Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The TOUR Championship 2014

Again this year I had the pleasure to volunteer to help the Agronomy Team at East Lake Golf Club prepare the golf course for the 30 best golfers in the world who were participating in the TOUR Championship.  Every year that I have volunteered I think Ralph Kepple, CGCS and his staff have the golf course dialed in about as good as it can possibly be, yet each year they surpass my expectations and those of the golfing world.  This year was no exception.

 The details to the setup and maintenance of the golf course are, in my opinion, what sets East Lake apart from other high end golf courses that I have had the pleasure to be on.  It is evident when traveling around the golf course that the Agronomy Team takes exceptional pride in their work and in the product they produce and that pride certainly starts at the top with the management team of Ralph, Shaune Achurch, and Jason Tharp.

Each year improvements are made to how the course is set up and presented to the PGA golfers and this year was no exception.  In addition to a bit higher bermudagrass rough, the bunkers were prepared in a different way than years past.  The process of having a firm, smooth area around the perimeter of the bunker allowed for the golf ball to roll down the sand face and rest more consistently in the floor of the bunker.  This process provided a more fair and predictable lie for the golfer if they hit into a bunker.

Although the bunkers look very nice and play even better, remember this, just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an army to prepare and maintain bunkers in this manner.  After a slight 3/4" rain storm on Friday night close to 30 East Lake Agronomy Team members and volunteers spent close to 5 hours repairing slight washouts in the bunker faces, repacking areas on the faces, and raking the bunker floors.  This process is not for the average golf course or even the mildly dedicated private course.  The fancier you want your course the more effort has to be exerted.

Morning activities on the golf course consisted of mowing all the short grass which included a double cut and roll of the greens along with all the approaches and collars.  Tees and fairways were mowed and leaves, clippings, and debris were blown from all areas of the course.  As you can see the work begins early but the staff is well trained to provide the highest quality of results even in the dark.

Afternoon shift activities included mowing of the fairways and surrounds followed by all areas being blown for debris and leaves once again.  I was impressed that the equipment mechanics came out to the course and checked the height and contact of the mowers before they allowed the fairway units to go from the front nine to the back nine.  Making sure that the mowers are cutting the same on the front and the back can easily be seen in the final product.

After the greens were double rolled again in the afternoon Ralph was right there to check green speeds to see what practices needed to be performed in the morning to ensure the expected speed and consistency of the greens would be available for the pros.  After a little "jittery" start Ralph finally got the stimpmeter to cooperate and give him the measurements he needed. (Sorry, inside joke)

 As I have ridden around East Lake over the past several years I have noticed that there are not many areas which can be maintained toward the "environmental" side.  Although this is discouraging I know that not every golf course is designed or set up for native grass areas or bird houses or other environmental projects.  What I do like however at East Lake is they use the areas which can be used to help protect the environment very seriously.  The maintenance department area is a prime example of doing what you can.  Here the Agronomy Team and volunteers are using a self contained wash pad which uses recycled water to clean the equipment. In the background and to the left is an "organic refuse area" where clippings and cuttings are collected and recycled.  As I have said many times, just do something.  I am very happy to see East Lake is doing what they can to help and protect the environment.

I still say this cameraperson does not get paid enough

MetLife Snoopy 1 soaring over the course giving some awesome overhead video

Downtown Atlanta in the background

Again thank you to Ralph, Shaune, Jason, and all of the East Lake Agronomy Team for their hospitality and friendship over this and previous years.  Volunteering for The TOUR Championship is work there is no doubt about it but the information I gain and the new friends met and old friends reconnected with make it worth all the effort.  I know I can not implement most of the processes carried out at East Lake but it gives me several ideas that I can bring back to Harrison Bay to improve our course and our operations.

Until next year!!!

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