Friday, December 20, 2019

'Tis the Season!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Friday, December 20th and this is my final post for 2019.  What a year it has been!  Those of you that reached out following my last post thanks for the feedback.  I'm glad to know you found the numbers informative and helpful.  Quick update on the weather, the rainfall for December has now reached 4.25 inches and our Year-To-Date total sits at 55.52 inches.  And it appears we have more rainfall in the forecast for Sunday and Monday before warming up for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Winter in the Carolinas is a roller coaster.  We warm up and rain, then turn bitterly cold for a few days only to do it over again.
Earlier this week I had the good fortune to attend the Past President's Dinner at Carolina Golf Club.  It truly is a wonderful tradition and something I look forward to every year.  During the evening I couldn't help but think of an older post where I wrote about the occasion and a missed opportunity to express my thoughts and feelings about being the superintendent of Carolina Golf Club.

I searched The Greenkeeper archives early this morning for that post and discovered ironically it was exactly six years ago today.  Which turns out to be the last time Christmas Day fell on Wednesday like it does this year.  The post dated Friday, December 20, 2013 expressed thoughts and feelings that couldn't be summarized any better today.  So kickback, pour a cup of coffee and enjoy Quick Update, Reflections, and Merry Christmas! 

I hope you enjoyed that look back.  Just like six years ago we hit the road in the morning for Virginia.  Four Christmases in four days before we make the trek back to the Queen City on Christmas Day, wish us luck!  And just in case Santa didn't see my wish on Twitter I've embedded it here so fingers crossed he sees this.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Analytics and Royal Melbourne!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Wednesday, December 11th.  It's hard to believe the first ten days of December have come and gone.  Shoot, it's hard to believe just two weeks ago I was posting my annual Thanksgiving list, and two weeks from today it will be Christmas!  My mother-in-law says life is like a wagon wheel and as each year passes we move a little closer to the axle and time spins more quickly.  There's some wisdom in those words, but I digress.

Last night I watched some of the President's Cup coverage on Golf Channel.  There was a press conference with the Assistant Captains of each team, four representing the Internationals (Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Weir, Trevor Immelman, and K.J. Choi) and three representing the USA (Fred Couples, Zach Johnson, and Steve Stricker).  With the event taking place in Australia it was only natural for Geoff Ogilvy to field the majority of questions posed to the International group.  In one answer he referenced how their squad is using statistics, data and analytics to help determine team pairings.

Geoff went on to comment that's how the entire world is moving nowadays, we are inundated or bombarded if you will with information and either you figure out how best to utilize the data or you get left behind.  His comment struck a chord because I've lived it over my tenure as your golf course superintendent.  I've always tracked the weather because golf is played outdoors, and we keep daily records of what has been applied and when, but in recent years we've began to track other practices for the purpose of identifying outputs and trends.

For example, one week ago I met with the Green Committee and one of our conversations centered on green speed and how it has met or exceeded expectations the majority of 2019.  I know this certainly wasn't the case in 2017, but we did begin to make some headway in 2018.  So what's different?

For starters, in 2018 we obtained two new greens rollers.  A different brand lighter in weight and less stressful on the turf compared to our older, heavier units.  This permitted us to increase our rolling frequency, but what exactly was our frequency.  I really hadn't tracked it for an entire calendar year.  I can tell you we rolled for every tournament, in lieu of mowing once or twice a week during the heat of summer, several times immediately following aeration events, and more frequently in the winter to remove dew and smooth foot traffic when the turf was not growing.  So, with the new rollers we recorded what we did each day of the year in 2018 and the results looked like this:
  1. Mow Only 173 times
  2. Roll Only 62 times
  3. Mow & Roll 38 times
I can tell you rolling 100 times in 2018 was definitely an increase over years prior.  So how has 2019 stacked up thus far (thru today):
  1. Mow Only 130 times
  2. Roll Only 106 times
  3. Mow & Roll 21 times
We've rolled the greens on 27 more occasions than all of last year and still have 20 more days this calendar year.  That's nearly an entire extra month of rolling producing an increase in surface smoothness and firmness which equals more speed.

Now, that is just one piece of many to the puzzle.  There is also managing the growth rate via our fertility regime and plant growth regulators, managing soil moisture between rainfall events via the use of monitors, wetting agents and hand watering plus other agronomic inputs like aeration, topdressing, and more.  But suffice to say the increase in rolling the past two seasons has translated to a more consistent putting speed over the entire year opposed to peaks and valleys normally experienced.

I mentioned managing soil moisture between rainfall events and the weather data will show you the past two seasons have been extremely wet for the greater Charlotte area.  Charlotte receives on average about 40 inches rainfall in a calendar year.  2018 saw 58.6 inches rain at Carolina Golf Club and thus far we have received 52.5 inches in 2019!  When you consider 2009 was the only other year in my tenure we broke the 50 inch mark with 54.77 inches, it's easy to see why the number of Cart Path Only days have been on the rise the past two seasons.  For those interested the driest year in my tenure was 2007 when only 31.80 inches fell at CGC (the worst drought in state history started in May '07 lasting into late August '08).  

That's all the math I have for you today.  Let's wrap up with a quick mention of the Presidents Cup.  The Royal Melbourne Golf Club is widely considered to be one of the best golf courses in the world.  I hope the golf is compelling and the matches are tight, but I'm excited to see the course.  The first five matches begin at 5:30 pm EST today, so pour yourself an after-dinner cocktail, put your feet up and watch some of the best players in the world on one of the very best designed courses in the world, maintained to an unmatched standard by Director of Courses Richard Forsyth, his team and volunteers from around the world.  Enjoy!
Listen to Richard Forsyth on The Course Reports here

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Wednesday, November 27th and it's time for my annual reminder that 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 of that turkey and stuffing later in the day. Either way I hope you enjoy your time on the course should you choose to come out.  The team worked hard this week cleaning and preparing the course following last weekend's weather events.  Unfortunately looks like we have another rain event today, so expect soft conditions.  :(

Temperatures tonight are only expected to reach about 42 degrees which means frost is not likely in the morning.  As customary I will make my inspection through the course in the early hours and if nothing is out of place I will retreat back home to a house filled with family and cheer.  If you're a dew sweeper then maybe I'll see you but if we don't cross paths this year, Happy Thanksgiving!
Now that we have the formalities out of the way, it's time for my annual list.  That's why you're really here, right?  I don't know if it will be possible to top last year's amazing list, but 2019 was packed with highs, lows and everything in between.  Through it all, I tried to find something to be thankful for every step of the way.  This year, mostly in order as they occurred, I'm most thankful for:
  • The Old Course at St. Andrews! I was fortunate to be invited to speak at the 2019 BIGGA Turf Management Exposition (BTME) in late January and managed to slip in a brief trip to Scotland on the front end. LINK  To tread the sacred links where so many legends like Allan Robertson, Old Tom Morris, Tommy Morris, Jr., Bobby Jones and more have traversed and etched their names in the lore of golf was awe inspiring for this golf history nerd.  Truly a blessed day. 

Swilcan Bridge

  • Speaking at GIS!  The talk I co-presented at BTME with Lee Strutt was well received and we had the good fortune to present the talk at the Golf Industry Show in San Diego.  The topic of hard work and sacrifices one must make in order to achieve success served as a catalyst in the industry opening the door to other discussions surrounding work/life balance and stress.  Lee and I were just happy to have the opportunity to present to our peers.  Sorry I cut you out of this picture Pal.  ;)

Golf Industry Show

  • Cleother Young, Jr.!  Known to us as Pops, he was a dedicated team member for the last 11 years.  I can't thank each of you enough for your kindness and generosity to his widow and family, and to those of you that attended his funeral I will forever be grateful.  Your presence there meant the world to me and my team as your show of support helped us through the darkest time of 2019!


  • National Golf Day!  The event originated twelve years ago and produced a record high 244 meetings with members of Congress representing 41 states to discuss the games $84.1 billion economy, nearly $4 billion charitable impact, and two million jobs across the U.S.  This was my first time attending as the event did not conflict with the club's scheduled tournaments, and I even bumped into a CGC member coming out of Senator Burr's office - small world.  It was an honor to represent Carolina Golf Club and Carolinas GCSA on Capitol Hill.

We Are Golf

  • Aeration Week!  For the first time ever we closed for five consecutive days to perform our early summer greens aeration and fairway aeration and topdressing consecutively.  This year we added another agronomic operation to the fairways with the deep verticutting.  We were blessed with good weather as the event took place on the tail end of our early season dry stretch (26 consecutive days without rainfall from May 13 - June 7) allowing us to pull off this project with a relatively young team!  I do believe our fairways had one of their best seasons yet as a result and we're planning on another aeration week in 2020.

"Rooster Tails"

  • Fine Fescue!  Golf courses are living, breathing things and they go through a variety of changes with the seasons.  One of my favorite is when the fescue is in its full glory.  The color and contrast these natural/native areas provide throughout the property during late spring and early summer are really special and I enjoy taking a moment to just think about all the work that has gone into this golf course since the Master Plan!

July 12, 2019

  • TurfBreeze Fans!  I'm pretty sure I've listed them in prior years but with Mother Nature deciding to crank up the real heat once Summer was "over" per the calendar, it was a good thing these babies were still cranking.  2019 was the longest they've remained in place as the team brought them down in early October!

  • TurfNet Ireland!  The only thing that can top a trip to the U.K. would be a trip to the Emerald Isle!  This trip was made possible by being a finalist for the 2018 Superintendent of the Year, thanks to those of you that nominated me.  The trip couldn't have come at a better time as we finally got the break in the heat wave that gripped our region for many months.  By the time I returned I brought back some rain that ended our longest dry stretch of the season - 50 consecutive days!  I literally could share countless photos of this trip, mostly golf courses but this one is my phone's wallpaper.  :)

Cliffs of Moher

  • Matt Claunch!  My former assistant decided to return to Florida in early June, but his impact on our team and operation still remains.  I couldn't be happier for or prouder of him as he returned to Pine Tree Golf Club to help lead an irrigation renovation, and propose to the future Mrs. Claunch!  Thanks to text messages, Twitter and GIFs we stay in close communication discussing all things CGC, Pine Tree, Carolina Panthers, and #SoFlo Life!

She Said Yes!

  • Eric Sosnowski, Matthew Miller, Matthew Rollyson, JR Bailey and Company!  One other staff change that went under the radar this year was the return of JR Bailey on April 1st as Equipment Manager.  Matt's departure also opened the door for new assistants Miller and Rollyson to join the team CLICK HERE.  It wasn't easy, especially early on when our numbers were small, but this group finally got their feet under them and managed to produce conditions I believe rivaled last year's USGA conditions.  I cannot thank them enough and I hope when you see them, you will too!

CGC Agronomy 2019

  • I would be remiss if I didn't thank everyone for their support this year!  General Manager Billy Cleveland, Greens Chairman Ed Oden, Club President Bo South, members of the Committee and Board of Governors please allow me to express my heartfelt gratitude for your faith in me, even when the breaks were not going our way.  This year will go down as one of the more difficult with the labor challenges, but our motto at the Turf Care Center is Whatever It Takes, so we just keep grinding till we find a way. 

  • As always, faith and family are at the top of the list!  Princess and her Lebanon Pioneer teammates had another deep run in the VHSL 2A Softball Playoffs reaching the Semifinal game for the second consecutive year.  They've come so close on two occasions and she continues to grow into a wonderful team leader.  Maybe I'll ask Santa to help get them over the hump in 2020.  ;)

Remain Calm!

I could go on as this year was full of many more moments deserving of thanks!  Just know I am honored to be your golf course superintendent and each day at CGC is a blessing.  Thank you for the opportunity to serve you and your guests and I hope each of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your friends, families, and loved ones!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Friday, November 8, 2019


Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Friday, November 8th and winter is on its way.  Okay, maybe not full blown winter, after all summer just left town (Last Post), but some cold air from Canada will arrive tonight making tomorrow morning's round a very chilly start - possible frost delay.  And that's not even the coldest air as the 10-Day Forecast below reveals a reinforcing shot of Canadian air for the middle of next week!  Can you say Novemberrrr!
When the flash drought finally broke on October 13th we had six measurable rain events the remainder of last month totaling 5.68 inches.  The irrigation reservoir quickly went from several feet below capacity to full pond.  

We had two major golf events still to conduct, Fall Member-Guest and the Carolina Invitational and ironically we received significant rainfall prior to both events.  We received 3/4 inch rain the day before Member-Guest practice rounds and nearly two inches rain prior to the Carolina Invitational practice rounds last week.  Despite the soft and soggy conditions relegating everyone to the cart paths for practice, we were able to get carts on the fairways for the competitions and my team managed to provide some sporty conditions for our members and invited guests.
I want to thank my team for all their hard work this season.  This has been a challenging year as we've had to rebuild the staff from scratch.  We're like a football team starting a bunch of freshmen and sophomores.  But what we lack in game experience we've made up with hard work, grit, and determination.
CGC Agronomy 2019
In other turf news, the newly seeded areas of our putting turf nursery continue to establish as we grow-in the new green.  I can clearly identify establishment differences between varieties as one outpaces the others.  But that's okay, it's good to learn the differences between them and compare to our existing grasses.  Our mowing height on the turf nursery is still slightly too far above that on the course's putting greens, which is why we haven't harvested plugs to make repairs lately.  But we will continue to gradually reduce the HOC on the nursery green and as the two HOC's get closer together you will see some lingering scars disappear.
Putting Turf Nursery
Well, with the Invitational in our rear-view mirror and clocks returned to standard time our attention and efforts shift to keeping the course clean as the leaves continuously fall.  Week after next Senior Assistant Eric Sosnowski will accompany me to Myrtle Beach, SC as we attend the 2019 Carolinas GCSA Conference and Trade Show November 18-20.  And before you know it Thanksgiving will be here.  In the meantime, bundle up and get out and enjoy the course, cause nothing could be finer than fall golf at Carolina.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Clearer Picture!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Wednesday, October 16th and looks like Summer finally packed her bags and left town.  The month since my last post was quite eventful with record breaking temperatures and a dry stretch that endured longer than any other in my tenure.  I'm certain it's only coincidental, but it does appear I had to leave the country in order to get cooler temperatures and rainfall back in the Queen City.  So let's take a closer look at the statistics and their impact on course conditions, and if there's time remaining I'll share a glimpse of my trip.
The chart above paints a very clear picture, where September was warmer than August.  Not to mention September 2019 was also the driest month in my tenure with only 0.05" inch of rainfall for the entire month on the 13th.  That's the day thunderstorms flooded parts of east Charlotte with over three inches.  The radar showed Carolina Golf Club was completely surrounded but the storms fizzled out before dropping any liquid gold on our fairways that day.

You have to go back to August 24th to find the last measurable rainfall prior to September 13th, a stretch of twenty days.  It would be another THIRTY days before we would see rainfall again this past Sunday, October 13th.  And the heat continued into October with the mercury rising to 99 degrees on October 2nd.  An all-time record for the hottest temperature ever recorded in October in Charlotte.
Brad Panovich, WCNC
When it was all said and done, 2019 stacked up as a year tied with 1925 with the 3rd most number of days where the temperature reached at least 90 degrees.  Only the years 1954 (88) and 2010 (87) had more days than 2019 as we topped out at 90 degrees or above on 85 occasions.  
Brad Panovich, WCNC

I receive a lot of questions about why I post and share so much weather related information.  I'm certain there may even be a few of you that believe golf course superintendents use the weather as an excuse.  But the truth is the game of golf is played outdoors, and the elements beyond my control play a role in the course conditions you experience.  By helping you be aware of what the weather is doing, you already have some insight as to what you might expect prior to arriving at the course.  

If it is hot and dry you can expect the course to play firm and fast with lots of roll in the fairways.  You may also expect the greens to be a little softer and/or slower due to the irrigation requirements for our grass type.  If it's rained several consecutive days you can expect softer conditions in the fairways and possibly even cart restrictions.  So, in many ways the weather helps paint the picture.  And if by chance you're pleasantly surprised to find conditions better than you anticipate, well that makes for a great day for me and my team.

Back to the chart above, I've witnessed five of those top ten years during my tenure at CGC.  One thing that jumps out to me is how far we've come from the 2010 season where we really struggled with our new greens (they were seeded in 2008) to today.  We lost a considerable amount of turf during one of the ugliest Junes on record in 2010.  Since then we've invested in fans for those holes located on the property perimeter and we have continued to improve and refine our agronomic programs.  To endure a season like 2019 and produce conditions that far exceeded those from nine years ago makes me extremely proud of my team.

Other News
Fall Member-Guest is this week.  In fact festivities start tomorrow with practice rounds and the like.  My team is especially excited to showcase your golf course to your guests this year because they are proud of what they've accomplished in the face of extreme weather adversity.  Everyone should expect smooth, fast greens, and a few challenging hole locations, but more importantly a fun setup to compliment the atmosphere of camaraderie.

Also, we recently renovated a portion of our putting turf nursery.  After several years of harvest it was time to rejuvenate the area.  When you realize some greens are nearly 15 years old (holes 1 and 2 were built in 2005) we thought it would be a good idea to use this opportunity to examine some advances in bentgrass breeding.  Our greens are a 50/50 blend of A1 and A4 creeping bentgrass.  In the past decade there are several newer varieties bred for even greater heat tolerance and/or disease resistance.

I used industry contacts to obtain seed for three of these newer varieties and included them in our nursery reestablishment.  They are AU Victory out of Auburn University, Pure Distinction and 007.  Pure Distinction's lineage is linked to the Penn A's and G's while 007 was developed at Rutgers University.  It will be interesting to watch these grasses develop next to one another and compare their colors, textures and performance with our mature stand of A1/A4.  

The team did a fabulous job irrigating and promoting germination during my trip abroad and we are now mowing and fertilizing to grow-in the green.

And lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't share at least a few photos from a trip I'll never forget.  This was the first time I ever set foot in Ireland, but I can tell you I definitely look forward to returning.  What a beautiful country for as far as the eye can see.  And if I need to return to end another hot spell or drought, sign me up. ;)
Cliffs of Moher

Lahinch No. 6

Enniscrone No. 15
Sunrise at Rosapenna

See you on the course, 

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Ranking Summer, Turf Conditions and Bob Ross!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Tuesday, September 17th and hopefully today will be the last time we see the temperature reach 90 degrees for a while.  Shortly after last month's post (Aug 15) talked about being on the back side of Summer, seems no one told Summer and it just kept rolling along.  But before I jump straight into the weather recap, today's post will also touch on current course conditions, upcoming inputs, and I'll share with you a story I recently wrote for an industry publication.  So let's get going.

Weather: Meteorological Summer (June through August) ended back on August 31st and 2019 ranked as the 20th hottest on record overall.  Through the first three weeks of August we were on pace with last summer, which ranks 11th warmest overall.  The cooler temperatures we all enjoyed the final week of August impacted the final average as much as nine positions.
August was also a wet month with the golf course receiving 8.64 inches rainfall, including 5.05 inches between the 19th and 24th.  Prior to receiving a miniscule 0.05 inches rainfall this past Friday afternoon (September 13th), the 0.15 inches of light rain and drizzle back on August 24th was our last measurable rainfall.  Making those twenty days our second longest dry stretch this year.  The longest was twenty-six days from May 13th through June 7th.  

So the first half of September has been dry and it's been hot, with the temperature reaching at least 90 degrees on thirteen of the first sixteen days this month, and we're forecasted to reach 93 degrees again today.  We even set a record high of 98 degrees last Thursday (September 12th)!  

As of this past Sunday we were right on the heels of last year for the number of days the temperature has reached 90 degrees or above, and thanks to yesterdays warm temperatures and today's forecast we will be tied with last year at 74.  The immediate forecast looks welcoming with some cooler, seasonable temperatures the next couple days, but the long range outlook does show several more days forecasted to reach 90 degrees or above early next week. Stay tuned.

I don't know about you but I'm beginning to think the four seasons we all enjoyed as children no longer exist and have been replaced with two seasons: Summer and Not Summer.  I'm ready for Not Summer. ;)

Greens: Despite the prolonged summer-like conditions the putting greens have mostly performed above expectations this summer based on the feedback I've received.  This is due in large part to the increased rolling frequency in lieu of mowing during periods of extreme heat.  We did perform a needle tine venting on September third to promote gas exchange and a light topdressing on September ninth to aid smoothness and ball mark recovery.
This summer really highlighted the importance of aeration, airflow and surface drainage based on my overall observations and general assessment (eye test).  Perhaps you didn't notice, but the turfgrass canopy becomes thin when the soil becomes too hot and/or wet for bentgrass growth.  This thinning is especially evident in lower lying areas, usually exposing the spaces between the most recent aerification holes.  

We manage just a little under 124,600 square feet of creeping bentgrass.  That's just shy of three acres spread over twenty-two surfaces when you count the practice greens and nursery.  With fans only present on half the greens, I'd say we fared better than expected this season considering the total rainfall during June-August was 18.65 inches.  Yes, that is too wet for the needs of our putting green turf.  Also, despite the over abundance of moisture, you find much less evidence of thinning on greens that are more convex in shape (surface drainage) or where fans are present (airflow).  

Each green is unique with its own character and personality, requiring subtle differences in management from day to day.  Perhaps you don't see the same blemishes and scars from ball marks and summer heat that I do when the most important thing is how they putt, and they putt smooth and true.     

Fairways: The caveat to a wet summer is the bermudagrass fairways are in excellent condition.  Although bermudagrass is known for it's drought tolerance, it really thrives when soil moisture is readily available.  And if there is one nice thing about hot and dry conditions, it doesn't take too long after an extremely wet week like experienced in late August to quickly return to the preferred fairway conditions of firm and fast.  
No. 8
But despite the warmer than average temperatures of late, the turf is beginning to prepare for winter as growth has slowed.  As a result we are now able to back off our plant growth regulator applications and mowing frequency.  The next big item on our agenda is fall preemergent herbicide applicatons.  We started these yesterday and will continue throughout this week and next as we are treating wall-to-wall all bermudagrass playing surfaces (tees, fairways, and rough).  This application is made each year to prevent annual bluegrass and other unwanted winter annual weeds from invading our dormant playing surfaces.

Other: In other news I recently had the good fortune to write a story for Golf Course Industry magazine about caring for a Donald Ross designed golf course.  The story begins with an innocent comment made to me by a parent of a participant in the 2005 North Carolina Junior Boys Championship.  Hope you enjoy Curating a classic.

A big time shout out and hearty congratulations to Dr. Evan Long on winning the North Carolina Super Senior Amateur at Croasdaile Country Club in Durham last week.  
Winner Winner!
Evan fired rounds of 67, 68 for a 9 under par total of 135 to claim the title, well played! He becomes the second CGA Champion from Carolina Golf Club joining Stephen Woodard who claimed the Carolinas Mid Amateur back in April.  CLICK HERE for a full tourney recap of Evan's victory!  Players Club :)

And if you haven't been outside lately in the predawn hours or even twilight you've been missing out.  The sky above Carolina Golf Club has literally been alive with colors both in the early morning and late evening, as if the spirit of Bob Ross was painting happy accidents.  Here's a few of my favorite recent office views I think you'll enjoy.
Panthers Blue Uptown

Late Evening on the Banks

Early Morning Prep

Portrait of Perfection
And finally, it's hard to believe it's been nearly one year since we co-hosted the United States MidAm with Charlotte Country Club.  Brett Boner competed in this year's U.S. MidAm at, ironically another CGC, Colorado Golf Club in Parker, CO.  Commonground Golf Course in Aurora is the stroke play co-host.  Brett fired rounds of -1 at Commonground and +2 at Colorado GC in the stroke play portions and landed the No. 29 seed.  
Brett jumped out to an early 2 Up lead but his match went all 18 holes with his opponent from Pennfield, NY winning 1 Up.  I want to congratulate Brett on another outstanding performance in a USGA Championship and representing Carolina Golf Club every step of the way.  

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG