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