The Complexities of Golf Course Management

Until this past weekend I had no idea how complicated management of a golf course can be. And I didn't expect work to begin at 4:30am.

But it wasn't golf that drew me and John Kaminski, Assistant Professor of Turfgrass Science, to Merion Country Club this past weekend. We were there to take advantage of a gathering of Penn State graduates of the 2-year Golf Course Turfgrass Management Program to make photographs for a new Web site and recruiting materials. The club was hosting the Walker Cup Tournament which would bring many volunteers (and alums) to make sure things go as planned.

Organized chaos is how one superintendent described the mowing of fairways. During a tournament everyone is working against the clock and everyone has to know their role. This group converged on a fairway that required extra care due to heavy rains the day before. Knowing how to manage weather and prepare a course is just one of the things required of managers.

A United States Golf Association crew sets the pin on one of the greens. I was unaware of how exacting the process is or how complex the management of a green could be. Throughout the day I would see people "thumping" the turf to determine how resilient a green is or running tests to determine the speed of the green. The challenge for the superintendent is to keep all the greens within a certain set of parameters throughout the tournament.

The Walker Cup was a practice run for the grounds crew at Merion. In 2013 they will be hosting the U.S. Open, a bigger and more demanding event. Penn State helps train the people who help make an event like this a success. The Merion Club superintendent, Matt Shaffer, is a graduate of the Golf Course Turfgrass Program. He and many of his colleagues will be working together again when the Open comes to Merion.

By then perhaps a few more Penn State grads will be in the field.

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