade and the last day of school that year was June 15th!

Despite all this talk of record cold the calendar still reads March which means it is almost time to move the clocks forward (Daylight Savings Time begins Sunday) and we will be aerating greens soon. Historically we core aerate putting greens the third Monday in March which happens to be the 16th this year so we are only ten days away!  The course will be closed both Monday and Tuesday that week as we perform all necessary treatments (core aerate, remove cores, apply amendments, apply fertility, topdress, brush in topdressing sand, and irrigate).  It is a very labor intensive process but it is a labor of love as we give the greens a little TLC.  Okay, maybe it sounds more like "tough love" but hey, no pain no gain!  The temporary surface disruption encountered now provides us the ability to push our greens and provide the conditions everyone has come to expect and enjoy during our busy spring event calendar and sets us on the path to surviving summer.  Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.

Also, as spring approaches we will be making our spring pre-emergent herbicide applications to all bermudagrass areas and natural/native areas.  We will be spreading fresh mulch in all landscape and on-course areas before Easter.  And, hopefully we will make one final fairway colorant treatment to both enhance the color present but also help speed spring green-up and post-dormancy transition.  In other words, longer days are upon us and eventually the golf course will wake from winter hibernation. It is time to shake off those winter doldrums and get with it!  Am I speaking to the golfers or my staff :) 

Okay, if you are not a turf industry professional and unsure what the Golf Industry Show is, the following information is designed to assist you in understanding what it is we golf course superintendents, assistants, equipment managers, and other industry related personnel do when we gather annually.  This year marked the 13th consecutive GIS I have been fortunate to attend, starting with the 2003 show in Atlanta.  I also attended the 1999 show in Orlando while still a graduate student at Virginia Tech, but that is a different story for a different audience (you know who you are).  This year's conference marked the first time the GIS had been to San Antonio since 1978, and to the Lone Star State since Dallas in 2001, so this was my first time in Texas!

Golf Channel has done a phenomenal job the past few years showcasing the annual PGA Merchandise Show which takes place each year near the end of January.  PGA professionals come from all around the world to Orlando to see the new equipment and merchandise that will help all us golf lovers look and play our best.  Morning Drive, hosted by former Carolina Golf Club member Gary Williams has even broadcast directly from the trade show floor because we are all golf lovers and we all want to find ways to improve our games.

Well, the same is true for golf course superintendents.  We love the golf courses we are entrusted to care for and we are always striving for ways to improve course conditions while conserving costs and resources.  In fact, the GCSAA (Golf Course Superintendents Association of America) was founded in 1926 on that very principle.  A group of greenkeepers got together to share ideas in hopes to learn from one another.  It is this open communication and sharing that makes the golf course superintendent profession one of the greatest in the entire world, because deep down we are all brothers and willing do whatever is necessary to help one another when in need.  For evidence of this I submit what Lukas Harvey, Director of Agronomy at PGA National had to say about the response from local area superintendents when a storm ravaged last week's Honda Classic! CLICK HERE FOR STORY  
So back to this year's GIS, Golf Channel dispatched Geoff Shackelford to San Antonio to see what was going on and he managed to spend some time on the trade show floor, talk to some golf course superintendents, and even sat down with the CEO of GCSAA, Rhett Evans to talk about the state of our beloved game.  The segments were edited and aired last week on Morning Drive, and I even tweeted a link to a couple of them upon my return home.  Maybe you were fortunate to already see one or more of them, but if not I have linked each video below for your convenience.  The videos are brief, and you may see some similar footage shared between them but I think for the first time Golf Channel has done a nice job capturing the essence of the Golf Industry Show and why we superintendents come together each year.  Unfortunately there are brief advertisements leading in to these video segments, but hey it only takes 15 seconds to learn Chevy offers 4G LTE WiFi in the new Cruze, the Chrysler 200 is America's Import, or Golfsmith is currently having Trade-In Days so please watch.




Before I go I want to share one more video segment with you.  GCSAAtv was once again on hand filming events from the GIS and this video is a brief compilation of the Opening Session.  It includes recognition for outgoing GCSAA President, Keith Ihms, CGCS, the 2014 class of newly certified superintendents, and this year's Old Tom Morris Award winner, Dan Jenkins.  If you look closely you might recognize the guy at the 2:21 mark, but don't blink! 

GCSAA TV! 3:46  

Of course I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge one other highlight at this year's conference.  I received an award for the Best Overall Use of Social Media given by Golf Course Industry magazine in partnership with Aquatrols.  This marked the fourth consecutive year GCI recognized superintendents for their communication skills and the various ways we utilize social media to spread our message to our members, guests, and patrons.  I was recognized for how I use both this blog and my Twitter feed, @CGCGreenkeeper to communicate with you about Carolina Golf Club.

Receiving My Award From Pat Jones!
Information about the awards and other winners can be found HERE courtesy of Golf Course Industry. One of the best things about this year's GIS was meeting the other winners, along with other industry people that I have been sharing and communicating with over the past year.  It is cool to "tweet" with someone from anywhere in the world but it is way more cool to shake their hand!

It was a fun time in San Antonio but I am happy to be home!  I always manage to come back recharged and ready for the spring/summer golf season that is just around the corner.  Like you I am tired of this cold, dreary winter weather and ready to get on the golf course and manicure some actively growing turf!  Fingers crossed and hoping for the best with regards to spring's arrival.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS