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