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

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