Beauty is in the eye of the putter

By |  June 16, 2015 0 Comments

There were some negative headlines in a few notable media outlets Monday morning regarding the greens at Chambers Bay. That’s too bad, because I think they’re misguided… a confusion, if you will, between visual appeal and playability.

In short, one’s got nothing to do with the other. But hey, a splashy headline gets more clicks.

I asked Eric Johnson, Chambers Bay’s director of agronomy, about those headlines and the stories. He was unaware of them at the time, but his immediate response was, “I don’t care.”

I took it a bit farther and asked him if the visual appearance (especially in a close-up) was confusing to the layperson.

His response was blunt.

“(The greens) look horrible, visually,” he said. “They look bumpy. But the ball’s not bouncing. Bottom line is, the ball’s not bouncing, end of story.”

And yet I asked another follow-up, because, well, I’m greedy for quotes sometimes. It’s my job. And then he gave me this gem:

“The perception goes back to, you see a picture of mottling, (people think) that must mean it’s bouncy. But it’s not. We’re ready to roll.”

Don’t worry, lest you think I got Johnson angry with me. That was my last question, I thanked him, and then he said, “Stay here, I want to get you a hat.” And he really did come back with a hat, not a stimpmeter to attack me with.

Some of the other things we talked about:

How did the first morning go?

“It was faster than I thought it would be, a little bit. That’s a good problem to have.”

In fact, the greens mowers were so fast, dew came back on a few greens after they had already been mowed. Not a problem, as they had a crew out whipping dew.

How many people are here working?

Answer: 177.

“Not a bad number. A big part of the work is fairways and bunkers. They were done just as quick as the greens mowers. You can’t ask for much better timing than that.”

When and how are you deciding to apply irrigation?

“It’s collaborative, between the USGA and us. When is in the evenings, so we can be here for turn-on, and make sure it turns off.”

Any concerns?

“It was so smooth this morning, something bad is going to happen tomorrow to test us a little bit. Which will be good — everyone needs to be tested now and then.”

This is posted in Columns, Online Exclusive

About the Author: Seth Jones

Seth Jones, a 25-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. Jones can be reached at

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