“A Major Experience”

Preparation for the 2016 PGA Baltusrol Golf Club

By Mark D. Kuhns CGCS, Baltusrol Golf Club

  You first hear that a major event will be coming to your course about five years prior to the event.  The gears begin to turn.  The committees form and plans are underway to put your best foot forward. The best players in the world will arrive at your club to compete in one of the biggest challenges of their careers.  The eyes of the golfing world will be on Baltusrol and one of the most spectacular championships of the year when Baltusrol hosts the PGA Championship on July 21-31, 2016.

I have personally hosted 5 majors in my career including the 1989 U.S. Senior Open (Laurel Valley GC), 1992 U.S. Women’s Open, 1994 U.S. Open (Oakmont CC), 2000 U.S. Amateur and the 2005 PGA Championship (Baltusrol GC). 

     All of the majors have different requirements when it comes to the management of the playing surfaces.  The rough is usually a major factor in playability and scoring for a major event.  The 2016 PGA will require a 5’ intermediate rough set at 1.25”, a 7’primary rough at 3.0” and a secondary rough set between 4.0” and 5.0”.  All of these cuts within the confines of the gallery ropes.  If the weather is wet and warm, the rough can easily grow an inch or more a day.  We will try to maintain these heights throughout the week of the event.  All of our roughs have been interseeded with improved varieties of turfgrasses over the last 3 years.  The roughs will be fertilized and watered in the months leading up to the week of the event in order to maintain a healthy dense canopy.  Preventive disease measures will be applied to reduce turf decline during periods of heat stress and humidity.

     The greens present a real challenge in the set-up for a major event.  Our greens have been topdressed and aerified on a regular basis and interseeded with Penn-A1 and Penn-A4 Creeping Bentgrass.  The texture of these Bentgrasses along with Poa annua will create very smooth and true putting surfaces.  Our goal is to reach the week prior to the event with healthy greens and the ability to adjust the firmness and speed to meet the requirements of the PGA. Our 3 aerifications per year along with sand topdressing on a 10 to 14 day schedule have prepared our greens for championship conditioning.  Fertility and water management along with preventive disease measures will be monitored closely over the coming year to provide strong roots and a healthy canopy.  The greens will be mowed, rolled and groomed appropriately to provide the desired firmness, trueness and speed to challenge the very best players in the world of golf.      

      Our fairways and tees will be groomed at about 3/8”and all measures will be taken to prevent disease and insect infestation.  The fairways and tees will be mowed daily during the event.

     There are many challenges in setting up and hosting a major event.  Coordination with all vendors and the PGA staff is a must.  Almost 150 truckloads of materials will arrive on site in the spring to build the bleachers, corporate villages and various other structures for the event.  Moving all of these entities around the property and minimizing damage presents a real challenge.  For the most part, everyone is very cooperative and takes great care in the entire process.

     The biggest challenge of all is the teardown and making everything go away.  Repairing turf areas where tents and bleachers once stood, equipment damage and other traffic areas takes center stage.  Restoring our courses to their pre-PGA condition is no easy task.  We have been through this before and we are prepared to have both courses playable in a very short period of time.  We love to hear the words, “Did we just have the PGA?”.

     Join us for a spectacular event next July as the PGA of America celebrates its 100th anniversary at Baltusrol.