Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Look Back and Holiday Wishes!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, December 21st and earlier this morning at 5:44 am the winter solstice occurred marking the official start of winter.  Considering it was 25 degrees as I made my commute this morning I'd say the conditions are very appropriate.  Today is also known for being the shortest day of the year.  In fact, it is my understanding we will have 9 hours and 47 minutes of daylight in the Queen City today. If that isn't good enough for you then I suggest you have a long look at the map below to determine where you might spend the solstice next year.

When I see the ranges of available daylight north of the border I'm thankful for what we have right here at home. No complaints from me  :)

Looking back through older posts from this time of year, the solstice as always been a theme, but as I was pondering what to post today I drew inspiration from another superintendent, Paul Carter, CGCS.  Paul is the superintendent of The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay just outside Chattanooga, TN. This past Monday I ran across Paul's blog where he reflected back on a challenging year Farewell 2016 and I started thinking about the different challenges we faced this year.

Ironically, Paul and I just met barely over 12 months ago while attending the 2015 Syngenta Business Institute together, and we have become fast friends.  Our friendship was forged not only as fellow golf course superintendents, but turns out we are the same age and we originally hail from the same part of Virginia.  Paul's hometown of Wise is the hometown of my father Sam and is a mere 23 miles from my hometown of Castlewood (Appalachian brothers).  I saw Paul again in January when he spoke at the 9th annual Turfhead Summit at Bryan Park in Greensboro.  His presentation on the environmental efforts employed at Bear Trace by him and his staff was so good, I made sure he was our keynote speaker at this year's Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show in Myrtle Beach last month.  Also, we got to hang out together again in Kansas this past October when we each served as Chapter Delegate for our respective GCSAA chapters.  
It will be my pleasure to return the favor next month when I speak at the Tennessee Turfgrass Association's 2017 Conference and Show.  

Anyway, this past year we saw bermudagrass still holding natural color as late as January 5th as a result from the record warm December 2015 CLICK HERE. At this time some of you may be wondering why after experimenting with pigments and paints on tees and fairways the past two seasons we have returned to a natural dormant appearance this year.  We discussed this at great length and ultimately the Greens Committee decided to forego the process this year as we reevaluate the merits versus the costs associated.  
Au Naturel
Next came spring and we finally broke ground on the Event Lawn project.  I think most everyone will agree the project exceeded everyone's expectations as we successfully regraded the area to better accommodate our needs, and finally created a true and proper championship tee for hole No. 10. CLICK HERE 

Shortly after spring greens aeration the winds began to blow, and they blew non stop.  In fact, the windy conditions slowed putting green recovery efforts for a while CLICK HERE.  I'm happy to report the winds did finally stop and course conditions were superb for our spring events.  The month of May was busy with Member-Guest and Member-Member and then along came June and we began topdressing fairways CLICK HERE.  The golf course really shined during the month of June and I remember standing on the 17th green the morning of July 1 thinking things beneath my feet were pretty darn good.  

One thing is certain in the business of professional turfgrass management, Mother Nature will humble you.  The first half of 2016 was full of positives and the next thing I know the heat and humidity experienced in July and August was so oppressive that healthy putting greens quickly became stressed CLICK HERE.  Elevated overnight low temperatures was the biggest factor that ultimately lead to the summer of 2016 being ranked as the second hottest of all-time in Charlotte.  I don't recall a year I was happier to see aeration day arrive and the warm conditions lead to an extremely quick recovery CLICK HERE

My team managed to produce some superb conditions as we navigated through a warm and busy fall golf schedule, and the scars of summer slowly faded to a distant memory.  Once we wrapped up the Carolina Invitational in early November we closed the books on a successful 2016 event season and turned our sights towards another course improvement project.  The extended period of dry weather experienced between October 8 (Hurricane Matthew) and November 29 allowed for uninterrupted working conditions and the new bunkers and mounds on Hole No. 7 turned out great CLICK HERE

Well there you have it, a brief look back on the ups and downs of 2016.  Overall I would have to say despite the challenges we faced it was another great year at Carolina.  The golf course always shines through in the end and there were too many positives to allow anything negative to overshadow.  This is my final post of 2016 and so I will wrap up with Christmas and Holiday wishes for each of you and your families over the coming days.  But before I go allow me to remind you the club is closed both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  If you are coming to the course for a peaceful walk or to try that new club Santa leaves you, be mindful not to come too early if frosty conditions are expected.  Here's a look at the current 7-day forecast courtesy of WCNC.
Frost Likely Saturday Morning
Saturday morning currently poses a threat for frost, but considering the Panthers host the Falcons I'm sure most everyone will be in the friendly confines of Bank of America Stadium.  #KeepPounding

Mrs. Greenkeeper and I are departing this evening to spend a few days in Virginia celebrating Christmas with our children and grandchildren.  We'll be back soon and we are looking forward to the promises, hope, and excitement a new year brings. Here's hoping 2017 exceeds everyone's wishes!  

Merry Christmas,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Friday, December 9, 2016

Course Improvement Recap, Weather Update, & Fun Fact!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, December 9th and there is a chill in the air.  It's hard to believe over two weeks have passed since my last update, where does the time go!  I will bring everyone up to speed on this current arctic outbreak and describe how that might impact your weekend golf in a bit.  I will also discuss the recent rain events and share with you how those have impacted the area's drought. But first let's look back on the course improvement project and then I will close with a fun fact on this Friday!

When last we checked the course improvement project was quickly coming to a close.  Kris Spence had been on site to tweak and approve the work and the last photo shared was one of the two new bunkers completely regrassed and ready to go CLICK HERE.  Since that post the other small bunker that continues the "string of pearls" was completed and regrassed.   
Completed New Bunker
After breaking for Thanksgiving the team reassembled and quickly made an improvement to the forward tee on the same hole (No. 7).  The elevation of this tee has always been slightly too low, causing it to hold water.  The turf from the tee and surrounding area was removed.  Soil was added and compacted to raise the elevation.  Then the sand cap and turf was replaced.  For the time being the tee markers have been placed in the beginning of the fairway while the turf roots down and the improved teeing area stabilizes.

Turf Removed and Soil Added
Replacing Sand Cap

Smoothing Sand Cap to Grade

Turf Replacement

View of New Finished Elevation

Fortunately the team from Golf Course Services was able to complete the tee improvement in one day because the perfect weather conditions we were experiencing over the duration of the project was about to change.  Meteorological autumn runs from September 1 through November 30, and as you can see from the graphic below we experienced our 5th warmest autumn ever this year.  When you consider we also endured a near record breaking period of consecutive dry weather it's no wonder everyday seemed like a great day to play golf!  After an all day soaking rain associated with Hurricane Matthew on October 8 we didn't receive measurable rain at Carolina Golf Club again for 35 days, and that was a mere 0.04".  We then went another 17 straight days without rain which provided perfect working conditions for our course improvement project.  
The day after we wrapped up the course improvement project it rained nearly a quarter inch.  It rained again the following day as severe weather moved through the region late that evening, spawning an EF-1 tornado in the southern part of Mecklenburg county.  Two more significant rain events earlier this week brought over 1.5 inches rain to the golf course placing a dent into the region's drought.

Since November 29 the golf course has received 2.58 inches rain and I am happy to report it soaked up every drop, helping replenish soil moisture levels just in time for winter's arrival.  Speaking of winter, looks like folks will need to layer up if they are going to brave the elements on the links this weekend.
I'm not sure which of those numbers are the most disturbing, morning lows or daytime highs, but it's safe to assume with morning lows that far below freezing this weekend that starting times will be delayed.  We will keep the Golf Staff informed with regular updates so please plan accordingly and watch your phone for push notifications via the CGC App.  

Earlier this week my staff and I prepared the golf course for winter's arrival.  Many of you recall we have covered our northward facing bunker slopes and most shaded tees to protect them from the elements for the past five years.  The team took advantage of the perfectly calm conditions this past Maintenance Monday to get the covers in place.  We also covered some of the recently completed improvement work to help protect the sod.
Current long range forecasts ensure this December will be a far cry from last year's which was the warmest ever on record in Charlotte, so don't put away those stocking caps and hand warmers too soon as you can expect another wave of arctic air to arrive by the end of next week. #winter  

Before I go I saw something this morning I found interesting and thought I would share.  There are 43,560 square feet in one acre and the folks at St. Andrews Links Trust shared just how large one of those double greens on the Old Course is.  With a standard walk-behind mower measuring 21 inches in width you can clearly see it would take one person quite a while to complete this assignment.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Birthday, Course Improvements Update 2, & Many Thanks!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, November 23rd and it's time to take another look at ongoing course improvements.  But before we do let's acknowledge our architect, Donald J. Ross on what would have been his 144th birthday as he was born on this day in Dornoch, Scotland in 1872.  Happy Birthday Mr. Ross!  
After we view the project update I will touch on Thanksgiving Day golf and then share with you a few things I am thankful for this year.  This is our second look at the ongoing course improvements and since last time irrigation has been installed around both bunkers.  Our restoration architect, Kris Spence was on site Monday for a quick inspection and he did make a couple of minor adjustments. Sand has been installed and the turf replaced so let's have a look.

Once final shaping was complete irrigation was trenched in around the bunker.  These are small, pop up misters that allow us to prevent the steep grass slopes from drying out without runoff.  Drainage was installed in the bunker floor and connected to the existing underground network running through the course.  After that the turf was replaced and finally the sand installed.
Kris Spence Giving Direction on Adjustment
Irrigation Installation

Drainage Installation

Turf Replaced

Sand Installation

Misting Irrigation!

Finished Product

Currently work is quickly progressing on the second new bunker.  Shaping is complete, irrigation is in and drainage is being installed as I write this.  By day's end the bunker will be complete as the process moves rapidly at this stage.

So tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and folks wishing to get in a quick round before the turkey, or maybe a quick nine afterward are welcome to do so, but for those unfamiliar things are a little different.  The club is closed with no staff and thus golf tomorrow exists in a raw and simple form, members and their guests helping themselves and walking the course.  It has become a tradition at Carolina Golf Club and I think it makes us unique.  Of course I have my own Thanksgiving tradition, I enjoy a very quiet ride to the course for a quick patrol of the grounds making sure everything is in order and nothing is out of place.  If there is no concern for frost I will exit through the back gate by the Turf Care Center and return home to my family.  After all, grass doesn't know what day it is.  If there is a likelihood for frost I will hang around behind the clubhouse and converse with those early arrivals to ensure no one inadvertently damages the turf before the frost lifts.  The forecast for tomorrow morning calls for temperatures in the 40's meaning no frost expected tomorrow, so come early if you wish and if I don't see you, Happy Thanksgiving!

For the past few years I have used this forum to express my gratitude for a variety of people, places and things as Thanksgiving approaches.  Each year is different, bringing with it new challenges and triumphs and 2016 was no different.  Whether it was the weather or something else causing bumps along the road the journey this year wasn't always smooth, but then again that's what makes it all more special when you arrive. This year I'm thankful for:

10.  Arnold Palmer!  The King passed away back on September 25th and it was a sad day for the golf world.  He did more to grow and promote the game of golf than anybody else, and was the coolest guy on the planet at the same time.  I joined the USGA in 1992 while a student in college.  I remember receiving a form letter signed by Mr. Palmer as he was the Honorary Chairman of the USGA's membership campaign.  I phoned my grandfather with excitement telling him I received a letter from Arnold Palmer!  Earlier this year I told you about traveling to Oakmont for the U.S. Open (CLICK HERE) but what I didn't tell you was I also played golf at Latrobe CC that Saturday morning before returning to Oakmont that afternoon.  Following golf my group had lunch in the Men's Grill and just prior to leaving Mr. Palmer was escorted into the room and sat nearby.  We were invited over to say hello and pay our respects and I took great thrill in telling Mr. Palmer the story of the letter and how much he meant to me and my family.  It was an emotional moment as it was evident his health was declining and I sobbed all the way to the parking lot.
The King!
9.  Pat Jones and Golf Course Industry Magazine!  When Pat Jones reached out to me in late summer of 2015 to pitch his idea of a Technology Conference I never could have imagined hosting so many superintendents from all across the country the Monday and Tuesday after this year's Masters. What a humbling experience it was to see peers from North and South Carolina join others from Virginia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Texas, and Florida among others here at Carolina Golf Club making the inaugural conference successful.  Pencil me in for the 2017 GCI Tech Conference, wherever it may be as I want to pay forward the support I received!

8.  Tad Moore and Hickory Golf!  I believe it was sometime back in March when I saw Tad Moore featured on Golf Channel's Morning Drive.  I immediately visited his website CLICK HERE and it was love at first sight.  I've always fancied myself somewhat of a golf historian and traditional enthusiast, but playing golf with hickory shafted clubs and replica era golf balls has been more fun than I ever imagined.  I birdied the first hole I ever played with them (No. 1 at Carolina Golf Club) and I even managed to try them at other Ross venues such as Mimosa Hills CC, Southern Pines CC, and Mid-Pines.  To answer your question a solidly struck shot feels so solid, but a "squirrely" shot is really, really "squirrely"! 

7.  GCSAA!  This year marked the 90th birthday of the professional association dedicated to serving its members, advancing their profession, and enhancing the enjoyment, growth, and vitality of the game of golf.  I've been a loyal member since 1997 and was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to association headquarters in Lawrence, KS this year not once, but twice.  I was asked to serve on the Education Task Group which selects all the continuing education offerings at the upcoming Golf Industry Show in Orlando, FL next February.  I was also selected by my chapter, Carolinas GCSA to serve as Chapter Delegate which brought me back to HQ for the annual Chapter Delegates Meeting last month.  Two very humbling experiences.

6.  BIGGA!  I joined the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association as an International Member in 2010 both to broaden my professional development and deepen my connection with the roots of my profession.  They offer a certificate that is regarded by many as the pinnacle of professional achievement and this year I succeeded in accomplishing that professional goal I set many years ago.  To be able to call myself a Master Greenkeeper is a distinction I take very seriously and I am honored to join their ranks.  My wife and I have planned a trip to their conference in January where I will be recognized along with three others who joined the ranks of MG's in 2016!

5.  Hermine and Matthew!  It may sound crazy but if not for the rains associated with Tropical Storm Hermine in early September and Hurricane Matthew about five weeks later conditions would be drastically different in our area.  Currently there is severe, extreme, and even exceptional drought just to our west and the only thing keeping those red colors out of our immediate vicinity is the rainfall we received from these two tropical systems.

4.  My Staff!  How could I not thank the hardest working greenkeeping team in the Queen City!  In what was another year of record heat, humidity, and drought this team produced some amazing course conditions during our peak golf seasons.  These guys work very hard to ensure your course is properly prepared and ready for your enjoyment, please join me in thanking them for their efforts when you see them.
2016 Carolina Golf Club Greenkeeping Team!
3.  Members of Carolina Golf Club!  It's been humbling the past few months to be asked how I'm doing by so many of you.  As the winds of change blow across the golf course many of you have reached out and expressed concern.  I truly thank you for thinking of me, and it reminds me how lucky I am.  Believe me I know I am not irreplaceable.  There are lots of good superintendents in my profession and I'm sure many of them would love the opportunity to care for this amazing piece of property.  I count my blessings each day I remain entrusted to care for the golf course that contains my blood, sweat, and tears.  Besides, why would I want to be anywhere else when I planted every blade of grass on this course, some of it more than once.  ;) 

2.  Stephen Woodard!  Mr. Woodard has been chairman of the Greens Committee for the past five years and I have enjoyed working closely with him preserving, maintaining, and enhancing your golf course.  His calm, cool, collected leadership will be missed as he rolls off the Board of Governors after this year.  Many of you may not know this but Mr. Woodard is a reinstated amateur and once won a professional event contested on a golf course where I was working.  In May of 2000 I was Assistant Superintendent of Augustine Golf Club in Stafford, VA and we hosted the Augustine Classic, a Teardrop Tour event Stephen won in a three-way playoff over Tim Petrovic and somebody else.  Others in the field included Zach Johnson, Jason Gore, and the Pappas brothers. 

1.  Roger Wolfe!  It would be wrong of me to not express proper thanks to the man responsible for me being your golf course superintendent.  Mr. Wolfe had enough faith and trust in me to lead this club on an ambitious four-phase master plan renovation that he recruited and brought me to Carolina from my home in Virginia.  What we accomplished in those earlier days is way more than I ever imagined possible when the project was just beginning, and it's why I have remained and made Carolina my home.  I thank you Roger and wish you and your family nothing but the best in your future endeavors.

Now I know what you're thinking, how could I leave out the most important person in my life. Especially when we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary earlier this month. Mrs. Greenkeeper is my rock and without her and our family I am nothing. She is my best friend and most trusted advisor and believe me, she knows where she stands...

God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Friday, November 18, 2016

Course Improvements Update 1!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, November 18th and this is our first look at ongoing course improvement projects.  When we last met, Golf Course Services, Inc. were on site beginning the tee expansions on hole number 9.  They have completed that work and have started the additions to hole number 7. I have taken several photos the past few days so let's have a look.

The process at hole number 9 involved removing all turf from the surrounding area.  Soil was then added, shaped to match existing elevations, and compacted.  Sand cap was installed for drainage. Sod harvested from the area was reused to stabilize the surrounds of the teeing areas.  New sod was installed on the expanded portion of the actual teeing ground.

Turf Removed and Soil Added

Shaping of Added Soil

It's All About The Details

Replacing Sand Cap

Addition Ready for New Sod
You may recall last time I mentioned the tee expansion project accomplishes three things: 1) We provide more usable tee space which is always important on par 3 holes. 2) The expansion aligns all four individual teeing grounds creating symmetry.  3) Widening the teeing surface of the three forward most teeing areas provides those players an angle previously unique to only those playing from the championship tee.  Overall the work went smoothly and I think the finished product looks like it has always been there.  

*The fact this area remains mostly shaded this time of year has made capturing the finished product adequately in a photo difficult, but I will keep trying.

Next GCS moved to number 7 and immediately started building two mounds just left of the fairway. Sod was removed from the area.  Soil added and shaped per the architects specifications via the field drawings.  The added soil was compacted for stability and then the harvested turf was reinstalled. This work was accomplished very quickly.

Turf Removed and Soil Added

Shaped and Sod Being Replaced

Finished Product

Looks Like It Was Always Here

These two additions now bring the total number of mounds in this cluster to five and I think the cluster looks more cohesive than before.  I will share another photo of the entire cluster once the project is complete as currently it's hard to capture properly with the equipment and activity in the area building the two fairway bunkers.

Speaking of bunkers, here's a quick peak at the ongoing work as it too is coming together quickly. Our architect, Kris Spence will be here early next week for a scheduled site inspection.

Ground Breaking For First Bunker

Rough Shaping


More Shaping

Starting To Take Shape
You may have noticed the stubbed pipe for the drainage outfall.  One of the added benefits to having GCS make these additions is the fact they were part of the construction team during the recent restoration.  Not only do we have accurate as built drawings for irrigation and drainage to work from, but considering they installed most of those components they know where everything is.  We were able to locate the existing drainage network for the existing bunker cluster and tie-in to it.  Next up will be irrigation and drainage installation as well as turf and sand installation, but those are for next time. Until then... 

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Off-Season, Conference Season, and Golf Course Services!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Tuesday, November 8th and with the exception of the annual Pig Roast Shotgun a week from Saturday we have closed the books on another thrilling golf season at Carolina Golf Club!  This past weekend saw two of our own win the Carolina Invitational in exciting fashion, birdieing the 18th to force a playoff and then birdieing the 18th again to win the playoff.  Congratulations to Brett Boner and Stephen Woodard on capturing their second Invitational championship (2013 winners). RESULTS 
With the Invitational in the rear-view mirror and clocks returned to standard time, the club has returned to off-season hours of operation.  And that means our off-season range use policies are in effect.  You may recall I touched on this LAST TIME, but I will repeat here for everyone's benefit.  Starting today the range will be open on the artificial mats only Tuesday through Thursday.  We will use the overseeded portion of the range tee Friday through Sunday (weather permitting).  It's also important to note we only overseeded the lower tier this year, thus the larger upper level along with the back range tee will remain closed all off-season to preserve and protect them through the winter, so please manage your divots on the lower level judiciously. CLICK HERE to view a brief video courtesy of the United States Golf Association perfectly describing the linear divot pattern and why it's important compared to other methods.

The off-season also means the inevitable frost delay is just around the corner.  I've talked a lot about the importance of frost delays through the years, both in this forum and others.  This year I thought I would let the USGA again do the work with this wonderful public service announcement detailing why it is important to delay play until the putting greens are free of frost.  So pour a cup of coffee and check it out! FROST DELAYS 

The off-season also means it's time for professional development and continuing education. Conference season kicks off next week with the annual Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show in Myrtle Beach.  Assistant Superintendent Ben Albrecht and I will be in attendance to brush up on our agronomy, earn some pesticide license credits, and view new industry innovations.  As a member of the Carolinas GCSA Board of Directors I'm proud to say our regional show is widely viewed as the number one regional event in the country and I am excited to see my peers and reflect back on a challenging growing season.

In other conference season news I will be speaking at the Tennessee Turfgrass Association's Conference and Tradeshow in early January and later that month Mrs. Greenkeeper will accompany me overseas as I receive my Master Greenkeeper award at the BIGGA Turf Management Exhibition in Harrogate.  And of course the annual Golf Industry Show in early February rounds out what is definitely an exciting slate of conference activities this off-season.  TTA  BTME  GIS

Today also marks something else of utmost importance, Golf Course Services is back on site breaking ground on some course improvements.  The first thing they will be accomplishing is widening the teeing surfaces on the Green, White, and Blue tees of hole No. 9.  This decision was made to align the forward most tees with the back tee, but more importantly provide more usable teeing space on a par 3 and create the same angle available to those playing from farther back. When work on No. 9 is complete GCS will then relocate to hole No. 7 where we will be adding two new fairway bunkers and two mounds to strengthen the inside of the dogleg.
You may have noticed the blue markings just in the left rough on hole No. 7 this season as I have worked hard to preserve our architect's field drawings.  Hard to believe it's been eight months since Kris Spence was here to put those in, but better late than never I suppose.  I will be updating the blog more frequently in the coming weeks to highlight the work completed by GCS, so please check back.  

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG