Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Mid-Summer Report and The Open!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Tuesday, July 16th and it's Open Championship week!  Since 1860 there has been a tournament to determine the "Champion Golfer of the Year"!  So much history carried out over some of the grandest links in the U.K.  And this year a return to Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, which last hosted the Open Championship in 1951, won by Max Faulkner.  But more on the Open later.

What I really want to talk about is the golf course at Carolina Golf Club and her condition as we reach the mid-point of summer.  Recall meteorological summer is defined by the months of June, July and August, thus we've reached the mid-point and I thought this would be a good time to summarize where things stand.

Weather: The weather in our region has been very summer-like of late, with daytime temperatures in the 90's and dew point temperatures in the upper 60's and low 70's (meaning very humid conditions).  Recently I learned the state of North Carolina has just experienced the all-time wettest 12 months on record and that same time period was the fifth warmest all-time.
For us locally it has been a wet start to 2019 with just over 30 inches rainfall (30.54) since January 1.  Charlotte averages about 40 inches each calendar year so with over 5 months to go we are ahead of pace.  Early June was unseasonably cool for a brief period which was a big help to assisting the putting greens and their recovery from our aeration back on June 3.  

Greens: Speaking of the putting greens, I'm happy to report we are currently in good plant health despite the oppressive heat and humidity of the dog days.  The greens continue to perform well even though elevated dew points (70 degrees and above) really place a lot of stress on the plant.  The current conditions are conducive for fungal disease development, and we've been very proactive during this period with plant protectant applications.

We continue to substitute rolling for mowing two or three times weekly.  This gives the plant a rest from the daily mechanical stress of being cut, but simultaneously helps us maintain a smooth and true putting surface with acceptable speeds.  The new light weight rollers we acquired last year have been a tremendous difference maker.  

One negative issue is ball marks.  Unrepaired or even improperly repaired ball marks leaves a very unsightly blemish on the putting greens.  During the heat of the summer, these blemishes will take WEEKS to heal.  Please repair your fresh ball marks and pitch marks, and if you're unsure of the proper method just flag me down and I'll be happy to demonstrate.  

Fairways: I've been impressed with the overall appearance and performance of our bermudagrass fairways since recovering from a very aggressive aeration week.  The deep verticutting operation we performed has tightened the canopy more than I anticipated after just one treatment, and I look forward to seeing the results going forward as we continue to perform that operation each season.  Also, the areas slow to green up this spring have responded well to their treatments and continue to grow back in.  They were harder hit this winter due to shade, traffic, and/or other factors but I'm happy to report they are practically unnoticeable.

The Committee and I have probably received more comments about the 14th fairway this year than most others.  I can tell you it has the highest percentage of Common Bermudagrass and it receives the least amount of morning sunlight due to its orientation along the property perimeter.  We may experiment with reducing traffic on that hole in the near future so keep your eyes out for signage indicating cart restrictions.
Nice lie
Two other fairway notes, we will topdress fairways and approaches once more this growing season the week of August 5th.  And I have a request for those of you that help us by filling divots in the fairway with the sand provided.  Please do not overfill the divot.  Mounded sand not only creates a mini bunker, penalizing your fellow players but causes damage to the cutting reels of the mowers.  We're looking for a smooth and level surface for the bermudagrass turf to regrow across from the edges.  If too full, please scrape excess away with your foot.  Thank you for your cooperation.

Bunkers: Earlier this year bunkers were probably the single biggest area of concern.  This was primarily related to the staffing issues we were experiencing.  With less than a full staff we attempted to get creative in the way we prepared the bunkers each day which resulted in inconsistency. Once it became clear these alternatives were not desirable we reverted back to a full rake daily.  Also, we just recently completed a thorough check of all bunkers for sand depth and distribution.  Bunker sand was even added to a few bunkers in need so hopefully you are able to avoid the bunkers, but if your ball does unfortunately find its way into one you will be pleased with the condition you are now experiencing.   

Native Areas: We just wrapped up the annual mowing of the warm-season native areas (cool-season fine fescue areas are mowed in late winter).  This was done to remove the old growth, clean up invasive weeds and make room for the new broomsedge seed stalks.  These areas are being treated with broadleaf herbicide to eradicate anything that survived the bushogging.  Wonder if the Committee will let me get some goats... just kidding.

Other: Here are a few other things worth mentioning.  The oak tree between the tees of holes 5 and 15 is not dead, but did suffer from leaf scorch during the July 4th holiday period.  We had another oak tree experience the same condition back in July 2012.  Our consulting arborist met with me late last week to confirm the diagnosis and the tree's health.  In fact, don't be surprised if new leaves are generated before fall.

My team is installing some new turf this week, so please drive with caution and avoid stepping and walking on the sod until it is sufficiently rooted.  All of these areas are located in high traffic zones so be on the lookout for stakes and ropes.  

Speaking of high traffic zones, folks playing holes 4 and 6 please refrain from parking behind both greens.  When doing so you congest the traffic both for folks playing hole 14 and the Agronomy team attempting to maneuver to and from the Turf Care Center.  It is not a coincidence the majority of the new turf being installed is immediately adjacent to the cart path where folks park and others drive around.  Thank you for your cooperation.

Staff: When discussing the bunkers above I referenced staffing issues experienced earlier this season.  The past two updates have included the faces and names of some new team members.  We hired two additional guys last week, but we also had one other hired earlier this year that unfortunately didn't work out.  At this time our numbers are one full-time equivalent shy of last year.  If I were a football coach, I would classify 2019 as a rebuilding year as only 50% of current staff were on the team this time last year.  Considering the overall condition of the golf course, I would say the team's performance far exceeds their level of experience. 

The Open Championship: So back to the best week of the year, the 148th playing of the Open Championship starts in just two more days.  If you want to get an inside scoop on the conditions of Royal Portrush before Darren Clarke strikes the opening tee shot Thursday morning, CLICK HERE to check out a special edition of The Course Reports ON SITE.  

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG