What can the U.S. Open’s brown do for you?
Presented by BASF

By |  June 17, 2014

The back-to-back U.S. Opens at Pinehurst No. 2 are halfway done. The bermudagrass fairways have been firm, fast and also… brown, in areas.

And that’s exactly the way the USGA wants it. But do everyday golfers understand?

“I’ve been asked, ‘The course looks fantastic, (but) don’t you wish it would rain?’ I said why would I want it to rain? ‘So the brown grass turns green,’” Bill Coore, architect and half of the team of Coore & Crenshaw, told Golfdom. “No, this presentation is exactly what we had hoped for. It could have major impacts on the way people view the presentation and the maintenance of golf courses going forward.”

The USGA’s Chris Hartwiger, senior agronomist, Southeast Region, was enthusiastic about seeing this all play out.

“We’re excited to show the public that a golf course does not need to be perfect to have outstanding playing conditions upon which to play a major championship,” he told Golfdom. “When we’re in a dry period, like we are now, you’ll see distressed turf areas along the edges. It’s a different look.”

So what has the reaction been outside North Carolina after seeing this U.S. Open played with brown areas? The answer seems to be, like the color of the fairways at Pinehurst, mixed.

“To be honest, I think a lot of our golfers were mixed on it,” says Andy Wilson, superintendent at Bethpage State Park, Old Bethpage, N.Y. “A lot of people thought it looked cool. I know a lot of our golfers liked the idea that they could always find their ball (with no rough). But there were also a lot of my golfers who said it didn’t look appealing.”

Superintendent Brad Keith at Indigo Lakes GC in Daytona Beach, Fla., got a similar reaction.

“I was surprised with how mixed the reaction was. Some of the golfers who don’t really understand what they were doing told me, ‘Your course is better than the U.S. Open,’” he says. “And the same day, I see a sales guy who is a trained superintendent, and he asks me, ‘Did you see the U.S. Open? How fantastic is that?’”

The mixed reaction has done one great thing, in Keith’s opinion: it’s started a conversation on the economics of golf maintenance.

“We can talk about this now. It takes a lot of money to maintain 130 acres. The shorter the grass, the more money you spend on it,” Keith says. “I couldn’t do the U.S. Open here, and (Pinehurst) couldn’t do Indigo Lakes there. The question is, would my golfers like to play golf for a lower price, but with a few more weeds? To me, it’s started that conversation.”

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About the Author: Seth Jones

Seth Jones, a 25-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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