Wednesday, December 23, 2020

I'll Be Home For Christmas!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Wednesday, December 23rd and I would like to wish each of you and your families a very, merry Christmas.  In the four weeks since my last post the outpouring for my wife has been overwhelming.  I want to thank you for your support and tell you it has given us more strength and hope than you could ever know.

Regular readers of The Greenkeeper will recognize this is the time of year when I give you one last update on the weather stats for the year, plead to be careful for frost on either Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day, and then announce we're off to Virginia for a few days to spend Christmas with our families.  Both of our mothers live in Virginia along with both sons and their families.

But 2020 will mark the first time I wake up in my own house on Christmas morning in nearly twenty-five years!  Covid and chemo do not mix and we are not taking any risks.  It will look and feel very different this year, but hopefully it is a small price to pay for many more Christmases together in the future.

So, if you're here for the weather stats I can tell you this past Sunday's rain pushed 2020 passed 2018 for the wettest year in my tenure.  2020 has brought 58.95 inches rainfall to Carolina Golf Club.  Last year (2019) saw 57.20 inches fall on the golf course and 2018 delivered 58.60 inches!  That's right, 174.75 inches have fallen the past three years.  That is more than 14 FEET of rainfall (14.5625) folks!

Considering the city of Charlotte typically averages about 42 inches annually you realize the past three years are really amazing.  What's more is we are expecting even more rain tomorrow (possibly over one inch) as a cold front passes through the region ushering in some bitterly cold temperatures for Christmas Day, so the 2020 final tally is still to be determined with eight days remaining.

There is no threat of frost on Christmas Eve morning so those of you planning to play should have no concerns other than dealing with strong winds and periods of heavy rain and possibly a thunderstorm.  But I'm gathering with an expected high temperature of only 38 degrees on Christmas Day not too many will venture to the course.  Hopefully you are snug and warm at home unwrapping a new club from the man in red!  Perhaps we will see you again on Boxing Day, and if you are scheduled to play on Saturday anticipate a potentially lengthy frost delay as temperatures are expected to be down in the lower 20s that morning.  Brrrr!

Well there you have it, my final post of what has been the craziest year I've ever lived.  My Christmas wish for everyone is that 2021 will be much kinder to us all!  I pray for healing!  Not just for my wife and her cancer, but for everyone dealing with sickness and disease.  Healing for our country after a most divisive year.  And healing for the world as it continues to try and overcome this virus.

Also, may each of you find peace, tranquility, love, happiness and comfort with your families and loved ones this holiday season and I look forward to seeing you on the golf course in 2021!

Merry Christmas CGC,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Grateful For Golf!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Wednesday, November 25th and it's time for what I believe has slowly grown into a Carolina Tradition, my Thanksgiving list.  Did you know this marks the 10th annual list to appear on this blog page, my goodness, how time flies.  But before we get down to the business of gratitude I will remind each of you although the club is closed tomorrow, the golf course is available (walking only) for those wanting to squeeze in a quick round before or after your Thanksgiving dinner.  I believe we're in for some colder weather early next week, so if you can get away come on out and enjoy a round of golf tomorrow.

Those of you that have made it a point to play on Thanksgiving the past several years know my day starts with a quick ride through the course to ensure everything is in order.  And if there is no frost I typically exit out the back gate and return home before everyone wakes.  This year we do not have family visiting and there is no threat of frost tomorrow, so you may see me with some hickory clubs in tow.  Also, we may have some lingering showers in the early morning, so be prepared.

Now, on to this year's list.  I've been thinking about this list for months.  In a year that brought us lockdowns, quarantines, self-isolation, social distancing, and uncertainty.  Followed by civil unrest, peaceful protests, riots and a contentious election what could one possibly be thankful for?  It would be easy to declare 2020 the worst year in memory just for the toilet paper shortages alone.  

But I feel I must highlight and give thanks for any and all good things, no matter how trivial or impactful that occurred this year, otherwise it would be impossible to survive 2020.  So here are a few things I'm thankful for this year:

  • Black and White photography - When Philadelphia golf course photographer Jon Cavalier (A.K.A. Links Gems) visited the course on his way to Florida just after Christmas last year, I was unsure how a dormant CGC might look.  Not only that, but we had encountered significant rainfall (1.5 inches) just three days before he played and we all know how messy that can be.  A few days later I was pleasantly surprised to see the Links Gems tweet on Jan 5 in black and white!  Well done Jon!
  • The Fried Egg Podcast - Toro sponsored a Superintendent Series of the Fried Egg Podcast in 2020 that featured guys like fellow Master Greenkeeper Steve Cook from Medinah, Australian Stephen Britton from Chevy Chase, and good friends Tony Nysse (Mountain Lake) and Josh Lewis (Sharon Heights) to name a few. Back in February I had the pleasure of sitting down with Andy Johnson, along with Edric Funk of Toro, in the Toro booth at the Golf Industry Show in Orlando.  Thanks for including me Andy! CLICK HERE FOR PODCAST
  • Streaming - Thank goodness for Netflix and Amazon Prime because if we couldn't binge on Vikings, The Crown, Yellowstone, and most recently The Queen's Gambit how on earth would we have survived! ;)

  • Approved Outdoor Activities - In late March when the world changed for all of us and golf courses across the country and other parts of the world closed their doors we were fortunate in North Carolina that golf was an approved outdoor activity.  Golf is important to North Carolina's economy and a coalition of industry leaders made up of owners, professionals and superintendents made a powerful case to keep your courses open when other places did not.  I stated on more than one occasion I felt golf had the potential to be a beacon of hope for members of the community.  A place to escape the insanity and stress by breathing fresh air and exercising the body and mind.  I am so thankful we were able to continue providing you and your families and guests this outlet in a manner as safe as possible!

  • The Virginia Tech >> Purdue Connection - Dr. Cale Bigelow is a professor of horticulture at Purdue University.  He is also a graduate of Virginia Tech.  Although our times at VT did not overlap we did share the same major professor, Dr. David Chalmers.  And this connection has led to a special kinship for more than 20 years.  Assistant Superintendent Matthew Rollyson came to Carolina Golf Club from Purdue University in 2019 and this year Jarret Price was our summer intern.  JP's arrival in mid-May could not have been more timely considering the headache that was employee recruitment and retention this year!  We are definitely thankful for his contributions to our operation in 2020, and wish him well as he is currently continuing his studies in West Lafayette, IN.
  • Zoom - Prior to 2020 I had never heard of this platform but it's become a staple in a short time.  Whether it's a meeting with the Green Committee, the Carolinas GCSA Board of Directors, or even a social hour with friends from other parts of the country, its good to see people, even remotely.

At some point during late summer, as limited guest play was reintroduced along with the conducting of club events, things started to feel somewhat more normal.  The temperature cooled in September and the stress level in the Turf Care Center subsided enough for me and members of my team to catch our breath.  Mrs. Greenkeeper and I found some opportunities to play late on weekend afternoons at other facilities within a short commute.  To be honest, things were probably feeling too normal and then there was a bruise, that led to a self exam, that led to a follow up mammogram, that led to a biopsy, that led to where we are today.

Since her diagnosis 39 days ago I've been reflecting inwardly way more frequently and trying my hardest to be thankful for all the stuff I took for granted.  In a year that saw so much taken away from so many, how could I have possibly continued to take life for granted.  I'm so sorry it took my wife's cancer to make me stop and realize every day on this earth is a blessing.  And despite what may appear as tragic, it is only tragic if you allow it to be.  So here are some other, more important things I'm thankful for this year:

  • Golf - I'm thankful that last year's trip to Ireland re-sparked an interest in the game for us both, and although difficult to procure tee times due to the increasing demand brought about by the coronavirus, we managed to make time to be together on the golf course this year and made some wonderful memories!  I look forward to our next round together in 2021 when she is cancer free!
    Thanks For Playing With Me!

  • Professional Golf - I'm thankful the PGA Tour was able to resume in late June and help pave the way for other tours to follow suit.  Without fans the game looks a little different, but we can see more of the course.  In a year that early on seemed destined to be wiped from the record books, we eventually crowned three major champions, and who will ever forget the Masters in November! I thought it was just what the doctor ordered for 2020!
  • Sunrises - October is known as breast cancer awareness month and is symbolized by pink ribbons.  I've been wearing a pink wristband to support my wife and others fighting their battles.  It was downright awe inspiring to see that color dabbled across the sky nearly every morning since her diagnosis.  The things I've witnessed recently long before sunrise have been simply breathtaking and give me strength and hope for a positive outcome!

  • The Turf Industry - The brother and sisterhoods that make up professional turfgrass management is a tight-knit family and the love and support they have provided over the past month since learning about what Darless is facing has been overwhelming!  Cards, flowers, emails, texts and more have my wife telling me I am blessed with amazing friends!  You all are the best and your love and support is helping us both see this through!  Thank You!

  • The Members of Carolina Golf Club - You too have poured much love and support into our home the past month showing Darless how much you genuinely care.  Thank you for stopping me to ask how she's doing! Thank you for the messages, texts, letters, cards, flowers, and emails.  Your support means more to us than anything!  
  • Your Patience - You've been without bunker rakes since March.  The practice tee and clubhouse was closed for more than a month this spring.  And you went without golf carts for more than forty days.  I saw folks walking that I had never witnessed with clubs on their shoulders in fifteen years!  But through it all you continued to play golf.  Whether it was a verbal acknowledgement or a friendly text or email, you took time to express an appreciation for the staff as everyone tried our best to navigate this "new normal".  Thank you for your patience, really!

  • CGC Agronomy - This year saw several new faces come and go.  They endured a reduction in hours as we attempted to mitigate our potential risk of exposure.  We've enacted many changes to their otherwise normal routines as they relate to the daily distribution and sanitation of tools and equipment.  They've spread out and sometimes take lunch on a mower in order to distance themselves from one another.  And somehow, despite all these challenges and obstacles, they managed to produce a product I'm very proud of.  It hasn't been easy this year and I know some of these guys are ready for some much deserved time off, but through it all they managed to help encourage this golf course to be the best it can be each and every day!  Thanks Team!

Of course I'm most thankful for the love and support of my family, along with the support of the Green Committee, Board of Governors and Mr. Cleveland!  Without them none of this possible.  I am honored to be your golf course superintendent and each day at CGC truly is a blessing.  Thank you for providing us with the tools and resources that allow us to improve the golf course each season.  And thank you most for the opportunity to serve you and your guests and I hope each of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Monday, November 16, 2020

November Update!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Monday, November 16th and Dustin Johnson is the Masters champion!  In a year unlike any of us have ever endured we were treated this past weekend to a Masters tournament unlike any of us will probably ever see again.  The annual right of spring was played in the fall.  Patrons were absent and so were the patron stands that align many of the holes.  We saw more of the golf course than ever before and we saw it in a condition we're not completely accustomed.  And thankfully, none of that mattered and instead we were treated to some unbelievable golf and a worthy champion in world number one, Dustin Johnson.

It's hard to believe with everything we have all endured this year that we simultaneously were able to experience a Masters unlike any other, to steal a phrase from Jim Nantz.  By the way, Jim was named the 2021 Old Tom Morris Award winner by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.  Congratulations Jim! Click here for press release. 

So, during my last update I talked about how the course had endured three tropical storms in recent weeks and the impacts of each.  I also referenced how that last storm, Delta dropped the most rain (3.56 inches) and I voiced a concern for potential herbicide runoff injury.  And despite a conversation with the technical representative that hinted to a positive outcome we did in fact suffer a little injury unfortunately.  Areas on the second and eleventh greens are exhibiting the symptoms of herbicide runoff and we are in the midst of initiating repairs.

Hole 2

But, this is 2020 and it seems three tropical storms and herbicide runoff weren't enough.  So last week we endured a unique rain event.  Gulf moisture from Eta was draping our region for a couple of days.  We had dew points in the low 70s and that is summertime humidity folks.  As the cold front approached from the northeast the two air masses were colliding and kicking off a line of thunderstorms and tropical rainfall not typically seen in November.  

When the skies finally cleared Thursday, November 12th Carolina Golf Club had received over four inches of rainfall (4.28") in a short period of time.  While my team and I waited out the storm in the safety of the Turf Care Center we watched the news reports of fire and rescue on the scene pulling stranded motorists from their vehicles on Interstate 85!  It rained so much, so fast that ground water levels pushed our new SubAir unit out of the ground!

What the What!

In my fifteen years at CGC I would rank last Thursday's flash flood in the top 3 behind only Fay (2008) and Florence (2018).  I shared the photo below with former assistant Matt Claunch as we were texting back and forth comparing storm totals, etc. as Eta was more prominent in Florida than here as the cold front pushed it off the coast.

I told Matt, "A is the footbridge from 17 and B is where A is supposed to be!"  Yes, I included a facepalm emoji with that text.  Anyway, the good news is the rain stopped, the golf course survived, and by Saturday we were able to permit golf cars on the fairways.  We are very fortunate to have a golf course designed to shed and remove water across and off the property quickly.  When these events happen I thank God for Donald Ross and Kris Spence each and every time.

In other news we recently removed the overgrown switchgrass from behind the 17th Ross tee and seeded to a fescue mixture.  This was a project we discussed at the committee level for sometime but it kept getting rescheduled with labor and other issues earlier this year.  Now with the team back to full strength and a brief reprieve between storms ;) we were able to take advantage.

Also, I'm happy to report today we are able to dedicate time to the bunkers.  All these recent storms have wreaked havoc on the sand, etc. and today we are spinning the bunkers to break up all the compacted sand, check depths and redistribute where necessary, then smooth and roll the edges to reestablish our raking pattern for play going forward.  
Well, that's all for now.  Let's hope we don't have any other major weather related issues before my next post.  I hope to be back on November 25 for my annual Thanksgiving list.  Until then... 

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Three Tropical Storms Walk Into a Bar!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Wednesday, October 14th.  Stop me if you've heard this one before.  Three tropical storms walk into a bar...  No wait, that can't be right because bars currently remain closed in North Carolina due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  But did you know we've had three tropical systems impact Carolina Golf Club since my last post?

Ironically, it was during that same last post when I referenced how we were impacted by two storms (Florence and Michael) less than four weeks apart just two years ago.  This year we had three named storms, Sally, Beta and Delta make their way to the Queen City after coming ashore in the Gulf.  

Sally's remnants dropped a total of 1.90 inches rainfall at Carolina Golf Club between September 17th and 18th.  Beta was just one week behind and brought us 1.43 inches rainfall over the 25th and 26th.  Watching the forecasts for Delta last week I wasn't too concerned.  Predicted rainfall totals weren't overly alarming, and as I just stated the two previous storms weren't overly impressive.  Add in the fact we had yet to receive any rainfall in October (9 days), we were due a good soak.   

In fact, the agronomy team took advantage of those dry days to make preemergent herbicide treatments to the golf course.  Twice yearly we treat 100 acres of Bermudagrass (tees, fairways, rough and practice areas) with preemergent herbicides.  The spring application targets crabgrass and goosegrass and the fall application targets annual bluegrass (AKA poa annua).  Without a fall application our playing surfaces would become overrun with clumpy annual bluegrass requiring extensive post emergent applications to rectify.

So, we had a golf course that was sufficiently dry and perfect weather last week to make our application.  Treating 100 acres takes several days.  Our product of choice is manufactured by Bayer Environmental Science and the label stated to irrigate with 1/8 to 1/4 inch water if sufficient rainfall wasn't expected within 21 days.  I knew Delta was coming and expected more than sufficient rainfall, so we did irrigate on both Wednesday and Thursday evenings to activate the product applied and have it bind in the upper soil profile.

Delta arrived late Saturday afternoon, a little before 4:00 pm and shortly after my Virginia Tech Hokies fell short in their valiant effort at Chapel Hill.  I tip my cap to all you UNC alums and fans this year.  Well played.  

When I arrived at the course Sunday morning I discovered 1.93 inches of rainfall and thought, okay, Delta was what I expected.  Especially when compared to the outcomes of Sally and Beta.  But the rainfall wasn't over and before we completed course setup Sunday morning I was soaked, and opening drainage inlets.  When the rainfall finally stopped Sunday and they were miraculously able to run the Nascar race at Charlotte Motor Speedway later that day we had received another 1.5 inches of rain at Carolina Golf Club.

Delta's grand total was 3.56 inches rainfall, which is more than Sally and Beta combined (3.33").  Needless to say I made a phone call to the technical service representative of Bayer in our region to discuss our recent applications and potential implications.  The good news is we have several factors in our favor.  The fact our soils were dry and not saturated at the time of application.  The fact we irrigated to activate and bind prior to the onset of rainfall.  And the fact the 3.56 inches of rain from the storm did not fall all at once but was spread out over multiple days.  Definitely reassuring news.

One byproduct of these tropical systems is the flush of growth that accompany them.  Depending on the timing this surge may or may not be wanted.  Two years ago when we were preparing the golf course for the U.S. MidAm we had to work hard to overcome the growth surge following Florence in order to achieve the desired green speed and firmness the USGA requested.

Yesterday, during our closed maintenance day we mowed greens twice in order to help get the greens back to desirable levels.  And today we are making an application of plant growth regulator to slow the plant's response to the "free nitrogen" recently made available. Post rain nitrogen

Next on our agenda is making our annual fungicide application to tees and fairways for the management of Spring Dead Spot.  This application has been temporarily postponed because the fungicide must be watered-in immediately to move the product past the canopy and into the rootzone where the fungus is active.  Although the course is dry enough today to permit cart traffic, it is too wet to be irrigating so we will wait for conditions to improve before we proceed.

And finally, last week I had the good fortune to play golf with Stephen Proctor, author of Monarch of the Green.  He was traveling from his home in Florida to visit his Brother-in-law at Lake Lure.  He absolutely loved the course and donated a signed copy of his book to the club library.  So if you're interested in learning more about Young Tom, check it out. No pun intended. :) 

That's all for now.  We are continuing to clean up the course following Delta and we're hopeful we will be dry enough to mow some bermudagrass tomorrow and Friday.  Fall is here again as the 10-day forecast below shows some cool mornings ahead.  Enjoy!

Courtesy of Brad Panovich, WCNC

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Thursday, September 17, 2020

One Eye on Sally, One Eye on Winged Foot!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Thursday, September 17th and the beginning of the 120th United States Open Championship at Winged Foot Golf Club.  I don't know about you but that sounds bizarre to me, a U.S. Open in mid September.  2020 just continues to defy all things we had come to know and expect.  

It's just a little before 6:00 am and light rain is falling at Carolina Golf Club.  I received a text yesterday afternoon from a member asking if I thought we would "get pounded" with rain all day.  I replied that's what all the experts say.  If you aren't aware Hurricane Sally made landfall along the Mississippi Gulf Coast yesterday morning and is now tracking northeast.  Charlotte is under a flash flood outlook through tomorrow and estimated rainfall totals could equal anywhere between 3 to 7 inches.

This isn't the first tropical system to pass across the North Carolina Piedmont and it won't be the last.  It was just two years ago Michael made landfall along the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 storm and then made its way to the Queen City prior to our Fall Member-Guest.  Yes, that is the same year Florence made her presence felt just prior to the U.S. Mid-Am a month prior.

I'm sorry if my view of Sally is a little jaded, but when we've experienced rain events the past two years that led to totals just shy of 60 inches each year (Charlotte only averages about 40 inches yearly), you can understand why I view this as just another rainy day at the course.  Like with all weather systems, we prepare the course to come through the event as best as possible and fingers crossed any potential damage will be minimal.  My understanding there is not a high wind threat with Sally so I expect today to be soggy, all day.

Considering I was watching Mat Goggin hit lob wedges yesterday, he was landing the ball short of the first target green on the right, and the ball was bouncing twelve feet or more in the air before landing on the green and stopping near the hole.  Yes, it has been relatively dry the past two weeks with less than two-tenths inch rainfall over the past fifteen days, so we could use, and the course is ready to take on a good soak.

Since my last update it looks like Summer left town for the season.  I had an exchange with our good friend Brad Panovich on Monday.  He had shared this graphic with me prior to the Member-Member when we hit 90 plus degrees on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before the holiday weekend.

I asked where we stood for the year and he informed me after hitting 91 degrees officially on September 11th we were now at 54 days for 2020.  Think about that for more than a second, 54 is 31 fewer than last year's total of 85.  That's an entire month less of oppressive heat, and we're thankful.

Fans have been removed from the course and stowed for the season.  Height of cuts have been adjusted slightly on our Bermudagrass surfaces and we have a potash fertilizer application upcoming as we prepare the plant for the approaching dormant season.  We will also be making fall preemergent herbicide applications as well as Spring Dead Spot preventative fungicide application soon.  Our work is never done. :)

So, today is the first round of the 120th United States Open at Winged Foot Golf Club.  I believe most of you when you hear the name Winged Foot either think of 2006 and Phil Mickelson blowing a one-shot lead on the 18th hole of the final round, or you think of the Massacre at Winged Foot, the 1974 U.S. Open won by Hale Irwin with a score of 287 (+7).

Both the East and West courses underwent restoration/renovation under the supervision of golf course architect Gil Hanse in recent years so this year's championship will look different for any competitors that teed it up in 2006.  There's been some great content floating around the web leading up to this tournament showcasing the course, the '74 massacre mentioned earlier, and even a behind the scenes look at the grounds crew produced by Barstool.  

But to have a better understanding of the challenge the competitors face I suggest you watch this brief video produced by Andy Johnson of The Fried Egg Winged Foot West Greens where Gil Hanse and 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy discuss the difficulties and complexities of these A.W. Tillinghast putting surfaces.

Oh, and don't forget, Carolina Golf Club is forever linked to Winged Foot lore thanks to the stellar play of our own Stephen Woodard and Brett Boner back in 2018. :)  Stay dry today and enjoy the U.S. Open at Winged Foot.  I don't have a prediction other than the course will win and the winning score will be over par.  I would gladly take four rounds of 71 and wait inside that lovely clubhouse, wouldn't you. ;)

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

SubAir Explanation!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Tuesday, August 25th and I have received a few questions following this morning's post about our recent SubAir installation on Hole 12 so I thought I would provide a little clarification.  Many of you probably recall seeing the image below in a member email on March 6th when we announced the decision to install SubAir on Hole 12 this season.

The components of the SubAir system in the above picture are the Vault, Separator, and Dual Valves.  They are connected to the green's existing internal drainage network.  I think based on the questions I have been receiving many of you thought everything depicted needed to be installed and you were left wondering how we managed to do so without disturbing the putting green.

All 22 of our greens on property are USGA Construction with internal drainage.  They already possess a network of 4-inch dual wall perforated pipe aligned in a herringbone pattern beneath the rootzoone.  That network then connects to a single solid pipe which carries excess water away to the nearest catch basin before it is transported to the nearest retention pond.  From the as-built legend below you can see our bunkers also have internal drainage.  

As-Built Legend

Below is Hole 12 and you should recognize two main "trunk" lines.  Recall there's a ridge at both the front and rear of the green separating the two halves.  For this project we only needed to locate the terminal ends of the two trunk lines at the back of the green and make our connections.  

Hole 12 Drainage As-Built

And this next photo shows us installing new pipe from the vault and separator up to the back of the green connecting to those existing internal drain lines.

Hopefully that clears up any confusion.  For a little more info on how the system operates once connected here's a brief product video explaining the benefits of vacuum and pressure mode.  I've been using both since we got power connected fifteen days ago.  If you have any other questions please don't hesitate to reach out, I love talking turf! 

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Catching Up!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Tuesday, August 25th and for the first time in months the team and I are beginning to feel like we are catching up!  Between record heat and drought, projects, and recent heavy rainfall, at times it felt like we were running in place.  I think this past Friday was the first time I found myself breathing a sigh of relief as the last pieces of new sod went on the ground to button up a few undesirable areas.  Here's a look back at the work helping usher in fall. Yes, September 1st, the start of meteorological fall is only one week away.  ;)

At the first of this month we were still in the grips of a heat wave with unbearable humidity and elevated nighttime temperatures.  As a result, we battled some fungal pathogens on our creeping bentgrass greens that called for treatment.  The right combination of curative plant protectant applications in conjunction with our fans, including the portable used at hole 9 made a tremendous impact and we successfully turned things around.

Portable Fan Hole 9
Now obviously we didn't place the fan in front of the green during play, but we did take advantage of a closed course on Maintenance Mondays to reposition and get better airflow to the far side.  Our recent reprieve from the intense heat allowed us to remove the fan temporarily but you will most likely see it returned tomorrow as temperatures are expected once again to rise into the 90's and remain through this coming weekend.

Prior to August 15th the golf course had only received about 3/4 inch total rainfall this month.  Then the tropical downpours hit that same Saturday afternoon dropping over two inches!  In fact, since the 15th we've had eight measurable rain events totaling 4.6 inches and bringing our monthly total up to 5.39 inches.  That is more than June and July combined (5.21 inches).  

With the recent wet period it sure is nice having the new SubAir unit on Hole 12 operational!  Big thanks to the folks at SubAir/TurfBreeze for all their assistance in getting us squared away on our most challenging microclimate.  The vault is behind the green in the native area.  We wrapped up this project by topdressing with compost and reseeding with Spence Blend fine fescue.  The unit has been quickly put through its paces as noted by the rainfall just in the past ten days.

Top of Vault

Ready for Seed

Looking Better Each Day

With that off our plate we focused on wrapping up the final fairway topdressing for this season.  Between August 10th and 12th we spread 300 tons of utility sand across our 30 acres of tees, fairways, and approaches.  This application brought our grand total since inception in 2015 up to 3900 tons or 130 tons per acre.  Thankfully we had dry weather while spreading and the plentiful rainfall since has sufficiently helped work all the sand into the canopy.

You may recall last time I referenced how we changed grass types on the back tee of hole 13.  We selected Zorro Zoysiagrass for the enhanced shade tolerance as that tee abuts the southeastern property boundary.  This was the same turf used for the newly installed "lawn space" adjacent to the swimming pool.  The new sod rooted in quickly and the tee markers were returned and the tee reopened for play twelve days ago.
In other news we vented greens (needle tines) on August 17th following the Saturday deluge.  It was one of the final tasks our summer intern, Jarrett Price completed last week before heading back to West Lafayette, Indiana for the start of fall classes at Purdue University.  JP was a big part of our team's success this summer and we wish him all the best as he continues his studies.  And hopefully he decides to return next year so we can continue his Jedi training.  :)

Well, that's about all for now.  Dustin Johnson destroyed the field in the first FedEx Cup tournament winning by eleven strokes!  The tour heads to Olympia Fields this week for the BMW Championship then next week they head to Atlanta and East Lake Golf Club for the Tour Championship!  Following a week off after the Tour Championship we get the US Open at Winged Foot!  I don't know about you, but I think it's an exciting time for professional golf!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Friday, July 31, 2020


Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Friday, July 31st and we finally got some, albeit mild relief from the heat yesterday!  Everyone knows July is our hottest month annually and this year was no exception, but did you realize our streak of 20 consecutive days with temperatures 90 degrees or above is the fifth longest streak in Charlotte history!  I don't know about you, but when you look at the top 5 pictured below I'm actually surprised the numbers aren't higher.  The streak officially ended yesterday at 20 days when we only reached 89 degrees thanks to early cloud cover.

Courtesy of Brad Panovich, WCNC

And for those of you who've been members since before the restoration you might remember that 2007 streak.  It essentially encompassed the entire month of August including consecutive days when the temperature reached 104 degrees!  Back then the course didn't have full irrigation coverage and we were struggling in those areas thinking how were we going to hang on through October.  The course closed on November first that year to start the eleven month makeover resulting in the course we enjoy today.

We did manage to squeeze out 3.56 inches of rainfall this month, but when close to two of those inches came in one storm late on the 21st you realize it's been mostly dry to go along with the hot and humid conditions.  We only received 1.65 inches all of June so we've experienced more near misses than hits from storms in the region.  But despite these weather related challenges you keep telling me the course is in great shape.  Thank you, the team has worked hard to overcome several obstacles this month and they appreciate the positive feedback.
I know when I posted the tweet above over a couple of weeks ago everyone got excited about the SubAir!  Since then we encountered numerous issues from having to replace and upgrade our electrical service to our technical rep in self quarantine.  But the good news is we are installed, and have power.  The not good news is we are waiting on the arrival of a coupling needed to complete the final hookup and make us operational.  Looks like Monday will be the big day as 2020 continues to frustrate, but we're almost there!  Here are a couple of pics of the work:
Connection to Drainage

Some other projects we completed this month include new landscaping at the newly renovated pool and we changed the grass on No. 13 Black tee from Celebration bemudagrass to Zorro zoysiagrass.  Despite Celebration having a higher shade tolerance over other bermudagrasses, zoysiagrass has even greater shade tolerance so hopefully we just eliminated our persistent bare patch at this tee which really pushes against the property boundary.

New Zoysia "Lawn"
Fresh Mulch & Stone
Out With the Old
In With the New

Anyway, that about sums up the month.  As August approaches we'll be venting greens this coming Monday and making a plant protectant application for summer stress.  We will also be stockpiling sand next week as the Sandman returns to topdress tees and fairways beginning August 10th.  As we turn another calendar page this year I'm excited for August because it means an end to the Dog Days and the noticeably shorter days in the second half of the month normally means a return of cooler nighttime temperatures.  The greens will definitely be happier with some overnight recovery.

Until then, stay cool and I'll...

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Course Update!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Tuesday, June 30th and I can't believe July starts tomorrow!  My goodness this year is flying past.  Considering everything that has happened thus far this year, maybe that's not a bad thing. ;)  

Since my last update Mother Nature has cranked up the warmth along with the humidity!  Those are the two things Bermudagrass loves the most and the result is a golf course some of you may describe as lush, or even juicy.  The tees have recovered nicely from their core aeration and the fairways are more than 90% recovered from the deep verticutting and topdressing.  

As a result, some of you may have noticed a little more grass under your ball as we made our first fairway height of cut adjustment of the growing season.  We always start the year lower and creep up as necessary to meet growth during the season.  The same is true for the rough.  Our current HOC in the rough is 1.75 inches and it's typically during mid to late July when we creep even closer to two inches so don't say you haven't been warned. ;)

This week my team is treating all tees, fairways, approaches, closely mowed surrounds, bunker faces, and even pond banks with a plant growth regulator.  The purpose of this application is to tighten the canopy, but more importantly slow the rate of vertical growth resulting in fewer clippings.  Clipping management is always a struggle during the most humid periods of summer.

One last note about June before we turn the calendar, we only saw 1.65 inches of total rainfall this month!  In an average June our irrigation lake would be down two to three feet with less than two inches rain, but considering the over abundance of soil moisture thanks to the spring rains of April and May (14.98 inches combined) our lake is only a few inches below full pond.

You may recall last time I referenced other course related projects on the horizon.  We're about halfway complete as all fans have been in place and operating continuously for several weeks and the native mowing has only two areas remaining (right of hole 3 and right of hole 10).  I'm guessing next week will be the pool landscape install as that renovation is nearing the finish line.  
The SubAir install on hole 12 is in a holding pattern as repairs are made to our electric service panel in that corner of the property.  We recently discovered damage to the post supporting the existing service, plus the service is being increased to allow for the addition (existing service powers fans on holes 11 and 12).  Hopefully this will be a brief snag.  

Before I go I wanted to share the post below for the photograph.  We've received numerous comments about the presentation of the bunkers with this new method and I think this pic captured it best.  Thank you all for the support, the team really appreciates it!
And here's hoping we see many more Fridays like this, as well as the other days of the week as summer continues! :)

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Aeration Week Recap!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Wednesday, June 10th and much has happened in the three weeks since my last update!  For starters, it rained the next four days following the last post totaling 3.70 inches.  Five days later Tropical Storm Bertha passed over the Queen City dropping another 1.91 inches on the golf course.  When May finally came to a close we had received 7.74 inches rainfall for the month, topping the 7.24 inches that fell in April.  

Needless to say the course was anything but firm and fast!  But since June arrived the skies have dried long enough for us to complete a long list of cultural practices aimed to improve growing conditions over the coming summer months.  On June 1 and 2 we completed our last planned aerification to the putting greens.  This was the same solid-tine procedure we performed at this time last year.  The greens were topdressed with 50 tons sand prior to the operation followed by hand brooming the sand into the holes.  
Poking Holes
Tight Spacing
The following day we lightly verticut the greens to further aid moving the topdressing sand into the holes.  We applied some needed soil amendments, treated with wetting agent and irrigated thoroughly prior to the resumption of play on Wednesday, June 3rd.    

While all that was going on, we simultaneously tackled the deep fairway verticutting and topdressing.  You may recall last year the course was closed five consecutive days to allow all these agronomic practices to be completed without interruption.  With club operations still not fully back to pre-coronavirus levels it was decided to only close two days this year resulting in us continuing to peck away at the processes around play Wednesday and Thursday of last week.

In fact, when Maintenance Monday arrived we still needed to verticut the 13th, 17th and 18th fairways plus topdress the 1st, 2nd, 10th and 11th fairways too.  We managed to complete that work two days ago while core aerifying and topdressing all tees.  To be honest, we technically didn't finish fairway topdressing till yesterday, again working around play.  Thank you all for your patience and understanding!  
I also want to thank Mother Nature for turning the spigot off long enough for us to complete our work without delay, and please feel free to turn it back on and help the course recover. ;)  We actually did receive one-quarter inch rain overnight, the first measurable rainfall since May 30.

Next up on our list is the installation of fans, mowing of all warm-season natural/native areas, and when the pool renovation is complete we will install new landscape material around the perimeter.  You may also recall a club email from early March that referenced the decision to install SubAir at the 12th green.  Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak we had hoped that project would be completed last month.  Obviously, we have been dealing with delays but the good folks at SubAir/TurfBreeze are optimistic we will have everything installed and operational before the end of this month, so stay tuned for more updates!

That's all for now, time to get the team mowing as the Bermudgrass thrives in these warm, humid conditions.  Feels more like July than June, but then again summer in the Carolinas is always toasty.  You can almost hear the rough getting thicker. ;) 

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG