Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Who cares if the grass is greener on the courses?

I know this isn’t news to anyone, but economic times are tough everywhere. This, in turn, forces everyone to make tough decisions. I’d venture a guess that few people, if any are masochistic to the point of liking to make tough decisions. However, there is a dilemma and the golf industry has a bull’s-eye brightly painted on its back.

Forget the equipment side of the industry. Let’s talk about the playing fields that are being cut by a double-edged sword.

The cost of maintaining a golf course to the standards both the public and in most cases management has gone through the roof. Of course, the owners of these facilities aren’t going to bite the bullet on this. Instead the cost, usually accompanied by a “service charge”, will be passed on to the consumer, thus hiking the green fee to the point of being cost-crazy. Rather than suffer the added charge, golfers will stay away in droves, find another course to play, or as is happening in alarming regularity—not play at all.

Can anything be done to halt the mass exodus from the game that is rapidly approaching? Sure, but the question really is, will the facility owners/managers and the golf public put up with it?

Maybe, golf course superintendents will have to water down their pesticides a little. It also might save some money if they don’t water the course as much. Of course, the latter suggestion concerns a major peeve of mine. Golfers and superintendents, oh throw in owners and managers as well, have for too long of a time had an irrational fascination with the color green.

Since the days when Old Tom Morris began designing courses, the color green has been more of a product of the environment than a part of the equation in the design of a golf course. If there was a healthy rain fall, the grass was green. If there wasn’t … ever hear of the phrase “hard and fast?”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the course should go without water. Obviously, the grass should be kept alive, but do you really enjoy reaching your ball in the middle of the fairway only to find a glob of mud on the ball? Particularly when it hasn’t rained for a week and a half?

Better yet, is the color green worth parting with a lot more of your “green” just for aesthetics? It certainly isn’t in this corner.

I know, this is radical thinking, but the idea was spawned from reading margin notes from a rather radical thinker in his day, Donald Ross. The margin notes were on his drawings of the holes at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Mass. They dealt with the playing characteristics of the course; i.e. land the ball at point A and it will bounce and roll to point B. When I checked some of these out, there was no way that could happen because the course was too soft.

What had happen was the plans of perhaps one of the greatest golf course architects of one of his best works were eliminated in the name of the color green.

I think the time is here for courses to start rolling back some of the conditioning tools they use. It’s time to mow the grass and not drown it or poison it with chemicals. If the owners don’t have to spend as much money, the smart ones won’t charge as much. This will help keep golfers coming through the door.

It’s also time for golfers to get on board with this. Everywhere in the world except here in the United States, the color brown is quite acceptable and definitely has its place. By the way, this goes for greens as well.

In Florida, most courses over seed Bermuda-grassed fairways and green with rye grass during the winter for one reason and one reason only, so the golfers can play on a green colored surface. The truth be known, the best playing surface in the world is dormant Bermuda grass. On the fairways and rough every lie is perfect. As for the greens, every putt rolls true and the speed is ideal. Will owners and superintendents let these courses go dormant? No, because they’re convinced golfers want the color green to blanket the course.

Let’s hope that golfers will accept these changes. They will if they don’t have to fork over as much “green.” The truth is, golfers don’t want to put their clubs in storage, but they will if the price to play isn’t under control. Give them a chance to walk away and they may never return.

Bartender, enough of this talk about the color green. I know Patrick’s Day (that’s what they call it in Ireland since Pat was stripped of his sainthood) is on its way and that’s the only green we should discuss. So, if you would be so kind, pour me a dram of your finest Irish whiskey, because as you know, it’s a fine BROWN liquor.

See you on the first tee,



Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :)

Anonymous said...

It is useful to try everything in practice anyway and I like that here it's always possible to find something new. :)