Turf MD: A unique opportunity to watch a golf course evolve

By |  July 14, 2023 0 Comments

For the 48th consecutive year, Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, hosted the Memorial Tournament, a PGA Tour event. The course itself opened in 1974, the same year the tournament began. The Memorial is unique in several ways, one being that it is one of only four PGA events played at the same golf course since its inception.


Muirfield Village GC. (Photo: Brian Laurent)

The Memorial at Muirfield is the third oldest behind the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas (1946) and the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu (1965).

The fourth tournament, the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Tampa, Fla., first opened for play in 2000.

A couple of notables not included are The Masters, first held in 1934 at Augusta (Ga.,) National Golf Club, and the AT&T Pebble Beach (Calif.) Pro-Am. The Masters is, of course, not considered a PGA Tour-owned or operated event.

On the other hand, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, originally known as the Bing Crosby National Pro-Amateur, began in 1937 at Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club in San Diego.

Crosby hosted and donated the initial $10,000 purse in 1937. Rancho Santa Fe hosted the tournament for five years before World War II began, and the course closed. After the war, the Pro-Am moved to Monterey Peninsula Country Club.

Always improving

A unique feature of hosting a tournament on the same course is the ability to watch and document the growth, changes and maturity of a golf course over time.

The 2023 Memorial was the 39th consecutive iteration of the tournament I’ve been involved with. The tournament, with one exception — the COVID year in 2020 — occurs on approximately the same dates each year.

This has allowed me to take a mental snapshot of the course and tournament and compare it to past experiences. I want to share some impressions I have had thinking about these snapshots.

Oftentimes, during the tournament, I marvel at the condition and presentation of the golf course. I can’t think how many times over the years I’ve thought, “It can’t get better than this,” but it always does. I don’t believe there is a ceiling on what can be achieved in golf course management.

Always evolving

Tournament routines evolve constantly. Efficiency, organization and expertise continue to improve from year to year. The changes may be subtle, but over time accumulate dramatically and raise the bar.

Although change does occur, stability is a characteristic of golf professionals, club managers, tournament directors and golf course superintendents — like Chad Mark, the golf course superintendent at Muirfield Village.

I have noticed over the years the increased responsibilities of the golf course superintendent not only inside the ropes but also outside the ropes in tournament preparation.

Buildouts are a major evolutionary and drastic change that has occurred. An original design aspect of Muirfield Village GC was the construction of mounds and the shaping of green surroundings, allowing patrons to view the action.

Over the last several years, the construction of viewing stands and entertainment boxes — especially on the back nine — has displaced many natural viewing areas. As buildouts grow in complexity and size, the golf course superintendent increasingly takes on some of the responsibility.

I could fill up Golfdom with the stories and observations I have seen in the snapshots I have taken at the Memorial. I will end by reemphasizing that routines, sometimes thought of as rigid, are always evolving. The bar always raises when you think you can’t do any better.

This article is tagged with , , and posted in Columns, From the Magazine

About the Author: Karl Danneberger, Ph.D.

Karl Danneberger, Ph.D., is a professor in the department of horticulture and crop science at The Ohio State University. He is author of the popular The Turf Doc column that appears monthly in Golfdom. Karl writes on topics ranging from Poa annua to pest control.

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