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