Hearn not taking his foot off the pedal despite homecoming

While the Pan Am Games-related traffic jams scared Canadian David Hearn from sleeping at his parents’ this week in Brantford, Ont. (where he grew up), he’ll still feel many of the same creature comforts.

“This is as close as we get to me being at home,” said Hearn on Wednesday, whose best finish on the PGA TOUR this year was a runner-up at The Greenbrier Classic two weeks ago, where he lost in a playoff. “I obviously get a lot more friends and family coming out to watch. It’s fun to play golf in front of everyone.”

Before the real golf begins Thursday, Hearn took time to give back to the local community by announcing the launch of a new charitable foundation. The David Hearn Foundation will support the Alzheimer Society in improving the quality of life for Canadians affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, with initiatives to build awareness and raise funds.

“I’ve had a relationship with the Alzheimer’s Society for a number of years now,” he explained. “We’ve been raising money through a golf tournament that I host after the Canadian Open every year. To finally take that next step and form a foundation it means a lot to me to be at that point in my career where I can give back and do charitable things through this foundation.

“It’s been a lot of hard work getting it going,” he added. “But we’re excited about it, and I’m excited about putting in time and giving back and the efforts that we can do through the foundation.”

After more than 150 events, Hearn is still searching for that elusive first PGA Tour win; for him, winning any tournament is his top goal. He’ll begin this quest on Thursday when he tees off at 12:35 p.m. with Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas and American Kevin Chappell. And, if that victory came this week — on home soil —it would just make it that much more sweet.

“Winning the RBC Canadian Open would mean a lot, without a doubt,” said Hearn. “Winning any PGA Tour tournament would mean a lot. It just doesn’t happen that often. To be able to do it in Canada in front of everybody here would be the highlight of my career. We’ll see what we can do.”

The Best Golf Courses in the World

Want to go on a sporting adventure this year? Then hit the fairways at these five world-renowned locales.
Golf is more than just a game. It allows players to fulfill an inner wanderlust and seek adventure near and far. Whether you’re trying to get away from the winter or need a place to unwind in the summer, there’s no better time to plan your next golf escape. From exotic locales to seaside stunners and mountain adventures, there’s no end to unforgettable courses to be discovered across the globe. Here are five bucket-list-worthy suggestions to get you started.

Cabot Cliffs, Inverness, Nova Scotia
Cabot Cliffs
Cabot Cliffs only opened for limited preview play this past summer, but already it has topped most golf magazines’ world’s-best-courses lists. While the destination is remote, for serious golfers it’s well worth a long road trip, or a short-haul flight, to lap up the beauty of Canada’s only true links experience. Set along the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Inverness, Cape Breton, Cabot offers not one, but a pair of spectacular courses. The Cliffs features several holes that hug the side of the seawall. One reviewer captured this bucket-list experience perfectly, dubbing it “Pebble Beach on steroids!”
cabotlinks.com

Four Seasons Nevis, St. Kitts/Nevis, West Indies

Opened in 1991, this course, designed by famed golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., is a West Indies wonder. Part of a five-star Four Seasons retreat, the course offers stunning panoramas of the resort, the Caribbean Sea and the neighbouring island of St. Kitts. Hit a 7-iron into the green while playful vervet monkeys wrestle across the fairways – commenting on your shot in their expressive language in between munches of mangos. After your round, enjoy a cocktail in the Library Bar or on the Ocean Terrace.
fourseasons.com/nevis

Laucala, Fiji
Laucala Island
Set amid volcanic mountains and clinging to a straight-edged cliff that drops into the Pacific Ocean, this private island refuge in the South Pacific was the brainchild of Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, co-founder of Red Bull. The resort features 25 Fijian-style villas nestled among coconut plantations and deserted beaches, with views of colourful coral reefs and endless jungles. The signature hole is the par-five 12th, where the green extends to the beach – expect to wet your feet at high tide. When not golfing, sip some rum, get chauffeured by boat to a secluded beach where a masseuse and a champagne lunch await, or simply enjoy the solitude in your private villa, which starts at US$5,000 a night.
laucala.com/golf

Legend Golf Safari Resort, Bosveld, South Africa

Situated in the heart of the Entabeni Safari Conservancy in South Africa, the resort is home to one of the globe’s most unique golfing experiences. Every hole was designed by a different gold legend, such as Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia and Bernard Langer. The real reason to visit, however, is to experience the famous par 3 known as the Extreme 19th. The hole is the world’s longest par 3, measuring 391 yards. The kicker: You can only access the tee by helicopter, as the hole sits atop South Africa’s Hanglip Mountain. At 400 metres high, it is also the globe’s tallest hole. Fly into Pretoria and drive north, or hire a private jet to land at the resort.
legendhospitality.co.za/stay-with-us/legend-golf-safari-resort

Telluride Golf Club, Telluride, Colorado

Imagine golfing at an altitude of almost 3,000 metres surrounded by aspen trees changing colour by the minute in the autumn morning light. Most people think of Telluride as a ski village, but it’s much more than that – the mountain golf is stunning, with postcard vistas greeting you at every turn and on every tee. Telluride is set amid the highest concentration of 4,200-metre-plus peaks in North America. The first tee is 2,870 metres above sea level, an altitude that puts Telluride Golf Club among the highest golf courses in the world. Stay on-site at the Peaks Resort and hit the spa post-golf to unwind and quiet your mind. You can also head down the San Miguel River and try fly fishing. At night, take the gondola from the Mountain Village down to the historic town of Telluride. Stroll the streets, where there are no stoplights. Stop at the New Sheridan Hotel, which has a historic watering hole where you are sure to meet colourful locals – like the town’s gravedigger – and hear their tales over a Colorado craft brew. Fly into Montrose with direct service from nine major cities, including Atlanta, Newark, Chicago, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
tellurideskiresort.com/pricing-products/golf

Canadian golfer Corey Conners ramping up for Latinoamerica Tour

The odds are in Corey Conners’ favour he’ll make some noise this season on PGA Tour Latinoamérica. You don’t need a university degree in actuarial mathematics (as Connors does) to understand the probabilities are better than good for the Canadian golfer’s long-term success.

The 24-year-old finished 37th on the the Mackenzie Tour’s Order of Merit in 2015, including two top-10 finishes in his eight events. Conners also played in six PGA Tour events on sponsor exemptions. The Listowel, Ont., native turned pro midway through last season, shortly after playing the Masters as an amateur (he earned an invitation based on his runner-up finish at the 2014 U.S. Amateur). While he missed the cut at Augusta, he took a lot away.

“It was quite a thrill to play there,” Conners said. “I had an incredible experience and definitely gained a lot of confidence. I feel more comfortable at other events now, largely due to that experience.”

Earlier this month, the Team Canada Young Pro Squad Member added more confidence when he posted rounds of 74-67-67-70 to take medalist honours at the PGA Tour Latinoamérica Q-School, winning by two strokes. Conners is now one step closer to achieving his dream of playing full-time on the PGA Tour. First he needs to finish in the Top Five on the Latinoamérica Tour or the MacKenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada (where he still holds exempt status) to earn his Web.com Tour card.

Last fall, Conners played in four Latinoamérica events, getting a taste for the competition. “It was pretty cool to travel to some new places and play golf,” he said. “I feel I can do really well on that tour.”

First things first: it’s time to rack up the frequent flyer points. On Feb. 25, the Latinoamérica season begins in Medellin, Colombia, from where four-time PGA Tour winner Camilo Villegas hails. Until then, Conners will work on honing all aspects of his game with Canada national head coach Derek Ingram.

“Since Q-school, I’ve been taking it easy, playing some fun rounds with friends down in Florida, but I will start preparing and fine-tuning my game in the coming weeks,” he said. “I want to work on my long-iron play … getting my three-wood up in the air more from the fairway.”

Earlier this month, Ingram showed his excitement for his pupil on social media, via this Tweet:

When you prepare well & it works out, it feels great! Congrats @coreconn on winning @PGATOUR_LA #QSchool @TheGolfCanada #playreflectlearn

No matter where he tees it up next, Conners hopes to seek inspiration from the success of his fellow Canucks.

“It’s exciting to see a lot of Canadian guys do well and it’s motivating to try to join guys like Adam Hadwin on the PGA TOUR,” he said. “A lot of my close friends are out on the Web.com Tour this year; hopefully I can get out there and join them soon … I feel my game is in really good shape.”

Els, Quinn: Caddie shared success in unique way

Of the two caddies that Ernie Els employs during the year, Ricci Roberts was on the bag last week at Royal Lytham & St. Annes when Els claimed his second British Open title. But don’t feel too bad for the other guy.

Several hours after Els hoisted the Claret Jug on Sunday in England, Dan Quinn won The American Century Championship — a celebrity tournament; Quinn is a former NHL player — across the pond at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Club in Nevada to complete one of golf’s most unique daily doubles.

The two are reunited at this week’s RBC Canadian Open. On the car ride Wednesday to Hamilton Golf & Country Club, Els and Quinn discussed the fact that it wasn’t the first time they had won both events on the same day.

“He started winning that tournament 20 years ago; he won there in 1992, and also in 2002 when I won my other Open,” Els said. “Then, I win the Open this year and he wins the same tournament also in the same year …

“It’s funny how things come together.”

Quinn watched early action of the British Open on Sunday before heading out to his tournament. While Els made a back-nine charge and took advantage of Adam Scott’s collapse down the stretch, Quinn followed a few hours later by overtaking former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien to win the event in Tahoe.

“The players at the British Open teed off at 6:10 a.m. my time, so I would wake up, have breakfast and then watch three hours of golf before getting ready to play my game,” Quinn said. “I didn’t see the final putt or final hole as I was playing, but it was a special day I’ll never forget.

“He’s such a great player,” Quinn said about Els. “I was so happy for him after all the hard work that he’s put in.”

Els and Quinn became friends through their daughters, golf, and a couple of barbecues. This later led to a caddying gig that became serious in 2010 when Quinn did a full-time share with Roberts — each of them working 14 events for Els that year.

What some may not know is that Quinn was a key cog in the Calgary Flames’ run to the Stanley Cup in 1986, and later played alongside Mario Lemieux with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now the Canadian is back in his home country in hopes of extending Els’ winning streak in national opens to two consecutive weeks.

“It’s going to be great to have Dan back and listen to him,” Els said. “It will be a nice change of scenery.”

Quinn admitted he’s feeling a bit more pressure this week following Els’ major victory. By the time they hit the first tee on Thursday, however, he’s sure his nerves, and any butterflies his boss may have, will settle fast.

“Once Ernie and I get out there, he hits that first ball and we get inside the ropes where he’s the most comfortable, we will be fine,” Quinn said.

After a celebration with his family and friends in London on Sunday — and a day of rest Monday sleeping in and hanging out with his kids — Els arrived at the Hamilton course by helicopter Tuesday afternoon to play five holes.

On Wednesday morning, he played with Gord Nixon, President and CEO of RBC, the sponsor of Canada’s national open and one of Els’ main sponsors.

The 19-time PGA TOUR winner has never seen the historic Hamilton Golf & Country Club before this week. Neither he, nor his caddie consider it a negative factor.

“A lot of times if you haven’t played a course you don’t know where the trouble is,” Els joked. “Maybe that’s a good thing. You get your yardage, you hit your spots and from there you go to your next spots.”

While the course is not familiar to Quinn, he’s happy to be in well-known surroundings this week.

“My mom, brother, sister, and a lot of my friends live in the area,” Quinn said. “Growing up, I was a huge golf fan and I used to watch in person when the Canadian Open was played at Glen Abbey for years.

“Last year, to be inside the ropes at Shaughnessy and then Hamilton this year, feels great. I’m really excited about the week.”

After this week, Quinn will carry Els’ bag for the next three weeks, including the last major of the year — the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.

The Big Easy a bit uneasy to open RBC Canadian Open

Despite Hamilton Golf & Country Club being set up for low scores — major thunderstorms softened up the course the night before — Ernie Els just couldn’t find his rhythm on Thursday in the first round of the RBC Canadian Open.

While Scott Piercy shot a course-record 62, Els struggled to find the steady swing that helped him win the Claret Jug last weekend.

“It’s a scoring golf course if you get it in play, which I didn’t do enough of today,” Els said after carding a 2-over round of 72.

Despite the score, Els was all smiles. Playing alongside friends Vijay Singh and Matt Kuchar, he exchanged many laughs and plenty of casual conversation with his playing partners.

The problem was his shots found the rough too often, which cost him a few strokes, especially on the 481-yard 11th, where he made a triple-bogey; his caddie Dan Quinn called it “a little meltdown.”

Els was scratching his head and shaking it a lot on Thursday afternoon. After several missed putts that came up just short, he shared this frustration with Quinn.

On Wednesday, the pair admitted they knew little about the Hamilton layout. It looked that way for most of the day, as they were feeling their way around, relying too much on the yardage books, rather than on experience. Many shots were left behind the hole, which are difficult on the severely-sloped greens.

“As much as we thought we could do it, this golf course is tough to play blind,” Quinn said. “I think Ernie can shoot a good score now that he has seen the course once though.”

Els also looked tired as he walked the fairways alongside Quinn. One wondered if jet lag was a factor, but the South African said fatigue was not an issue. He shot even-par 35 going out; and, while it looked like he might finish eagle-birdie-birdie to get close to even par for the day, a chip, and a couple putts came up just short.

On 17, his second shot hit the spectators’ box and dropped down pin-high in the rough. Els then flopped a beautiful chip from two-inch rough that just missed falling for eagle, despite a little dance he did trying to coax the ball in. Instead, a tap-in birdie was the result.

Then, on the final hole, after a long drive down the right-hand side of the fairway, Els hit his approach to 10 feet. Walking up to the green, the British Open champion received loud roars and shouts of “Canada loves you Ernie!” Ever gracious, he doffed his cap, and waved to the crowd.

After Els signed his card, The Big Easy stopped to sign hats and flags en route to the range where he hit a few balls, trying to find that sweet, easy-flowing swing again.

“It’s not that I didn’t have some great chances,” Els said. “I was just a bit sluggish today … trying to find that rhythm to my swing that I had last Sunday at the British Open. But, it wasn’t quite there today.”

Links at Brunello ushers in new golf course boom in Nova Scotia

It’s been 20 long years, but early reviews indicate the wait was worth it when The Links at Brunello—the first new course to open in Halifax, N.S. in two decades—takes its first tee time come July.

“Everyone last summer was making a joke that we haven’t had a new golf course locally for 20 years,” says superintendent Chris Wallace. “Now we’ve got Brunello and Cabot Cliffs opening this summer; there’s also talk of a new Jack Nicklaus course in the works. That many new courses in one province is almost unheard of in the golf industry today.”

Originally from Prince Edward Island, Wallace joined the Brunello team last summer during the grow-in, coming from Big Sky Golf Course in British Columbia where he had spent more than 20 years as general manager and superintendent. “I always wanted to come home, I just didn’t know it would take this long,” he laughs. “It’s a very good ownership group and the course is going to be outstanding.”

The Links at Brunello is part of a 3,200-unit master planned community that covers approximately 520 acres. The vision of a pair of cousins (Rob and Glen Dextor), 48 per cent of the site remains golf course or natural green space.

“In the world of land development, that is quite an achievement,” says vice-president of development Andrew Giles. “The owners had quite a vision of a top-quality community that was well-built and well-designed. That also formed the underlying principles for the golf course construction.”

Award-winning Canadian golf course architect Tom McBroom (Rocky Crest, Lake Joseph, Tobiano, Crowbush Cove) was retained nearly a dozen years ago. The project took a while to come to fruition since the client didn’t want to start construction on the golf course until the real estate part of the development took shape.

“We had a terrific site with rambunctious land and lots of trees and rock,” says McBroom. “It has a Muskoka or Tremblant feel. One of the things I tried to do in the design, even though it was part of a big real estate development, was I didn’t want to have the residential impede on the golf course. There is residential around it, but we’ve tried to set it back as much as possible, so it’s out of sight and out of view.

“I also tried to take inspiration from the way classic courses looked … ones that don’t feel modern,” the architect adds. “This was a great opportunity to do that because the land was so strong. If we could go at it with a classic vision in mind, the lines would tie back to the natural grade and there would be very little artificiality in the presentation of the course.”

Once the construction was in full swing, McBroom was hands-on.

“It was a pet project of mine,” he says. “I was probably in Halifax 40 times in the last two years … it’s got my fingertips on it that’s for sure!”

The golf course is surrounded by almost 20 hectares of wetlands; that was one of the challenges faced by the project team. The team disturbed only 3.9 hectares of these environmentally sensitive areas with either the golf course or residential development. McBroom rerouted the course to take these wetlands into consideration. The architect managed to get all 18 in on a full course with minimal impact to the wetlands.

“We had to tweak and massage the design to incorporate the wetlands,” he says. “That’s tricky because you don’t want them to come into play. The golf market today is all about playability; fun is more appropriate than toughness or difficulty. We didn’t want toughness, length or difficulty, but the course will still be a challenge from the back tees.”

Golf course construction started in 2013 and spilled into the winter of 2014. That’s when the course really got going. The first phase of the residential development had already been completed a couple of years previously and there are many more phases to come for the planned community. After a tender, The Links at Brunello hired Montreal-based NMP Golf Construction.

McBroom had specified a sand cap on the entire course. The team spent about 18 months doing field tests to make sure they chose the right fill. Besides NMP, experts hired and consulted included: John Kelly, a golf course drainage expert also from Montreal, and USGA agronomist Jim Skorulski. Once the sand cap was chosen, about 110 tons of the material were imported to the site from 120 minutes away.

A key for the owners, according to Giles, was they wanted the course to drain quickly after a rain event, so carts could get back on the fairways without delay.

“That is part of why we wanted to ensure the right sand cap,” he explains. “We accomplished that by time and by hiring the right experts. The other key was taking John (Kelly’s) drainage advice. He put in a lot of swale drainage (about 3,500-plus metres) after construction, which helped drain the sand cap, and that’s what allows the carts to go on shortly after a rain.”

A need for the right seed

The other aspect the Brunello team spent a lot of time researching during the planning phase was the selection of the grass seed. This important decision was mainly left to Paul Stephens from Pickseed in Ontario, who recommended a Mackenzie and Tyee creeping bentgrass blend.

“This grass fits the climate,” says Wallace. “The nice thing about this area is we have a lot of wind, which is a great complement. Nothing I saw in my first year showed it was going to be tough to maintain this grass based on our climate.
“New bentgrass has an advantage for the first five years since it’s pretty tough,” he adds. “A long winter like we just had, with lots of snow, actually helps it.”

The project was broken down into key deliverables. Excavation on the site started in 2013 and when the spring of 2014 came, the team was in a good position to finish the irrigation, drainage, sand cap and seeding.

“We did 18 holes from May 2014 to Labour Day,” says Giles. “NMP had a full crew of 50 guys, plus there were dedicated irrigation guys working here, too, seven days a week, non-stop.”

It helped that Mother Nature provided great weather for building last year.

“We had a very dry summer, which was a bonus that no one could have predicted,” Giles adds. “Because it was so dry, and we were doing the grow-in on 18 holes, the water demand was big. To alleviate this, three artificial ponds were built on site. We had the capacity for about 10 million gallons of water in these ponds and used nearly all of it.”

When they open this summer, Wallace says the biggest challenge he and his crew will have from a turf and maintenance point of view is simply managing the course with all the projected traffic.

“Early season bookings are already substantial,” he says. “We are going to be busy right out of the gate. I’ll need to keep an eye on the overall product to make sure it doesn’t get beat up too much.”

Wallace initially plans to have a crew of between 15 and 20 as he figures out the proper mowing and maintenance schedules this may change.

“The biggest hurdle to maintenance is how spread out it is,” the superintendent says. “Carts are mandatory because of the separation of the holes.”

Leave the last word to McBroom; he says The Links at Brunello is a great addition to the Halifax market.

“They have not had a good golf course since Glen Arbour opened about 20 years ago. You think of other major golf markets, you had a lot of new courses in the boom years from 1995 to 2008. They are playing catchup now. Coupled with the two Cabot courses, Nova Scotia is going to be back on the golf tourist map.

“What I like about the course is that it feels like it’s been there for 100 years. That is something I’m pretty proud of.”

Golf Course Design: Nicklaus, Palmer and Player

Imagination. Innovation. Ingenuity.

These traits have guided the golf design decisions, from the initial site visit to the finished fairways, of the Big Three players cum architects, Palmer, Nicklaus and Player.

As golf’s elder statesmen, these luminaries hold 36 major golf titles between them, and they share a love of great design. Each, in their own right, (even though none of them feels as if they have a distinct trademark) have put their stamp on the world of golf course architecture. Courses designed by all three have held major professional tournaments, with Palmer’s K Club in County Kildare, Ireland having hosted, recently, the 2006 Ryder Cup.

“Imagination is very important in designing golf courses,” says Player. “Sometimes you are given a lousy piece of ground and that actually makes me work harder.”

This labor of love begins with a vision: the designer imagines what a piece of land can become. Once this vision crystallizes and takes shape, an architect needs to have the imagination, innovation and ingenuity to sculpt something beautiful and functional out of the land that will appeal to golfers of all ages and abilities. All the while, the man behind this vision must take into consideration environmental issues and advancements in technology, which might affect his original dream.

“I’m a great believer in beauty because people are working under great stress every week in their lives, so when they go out to golf it must be a tonic,” Player says. “It’s like when you go to Cypress Point or Pebble Beach early in the morning, you just get a feeling of peace of being around nature.”

This love of the land and commitment to preserve the wonders that Mother Nature has blessed us with is also at the heart of the philosophies guiding the creations of Nicklaus and Palmer.

“The goal of any designer should be to create a beautiful place to play golf,” says Nicklaus. “After all, if you are going to spend four hours on a golf course, you want it to be an enjoyable, aesthetically pleasing and memorable experience. I always say that you wouldn’t choose a rock quarry for a picnic, would you?”

This talented triumvirate also believe a great golf course is one that can be enjoyed by both the 20-handicapper and the professional golfer.

“The game is meant to be fun,” stresses Nicklaus. “I don’t design courses to suit myself as far as difficulty goes. I design them to match the golfers who are going to play the course. Golf is a game of precision, not strength. It’s a thinking person’s game. There’s no challenge in just whacking the ball. A golf course should be enjoyable and offer variety to every golfer, no matter what his or her level of skill or strength.”

Palmer concurs: “I like to make it so everyone who walks out on that course can enjoy it whether they are good players or bad players or a family going out to have a round of golf and the companionship that is created by touring an acceptable 18 holes.”

“There is definitely a knack to doing that and a great architect has that knack,” Player chips in.

Nicklaus recently celebrated a design milestone when the 300th Nicklaus Design golf course opened worldwide — Sebonack Golf Club in Southhampton, N.Y., a collaborative effort with architect Tom Doak. Flash back to 1969 and a neophyte Nicklaus, seven years into his professional playing career, teamed up with a rising course designer named Pete Dye to create Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C. That was, in essence, the beginning of Nicklaus Design. Even though the Golden Bear is playing less championship golf, his second career shows no signs of slowing down. Today, the fire to sculpt fairways and bunkers burns as strong as his desire to fire approach shots at the flagstick did during the heyday of his playing career. Nicklaus Design currently is developing courses in 32 different countries.

“Golf is a global game,” says Nicklaus. “We embrace each opportunity to introduce golf or grow it in new countries and emerging markets.”

Thirty-five years since he began to dabble in design, Palmer and his design team have also left their stamp across the globe. Palmer Course Design has nearly 300 active projects and has opened golf courses in 38 states and 23 countries.

Player adds, “we are currently building a golf course in a game reserve, and we are also building a golf course in Bulgaria, along the cliffs, where the views and topography are as good as, or better than, Pebble Beach.”

Respecting Mother Nature

The Big Three share a commitment to the environment. Palmer believes golf courses enhance nature, not destroy it, “I have seen golf courses that became a habitat for animals and various forms of wildlife after the course was completed.”

Nicklaus refers to environmental issues as “challenges,” rather then “concerns.”

“We have always prided ourselves on being a firm that embraces such challenges, works closely with the necessary agencies, and then accomplishes what works best for the environment and the client,” he explains. “We are here to enhance what Mother Nature has provided, not destroy it. I believe all our golf courses are environmentally friendly.” According to Nicklaus, more than 40 of his courses in the United States have been involved in Audubon International programs.

Look no further than Old Works in Anaconda, Montana, which opened in 1997, to see Nicklaus’ environmental approach in action. “The site was a copper-smelting facility at the turn of the 20th century and had been abandoned for decades,” comments Nicklaus. “Through hard work from our design team, and the commitment of Anaconda and government officials, we were able to turn an eyesore into something beautiful that not only created something the city could be proud of, but also produced jobs and additional tourism.” After it opened, the Environmental Protection Agency wrote a personal letter to Nicklaus, applauding his design efforts. The project was also recognized with the 1998 Golf Digest Environmental Leaders in Golf Award.

For Player, environmental issues such as water preservation, minimizing the amount of fertilizer used, and proper drainage are always at the forefront of his planning, “Being a rancher I have a great feeling for the soil and for not wasting water. You’ve got to make golf and a golf course a gift to nature. You try to improve on the piece of ground … bring in birds, fish, and animals, have trees to fight pollution, have lakes, and use as much effluent water and rain water as possible.

“Above all you need to have good drainage … good drainage makes a very big difference to the growth of a golf course, to the condition of the golf course and how it gets the water absorbed.”

Technological advances alter design

Technological advances continue to revolutionize the game. As clubs and balls enable players to make longer shots everywhere on the course, these advances have altered the way this talented trio approaches new course designs.

“We are forced to lengthen the courses to some unbelievable distances today,” Palmer says. “When I started designing golf courses it was certainly in the ballpark to design a course that was somewhere short of, or maybe slightly over, 7,000 yards, and that was not unusual. Now we are looking at 7,600 yards because of the ball and technical advances of golf equipment.”

“There isn’t a course we open today that isn’t obsolete tomorrow because of equipment,” adds Nicklaus, weighing in on this technology debate. “We certainly have to stretch the yardages on all our projects to accommodate technology. But having said that, I think we actually focus more of our design from the member perspective than we used to since technology has affected the game at the higher levels more than for the average player. While touring professionals are getting longer and longer, I don’t necessarily think technology has made the average golfer that much better.”

Player and Nicklaus share a design solution for addressing this “length issue.” “I try to leave a little bit of ground at the start of each hole, so if necessary you can go back,” says Player. Nicklaus concurs with this approach since he says that less than two per cent of all golf is played from the back tees. “We tend to design more from the member tees and forward,” he says. “Then, we try to go back and find enough land on a hole to accommodate the big hitters or better players.”

Whether accommodating the big hitters or catering to the weekend golfer, when the designs are done and the fairway frolicking has begun, Player sums up best what, for the Big Three, a good golf course should provide for players.

“When you design a good golf course you give people pleasure for a thousand years,” he concludes. “That is a very big decision … to give people pleasure not punishment.”

Sidebar:

Describe your favourite or most unique hole that you have designed.

Nicklaus:

Club: Four Season Golf Club Punta Mita, situated 25-miles north of the Puerto Vallarta airport in Mexico

Hole: third, par-3, 194 yards from back tee

“This hole is in the ocean. In what might be a design first, this par-3 features an island green sitting on a rock formation in the Pacific … there is a little bailout area right, so it could play as short as 165 yards. There are bunkers back and left of the green, so it protects your ball from getting in the rocks. At low tide, golfers can walk to the green on a path of hand-laid rock or take their golf car. At high tide, the hole is still playable as golfers are taken to the green in an amphibious vehicle.”

Palmer:

Club: Bay Hill Club, Orlando, Florida

Hole: 18th, par-four, 441 yards from the back tees

“The 18th at Bay Hill is a great hole in that you can do so much with it. First of all, off the tee you have a lake on the right, which stretches all the way to the front of the green. If you just get up and hit a tee shot without any thought you could end up in the lake off the tee. Then, you are looking at a green that is not very deep, it’s set into an amphitheatre-type situation … narrow with sand traps on the back and water in the front. It requires great precision off the tee and an even greater shot into the green.”

Player:

Club: The Lost City, Sun City, South Africa

Hole: 13th, par three

“You hit out of the mountains into the desert below and onto a green that is the shape of Africa. The traps around the green are filled with three colors of sand found in South Africa: yellow for the gold mines, red for the agriculture and white for the beaches. In a pool, on the left of the green we put in 38 crocodiles.”

This story was published in a special Rolex magazine called Perpetual Spirit on The Big Three.

Canadian golf mourns death of Dan Halldorson

Richard Zokol gazed Thursday at a 23-year-old bottle of Dom Perignon on his shelf and wept.

The bottle of vintage champagne was a gift from his good friend, Dan Halldorson. The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member died this week at his home in Cambridge, Ill., at the age of 63.

News of the native Manitoban’s death shook up the Canadian golf world Thursday. Zokol spoke about the special gift he received from his confidante, friend and former playing partner after Zokol won the Greater Milwaukee Open in 1982 for his first PGA Tour victory.

“I’ve never opened the bottle and I never will,” said the 57-year-old when reached over the phone in Vernon, B.C., where he now lives. “It brings back great memories.”

Zokol learned about his friend’s massive stroke when fellow Canadian Golf Hall of Famer Dave Barr called with the news. Shortly thereafter he reached Dan’s wife Pat, who confirmed the news; the pair shared tears and many memories.

“Dan became a very close friend over the years,” Zokol recalled. “He was a soft-spoken person and a man of few words, but he was lovely to be around. We spent over two decades travelling together, playing many practice rounds together, in major championships, and in regular PGA Tour events. We went out to dinner together often and drowned each other’s sorrows in the bar into the late hours of the evening when we missed cuts.”

At times, over the phone, Zokol’s voice was shaky as he shared memories about his departed friend. Now that he’s gone, Zokol stressed there will be a lot of celebration of his life – giving this quiet, unassuming friend, who not many truly knew, the tributes he deserves.

“It’s time to celebrate the great man that Dan was,” said the two-time PGA Tour winner.

Zokol shared one fond memory from a time the pair was playing the Dunhill Cup qualifying tournament in Singapore. “We were taking the ferry back from the golf course and Dan was exhausted. It was hot and I was in a kidding mood. He had to get away from me because he couldn’t rest with me around since I was always tickling him behind his ear.

“I waited for him to go find some solitude somewhere; he fell asleep and I walked up behind him and tickled the hair on the back of his neck. I remember him coming right out of his skin. I laughed like crazy. He got so mad at me, but that is what friends do.”

Coach. Mentor. Friend. Quiet and unassuming. Fun to be around. A gentleman of the game. Those are just a few of the words and the phrases shared by those who knew Halldorson well when asked to remember his legacy — on and off the course.

Lorne Rubenstein, a fellow Golf Hall of Fame member, and one of the finest golf writers this country has known, was saddened by the news.

“Dan was a great guy and a big supporter of Canadian golf … He was fun to watch. Like Bruce Lietzke, he always hit the ball the same way almost every time, he didn’t try to hit many other shots or mess around too much.”

Rubenstein added that, even though Halldorson was a quiet guy, whenever the golfer spoke, you listened. “You knew he just didn’t say things frivolously or for a quote. He put a lot of thought into whatever he said and he also had a dry and rye sense of humour. Besides the writer/golfer relationship, I just enjoyed being around him. He made you feel good.”

John Saksun who founded golf club manufacturer Accuform Golf in 1975 (which Halldorson represented his entire career) spent a lot of time with the professional golfer over the years; he always enjoyed his company. Saksun was shocked by the news of his friend’s passing.

“Dan was only four months older than me,” he said.

Saksun learned the bad news from Halldorson’s daughter Angie. Like Rubenstein, he spoke of his late friend’s great sense of humour. “He was a quiet guy, but he could really crack you up too,” he recalled. “I remember being at PGA Tour events and laughing most of the round with him … he had to back off many of his shots.”

Halldorson will be dearly missed by the Canadian golf community. He had many friends and spent a lot of time helping grow the Canadian Tour, ensuring that future generations had a place to hone their game and take one more step towards their dream of making the PGA Tour.

Appropriately, his widow Pat has said she will take her late husband’s ashes to St. Andrews, where they will be spread at the home of golf.

As the golf industry learned news of the Canadian golf legend’s passing, many via social media, the tributes followed fast from friends, fellow golfers, and industry colleagues.

Dan Halldorson’s competitive accomplishments as an amateur and professional across the provincial, national and international golf landscape included:

1970 Manitoba Junior champion

1971 Manitoba PGA champion

1977 Saskatchewan Open champion

1977, 1978, 1983, 1984 Manitoba Open champion

1980 Quebec Open champion

1980 Pensacola Open champion (PGA Tour)

1980 World Cup champion (with Jim Nelford)

1983 Canadian Tour Order of Merit winner

1985 World Cup champion (with Dave Barr)

1986 Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic champion (PGA Tour)

1982 Colorado Open champion

1986 PGA of Canada Championship winner

28 top-10 finishes in 431 PGA Tour events

Keeper of The Greens: Tom Vlach

There’s more to the sport of golf than swings and slices. With an assist from the UW’s soil science department, this Badger turned his interest in the game into a career, helping others to get the most out of their golf experience.

Tom Vlach ’91 keeps a large white- board next to his desk, though very little white space is left on it. It’s filled with scribbled plans, procedures, key dates, and weekly schedules.

The board is Vlach’s road map for the work that lies ahead in the weeks and months to follow: his detailed plan to make sure the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida — where Vlach serves as the director of agronomy — is ready to host the world’s best golfers when the PGA Tour’s Players Championship comes to town in May.

Agronomy is the science of soils and plants, meaning that Vlach does more than watch the grass grow. He applies the tools of research to maintain his course in top condition.
Prepping for the Tour’s “unofficial fifth major” — with its purse of nearly $10 million, and sixty thousand specta- tors expected daily — is no easy task.

It requires long hours and a collaborative effort: measuring soil temperatures, growing the grass to the right heights, aerifying greens, monitoring green speeds, trimming trees that could endanger spectators, and working with countless contractors who install the acres of corporate tents, skyboxes, and television towers. The task list seems endless.
And as soon as the PGA Tour leaves town, Vlach and his crew start preparations for next year’s event.
Running a top-level golf course leaves little time for leisure. Maintaining the greens where the well-heeled play and fans watch the sport’s best perform takes a talented team of seventy-five full- and part-time staff and an addi- tional eighty volunteers. Vlach’s role is to “cast the vision,” and his staff carries it out. But it took a Badger education and a career’s worth of experience to teach him how to see what a course could be.

Vlach grew up in Lake Geneva, Wis- consin, where he spent his freshman year of high school before moving with his family to Coral Springs, Florida, for his sophomore, junior, and half of his senior year. The move south was fortu- itous — it exposed Vlach, up close, to the PGA Tour. At the time, the Honda Classic was played at nearby TPC Eagle Trace. A teenaged Vlach volunteered during the event, working with the turf and maintenance crew to fill divots and rake bunkers. Cue Vlach’s Aha! moment.

“I realized this is what I wanted to do for a living,” he recalls.

But it was the UW that taught Vlach how to turn that interest into a career. His family returned to Wiscon- sin at the end of his senior year in high school, and he enrolled at Wisconsin due to its reputation. “It was big in agricul- ture,” he says, “and it was also close to home.” As an undergrad, he connected with adviser Wayne Kussow, a profes- sor in the soils department. “He took a personal interest in me,” Vlach says. “He guided me into classes when he felt I was ready for them, not what the cookie- cutter approach was. … He opened his lab for me right on campus, making it convenient to always have a place to study in between classes.”

After graduating, Vlach discovered that being a Wisconsin alumnus auto- matically made him part of an elite club. He quickly found his first job at TPC Sawgrass as a crew foreman.

“I got some experience, and then I made my next career jump,” he recalls. “From there I went to my first superin- tendent’s job. At twenty-three, I was the youngest superintendent in the country and also the youngest nationally certified greenskeeper in the United States.”

He soon became head superinten- dent at Twin Rivers in Obiedo, Florida, and two years later was superintendent at a Golf Digest Top 100 club: Pine Tree in Boynton Beach, Florida, just south of Palm Beach, where he served as the direc- tor of golf maintenance in the mid-1990s.

“That was a big jump up,” Vlach says. “That club was the wealth of America, and they had high expectations. Mem- bers included Rush Limbaugh, Mario Lemieux, as well as golfing greats Sam Snead, Karrie Webb, and Beth Daniels. It was definitely a ‘golfer’s club.’ ”

Vlach spent five years at Pine Tree rebuilding the golf course, then moved on to Birmingham, Alabama, where he settled for ten years. In 2008, he received a call that a longtime friend at TPC Sawgrass was retiring. The opportunity — and the itch to return to a course that hosted a PGA Tour event — were too strong to resist. Five years later, he still loves the daily challenges of his job here.

Two months before the 2013 PGA Tour tournament, Vlach and his crew are in overdrive mode, knowing that the details of landscaping can make the difference between the event’s success or failure. The PGA Tour is Vlach’s boss, and its headquarters are on site. Each year, the Tour requests changes to the Stadium Course: challenges for the world’s best golfers, and enhancements to make the fans’ experience — whether in person or on TV — more enjoyable.

This year the club decided to construct a series of buildings to house permanent restrooms for the players and patrons so that it can dispense with portable toilets. But adding plumbing to serve tens of thousands of impatient spectators is no simple task.

“That’s a lot of bathrooms to build!” Vlach jokes. “But one of the biggest comments we get from customers who purchase tickets for a nice skybox is that they have to go to the bathroom in a portalet. We are really trying to change that image and let people know that if you are flying here from Spain to watch a golf event, we can at least provide you
with a bathroom.”

In addition, Vlach has had to re-landscape the spectator mound behind the seventh green to make it easier on fans. The slope must be steep enough so that those in back can see over those in front, but not so steep as to hurt their ankles as they stand for hours. “There’s a certain pitch we aim for,” he says. In the coming years, he’ll have to match that pitch on other holes as well.

These are the concerns that drive modern golf courses.

“Greenskeeping today is becoming much more of a business,” Vlach says. “You need to be a well-rounded superintendent. The days of just being a good grass-grower are over. You have to be able to manage budgets, and you have to be able to work with people. You are not on an island down in the shop anymore.”

Lessons from the Gridiron
Golf and football may not have much in common, other than that both are played on grass (or a rea- sonable facsimile). But Tom Vlach cites Barry Alvarez, the UW’s former football coach and current athletic director, as an indirect mentor.
In 2003, Vlach was working as the director of golf maintenance at Greystone Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, Alabama,
when he was elected president of the Alabama Golf Course Superintendents’ Association. Alvarez heard this news and sent a congratulatory note, saying that he had made Badgers everywhere proud.

