Returning golf to golfers

By |  December 17, 2018 0 Comments
Photo: Sean Tully

Sean Tully

History is my thing. I like it on all levels. I get lost in golf’s early history, and I find myself arguing about the importance and the intent of original golf course design.

As I work out our budget here at Meadow Club, I’m often reminded that I’m steering things that will one day be judged by my successors as history; in other words, how well we did.

Our team does not take this idea lightly. We always look at things with some reflection on what has been done in the past, while also looking toward the future. We ask ourselves how we can best look after the golf course and our immediate surroundings so as to provide a great golf course for our members and guests.

In doing this, tree management often gets more thought than other items. To the surprise of some folks, we spend quite a bit more time pruning, spraying and watering trees than on cutting trees down. As with anything on a golf course, nature takes a back seat to aesthetics and safety. We prune trees to assure proper growth and balance and remove any broken or dead branches that can pose a safety concern.

For instance, some of our older trees are challenged by bark beetles and sudden oak death, which is a fast-moving disease caused by Phytophthora and has killed off thousands of older oak trees in northern California. We spray our more susceptible trees in the spring for bark beetles and have still seen issues on some of our older Monterey pines that are coming to the end of their lifespan. As for oak trees, we manage them with a recommended spray of phosphite and Pentra-Bark, which has shown some positive results but is less than adequate at protecting the oak trees. For now, it’s our best option.

As with many golf courses, we are dealing with an overplanting of trees that changed the appearance and playability of our golf courses. We may have hit peak tree about 10 years ago, and there has been a concerted effort to redefine our course by its golf course architecture instead of its tree plantings.

My favorite time of year is fall and winter, when tree work is done on a number of courses around the world. I can follow along on Twitter to see the progress and watch as golf courses are returned to golfers — with more sunlight on turf, healthier turf and improved angles and vistas on the golf course.

Every course has its own architectural story. I have courses that I like — they may not be what you like — and that’s all right. I will seek out the golf that I prefer, and when I play a golf course that I find to be over treed or with fairways that are too narrow, I may not enjoy the golf as much, but I will certainly give my respect to the super there for the work they are doing.

At the end of the day, we are tasked to provide a great golfing experience. We can see this simply as keeping the grass mowed, having fresh cups cut, and above all else having cart paths edged and ball washers full of water. Not every course can be designed by a noted architect or be next to the ocean. Sometimes making one’s course better comes down to striping the fairways or planting a bunch of annuals.

As much as we like to elevate Augusta National, we need to spend time promoting the opposite extreme, where golf courses highlight balance and the ability to provide golf at a reasonable price while providing a fun and challenging golf experience. I sure hope that plays a bigger part in all of our futures.

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