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


  1. Did Gordon also tell you that they plus out all worn divots from the ENTIRE old course every winter!!!
    My back hurts even thinking about that!!!

  2. Not only did he tell me about it but I could still see evidence of previously plugged out divots. It's good to have resources. ;)