Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Past Twenty Days!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Tuesday, March 31st and so much has happened in the twenty days since my last post!  To be honest, I've wanted to post something the past two weeks, but the situation that surrounds us all has been constantly moving and I was reluctant to post something that may be untrue 24 or 48 hours later.

Ironically, it was the date of my last post (March 11th) when the president addressed the nation and I realized things were about to change.  Since that time I've closely followed the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services twitter account @ncdhhs along with the city of Charlotte @CLTgov to get updates and information.

I've met with my team daily and stressed to them our first priority is to keep ourselves safe and healthy.  If we're staying safe and healthy then we keep our families safe and healthy, and we also help keep each other safe and healthy.  I've also stressed to them over the two plus weeks that it's imperative they do the right things when away from work to ensure that our workplace remains safe and healthy.

Everyone on the staff understands they do not have to be here if they feel unsafe.  And we have taken countless measures to eliminate touch points in the Turf Care Center by propping doors open, cleaning and disinfecting our equipment and workplace daily, and adhering to social distancing.  Again, keeping the team safe is priority number one.

We've also been doing everything we can possibly think of to help keep you safe and healthy.  The removal of bunker rakes, drinking coolers, and divot sand bottles are again an example of eliminating touch points.  We even inverted the cups to ensure your ball doesn't fall completely below the surface when holing a putt to allow you to retrieve it without touching the cup or flagstick.  Yes, golf looks different from what we remember but at the same time the course does look good with less clutter, just saying.  ;)

Despite the fact Covid-19 has closed much of the world, one thing it cannot stop is Spring.  The golf course is waking up and according to growing degree days it's more than three weeks ahead of schedule.  With each passing day the work load increases as the turf areas wake from their winter sleep, okay so maybe it wasn't the deepest of hibernations this year, but you know what I mean.  I will admit I've been frustrated with the putting greens as this year we've had some of the best post-aeration weather ever experienced (nearly 2.5 inches rainfall and several 80 degree days).  

But A1/A4 bentgrass has historically always been late to wake up, like trying to get a teenager out of bed.  Truth is the grass responds more to soil temperature than air temperature so even though we've enjoyed some warm days we're not where it wants to be.  But, despite my impatience the greens are still ahead of most other years by comparison.

It was good to see so many of you this past weekend out enjoying the course.  I received several nice comments of gratitude via text, email or a verbal thank from a safe distance.  I can tell you the team was happy to hear your kind remarks during our morning briefing yesterday.  Everyone in life needs a purpose, and your agronomy team's purpose is caring for your course.

One thing you may not be aware of is the effort some folks are going to so you may continue to play golf.  As the Immediate Past President of Carolinas GCSA I remain an active member of the Board of Directors until our next annual meeting in November.  As a result, I have been privy to a courtesy copy of emails exchanged between our executive director and the other allied groups in both North and South Carolina.  

The biggest reason Mecklenburg County and Governor Cooper agreed to include golf as an approved outdoor activity was because of the incredible effort of two state lobbyists and the leaders of the North Carolina Golf Course Owners Association, Carolinas Club Managers Association, Carolinas GCSA, Carolinas PGA Section, Carolinas Golf Association, and South Carolina Golf Association.

Whether you knew it or not there are a lot of people working hard behind the scenes so you may have the opportunity to play golf.  That's why it's imperative that you do your part too.  Please adhere to the social distancing guidelines and other rules in place.  We're all in this together.
That's all for now.  A few things to consider on the bright side.  When this is over the range tee will be perfect and divot free and the fairways will be in their best shape with the elimination of cart traffic stress.  Yes, fairway divots are becoming an issue since you are no longer able to fill them, but my team will be making a conscious effort to address starting this week so we don't fall behind.  

From the outset of this situation I have felt golf has 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 hope and pray we are able to continue to provide you with this outlet in the safest manner possible.

See you on the course... from a safe distance,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Aeration Recap!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Wednesday, March 11th and I'm happy to report our spring greens renovation is complete.  Over the past two days my team and I executed an aggressive deep, solid-tine and shallow, hollow-core aeration and topdressing plan.  Coupled with the addition of two soil amendments we've now set our greens on a successful path for the upcoming season.  This was the first core removal performed on the putting greens since March last year, removing nearly 10% of the surface area. Core Aeration  

If you reviewed the linked article above you noticed 20% surface area impact is the recommended annual goal.  We will reach this with our second aeration (solid-tine only) in early June. This was the second consecutive year we incorporated the deep, solid-tine process in advance of core removal.  Our soil physical properties continue to perform like new in the deeper regions of the root zone, and the creation of channels connecting the upper and lower portions aids in water penetration, which based on recent rainfall patterns are direly needed.  Here's a look at some of the action.
Core Removal on Heels of Solid Deep-Tine
The reason the tweet above states "obligatory" is because we have a rule in the world of Turf Twitter, no slo-mo or it didn't happen.  With the recent time change (Spring forward) the team was forced to work well into the evening and we cleared the final green slightly after dusk.
A Full Day
With all 22 greens (122,607 square feet) aerified and cores removed, Day 2 began by rolling multiple times, followed by the application of soil amendments, applying nearly 50 tons sand topdressing and brushing in.  This was followed with some hand brooming to touch-up, followed by another roll and irrigation to help settle the sand topdressing.
We unfortunately were delayed for approximately two hours just shy of midday when light rain moved across the Queen City.  The rainfall amount wasn't much, but it slammed the breaks on applying kiln dried sand successfully.  Thankfully the weather cooperated much better once the rain cleared as we enjoyed a cool, drying breeze and near perfect conditions to complete the process.
Final Green!
Finished Product!
It's always a relief to wrap up the spring greens renovation.  Hats off to the agronomy team, six of whom weren't with us at this time last year.  In the coming days we will continue to roll the greens to smooth any tire marks, treat with soil wetting agent, and fertilize to aid recovery.  I am also planning a light verticut in two directions early next week to help move the sand deeper into the canopy and hopefully pinch the holes slightly.  

In other news we finally managed to complete our spring crabgrass pre-emergent herbicide application.  Mother Nature really made it a difficult challenge this year with the saturating rains.  There were days when the course was simply too wet to tolerate the weight and traffic of the sprayer.  If you haven't yet applied crabgrass preventer on your home lawn, the clock is ticking.  You do still have time, but I would get the application complete before next Friday (March 20).  

With aeration and preemergence in the books, next up for my team is some selective, post-emergent herbicide applications where needed, mulching of all landscaped areas (golf course and clubhouse grounds), and hopefully mowing some grass soon.  Despite the mild winter conditions as measured by temperature, it certainly felt like a long, dreary one with all the rainfall.  Everyone on your agronomy team is ready for spring and green grass!

On a final note, I'll leave you with this.  Tomorrow is the beginning of The Players Championship.  Recently, Connor T. Lewis, host of the Talking Golf History podcast had former PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman on as a guest.  To learn about the history of how The Players Championship came to exist and its early days you can listen by clicking HERE.  Enjoy!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG