The 5 myths of golf course maintenance

The 5 myths of golf course maintenance

Spring means the armchair experts are sharpening their wedges and taking aim at the superintendent, looking to place blame for conditions they don’t like. Forget the fact that Mr. Haversham is a 24 handicap who doesn’t know how to chip: The problem, he says, nearly sticking his finger in your chest, is the grass in front of the green is cut too short. (As much as you’d like to suggest that he take a short-game lesson from the pro, you wisely hold your tongue.)

April 16, 2015

Tim Moraghan

Spring means the armchair experts are sharpening their wedges and taking aim at the superintendent, looking to place blame for conditions they don’t like. Forget the fact that Mr. Haversham is a 24 handicap who doesn’t know how to chip: The problem, he says, nearly sticking his finger in your chest, is the grass in front of the green is cut too short. (As much as you’d like to suggest that he take a short-game lesson from the pro, you wisely hold your tongue.)

Another new year, another new chance for the public to misunderstand what we do and the constraints we’re under. The following myths are offered for two reasons. First, to anticipate the negative comments sure to come. Second, to arm you with some ammunition should you decide to respond. I’m not saying you should, but if nothing else, I hope busting these myths makes you feel better.
 

1. The superintendent overwaters

How often have you heard:“The course is too wet!” Well, golf is played outdoors, on grass, and every round tears up the turf. Would they rather have it too dry? We’re all at the mercy of Mother Nature. To say nothing of local water conservation ordinances, effluent water dumps, the distribution co-efficient of your aging irrigation system, the flood plain your course sits on, as well as the daily misinformation provided by the Weather Channel. Explain that the last thing you want to do is overwater because you know, far better than anyone else, how much damage it does to a healthy golf course.
 

2. The grounds crew has nothing to do in the off-season

When was the last time you were told to take the rest of the year off? Thought so. We’re on the job 24/7, 365 days a year. Even when the course is closed, we’re working. Of course, golfers don’t see us then, so they think we’re drinking coffee and playing cards in the maintenance facility during the off-season. Our public doesn’t see us in the office creating budgets, taking educational seminars, fixing equipment and getting ready for the coming season. I don’t have to tell you that the “quiet” months actually are the most productive of the year.
 

3. Greens get aerated so the golf course – and we – can rest

Every golfer hates aerification, accusing us of instituting this “invasive practice” exactly when the greens are at their best. How do we educate that aerification is a necessary evil? By explaining what happens if we don’t aerify. It’s simple: If golfers want healthy greens that withstand the onslaught of high-season play, we need to aerify just before play reaches its peak. Otherwise, greens become soft, wet and unhealthy, and getting them back into shape is very expensive.
 

4. Sustainability means a healthier, environmentally sensitive course

Our industry preaches sustainability, but I’m getting sick of the word. The synonyms for “sustainable” include maintain, prolong and uphold. In other words, continue what you are doing. But this isn’t in our job description, particularly not when we are being assaulted from all sides about protecting the environment. Plus, we all know the dirty truth: If we think a dry, colorless course is putting our jobs in jeopardy, we’ll be overwatering, overspraying and overfertilizing faster than you can say “brown is the new green.”
 

5. Televised golf is the standard

Every golfer after every round walks into the 19th hole, grabs a drink and settles down to watch the pros on the big-screen TV hanging over the bar. And what do they see? At one extreme, they see Augusta National, lush, green and perfect; at the other, it’s Pinehurst No. 2 during last year’s U.S. Open, playing firm, fast and faded. Do you want to have to copy one of those looks for your course? Neither condition is easily achieved, or desirable. (Augusta only looks like Augusta for about two weeks a year!) And even if they were attainable, television doesn’t portray the time spent, money invested, equipment and labor needed, and long, sleepless hours required to create what the committee demanded and the viewers saw. Your members need to know that how their course looks should be determined by climate, topography, maintenance budget, number of rounds played and countless other real-world limitations. But definitely not television.

If I didn’t hit your favorite myth, let me know what it is. Direct tweet me @timmoraghan and I’ll share your thoughts on my blog.

 

 

Tim Moraghan, principal, ASPIRE Golf (tmoraghan@aspire-golf.com). Follow Tim’s blog, Golf Course Confidential at http://www.aspire-golf.com/buzz.html or on Twitter @TimMoraghan