More Stories
Winter Update

Happy New Year!  It looks like 2019 will start the way 2018 ended in terms of rain, snow, and soggy ground.   We are handcuffed in terms of doing any work that requires getting off of the cart path.  For the time being we are getting dead and/or troublesome trees removed along cart paths.  We need conditions to improve in order to make a dent in many of the things that are on our list.  Things like winter weed control in the fairways, drainage work, bunker work, irrigation repairs, etc... require better ground conditions than what we've had since Labor Day.  It's tough on a few staff members who don't get hours when the weather is this bad.  We have plenty to do, but can't do it in these conditions.  Hopefully, for the sake of the course and the staff, we can get some breaks in the winter weather soon.  On the bright side, snow and ice have given us time to focus on some indoor jobs like equipment repairs, tee marker construction, painting course accessories, and helping as needed with the clubhouse expansion.  We'll gladly put those jobs on hold as soon as conditions let us get on the course.  

The course is obviously unplayable at the moment and demand for playing is near zero.  The question is...when will it re-open?  Looking at the forecast I am afraid to guess as the rain we are getting on top of the remaining snow is going to be followed by extreme cold.  The course will freeze and then later in the week begin to thaw out.  It is going from a block of ice back to soggy ground when the course is most vulnerable to damage from traffic.  We'll need to let a few more days pass before taking a guess on when the course will be open for play.  

(image)This is what the new markers will look like.  The stripe will match the colors on the scorecard. 
It takes 160 to make one set and we need at least two sets in order to keep them looking clean. 
Hopefully this new look will be much easier for us to keep up with than the ones we've
had since we opened 25 years ago.  

(image)We needed to replace our two utility trailers from 1996.  Rather than spend a few thousand bucks,
Mike repurposed two of our spare greens mower trailers for a couple hundred bucks. 
New tires, some welding repairs, steel tubing, etc... and we have two trailers custom made f
or our specific needs.  When it warms up they'll get a coat of paint.(image)A little welding

(image)Bean is our newest team member.  She's from South Carolina, but loves the snow.  
(image)Ivy put the snow to good use

TurfNet Webinars....
I've been catching up on some webinars lately and realized what a benefit it is to have these available online. I missed a number of these this past year due to some extensive traveling. Having these available in an archive is absolutely the best. Thanks to Grigg for sponsoring these great educational webinars. This webinar by Dr. Doug Soldat, Fundamentals of Fall Fertilization, I found really interesting. I know it's not fall, but if you haven't viewed this webinar it's a must for all turf managers. You can view it HERE

Plans for 2 Tee Renovation

Over the next few months, we will be renovating the 2nd tee at Glen Echo. There are a number of issues with this tee that need to be addressed.

  1.  It's alignment is pointed down the right side of the hole which makes it extremely difficult because as you know the hole slopes significantly from left to right. (image)Red arrow shows existing line of the tee. Green arrows shows the approximate direction the tee will be pointed.

  1. The tee surface is cool season grass which creates more inputs of resources; water, fertilizer and fungicides.
  2. It is at grade which allows water from above it to over run it causing less than ideal softness during rainy periods.
  3. It is much larger than necessary for our amount of play the course receives. This also takes more time in maintaining.
The plan is to turn the one long tee into 2 tees similar to what we did on #5 last spring. There will be a swale between the 2 tees to allow water to go around the tees and the tees will be pointed in the proper alignment.

The staff will be removing the front part of the tee which is currently covered in zoysia. Approximately 10-15 yards. This tee height zoysia will be cut off and used to replace the false bent grass front on #7, #10, and #13 until it is gone. The bent grass sod will be used to replace sections of collars that are damaged.

We will strip off the top 6-8 inches of soil and save it to cap the new tee services raising the level of the tees-6-8" so that it will be above the cart path next to the tee helping to move the water around the tee. We will of course strip off the remaining sod on the tee service and dispose of it.  Once we've stripped off the zoysia and removed the growing layer of soil, we will then remove the remaining soil. 

We intend to expand the blue tee back about 10 yards or so and will have to expand out the right side of the two new tees which will help us align the tees properly and also make them slightly wider. We will make the egress to the tees simple for our players and easy to access. The surrounds of the tee will be laid in fescue which will give great contrast to the new tee.

The pics below are a general idea of our plans. Ultimately we will have two tees approximately 17-20 yards in length and about 8 yards wide. We will be removing some of the scrub trees or pruning along the metro side to assist with afternoon sunshine for the zoysia grass. I mentioned to the green committee that the first Pin Oak on the left side of the tee has become compromised and appears it will expire in the next year. The 2nd tree appears to be in good shape and should not create any issues for the tee. It's limbs have been raised high enough to allow early day sun.

Okay, better quit for now. Gotta go get some bread, milk and eggs for the upcoming snow apocalypse!

(image)White tee
(image)Blue Tee
Drum roll, please...

We finally had a chance to tally the precipitation for 2018, and the total was 70.55".  Yes, that's a whole lot of water, but how does it compare to an average year?  The chart below shows what we typically receive per month, which adds up to 48.3" for the year.  So we were a whopping 46% over the long-term average for an entire year!

If you are still unimpressed by a number like 70.55", let's take a quick look at how many gallons of water came through the golf course last year.  While the course property itself is 237 acres, most of the surrounding development drains onto the course, for a total of around 490 acres.

So here's the math:
70.55" (precipitation) x 27,154 (gallons of water per acre inch) x 490 (acres) = 938,700,203 gallons

Sorry if you're disappointed that we didn't quite hit one billion gallons of water flowing through the property, but we sure came close.

 To look at this amount of water in a final way, consider that on average, for each and every one of the 365 days in 2018, over 2.5 million gallons of water came onto and through the golf course.  Well, at least that explains why the range picker got stuck so often...
The Pursuit of Perfection
(image)May 4, 2018 The Uh-Oh MomentThe beauty and elegance of golf is that it is played outside in nature. Along with the beauty of enjoying the great game of golf outside comes the challenge of dealing with the rough weather. As the debate of climate change roils on, it is clear that weather patterns in the last couple decades have been extreme. Extreme in force and extreme in variation. Working on a golf course places a person on the front line of these extreme weather events, some call it the new normal.

The 2018 golf season started on October 30, 2017. A massive wind storm roared through Stowe on this day and forever changed the landscape of our town. While The Mountain Course did not suffer any significant damage, Stowe Country Club took a direct hit from the fierce winds. The damage centered around trees and more specifically white pine trees. The white pines at SCC are considered "burly" or "pasture" pines. This designation refers to the structure of a white pine when it grows in an open environment. The tree tends to have many large branches and multiple main stems or leaders. These large trees are ever-present at SCC and whenever the wind blows they shed branches, both large and small. The tree litter and complete blow downs after this historic storm was substantial.

(image)One of many white pine branches on October 30, 2017Our team arrived back to work in late April 2018. For two weeks we cleaned up the mess from this epic storm. While there are many other chores to do in the spring on a golf course, we endlessly picked up white pine tree debris. After that massive clean-up effort we rallied to open SCC. With all systems go, the unthinkable happened the night before we opened. Another wind storm slammed down on northern Vermont. We were shocked to put it lightly. This storm pummeled us. White pines were once again our enemy number one. The golf course looked like a war zone. Branches everywhere, whole trees down, tops of trees blown off, and huge main branches broken off lying on the ground. The reaction of the team after dealing with now two major wind storms before we even opened for the 2018 golf season was silence. We were stunned and at a loss for words!

We opened up on schedule that first Saturday in May. It was surreal to say the least. For golf course superintendents, our daily mode of operation is the pursuit of perfection. What defines perfection depends on many different factors. On this opening day in 2018 at Stowe Country Club, with the course in complete disarray, it was perfect because the sun was shining and we were golfing once again after a long winter. Cheers to opening day in 2019. We anxiously await what it brings.
Winter Play, Why Aren't You Open?

After the horrible fall weather pattern we have enjoyed a stretch of sunny and mild days with temperatures 40 to 45 degrees here in mid December. We would have enjoyed this sun in September and October.

We did receive a few phone calls from golfers asking if we were open to play, and although we would like to be, we were not this time. I also have a couple comments from members who said they would be happy to play here rather than take their money to Camelot if we could be open. Nobody complained but they did ask why we were not open.

We appreciate that and I will admit Camelot does a good job being open in the winter and I play there in the spring and rarely see any effect of winter play or cart traffic. I am glad those that want to to play in the winter have a regular place to go.

So why isn't Rolling Meadows open when Camelot is? The courses are only 12 miles apart as the crow flies, the weather should be pretty much the same... My response is varied depending on the situation and the weather we have had but the answer normally it is:

  • Our property tilts South to North limiting the melting effect of the sun this time of year when the sun is low to begin with. For instance most lawns in Fond du Lac had no snow this past week. The clubhouse lawn had no snow the past week. However on the course travel from hole 2 to 3 was solid snow or worse ice. Same thing from 6 to 7, 7 to 8, 10 to 11, 12 to 13 etc. Until Thursdays rain, all these areas were near impassible with a cart, much less walking with plastic spikes. 15 green is our biggest challenge due to the woods to the south. The course can have 2 inches of snow and 15 green will drift in with 6" of snow. (image)15 green in spring of 2016. The rest of the course was dry and playable,
    but this snow persisted for days. Every year is different. 
  • Agronomists and Turf Scientists have shown that in the winter the greens, tees and fairways are most vulnerable to traffic when the ground is froze, but the top 1/4 to 1/2 inch is thawed which is what happens on a 45 degree sunny day. A twisting foot can easily tear the gushy grass plant  away from the root system, leaving a plant that will die the first dry day of spring. Unfortunately the best days for winter play, are the best days for this condition. 
  • Our property has clay soils that have limited drainage when they are not frozen, much less when there is frost in the ground. We are often left with puddles or ice rinks that are slow to melt. When the frost is coming out of the top 6" of ground our gravel paths turn to mush and are difficult to drive or walk on without sinking 3 inches. 
  • We do not have staff on in the winter doing other things, at the ready to check in golfers on that first 35 degree sunny day. To bring in staff costs money, to turn on the heat and lights cost money. We don't mind investing the time and money when we are going to see regular play but winter play is fickle and hard to forecast. 
We have opened in the winter in the past, and will again in the future but it will require some warmer weather to thaw the top few inches of the soil for us to do so. Area players are lucky we have a property nearby that is able to be open through most of the winter. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and maybe we will be open in January this year... every year is different. 

Turfgrass Speedo
How fast should we grow our grass? It's a question I have been asking on this blog for almost 7 years now and every year I think I get a bit better. I explained this evolution last year in a blog post called "The Evolution of Precision Fertilizer Application."Even as I progress I still admit I have absolutely no clue what I'm doing when it comes to driving turfgrass growth. There are many clues
What do you do in the winter?

Without fail, we are asked this question every year.  There is actually a long list of projects we tackle when the grass isn't growing.  Often this includes pruning the wetlands crossings, bridge maintenance, drainage installation, sodding, irrigation repair, and myriad other tasks.

This "off-season" we have a number of maintenance items we will be working on involving the tennis courts.  Over the years, clay from the courts builds up around the perimeter, impeding proper drainage.  Recently, the guys worked on the river stone beds between courts #1 and 2.  The river stone was raked up, hauled away, and washed.  Excess material was then removed to lower the grade, and allow the water to run freely off the courts.  Lastly, the stone was replaced.

No doubt this is hard work, but it will keep you warm on a cold winter day.
I walked the course today to simply look things over. It occurred to me how invasive these black pines are on the property. Many years ago we had an issue where first time players would hit to 5 green while playing 4. There was no view of the green from the tee because of an old 150 shrub that became a large tree. There were a lot of trees to the right of 4 approach so it was easy to see how you would play to the flag and green in your line of site. our solutions were to grow the tall grass to the left of the 5th green and plant a mature evergreen just outside the tree line to give 4 better definition. It helped. Then a bunch of pines started colonizing around the planted evergreen so we left them. Over the years we removed the pines to the right of the 4th approach which added visibility but removing the old 150 cedar really made a big difference. Now you have a clear site line to the 4th green from the 4th tee. So what about the left side now? The lone tree planted is still there but it is being choked out by the invasion of the black pines. This seemed like a good idea early on, but now I am not so sure. 

(image)blocks the view of 5 green
(image)used to be able to drive behind these
(image)Tallest tree was plantedI went on to Google Earth and emailed myself a few pictures to illustrate. Did you know you can do that? It's easy. Simply click the timeline button and then scroll backwards. You can email any image to yourself. I then found a collage maker Fotojet and imported each image into a preset collage. The dates are 1995 - 2001 - 2018. I then used a program called Skitch to add the dates and labels.
(image)google earth imagesI used the same procedure to create one for the third hole minus the Skitch and labels. It took a big storm to remove all these trees but I did not hear one single complaint about the improvements to that hole. Isn't that interesting? If I proposed removing 40 trees to make an improvement to a hole people would go mental but if a storm does it, then it is OK. These back pines are invasive and have taken over. In less than 20 years they have swallowed up a large planted evergreen. If not managed they will swallow up the entire property.

(image)3 before and after

We have let some pines survive in the tree line between 6 tees and 5 fairway. We lost several trees in that area and they provide a valuable screen to the 6th tees. How long will it be before someone questions whether that was a good idea?

(image)6 tees

Tournament Volunteering- How it can better your organization and you.

Many golf tournaments around the country are preparing for the upcoming 2019 season. There are many factors that go into hosting a tournament, and the host club is in preparation months in advance to host the event. One of the most crucial aspects of preparing for a tournament is to recruit a good group of volunteers. There are many duties that need be completed on the golf course that require additional help. These duties are done not only by the Agronomy Crew on staff, but also a large amount of volunteers that come in to help make the tournament a success.

Bringing in a crew of volunteers to help with a tournament enables a club to double their work rate, most importantly the detail work. A typical morning will start at 3:30 A.M. with a full setup of greens mowers, tee mowers, fairway mowers, approach mowers, blowers, rollers, and cup cutting necessities. Adding to the morning duties a similar night shift and you can average around 600 man hours a day. Adding to the higher number of labor hours for a tournament, a club also takes on additional equipment including mowers, blowers, rollers, carts, etc. to fulfill the working needs of additional volunteers. Most of the volunteers coming in for a tournament are turf professionals and can be trained quickly. Like many golf tournaments, the Monday through Wednesday before the tournament are not only practice rounds for the golfers but also for the staff and volunteers. By the time that the actual competitive rounds start on Thursday for the golfers, the staff and volunteers have their roles dialed in and know where they need to be and when.

Volunteering for a tournament can be very beneficial not only for the club, but for the individual volunteering as well. Working a tournament at a prestigious golf club can give turf professionals a different perspective. Seeing another operation and how different clubs are run, maintained, and organized gives you some idea on where you can improve at your current club. One of the most significant aspects of volunteering for tournaments is networking. Being able to meet Superintendents, Assistants, Sales Reps from all across the country can help you gain contacts for the future, and well as to create lifelong friends. Another great part of volunteering is gaining extra knowledge in your field. On top of all that a tournament offers for your career, you can receive some nice perks. Volunteers are put up in a hotel room all week free of charge, free food and drinks, as well as multiple shirts, jackets, hats, bags, etc.
Tournaments are a good way to show what opportunities there are, and great clubs outside of the courses around your home.  Some volunteers come in that are not in turf for a career, or have not undergone schooling for turf. The number of young turf professionals is going downhill fast. Being able to bring in volunteers that are not in turf can help them to see what maintaining a high caliber golf course is all about, and inspire them to want to pursue a career in turfgrass.
Volunteering can be a very important part in ones career in the turf industry. The networking you receive, knowledge gained, friends made, and showing off all your hard work on TV is incomparable to anything else in the business. Sending an Assistant, AIT, Spray Tech, Irrigation Tech, and Intern to volunteer can help guide the leaders of the future in the turf industry.  Right now is the perfect time to start looking at tournaments for the upcoming 2019 season!

Written by; Assistant Superintendent Dane Olsen

Quite An Expansion!

It was a very busy year, on all ends, at the club. As the year wraps up, I wanted to share some of the changes that occurred in the landscape world. The landscape has changed quite a bit over the last 18 months. From completely new landscape beds to renovated beds, we more than doubled the landscape square footages! We also doubled the square footages of the annual beds! There are also added window boxes and containers being placed around the new paddle building and tennis courts, as well as at the entrance of the golf teaching facility.


Come next spring and summer, the club is going to be blooming on all ends with new flowering shrubs and perennials and a lot more annuals. With added square footages and plants, comes more challenges and more maintenance (mulching, pruning, edging, dead-heading, weeding). So far, the new plant material is doing very well. Getting through the first winter is crucial in establishing new plants.


Exciting times are on the horizon with a lot of learning opportunities in the horticulture realm. I can't wait to see the landscape evolve as plants begin to establish themselves and fill in the landscape the way we envision them. Over the last couple weeks, I have been working on getting designs ready for the 2019 annual beds. Designs have been completed and the plants have been ordered! Just a waiting game now until warmer weather heads our way! If you have any questions or comments about anything, don't hesitate to stop and ask me.

Happy New Year!

Bryan Miller, Horticulturist

@HPGCCPlantman on Twitter


(image)Posted with Blogsy
A lot of creatures were stirring!!!!!
(image)I have been seeing more deer this year than ever.   I've seen coyote, fox, and many different species of birds over these past few months.  It is nice to see nature on the course while working and playing. 

(image)Work starting at the range.  Fill arriving, and we need a lot of it!!!    We will be accepting fill for quite some time. 
(image)I want to thank members of the Greens Committee for taking the time on Sunday to review and discuss future projects regarding the course.   Here we are on 17 looking at reworking the chipping area behind the green.   Although it could have been warmer a lot of positive work was discussed. 
(image)Some work to do when we get back. This tree fell on the left side of nine last Friday night.  

Too close out 2018 I wish  everyone have a great holiday season and healthy and Happy New Year.   
Breath of Fresh Air & Home for the Holidays!
Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Thursday, December 20th and it was an honor once again to join the Board of Governors and the past presidents of Carolina Golf Club for the annual Past President's Dinner on Tuesday evening.  I truly believe it is one of the greatest traditions that makes Carolina special and it's always nice to join the group to reflect on and discuss the events of the past year.  Obviously the U.S. Mid-Am was a large topic of discussion and the overwhelming sense of pride of a job well done by all was great to experience.

Having said that, I'm sorry to rain on everyone's parade but more heavy rain is expected today. :(  In fact, the annual Christmas Balls event was cancelled because of today's forecast.  LAST TIME I mentioned how 2018 keeps throwing weather related punches and I thought our winter storm 
(the snow was beautiful by the way) might be the round house to end the year.  Seems Mother Nature had other plans as we received a deluge of 1.38 inches rain last weekend (on top of the melted snow) and now just as the course is beginning to turn the corner as it relates to carts on the fairways we have another batch of southern moisture headed our way.
Are we really going to get 2 inches more before the weekend??? Just when we were starting to dry out!
— Brian Finn (@bfinn12) December 19, 2018
This is why my team and I busted our you-know-whats this past Monday to vent all greens.  The needle tine operation (same venting we typically do throughout the summer months) was performed to assist with recovery of existing saturated conditions, but also help our putting greens withstand the next batch coming today.  In other words, let's create more space for the water to go and help get air into the root zone.  Roots grow in the pockets BETWEEN soil particles so creating air space is important when Mother Nature rains on your parade too frequently.
Course has taken on 3.63” precip in past 7 days (Dec 9-10 2.25” sleet/snow & Dec 14-15 1.38” rainfall). Today we breathe! #vent #needletine #cltwx #MaintenanceMonday
— Matthew Wharton (@CGCGreenkeeper) December 17, 2018

Minor tufting occurred during our vent operation Monday. Heavier rollers used yesterday & today to smooth surfaces back to standard. Hole still present for the rain expected tomorrow & Friday. #breathe
— Matthew Wharton (@CGCGreenkeeper) December 19, 2018
We also made a little fertility application to the greens and applied a light sand topdressing.  We followed that with two days of rolling to smooth the surface and correct the tufting that typically occurs with new tines and the greens are once again good to go.  Hopefully they will breathe a little easier this time around.

One thing that didn't get mentioned last time, but I have certainly discussed at great length recently on Twitter is our annual rainfall total.  Since completing the restoration in 2008 on the heels of the worst drought in NC history we have received roughly 40 inches rainfall yearly.  Our wettest year during that span was 2009 when we received 54.77 inches (wet).  The rain event last weekend pushed 2018 past 2009 as our new wettest year with a grand total of 55.16 inches as we head into today's wet weather event.  
At this rate we will be fast approaching 60 inches rainfall @CGC1929 in 2018! 🤦🏻‍♂️ #GoodGrief #wet #saturated #notfirmandfast #cltwx
— Matthew Wharton (@CGCGreenkeeper) December 19, 2018

So, if you've been thinking that perhaps it rains nearly every weekend or just before of late, you're not imagining things.  And unfortunately, with the weak El Nino in place that typically translates to a southern jet stream track in the winter bringing moisture up from the gulf and it could continue to be cold, wet and dreary for the foreseeable future considering the first official day of astrological winter is tomorrow.  Good Grief!
The year's not over yet but here's looking at the 2018-to-date departure from 41-year annual mean CONUS precipitation (1977-2017).
— Greg Carbin (@GCarbin) December 16, 2018
That's all for now, grab your hat, coat, umbrella, boots, and whatever else you need to survive the elements today and tomorrow.  It's almost time for our annual trek to the mountains of southwest Virginia to enjoy the Christmas holiday with our families (I can almost hear Perry Como now).  We depart tomorrow but we'll be back soon and remember if you're playing golf on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day be leery of arriving too early with morning lows forecasted in the 30's.  I should be back in time for the next big rain event prior to next weekend (facepalm emoji here).  I honestly believe we are going to surpass 60 inches precipitation before 2019 arrives.  Maybe it's not too late to ask Santa for some new rain gear?  

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays CGC,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

TurfNetTV - Latest Video is Live....
My latest ON COURSE video for is live. In this video I chat with Matt Gourlay, CGCS - superintendent at Colbert Hills Golf Course in Manhattan, KS. We discuss his "More is Less" philosphy about turfgrass management. Matt also gives us some insight about what it meant to be named TurfNet Superintendent of the Year back in 2015. Please click HERE to view. As always, thanks to my supporting sponsor Tanto Irrigation


It's been an interesting stretch of weather and work.   We continue to make improvements with a limited staff.   As long as there is no snow we will be out and about working on cart path edges, tree removals and cleaning outside our shop area.   
(image)During our last walk thru we decided to remove the river rounds by the 4th tee and add more decorative Belgium Block.  (image)I am not sure how far we are going to get.  The cold weather has finally arrived and things are frozen solid.   We have a good jump on the area and will continue as soon as things thaw out.   Either way I don't think we have to worry about carts any time soon.

(image)Since the ground froze we stated cleaning the shop area.   We loaded up a dumpster and started organizing our outside area We took those River Rounds and used them to make a path to our wash pad.   The forecast is not too good. We may be inside next week for a few days. 
(image)Don't cut down all the trees!!! these guys love to sit up high and view there surroundings.  This is a Kestrel and I saw him while driving to the shop yesterday on # 6.    Hope he hangs around. 

Keep Your Foundation Strong
By definition, a foundation is the load bearing part of a structure, typically at the ground level.  It is also defined as a basis or principle.  If we take a moment to think about this, it becomes clear that foundations are critical components.  Our foundations are the launch pads for achieving our goals. So what …
Be Back Soon!
Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Thursday, January 10th and let me start by wishing each of you Happy New Year!  It's hard to imagine 2018 is now behind us, what an amazing year for our club, one that contained several different occurrences, many of which were weather related.  But before I give you the stats on where 2018 ranked weather wise I have some big news to share.

I'm returning to Harrogate, England for the BIGGA Turf Management Exposition (BTME) week after next.  But this time I'm speaking at the conference.  You may or may not recall in mid-November I shared on Twitter good friend and colleague Lee Strutt of Royal Automobile Club visited Carolina.  Lee and his wife Sami are dear friends and we had a wonderful time showing them around the Queen City for a couple days while visiting on holiday.  
So pleased that I finally had the chance to see your golf course and set up. Amazing golf course and superb surfaces!!! Nothing better than walking a course and talking turf with a good friend 😊
— Lee Strutt (@leestruttmg) November 17, 2018
Anyway, more than one year ago Lee and I started exchanging messages and ideas that morphed into a seminar topic.  We proposed our idea to BIGGA back in the spring, and in June were informed we had been accepted to present at Continue to Learn during BTME.  I shared the news with General Manager Billy Cleveland and he spoke with Club President William Smith and I was granted permission to accept the invitation.  I want to take this opportunity to say thank you both again for this opportunity, I greatly appreciate the excused absence.
Excused absence you ask?  You see, this year BTME falls the same week as the Annual Meeting, which means unfortunately I will not be available to make the annual Greens Committee presentation.  But don't fret, Committee Chairman Ed Oden has agreed to make the presentation, and I know he is excited to share with you a look back at 2018 from his perspective.  Truth is the Committee Chairman gave the presentation in my first few years with the club, I believe the first year I presented was 2010, so maybe you'll enjoy a change of pace.  

In other related news, something else very exciting will be taking place while I'm attending BTME.  BIGGA gives out AWARDS annually for several greenkeeping categories.  This year the categories are Greenkeeping Project of the Year, Outstanding Contribution of the Year, and Championship Greenkeeping Performance of the Year.  I'm excited to share we were selected as a finalist for Championship Greenkeeping Performance of the Year for our work during the 2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur.  

The other finalists are Stuart Duff and the team at Gullane Golf Club as they hosted both the Men's and Ladies' Scottish Opens in 2018, and Craig Earnshaw and the team at Harleyford Golf Club as they hosted the Matchroom Sport Championship on the PGA EuroPro Tour.  Congrats to them both!  Regardless of the outcome, it's an absolute thrill just to be a finalist and have my team's accomplishments recognized.  After all, they did produce major championship conditions on the heels of FLORENCE and it will be an honor to represent them and Carolina Golf Club during the ceremony.  Ironically, the award presentation is the same evening as the Annual Meeting so cross your fingers and maybe there will be some late breaking exciting news to add.

So, a year like 2018 had a little bit of everything.  We started the year with record cold and as a result encountered some winter injury of bermudagrass when spring finally arrived.  Turf repairs were made in time for summer to arrive with both warmer and drier than average conditions.  With about six weeks to go before the Mid-Am the course was showing typical signs of summer stress, but the pattern changed permitting moisture flow from the south and rainfall began to come in waves.  We endured two tropical systems, Florence and Michael plus several other rain events with equal or even higher amounts.  When the clock finally struck midnight on 2018 we had accumulated 58.6 inches precipitation at Carolina Golf Club.  That's the wettest year in my tenure and the 8th wettest year in Charlotte history.  
2018 ended as the 8th wettest and also the 8th warmest on record for #Charlotte. #cltwx #ncwx #scwx
— Brad Panovich (@wxbrad) January 1, 2019

One stat jumps out for 2018 is we had a staggering 90 days where the low temperature never dropped below 70°. We also had a top ten number of 90° day highs. #cltwx #2018 #climate
— Brad Panovich (@wxbrad) January 1, 2019
The rainfall totals over the last four months of 2018 looked like this: Sep 9.38 inches (Florence), Oct 5.63 inches (Michael), Nov 6.60 inches, and Dec 8.00 inches!  That's nearly 30 inches (29.61") rainfall, or approximately 75% of one year's worth (Charlotte averages about 40 inches rainfall annually) during what is usually some of the best golf weather we encounter each year.  Oh well, here's hoping 2019 brings us better weather for plant health, course conditions, and more importantly - playable days!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Pursue Your Purpose
Oftentimes in life it seems that what we want to do and what we need to do are two totally different things.  This can be frustrating both personally and professionally.  We must take time for introspection and examine our hopes, dreams, desires, goals, and needs so that we can begin to create a plan to …
So long 2018! Hello 2019!

2018 has been an interesting year with 15 months of renovations and challenging weather that has impacted turf mangers across the country. We continue to play catch up with our 2019 agronomic program, Mother Nature has slowed our progress slightly with the continued precipitation, but we feel confident we will hit the mark in 2019. As you can see from the graphic below, prolonged heat, humidity and high rainfall were the norms for 2018. Since, March 1st we are closing in on over 55" rain and 42 days above 90F.

Considering the challenges of Mother Nature, the new practice area is maturing well and will be open for play off of the grass in spring of 2019. Please continue utilize the synthetic tee line for all practice.

Walking around the golf course in the winter months, the landscape begins to change; fewer leaves on the trees, opens up vistas and sight lines , the dormant fairways add contrast to the cool season roughs and the putting surfaces have a camouflaged appearance, as noted in the photo of the 10th green. These old bentgrass types originally planted in the 1920s exhibit this appearance typically each fall and winter when the soil temperatures dip below 50F.

Holes 4,6 and 7 in the winter and summer months

Over the winter months the Grounds team and I will be busy with the following:

  • Drainage improvements on holes 4 and 6
  • Installation of an electric turf fan on the 7th green
  • Preventative maintenance on the equipment fleet
  • Tree Management program
  • Data Analysis from 2018, relating to clip volume, ball roll and moisture management
  • Snow and ice removal
  • Construction of new grounds building
  • Review and updating of 5 year grounds plan
  • Continuing education

One of the biggest challenges is navigating the H2-B guest worker program for 2019. Each year, we engage in this program becuase it provides legal seasonal workers that reduce training costs and improve consistency for an 8 month season, however with Visa shortfalls and political obstacles there is no guarantee we will have our friends from Mexico back 2019. Fingers crossed!


From the entire Grounds Team we wish you a safe and Happy New Year and a prosperous 2019!

As always, if there are any questions or feedback please send to



Pat O'Brien

Grounds Superintendent


(image)Posted with Blogsy
Indoor fun!

By now, most Laurel Creek members are aware of the new golf simulator in the Clubhouse.  As we pass the 68"+ mark of precipitation this year, it's easy to see that this piece of equipment will be getting a whole lot of use when the course is unplayable.

However, you might not know that the new Men's Lounge includes a feature which is also destined to provide hours of entertainment:  Three putting green cups are installed in the floor around the room.

A quick look at this carpet might bring back memories of Johnny Miller's endless obsession over grain, so we decided to check and see how the ball actually rolled in this room.  We broke out the stimpmeter and found that this surface has very little friction. 

The good news is that we were consistently getting measurements of over 20'!  The bad news is that after spending the winter practicing on this slick surface, it seems likely that we will be hearing comments about how slow the greens are on the course...
More old questions answered by new discoveries.
In the last post I talked about the as-built map of the original irrigation system and what a treasure map it seems to be. Pure gold. Maybe it is more of a Rosetta Stone pointing us in the right direction to look for more discoveries. I have had so many questions over 23 years about that old system, the odd layout, the story of the 7th hole. Below are a couple of pictures of what we believe to be the 18 hole routing from Wayne Stiles. His Last. It hangs in the clubhouse. Each hole has two numbers, one is circled. The key reads "circle original 9 built 1936, plain number is what it will become after second 9 is built in 1937", which obviously never happened. Hole #16 is a 400 yd par 4 dogleg left. Exactly what and where I assumed the original 7th hole was. Hole #7 a 185 par 3 using the same green complex. Both are the location discussed in the last post shown on the map labeled "Water Mains & Tree lines". So you can see why I always thought the green was moved from 8 to its current location. The physical evidence of the ground features sure make it seem that it was there. The question now is for how long? On this routing plan there is a yellow line showing that  par 3 fwy. The tee location is about where the current 7 green is located. Similar to the location of the "15th" on this map only opposite direction. The remnants on the ground clearly show a green complex but the new as-built proves that the location was abandoned by December 12, 1938. I always assumed 7 green was much newer say the 1950's. Several things disprove this theory: the as-built map and the aerial photographs posted on Twitter that I was tagged in.  

(image)Score Card on original 18 hole routing plan in clubhouse

(image)Picture of the corner of 6,7 8 on same map.
(image)South east corner close up of  1939 aerial The other major discovery was the term "fire valve" used all over this as-built. The engineer who is designing the new irrigation system planted a seed saying maybe original owner (Bigelow) was planning a development. I replied that has never been mentioned in our history. Houses came in the 60's as a way to save the course from development. I remembered I had some old maps still in my office so  I rolled one out that was never labeled. It is vintage blue paper and shows a similar 18 hole routing to the one hanging in the clubhouse (the white lines) and clearly shows house lots. Then someone, presumably Stiles, used yellow chalk? to draw yet another alternate routing with house lots. The bell went off. Proof as to why the damn main line was put in so deep (6 feet in most places and 3 where it is in the water table). It always felt like a municipal water system but I never heard anything about houses under the Bigelow regime. I had seen this map a few times but it never clicked what it was until I had the irrigation as-built and followed this train of thought. The map is not named or signed but is clearly vintage. Is it simply Proof positive that Robert Bigelow was at least thinking about housing. Enough so that he installed the irrigation system to double as a water supply system year round.

(image)18 hole routing's with house lots

It sheds some light on the odd rectangular routing that we have and the depth of main line irrigation. It there any way to prove this is Stiles work? Is this just doodles of a landscape architect turned golf course architect? We may never know but it has been fun learning more about our history which all started by the chance gift of the original irrigation as-built.
Practice....Tisbury Fire Department
We often hear the axiom that practice makes perfect. Mink Meadows Pond tends to be the first water to freeze in Tisbury so last night our fire department came out to practice some cold water/ice break rescue drills. This profession is in a tough position. We all hope we never need them but if we do it is nice to know they are proficient at every facet of their job. For them it literally could be the difference between life and death. They cut a hole in the ice with a chain saw so a "victim" could be submerged in the ice. I was shocked that only and inch of ice was holing these grown men but the ice was cracking/groaning and letting us all know it was under strain. I remembered having a discussion with our Chief many years ago about the thickness for safe use and posting. After mentioning it to him he reiterated his opinion "There is NO Safe Ice in Tisbury, if you want safe ice go to the Arena." Sage advice. 

(image)corner of the parking lot

(image)heading out with pontoon

(image)"victim" in the water

(image)Next morning

(image)see the crack behind the triangle?
I grew up skating on ponds and playing what the Canadians call shinny. We simply called it pond hockey. I clearly remember chasing a stray puck to the edge once and my foot went right through. It was scary and unpleasant to have a wet leg for the remainder of the day. Luckily that was the only issue. I can guarantee you we did not have a good plan or any equipment such as a rope to deal with a whole scale submersion. This was long before the days of cell phones. How did we ever survive? In 23 Winters I have only skated on this pond once or twice. Maybe my risk taking days are behind me? It is good to know the Tisbury Fire Department is practicing their skills and I hope that is the only time I see them on the pond.

Rain is Rain, Right?

Yes and no.  They're are many different types of rain events that lead to different playing conditions on the course.  

(image)If I had my choice, I'd take an all day soaker like we had this past Sunday.  Over the course of the day we received 2.25" and if it hadn't rained Wednesday, golfers would have been off the path.  With that amount of rain, the soil profile fills to a point of saturation and eventually flushes out the soil profile.  It's similar in affect to the way we irrigate the greens. 

Then we have Wednesday's rain which was light in amount and intensity. It's crudely referred to as a pisser.  We received just .30", but we were arguably more wet from that storm than the storm on Sunday with 2.25".   What happens here is that the upper 2-3" absorbs this and holds on to it creating a wet surface. 

Then there's the gully washer which is described as a short heavy rain.  This rain comes in so fast that it flows off the surface to the drains.  Not good when the soils are needing water, but conducive to better playing conditions faster. 

No matter what type, you're not allowed to complain about it in California!   

My Latest Read....
A few years ago Jim Haley, Highland Golf Services stopped in my office with Bill Bartels, Tanto Irrigation and gave me a copy of "Dream Golf" The Making of Bandon Dunes. Well, about that time I was slowing packing up my office for my eventual retirement from the golf course profession and this book was immediately packed. Well, after 3 years in a box and in storage, it was recently unpacked and moved up to the top of my read list. Can't wait to read the whole story. Thanks Jim for the copy. 

(image)Visiting and touring Bandon Dunes was one of my true highlights
 of my golf course management career. 

A New Year

Another year has passed. Many might say good riddance since the weather was certainly not the best. I will try to look at the positive side that it could have been worse. The first picture tells a bit of the story. It was very wet and higher than the average in several months and overall. It was not the highest in total rainfall for my 23 yrs worth of record keeping. 2003 beat it by .41" That year had 9.63" in August but one t-storm was 4.6". The 9.57" in November of 2018 was just non-stop rain. It never seems to come in the perfect amount or at the right time. We fared much better than most of New England.

(image)By the numbersThe new year started with almost an inch of rain overnight with some heavy winds. One of those out like a lion parables. The day turned into an absolute gem though with temps of almost 60 degrees and little wind. The course had a few players enjoying the holiday and start of a new year. I toured the course at dusk and saw three deer cross the third hole. They were happy to have survived another hunting season I am sure.

(image)Not a bad start(image)spectacular day(image)Deer Crossing
Why it's always "We..."

If you are dealing with insomnia, and decided to read all of the 350+ blog posts here, there is likely only one of them where you will find the word "I" being used.  Instead, you will see that the pronoun "we" is almost always the preferred choice.  Why is that?

The goal of this blog has always been to communicate what is happening on the golf course to the Club's membership.  While some of this activity may be seen by members, often times, a good bit takes place behind the scenes.  It is rarely a single person that is responsible for either the short-term or long-term condition of the course.  It takes a team of dedicated employees to make things come together, and when we have success, it is as a group.

For golfers, 2018 may go down in their memories as one of the worst weather years.  For those that work to provide great playing conditions for our members and their guests, 2018 will certainly be remembered as one of the most challenging ever.  The staff's drive and determination were pushed to their limits as Mother Nature kept trying to knock us down time and time again throughout the year. 

So as we turn the page on 2018 (with its 70" of precipitation), and hopefully welcome in a "normal" 2019, it seems an appropriate time to recognize the team that makes it all come together.  We should all be thankful for what they do each and every day.
Virginia Golfer Magazine


The most recent issue highlights the challenge faced by golf courses in Virginia this year.  We can be thankful that it wasn't as bad for us as it was for some.  For certain, those clubs that place a premium on course conditions fared better than most.  In the future, 2018 should be an example of what happens to a course when golf schedules trump maintenance needs.  Weather caused delays and adjustments to maintenance practices.  If golf schedules were not tweaked to accommodate maintenance, courses didn't do so well.  We tried multiple times to get greens aerated this fall, but the weather just wouldn't cooperate.  We will have to work extra hard to get back on track next year.

My friend and fellow superintendent, Brent Graham from Two Rivers CC, is on the cover.  He makes some great points in the article.   Brent is really good superintendent even though he went to Ohio State. 

Virginia Golfer- Riding Out The Storm

Overcoming Extremes


More posts are loading...