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Talkin‘ Turf

By Mike McCullough, Director of Environmental and Water Resources

The work to get Pebble

Meeting the Maestro

Preparing for the U.S. Open is like conducting a symphony; the maestro must know every detail about the orchestra and the musical score. In this case the maestro is Mike Davis. Davis, senior director of

rules and competition for the USGA, took over the responsibilities of conducting the USGA’s major champi- onships in 2006. Prior to his new position, Davis worked behind the scenes to prepare host venues for a champion- ship performance. Davis’ primary focus is

now inside the ropes, deter- mining where grandstands are placed, how gallery ropes are positioned, ensuring the golf course is properly marked, the pace of play is upheld and finally, that the golf course setup is challeng- ing yet fair. All of these efforts reach

their crescendo when a champion has been identified among the world’s best players.

Beach U.S. Open-ready began months ago. Golf course setup benchmarks to be reached by June 17, the first day of the championship, include:

 First week of April:

Adjust rough heights and other playing surface mow- ing heights to U.S. Open standards. (Rough height for typical play is two inches.)

 Second week of May:

Finalize the rough heights and hole locations for each hole. (Holes in which players will have a short iron for their second shot may face higher rough than holes in which players have long irons or hybrids).

 Last week of May:

Water reduction and firming up the golf course will commence.

 First week of June:

Inspect golf course and make minor adjustments if neces- sary. Play will gradually be reduced to help with condi- tioning and preparations for the Open.

Third week of the June:

Water management becomes a high priority as well as adjusting for Mother Nature the week of the Open. (Open venues on the West Coast normally rely on the irriga- tion systems to provide water needed to keep the plants healthy. Intensely managing the application of water so that playing surfaces are uni- form across the golf course is one of the biggest challenges facing the maintenance staff). The graduated rough


concept will be in effect with shorter rough closer to the fairway and denser, thicker

rough farther away from the fairway. Holes with longer shots into the green will have shorter rough compared to holes that have shorter second shots. The fairways at Pebble

Beach will average 26-30 yards wide as compared to the usual average of 40-45 yards wide. Typically the greens average between 9.5 and 10 feet on the Stimpme- ter; the greens will be at least a foot faster for the tourna- ment. Adjustments will be made due to prevailing weather conditions. The USGA utilizes an

on-site meteorologist to assist in making the most accurate weather forecast regarding starting times, weather delays, etc. (Remember the weather delays at last year’s U.S. Open at Bethpage Black). Wind, fog, rain or any other weather-related factor is plugged into the equation for making the final decisions in course setup the week of the U.S. Open.

Developing consistent playing conditions

Developing consistent

conditions for the Open is becoming more and more sophisticated each year. Advances in equipment, ir- rigation, turf-health products and technology are making the possibility of consistent playing conditions through- out the golf course a more realistic and attainable goal. USGA Green Section

Southwest Region Direc- tor Pat Gross assisted with the U.S. Open preparations at Torrey Pines in 2008 and will do so again at Pebble

Beach. One tool Gross has used in preparation for these events is the Tru-Firm device (pictured), a tool which objectively quantifies surface firmness and assists with management decisions. During a recent visit to

Pebble Beach, Gross took turf firmness readings to estab- lish a range for the various surfaces. “The device has been very helpful to gauge firmness of the surfaces for hosting championships,” said Gross. “With every championship site being different, we are still educating ourselves as to what each of the Tru-Firm readings mean and how to manage the surfaces accordingly.” Past readings from the de-

vice were helpful in justifying additional cultural practices that helped in firming up certain surfaces. Future read- ings will assist golf course maintenance staff in deter- mining the exact amount of water to be applied to an area so that it corresponds with other areas on the putting surface to provide consistent conditions. Utilizing technology

such as the Tru-Firm device, along with skill and expertise of many experienced staff and the watchful eyes of the USGA, the playing condi- tions for the U.S. Open are in good hands.

Mike McCullough can be e-mailed at

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