Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Before You Know It!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Tuesday, July 31st and it's time for another update.  Before we officially close the books on July... Really?  Seems only yesterday summer was just getting here after a slow start and now we only have one more month till football season!  Before you know it August will also be a distant memory and we will be knee deep co-hosting a USGA Championship.  But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet.

Earlier this month we were closed two days for fairway aeration (you may recall this was originally scheduled for mid June and due to conflicts we pushed the operation to the week after Independence Day.  The fairways were solid tine aerated using 3/4 inch diameter tines and topdressed with 300 tons of sand.  
We are planning one more topdressing in a couple weeks, before the summer growing season comes to an end.  The spread rate will be slightly lighter (about 250 tons) and the material will only be dragged in, no aerating.

June and July have been quite dry as we have only received about 4 1/2 inches total rain the past two months.  As a result the water level in our irrigation reservoir is down several feet and the golf course shows the telltale signs of drought stress with sporadic discoloration.  On the bright side, the dryer than average conditions permit us to control the moisture on our bentgrass putting surfaces.  Despite a warmer than average first two months of summer, the greens have performed exceptionally well and I'm quite pleased with their current status.
Granted, I'm not attempting to put the cart before the horse as we still have one more challenging month to go, but considering this is the best condition we've ever been entering August, I like our chances.

Last week we had another walk through with the USGA as we continue to count down the days to the 2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.  Whether you're counting down to the first round of competition (Sep 22), the first official practice round (Sep 20), or just the Monday of Championship Week (Sep 17) it's less than 60 days away, closer to 50 actually and will be here before you know it!  This was the first course visit by tournament director Bill McCarthy since late April and we spent the entire morning last Wednesday examining the golf course and current conditions.  
We looked at winter recovery, turf density, mowing heights, fairway widths, hole locations, tee placement, and more.  Overall the USGA is very pleased with the current conditions of the golf course and we talked about taking measures over the coming weeks to preserve and protect turf conditions prior to the tournament.  It will be here before you know it.  

You've probably already noticed rope positioned across the fairway exit just shy of Number 4 green.  This is to aid our ability to grow thick rough just right of the green (constant cart traffic compacts the soil and restricts the turf's ability to grow vigorously).  We've also placed ropes along the cart path edge down Number 11 in order to limit traffic and aid the rough growing on the right side of the fairway.  In the coming weeks you will probably begin to see similar measures taken as my team and I continue to identify areas that aren't performing to tournament expectations. #StayTuned

Also, the overall height of cut (HOC) in the rough will be raised.  The rough is currently maintained at 2 inches (our normal topping point in a growing season).  The USGA is requesting a minimum of 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 inches for the championship.  When you consider the challenge our rough currently produces you can imagine what will happen when there is more of it between your clubhead and the ball.
Now before you go thinking that simply means maintaining a 2 inch rough until the tournament then simply not mowing that week, I'm sorry to tell you it doesn't exactly work that way.  You see, believe it or not the days are already getting shorter and the reduced photoperiod impacts Bermudagrass growth.  In fact, by late September when the championship arrives the turf will most likely be growing very slowly, if at all depending on weather conditions.  Thus, in order to produce thick, challenging, dare I say penal rough we will be making that final HOC adjustment sooner rather than later.  In the meantime Head Golf Professional Bobby Cox and his staff are reserving lessons to assist you with finding the fairway more frequently. :)

In other news looks like our resident Blue Heron has a new friend.  I managed to stop and capture a photo of the two stalking the creek in front of Number 16 this weekend.  Hope you enjoy.
That's all for now.  I've got to wrap up a few things before tomorrow's meeting with the Greens Committee, then it's just 31 more days till the end of meteorological summer.  Believe me, it will be over before you know it.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Hot Start, Meeting Expectations, and Links Love Affair!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Wednesday, July 4th and allow me to wish everyone a very happy Independence Day!  I know you're probably planning some golf and/or family activities for today's holiday so I promise not to keep you long.  In typical Charlotte fashion it's warm and humid as the dog days of summer have arrived.  We'll talk a little about how June stacked up to recent summers, the impact of heat and humidity to our bentgrass putting greens, I'll give everyone a reminder of next week's course closure for fairway aeration, and then I have something extra for all the nerdy links golf lovers if you're interested.  So let's get started.

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year thus far as we nearly tied a record high from 1931 not to mention the heat index reached 108 degrees F!
If you've been thinking it's been warm lately you're not mistaken.  After winter lingered far too long into spring the pattern changed when June arrived.  After averaging 3.89 inches rain each of the first five months of 2018, June saw our lowest total with only 1.68 inches.  The number of days we have reached 90 degrees F or above is the most since 2011 making the summer of 2018 a warm one for starters.

Despite the heat I'm very pleased to announce our greens have fared the first month of summer in excellent condition.  Usually this time of year I'm saying things like, "One Down and Two to Go" referencing the months of meteorological summer.  This year is no different, it always feels good to have one in the books but it feels even better this year because we are exceeding your expectations.
June 29, 2018
We recently wrapped up two major events, Donald Ross Day and The Ross Cup and the feedback I've received regarding the condition of our putting surfaces and the course as a whole has been overwhelmingly positive.  It's little things like the text exchange below and the tweet from Graham Stephens that make all the team's hard work worthwhile.   

"Near perfect", I'll take that after the hottest day of the year.  This past Monday we vented the greens to promote gas exchange and applied preventive fungicide as the heat wave continues.  Good news is there is some immediate relief in sight as a significant cool down with lower humidity arrives this weekend.  Not sure how long the reprieve will last but it's always nice to catch your breath even briefly during the dog days.

ICYMI - the course will be closed this coming Monday and Tuesday (July 9 and 10) for fairway aeration.  You may recall this was postponed from mid June due to a scheduling conflict.  During the course closure we will apply approximately 300 tons of sand topdressing to our 30 acres of tees, fairways, and approaches.  The areas will also receive a solid tine aeration.  
Despite our wealth of large equipment the process is very time consuming necessitating the two-day closure.  For those of you that follow on Twitter, yes you can keep tabs on our progress as I've already received one request for live action videos. :)
And finally, I said I would have a little something for the links lovers out there.  The Irish Open starts tomorrow, this year played at Ballyliffin Golf Club in County Donegal.  Here's a cool video promoting this year's event featuring their course manager tending to the links.

Then it's off to East Lothian, Scotland for this year's Scottish Open played over the links at Gullane Golf Club.  I know from following Gullane's course manager, Steward Duff things have been unseasonably warm and dry and the links are a bit toasty.  You may recall last month seeing a video of a toppled hospitality tent making the rounds on social media.  That was at Gullane during the build out for this year's event when Storm Hector wreaked a little havoc on the region CLICK HERE.  Also, the tournament's website is featuring this neat 360 degree map of the links you might enjoy CLICK HERE.  

After that it's off to Carnoustie for the playing of the 147th Open Championship.  Craig Boath, Head Greenkeeper at Carnoustie Golf Links and the team has been putting the finishing touches on the old links for some time now.  
So there you have it, three weeks of links golf, how can you not be excited.  Hope everyone enjoys today, celebrates safely and looking forward to seeing you next time.
See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG