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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

One Down and Two to Go!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, July 1st and the first month of meteorological summer is now in the rear-view mirror, and what a month it was!  June 2015 goes into the Charlotte record books as the 10th hottest June ever.  Several new record high temperatures were established along with a streak of consecutive days 95 F or above (13 days). 

Courtesy of Brad Panovich (@wxbrad)
We even managed to reach the century mark (100 F) five times in the month of June, and that typically only occurs four times in an average Charlotte summer (June-August).

So why am I bombarding you with these weather statistics?  You see, five years ago we endured something very similar.  In fact June 2010 still ranks as the 8th hottest June ever in Charlotte, and it was definitely the most difficult and trying period of my professional career.  As this year's heat wave approached a few members that remember 2010 all too well voiced some concern, but the lessons learned from that experience led to adjustments of our agronomic programs and we picked up some new tools along the way.

When the heat wave of June 2010 arrived there were three fans on the golf course (1, 12, and 16).  We quickly realized the need for better air circulation along the perimeter of the golf course property and acquired five additional fans later that summer (located on holes 7, 8, 11, 13, and 14).  In 2012 we began using soil moisture meters (CLICK HERE) to help us better manage water applications to the putting surfaces.  I now have three of these devices and they are used daily.  In 2013 I changed wetting agent chemistry and since we have enjoyed drier, firmer surfaces.  In other words, there are numerous differences between now and then, each of which playing an important role in allowing me and my staff to produce more desirable conditions today.

Here's a look back at the ugly that was 2010 compared to where we currently stand with two more months of summer to go:
8 Green July 2010
8 Green July 2015

8 Green July 2010

8 Green July 2015

7 Green July 2010

7 Green July 2015

7 Green July 2010

7 Green July 2015

Professional turfgrass management can be a very humbling profession.  Despite numerous advances in science and technology Mother Nature always wins.  I am very proud of the work we accomplished over the past month, but I am also smart enough to realize we caught some breaks along the way.  Being dry was the best thing that could have happened to us during this year's heat wave.  Many of you always comment to me during wet summers, "You must be loving all this rain!"  The answer is no, no I don't.  If it is going to be 100 degrees then I want to be in control of moisture, because nothing kills bentgrass roots faster than saturated soils on a hot day.  Summer is by no means over and we still have longer to go than what we have endured, but I am very pleased with where we are and I sincerely hope you are too!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS