Long Island lessons

Departments - Teeing Off

June 5, 2019

A few observations after spending 80 hours on Long Island last month …

Persistence pays

This journey to a golf-rich region for the PGA Championship started with a stop at Meadow Brook Club. Dick Wilson, one of the more overlooked figures in golf course architecture history, designed a course for the club on a rolling piece of Jericho, N.Y., land following New York City power broker Robert Moses’s decision in the 1950s to route a parkway through the club’s previous site.

Superintendent John Carlone has the architectural history memorized and uses a map in his office to explain the evolution of Meadow Brook. Along with architect Brian Silva and golf author and historian Bradley Klein, Carlone ushered the club through its most recent renovation in 2016-17.

Carlone is a golf enthusiast – “I don’t know how you can do this job and not play golf,” he says – in his 23rd year as Meadow Brook’s superintendent. Even on the soggiest of Sundays, he offered a high-energy tour of the course, explaining the history, maintenance and strategy behind holes. The renovation ensures Meadow Brook will remain competitive in an ultra-competitive private club market.

Long Island lesson: Play golf and stay connected to what’s happening at neighboring facilities. The combination can help a superintendent strengthen a golf course for future generations.

Marvelous in May

New York State officials agreed in 2013 to host a PGA Championship at Bethpage State Park in August 2019. The PGA of America significantly altered the plan, announcing in 2017 it would be moving the championship to May beginning in 2019.

Led by director of agronomy Andy Wilson and Black Course superintendent Mike Hadley, the Bethpage turf team flawlessly handled the change. They adjusted programs, most notably the aerification schedules and native grass management, to provide terrific early-season conditions and aesthetics.

Instead of dwelling on potential pitfalls such as winter damage or cool temperatures stalling a spring green-up, they emphasized how May is a great time to putt on Poa annua greens in the Northeast. A mild winter increased optimism as the tournament approached, although Bethpage experienced a few 30-degree scares in late April. Decisions made before this spring set the foundation for Bethpage presenting a robust Black Course to the world.

Long Island lesson: Reinforce positives when the schedule changes and don’t cram for the big event.

Shinnecock Hills savvy

The terrain and people who maintain Shinnecock Hills Golf Club are inspiring.

From signage on the exterior urging proper visitor protocol to meticulously stacked laundry shelves, the maintenance facility exudes professionalism. The facility also exudes pride, evidenced by walls filled with annual team pictures, images of crew members using equipment, and flags of universities represented on superintendent Jon Jennings’s talented team. The spectacular upkeep of the facility promotes camaraderie and creativity.

The maintenance facility rests on a prominent spot of a storied property. Visitors of all ilk pass it. Anybody who enters the building quickly realizes Shinnecock Hills is a place where employees are driven to provide a world-class experience.

Long Island lesson: Maintaining an organized workspace and taking team pictures boost professionalism, morale and productivity. Neither tactic requires a Hamptons-sized budget.

Guy Cipriano Editor gcipriano@gie.net