Saturday, August 13, 2011

The PGA Championship

If you don’t know already, this week is the PGA Championship and for me I can’t help but think about my great experience last year at the 92nd PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler Wisconsin. We can all remember what happen with Dustin Johnson two stroke penalty on the 18th hole and how Martin Kaymer won in extra holes over Bubba Watson.  However, what many fans and viewers don’t see about major championships is the preparation and determination that go into managing a golf course to perform and play at a caliber to test the best in the world. Thus, I would like to share my experience with the championship to hopefully shed some light on the subject of preparing a golf course for a major tournament. 
Fly over of the Course for Television
Fairways being mowed
The Set-up behind the 18th Putting Green
I would first like to open up by saying that, if you ever get a chance to work or volunteer on the grounds crew of a major tournament it is an opportunity you must take.  The things you learn and go though during a summer or months leading up to the tournament you’ll remember for a life time. You learn what it takes to push the greens at speeds way above what is recommended for daily play, and understand that this cannot be possible to maintain on a regular basis. Let’s not forget that every inch of the course of a major championship is viewed by the golfers, spectators, and let’s definitely not forget the millions of views on TV.  Of course because the amount of people that it takes to mow, roll, rake bunkers, fluff up rough, fix divots, and set up the course takes a over a 100 plus  people put together to pull it off in the little time allowed. Tempers get short, stress gets elevated but in the end watching the last group with the champion coming up 18th fairway knowing that you prepared your course in the best possible conditions is breath taking. 
Getting ready to mow greens very early in the morning
Everyone's lined up and ready to work late into the evening
Inside the Hospitality tent.
The Famous 17th Hole
Great Night view of the Clubhouse
I love every moment of preparing for a major championship and hope to incorporate it more into my future career in the golf industry. The enjoyment of knowing millions of people are looking at the work you have done over the past months and years. It’s one of the best experiences in my life so far. I would like to thank Christopher Zugel, golf course superintendent of Whistling Straits (Straits course) for the great opportunity to work a PGA Championship. 
Watching the extra hole playoff come in for the PGA Championship
Crowning a Champion!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Water and Irrigation Strategies for Firm and Fast Conditions

These past two months I have not only been working hard at my internship but I have also been taking a class from Kansas State University on Water Issues for Lawns and Landscape. This class has been very interesting as I have learned a lot about many different topics around the use of water in turfgrass situations. If you don’t already know, water is a precious natural resource and with only less than 1% of the world’s fresh waters available for use today, we as turfgrass managers must be educated and responsible for how much water we apply to our turfgrass systems. The application of water through our irrigation systems is one of, if not the most important, responsibilities on the golf course for the health of the turf. Water fuels our world, we wash our clothes with it, we clean our bodies with it, we grow our food with it, and most of all we drink it. All living organisms on this planet must have water to survive and with such a limited resource to fuel our planet, we must use it properly. 
 As talked about with many magazines and articles across this industry, we are pushing for more firm and fast playing conditions and to do this we start by analyzing our irrigation strategies to save water. Some superintendents that I have talked to have said that firm and fast conditions could not be accomplished without having a few brown areas across the golf course. While some are also saying that “Brown is the New Green” and with the focus on saving water on golf courses, brown is evident. Here at Pinehurst No. 2, brown is definitely evident as the goal of the entire golf course is to produce the most firm and fast playing conditions possible that climate and weather conditions can allow.  Many of you may have read the latest articles on Pinehurst No. 2 and how they cut about 650 irrigation heads across the course and are now only irrigating main turf areas such as main fairway areas, tees, and of course greens. However some of the things you haven’t heard about this is that hand watering and movable sprinkler heads are incorporated into each day’s management practices.
Hand-watering the various wire-grass plants across the natural areas.
 Hand watering is an essential tool in maintaining creeping bentgrass putting greens across the nation.  However hand watering is not the easiest job on the golf course and any experienced superintendent knows that hand watering is an art work no matter what the latest technology allows us to look at and know about our soil moistures. When should I water? How do you know if the turf needs water? How much water should I apply? These are all questions that turfgrass managers ask themselves when managing moisture levels on putting green surfaces. This management strategy is not the easiest to learn overnight and cannot be learned by reading out of a book either. Rather, hands-on field work experience is needed to master the art of hand watering
Hand-watering is an essential management practice for Creeping Bentgrass Greens.
 Even though I am not a yet a master of this practice, I wish to provide what I have learned over the year to shed some light on the subject. Whenever turf turns a purplish color, or a brownish tinge it is a good sign it needs water. Another great indication is a visible foot print on a purplish patch or area of the surface. However, you must be careful with this as sunlight and softness of a green can play tricks on your mind. I always like to find a ghostly white foot print. This definitely means that this area needs water and needs water fast. Where it gets tricky is when turf starts to look lean or a yellowish golden color across the surface. This could mean one of two things, first that the turf needs some nutrients and one of the quickest ways to supply it, is through the use of water.  Second, the turf may be experiencing some excessive wear and water may enhance these problems. Thus, determining the difference can either greatly improve turf quality or decrease it over time. Thus, like I said, hand-watering is no walk-in-the-park and is something that takes a lot of experience but sometimes it will just come down to what you feel needs water. 
Can you see the Ghostly Foot Prints?
Watering turfgrass always comes down to what you feel in your gut. Technology has given us great tools in discovering how much moisture is currently in the system and how much water has been lost from evapotranspiration but we still make the final decision on how much we should apply to the turf. Thus, we must be educated and experienced to make logical decisions on applying just enough water to our golf courses to not only produce a quality healthy product, but also to save our natural resource of WATER.
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