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Living on the edge: The benefits of clean edging

By |  September 29, 2020 0 Comments
Clean edging at Rich Harvest Farms (Photo: Jeff Vercautren)

The main priority for the team at Rich Harvest Farm is the greens — but after that, the crew pays close attention to the details in order to keep a clean, edged course. (Photo: Jeff Vercautren)

The highest priority at Rich Harvest Farms is greens, greens and greens. After that, it is in the details. The attention to detail at The Farm is what members always comment about. Sharp edges on the irrigation heads, bunkers, cart paths, drain basins and tree wells can make any course pop.

During my time in Florida as an assistant for the TPC network, we were ingrained with the idea that keeping a clean-cut, edged course would “make any course look great.” The 18 holes that I oversaw were not the greatest. We had a limited staff of five guys, but every chance we got, we edged. This always made the course look clean and better than it was. We had old, crumbling cart paths, but after we edged them, the membership always said, “You are the best at putting lipstick on a pig.” Not sure if that was a compliment or not, but it fit.

I have taken that attention to detail to Rich Harvest Farms. Every 10 days, we edge bunkers. Every month, we edge cart paths. We constantly have staff out edging irrigation heads, and, on Fridays, my first assistants’ responsibilities are to take string trimmers around and edge everything from drain basins to missed heads to anything blowing in the wind that shouldn’t be. Some assistants over the years have looked at this process as a punishment, but the ones who take it to heart have gone on and succeeded at their own courses.

Staying sharp

Sign at Rich Harvest Farms (Photo: Jeff Vercautren)

Photo: Jeff Vercautren

One frustrating thing about keeping a clean, edged course is the comments when things don’t get done. My former First Assistant Wil White, now superintendent at Geneva (Ill.) Golf Club, has noticed this at his course as well. He put up a sign in his shop that states, “Nobody notices what you do until you don’t do it!” I am sure that is the truth with many things, but I feel it really fits with our industry.

Once a month, we also dot edges of the different mowing heights of cut. This helps the staff doing cleanup cuts stay right on the proper edges and not scalp into the rough or collars. Keeping the edges of mowing heights sharp is another detail that really makes a course pop. Unfortunately, this year, we’ve had to make a couple of labor cutbacks due to COVID-19, forcing us to eliminate the intermediate cut around the fairways and greens. However, even though members hate their ball rolling 1 foot off the .300-inch-cut fairway and being penalized with a 3-inch-thick rough shot, they have told me that they would not change a thing because of how good the edges of the cut look from the tee.

A sharp edge on your cup is also important. If you have ever watched people cut cups for a PGA Tour event? It is amazing the detail they put into the changing of the hole locations. Including putting a nice paint ring around the lip, taking scissors to nip off any straggler shoots of grass sticking over the edge, having a straight stick and making sure the cup is set at the same depth on every green are all the details Tour setup staff put into changing the hole locations every day. I understand not everyone has the time to paint a cup on a daily basis (I don’t either), but making sure your cup cutter is sharp and changing the hole location daily are two easy steps you can make to bring out that sharp edge detail. I find myself cutting our cups daily. It forces me to check all the greens every morning and allows me to put that last detail on the course before the first group goes out. It also enables one operator to be able to apply his resources elsewhere.

The cutting edge

Sharp edges are not just something you should do on the golf course. Keeping a sharp edge on your mowing equipment is also a huge priority. As stated in the USGA Green Section Record Vol. 54 for Feb. 5, 2016, a sharp reel can improve turf health, lead to smoother greens, conserve fuel and increase the green speed in a healthy way.

One last tidbit that helps me with the details at Rich Harvest Farms: My former superintendent in Florida, Tim Perez, always said that when you drive through the course and see something that should be done but you don’t have time, “Think about smacking yourself in the head. Within time, if you smack yourself enough times, you will start to get a headache and find the time to stop and get it done.”

I hope this gives you some ideas on how to improve your course. A sharp-edged course, as small as it might seem, is what will stand out. No one will notice until you don’t do it. Either way, stay sharp!

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