Thoughts from our Superintendent
Mark Trenter, Golf Course Superintendent
In 12 years of service at Chambers Bay, few golf seasons have been met with as much anticipation as that of 2019. The culmination of the efforts put forth by the agronomy team in October of 2018 to transition our putting surfaces from fine fescue varieties to that of regionally prosperous Poa Annua was complete and ready for review. With the goal of providing consistent, sustainable and quality putting surfaces the old greens were stripped, shapes restored, sod laid and transformed into golf greens. We were excited, if not a little nervous to invite golfers onto our new greens to reap the fruits of our labor. A year with the new greens under our collective belt, I figure now a good time to share a few observations and insight regarding the historic season at Chambers Bay.
Work ‘em hard, work ‘em smart.
With the narrow window between installation and the reopening of the course for play, efforts to turn blankets of sod into firm, smooth rolling golf greens began instantly. Fertilization to kick them into gear, promoting growth and root establishment. A steady combination of mowing, to begin slenderizing the leaf blades and rolling, to create smooth surfaces ensued. This process was consistent and continuous, maximizing the total amount of inputs without exposing the plants to unnecessary stress that would hinder their healthy development. Solid micro tine aerification and routine sand applications also contributed to wrenching the greens into shape. By the time golf was ready in earnest the new greens were well adapted to the stressors of routine golf course maintenance and were ready to go.
New greens, new rules.
Coinciding with the unveiling of our greens, the USGA was implementing new rules for golf in 2019. When reviewing these rule changes, I hardly raised an eyebrow as a golf course Superintendent responsible for golf course maintenance. But as the season got underway, we began to notice our holes were taking damage and losing structural integrity under normal golf volumes providing a less than ideal golf experience for the late afternoon rounds. Upon further review it was decided that this damage was due in part to the new USGA rule regarding putting with the flag in. I am in no way against this rule and believe it’s totally fine to putt with the flag in, however, we happened to notice upon retrieval of the golf ball with the flag still in the hole golfers were inadvertently contacting the walls of the hole with their hands causing the soil to collapse and compromising the proper shape of the hole. The effects were exacerbated by the immaturity of our new greens root zones which when mature and established help to provide stability in the soil. To combat this problem, we simply installed plastic target rings to provide security to the subsoil in the form of a shield leaving no exposed soil above the cup. We plan to utilize these plastic rings through the winter and review their need come spring. I know there is an opinion amongst some golfers that these rings can have negative impacts on putts and hope they understand why we have implemented them on a course that takes an otherwise bare bones approach to the golf experience.
A puncher’s chance.
The final test used for judging the progress through the year was to gauge how the young greens held up to fall aerification, this time-honored tradition was completed at Chambers Bay in the second week of September. Beginning in the spring of 2017 we have punched our putting surfaces utilizing the DryJect procedure. DryJect uses a high-speed, water-based injection system to blast aeration holes through the root zone to fracture the soil, sand is then drawn into the hole by a patented vacuum effect created by the blast to achieve all the benefits of aerification in one single step. Traditional core aeration is time-consuming and requires several steps, with DryJect we are able to return turf to a playable condition in a matter of hours. The greens endured and rebounded from the aerification process better than anticipated with very little residual damage incurred, in a matter of days all signs of the process were gone, and the greens were back to rolling smooth and true.
All in all, as we wind down a golf season that saw record amounts of play, I am very encouraged by the conditions of our greens and happy with their performance. As with all golf courses as the season grinds on wear patterns as well as play fatigue develop, and corrective measures must be taken. So, if you happen upon the golf course and there is a bit of sand on the green or they have been spiked or vented or just seem a little worn out, or you come to rest in a divot or and unraked bunker please remember golf course maintenance is a process involving many steps and cyclical procedures. Also remember, fixing ball marks, repairing divots and raking sand is the responsibility of every golfer; but we will get anything you happen to miss in the morning. The golf experience at Chambers Bay is very high on my list of importance, behind only perhaps turf vigor and vitality. We set out to accomplish our goals and complete our tasks in the least impactful way possible to you, the golfer.