Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Prevent Defense!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Tuesday, June 14th and I'm writing this as a strong thunderstorm is dropping much needed rain on Carolina Golf Club! Prior to this storm we had only received 1/4 inch of rain the entire month, and with temperatures reaching 98 degrees yesterday and establishing a new record you can see why I would welcome some natural rainfall.

Ironically today's rain event was not forecast as temperatures were originally expected to climb north of 100 degrees later today. Will be interesting to see if that remains the case with this much needed reprieve. Considering the temperature was 85 degrees when I left the house this morning, can't say I'm surprised this storm system strengthened as it approached the Queen City.

But enough about the rain, what I really want to talk to you about is the heat. Earlier I mentioned we set a new record high temperature yesterday and the extended outlook for this week and most of next is hot and steamy to say the least. It is in these conditions that we manage our bentgrass putting surfaces differently in order to protect them from these extremes.

In fact, we initiated these steps last week when the greens were vented. This process helps promote gas exchange, improves water infiltration, and is recommended by the United States Golf Association Green Section.

Yesterday we applied a plant protectant fungicide to help prevent the formation of Pythium Root Rot, a fungal disease of turfgrass that can be prevalent during summer thunderstorm season. We combined yesterday's application with a wetting agent to help remove water from the surface and penetrate deep into the root zone.

Another preventative step we take this time of year is to raise the height of cut (HOC) on the greens and replace the grooved front rollers with smooth rollers. The HOC adjustment helps with photosynthesis and the smooth rollers assist with reducing stress on the turf during this sensitive period.

Of course, our fans are also an important tool that aids bentgrass survival and they have all been reinstalled and are operating. I have some great info on exactly how the fans work in helping cool-season grass survive the heat and humidity that will be appearing in the next Ross Report, so please check that out later this month.

In the meantime, here is a link Click Here to a post from 2016 that goes into even more detail about the way we manage the greens during the spring and fall as opposed to the summer. It contains a link to a great USGA article about putting green speeds, so please be sure and give that info a quick read.

Sounds like the storm is nearly passed, time to go assess course conditions and determine our strategy for the remainder of today. Stay cool and walk in the shade when you can.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

May Day!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper! Today is Tuesday, May 3rd, where does the time go? You might be looking at the title of this post and thinking it's a distress call, but not to worry, that is not the case. I had hoped to have this out on May 1 and was reminiscing about May Day festivities involving the Maypole and May Queen from elementary school days when I came up with the title.

But I do believe some of you may be concerned about some areas of the golf course lagging behind, and we will discuss those soon. I also want to update you on an improvement project recently completed and talk about some treatments we applied during our maintenance day yesterday. So let's get started.

We wrapped up April with 3.34 inches rainfall at CGC and an average high temperature of 74 degrees, which is downright pleasant. But unfortunately our average low temperature was 51 degrees, which is a far cry from the 60 plus degree temperatures most conducive for Bermudagrass growth.

April 2022

In other words, April was mostly cool and dry characterized by low humidity and strong, cool breezes. That is a recipe for great bentgrass, but not so much when trying to get other areas of the golf course negatively impacted this past winter involving high traffic and/or shade to fully grow in. 

Bermudagrass is known as a warm-season grass and thrives in warm, humid conditions. Yes, the grass will break dormancy and begin to grow even in our cool springs, but there is a difference from greening up versus lateral spread of the plant that fills in thin areas impacted by stresses such as high traffic or shade. This is why golf courses sprig Bermudagrass in the months of June and July, and is why sodded areas can take months to fully mature and have seams disappear from view.

This is the first winter injury we have endured since 2018 Click Here and it comes as no surprise given the fact our Bermudagrass broke dormancy in late December before reentering, breaking again in early March, only to experience a hard freeze on March 13. To be honest, after looking back at the injury endured four years ago, things this year seem mild. 

Yesterday we started the road to recovery as warm temperatures were present in the Queen City. We fertilized the areas needing extra assistance on Holes 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, and 15 and will continue to do so weekly until they fully grow-in. In the meantime you can help by simply avoid driving your golf car in these areas. 

In other news, last month we wrapped up an improvement project accessing the Back Range Tee. We removed the old asphalt path that wrapped completely behind the tee, relocated the access further to the right, and paved a new path that starts a little further down the hill from the original and terminates in a turning circle at the top of the hill, right of the tee. There is also a place for parking at the top of the turning circle. Our contractor for this work was John E. Jenkins, Inc. in Gastonia, the team that did our cart path improvements last summer. 

Removing the old path from behind the tee required us to regrade the slope and install new turf. We selected Celebration Bermudagrass for its greater shade tolerance over other Bermudagrass varieties and obtained the sod from Modern Turf, Inc. 

The areas where straw mat was used were seeded to our fine-fescue mixture utilized on the golf course, for fine-fescue is the most shade tolerant of all grass types. We still need to remove some severe overhanging limbs that are creating a winter shade issue but overall I believe those of you that like the privacy provided at the Back Range Tee will find this to be a big improvement. 

Side note: the old path removed was a remnant of the original cart path when the first green and second tee occupied that area prior to 2006.

And finally, just to recap some of what transpired during our maintenance day yesterday. I already covered the fertilizer treatment to thin areas. We made a gypsum application to all putting greens yesterday. Calcium Sulfate was applied to not only boost our soil Calcium levels but also displace the buildup of Sodium caused by the recent lack of natural rainfall (15 days since our last rain event) and reliance on irrigation water.

We also treated the greens with a wetting agent. This is a chemical compound that helps prevent and alleviate the formation of localized dry spot (LDS). LDS occurs when naturally occurring waxy deposits form on the soil particles creating hydrophobic conditions. The combination of the gypsum and wetting agent followed with heavy irrigation to move both products into the soil flushed the sodium below the root zone where it can no longer impact plant roots, and rehydrated the root zone eliminating any hydrophobic conditions.

Now we set our sights on the spring Member-Guest. Hard to believe it is just ten days away! The course should continue to get better each day so come out an enjoy it. And hopefully we will get a little rain before the week is out. Believe it or not, this current dry stretch is the longest so far of 2022.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

March Recap!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper, today is Wednesday, March 30th and although there is still one more day to go this month, I wanted to provide you with a recap. Several years ago I stated how I believe March to be the least attractive month for the golf course March Madness, and I still feel that way. Having said that, I do believe this might be the best the course has looked this time of year, and I'm hopeful that is a sign of more good things to come this season.

We only received 10.22 inches rainfall during meteorological winter (Dec-Feb) but we have already received more than half that amount (5.24 inches) just in March alone! Despite the soggy start to meteorological spring, the spreader truck driver expressed Monday we were the driest golf course he had experienced across the southeast so far as we made our annual application of slow release fertilizer that will feed our tees, fairways, and primary rough for the majority of the season. 

Also, the week after putting green aerification I traveled to Raleigh for a GCSAA chapter meeting. The Southeast Regional Conference had not been held since March 2019 due to the Covid pandemic, so it was good to finally get out and see some of my fellow superintendents from across North and South Carolina. Traveling along I85 and I40 I quickly realized how far ahead the growing season is in Charlotte compared to the areas around Greensboro and Raleigh/Durham. 

In fact, I mentioned to several of my peers I thought our tees and fairways were in need of their first mowing before I traveled, but we were unable due to the excessive wet conditions as 2.81 inches rain fell in the first three days post aerification. Also, considering temperatures were forecast to plummet to as low as 20 degrees F on the morning of March 13, it was probably best to not mow right away.

Sure enough, upon my return the frigid freezing temperatures had created a great deal of leaf burn turning our early green fairways brown again. 

March 8th
March 16th

But our playing surfaces have shown amazing resilience and quickly bounced back. We mowed all tees, fairways, approaches and closely mowed surrounds on the 22nd and 23rd removing the burnt tissue and revealing a golf course greener than usual for this time of year. 
Close Up View of Leaf Burn

March 22nd 
We now turn our attention to mowing the rough for the first time this year. Our initial mowing is at a lower than normal playing height in order to remove as much dormant material possible and open the canopy to sunlight penetration. As a result this operation is always slow and generates a lot of material that must be removed from the playing surface, so thank you in advance for your patience. With March almost in the rear view that means The Masters is almost here! Always the most exciting time of year!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Spring Cleaning!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper, today is Wednesday, February 16th. Growing up with my grandparents, I remember each spring we would spend several days taking down, cleaning, and putting away the winter drapes, clean all the windows and open them to air out the house, and wash all the plaster walls and heat registers with soap and water. Granted it might be a little too early for all that, but I think you see where I am going.

Although meteorological spring is still twelve days away, and astronomical spring doesn't arrive until March 20th, this is an ideal time to be getting a head start on spring golf course conditions. Earlier this week we began our annual applications of preemergent herbicide which helps us manage crabgrass and goosegrass across the more than 100 acres of bermudagrass tees, fairways, and rough. 

6.67 Acres at a Time
This is a time consuming process as it requires nearly 16 tanks to cover all the golf course, practice areas, and clubhouse grounds. But after enduring three consecutive years of above average rainfall and soggy winter conditions, it has been refreshing this week to get the sprayer on the course without issue or delay.

We also made spot applications of a post-emergent herbicide for annual bluegrass (poa annua) a couple weeks back to cleanup what little breakthrough from our fall preemergent applications occurred. Overall, I have been quite pleased with the cleanliness and presentation of the golf course surfaces this off-season.

Mowing of our native/natural areas is also underway! Each year we mow the old seed stalks and remove the clippings to clean up the areas and prepare them for preemergent applications. Our herbicide combo used in the natural/native areas is targeted against crabgrass and several species of broadleaf weeds. This will be applied once the mowing is complete in the coming weeks.

Super 600
And lastly, we are installing a plastic barrier adjacent to the newly refurbished sections of cart path in an attempt to prevent future damage from tree roots. You may recall last summer the intruding roots under the damaged sections of path were removed. We are using a trencher to cut about 18 inches deep adjacent to the path. This severs any lingering roots, then the plastic liner is installed vertically in the trench nearest the path, and backfilled. In the future as the tree roots begin to regrow, the liner will force them deeper preventing the heaving of asphalt which created the previous undesirable bumpy conditions.

A quick reminder that greens aerification is now less than three weeks away (March 7 and 8). We will once again perform a solid, deep-tine operation ahead of the core aerification and topdressing. We have adjusted our hollow-core tine size this spring, so hopefully the smaller holes will not linger too long. Spring aerification is always tricky because the grass will not grow until the climatic conditions are optimal, however when the weather warms you want to play so we are always striving to find the right balance and compromise. 

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

A Question About Sand!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper! Today is Tuesday, February 1st and I want to take a moment and provide some information based on a question received during last week's Annual Meeting. It was a great question, and knowing not everyone was able to log in to the virtual meeting I figured this would be a great way to spread the word.

The question was about our bunker sand, and more specifically the asker wanted to know was the sand installed in the recently renovated bunkers different from the sand in the other bunkers on the golf course? Great question, and the answer is both No and Yes. How is that possible you ask, let me explain.

Ready for Liner

Cap Con Liner
New G-Angle Sand

You may be surprised to learn the G-Angle sand from Golf Agronomics installed in the newly renovated bunkers last September is the same G-Angle sand installed in all the bunkers when we last renovated in 2013. Here is a link to a blog update from that project with some great photos detailing that work. http://carolinagreenkeeper.blogspot.com/2013/11/congrats-renovation-update-and-busy.html 

So, we have established the new sand is the same sand, but it has been more than 8 years since that 2013 project. Yes, new sand is also added to the bunkers periodically, especially to those receiving the heaviest amount of play, but we are only talking about additions of an inch or so here and there. 

The difference comes from contamination originating from the clay subsoil underneath. With the lack of a lining system in the older bunkers, that sand has been exposed to years of weather including silt and clay particles which are smaller altering the texture, making the sand heavier, percolate slower, and play differently. 

The USGA says the useful life expectancy of bunker sand in Transition Zone climates is about 7 years, in bunkers without liners. Considering we recently endured three consecutive years (2018-2020) with extreme rainfall totals (58.50" average) it is easy to understand why our bunkers are in need of renovation, and in need of the liner. The new liner seals off the clay subsoil preserving and protecting the sand from contamination and prolonging its useful life. 

So, the new sand is different because it is fresh and does not contain any of the silt, clay, and other contaminant particles that's in the older bunkers.

Note Color Difference

I also mentioned last week how the new sand, although angular is not packed as tightly as the older sand containing smaller contaminant particles. We recently spent one of our Maintenance Mondays with two men dedicated to operating a vibratory plate tamp on all the newly renovated bunkers to help firm them up.

One other thing to note if you reviewed that 2013 post. The total number of bunkers on the property is now 81 with 79 on holes 1-18 and two practice bunkers. Two bunkers were added to the left side of Hole 7 in the fall of 2016. Click Here if you would like to revisit some photos from that project. 

That's all for now. Hard to believe February is already here! Two months down and only one to go until Spring. You may find it hard to believe with three snow events last month and the cold temperatures we've experienced most of January this winter is still trending nearly 4 degrees above average thanks to the record warmth experienced in December. Guess those days with the AC on in December canceled out those bitterly cold, snowy mornings recently endured.

Courtesy Brad Panovich, WCNC

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Friday, January 28, 2022

The Short Straw!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper! Today is Friday, January 28th and we are once again anticipating winter precipitation this weekend!  No, this is not Deja vu and it isn't a leftover message from last Friday. We did in fact receive close to two inches snow last Friday night. That's right, Charlotte has seen two winter weather events already this month and more is expected tonight.

I could not think of that happening before during my tenure here at Carolina Golf Club and I was right, as good friend Brad Panovich pointed out the last time Charlotte received three winter weather events in the same month was twenty-two years ago in January of 2000! Mrs. Greenkeeper and I arrived in the Queen City in 2005.

Granted the event tonight is only expected to bring anywhere from a trace of snow up to possibly two inches means anything is possible as it relates to the golf course and playability tomorrow. So we will just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.

Stay tuned for email updates from the Golf Professional Staff and I'll keep you posted on Twitter so you won't have to venture out unnecessarily should that be the case. And to think, it was 78 degrees four weeks ago. I believe Mother Nature might have over indulged on New Year's Eve and we're still dealing with her hangover.

On the bright side, next week appears to be much improved over this recent cold spell as the 10-Day outlook points to temperatures back up in the mid-50s and even the low 60s before, wait... another cold shot next weekend. Good grief, winter in the Carolinas is nothing but a roller coaster, the only question is are the peaks during the week or on the weekend. Looks like the weekends drew the short straw this year.

Courtesy WCNC
Anyway, stay warm and we'll get you back out on the course as soon as possible. Or just pray for a bust forecast tonight and we'll get everyone started at 12:00 noon. 

Stay tuned,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Friday, January 14, 2022

Winter Storm Watch!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper! Today is Friday, January 14th and our area is currently under a Winter Storm Watch for later this weekend! Now, it's important to understand that Watch means the ingredients for a winter storm are there. Once those ingredients come together to form the storm the Watch will be upgraded to a Warning.

Currently the timing of this storm has it arriving in the Charlotte Metro area sometime late tomorrow, and possibly not until after midnight Sunday morning. As typical, the big question facing everyone is who gets snow versus who gets freezing precipitation. And, it is important to remember sleet is one form of freezing precipitation that does not accumulate on trees and power lines but makes roadways treacherous. Freezing rain is another form of freezing precipitation that not only makes roadways treacherous, but also accumulates on trees and powerlines causing other issues to be dealt with.

The two charts above depict the snow/sleet potential and the ice potential for the region courtesy of our friend Brad Panovich of WCNC. It is important to bear in mind these charts are as of 11:00 pm LAST NIGHT and are subject to change as the storm approaches, so please be weather aware!

Being a golf course superintendent I am used to dealing with Mother Nature. After all, She is constantly in control and we adjust daily to the weather conditions. Our approach to this storm is no different from past winter weather events or even tropical storms and hurricanes. We will heed the notifications seriously and prepare for the absolute worst, and hope for the best. Truthfully, that is all any of us can do.

Today we are making a plant protectant application to the putting surfaces to help protect them from any weather related fungal maladies. We will also make a few pre-treatment applications to walkways and driveways around the clubhouse tomorrow before heading home to wait and see what the storm brings. When conditions are safe for travel we will assess the golf course and develop a plan. The agronomy team is prepared and we will do whatever is necessary based on the outcome of the storm.

I was looking back through photos on my phone to see when was the last time we last had significant snow cover on the golf course. Believe it or not, it was four years ago on January 18th when the course looked this tranquil.

I also discovered photos from January 2017, January 2016, and February 2015 so looks like after a four-year run of winter weather we've had a four-year reprieve. So, fill up your vehicle today or tomorrow and gather supplies. Pray the power stays on as it is a good weekend for sports viewing (PGA Tour, NFL Playoffs, College Basketball, etc.). 

And if reading is your thing I stumbled across this blog post yesterday https://www.ukgolfguy.com/golf-blog/british-restoration-opportunities that identifies U.K. golf courses ripe for renovations/restorations. It contains lots of links to other articles and opinions so it might be something to browse if golf course architecture is your thing and you find yourself with extra free time. Stay warm and stay safe!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG