Sunday, June 15, 2014

Are we going to have a Pinehurst syndrome now??  Every one used to say I want the course to look like Augusta daily to do that is not possible on a daily basis because of the planning and work that is involved to get a golf course into tournament shape, Now everyone is talking about maintaining a golf course with less inputs for sustainability. The USGA has been saying over the last few weeks a lot about the restoration process at Pinehurst.  They removed half the irrigated turf and turned it back to native plant material and how Donald Ross intended it to be. The course is being maintained right now for US Open conditions still using well over 100 people to get the course in shape for the Open. Is this really less inputs ?   I have read that the normal staff for daily play far exceeds our staff here at Hawks Landing.  The commercial that the USGA has been playing "While were young" is the right step but are you going to have a 4 hour round at pinehurst ? not sure.  To be honest I really do not think I would pay over 200 dollars a round to chase my ball all over the golf course.  We need to find a balance of firm and fast and fair.  Golf is losing players faster then we are gaining new ones and playing a golf course that is so fast and firm is really not going to keep people playing golf and enjoying their round.

Here at Hawks we have done many things to lessen our inputs,  converted well over 30 Acres of maintained rough height turf to fescue grass.  I have also removed more then 30 irrigation heads and changed out well over 30 full circle heads to part circle which would relate to half the amount of water use.  We have reduced our irrigation output by millions of gallons of water over the course of the year.    But the fescue areas here are by no means maintenance free to achieve a playable "native area"  Our budget also does  not allow for the many hand waters it takes to achieve a living fast and firm golf course.  You can see in the photo right that this area on the fairway is wilting and needs to be watered but there is a lot of healthy green grass around the stressed area.  Higher budget courses with a lot of man power would have many qualified staff members out today hand watering fairways, just watering only what is needed.  Here that really is not possible on a large scale and I would must likely turn on an irrigation head in this area.  The greens and approaches we do hand water in most cases 2 staff members are doing so daily.  We scout out the dry areas and apply water as needed.  Sometimes this job alone takes the entire day.  Courses like Erin Hills would have staff members working 60 to 80 hours a week hand watering the entire course.  I try to find the proper balance of healthy turf maintained on the dry side to provide the firmest and fair conditions possible using the resources that we have.
Another point to remember that a lot of the courses that maintain very firm and fast conditions do not allow motorized golf cars.  The extra wear and tear from cart traffic alone compounds compaction in many areas around the course.  We make use of arrows and stakes to move the wear around but still is an issues long term.  The less you water the more pore spaces are needed to keep the turf healthy.  I have a hard enough time getting the course aerated the few times that we can in a year.  It is critical to have a good aerated soil root zone to maintain very firm conditions.  I do know the areas we have been aerating are much healthy and handle drought conditions much better.  I am a firm believer in using less inputs over the last few years we have really dialed in our programs to give the turf just enough to provide very good playing conditions daily, we have reduced our yearly irrigation number by many millions of gallons of water in doing so.  The use of wetting agents and growth regulators help the turf and soil better utilize the reduce inputs and in turn keeps a healthier turf grass plant.  But we can not just shut off the water to provide acceptable playing conditions that Everyone can enjoy while working within our budget also.  Overall especially this year we have been in really good shape and have heard many great compliments about he condition of the golf course this year. The course is playing very firm right now and that is a testament to our commitment to finding a good balance and a great staff to help achieve this goal.

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