When you head out for a round of golf, do you want the putting greens to be rolling smoothly? How about fairways and roughs that have healthy grass and few weeds? Do you want the facility to conserve resources for the good of the environment, while ensuring that unnecessary expenditures aren’t passed along to you in the form of higher fees?
Of course you do, and USGA agronomists have been working hard since 1953 to help superintendents keep courses in the best shape possible through the Course Consulting Service (CCS).
Each year, USGA agronomists make more than 900 trips to courses across North America with the goal of providing better playing conditions. Their field expertise is backed by scientific information provided by the USGA-funded Turfgrass and Environmental Research Program.
Larry Gilhuly has worked as a USGA agronomist for 35 years. Based in Gig Harbor, Wash., he makes between 70 and 80 CCS visits per year.
“For the course, it’s kind of like going to the doctor,” he said. “We come in, look at the course and talk to course officials about ways to make improvements and address any issues they are having.”
Gilhuly is a strong proponent of evaluating forward tees. With proper placement, they can improve pace of play and make the game more enjoyable for golfers with higher handicaps or slower swing speeds.
One of the facilities taking Gilhuly’s advice is Bell Nob Golf Course, a public course in Gillette, Wyo. Superintendent Dwayne Dillinger is in the process of constructing further forward tees and should have them complete in late May.
“It’s going to make it a more enjoyable course,” he said. “It’ll make it easier, which makes it more fun. You’ve also got some who refuse to play the [most] forward tees, so as long as you’ve got one ahead of those, they’ll move up. It should help with the playability of the course.”
Dillinger is appreciative of the assistance he receives through CCS visits.
“I think they’re huge,” he said. “We’re pretty isolated. We’re not in a major metro area where I have access to other superintendents to talk to on a regular basis. Larry visits so many courses and can come in and tell us what he’s seeing.”
What Gilhuly saw at Priddis Greens Golf and Country Club in Alberta, Canada, were significant shade issues that were negatively affecting playability. Superintendent James Beebe encountered resistance when he first approached management about removing trees.
“Bringing in a USGA agronomist who has a lot of experience and can reference other courses that have dealt with similar issues certainly had a huge impact,” Beebe said. “We’ve removed trees and seen significant improvement in playability and turf conditions thanks to improved sunlight. There’s no way we would’ve done that without the USGA’s backing.”