A Championship seven years in the making

By |  June 14, 2017 0 Comments
Zach Reineking

Zach Reineking

That’s exactly what Superintendent Zach Reineking and the staff at Erin Hills did when it was announced in 2010 that the course would be hosting the 2017 U.S. Open.

At that time they were already scheduled to host the 2011 U.S. Amateur and Reineking says that their first goal was to make sure that championship was a success. During and after the 2011 Amateur they learned a lot about how the course would play and started to make some small enhancements.

“Changes we made to some tee boxes, some tees boxes were added because we had some large gaps in between on the farthest back tee compared to the next set up,” says Reineking. “We made some adjustments to our cultural programs as well. So it’s really been a seven year plan to really get us to this point.”

One major adjustment made to their cultural programs was an aggressive topdressing program. The course’s property sits on heavy clay soils, which is a poor environment for Erin Hills’ signature fine fescue turf. To modify the soil profile the staff tries to get out and topdress the daily fee facility as many times as possible throughout the season.

Reineking (right) talks with Erin Hills Architect Dr. Michael Hurdzan

Reineking (right) talks with Erin Hills Architect Dr. Michael Hurdzan

“We really focus the topdressing program heavily in the spring and fall, and we’ll try to get a couple in the season. We know that every time that we topdress it’s about 1/32 of an inch,” says Reineking. “So if we can do it four to six times in the spring and then again in the fall we can maybe get an accumulation of a ½ inch of sand a season. Our goal when we started the program in 2010 was to have three inches of sand built up so that it provided a better medium for fine fescue to grow. In addition to that it firmed up and smoothed the fairways. It’s just been one of the most beneficial things we started at Erin Hills.”

“There are low lying pockets on fairways where ice formations form, and high sides on knobs that have good fine fescue but a lot of years get damaged from the howling winds when there isn’t adequate snow cover for an extended period of time,” adds Reineking. “The ultimate goal was to get to the spring with as much of insurance as possible that we were going to have good turf conditions.”

Reineking hops onto a mower himself to take down some of the fine fescue.

Reineking hops onto a mower himself to take down some of the fine fescue.

Now that the championship has arrived Reineking is hopeful for two things this week. The native Wisconsinite and University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate wants the first U.S. Open in his home state and on his home course to showcase Erin Hills as best as possible to the world stage.

The selfless superintendent also hopes fans from around the world aren’t the only ones that get to enjoy the championship.

“I want our staff that has put in so much time and effort in to have a successful U.S. Open,” says Reineking. “I think that’s owed to them and worked so hard to get to this point. I want them to enjoy the championship and enjoy the accolades of their overall effort.”
Photos: BASF

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