Raymond Hearn Published Article

Is the Tree Program Working for Your Club? (cont)

Page Three

This problem’s obnoxious cousin is a canopy substantial enough to block of a significant portion of the green from all but a discreet area of the fairway, in turn demanding not just a shaped shot but a “tricked up” slice or hook. From the sublime to the ridiculous, this situation existed in 11 iterations at Bad Tree.

Marginal tree programs even have non-playing victims. A round with the greens committee chairman at Bad Tree included a conversation with two gentlemen who had evidently spent a good deal of the day searching for and playing balls in the woods. They complained about poor turf conditions in the dense forest, concluding that the club “needed to find a superintendent who could grow grass.” I felt compelled to respond that the most talented superintendent in America could not possibly grow healthy turf in these areas with virtually no sunlight. Even the bulging tree roots pointed to the lack of water and nutrients; worse, the same phenomenon was at work on numerous tees and fairways.

Most disheartening, though, was when extolled the shot-making challenge of tree canopy between fairway bunker and the green, thus largely eliminating the possibility of extricating oneself from difficulty with a quality bunker shot.

Such “double jeopardy” golf predicaments, I tried to explain diplomatically, were thought to be axiomatically unfair and undesirable among right-thinking golf course architects.

It goes without saying that the older your course, the more likely it is to be beset with the above difficulties, but my hunch is that one of them will resonate with most readers. In summary, you can assess the urgency a professional evaluation of your tree program by considering the existence and severity of the following;

1. The original design intent has been compromised by the trees currently on the course.
2. The trees are eliminating or greatly reducing the use of the driver as a viable club selection on certain tees.
3. Only one side of many tees is being overused because of tree canopies ahead of the tee.
4. Certain tree canopies fronting fairway bunkers have grown large enough to make standard, direct shots to the green (or second landing areas on par 5's) impractical if not impossible.
5. Approaches to greens are too restricted due to adjacent trees or parts thereof 6. Turf quality is being jeopardized by limited sunlight and lack of water, air and nutrients.
7. There are more trees on the golf course than grains of sand in your bunkers and the golf experience feels claustrophobic.

As a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects with an extensive track record in remodeling, renovation, and restoration, I recommend that you retain a golf course architect to review your current tree program. His or her expertise aside, the collaboration is invaluable in defusing intra-club tensions about how to achieve the mutually agreed-upon goal: the best course possible.

Devising the appropriate tree plan shouldn’t be harder than, say, hitting that 200-acre fairway – so, yes, it will almost always generate controversy. But like the one you stripe down the middle, it will feel really good.

The author, Raymond Hearn, is a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects and also heads the firm of Raymond Hearn Golf Course Designs (www.rhgd.com) located in Holland, Michigan.

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