Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tournament Preparation and Tournament Conditions

The 2010 Pucksters is completed and throughout the weekend there was plenty of generous comments about the course condition. Every department has plenty of behind the scenes work before any tournament date. I can only speak to what happens at my end but I know the Proshop and Food and Beverage have been equally busy getting things organized. We really started preparing for this tournament at the beginning of August (actually almost all of our maintenance decisions throughout the year are made with one eye on the events calendar and tee sheet in an effort to minimize interference). The two obvious things I can somewhat influence with respect to preparing the golf course for a tournament are the height of cut (HOC) and fertility. The third most important thing, I feel, is moisture but that one is pretty variable depending on weather and the irrigation system. With respect to the first two the underlying factor is the general health of the turf; the weaker it is the more I'll baby it. We have been lucky weather wise and despite the questionable conditions this spring the rest of the year has been great for growing grass...very few stupid hot days in 30's and lots of cool nights (the biggest thing IMO) with some real good rain days. Anyways, the general health throughout the whole property was pretty good so we were able limit the fertility (mostly the nitrogen) and lower the HOC on the greens a wee bit. Luckily everything fell into place and the greens, in particular, seemed to play good.
The one question I sometimes get is "Why can't the greens always be like they are for tournaments?". The short answer is "Because they would die". The long answer is more complicated. The reality about KGC green surfaces is there is plenty of problems including inadequate irrigation, no subsurface drainage, limited sun light, and poor air circulation just to name a few of the more obvious problems. The inputs (fertility, fungicides, water, etc.) and maintenance (aerating, grooming, top dressing, etc) would all have to increase and we neither have the budget nor the staff to accommodate everything that would be required. Perception is pretty important too. I have been taking "speed" readings on the greens for every tournament over the past couple years in an effort to keep a record and compare green speed between years and tournaments. Guidelines with respect to green speed are for regular "member" play a speed of 7'6" to 8'6" is considered medium (FYI: the distance of 7'6" -7 feet and 6inches- relates to how far a ball rolls on a green when released from a tool called a stimp meter) while a speed above 8'6" is considered fast. For tournament play 8'6" to 9'6" is called medium and anything above 9'6" is fast. For tournaments at KGC the speed over the last 3 years has been between 9' and 10' (another FYI: studies show that golfers can only distinguish speed differences between greens when the stimp reading is greater than 12" between greens). Why do I bring this all up? Perception: for the Wood Valence in June the stimp reading was 9'2"; for the Club Championship in July the reading was 9' while for the Pucksters the stimp was 10'3". As far as the research in concerned the speed between those three tournaments was close to the same. I think a lot of what people experience in tournament conditions is not the speed so much as the smoothness of the surfaces. Our maintenance practices of brooming, topdressing, verti-cutting, and aerating all disrupt the surfaces and, as a result, affect the smoothness of the roll. So the fourth most important thing we do when perparing for a tournament is limit surface disruption. Necessary maintenance practices we perform on a regular basis throughout the season cause surface disruption and that is also why the greens don't roll like they do on tournament days. As usual I've babbled too long so that's where I'll leave it.

River Watch

August 25th
The river is still giving us what we need. We have begun to build a weir out into the main channel in anticipation of the river dropping too much. The rain on Sunday, August 29th will bring the river up but unless it is snow up high the increase in river flow won't last long enough.