The Masters not only has expert staff but plenty of volunteer help to keep Augusta National pristine during the week of the tournament. (Getty Images)
It’s what’s known in the golf course maintenance business as the “Augusta effect,” and high definition TV has only amplified it.
Over the past 30 or 40 years especially, the maintenance staff atAugusta National has set the standard extremely high for golf course superintendents everywhere.
Golfers watch the Masters on TV and salivate over the beauty and perfection. And if you’ve never been to Augusta National during tournament week and think that maybe that’s just the way it looks on television, think again. It is that perfect.
Peter Grass, the newly elected president of the Golf Course Superintendents Association, knows how unfair this is to superintendents.
“Superintendents are being asked to do more with less — less money, less staff and less water. There are high costs directly related to golf course management,” said Grass, who is superintendent at Hilands Golf Club in Billings, Mont. “However, golfers’ high expectations have not changed. They still want their courses to be impeccable. Despite the challenges, superintendents also want their courses to offer exceptional play on healthy turf. Every day, they strive to provide the best possible conditions to customers.”
Eric Bauer, the director of agronomy at the new Bluejack National Golf Club north of Houston, knows a little about trying to emulate Augusta’s conditioning. The exclusive course, which was designed by Tiger Woods, has a definite Augusta look to it, and it’s expected to have that Augusta look.
But even then, with a generous maintenance budget at an exclusive club, Bauer will tell you (below) that there are other ways Augusta National has an advantage.
So yes, Augusta really shouldn’t be setting the standard, as it were; it’s unattainable for all but a very few. Here, then, are 10 reasons it’s unreasonable for most golfers to compare their home course to Augusta National Golf Club.
10. Good help is hard to find, but not for Augusta National
Augusta National gets the very best people to mow greens, blow leaves, rake bunkers and put out fresh pine needles. “If you were to ask a majority of superintendents today labor is becoming more and more a challenge,” Bauer says. “Today’s worker is getting harder to find and motivate.”
9. Augusta also gets the best volunteers during Masters Week
When you see that army of mowers sweeping the fairways after play each day, those aren’t members of Augusta’s regular maintenance staff; many of those guys and gals are superintendents at some pretty high-profile courses around the world, doing specific tasks normally associated with regular crew members. In fact, just go ahead and multiply the crew by 10 during tournament week and imagine most of those guys with mowers and blowers having turfgrass degrees. That’s Augusta National.
8. Augusta attracts the very best young talent, too
What budding superintendent or tech wouldn’t want to work at Augusta National? Every year, the club gets flooded with resumes from all over the country and from the very best turgrass schools. As Bauer says, “Augusta probably has its pick of the best of the best coming out of school or wishing to complete internships, only to have the opportunity to put ANGC on their resume.”
7. No carts are allowed at Augusta National — ever
Forget the 90-degree rule, this is an all-walking, caddie course that is not going to be ruined by those pesky golf carts driving all over its pristine fairways. (Ironically, Club Car is headquartered in Augusta, Ga.) So, right there, Augusta National gets a lot less wear and tear than your home course.
6. Augusta National isn’t natural
Not to imply that the folks at ANGC are doing anything harmful to the environment, but you don’t get conditions like that without spending a lot of money on pesticides, herbicides, wetting agents and the like. So if you’re the type who likes your golf course as natural as possible, you can forget it looking like the one on Magnolia Lane.
5. Greens Stimped at 13 and above would slow down play
If you want really fast smooth greens, think about the average golfer. Inducing three- and four-putts all over the place — especially on weekends — would grind play to a halt. Who wants that?
4. Perfect conditions and affordable green fees don’t go together
It takes pretty much an unlimited budget to produce perfect conditions, and the members at Augusta not only have deep pockets, but they get a boatload of TV money, too. Of course there are a few private clubs and even some resort courses around the country that have close-to-perfect conditions, but they aren’t exactly affordable for the masses. So if you’re looking for any kind of value golf, you really have to learn to overlook a few flaws.
3. Without a lot of play, great conditions are easier to maintain
Though Augusta National isn’t in the habit of disclosing how many rounds they get (ANGC staff isn’t even available to comment for articles), you can bet it’s less than your club, unless you’re a one-percenter. Much less. There are days where Augusta might get two or three groups, and that’s not abnormal. Without much play, it’s much easier to give a golf course some serious TLC.
2. What’s wrong with firm and fast?
It takes a lot of water to make a course as green as Augusta National, which has an incredible irrigation and drainage system that keeps it from getting soggy. For most courses, that kind of watering would mean an awfully soft golf course, the opposite of say, Chambers Bay near Seattle, which was heavily criticized for its brownish-green look during the 2015 U.S. Open. But let’s face it, most golfers want their drives to roll out, and they want to be able to bounce a ball up onto the green, which is very difficult if you’re watering a course to keep it super green.
1. No summertime golf at Augusta National
On TV we see Augusta National in all its glory with the azaleas in bloom, the fairways and greens perfect and the weather conducive for growing cool-season grasses. In the summer, that doesn’t work so well, so the course is closed, and it doesn’t have to endure the stress of hot weather with people taking divots and making ball marks on its perfect greens. As the GCSAA’s Grass says, “Superintendents face challenges from Mother Nature, whether it’s a rough winter or summer drought conditions. But, superintendents are problem solvers, and they know the best ways possible to deal with whatever Mother Nature brings.”
WHAT’S HOT - May 26, 2017
- Just got in from helping the girls with primary rough. Man it’s still cold in the mornings.
- Still need some seasonal temps to get that poaannua to fill in. It’s trying but it’s going slow. All the rain will definitely help.
- Added sand to a lot of the traps this week. We go through a ton of it around here.
- What’s that spill on the front of the 13th green? Last fall some early morning players got impatient and hit up on me when I was spraying. Hit the machine and scared the hell out of me. Took my attention away from the controls. Thought it best I drive away rather than give them a blast of what I thought of their total disregard for life.
- It’s difficult for the fairway mowers to see the edges of the rough early in the spring. We paint the contours to help them out.
- Please play in foursomes. I wish I could articulate how much more efficient your maintenance team could be if you made it a practice.
- We take the buckets off the greens mower the day after we fertilize. Don’t want to pick it up when mowing. Usually not a problem especially when we double cut.
- Plan on lowering the cutting height next week. Looks like the temps are improving.
- Please use common sense on the soft 4th fairway. Stay off puddled stressed areas.
- Yes, I’m aware of some discolored poplar trees on the course and yes I’ve contacted a certified arborist. We’ve got a couple theories. I’m in a wait and see mode for the next week or two.
- Thanks to the early morning fellows for being so patient with the new crew.
- email@example.com or (306) 937-5658. Tell me what you think. Anything. Don’t worry, I’m not fat, it’s thick skin.
- We try and cut the rough on #2 three times a week.
- Yes the tees are not growing that much yet but we still cut them daily. Poa likes being “tickled” as its filling in. Speeds the process up.
- Yes you’re seeing rows of new grass on some tees. Overseeding is showing.
- The new crew is showing a lot of promise. They really seem to give a damn. Our emphasis on the interviewing process usually pays dividends.
- The bowling team is undefeated.
- Help Barry our fringe mowing guru keep his sanity. Put the rake back in the trap when you’re done with it.
- Would like to get a Cat in here soon to push the brush pile behind #14 into the ravine. Also plan onrelocating our brush pile. Somewhere less visible.
- We have great volunteers at NBGCC.
- Dandelion time. Will try and start addressing them next week. Long process..
- Will be getting another stump grinder in here this coming fall. Poplars, most expensive tree on the planet.
- Took a ton of suckers out of the traps yesterday. It will be part of our weekly regime from here on. Poplars, most expensive tree on the planet.
