I Was Wrong

If ever there was a year to appreciate golf on a brown surface this is it. In fact, the three USGA Championships I watched this year set the tone. From Olympic to Blackwolf Run and finally to Indianwood reminded me of something I was wrong about and also reminded that those of us in the golf turf industry might be part of the problem.

A few years ago I was interviewed after giving a presentation at the GIS in Orlando. During the interview I made a glib and dismissive comment about David Faye’s editorial during the US Open at Pebble Beach. Mr. Faye essentially was saying  “golf had gone too far, water is a precious resource and courses needed to be more brown”.

Not long after the interview went live on the web I received an email from Jim Moore, longtime USGA Green Section Staffer and current Director of Education. Jim called me out on my comment in just the way you’d think a Texan would give it to a NYer. He was right. I was wrong. I was flippant and worse, disrespectful.

But the story here is not my Mea culpa, rather it is the constant hum of golf turf managers I hear criticizing the USGA for the quality and playability of the courses in this year’s Championships. “Why do they have to let it get so brown?” “They need to put some water out those places are cooking.” “They look awful.” etc.

Jim was right. I was wrong. I was flippant and worse, disrespectful.”

Not everyone I speak to has this opinion. Many are actively embracing the dry, firm and fast conditions done much better with modern bentgrasses not so much with old annual bluegrass turf. This is a direction we need to be moving toward, but we need to do so smartly. Not all brown is good. Sometimes it is dead.

In this year of historic dry conditions across the country, the pressure to make golf more sustainable, and our constant longing to have some help with making golfer expectations more reasonable, the USGA seems to be trying. Rather than being part of the problem, this is the year for the golf turf industry to be part of the solution.

4 Responses to I Was Wrong

  • Chuck Barber says:

    I loved the Olympic Club for the Open. That is what true championship golf should look like. Easier said than done. I would love to figure out how to get that look while keeping the grass healthy and growing.

  • Michael Stachowicz says:

    What I see the USGA doing for these tournaments is to bring them to an edge that the course is not used to in regards to water. The courses seem to not be conditioned for this type of dry, firm, and fast conditioning and they end up drying out in a very spotty, inconsistent way. Providing a consistent firm and fast course is a long term commitment to the program that will allow for more tawny and brown and a uniform firmness. The way Olympic and Pebble were done there were bright green spots and very tan spots… very striking and not uniform.

    Olympic and Pebble would have been fine venues if left to the superintendent to produce as firm and fast as possible without being so draconian. But if the USGA wants to use the US Open as vehicle for brown, they need to make it look like a British Open course more than a fertilized and watered course that just had its water shut off for a week.

  • Mike you nailed it. Olympic was great compared to Pebble last year which looked and played goofy. They rarely showed a putt at green level because you could see the shrunk poa and lush bent and how it affected ball roll. I was very dissapointed to not have a brown Open this year. Usually my favorite tourney to watch.
    Doc, you are all on the right track and I went to a deep and infrequent on greens and somewhat on tees this year and it has been awesome. The saltwater intrusion forces me to switch to town water and flood the joint so fwys and rough are lush and slimy, where not dormant from drought.

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