Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

Contribute Positively to your golf course

Want to play Augusta National-like condi­tions?

Who wouldn’t, right? Augusta National has set the standard for playing and aesthetic condi­tions for years — probably since it was first televised in 1956. Alas, very few of us will ever experience Augusta Na­tional as a player nor many more of us the conditions seen at any of the Major Champi­onships.

However, you can contribute to better conditions at every course you play — especially at your home course.

Take in the following: As many of you may know, I’ve been working at Picacho Hills Golf Club. Their bunker project is humming along nicely and we are expecting a fully op­erational facility for the spring.

A recent meeting with the membership spawned this idea for my column. I don’t think we players have any idea how much time and effort the pro shop and maintenance staff put in to ensure our golfing experi­ence at its best. The PHCC staff and I have spent hours dis­cussing how best to handle our construction areas and how much of the course needs to be shut down to accomplish the project. The discussions have involved the pro shop staff, maintenance staff, general man­ager and me. Balancing the de­sires of members against proj­ect efficiency (how long to fin­ish the job) and cost was at the root of the meetings.

What does this have to do with course conditioning? Di­rectly, not much. But it led me to think about how much time these people spend at their jobs. I’m less familiar with what the golf professionals’ and gen­eral managers’ commitment levels are like, but I imagine it is similar to golf-course super­intendents. My work most often involves the superintendents and I am continually impressed with their devotion to their jobs. The overwhelming majori­ty (and I’ve worked closely with hundreds) bring a grand­mother’s housekeeping focus to their jobs — and why shouldn’t they? Many spend more time at their jobs than they do at home during long stretches of the sea­son.

I am privileged to be able to attend the regional chapter meetings of the Golf Course Su­perintendents Association of America. The actual owners of courses might not be too pleased to hear it, but at those meetings each course is associ­ated with its golf course super­intendent.

So, at the chapter meetings, it’s not uncommon that you might hear something like, “The next meeting is going to be at Joe’s,” — meaning the course where Joe is the superintend­ent. Certainly, there’s a matter of convenience in referring to a person at the meeting rather than the (usually much longer) name of the course such as: Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe. However, there is a certain recognition of the person’s commitment to the facility they manage as well.

So, let’s look at how a golf course superintendent’s “own­ership” of a facility might trans­late into better playing condi­tions for its patrons. With an adequate budget matching a su­perintendent’s enthusiasm for his/her job, it’s obvious that the course should be — and most often is — in excellent condi­tion. It’s like visiting the home of someone who has a full-time housekeeper. However, when a superintendent is asked to strive for the same level of con­ditioning without the commen­surate dollars, the maintenance staff becomes much more aware of each player’s mussing of their “house.” Think of what it might mean to you if visitors came to your house and didn’t wipe their feet, discarded pa­pers on your floor, or ignored spilled drinks. You’d think they didn’t respect you or your home, right?

In preparation for this article, I sent an email out to a number of superintendents that I know.

I asked them to complete the following sentence: “If I could get our patrons to do these things (insert one or more things) it would help the condi­tioning of our course so much.” The responses were consis­tent and, not surprisingly, they often toned down their desires with at least a hint of deferment to the patrons as the source of the course’s revenue. There’s nothing magical or mysterious about what they ask. Simply consider that you are a visitor and behave as you would have a visitor in your own house.

Among the most consistent requests were: 1. Repair ball marks and fill/replace divots, 2. Carefully rake bunkers and enter and exit from the low side and not up the faces, and 3. Stay on cart paths as much as possible, and/or as instructed by the starter.

And finally, there was a plea for players to respect the main­tenance and pro shop staffs.

Thank them when you have the opportunity and take reason­able care to avoid hitting them when they are working on the course.

None of us are perfect. We all forget or get too rushed on oc­casion. Sometimes the pressure to stay ahead of the group be­hind you will lead us to neglect our housekeeping duties. This shouldn’t happen.

Neglect your cell phone or the beverage cart, but disre­garding the conditioning of the course isn’t only a detri­ment to your game, it’s disre­spectful to those that pour their heart and soul into your experience.

A golf architect in New Hamp­shire for over 20 years, Arm­strong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects and is executive direc­tor for the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Associa­tion. Comment and view past ar­ticles at her blog: http:// roadholeshorts17.wordpress.com.

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