- Budgeted to do some significant root pruning this season. Those tree roots suck every bit of moisture and nutrients from the turf on the fairways and fringes. Poplars, most……………………..
- The club has a great website. It helps us all out if we brag it up and tell people.
- Sure enjoy working with our new assistant Mike. A real keener. Loves the golf biz and is a terrific motivator. He’s even put a little giddy-up in this old guy.
- Going to try and level the compound road out before the weekend. Maybe after I put the signs out for the big tourney this afternoon.
- Supposed to be nice out this weekend. Get a foursome together and play. We love traffic around here. Diesel fuel and fertilizer isn’t cheap.
- Happy birthday Karen
WHAT’S HOT - June 3, 2017
- A lot of comments about white stripes in front the tee complexes. It’s scaring. One out of three blades on the rough mower was out ½” and cutting lower. New operator didn’t pick up on it nor did us old dudes until the end of the day. Too bad it was so hot, otherwise wouldn’t be so noticeable.
- The odd sprinkler head is spontaneously coming on during the day. It seems our irrigation computer is picking up one of Saskatoon’s private club’s irrigation signal occasionally. They have the same wireless system as us. They do a great deal of irrigating during day and when conditions are right their system will turn our system on. It’s a huge problem in the City of Edmonton.
- Yes we’re nipping the greens down a bit. The speed difference should be noticeable. The wind is also contributing to the increase in speed.
- Our water window is maxed out. The heat and wind is forcing us to increase the run times per sprinkler head resulting in an increased time to water the place. That time is called the water window. If we increase the window any further it will effect evening play or morning maintenance.
- Yes that was us “turning the piles” in the field adjacent to #6. We compost much of our old turf and make our own topsoil. Once a month we mix the materials up in order to speed the composting process. Takes a couple days.
- We cross cut the roughs in front of the tee complexes. The reason for the stripes going left to right rather than up and down with the fairway. A good way to stand the grass up as well as avoid messy clippings.
- Was forced not to cut the range this past week. Sorry for the shaggy appearance. Will probably be a ton of clippings next time we cut but Tuesdays are the only day of the week the range is picked clean.
- Have been addressing dandelions each day this week. We only work at it 3-4 hours a day and much of it depends on weather. A lot of acres to cover in that time frame.
- A ton of grass trimming around trees again. What the mowers can’t get, the hand machines do.
- Talked to The Water Security Board on Thursday. No imminent rise in river levels to be concerned about. I think we’ll try and keep our reservoir as full as possible just in case. Hard to do when we’re irrigating so much. Can’t wait for a bigger reservoir.
- Things are looking great in our flower beds. A lot of hours, dedication and club pride goes into those beds. Thanks volunteers.
- Going to try and find the time to overseed the 4th fairway next week. The extra attention is really paying dividends. Please be patient with our maintenance team through the process.
- We encourage our staff to play golf. They get a better feel for the jobs they do for the members of our club. Hope you’re patient with the newbies. Most of our crew have never been on a golf course prior to joining our team.
- A lot of big tourneys coming up. They’re important to pay the bills around here. Takes a lot of diesel to cut that rough.
- Will likely lower the height of cut on the tees next week. Have been reluctant until that poa fills in a little more. Seems like it’s coming along.
- Damn poplar suckers in the traps. Could be a full time job dealing with them.
- firstname.lastname@example.org. Anything?????
- Not sure what we’d do without volunteers. The best.
- A lot of positive comments about the edged cart paths. A lot of work but a nice touch to the course. And there is enough room on them for all 4 tires
- The wind really controls the effectiveness of irrigation. There was a few days this week where the wind howled all night almost making watering a waste of time.
- Put a foursome together and go for a round. Supposed to be nice all weekend.
