Why your course doesn't look like Augusta National
It has been a long, hard winter for greenkeepers all over the United Kingdom. Whether it be the ‘Beast from the East’ and its subsequent relations, which brought large swathes of snow and closed courses everywhere, or the heavy rain that has persisted throughout the winter months, this year has been tough for greenkeepers.
In Augusta this week it is due to be in the mid-20 degrees Celsius, and although the forecast there is mixed, the subtropical climate of Georgia and incredible resources available to the resident greenkeeping team means they are able to present the course to a standard that is unattainable and unsustainable at most golf clubs in the United Kingdom.
On behalf of BIGGA members all over the country, we ask golfers to temper their expectations in the coming weeks. It’s brilliant that the Masters inspires so many people to grab their golf clubs and head back to the course, but please be aware that Augusta National is an exceptional, world class venue, and your golf club will struggle to attain those same standards.
Respect your greenkeepers, appreciate the hard work they’ve done throughout the difficult winter, and talk to them about the challenges they’ve faced and any support they may require.
Here’s a quick rundown on why your course doesn’t look like Augusta National:
Between the TV money and the wealthy members, the greenkeeping budget at Augusta National is astronomical. Only the crème-de-la-crème are welcomed into the ranks of membership at Augusta, and they pay a premium for the privilege.
The subtropical climate in Georgia is in stark contrast to the UK, which has been battered by snow and rain over the past few months.
In terms of potential for grass growth, a golf course in a central UK location was growing at the same rate at the end of March that the course in Augusta was on 27 January. This grass growth is how a course recovers after the winter, and yet UK golf courses are more than two months behind Augusta.
3. No summer golf
Imagine closing your course between May and October, as they do at Augusta National. The bentgrass used on the course struggles to survive the hot Georgia summer, so closing the course means it isn’t put under undue stress, and golfers aren’t damaging the hard, dry turf.
4. Green speeds
The green speeds at Augusta exceed 13 on the stimpmeter. That’s how this week Bubba Watson was able to play a trick shot whereby he hit his ball 15 feet past and it rolled all the way back into the hole.
The cost of getting a green to that standard is incredible. But that aside, for club golfers to play on such green speeds would lead to huge numbers of three- and four-putts, slowing play substantially.
5. ‘Artificial’ aids to appearance
In 1996 Golf Digest’s Mike Stachura played the course, and even took a sample from the pond in front of the 15th. He had the water tested and found it contained blue food colouring.
We've all heard the myths about filters over the camera lenses to make the grass appear greener, and the azaleas being kept on ice to ensure they flower at the correct time. These have been denied, but the fact is the management team at Augusta National only show you what they want you to see, and that's the impression of golfing perfection.
Imagine the very best greenkeepers in the world coming to your club and multiplying your workforce by 10 ahead of your major club championship. That’s simply not going to happen, although it is an incredible experience for those greenkeepers who are given the opportunity to get involved with one of the greatest spectacles in golf.
7. No buggies, ever
Augusta National is walking only, so there’s no wear and tear from wheels. Additionally, although there are no exact figures, it would be unusual for the course to get more than five groups of golfers playing each day (apart from during The Masters, of course).
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