Golf Course Management

SEP 2014

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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18 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 09.14 Getting the regular opportunity to visit some pretty great golf courses and meet some pretty impressive superintendents certainly doesn't make me an expert in golf course management, but it apparently does make me a target for questions about the game, its play - ing felds and the men and women who tend to them. And at no time in my 16 years in the busi - ness have I felded more questions along those lines than I have this summer, thanks in large part to the stark contrast presented by the venues that hosted two of 2014's most talked- about golf events — Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2, host to both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open, and Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., host to the PGA Championship. Although they're only about 500 miles apart and both underwent signifcant renova - tions in advance of their time in golf 's spot- light this summer, the similarities between the two properties pretty much end there. And it's those differences that are the crux of most of the inquiries I've received about Pinehurst and Valhalla. Some folks love the rugged, rough-around- the edges look of No. 2, and I count myself among that group. During the Coore & Crenshaw-guided renovation, countless acres of rough gave way to sweeping expanses of na - tive sandscapes. Hundreds of irrigation heads were removed as a new single-row irrigation system took hold, reducing overall water usage on No. 2 by over 25 percent. It's interesting, it's innovative and, best of all, it's unique. Others haven't been shy in sharing their fondness for the more traditional, wall-to-wall green look that served as such a great arena for the drama of the PGA, and I have to admit to having a soft spot for that kind of golf, as well. The renovation work done at Valhalla fipped the script to some extent, but similar results were achieved. Nearly 800 irrigation heads were added to the course, which led to increased precision, which in turn led to a re - duction in overall water use at the Louisville, Ky., facility. Do I have a favorite? That's akin to ask - ing me to name my favorite child, so I'm not going down that road. Plus, reducing this to a popularity contest between two very different styles of golf course design and maintenance obscures the broader, potentially more im - portant question about what our industry can learn from these two championships. And in my view, there's plenty to be learned. I've heard some say that the unique circumstances surrounding these two courses — the major championships, the budgets, the unique agronomic conditions — make Pinehurst and Valhalla outliers, that the ac - complishments achieved there simply can't be re-created at most other golf facilities around the country. And to an extent, that may be true. A re - sort course in the Pacifc Northwest probably shouldn't scrap all its rough and rip up two- thirds of its irrigation system. I wouldn't ad - vise a modest private club in Illinois to bust its limited budget on wall-to-wall turf and 1,000 additional irrigation heads. But it's not about mirroring each and every thing that was done at these storied venues, which simply isn't a realistic option in most cases. The true value of the lessons taught by Pinehurst No. 2 and Valhalla comes from the small, incremental steps that everyone can take based on what they've seen and learned. Every course has out-of-play areas that can be returned to native landscapes. Every superin - tendent could probably identify at least a few sections of his or her irrigation system that could go offine without having a negative ef - fect on the course as a whole. And any facility can fnd a way to utilize new technology to make maintenance practices better, faster and more environmentally friendly. So it doesn't really matter if you prefer the throwback feel of Pinehurst No. 2 or the more conventional experience offered by Valhalla. Regardless of personal preferences, there are a lot of positive takeaways for our industry from both. And how those takeaways manifest themselves throughout golf will be the true lasting legacies of these great championships. Scott Hollister is GCM 's editor-in-chief and the director of publications for GCSAA. Scott Hollister shollister@gcsaa.org twitter: @GCM_Magazine A championship road map Although they're only about 500 miles apart and both underwent signifcant renovations in advance of their time in golf's spotlight this summer, the similarities between the two properties pretty much ends there. (inside gcm)

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