WHAT’S HOT – June 9, 2017
- Seal coated clubhouse asphalt yesterday. Was going to do it over 2 days but weather didn’t look like it was going to cooperate the second day so we went for it. Turned out great. It’s a good way to add longevity to asphalt. Used to do cart paths too. Hopefully we can get back into it next budget.
- No, glyphosate will not kill the poplar suckers in the traps. They must be removed by hand. Very time consuming but being given more emphasis in our maintenance program.
- No it’s not wise to put glyphosate in poplar stumps particularly if there is another tree in close proximity. Tree roots graph together. You stand the chance of killing the health tree.
- Have been putting a ton of water down in this heat. The wind sure isn’t cooperating though. Can tell in the mornings when only half the sand traps are wet. Coverage just wasn’t there when the wind was howling.
- Done addressing our dandelions for a while. Got the worst areas covered. Will likely do some spot spraying.
- Putting down around 300,000 gallons of water per night lately.
- Missing a lot of yardage markers off the sprinkler heads. Doing an inventory next week and will get more made up and installed.
- How about those flower beds out on the course. Excellent volunteers who come through year after year.
- Our long time aeration schedule has been effected in recent years due to outside tournaments. This year’s June aeration will likely be postponed again. Going to make the call next week. Dedicated aeration and topdressing saved our greens years ago and I absolutely hate cancelling a good thing.
- Our maintenance equipment do not have stereos in them. Must have been a golf cart which is becoming more and more popular which I just don’t get.
- How about some suggestions, comments or even complaints. email@example.com
- We really do have an excellent maintenance team. If errors in etiquette are made they usually are honest mistakes due to unfamiliarity with the game. Very few golfers apply for a maintenance job.
WHAT’S HOT - June 16, 2017
- Had to pull the river pump out Wednesday. Water levels were getting a little high for comfort. Been rationing since. Supposed to peak Saturday at noon. Hopefully we can get things back together on Monday and return to our regular watering. A good rain would be nice right about now.
- The rough is growing like crazy but I think the team is keeping up very well. Very solid crew again.
- The lilac hedges around some of the tees are really growing and taking up teeing area. Planned on pruning them back once they stopped blooming but I’m getting a little impatient. Hard to believe we used to stand in the back of a cart to shape the tops. To big now.
- Have no alternative but to rotate some blue markers on and off their respective tee boxes. Tournament play as of late is really doing a number on some of the smaller ones.
- Going to have to bring in a stump grinder again this fall and address all the new poplar stumps. There will be more and more over the next few years as they die off.
- Still waiting to hear some suggestions, concerns or complaints. firstname.lastname@example.org
- Waiting for the new yardage stickers to be made up. It will be a priority to get them on once they arrive.
- When you’re on the range, consider making your divot pattern as compact as possible.
- How about putting the sand trap rakes back in a convenient place for the next guy to use. It will cut down on needless foot prints and also encourages players to use them.
- Report vandalism to the pro shop. There’s a ton of needless damage going on in the evenings lately.
- The maintenance team loves waiting for foursomes rather than twosomes.
- It was +2 the other morning. No wonder the poa on number 2 fairway is taking its time filling in. Poaannua loves heat.
- Thanks to the early morning players who have to put up with our racket each morning. They deal with a whole lot of inconveniences each morning for the betterment of our club. All really great dudes and dudettes.
- A couple of the rock gardens have slipped through the cracks and haven’t been sprayed or weeded. Soon as the wind dies down, going to have to address them. Sorry about that.
- Way to go flower volunteers. It’s looking great out there.
- Tournaments on Monday and the following weekend. Sure would love to get that aeration in. Still not sure if we can pull it off.
- Lost another mentor this past week. First it was Bud Johns. Then Don Campbell. Now Sid Puddicombe. Three of the best supers in Canada and all from Saskatoon.
- Tell fellow members about our club’s website. Heck, tell everyone about it.
- I think it’s going to be a juicy weekend and you should take advantage of it. Put a foursome together and head out.
WHAT’S HOT - June 23, 2017
- Only +2 this morning. No wonder those tees are taking their time filling in.
- Heard some comments about no play before the PGA shotgun on Monday. Monday is a catch up day for us after two days of no cutting. We have to stick to our regime in order to get things ready for the following weekend and can’t do it in the midst of a morning shotgun. Plus I think our tournament guests deserve as best playing conditions as we can provide. They did drop a lot of coin here.
- Heard from a member who was having a career round the other day until he hit #13 where the blue markers were on the gold tee box. Took a big number. Sorry about that but we’re rotating the blue markers off some of the more stressed decks occasionally. OR Men’s night requested we play from there.
- There’s a bunch of baby gophers out there again. Carl is on it.
- The City has requested we no longer stock pile our downed trees in the ravine behind #14 tee. Because we can’t afford the haul to the City dump on a daily basis, we will be creating a pile in the field north of the course and renting a wood chipper each fall. Or maybe the City could borrow us their’s.
- Larger blue tees are part of our long range plan. Big enough to handle the traffic they presently have. Won’t be as stressed and compacted as they are now. Going to build some more forward tees too to attract some beginner golfers as well as seniors. Makes the game more enjoyable for them.
- No, I’m not used to getting up at 4am. After 40 years its still hard. BUT being the first guy on a fresh golf course on a sunny morning is absolutely awesome. Nothing better.
- email@example.com or (306)937-5658. Let me know what you think. Its your course and your club.
- Forgot to cut that damn hillside in front of the #13 gold tee. Will try and fit it in today.
- The tiniest wind and we have to get out there and pick up poplar branches. We’ve had some pretty big blows lately so we’ve been out there a lot.
- Shaved up the sides of the lilac hedges this week. A ton of work but we sure did gain a lot of teeing area not to mention air movement.
- The team sure did an awesome job in the rough again this week. Excellent comments from our members.
- No we didn’t trick things up for the PGA event. I hate doing that. I’m not into humiliation on the golf course. I can honestly say, in my career, I have never told an employee to cut tough pins because of a tournament. Actually, the exact opposite. Our greens are tough enough.
- How about those flower beds. Thanks to our excellent volunteers.
- Positive comments about our new 150 markers in the fairways. Will budget for more next year.
- The crew deserves to get out of here a little early today. Its Friday. Going to mount that big rough mower to make sure it happens.
- Build a foursome and get out this weekend. More traffic will help us build those tees.
Have a great weekend,
WHAT’S HOT - July 7, 2017
1. BUGS. We got them in our greens. I won’t give you the Latin name of them other than black turf beetles. Most golf courses have them. We’ve had them off and on for years but never to this extent. It’s got us a little concerned so we plan on addressing them next Monday. For best control it’s suggested to address them when they’re in their larva stage. We’re hoping by waiting until Monday they just may be there.
2. It’s very hot. That irrigation bill is definitely going to be up there. We really can’t do a whole lot more watering at night than we presently do. Anymore and we’ll be effecting the early morning play or the mowers. Mike and I have been coming in earlier than normal and addressing hot spots manually. So far, so good.
3. Mike our new assistant is sure into this place. Man did I luck out in finding this super guy.
4. No, cutting the greens in mid-afternoon is not a regular part of our regime. We’re trying to pick up as many bugs on the surface as we can and haul them off site. Very few are out first thing in the morning when we’re doing our regular cut.
5. It’s July and we’re experiencing our usual turn over in staff. Seams students need vacations prior to returning to school. More training again. Times have sure changed.
6. The maintenance team sure appreciates the kind and encouraging remarks from our members and especially quests. Makes those early mornings a little easier.
7. I personally have experienced some pretty close calls lately by impatient golfers. Golf balls can do some serious damage. Slow down and enjoy the place.
8. I continue to wait for SaskEnergy to address the damage they created in our east parking lot. We’ve put some gravel in the worst spots temporarily.
9. You’ve got to love what the flower volunteers are doing out there. I know I sure hear a lot of compliments. Thanks and keep up the good work.
10. This is probably the youngest crew I’ve had in a long time. They’re sure into it and it shows. May have to be burger Friday. They’ve earned it.
11. Thanks to those who have made a point of playing in foursomes. The team really thanks you for your consideration.
12. Supposed to be a beauty weekend. Try and fit a round in and keep the traffic flowing at the club. That irrigation bill is going to be ginormous this season.
13. Hey, I’m open to comments and suggestions. Let’s hear them. firstname.lastname@example.org
14. Those of you eligible, should consider playing in the provincial seniors. We’re hosting it in late July. Let’s make the thing a huge success.
15. It just occurred to me that I didn’t submit my What’s Hot last week. Must have been a bad day. No, there’s never a bad day at NBGCC.
Have a great weekend,
WHAT’S HOT - July 14, 2017
1. Kind of melancholy around the shop these days. It was time for Murray to go to the big course in the sky. Mur’s comfort level was deteriorating to a point that it was just time. I’m sure he’s already burying wieners in the bunkers at his new home. We’ll miss you bud.
2. I think we effectively addressed our turf bug issue this week. Don’t see any on the greens as of late. Very frustrating we we’re doing control research. A lot of conflicting info. Regardless, our method appeared to work.
3. Did some root pruning last week and we’re already seeing positive results. The quality of turf in the area is definitely improving. Actually the area we just did was previously done about 6 or 7 years ago. Poplar roots definitely grow back.
4. We as a maintenance department really make efforts to practice IPM, Integrated Pest Management. Although we believe in the responsible use of chemicals, it’s always as a last resort. The entire golf industry has moved in that direction. It’s sometimes very difficult explaining our practices and beliefs to the agricultural folks.
5. Man it was difficult writing that first paragraph.
6. Considering the difficulty in mounting or removing the sprayer from the vehicle we took the opportunity to address the earth worm issue in our greens while the sprayer was still on. We have found the most effective product in inhibiting the worms is actually an organic fertilizer made from kelp. Apparently kelp is acidic and they just don’t like it. At least that’s what we think and I’m sticking to it.
7. SaskEnergy finally responded and they’re going to level the east parking lot next week. They said they’d give me a heads up so I could give you notice the parking lot may be shut down on a particular morning. Be ready.
8. We sure are pumping a ton of water out onto the course. Its hanging in there but just barely.
9. We tried leveling and turfing the cart path ends this week. Big job but necessary. Hopefully after the provincial seniors we can tackle more roots in the paths.
10. No we didn’t top dress the greens any heavier last week but it sure may have appeared that way. It had rained the evening before and the sand was damp when we applied it. The spreader just couldn’t spread it as effectively due to the extra weight. I wasn’t on sight to make the necessary adjustments and a slightly inexperienced operator. Stuff happens.
11. Still cutting down a ton of dead poplar trees. Has become a big part of our regime in recent years.
12. And I’m not getting sucked into getting another dog for the course. However, should it occur, there would definitely be some negotiating this go around.
13. A lot of volunteer hours put in the past few weeks. Thanks a bunch to all our great volunteers giving us a hand. I’m sure our members appreciate it too.
14. Registered for the provincial seniors yet?
15. We’re trying to find something effective for the ants.
16. The early morning players have likely noticed a change in our mowing routine lately, possibly even having to wait a bit. Well we’re still a little short staffed and even missing one body throws a wrench into our entire morning cut. Hopefully we can get the situation corrected quickly.
17. The staff sure appreciates the kind words this year. Thanks to those that are making negativity unpopular again.
18. I sure hope you plan on playing this weekend. How about you bring a couple non-members with you and introduce them to the place. We need traffic. Kelp doesn’t come cheap.
Have a terrific weekend.