Tournaments large and small have a ton of moving parts for all departments at golf courses. Pro shops typically deal with the brunt of the work involved. Creating pairings and tee times, making scorecards and boards, and dealing with golfer check-in are just a few of the tasks needed to be completed by the golf staff. Food and beverage departments are often tasked with preparing large amounts of food for on and off course consumption while running beverage carts and serving golfers food and drink in various locales during the event. Seldom seen but still crucial to any successful golf tournament is the role of the maintenance department. Unless multiple rounds are being in a single day, most of us won’t see any course maintenance being performed during our time on the course. Today, we’ll take a quick look at what goes into preparing a golf course for a typical charity tournament at your local course.
Before the Tournament
Course maintenance is a never-ending battle that has a lot of routines. Some courses will make special adjustments to these routines for hosting certain golf tournaments. Lower mowing heights for the greens and a lack of rough mowing may be apart of a maintenance department’s plan for the weeks before a major tournament or qualifier, but your typical charity tournament is going to be business as usual on most courses. It often takes a day or two to get around an entire course and mow all fairways and rough so this is usually completed the day before a large tournament begins. Occasionally, a tournament organizer will paint small dots on the greens for cup placement a day or two ahead of the tournament. This is typically only done for competitive tournaments but a lot of courses allow other groups to make general pin placement requests. Most maintenance crews will try to have any large projects wrapped up ahead of tournament play to put the course’s best foot forward.
The day of the tournament is a frenzy of activity. Tournaments with tee times typically provide a little relief to maintenance departments. As long as crews get out and stay in front of the lead group there are no issues. Early shotgun starts can be more stressful. Depending on start times, a lot of maintenance departments will begin working in the dark the morning of an event. Tee time events allow for more maintenance to be completed ahead of them, so many courses may try to squeeze in a fairway mow or an intermediate rough cut ahead of the event.
As mentioned earlier, all areas of the course have typically been mowed prior to the event but that doesn’t mean mowing isn’t taking place. Most courses mow greens every day of the week and tournament day is no different. Frequent mowing helps ball roll and green speed during the day and also removes dew for those early starting rounds. Some courses will mow collars and approaches on tournament day to provide a cleaner look. A lot of courses will also incorporate a greens roller into their tournament day arsenal. There are many agronomic benefits to frequent greens rolling but providing the smoothest putting surface is the main goal on tournament day. If you hear that a course has “double-mowed and rolled” ahead of your event, tread lightly on the greens. Bunkers are also a high priority on tournament day. Getting around to every bunker and providing a clean slate for the tournament is not just aesthetically pleasing but also provides fair playing conditions to everyone involved.
Cutting ups and moving tee markers, known as course set up, is often a bit more involved on tournament day. Tees will often have specific locations on the day of an event, and holes with prizes often have yardage requirements to consider. The pro shop or tournament organizers usually handle special signage and prize markers but many maintenance departments will also assist in this setup, along with on-course trash disposal, and water coolers. Cutting cups is one of the most critical jobs on tournament day if no hole positions have been predetermined. It’s important for the person doing set up to look at the course through the eyes of a golfer and try to keep things fair and fun. Nobody wants a tucked pin on the most difficult green at a fundraising tournament. If you’re at a real fancy property, the setup will involve painting above the cup white to give you that clean, PGA Tour look. It’s amazing what a little white paint can do. The setup workers also usually keep a close eye on all other operations to make sure every blade is cut and every bunker raked.
During the tournament, most golf maintenance workers make themselves scarce although there is still the potential to see someone during your round. If you’re playing in the middle of summer in the afternoon, you’re most likely going to run into someone watering greens. Often times emergencies like broken irrigation lines or a downed tree will make maintenance encounters unavoidable. Sometimes special projects can be completed in areas not prone to seeing a lot of shots. A lot of departments will use big tournament days to clean up around the maintenance shop or clubhouse while the vast majority of patrons are on the course. Big tournament days also allow superintendents a chance to give their crews a shorter day during what is usually peak season. The next time you find yourself in a golf tournament, whenever that may be, you’ll have a better understanding of the behind the scenes preparation that went into hosting the event.
About the Author: Brian Neufeld
Brian Neufeld’s background includes more than 15 years of experience in golf course management, specializing in agronomy. Brian uses his knowledge of the game and best practices in turf sustention to create informative pieces for GolfTourney.com’s readers.