Monday, June 16, 2014

Preparing for a Major - what does it take?

With the final round of the U.S. Open played yesterday and with the excitement of a Major on every one's mind, I thought I would highlight some of the work that goes on behind the scenes.

Anytime a course has to prepare for an event, especially a Major, planning is done years in advance, infrastructure is updated, staff is trained, volunteers are recruited and equipment is purchased.  During the year of a Major the daily grounds staff numbers around 40-50.  During the week of the tournament, volunteers are brought in and that number goes above 100.  All these workers need equipment to run as well.  Extra mowers and carts are brought in to manicure the course for the worlds elite.

Course conditions are molded to peak during the time of the tournament.  Green speeds run high, fairways and tees are cut daily; and greens are mowed four times a day.  Conditions such as this can only be maintained for a brief while, going back to normal after the tournament.

Below are two links that describe briefly what has to be done and how tournament prep is different from daily play at your local Club.

Link to article

Link to video

During the summer of 2005 I had the privilege of volunteering for the PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in NJ.  I was able to spend the entire week there, working not only during the practice rounds but also all four days of the tournament.  Those of you who have attended a Major know there is nothing like it, the atmosphere is electric.  Being able to prepare the course for that event is even more exciting.

The morning meetings started at 4:30 a.m.  Daily announcement were given, then off to work.  Our tasks were the same everyday, giving consistency to the product.  Our morning work was complete by 8:30 a.m.  We then had the day to ourselves to watch golf and nap.  We were back to work at 4:00 p.m and finishing up at 11:00.

This is a look at the morning job board.  Because I was there all week, I was given the job of mowing greens.

They had a huge fleet of equipment to handle the work load.

The three Mechanics loaded up all the equipment every morning and night, making sure everything was in working order and everyone had what they needed.  Staff from local equipment vendors were brought in to help repair machinery at a moments notice if needed.

A new utility vehicle was purchased and equipped with anything a mechanic might possibly need to repair a machine out in the field - complete with welder and halogen lights for repairs during the night.

This was one of the two greens I mowed for the Championship, quite rewarding watching the best players in the world putting over the lines you mowed a few hours before.

We even had a chance to say hello to the players, Tiger was giving us a hard time while we were raking bunkers during the practice round - something about the rough being to tall.