Thursday, March 15, 2018

March Madness!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Thursday, March 15th and it's been exactly twenty-one days since my last update.  Since that time we've experienced 2.82 inches rainfall, snow twice, warm temperatures reaching 80 F and cold temperatures as low as 25 F!  Needless to say, it's all been quite maddening!  When I was a young greenkeeper my least favorite month of the year was August.  This was probably due in large part to my recollection of the brutal heat experienced during August 1996.  My dislike for August even lead me to say, "the only good thing to come out of August is September".  

But with age comes maturity, experience, even dare I say, wisdom.  I've learned to recognize and understand August isn't so bad after all as the Dog Days of Summer end on or about the tenth and the days in the latter half of the month begin to become noticeably shorter leading to cooler nighttime temperatures.  I mean compared to March, the playing conditions in August are absolutely outstanding.  March on the other hand.  March is a transitional month as winter comes to a close and spring arrives.  I believe the old saying goes, "in like a lion, out like a lamb."  It's like we are living in a constant tug-of-war between the two seasons with a roller coaster of temperature swings.
It can all be quite maddening, to both people and plants!  I mowed my home lawn Sunday before last (Feb 25) as the unseasonable warmth in late February stirred things awake.  Then winter came back and there hasn't been any noticeable growth the past 18 days to warrant firing up my Sears Craftsman again.  The golf course was slowly beginning to green up but by yesterday afternoon most of the chlorophyll responsible for the noticeable green hues was absent and the course returned to biscuit brown.
Pretty Much Sums Things!
And if all that isn't maddening enough, in my opinion the golf course is overall its least attractive this time of year.  Trees are still bare from winter, cool-season grasses are beginning to grow, but yet warm-season grasses are still snoozing.  The canopy structure of dormant bermudagrass is now matted down from months of winter traffic making for extremely tight lies.  If there is even a hint of wetness (see rainfall totals above) it is easy to hit the ball fat!  Chunked chips, fat approaches, or even the dreaded thin shot because you are subconsciously avoiding mud to the face after impact can be frustrating and lead to even more madness (see what I did there). ;)
Spring cannot get here fast enough to suit me and my team.  We just wrapped up a second consecutive three-day spring greens aeration thanks to Mother Nature and her mood swings.  Monday saw over 1 inch of rain fall on Carolina Golf Club and at one point large snowflakes were in the mix!  Despite this weather challenge I still managed to deep tine 19 of our 22 greens on this day and we core aerated 16 of those before the long, cold day ended.
Tuesday we wrapped up the deep tining and core aeration and spent all day removing cores, blowing and rolling the surfaces, and applying soil amendments to all 22 putting surfaces.  This is why we needed the extra day to complete the topdressing, and that even had its unique challenges.
Yes, that is snow you see falling in the video above as we started topdressing yesterday morning!  A small squall passed over Charlotte early leaving us to wonder what else could we possibly experience before we wrapped up this project!  Shortly after it passed we enjoyed bright sunshine and gusty north winds leading to a long, cold day but one me and the team will not soon forget.  I'm proud of how the staff came together to overcome all the setbacks and challenges Mother Nature bestowed upon us.  
Before I go, I want to share something with you I experienced yesterday morning during the snow squall.  As we were readying the team for the day's operation ahead, I couldn't help but laugh as the snow continued to fall harder and harder.  When I was a young greenkeeper I would have complained and allowed my frustration to grow at the inconvenience, but as I said earlier with age comes maturity and experience and despite what was happening I remained calm.  In the madness it happened, a brief moment of peaceful beauty as the squall passed to our east and the sun peeked over top the storm clouds.  I'm blessed to call Carolina Golf Club my office and my office has the best views in town, enjoy!
I'm happy to report greens aeration is complete and we are ready for spring's arrival so we can start mowing grass and grooming some turf!
Good Grief!
I know, it's maddening! ;)

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG