Changing demographics at Carolina Golf Club nudged superintendent Matthew Wharton toward social media.
His first blog post, “Maiden Voyage and Thanksgiving Tee Times,” went live Nov. 21, 2011, beginning a digital journey intended to connect with a membership trending younger. Two years later, he joined Twitter. Wharton remembers his Twitter debut – a less than 140-character message declaring @CGCGreenkeeper as a spot to find updated course information between posts at carolinagreenkeeper.blogspot.com – and he likely remembers many of his 6,000 ensuing tweets.
Wharton consumes thousands of tweets, hundreds of blog posts and magazine pages, and attends multiple industry conferences each year. Somewhere en route to reaching the turf social media stratosphere, thousands of colleagues started consuming his content.
It’s an odd transformation for somebody who still views social media as a forum to connect with members of a charming club in the shadows of Charlotte’s high-rising skyline. “I have always strived to A.) Keep the message positive; and B.) Communicate with members,” Wharton says. “If the industry likes it for another reason, then that’s just icing on the cake.”
Wharton generates “likes” at startling rates, thus making him an easy selection for the 2018 Kaminski Award, which will be awarded during #GCITweetUp18 at the Golf Industry Show. When it comes to social media, Carolina Golf Club Greenkeeper is America’s Greenkeeper, an everyman superintendent who exudes positivity, creativity and humility via a smartphone and computer.
The industry can thank a Carolina Golf Club green committee chairman for suggesting Wharton might want to consider using social media to reach a membership with a decreasing average age. Wharton knows he’s not being followed by all 500 members. But, as a rule, he crafts blog posts and tweets as if the entire membership was reading.
Assuming your membership consumes everything is good advice for social media novices. Remember that snarky tweet about the unraked bunker on No. 12? It’s possible Mr. Footprint’s 32-year-old member-member partner could be informing him of the superintendent’s social media antics as they sip brandy on the patio.
Wharton never embarrasses members. Instead, he updates course conditions (Who knew they have regular frost delays in Charlotte?), explains cultural practices, shares industry literature and proudly illustrates the intricacies of a 1929 Donald Ross-designed course. He also uses social media to learn. Wharton discovered Fraze mowing via Twitter, asked around about it and decided to implement the tactic on the practice range tee, saving the club thousands by avoiding the costly renovation trifecta of stripping, laser leveling and sodding.
Following Wharton on Twitter and reading his blog is perhaps the industry’s best glimpse at somebody who truly loves his job and the profession. Raised in small-town Virginia and educated at Virginia Tech, Wharton leads a team on land where Ross worked and prepares a course for a golf-loving membership. His office is a miniature turf golf course architecture and turf library, an orderly place where somebody with similar golf zest can spend days.
Only a small fraction of Wharton’s 3,600 Twitter followers will ever visit Carolina Golf Club. Thanks to social media, every follower feels like they have experienced a Charlotte drought or toured the course with its head greenkeeper.
Legions are relating to Wharton’s leadership.
See page 11 for a full list of Super Social Media Award winners and GCI’s events at GIS.