“That was a very motivational letter, which I still have today,” Vlach comments.

Since then, Vlach has followed Alvarez’s career. Last fall, the superinten- dent returned to Madison to show his two eldest daughters the campus. While there, Vlach made sure they attended the football game against the University of Texas-El Paso. On game-day morning, he ran into Alvarez, who posed for a picture with Vlach and his daughters.

“It was neat being at the UW while [Alvarez] was rebuilding the foot- ball program,” Vlach says. “The team was horrible when he arrived, so it was great to see someone come in with a plan and a vision. I learned a lot from his philosophy, which was, simply: ‘You can overcome obstacles if you surround yourself with good-quality people.’”


By the Numbers: The PGA Tour’s Players Championship Preparation
$80,000:
Total expenses for TPC Sawgrass’ volunteer program
170:
Total tournament staff for 2013 event
80:
Number of volunteer turf staff brought in from around the world
24,000:
Number of annuals planted prior to the tournament
200:
Approximate tons of Florida Rock 302 T sand added to bunkers begin- ning in February to repair sand traps after resort guests’ use
30:
Number of staff required to rake
the bunkers by hand each day begin- ning one week before the Players Championship
18 BADGER Insider
30:
Number of semi-trucks of pine straw applied throughout the property
10:
Number of turf crew who run hoses
each evening to treat hot spots
60,000:
Approximate number of people who attend the Players Championship daily during the tournament

Mother Nature, it’s not nice to fool superintendents

Mother Nature is certainly cruel. She’s also unpredictable. Just ask any GCSAA member. Weather is a subject never far from their minds. It’s also a topic every greenkeeper could talk about for days — especially the shake-up in the seasons over the past 12 months and how it’s caused them to lose sleep and affected their budgets.

“I hope global warming is a hoax!” one greenkeeper I chatted with joked.

Superintendents in New York State who were cutting fairways in February can relate. So, too, can greenkeepers on the other coast who wished Mother Nature had delivered more snow last winter.

Since March, I’ve written a weekly blog (Turf Talk) for PGATOUR.com. Writing this column has given me the chance to chat with many superintendents. Each week when I asked them to name their biggest challenge, the unanimous reply was Mother Nature. From extreme weather such as Texas tornadoes and Gulf Coast hurricanes to ordinary rainfall (and lack thereof), greenkeepers have had their hands full battling the weather this season; it’s a battle — they all admit — you can’t win.

“Weather is a constant topic of discussion,” says Brad Eshpeter, golf course superintendent at Canada’s RedTail Landing Golf Club in Edmonton, Alberta. “There are many books published on the subject, and a lot of people have opinions on the weather. It’s an element that greatly affects our bottom line, but it is something we can’t control, so we just must deal with it. Give the golfer a good product and then let them decide. I tend to think positively. What is wrong with a good thunder and lightning show every now and again?”

Jim Thomas, CGCS, director of golf course maintenance at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn., which hosts the PGA Tour’s St. Jude Classic, has his own take on the subject. “If the weather is good, you can prepare the golf course agronomically and turfwise. It’s a factor I can’t control,” says the 31-year GCSAA member.

Winter wear and tear
Like an unannounced funnel cloud, things started to really spin out of control for superintendents when they were faced with the winter that wasn’t. This lack of snow resulted in a very early spring causing superintendents to put planned winter projects aside and open early. For seasonal golf courses this meant an increase in labor and maintenance costs; staff were hired sooner — more than a month in many cases — resulting in tired and unmotivated crews as the season wore on and on. This is why Scott White, GCSAA Class A golf course and grounds manager at Donalda Club in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, can’t wait for his private course to close this fall.

“There was no impact more dramatic this year than the wear and tear the staff have felt from me on down,” said the 14-year GCSAA member when we chatted in late August as he and his assistant were en route to play golf on a rare day off, after working more than 37 hours in the first three days that week. “I’ve never felt so worn down so early and felt our staff had checked out so early.”

While the summer of 2012 has been mainly hot, humid and dry, a few heavy rainfalls have caused a couple of floods at Donalda. White says these storms were nothing they could not handle. They paled in comparison to the challenge of dealing with his crew’s fatigue — a direct result of Mother Nature’s unpredictability and one of the earliest openings in the club’s 50-year history.

“Guys literally went from zero to overdrive in two weeks as opposed to our normal soft opening rush of golf the first weekend and then it dies off,” White comments. “None of that happened this year. I remember my assistant looking at one of the golf industry websites that talked about guys in New York State cutting their fairways in mid-February. We had had some pretty warm weather by then, but we thought that was excessive. But, sure enough, one week later, we started to wonder how long we could push our own opening off. We knew Mother Nature wasn’t going to save us.”

TPC Sawgrass’s response to weather extremes includes the installation of HVAC units on every green (pictured) and applications of green pigment and black sand to attract sunlight and help heat up the surfaces of the putting greens.

Stress strategies in Florida
Heading south from Toronto to the Sunshine State, still more tales about Mother Nature emerge. For Tom Vlach, CGCS, director of golf maintenance operations at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, it was a winter at the other extreme two years ago that led the home of the The Players Championship to make some dramatic changes.

“We learned from weather in 2010,” the 22-year GCSAA member explains. “We had a tremendously record-setting (cold) winter, and that winter really set in motion the things we did in 2011.”

“We’ve got many tools we can play with. Mother Nature will always win, but this allows us to put our best foot forward.”
— Tom Vlach, CGCS
The TPC Sawgrass maintenance staff covers the bermudagrass greens when temperatures dip below 40 degrees. In 2009, they only covered the greens three times, but in the harsher winter of 2010, this number skyrocketed to 45.

“We are a high-traffic facility that sees lots of golf in the winter,” Vlach says. “We learned to manage our dormant bermudagrass with the following program. Instead of letting the greens go completely dormant, we first apply a green pigment to the putting surfaces. We spray this approximately every two weeks to attract sunlight, and that actually heats up the surface of our greens by 2 degrees.

“Then, instead of topdressing in the wintertime to achieve smooth ball roll, Vlach and his crew put out white sand, but they took this a step further.

“We went to our manufacturer and asked them to dye this sand black, which raised the soil temperatures another two degrees. The combination of the green paint and the black sand resulted in our greens warming up an extra 4 degrees. That doesn’t seem like much, but an extra 4 degrees, on average, every day, certainly helps,” Vlach concludes.

TPC Sawgrass did not stop there, spending significant capital to do something “pretty drastic,” according to Vlach, that most clubs could not do. The course installed HVAC heaters on every green, so now when temperatures dip below 40 degrees they can blow warm air onto their greens throughout the winter months. They can even isolate where the air flows in specific strips to heat specific colder spots on the putting surfaces.

The high cost of salvation
Last winter was a bit warmer in Florida, so TPC Sawgrass didn’t have to cover the greens as much, but Vlach says they definitely used the green pigment, the black sand and the heaters.

“We had an increase of traffic, but the greens handled it because we were putting these other inputs into them,” he explains. “Otherwise, if we go dormant here in north Florida and just pound the traffic through them, we would wear them out to dirt, so we have to try to keep them growing.”

Vlach says these capital improvements were mainly made at the request of the PGA Tour to make sure the Stadium Course was ready for golf’s unofficial fifth major each spring. “This allows us to get firm and fast for The Players,” Vlach adds. “If we overseeded, come May we would have to water the greens and soften the place up. Instead, with the warm-season bermudagrass, we can put these heaters on and get the place cranking.”

Besides the installation costs for this sophisticated heating and cooling system, which was well over $1 million, fuel costs have also risen as a result. Because it was so warm last winter, the veteran greenkeeper estimates they spent an additional $12,000 to $15,000 in fuel since they were mowing much earlier. This technology also cools the greens if they get too hot in the summertime.

“We’ve got many tools now we can play with,” Vlach concludes. “Mother Nature will always win, but this allows us to put our best foot forward.”

A new normal in Reno

“Just like the rest of the country, the weather certainly affected us,” says Doug Heinrichs, CGCS at Montreux Golf and Country Club in Reno, Nev. “But for us, it was more of a lack of weather.”

“The lack of moisture from November through March, combined with winter winds and humidity that barely reached into the teens, were too much for the turf to handle.”
— Doug Heinrichs, CGCS
While most greenkeepers were happy winter’s embrace was loose, Heinrichs wished Mother Nature had dropped a few more flakes. The superintendent at the host course for the PGA Tour Reno-Tahoe Open says the lack of snow meant spring came early and the grass suffered.

“Normally we get between 6 to 10 feet of snow, and this past year we only had 4 to 5 inches. We lost a lot of turf and had to reseed much of the course,” says the 25-year GCSAA member.

This early spring also caused the greenkeeper to turn on the irrigation taps ahead of schedule. The results were disastrous. “Many pipes and sprinkler heads broke,” Heinrichs says. “We could only do that for a bit before we had to turn the system off again.”

Montreux G&CC sits nearly 6,000 feet above sea level, so water management is an ongoing issue. The course relies on a mountain creek for much of its H2O, and this year the creek is at the lowest levels Heinrichs has ever seen.

“We have gotten a total rainfall of 0.2 inch — note the decimal point — on the course so far this year, and the temperatures have certainly been well above normal,” he says. “That being said, we are getting used to the hot dry summers, but it was definitely the lack of winter that hit us so hard. Typically, in the winter, we sit under several feet of snow since Montreux is at 6,000 feet elevation. Even though our mild winters constantly melt the snow, the Sierras have always provided more.

“This year was definitely the exception. In total, we received about 4 inches of snow over the entire winter. We started our irrigation system back up in December, but the cold nighttime temperatures were wreaking havoc on our irrigation system, and we were forced to shut it back down. The lack of moisture from November through March, combined with winter winds and humidity that barely reached into the teens, were too much for the turf to handle.”

Greens under plastic
In total, Montreux lost about one-third of the turf on its greens and fairways — primarily the Poa annua — due to desiccation. Realizing the damage in early March and knowing they were at least four weeks out before the soil temperatures would allow any seed growth, Heinrichs had some decisions to make.

“I’m not a real patient man,” he admits, “so we immediately ordered 40-feet by 100-feet rolls of clear plastic sheeting for our greens — the largest sheeting we could find without a special order. The clear sheeting creates a greenhouse effect by allowing the sunlight in, trapping the heat and raising the soil temperatures.”

While waiting for the plastic sheeting to arrive, Heinrich’s crew double verticut, double quadratined and spiked the greens in several directions before seeding with Dominant Extreme bentgrass. Then, when the sheeting arrived, all the greens were covered with the help of 3⁄8-inch rebar and sod staples. After the first day, Heinrichs says the soil temperatures went from the low 30s to the mid-50s during the day, but dropped back down at night.

“After a week, the soil temperatures were reaching into the high 70s. It was obvious we were accomplishing our goal as the seed was popping in no time and the existing bentgrass that survived the winter was growing and healthy. The challenge we now faced was managing the existing bentgrass while trying to grow-in the new seedlings all under plastic sheeting.

“Reluctantly, we had to remove all the sheeting at least twice a week, not only to mow the existing turf, but also to irrigate and allow the turf and soil to breathe.”

Recovering from catastrophe

Clear plastic sheeting created a greenhouse effect over Montreux G&CC’s newly seeded bentgrass greens, but the covers had to be removed at least twice a week for mowing and irrigation.

For several weeks, 12 of Heinrichs’ staff members worked full time removing and re-installing covers until the seedlings gained some maturity and the soil temperatures rose enough naturally to allow for some turf growth. As soon as the soil temperatures hit 50 degrees in the fairways, they double-verticut and seeded them with ryegrass before topdressing with humus.

“Of course, Mother Nature wasn’t just going to sit around and watch the seed grow. Instead she gave us a colder March than any of the previous winter months and threw in a bunch of wind to make sure our covers were always on the edge of taking flight.”

“The humus absorbs the sunlight and heats up the soil as well as retains moisture on the surface for seedling growth,” Heinrichs explains. “Of course, Mother Nature wasn’t just going to sit around and watch the seed grow. Instead she gave us a colder March than any of the previous winter months and threw in a bunch of wind to make sure our covers were always on the edge of taking flight!”

Overall, the superintendent says being proactive with the greens covers and seeding Montreux G&CC’s fairways under the proper soil temperatures proved to be a huge success.

“We recovered from catastrophic turf loss with only a one-week delay in our scheduled opening date of April 7. Though I thought we did what we could over the winter months to protect our turf, there were still lessons to learn. Our greens and fairways only recently turned to Poa, and mixing the least tolerant turfgrass with the driest winter ever recorded for us was not a healthy combination.

“After we realized the irrigation system would not be useful due to the cold nights, we watered the greens during the winter by hand with 300-gallon sprayers, but it obviously wasn’t enough. Even dormant, the turf needs moisture, and the dry winter winds were sucking up everything we were putting out. In future dry winters, we will be monitoring our greens with moisture meters and hand-water with water tanks daily if need be.”