Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Two Majors, On Deck, Short Game Area, & Major Milestone!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Tuesday, May 31st and it looks like I'm going to barely sneak this update in before the curtain closes on the month of May.  What can I say, May is definitely one of our busiest months annually with two major tournaments, the Member-Guest and the Member-Member.  With these two events played just two weeks apart it is easy to forget what day it is sometimes.  Not to mention, we are aerating the putting greens today!

Now I know what you're thinking, why would I aerate the putting greens when they are so darn good right now.  In fact, this past weekend one Four-Ball (Member-Member) participant exclaimed them to be the best putting surfaces in the region!  Thank you for the kind words and vote of confidence.  The truth is today we are removing the smallest core possible (0.25" inside diameter hollow tines) in an effort to alleviate compaction from the intense mowing and rolling regimes employed during our recent major tournaments.  Also, with summer heat and humidity on the horizon, now is the time to provide oxygen to the rootzone.  Today we are also beginning the process of reinstalling our Turf Breeze fans near those putting greens located in the more difficult micro-climates. There are currently eight of them and they are important agronomic tools necessary for the long term health of those putting surfaces. Friendly reminder to please refrain from turning fans off when playing the course!
Earlier this month the PGA Tour was in town for the annual Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club.  For five years (2010-2014) we had the pleasure of hosting the qualifying tournaments for this event.  With the qualifying tournaments at Gaston Country Club this year and the event not coinciding with Member-Guest like last year, several of my staff members were able to join the agronomy volunteer team.  It was a great opportunity and learning experience for Assistant Superintendents Ben Albrecht and David Sherwood, along with Equipment Manager Bob Hall.  
Ben Albrecht Mowing Tees

David Sherwood Mowing Greens

Bob Hall Adjusting Mower

Of course they weren't the only guys having fun that week.  With them splitting time between here and there it allowed me the opportunity to get reacquainted with some of my favorite tasks.
I have always loved mowing fairways!  It's a great way to either clear your mind, or think of a million things the staff needs to do.  And speaking of needing to do, with the busy spring tournament schedule behind us and small tine greens aeration almost in the books it is now time to focus our efforts on other areas of the golf course.  In the coming days and weeks you will notice us performing some sod work (mainly bunker faces and cart path edges).  We will be trimming the willows and birches growing along the creek just below the 13th tee complex.  Of course we will spend a good deal of time weeding the natural/native areas and it's time to edge bunkers again.  Before you know it we will be topdressing fairways and surrounds as fairway aeration is scheduled for June 20th & 21st.

But before I get too far ahead of myself, I need to take a moment and inform everyone this coming Monday, June 6th we will begin the Fraze mowing project on the driving range tee.  You may or may not recall I first mentioned Fraze mowing in this forum back on October 23rd.  At that time I talked about how we would overseed the Primary Range Tee for winter use but then renovate the surface this spring via Fraze mowing.  For a better understanding of exactly what I'm talking about CLICK HERE to watch the same brief video I posted then detailing the process.  The plan all along has been to get beyond the busy spring tournament schedule, so this coming Monday we will Fraze mow approximately half the tee (lower tier and portion of the upper tier) and while those areas recover and grow back in, you still have full access to the back half of the tee (you also have access to the Back Range Tee as an alternative).  The recovery process should take approximately 14-21 days, thus we have scheduled our contractor to return on Monday, June 27th to perform the operation on the remainder of the teeing ground.  When all is said and done we will have a freshly renovated range tee for everyone's enjoyment this summer and fall.

Speaking of practice areas and renovations, I know some of you are dissatisfied with the current condition of the Short Game Area.  It may or may not come as a surprise but the Greens Committee has not been overly thrilled with the area in its entirety either.  In fact, recently we approached our architect about producing a Short Game Master Plan in order to discuss possible improvements and perhaps an entire new space plan.  Let's take a closer look at the area as a whole and discuss.  Here are two recent Google Earth images depicting the areas commonly referred to as our Driving Range and our Short Game Area.

If we now focus our attention on just the Short Game Area you can see it is broken down into several components.  It contains a large (greater than 9,000 sq. ft.) putting green, a separate chipping green, two practice bunkers, three pitching greens and an uneven or irregular lie area.  I flipped the photo because most everyone uses and views this area with their back to the Cart Barn located in the lower middle portion of the photo below.

One of the items the committee wants to address is the chipping green.  It is believed the green does not adequately serve its purpose because its shape and how it ties-in to the surrounding terrain does not allow for, or replicate chip shots commonly played on the course.  Although this may be true, another issue we have with the Short Game Area is common use does not match the area's intended design.  You see, most individuals practicing in this area rarely venture past the small grove of trees on the left side separating the Short Game Area from the Driving Range.

It is not uncommon to never find evidence of use in the far bunker and rarely do we need to patch and fill divots farther down the closely mowed area past the chipping green.  I understand most individuals are most likely electing to remain safely guarded by the trees and thus the largest percentage of all traffic, divots, etc. are contained within a small confined space closer to the Cart Barn.    

Now, I'm not telling you this to make excuses for what is currently some pretty rough conditions.  My staff and I were recently asked to landscape behind the cart barn and we are close to wrapping that project up.  Once complete we will replace all the damaged turf in the Short Game Area caused by high traffic volume.  In fact the Golf Shop has relocated their range picker and altered their traffic pattern which will help greatly reduce future turf damage.

New Shrubs Behind Cart Barn
Short Game Tee (Former Range Picker Parking Area)
Common Range Picker Traffic Pattern 

I merely want to help you better understand all the factors effecting the overall condition of this club amenity.  Besides, now that you have seen the overall area from a different perspective you may venture down to the far bunker and practice hitting your 6-iron out into the main range floor.  Or hit a few shots with the ball below your feet in the uneven lie area.  The possibilities are numerous, but also understand club leaders are currently examining all possible methods to enhance this important amenity and your experience.  If the area does not get used as it was designed, then maybe redesigning the area to better fit the way most everyone practices will pay dividends in the long run.  In the meantime, my staff and I will do everything we possibly can to improve the turf and the area's overall condition.

And finally, in international news.  I recently appeared in an article by Golf Business News, a U.K. publication, regarding my involvement with the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA).  
I have been an International Member of BIGGA since 2010.  Please CLICK HERE to see the story from Golf Business News to read and learn about a recent achievement.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG