Monday, February 18, 2019

Current Conditions, What's Ahead, and Artificial Turf!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Monday, February 18th and the golf course is once again saturated.  We received 1/2 inch of rain overnight and coupled with the 1/2 inch of rain that fell just before dawn on Saturday, and rainfall from earlier last week, looks like I brought the wet stuff back from California.  I referenced during my last update Crisscross the weather in Charlotte was expected to be warmer and drier than San Diego during my stay at the Golf Industry Show, and it was.  While conditions in southern California were colder than average and wet, Charlotte was sunny and warm, pushing near record highs as seen below on Feb 5th!
In fact, the first 10 days of February was the driest stretch we have experienced in Charlotte since mid-July of last year.  How wet are things now you ask.  The golf course has received 1.72 inches rainfall this month, but all in the past seven days.  And there is more in the immediate forecast as there is at least a 50% chance or greater each of the next six days!    
Brad Panovich
One other weather related impact to the golf course is that unseasonable warm spell you enjoyed while I was on the west coast started to wake things up.  Not only are trees and shrubs around the Queen City showing early signs of spring, the bermudagrass definitely has a greener appearance than before I left.
Feb 17, 2019
Feb 17, 2019

If you thought you were imagining things, you're not, the turf is slowly waking up.  Albeit earlier than I would prefer as long-range extended forecasts are pointing to 2019 as similar to 1959.  What happened then you ask.  It seems a ridge over the southeastern U.S. dominated in February despite all indications a colder pattern should have taken place, but the cold finally arrived in March of that year.  Let's hope that doesn't happen.
Feb 1959
Mar 1959

With all this talk about wet conditions and grass greening up too early I thought I would share with you something I experienced during my round of golf on The Old Course at St. Andrews exactly one month ago today.  Did you know St. Andrews and many other links courses in the U.K. require players to use a small mat (piece of artificial turf) during the winter months.  Why would they do this you ask.  To preserve and protect the golf course as the turf is not growing and unable to recover from divots.   
The mats are relatively small and fit easily in the front pockets of a caddie bib or the side pouch of a carry bag if you're hoofing it yourself.  The rules of use are simple, when playing from the fairway the ball must be placed on the mat.  If your ball lies in the rough then you may play the ball as it lies.  If you're playing a putter from the fairway then the mat is not required, and as a result I played fewer than ten shots the entire round, and I don't think it cheapened my experience in any way as the smile on my face below can attest.
Alec in blue, Gordon in red
I will say hitting shots from the small mat takes getting used to.  My playing partners, Retired Director of Greenkeeping Gordon Moir and his neighbor Alec were very adept and proficient as you would expect and I, on the other hand bladed my first attempt over the Swilcan Burn and first green.  I subsequently struggled to make clean contact on the next few attempts before finally getting the hang of it, and it got me to thinking.

Our fairway turf goes dormant every winter and doesn't recover from divots too.  But what really got me thinking was how wet our golf course was, especially in late December just before I traveled across.  We had 8 inches rainfall the month of December and the course was soaked.  It was hard to walk, let alone play a well struck shot.  Perhaps a mat would allow one to hit the ball cleanly during saturated conditions and avoid the subsequent face full of mud so prevalent during the winter dormant season.  It seems to me that is the biggest thing I witness during the winter months, players exhibiting frustration with trying to play full shots or pitch shots from near the green off the dormant canopy, especially when the ground is soft.

Anyway, it's just a thought.  I know it seems odd coming from a traditionalist like me but if you're only interested in getting some fresh air and having a little fun, then maybe there's some merit to it.  After all, if it's good enough for the Home of Golf who are we to disagree.  Besides, before I departed the U.K. to return home Gordon surprised me with my very own mat to commemorate my experience, and I have it and the ball I used proudly on display at home with my collection. :)

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Friday, February 1, 2019


Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Friday, February 1st and believe it or not it's nearly time for me to depart, this time to the Golf Industry Show.  I know what you're thinking, I just got back from an amazing vacation trip across the Atlantic to BTME.  And you're also thinking who takes a vacation to a professional educational conference and trade show, a turf nerd like me. :)  Anyway, I will definitely make certain not to double book in the future when the events are this close together.   But last month was an experience I will never forget.  I got to have lunch with Craig Boath, Links Superintendent of Carnoustie Golf Links and walk the Championship Course with him.  I toured the Jubilee Greenkeeping Centre at St. Andrews with Gordon McKie, Course Manager of The Old Course.  And I played The Old Course with retired Director of Greenkeeping Gordon Moir.  It truly was an unbelievable experience.
With Craig Boath and The Claret Jug!
The R&A Clubhouse at The Home of Golf!
Holing Out for Par on the 18th!

Before making my way south to Harrogate, England, home to BTME I even stopped to play Musselburgh Links, the site of six Open Championships between 1874 and 1889 CLICK HERE.  They had hickory clubs available so I had to give that a go, what a fun round of golf that was.
The Fourth Hole - Mrs. Forgan's
Just Avoided the Gorse!
The Home Hole!

My experience at BTME was great!  I reconnected with many friends made when I attended in 2017 and made many new ones.  I got to see former intern James Dennett once again as he traveled to attend the Welcome Celebration and the seminar Lee Strutt and I co-presented.  I attended 13 hours of education thanks to TurfNet and although we didn't win the Championship Greenkeeping Performance of the Year award, it was a thrill to be there and represent Carolina Golf Club across the pond.  I was genuinely happy for Craig Earnshaw and his team at Harleyford Hall when they were announced the winners, a very impressive story of perseverance!  WELL DONE!   
Craig Earnshaw, Course Manager Harleyford Hall

Honored to be Recognized!
James Dennett, Sr. Assistant at Royal Norwich
Anyway, it's been a whirlwind since my return late last week.  The course endured a flash flood event on the morning of January 24th but has steadily been drying out since.  It has been bitter cold the past couple days, but relief is on the way.  In fact, I believe it will be warmer here next week than where I'm going for GIS.  What's up with that!

At GIS I have another busy schedule.  Lee Strutt and I are giving our presentation on Monday afternoon.  I'm attending three educational sessions on Tuesday.  Wednesday morning is the Chapter Presidents Breakfast with GCSAA along with a host of other activities and then Thursday I have a special luncheon followed by a presentation that came as a surprise.

It seems a group of peers and a few individuals from Carolina Golf Club conspired to nominate me for a very special award.  I learned of this nomination and my selection as a finalist while traveling abroad.  I've been very fortunate and blessed in my career, achieving many different levels of success.  But I can honestly say win or lose, this nomination is the single greatest achievement in my career because it came from those closest to me without my knowledge.  It is truly a humbling experience and I'm just blessed beyond belief to be in the running with the other four very worthy candidates.  You can read all the stories about the five finalists for TurfNet Superintendent of the Year right here. CLICK HERE 

Before I go let's quickly recap last month's weather.  January was another wet one with 5.63 inches rainfall on the course.  Believe it or not we have now received 35.24 inches rainfall since Sep 1.  That's just five inches shy of one year's average rainfall in the past five months.  
That's all for now, I'll be back before you know it and it will be go time as it will only be four weeks till greens aeration after my return.  It will soon be time to make spring pre-emergent applications to bermudagrass playing areas, mow and cleanup fine-fescue native areas and treat with pre-emerge.  So much to do before the growing season arrives.  Lately the team has kept busy edging cart paths now that leaf season is finally over and during this recent cold outbreak they refurbished all the course fixtures (benches, waste receptacles, and etc.).  My team rocks!

And one more final thing, if you're into podcasts then you might give this a listen Pullin' Weeds - Official Podcast of Carolinas GCSA.  This is a brand new foray for Carolinas GCSA as we strive to enhance member services.  As President I had the good fortune to be the guest on Episode 1 and so far the feedback has been positive, even from outside the golf course superintendent community.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG