Thursday, December 21, 2017

Project Update, Outlook, and More Geeky Golf!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Thursday, December 21st or as the calendar indicates, the first official day of winter.  It might not feel like winter when it was 73 degrees two days ago and nearly 100 of you (94 total rounds played) took advantage, but the winds of change will arrive in a few days I'm told.  Today in this space I'm going to give you a brief golf course project update.  Then we'll take a look at the weather forecast for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to determine any potential impacts to your golf activities.  And I'll wrap up this edition with a couple of new golf course architecture related items I've come across since our last time together.  Think of them as my gift to your inner nerd this holiday season.

Our friends from Golf Course Services have been assisting us with two course improvements the past couple weeks.  We are adding a series of irregular mounds to the right of No. 10 located in the rough approximately 190 - 210 yards from the center of the Ross tee (404 yards).  These mounds are similar to those found between holes 4/17 and 6/7.  Architect Kris Spence was on site this past Monday morning to assist with shape and placement and I'm happy to report turf has been replaced.  

You may recall one of our irrigation well pumps is in that area and was pictured last update CLICK HERE It's still there but now concealed within a newly constructed vault deep inside our new architectural feature.  Our other course improvement is of a similar nature in that the irrigation well pump behind 17 Ross tee is also being concealed.  We are adding about 7 yards length to the Ross tee (currently 392 yards) in order to close the gap between the tee and well.  A new vault has been constructed around the well and it's being buried within the fill supporting the tee extension.  While on site Monday, Kris also consulted with the general shaping and tie-ins necessary for this tee box expansion.  
We were unable to work on these projects yesterday due to the rain (0.94" total) and now GCS is scheduled to break for the upcoming Christmas and New Year's holidays.  We'll reconvene on January 2nd and hopefully wrap everything up by mid-month.  #StayTuned

Last week felt like winter had finally arrived in the Carolinas.  In fact we experienced temperatures cold enough overnight to reach the lower and mid twenties both Saturday and Sunday mornings.  Those were two of our lengthiest frost delays of the season (thank you again for your cooperation and patience), and then just two days later we fell only 3 degrees shy of tying the record high (always a roller coaster).  Anyway, this current reprieve from cold is merely that, a reprieve as winter is reloading and will be arriving next week.  If we look at the next 10 days (thanks Brad) you can see cold air will be returning to the Queen City in plenty of time to ring in 2018.  But as for this coming Sunday and Monday (club closed, course accessible walking only) things appear to be okay (no potential frost issues, etc.) provided you can obtain the necessary clearance from family and loved ones. ;)
Before I go I promised a little something extra for your holiday enjoyment.  Last time I posted links to video fly-overs of two notable Seth Raynor designed golf courses and the response I received from many of you was overwhelmingly positive.  Good news, I since came across a fly-over of famed Pine Valley courtesy of Golf Digest.  This video is slightly different from the other two as it is narrated by Jerry Tarde, Golf Digest Editor-in-Chief but what it lacks in soundtrack it makes up with, well, Pine Valley.  PINE VALLEY DRONE TOUR 

And for those of you that just love historical images I have something I think you are going to find way cool.  Jason Way from Chicago runs a blog called Geeked on Golf.  Recently his post "Now & Then - Great Holes Through the Years" combines the amazing images of Philadelphia based golf freelance photographer Jon Cavalier with the historical images supplied by Simon Haines from Solihull, England.  Paired together these photographs form an awe inspiring 1-2 punch.  If you happen to follow both Jon and Simon on Twitter (@LinksGems and @Hainesy76 respectively) then you've seen this unfold as Jon posts a photo and then Simon replies shortly thereafter with nearly an identical image taken decades before.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy.  It never ceases to amaze me how nature evolves over time and this collection captures it brilliantly.  CLICK HERE  

Although unconfirmed, rumor has it this is Simon Haines inside his amazing archive of historical golf records. ;)
Well that's all for now, we are going to fire up the grill and have a special holiday luncheon for the team after we complete course setup today.  Good luck to everyone participating in our annual holiday outing, we hope you have fun and enjoy the course despite the soggy conditions (cart path only).  My team and I are going to enjoy a little camaraderie and reflect on another great season while you play.  Please feel free to drop in and say hello while playing the seventh, the guys would really enjoy your good cheer.  After that it's off to the mountains of Virginia for a few days to see the family, but don't worry, be back soon.  

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Friday, December 8, 2017

Golf Course Services, Short Game Work, and Junkies!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Friday, December 8th and I want to update you on a couple things golf course related.  The first is a new improvement project our good friends at Golf Course Services, Inc. (GCS) will be assisting us with, and the other is something I hope helps you make more efficient use of our Short Game Area this off-season.  If time permits maybe I'll slip something else in, but for starters let's cover what's going on with those materials in the club parking area.

What started as discussions with our lake and pond service provider about addressing the sediment buildup in the stream channel fronting No. 16 green (this constant flowing water body originates off property and we catch sediment and debris during heavy downpours) evolved into a small mobilization effort and a "camouflage" side project.  We have a total of four wells on property, and although they are mostly "out of sight, out of mind" occasionally one or more will be discussed for its intrusive nature.  In other words, how do you hide something in plain sight.  

Well (pun intended), after meeting with our architect, Kris Spence a couple months back a plan was developed to enhance some golf course features that will "house" the pumps inside.  We will be lengthening the Ross tee of hole No. 17 as well as (pun not intended) adding mounds like found between holes 4 and 17 to the right side of hole No. 10.  
There's not a lot to share at this point as we're just scratching the surface of the project.  We did manage to get both footers poured and we'll begin construction of the block walls first of next week.  I will update and share more as we progress. #staytuned.   

Recently Head Golf Professional, Bobby Cox spoke with me about the Short Game Area.  He was concerned about the amount of divots recently made and their impact on the turf as we enter winter.  I can tell you although the divots have been patched they will be there all winter because bermudagrass stopped growing over a month ago and will not regrow until late next spring.  We discussed the matter with both the Golf Committee and Greens Committee Chairmen and it was decided this would be a great time to revisit the "off-season" usage policies of our practice facilities for those either needing a refresher or those newer members that just wasn't fully aware.  But before I do I've added a link to a post from May of last year that contains some great information about the Short Game Area and its design and intended use. CLICK HERE 

Now, our "off-season" policies go into effect each year when the clocks return to standard time.  We close the Back Range Tee till spring and permit use of the natural turf on the overseeded Primary Range Tee Fridays through Sundays (weather permitting).  Tuesdays through Thursdays all range use is on the mats.  As for the Short Game Area it "technically" remains open but the big difference you hopefully have noticed is balls are not readily available.  During the growing season den caddies, buckets, and shag bags of balls are strategically placed throughout the Short Game Area for your convenience and to "encourage" you to practice from certain locations.  During the "off-season" the Golf Staff is asked to suspend this service while the turf isn't growing.

The Committee's thought behind this policy is if you really want to work on your bunker play or bump and run you can do so with a sleeve or two of balls from your bag and improve your feel and touch, then move on to putting and/or something else.  By not having "unlimited" balls at one's disposal the likelihood of one or more individuals "over using" the turf is greatly discouraged.

It was recently brought to my attention some members weren't fully aware of the reasons behind these policies and were helping themselves to practice balls located inside the cart barn.  Perhaps now you have a better understanding to the thought process behind these policies and you can continue to utilize the area throughout the winter but in a manner that still helps protect and preserve turf for the coming spring.  Simply stated, the policies are there to ensure you and your fellow members aren't unhappy come springtime when the temperature is warm, the sun is out, but the grass in the Short Game Area isn't there.  Thank you in advance for your cooperation!

Moving along, since it's cold, wet and dreary outside today (there's even a slight chance of snow) I thought I would share a couple of videos to brighten your day, and please my fellow golf course architecture junkies.  Recently my friend Sean Tully (Sean is superintendent of Meadow Club in Fairfax, California) shared a link to a YouTube video featuring a flyover of Fishers Island Club in New York, regarded by many as Seth Raynor's finest design.  Have a look.  Fishers Island Flyover  

If you enjoyed that then I'm certain you will enjoy this similar video featuring Westhampton Country Club on Long Island, believed to be Raynor's first solo design.  Westhampton Flyover 

I know Raynor isn't our guy, we're Ross lovers...
...but the videos are cool and I especially dig that soundtrack on the Westhampton one.  Hopefully we can take inspiration and have one featuring Carolina produced next year.  Maybe I can ask Santa, I believe he's dropping by the club this weekend.  Hmmm.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Wednesday, November 22nd and I want to quickly remind everyone although the club is closed tomorrow for Thanksgiving the golf course is available (walking only) for those wanting to squeeze in a quick round before dinner, or perhaps you need to "walk off" some turkey and stuffing later in the day. Either way I hope you enjoy your time on the course should you choose to come out.
Thanksgiving is a holiday steeped in traditions and over the years has become my all-time favorite holiday.  I love leaving the house quietly each year on Thanksgiving morning with a fresh cup of coffee and making my journey to Carolina Golf Club.  The streets are quiet as the city enjoys the day off and I ride through the course to ensure everything is in order and nothing out of place.  It's a quiet and peaceful time to reflect on the many blessings of the past year.  If there is no potential for frost I exit out the back gate by the Turf Care Center and return home to a house filled with visiting family (now you know why it has become my favorite holiday).  If there is potential for frost I linger behind the clubhouse and engage early arrivals in conversation and holiday cheer in order to prevent inadvertent turf damage before the frost sufficiently lifts.  Currently the forecast tomorrow morning calls for temperatures in the low to mid-30's so I wouldn't be surprised if we have some frost.  Come early and maybe I'll see you, and if we don't cross paths this year, Happy Thanksgiving!

Just prior to Thanksgiving in 2010 I penned a short list of things I was most thankful for that year, and since that time I guess you could say it's become a tradition.  Inspired by the lists of legendary golf writer Ron Green, Sr. that annually appear in the Charlotte Observer I enjoy taking time to reflect on the year and recognizing some memorable moments.  I am well aware my lists pale in comparison to his but without further ado, this year I'm most thankful for:

10. BTME! The BIGGA Turf Management Exposition is the largest professional turfgrass conference outside the U.S. and what a thrill it was to attend the conference earlier this year.  Not only did I have the opportunity to meet and fellowship with my peers across the Atlantic, but this was actually my first time travelling outside the U.S.  Mrs. Greenkeeper and I had a wonderful experience and look forward to attending again sometime in the future, maybe I'll get invited to speak one year, that would be special.
Harrogate International Centre 
9. Chris Buie! The author of The Life and Times of Donald Ross befriended me earlier this year and shared many of the cool finds from researching his book including an Associated Press story from 1933 that chronicles how Carolina came to be the golf course we all love and enjoy today from its humble dairy farm origins.  That story appears in his book by the way.  He also shared coming across a reference to a match played at Carolina in the early 30's between Walter Hagen and Joe Kirkwood.  At this time I've yet to unearth evidence of that match but the search continues. 
The Life & Times of Donald Ross
Original Ross Routing

8. Timely Rains! This year we received over twenty inches rain at Carolina Golf Club between April 1st and June 30th and although I love firm, fast playing conditions even I had to agree the bermudagrass turf looked its best ever this summer.  The plentiful and timely rains boosted soil moisture reserves creating a dense bermudagrass turf canopy unlike we've seen post restoration and the definition this year was second to none.
16 Green Foreground, 3 Approach & Green Background
Nest of Bunkers & Mounds Holes 6 (R) & 7 (L)
Hole No. 8
7. Mentors!  I dare say none of us would be where we are in life today without the assistance and guidance from someone we look up to.  I have been fortunate in my profession to be blessed with several mentors and what a treat it was for me this year to spend time during PGA Championship week showing off Carolina Golf Club to a few fellow superintendents and industry peers, and they all loved it!
6. Kris Spence!  Kris has been consulting and working with Carolina Golf Club since before I was your superintendent.  I've been blessed for the opportunity to work closely with him and I'm proud the relationship he shares with Carolina Golf Club today is as strong as ever.  It was just this time last year he assisted us in the design and location of our two newest fairway bunkers left of hole No. 7 and earlier this year he was the feature interview on the popular golf course architecture discussion website, Golf Club Atlas.  CLICK HERE to read what Kris had to say about becoming involved with Carolina and the club's subsequent transformation.
5. Sunrises! One of the greatest benefits to being a golf course superintendent is being on the property at a time when most aren't and capturing those moments.  I've seen countless beautiful sunrises over Carolina through the years but these two photos below contain colors I don't recall ever seeing before.  Oddly enough they were taken only three minutes apart back in late September from the operator's seat of my fairway mower.  #nofilter 
6:59 am Sep 25th
7:02 am Sep 25th
4. Ed Oden!  How does the chairman of the Greens Committee replace an outgoing chairman of five years?  Exactly like Mr. Oden did it this year.  He assembled a great group consisting of a few new members while keeping a few tenured ones for continuity.  He even made the effort to play the course (walking) with me the day prior to several of our monthly meetings.  These informal "course inspections" really helped shape and facilitate our discussions with the group each time the next day.  Thank you Mr. Oden for your leadership and guidance this year and I look forward to continuing our work together next year!

3. Billy Cleveland!  Recall this time last year the club was engaged with a firm assisting with the selection and hire of our next General Manager.  Regardless of the process and subsequent negotiations, I believe things happen for a reason and I'm truly thankful we landed Mr. Cleveland!  Since mid-February he has brought an unprecedented knowledge and experience to Carolina and I'm excited for what the bright future holds in store for the club.  
Solar Eclipse 
Just last week while attending the Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show I was approached by several individuals who recognized the name Carolina Golf Club on my badge and asked me about Billy Cleveland.  It's an honor to be associated with someone so well thought of throughout the industry.  Thank you for your leadership Sir!

2. Carolina Golf Club!  As I alluded to briefly above, this time last year we were without a General Manager and the lack of leadership at that time made for some challenging times.  However, throughout those times you constantly reassured me and my family here is where you want us to be.  I count my blessings each day I remain entrusted to care for the best golf course in town.  I cannot believe I get to do what I do everyday and call it work.  It's not work when it's your passion and this course contains my blood, sweat, and tears so why would I want to be anywhere else. 

1. My Staff!  Each year I've always thanked my staff, usually somewhere between numbers four and five.  Mostly because I reserved numbers one and two for faith and family but this year I thought I would do something different.  Many of you have stated this year you believe the golf course was the best it has ever been.  I don't disagree, the overall condition and daily presentation of tees, fairways and rough was by far the most consistent in our post restoration era.  I will forever remember 2017 for a strong year of turf conditions and course presentation, but we did so in a year with tremendous turnover.  When negative forces impact team chemistry it's necessary to make changes and I made a significant change to my management team just as the growing season arrived.  Shortly after, I lost two additional experienced equipment operators to other job opportunities and suddenly we were short-handed.  Without hesitation I successfully recruited Matt Claunch from Pine Tree Golf Club in Boynton Beach, FL to return home to Charlotte and join my staff.  A month later Colby Engert returned from Arizona after a near 20-month hiatus walking through the door exclaiming, "I'm home Boss".  Together we guided what turned out to be the best group of international interns we've ever had.  These young men from the Philippines have spoiled me this year with their knowledge, talent, work ethic, and pleasant demeanor.  We might look like a ragtag band of misfits in the photo below but I will forever be proud of the team I assembled in 2017!  I thank each and every one of you for all your hard work and effort!  
2017 Carolina Golf Club Greenkeeping Team
Okay, I really do need to mention two other things I'm thankful for this year.  I'm thankful for movers and realtors.  Granted, I would never recommend to anyone the company that moved us after that experience, but our realtor was awesome so I would happily recommend her if you're in need.

Did you really think I would omit the most important people in my life from this year's list?  I'm most thankful for my loving and supporting wife and our family.  This past year was a stressful one at times, especially with the move and ongoing renovations ;) but it only brought us closer together.  I truly love what I do for you and your guests each and every day, but the inspiration to wake and seize the day is the unconditional love of my family.  Whether it's enjoying one another's company at the beach or watching my little Princess (she's not so little anymore) play softball, they are the constant beating of my heart.  I love you all most!  
Catcher 2024 USA Softball 

May God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving Carolina Golf Club!   

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Friday, November 10, 2017

Seasons Change!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, November 10th and much has changed since my last update.  We wrapped up a warm and mostly dry (3.76 inches rainfall) October with a fabulous Fall Member-Guest and Tough Day.  We encountered our first "official" frost on Monday, October 30th but only in the rough as closely mowed areas remained frost free that morning due to soil temperatures.  The frost did manage to initiate the dormancy process in the rough and over several days things began to change.  
Each year as the color begins to fade in the rough I receive a few comments and questions.  The color contrast creates a unique look to the course that many find appealing, albeit none of us wish it looked that way year round.  I'm also asked why it turns brown in such an irregular pattern.  The short answer is convection, but rather than attempt to explain that phenomenon I thought I would link a one page article that will satisfy your curiosity better than I can. CLICK HERE to learn why the rough looks like "Tiger Stripes" each year after the first frost.

Pretty cool huh, I keep thinking our good friend Brad Panovich is going to feature the frost/convection/tiger stripes phenomenon on the news one evening, definitely a good science nerdy segment just waiting to happen.  Could even use some cool footage of Carolina and the Charlotte skyline, just saying.

Last weekend closed the books on the 2017 Tournament Season with a thrilling sudden death playoff finish to the annual Carolina Invitational.  Our winners this year were the team of Joe Jaspers and Jim "Bubba" Aughtry with a winning score of -13.  
Jim Aughtry and Joe Jaspers
They defeated River Run's Steve Harwell and Greensboro's Justin Tereshko when Jaspers calmly sank a short but breaking putt for birdie on No. 18 moments after Harwell's relatively short birdie bid stayed out.  This was the third Invitational title for the team of Jaspers and Aughtry having previously won in 2009 and 2012.  If you're thinking the name Tereshko sounds familiar it's because earlier this year he won the North Carolina Amateur contested at River Run CC after previously finishing runner-up each of the past two years.   

The golf course definitely held it's own with the strong field only playing to a stroke average of 70.71 in round 1 and 69.89 in round 2.  Tough hole locations were definitely the talk of the competitors but Mother Nature didn't make it any easier with a back-door cold front bringing cooler temperatures on the heels of near record highs earlier in the week.  Saturday morning was also a bit breezy as the front arrived making it difficult on the players.  Our own Stephen Woodard and Brett Boner finished 5th after a brilliant final round 64, unfortunately the defending champions got off to a slow start on day 1 that left them too far back.
Keeping on the subject of change, one other is the recent time change.  The end of Daylight Saving Time each year signals a change to our range usage procedures.  For those unfamiliar with our "off-season" policies we close access to the Back Tee (far end of practice range) and all participation at the Primary Tee is limited to mats only Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  We overseeded the Primary Tee and will open the grass for use Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays weather permitting.  This has worked well the past few years enabling folks to enjoy hitting from natural turf through the winter months while protecting and preserving turf for use come winters end.  In other words, our tee simply isn't large enough to accommodate daily use throughout the winter when turf isn't growing and recovering.  Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Before I go, I have one more change to announce, and it's a big one.  I have a new assistant because former Senior Assistant Ben Albrecht is now the golf course superintendent at Birkdale Golf Club in Huntersville.  Ben served as Senior Assistant since December 2014 and had been a member of my staff dating back to 2008.   I want to thank Ben for his tireless effort the past nine years and wish him the very best as he embarks on this next chapter of his career.  I'm very happy to announce Matt Claunch has been promoted to Senior Assistant.  You may recall I introduced all of you to Matt (CLICK HEREwhen he joined our staff in late May.  Eric Sosnowski has been promoted to Assistant Superintendent.  Eric has worked tirelessly as our Assistant-In-Training since joining the team in September 2013.  
Eric Sosnowski
Originally from State College, PA he is a 2013 graduate of Penn State University with a B.S. degree in Turfgrass Science.  He loves NASCAR, the Philadelphia Eagles and has even been known to wow the patrons at the Hickory Tavern in Steele Creek on Friday nights with his karaoke talents.

