The days of whine and poses

By |  July 29, 2016 0 Comments

The era of Arnie, Jack, Lee and Gary is over, and we are now in the days of Jordan, Jason, Rickie and Rory and a host of other new faces on the Tour.

While modern golfers hit the ball longer than their golfing forefathers could, thanks mainly to advances in equipment, their tolerance for less than ideal course conditions seems to be growing shorter.

The player’s publicized complaints and negative comments about course conditions, especially at last year’s U. S. Open at Chambers Bay and the green speeds at this year’s Masters and TPC Players Championship, were totally out of order. And the dropped club and hands-in-the-air poses are a bit dramatic.

Of all people, golf professionals should approach each round with one thought: “Play the course as you find it.” That means adjusting your game to meet the conditions. Everyone plays the same course on the same day. So those “fast and/or bumpy” greens you three putted are the same ones that John Doe birdied.

Golf courses never are “perfect” all the time. Granted, when tournament officials tell the superintendent to jack up the green speeds and perhaps set pin locations in dicey spots, the going can get tough, especially when Mother Nature is on a rant. But that’s when the tough get going.

This mania over perfect conditions isn’t limited to the PGA Tour. Superintendents share many tales of condition complaints, and the sad fact is that most amateur golfers have no clue about what it takes to groom a golf course to “perfect” playing conditions while keeping the turf healthy.

I have to give GCSAA and involved superintendents around the country a big “atta boy” for their efforts in the National Golf Day event in Washington and for the meetings with state and local governments on regulatory and environmental issues like runoff and water use. And GCSAA’s work with the Golf Channel on the “Thank Your Superintendent” pieces is a good start to educate at least the golf-playing public about superintendents.

But the PGA Tour and the broadcast networks could do a much better job of showing clips of maintenance work being done for course prep instead of showing a golf pro drinking a bottle of water or eating a banana while walking down a fairway or waiting to hit when there’s slow play.

I learned to take course criticisms in stride and context during my days as a superintendent at Walt Disney World. Disney hosted the Oldsmobile Classic each year in the fall, which consisted of a weeklong pro-am event the week before the PGA Tour event. So we worked a three-shift, 24/7 schedule for two weeks. Yeah, two weeks of mayhem instead of one!

We worked long and hard under the direction of the PGA Tour’s agronomy team, which made periodic visits in advance of the event to monitor conditioning, green speeds and firmness. They might request some modifications, like firming up the sand in some greenside bunkers or installing drainage in a fairway or rough.

When the tournament began and articles appeared in the local paper, we were eager to see player comments about our beloved courses, which we worked so hard on to “perfect” for the best players in the world. That’s when I learned my lesson about dealing with complaints.

For example, perhaps one of the pre-tournament favorites might be quoted as saying, “The greens were a little bumpy out there today!” Sure enough, the big scoreboard by the putting green showed his 72 or 73. Meanwhile, another pro shot a 66 and the greens were great.

So chill out, you guys. Make a million bucks or hundreds of thousands of dollars a week on Tour and play the course as it is, not as you think it should be!

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