By Todd Raisch, CGCS at Ridgewood Country Club
In a few short weeks, our club will be welcoming the top 125 players on the PGA TOUR to Ridgewood Country Club (RCC) for The Barclays, the first leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Having a bit of local knowledge about course maintenance and some of the unique characteristics of our property might be the key to pros advancing to the next round of the Playoffs for a shot at the $10 million winner’s share or going on an early vacation.
The same is true for the rest of us at our own “playoffs” - whether competing in Met Area events, a club member-guest or just a $5 Nassau –the Golf Course Superintendent can often times be a great source of information about some little known or overlooked course subtleties.
Even for members that have played at their Club for decades, every course is constantly evolving with maintenance projects being done that affect how the holes play. Here are a few questions that you might want to ask the Superintendent whether it is your first or thousandth time out on a given course:
During normal play what are the firmest greens?
The firmness of a green surface can be just as important, or even more important, than green speed. Despite a new era of moisture meters and precision watering practices, there are still differences in how greens hold moisture. For instance at RCC, the second green on our “Center” nine is almost always the firmest green on the course, as it is elevated and more exposed.
What greens dry out the quickest on a high and dry day?
Playing a championship round early in the morning may not reveal much of a difference across the course, but by 1:00 pm on an 85 degree, low humidity day, there will definitely be certain greens that are firmer than other that others that never fully dry out. [Remember the final round of the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock?
Do any of the bunkers have different sand or construction methods than the others?
Some bunkers may have new drainage, some may not. Depending on when and how various bunkers on the course were constructed, conditions in some may be slightly firmer than others. While we strive to deliver consistency, perfect uniformity is not the goal – they are “hazards!”
What areas of rough grow faster than the rest of the course and must be avoided?
Whether it is because of grass species variety, a more nutrient rich soil or an area that doesn't drain as well, there are areas that grow more quickly and thicker than others that knowledgeable players know to avoid.
Are there certain greens being treated differently than others with regards to green speed?
Most courses have one or two greens that, due to the severity of slope, surrounding growing conditions or other special factors where the speed on the stimpmeter may vary from most of the course. Knowing these greens can help avoid these dreaded three putts.
Individually, each of these factors may not make much impact on your score, but when you consider all of them, they could give you a slight edge over those who are less informed. Being well prepared with all of the course information can save not only a couple of shots out on the course, but maybe even a few dollars at the end of a close match with friends at the 19th hole!