Raymond Hearn Published Article

OK, SO MAYBE SPEED DOESN’T KILL, BUT IT SURE CAN HURT! (cont)

Page Three

I often tell superintendents to avoid this option unless they commit to a long term remodeling program which entails new USGA Greensmix being incorporated into all the remaining greens over no less then a 3 year time frame. If you can put up with greens that vary in how they putt and receive incoming shots for approximately 3 years after the initial remodeling begins while educating members or public play then this is a viable option. I am sad to report that many superintendents often find that members or public golfers significantly complain about the difference in the new green’s playability compared to the old unaltered greens during this time frame.

My company utilizes both methodologies described above and at times utilize a hybrid of the two. We also believe in off-site mixing using new Greensmix but while using a portion of the existing Greensmix in this new Greensmix being prepared. The new Greensmix must meet USGA Green Section Specifications by an approved soils testing laboratory in terms of overall testing requirements. Accordingly, the newly remodeled green(s) may not receive shots and putt exactly the same as other, unaltered greens. But they will much more closely approximate the receptivity and putting characteristics than would be the case using the two other strategies. And our experience confirms that the nominal expense and effort require to implement this hybridized methodology pays off in enhancing the golf experience. The problem with this methodology is that it will only work when remodeling portions of a few greens and you will need a source to start with i.e. a portion of a practice putting green or nursery green to borrow old Greensmix from to gather and transport off site to the company doing the mixing.

We also suggest recycling sod from the existing green and collar, where possible, to promote continuity between the old green and the remodeled edition. In cases where the remodeled green is larger then the former existing green, we advocate using sod from the collar for the green’s expansion, then gradually bringing down the height of this sod over time to the green’s mowing height. We recommend using

this collar height sod in the back of the green while the existing green sod from the back of the green can be used in the remodeled area. This methodology minimizes player disturbance as most players are short, left, or right in their approaches to a green versus long. Sod for the collar can then come from existing turf at the beginning of the fairway, then incrementally brought down in mowing height to that of the existing unaltered collar grass.

Naturally, special attention to maintenance issues is required initially to nurture newly planted or transplanted turf. Nonetheless, a comprehensive approach to the remodeling process will produce remodeled greens that soon blend in – esthetically and in terms of the maintenance they demand – with the course’s other green complexes.

Always more debatable than purely agronomic issues is the question of adulterating or compromising the original architect’s design intent. A perfectly legitimate concern, it inevitably leads to other questions: How important is this really to the membership or the regular patrons at the course being considered? Does the original designer enjoy a reputation that, in its own right, makes his work worth preserving? Can his perceived design intent be reconciled with the game’s modern-day evolution and the course’s overall goals?

An object lesson from our portfolio involving an anonymous private club in the eastern U.S. helps elucidate the delicate balance for which to strive. Designed by the legendary Willie Park, its heritage is beyond dispute. Still, with 27,000 rounds per year, the superintendent was struggling to maintain healthy turf conditions, particularly on a par 3 green where 70 percent of the 5,000-square-foot putting surface had grades of four to eight percent, sometimes more, while the remaining 30 percent had more comfortable contours of one to four percent. Similar proportions existed on four other greens and, as the superintendent was required to maintain putting speeds of 11 to 12, these were places where any three-putt was deemed a good effort.

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