100 never looked so good at Pebble Beach Golf Links

By |  May 21, 2019 0 Comments
Chris Dalhamer, CGCS, is director of golf course maintenance for all four courses at Pebble Beach Resorts: Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, the Links at Spanish Bay and Del Monte Golf Course. (Photo: Joann Dost)

Chris Dalhamer, CGCS, is director of golf course maintenance for all four courses at Pebble Beach Resorts: Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, the Links
at Spanish Bay and
Del Monte Golf Course. (Photo: Joann Dost)

It’s been nine years since Pebble Beach Golf Links hosted the U.S. Open, but somehow it doesn’t seem so long ago. Time flies in Pebble Beach, Calif., something to which longtime assistant superintendent Jack Holt can attest.

“It’s been 38 years I’ve worked here, going on 39,” Holt says. “And I couldn’t tell you how that happened — it goes by so quickly. It’s unbelievable. This will be my fifth U.S. Open.”

Rick Pieper will celebrate his 39th year working for Pebble Beach Resorts this month. He started out as a “cart man” at Spyglass Hill before making the switch to the maintenance team when he learned he could go from $4 an hour to $6 an hour. After a few years on the crew, he fell in love with the gardener at Spyglass Hill, but she told him she wouldn’t date a coworker (or a married man), so Pieper asked the superintendent if he could get a transfer.

“The opportunity to take care of a historic property and to have great ownership that puts the resources into place ... you take pride in that," says Chris Dahlmer. (Photo: Joann Dost)

“The opportunity to take care of a historic property and to have great ownership that puts the resources into place … you take pride in that,” says Chris Dahlmer. (Photo: Joann Dost)

He got the transfer. Within two weeks, he was divorced, working at Pebble Beach and had a new girlfriend.

“It was at the beginning of getting ready for the ’92 U.S. Open … but I also worked the ’82 U.S. Open,” Pieper recalls. “We came over from Spyglass to help them out, because back then, the (U.S.) Open had the crew and maybe about four other extra guys. There were only about 15, 16 guys that would go out and get the course ready for the ’82 U.S. Open!”

It will be a crew of 140 maintaining the course the week of the 2019 U.S. Open — 40 members of the Pebble Beach crew plus 100 volunteers. Quite an upgrade from what Pieper remembers in 1982. But some things never change — he’s still working U.S. Opens at one of the finest golf courses in the world, and yes, he’s still married to that gardener.

Shine on, you crazy diamond

The 2019 U.S. Open begins June 13 and is the ultimate way for the course to celebrate its 100th anniversary. This will be the sixth U.S. Open played at Pebble Beach, with previous U.S. Opens at the course including the 1972, 1982, 1992, 2000 and 2010 tournaments. The Open will return again in 2027, and the Women’s U.S. Open will be played there in 2023.

Dalhamer takes a hands-on approach when it comes to keeping the course in pristine condition. (Photo: Joann Dost)

Dalhamer takes a hands-on approach when it comes to keeping the course in pristine condition. (Photo: Joann Dost)

It’s all par for the course for the diamond of American golf that is Pebble Beach. Chris Dalhamer, CGCS, is director of golf course maintenance for all four courses at Pebble Beach Resorts. Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, the Links at Spanish Bay and Del Monte Golf Course all fall under his jurisdiction.

Dalhamer says that although it sometimes can be a challenge for him and his staff, it never gets old caring for a “national treasure.”

“The opportunity to take care of a historic property and to have great ownership that puts the resources into the place … you take pride in that,” Dalhamer says. “You take pride in a national treasure, making sure you’re shining it. The day you don’t, you have to move on. We look at it as an honor. The footprint of this property is very special.”

Dalhamer started working at Pebble Beach as an intern in 1993. A native of the area, he fell in love with golf maintenance as a high school kid working on the crew at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach. He graduated from Chico State University, Chico, Calif., with a degree in business and a minor in plant science. He participated in the Northern California Golf Association’s internship program, which got him the internship at Pebble Beach. He was 18 months into the internship when the superintendent at the time, Mark Michaud, promoted him to assistant superintendent, a job he held for five years.

"Roller, mower and irrigation technologies — those are the top three things making our lives better,” Dalhamer says. (Photo: Joann Dost)

“Roller, mower and irrigation technologies — those are the top three things making our lives better,” Dalhamer says. (Photo: Joann Dost)

Dalhamer left to take the superintendent position at Carmel Valley Ranch Golf Club in Carmel Valley, Calif. When Troon Golf took over management of Carmel Valley, Dalhamer was promoted to one of Troon’s senior agronomist for the West Coast. A year later, Spyglass Hill, a course he’s always loved, called. Three years into his tenure as superintendent at Spyglass, the position at Pebble Beach opened up, and Dalhamer has never looked back.

And, how could he? With so many events on the books, there’s no time to look back.

“From August of 2018, we’re going to have two USGA events all the way to June of 2019,” Dalhamer says. “And then two PGA (Tour) events plus another tournament … we’re always in tournament mode. That’s a solid 10 months of tournament-mode building, breaking down, getting prepped.”

Assistant Superintendent Bubba Wright, who is in charge of managing the crew, calls it a “great opportunity,” and says the tightness of the crew makes it all work.

“It’s been a huge year for us. You look back to the U.S. Amateur (August of last year), (then) the week after that we had the Concours d’Elegance, then a month later the (PURE Insurance Championship impacting) First Tee, then the TaylorMade (Pebble Beach Invitational), then the AT&T (Pro-Am),” Wright says. “We’ve had a special nine months.”

The Pebble Beach team brings decades of knowledge to caring for the historic course. (Photo: Joann Dost)

The Pebble Beach team brings decades of
knowledge to caring
for the historic course. (Photo: Joann Dost)

Welcome to the machine

Thankfully, Pebble Beach has the tools — and the talent — to handle such a workload.

“We’ve got a great staff, and Chris has been a great mentor,” Wright says. “It’s a fast-paced environment, but the guys here are a huge part of what keeps me going every day. These guys are essentially like family.”

Charlie Almony comes from a superintendent family, with his grandfather, father and uncle all superintendents. He started at Pebble Beach in 2008, taking a step back from his previous job to work at the famed course. He’s now moved up to crew leader, and says Dalhamer is the best superintendent he has ever worked for (sorry, dad, grandpa and uncle).

“(Dalhamer) is out on the course with us, super hands on. We work side-by-side every morning when we’re on the course watering,” Almony says. “He cares about the crew, cares about the people, and it shows in the workplace … I want to stay at Pebble Beach for the rest of my life. I love this place.”

Jon Rybicki has been the mechanic at Pebble Beach Golf Links for the last five years. He has experience both as a mechanic and as an assistant superintendent, but what was new to him was the fury with which the Pebble Beach crew attacks a task.

“It’s just a different culture; it’s a machine,” Rybicki says. “When we go out to do something, we put all our effort into it and get it done quick, and a lot of golf courses aren’t like that — you take your time. That’s the biggest difference between a normal crew and this crew.”

Pebble Beach operates Jacobsen’s Eclipse II walking greensmowers, Jacobsen 550 fairway mowers and Jacobsen AR5 rotary mowers. The course installed a new Rain Bird IC irrigation system after the 2010 U.S. Open. “The ability to manage irrigation with iPads and phones is incredible,” Dalhamer says. “We have single-head control. Water here on the peninsula, and really all of California, is a big resource, so to manage it to the degree that we’re managing it with soil sensors and (to be) able to alter it at a whim is huge.”

While the course will play akin to the 2010 U.S. Open, one change will be the gained knowledge the course staff brings to the tournament since 2010, especially on the Poa annua greens. The United States Golf Association partnered with Pebble Beach to study the use of wetting agents on the course, hoping to have the greens slick yet attractive in June.

“We’ve worked in conjunction with the USGA. They funded trials on our greens to see how we can get them as dry and as firm as possible but consistently rolling and not aesthetically displeasing,” Dalhamer says. “I’m not going to say it’s going to be perfectly green, but it’s going to be dried down to a level that is tournament championship conditions, and not displeasing to the eye.”

The U.S. Open. The PGA Tour. The Champions Tour. Celebrity golfers. Golfers enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime golf experience. Heck, a famous car show.

It’s nothing new to Dalhamer and his crew, but the course remains special every day.

“We want to exceed expectations each and every day,” Dalhamer says. “We tell that to our crew all the time — the people playing out here are having a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That’s our Pebble Beach motto. The day you forget that is the day you start losing ground.”

Read about the volunteers of the 2019 US Open here.

This article is tagged with and posted in Current Issue, Featured, Maintenance


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