The final destination

By |  October 15, 2018 0 Comments
Joe Gulotti headshot (Photo: Golfdom)

Joe Gulotti

I recently was having a pretty awesome day. The weather was near perfect, my boy was unexpectedly agreeable at aftercare pick-up, and everything seemed copacetic as I went to crack a beer. I was kind of jonesing a heater though, so in an effort to thwart the craving of hitting flavor country, I purposely checked my email.

The Gmail inbox was flooded with the usual garbage, but as I scrolled down, I noticed that a message from my course’s pro had been delivered with the subject line “Hole locations.” I went positive, optimistic his email emphasized the fantastic job we had been doing setting up the course. But as much as I longed to “mindful superintendent” this situation, experience told me to brace for the worst.

In this instance, experience won the battle over wishful hippie thinking. The email basically said the 12 o’clock sweeps were not too stoked on some of the recent hole locations.

My first reaction was total annoyance, because don’t they realize our putting surfaces were shaped when Joe Kennedy was making a mint illegally exporting whiskey from Canada? Meaning that they’re inundated with false fronts, postage stamps in relation to size, and definitely not designed to be cut at an eighth of an inch.

I was genuinely peeved, and on my way to WaWa to pick up a pack of white knights (Marlboro Lights), the muses that enlighten my inner conscience began to whisper their sweet somethings.

Golfers really do not give two (insert preferred expletive here) about what goes into setting up the course. All they crave are good times, and gettable hole locations equate to, arguably, the best times ever. I’m often asked about the most important job we do as greenkeepers, and my reply always is hole locations.

Back when I was the greenest greenkeeper of all time, I was taught the art of course set-up by this burly old-timer, Bob Bayalis. Bob was a master with the cup cutter, patiently following the triplex around, never daring to cut a hole on a dew-laden putting surface. A green had to be freshly mown before Bob even considered cutting a cup, and only after the triplex was out of sight would the magic of Bayalis go down.

It was almost Zen-like, watching this grizzled veteran choose a hole location. He approached this task with measured steps that involved gliding across a putting surface searching for the perfect spot. Once he chose a location, Bob would ease that red cup cutter into the upper organic matter, then tenderly work the aluminum cylinder down into the subsurface of the green with a series of twists.

He knew the exact moment to pull the plug and never required one of those bush-league depth rings that attach to our craft’s tool of ignorance. His feel was uncanny and the cleanliness with which he accomplished this job was unmatched. Not a speck of soil remained. Leaners? Fuhgeddaboutit.

In the two seasons we worked together, I never heard a complaint from the peanut gallery of hacks about a single hole he cut. It was truly an amazing feat, bordering on the mystery of transfiguration.

Awestruck by the mastery, I asked Bob why he was so obsessed with this particular job.

“It’s the final destination, kid!” he exclaimed. “Every golfer every day is going to this spot, so it better be perfect or damn near.”

As I peeled out of the WaWa parking lot without purchasing that pack of smokes, I realized the 12 o’clock sweeps had a legitimate gripe. I had totally spaced on my No. 1 fundamental. So, when I returned home, I replied to the pro’s email with an apology, while also ensuring him that the final destination would be damn near perfect moving forward.

Joe Gulotti (hardg43@gmail.com) is the superintendent at Newark (Del.) CC. To read his blog, visit thewalkinggreenkeeper.com.

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