Well, that's all for now.  With tournament season in the rear-view it's time for refreshers and seminars as conference season kicks off next week.  Matt and I are headed to Myrtle Beach for the annual Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show.  We're looking forward to representing Carolina Golf Club as we learn about the latest trends and emerging technologies in golf course management, all in an effort to make Carolina even better next year.  

The coldest air of this fall season arrives in town tonight, so don't be surprised if we have a brief frost delay tomorrow and possibly Sunday morning this weekend! CLICK HERE for a brief video courtesy of the United States Golf Association explaining the importance of why starting times are delayed when frost is present on the golf course. Thank you for your patience!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Augtober, Field Trip, and Overseeding!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, October 11th and yet it feels like late August outside.  When we last gathered I shared with you some data regarding the plentiful rainfall received at Carolina Golf Club this summer, and an additional 3 plus inches fell within the first two weeks last month.  In fact, the remnants of Hurricane Irma dropped nearly 1.5 inches rain on the Queen City exactly one month ago (Monday, September 11th) but that was the last rainfall until this past weekend (26 consecutive days).
In fact, the warm late September temperatures combined with bright sunshine and no rainfall allowed the golf course to finally reach her full potential with some firm and fast conditions.  You could begin to recognize some discoloration along and under the tree lines on September 29th indicating the trees were out competing the turf for water.   
No. 8
No. 15

Late last week I traveled to Atlanta to this year's U.S. Mid-Am.  The purpose of my visit was fact finding as I spent time at both the host club (Capital City Club, Crabapple Course) and the companion course (Atlanta National Golf Club).  I was on site both for the final day of official practice rounds and the first day of stroke play competition.  The visit proved to be very informative and worthwhile.  There will be much to do in the next 345 days, yes, next year's event is already less than one year away (Sep 22-27, 2018), but I'm certain it isn't anything we can't handle.
Banners at Practice Tee (Atl Natl GC)
Spectator Info (Atl Natl GC)

While there I also spent time with my peer from Charlotte CC, John Szklinski and Patrick O'Brien of the USGA (Green Section Agronomist, SE Region).  Patrick invited us to assist him with data collection and we got the chance to take a few Stimp Meter readings between the morning and afternoon wave of competitors on Day 1.
A good portion of my visit was dedicated to non-turf logistics, like temporary lighting (tournament play starts very early), evacuation plans, portable toilets, and other spectator related items like stakes, ropes, and mobility scooters.  
Portable Lighting Range Tee (Atl Natl GC)
Evacuation Site (Atl Natl GC)
Evacuation Vans (Atl Natl GC)
Mobility Scooters (Atl Natl GC)

In all, there is much to discuss and plan but that's why I made the effort to visit this year's location to help with our preparation.  I also had the opportunity to meet with Kyle Marshall, Director of Golf Course Maintenance at Capital City Club and Course Superintendent Michael Studier, CGCS.  Kyle and Michael have spent the past three years developing some pretty amazing native areas and I will definitely have conversations and compare notes with them once they've completed hosting this year's event.
Capital City Crabbapple No. 1
View From Clubhouse Back Porch (Capital City Crabapple)

Anyway, with my field trip in the rear view mirror it was time to get back to work yesterday with our first Maintenance Tuesday in quite some time.  There was much to be done considering our last Maintenance Monday was one month ago and we were rained out that day by Irma.  

That's right, you read that last one correct as we overseeded the entire primary Practice Tee yesterday.  This decision was made at last week's Greens Committee meeting and hopefully these unseasonable warm temperatures will assist with some rapid establishment for your enjoyment this coming winter.  That's all for now, it's a busy time of year with Outings, Fall Member-Guest and the Invitational.  I believe there's even a Tough Day in there somewhere.  Guess I'll go and start thinking about Tough Day hole locations.  ;)

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG