Monday, May 24, 2021

Two Thumbs Up!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Monday, May 24th and Phil Mickelson just won the 103rd PGA Championship at Kiawah Island to become the oldest player in golf history to win a professional major championship!  Did that really just happen?  Yes it did, and it was incredible to watch the theatre unfold on a Pete Dye masterpiece in front of thousands of fans eager to enjoy life again.  

What an incredible scene it was to watch the masses encircle the 72nd hole and create an ambiance for this historic moment.  Other than Tiger's win at the Tour Championship at the end of 2018 you might have to go back a couple of decades to find scenes like this, I seem to recall this was a common occurrence at the Open Championship in my younger days.

But enough about Phil, his bombs, his calves, and his thumbs.  Let's talk about the golf course at Carolina Golf Club!  After three consecutive years with rainfall well above average, the pattern shifted since spring's arrival and firm, fast playing conditions have returned.  Through the first three months of 2021 the golf course had received over 14 inches rainfall, once again putting us on pace for a fourth consecutive year with nearly 60 inches.

But since April 1 we have only received 3.22 inches and there isn't a strong chance of rain in the immediate forecast.  With a little more than 1.5 inches in April and about 1.5 inches so far in May the course has been able to dry out, firm up, and play like Donald Ross intended, with the ball running.

And to add to that, the cool spring temperatures have permitted us to push the greens as it relates to moisture content each day providing a firmer surface that resists ball marks and enhances putting speed.

Courtesy of Brad Panovich, WCNC

Now, the graphic above also tells another story.  This is the third consecutive cool spring, but this one is absent the rainfall of the two previous years.  Although cool and dry is great for bentgrass, it means our Bermudagrass tees, fairways and rough are slow out of the starting gate.  This includes the practice tees and short game area too.  

Bermudagrass likes warm, humid conditions and we've had neither most of this year.  On top of that, we did encounter late season frosts in April and we set a record low just two weeks ago during the Member-Guest.  This translates to rough that is still slow to thicken and an absence of color in high traffic zones.

If you played this past weekend you may have noticed the return of small stakes to help direct cart traffic as the golf course is unable to recover without proper growing conditions.  On the plus side, these same conditions inhibiting the growth and recovery of Bermudagrass is helping create those fast playing conditions because lush turf is slow.  So there are plusses and minuses with every situation.

In other course related news, we will be adding bunker sand to those most heavily played from starting next week.  The Green Committee has discussed several plans for immediate and long range improvements to the golf course, especially relating to bunkers and cart paths and we ask your continued patience as the final details are ironed out.

Also, I want to remind you we will not be aerifying the putting greens or the fairways immediately after Memorial Day.  You may recall we did so beginning in 2018 as a result of the timing of the U.S. MidAm in September that year.  We continued the practice each of the past two years, with only closing two days in 2020 because of the pandemic.  

We determined the greens would benefit more from a traditional fall aerification and adjusted the schedule for 2021.  Fairway verticutting, aerification and topdressing will take place July 6-9 and greens aerification will take place following Labor Day.  We will most likely "vent" greens on Maintenance Tuesday next week to alleviate the stress of  close mowing and rolling associated with tournament conditions, but you can rest easy you can continue to enjoy them as summer gets underway.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention our thoughts and prayers have been with Green Chairman Brett Boner since his accident and we are thrilled to learn he has recovered well enough to be released and return home to his family!  Get well soon Brett!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Friday, April 16, 2021

It's a Small Golf World!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Friday, April 16th and my heart and soul goes out to the entire Virginia Tech community on this remembrance day.  So much has happened since my last post.  The Easter Bunny returned to Carolina Golf Club, Hideki Matsuyama won the Masters and Will Zalatoris continues to be the hottest golfer on the planet without status!

Spring continues to be a roller coaster in our region as the golf course continues to wake from winter hibernation.  Although many mowing operations have returned, the frequency is less than peek growing season as cold snaps continue to slow progress.  In fact, we are experiencing another cold snap as temperatures this morning dipped to 41 degrees F.  The graph below depicts the daily average temperature at CGC from March 1 through April 15 (yesterday). 

Greenkeeper App

Although in Centigrade, it is easy to see the rapid dips followed by the gradual warm ups that characterized March.  This past week has seen the steadiest of temperatures from day to day, which is nice considering we experienced frost on the first and second of this month!  It will be interesting to revisit and see how the back half of April shakes out.

If asked to compare the course to years past, I would say things are about average.  We have definitely been greener and farther along with growth some years, but I would also say there have been plenty other years where the course was lagging behind 2021.  We have made two mowings to all the rough to open the canopy, and you can see plenty of new green leaves emerging from under the remaining dormant material.  

Landscaping should be wrapped up today as all on-course mulch areas have been tidied and refreshed.  We addressed all the clubhouse and parking areas prior to Easter.  Tee box realignment (you may have noticed blue dash marks along the edges) continues to progress and I marked all the fairway edges too as some areas between fairway and rough have become blurred due to heavy cart traffic associated with record rounds.  In fact, through March 31 rounds are up more than 12% over last year with over 5000 rounds played since January 1!

You may recall some time back I mentioned this past winter was the coldest in our region in six years.  I do think we are now far enough along into spring to recognize areas that are slow to recover as a result.  Most notably the high cart traffic exit points and the rough on the north side of large trees.  Not to worry, they will recover, they're just stumbling out of the starting block.

Things could be worse, the hard freeze that gripped the central southern region this winter has Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma patching and replacing damaged turf areas much sooner than normal years after the turf succumbed to freezing cold and north winds.  The Perry Maxwell masterpiece was recently restored by Gil Hanse and they are scheduled to host this year's Senior PGA Championship at the end of May.  I tip my cap to superintendent Russ Myers and his team as they battle the elements, just another example of how Mother Nature always wins.

Before I go, let's go back to last week's Masters.  Hideki Matsuyama became the first male golfer from Japan to win.  When I was growing up watching the Masters was the one time each year I got to see Japanese legends like Isao Aoki, Jumbo Ozaki, and Tommy Nakajima play.  Ok, so Aoki did play and win on the PGA Tour, but mostly the Masters was the only time Americans really got to see these legendary players compete.

At the conclusion of this year's Masters the golfing world was touched when Hideki's caddy respectfully bowed to the course.

I can tell you I was not at all surprised by this gesture.  From January 2000 to April 2002 I was the Assistant Superintendent of Augustine Golf Club in Stafford, Virginia.  And at that time Augustine was owned by a Japanese businessman named Tadahiko Nukui.  We had a full-time translator on site, Fumio Jenkins and when possible I would ask her questions about Japan and Japanese culture.  I learned that golf courses are considered sacred ground and the course is treated with the utmost respect.

In fact, Augustine Golf Club operated as a Cart Path Only facility 365 days a year.  If you had a physical disability that required you taking your cart off the path, you were only permitted to ride in the rough, never on the fairways.  Mr. Nukui and his family would visit Augustine two or three times each year and it was a great learning experience early in my career.  Mr. Nukui also owned and operated two courses in Japan, Green Park Country Club and Sendai Minami Golf Club.

I left Augustine in the spring of 2002 to take my first head superintendent position, and unfortunately lost touch with the Nukui family.  In fact, Mr. Nukui eventually sold Augustine Golf Club but in May of 2000 we did host a professional tournament for the Tear Drop Tour.  A few young players you may recognize competed in that event are Jason Gore and Zach Johnson.

I remember there was a three-way sudden death playoff involving Tim Petrovic, a player I cannot remember, and the eventual winner, Stephen Woodard.  Yes, our Stephen Woodard!  

So there you have it, somehow through the greatest of all games we find ourselves connected to the reigning Masters Champion, Hideki Matsuyama.  And now you know, the rest of the story.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Friday, March 26, 2021

Course News, Good News, and Best News!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Friday, March 26th and it pleases me to bring you this brief update on and off the golf course.  I will touch on the recent greens aerification and recovery progress.  We'll talk about spring preemergent herbicide applications, mowing operations, and other tasks as we continue to ready the course for the upcoming season.  Then I'll share with you some good news, followed by an update containing the best news.  So let's get started.

Putting greens were aerified and topdressed back on the first and second.  This is the earliest we've performed spring aerfication and I know some folks were curious to the modification of the schedule.  Granted, in order to fully recover from spring aerification we need growing conditions and these are controlled more by soil temperatures than ambient air temperatures (this is why the course is never immediately in spring form when we get unseasonably warm temperatures in February or early March).  

So, why would I aerify greens when the soil temperatures are not in the optimum range you ask?  Great question and the answer is a couple of reasons actually.  One, our greens had been subjected to the most intense traffic in their history with record rounds played each month since the beginning of the pandemic last spring.  Not to mention, our last aerification took place in early June meaning the greens had endured nine consecutive months of heavy play without relief.  This in turn negatively impacted water infiltration rates causing puddling and ponding even after small rain events in spite of our wetting agent regime.  Two, the busiest month for golf last year was April.  That's right, more rounds of golf were played in April 2020 than any other month and that includes May, June, July, and August which all have more daylight hours.

So, when you're trying to ready the course to accommodate high demand in April, some compromises and adjustments are made.  We may have stumbled out of the starting blocks, but it certainly appears things are trending in the right direction for what we hope is a spectacular spring golf season at CGC.

March 26, 2021

March 26, 2021

Following the completion of greens aerification we managed to treat the entire course with preemergent herbicide for the management of crabgrass and goosegrass this coming year.  If you haven't treated your home lawns for crabgrass do not delay much longer.  Forsythia hasn't dropped its blooms yet across town but the clock is ticking.

All of our cool-season natural/native areas were mowed and cleaned up using our Super 600!  This removed both old and unwanted growth and permitted us to get a good application of our preemergent herbicide combination in those areas too.  The predominant warm-season areas will be mowed in early June.

As for the remainder of the golf course, we mowed all rough this week and again used our Super 600 to clean up the clippings.  The first mowing of rough is always at a lower height of cut than normal play to open the canopy and allow sunlight to penetrate and warm the soil (this is why you always see the tees, fairways, and approaches green up faster than the rough).  

Mowing Native

Preemergent Application

Mowing Rough
We had planned to make the first cut on fairways and approaches this morning but Mother Nature had other plans by dropping over 1.5 inches rain last night.  So you can expect to see these areas get trimmed and groomed next week when the course dries out.

In other news, I'm excited to announce Assistant Superintendent Matthew Rollyson was selected to join the Agronomy Volunteer Team at the upcoming Augusta National Women's Amateur.  Mr. Boilermaker will be heading down to Georgia on Sunday to help prepare the courses this coming week.  Rounds 1 and 2 are played at Champions Retreat on March 31st and April 1st.  The final round is played at Augusta National Golf Club on Saturday, April 3rd.  We are thrilled here at CGC Agronomy to have Matthew selected for this opportunity.

Mr. Boilermaker!
And, in the best news department, Darless beat cancer!  Yes, you heard correctly, following four long months of chemotherapy followed by surgery just one week ago today, she received a clean bill of health yesterday when we met with the surgical oncologist, Dr. Turk to get her pathology report!  We are thrilled to come through this arduous journey and we cannot thank everyone at Carolina Golf Club enough for your unending well wishes and support.

Dr. Joshi, Medical Oncology

Dr. Turk, Surgical Oncology

Flowers from CGC
Flowers from CWGA

That's all I have time for now, we're still tidying up the course in preparation for tomorrow's Donald Ross event.  Unfortunately I believe it will most likely be cart path only, but best of luck to both teams!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Aerification Recap, the Back of the Range, and the King!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Friday, March 5th and I want to bring you up to speed on the recent aerification to the putting greens and talk about what you will see happening on the course over the coming weeks.  With meteorological winter in the books there is much to accomplish before the arrival of mowing season.  So let's get started.

On Monday and Tuesday we aerified all 22 putting greens with 12 mm diameter solid tines at a depth of nine inches.  This was done using our Toro SR70-S attached to our John Deere tractor.  You may or may not have seen a tweet on Thursday of last week when we made a practice run across the nursery green.

Following the deep tine process was the immediate coring using two Toro 648 aerifiers equipped with hollow tines measuring 0.41 inch at the inside diameter.  This was the first core removal since spring aerification last year on March 9th and 10th.  

We did receive three-tenths inch of rain on Monday in the form of off-and-on showers and drizzle during the first half of the day.  Although I could keep going with the deep tine machine, it did delay the walk behind units a couple hours and more importantly delayed the cleanup and removal of the cores as only eight greens were completed before darkness.

Day Two started with core removal and cleanup of the fourteen remaining greens.  All greens were then topdressed with sand, brushed to incorporate sand into the aerification holes, and rolled two times.  The temperature dropped as the day progressed and just when we wrapped up our last green we were treated to a beautiful sunset.  I shared the photo with my granddaughter and told her I also see God's glory at night, not just in the mornings.

Nothing improves greenkeeper morale like wrapping up putting green aerification.  The drive home was loud and a celebratory toast warmed my cold bones.

Speaking of cold, if you were wondering why you couldn't seem to shake a chill this winter, well, it's because we just experienced the coldest winter in the Queen City since 2015!  Of course, nothing makes the cold feel colder than rain and we had thirteen inches fall on the golf course during meteorological winter this season.  That makes the third consecutive winter with more than one foot of rain!

Courtesy of Brad Panovich, WCNC

The good news is there isn't any rain in the forecast and we are slowly beginning to dry out.  You may have already noticed a greener tinge to the fairways following last weekend's spectacular spring-like days where the temperature climbed to 73 degrees!  Forsythia is beginning to bloom about town meaning it is time to make preemergent herbicide applications for the prevention of crabgrass and goosegrass.

We will be treating the golf course all next week, 100 acres of bermudagrass tees, fairways and rough plus the practice range and more.  In case you're wondering, yes, it is also time to treat your home lawns too!  Now is also the time to mow the fine-fescue and make preemergent herbicide applications to those natural areas.  You will see the Super 600 in action next week and the team will mow other areas by hand where the terrain is too steep for our piece of kit.

Wednesday I met with with the 2021 Green Committee.  We have four new members this year and a new chairman.  Brett Boner has served on the committee since 2011 and will chair the group this year as former chairman Ed Oden now serves as Club President.  One topic discussed was drainage, and the group was happy to learn my team and I have identified several areas we will be installing additional drainage once we wrap up the natural area mowing and preemergent applications.  

Well, there it is, a recap of aerification and a game plan for the next few weeks.  As you anxiously wait for the greens to recover and heal from their long overdue break I found something you might enjoy.  If you're into podcasts you can check out Brett Boner on The Back of the Range Podcast hosted by Ben Adelberg CLICK HERE.  Seems Brett and Ben were talking on the same day Tiger Woods wrecked his courtesy car.  Did you know Brett and Tiger were paired together for two rounds as juniors?  Neither did I until I listened to this interview.  If you like amateur golf, and stories from the mini tours you'll enjoy this episode.

And finally, its Arnold Palmer Invitational week on the PGA Tour.  Early yesterday morning Golf Today asked people to share stories about meeting Mr. Palmer on Twitter.  I posted a quick reply about my one and only encounter with the King.  A few hours later I received the photo below in a text from Eric Mauntel. 

Well, what do you know.  Thanks Golf Channel for sharing our story.  Chris Anderson (pictured far right) also saw it from his home in Florida and texted all the group with the caption, "We're famous!"  LOL, thanks Arnold!

Before I go I was excited to see the announcement yesterday from the Golf Professional Staff announcing Ryan Parker and Jason Rossetti recently qualified for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball to be played later this year at Chambers Bay!  Way to go guys and looking forward to seeing the CGC represented in the PNW!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG  

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Brighter Days Ahead!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Wednesday, February 10th and I'm blaming the Groundhog for the fact we are still in winter's grip at Carolina Golf Club!  One of the great advantages to living in the southeast is winters can be mild, especially when compared to the snowier northeast and mid-west regions.  I grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in far southwestern Virginia at a time when snow was plentiful and common.  

Through the years winters back home have become wetter, with less snow but this year Mom tells me they've experienced quite a bit, including about six inches just before Christmas!  I stated during the recent annual meeting that 2020 was our third consecutive year with over 57 inches rainfall, and you don't receive more than one foot above average with dry winters.

Our pattern seems to consist of bright blue skies and sunshine when cold air is in place.  Radiational cooling each evening (this is the loss of heat to the atmosphere via the lack of insulating cloud cover) drops our temperatures well below freezing and in turn we wake to start each day delayed with frost.  When warmer temperatures do move into the region they typically bring with them an influx of moisture and it rains, while the I40 corridor magically continues to be the sweet spot for snow.

What's the point of all this you ask?  There isn't one, other than it's therapeutic in some sorts to put my thoughts on "paper".  My wife is now just one week away from her last chemotherapy infusion, and to say the past three months have been stressful would be the understatement of the year!  In that time I've tried diligently to be a good husband, a good superintendent, a good coworker, and a good team leader all while keeping my wife, my team, and myself safe.

There are times I'm thankful this happened in the winter as it's been easier (relatively speaking) for me to assist and accompany her to appointments and treatments.  I would not wish anyone who is battling cancer to have to go it alone.  I can't imagine trying to do all I am currently for her and simultaneously keep the course alive if this were the middle of summer.

But simultaneously she's been relegated to working from home during the most bleak time of year.  Short days with gloomy cloud cover and/or cold, wet days are not really a great recipe for cheery happiness.  Oh, what I wouldn't give for a few warm, sunny days and a chance to walk around the neighborhood together.

At the end of the day she and I are just thankful we have each other along with the support of each of you.  Your thoughts, prayers and goodwill have carried us through and we look forward to the day when she can safely return to the office and everyone can enjoy seeing one another in person.  Hopefully by then spring will be here and winter will be a distant memory.  I know we're all ready for brighter days ahead.

I'm anxious for the course to green back up and for the new season to start at Carolina Golf Club.  I look forward to working with my new chairman and the newcomers to the committee.  I'm excited for the return of tournaments and events.  And I'm ready to see each of you on the course in a manner that doesn't require an extended distance and/or a mask.  

But before then we have to make our annual preemergent applications for the management of crabgrass and goosegrass.  And believe it or not, spring greens aerification is now less than three weeks away (Mar 1 & 2).  But in the meantime, she's going to ring that bell in one week!  And I can't wait!

Thanks for listening,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Hindsight is 20:20!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Thursday, January 14th and I want to wish each of you a belated Happy New Year!  I want to thank everyone at Carolina Golf Club for their continued well wishes and support as Mrs. Greenkeeper continues her fight.  I promise every card, email, and personal gesture has helped bolster her strength and courage as we carry on.  At this time she has completed four chemotherapy treatments of a prescribed six.  Her next treatment will be on January 27th and her final one is scheduled for February 17th so she is inching ever closer to ringing that bell.  

She continues to work everyday from home, so you can reach her readily via email and I continue to do my best to keep her safe as we navigate this journey through an ongoing pandemic.  That is why you see me more often from a distance and with a mask.  It has been difficult because seeing and interacting with you on a daily basis has always been one of the highlights to my day, but keeping her safe is job one.  So again, thank you all for your support!

I think the above image was one of the funniest I came across when we flipped the calendar a couple weeks ago, but despite all the connotations in that garbage bag there were some positive things that happened last year.  More golf was played at Carolina Golf Club than ever, in fact, you played more golf in April of last year than any other month. And there were no carts available the entire month of April!  As a whole, walking rounds for the entire year were up 193% over 2019, so kudos to you all for stretching those legs and making golf a staple of a healthy lifestyle!

Another interesting statistic from last year is the fact we broke the 30,000 rounds barrier while it rained nearly 60 inches and the most in Charlotte since 2003!  Prior to the pandemic and its impact on everyone's daily routines, rounds of golf would mirror the weather.  When nice, rounds were up and when less than ideal people shied away from the course.  And that is still true as it relates to those days when the weather is absolutely unplayable, but you don't play that much golf in a year with 120 measurable rain events unless you're willing to brave some elements and for that I commend you!

Another good thing to come from 2020 and was hinted in the blog's title is I was one of three winners selected on Thanksgiving day to receive a free CourseVision map of Carolina Golf Club!  Valued at $1,500 this interactive digital map is most impressive. CLICK HERE to learn more about CourseVision.

I'll admit I knew very little about the company prior to being selected, but after working with Jeff Ryan and providing his team with some property details that helped create the map, I am most impressed with the finished product and really believe its value is even far greater than retail.  I received the finished product on Monday and spent close to two hours online with Jeff being tutored on the map and its capabilities.  I'm excited to play with it and become more familiar as I believe it will serve us well as we approach our centennial.
Building Labels
The map even contains all the City Parcels containing and surrounding Carolina Golf Club.  You can see below how holes 1 and 2 along with our irrigation reservoir sit on the old Winston property acquired by the club in 2004.

City Parcels

In golf course related news, our Willow Oak and Yoshino Cherry trees were banded to protect against cankerworm in late December.  This week we trimmed the warm-season ornamental grasses and have now started edging cart paths.  We have close to five miles of cart paths as highlighted below by CourseVision.

Cart Paths

In other news we are saddened to announce the passing last week of agronomy team member Angelo Jones.  Angelo joined our team in the summer of 2017 and switched to part-time status two years later.  As I've always told my team members, there is no such thing as a small or insignificant task and Angleo always performed his tasks with a warm smile.    

Rest In Peace.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG