Thursday, June 18, 2015

The U.S. Open and a Letter to the GM!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Thursday, June 18th and the 115th United States Open finally starts today!  I am excited and looking forward to watching the best players in the world undergo the sternest examination in championship golf.  Chambers Bay Director of Agronomy Eric Johnson, Golf Course Superintendent Josh Lewis and their team of 177 staff and volunteers from all over the world have given the USGA the firmest golf course since the Open Championship was contested at Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) in 2006!  After browsing some of the information being shared via social media the past few evenings, the next four days of this championship are shaping up to possibly be a thrill ride! (see what I did there).

But enough about Chambers Bay and the U.S. Open, the reason I am writing today is to share with you a message I sent earlier this morning to our General Manager and Greens Committee Chairman.  The past few days have seen Mother Nature really crank up the heat and I know some of you are probably wondering what impact the temperature coupled with the lack of rainfall may have on the golf course.  I assure you we are doing everything we possibly can to preserve and protect your golf course here at Carolina Golf Club.

To:          Roger Wolfe, CCM
From:     Matthew Wharton, CGCS
Cc:         Stephen Woodard, Greens Chairman
Date:      June 18, 2015
Re:         Course Condition Update

I want to take this opportunity to update you on current course conditions and the measures my staff and I are taking as we continue to manage the golf course under difficult and challenging weather extremes.

Although we were not completely unscathed by winterkill, compared to our neighbors in other parts of North Carolina we were very fortunate.  As of this time we have replaced exactly 25,000 square feet of bermudagrass turf with new sod (15,000 in and around the putting surfaces in early April and 10,000 two weeks ago in the fairway and rough of holes one, nine, ten, and seventeen).  We still need to replace approximately 5,000 square feet more in the rough of holes four and fourteen, along with a few bunker slopes affected by Spring Dead Spot and some random cart path edges.  We will do this work next week.

The month of April brought near record rainfall as we accumulated almost six inches (5.89”) in twelve measurable events.  You recall the near daily golf car restrictions and the difficulty we endured just trying to mow the golf course as the bermudagrass emerged from hibernation.  May dawned with a drastic change in our weather pattern bringing much needed warmer temperatures but little rainfall.  The golf course only received 0.11 inch rain the entire month of May and only 1.03 inches has fallen in June thus far.  This lack of sufficient natural rainfall is slowly beginning to take a toll on the golf course.  Traffic from golf cars is something my staff and I have to monitor much more frequently.  I would like to remind everyone the club’s posted policy regarding golf car use states golf cars are to be operated only in the fairway.  Please avoid the rough during play of the hole after entering the fairway. 

We have been irrigating nightly to keep up with plant needs, but irrigation alone is only supplemental and isn’t capable of replacing natural rain.  Wetting agent is something we use regularly throughout the year with putting green management, but recently we applied a wetting agent to all tee complexes.  We have used approximately 8.5 million gallons of water on the golf course over the past 50 days (< 200,000 per day) to maintain plant health, and the course is playing firm and fast with limited turf stress for now.

The past several days saw a return of the dreaded dome, a high pressure system sitting over the southeast pumping extreme heat and humidity into our region.  Yesterday was the third consecutive day the high temperature in Charlotte reached 99 degrees (the first two of which set new records) and we may finally reach the century mark today.  In order to preserve and protect our bentgrass putting greens fans are in place, we are closely monitoring soil moisture levels multiple times daily, hand watering when and where necessary, monitoring canopy temperatures and syringing when and where needed, and closely monitoring soil temperatures.  Also, I raised the height of cut and we are spraying preventatively for increased disease pressure.  

It is my understanding this current unseasonable heat wave is expected to remain in place for another couple weeks before we may see significant relief.  Thus far the mood in my department is upbeat.  We are pleased that despite all we have endured in 2015 we currently have a golf course that presents itself very well to our members and their guests.  It is not my intention today to be alarming, but merely remain out front with regards to member communications in case we are forced at a later date to make difficult decisions with regards to golf car use, course accessibility, or water supplies.


Matthew Wharton, CGCS 

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Month of May and a Tearful Goodbye!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Monday, June 1st and an extremely busy day on your golf course.  It's been just over a month since my last post and believe me I never would have guessed after the deluge that was April (7th wettest April in Charlotte history) May would be so dry (3rd driest May in Charlotte history).  Important to note these weather records for the city of Charlotte go back 136 years!  Here at Carolina Golf Club we received 5.89 inches of rain in April (12 recorded events) and only 0.11" in May (2 recorded events).  In fact, May ended up being the single driest month in my tenure (previous was October 2013 with 0.50").  But enough about the weather let's talk about the golf course.

When last we got together bermudagrass was struggling from the prolonged winter and many areas of the course were unacceptable (CLICK HERE FOR LAST POST).  I met with the Greens Committee the first week of May and explained to them the two main issues at play.  One, prior to May the weather (sorry) had not been conducive for bermudagrass growth and development.  The colder than average temperatures were limiting the turf and making it impossible to accurately predict what areas may or may not fully recover.  Two, we had a very busy month of golf activity scheduled with Member-Guest, Member-Member, and several lucrative outings. Based on these factors I believed our best course of action was to be patient and allow warmer temperatures an opportunity to give the bermudagrass a fighting chance.  Also, from a playability perspective the winter injured turf areas were more playable than new sod roped off and kept wet.  Thus the decision to wait until the completion of the May tourney schedule was agreed to.  

Good news is the Month of May was above average temperature wise.  The warm conditions made a huge improvement in encouraging bermudagrass regrowth in slow to recover areas.  Unfortunately the lack of rain has meant we've had to rely solely on our irrigation source as bermudagrass needs water in addition to warmer temperatures in order to grow and spread laterally.  As you can see from the photos below each of the most severely affected areas have demonstrated great recovery (some more than others).  We can now accurately predict what does and does not need replacing.
Rt Side #1 Fairway (5/24)
Rt Side #1 Fairway (Opposite View 5/24)

Rt Side #10 Fairway (5/11)
Rt Side #10 Fairway (Opposite View 5/11)

Left Side #18 Fairway (6/1)
Left Side #18 Fairway (Opposite View 6/1)

With tournament golf now in our rear view mirror we can begin to encourage these areas over the next several weeks even more with a little aeration, topdressing, and fertility.  Areas like those depicted above on holes 10 and 18 will continue to improve with little turf replacement necessary.  As for number one, the task of replacing dead bermudagrass turf from winter kill commenced today.  Earlier we began to strip and remove dead turf from the right side of number one fairway.  Sod has been ordered and we are expecting delivery later this afternoon.

And finally some sad news as we said goodbye last week to Equipment Manager JR Bailey.  JR had been a very loyal member of my team since 2008 and he was one of the most talented turf equipment technicians I have ever encountered. 

JR Inspecting Mowing Quality 2014 NC Amateur

JR decided to pursue other interests in the field of manufacturing, but he left an indelible mark on this course and my department, he will be missed.  We wish JR the absolute best in his future endeavors. My search for his replacement received some good news just a short while ago when Bob Hall of Skybrook Golf Club accepted my offer to become Carolina Golf Club's next Equipment Manager.  I hope to have more information to share about Bob Hall in a future edition of The Greenkeeper.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS