Where the game is going

I found this incredibly interesting that a highly regarded facility like Muirfield Village would attempt an event using the 8 inch cups. We here at Pheasant Run tried this last year on the Uplands 9 with a lot of negativity about the concept. I have attached this video of the Big Cup event that Muirfield ran on Labour Day and I want all of you to key in on how much fun the players were having and the smiles on their faces. Ultimately that’s what golf is supposed to be all about.


UPDATE: Watch video from the Labor Day event


In support of faster and more enjoyable golf, Jack Nicklaus and Muirfield Village Golf Club introduce Labor Day weekend tournaments of 12 holes, larger cups and slow-play penalties

DUBLIN, Ohio—Over recent months, Jack Nicklaus has joined several of golf’s leading organizations, including the PGA of America and USGA, to encourage out-of-the-box thinking to attract new players to the game and retain those already in the game. In an effort to show his commitment, the Golden Bear is experimenting with fun and innovative options in golf at one of the world’s most prestigious clubs, Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Muirfield Village Golf Club, as part of its Labor Day weekend golf festivities, will host two separate 12-hole tournaments, during which golfers will be encouraged to play one tee up from where they normally play, the hole will be almost doubled in size, and participants will be penalized for slow play.

“I love the game of golf and believe we have a unique opportunity right now to grow our sport,” Nicklaus said. “But we all have to recognize that the game in our country has been stagnant for a number of years, and actually has lost a significant number of golfers—close to four million in the last five years, according to the National Golf Foundation. The numbers of female and junior golfers—two segments that once represented a large percentage of the new people coming into the game—have dropped 23 and 35 percent, respectively, over the last five years. Many say the game is too hard and others say the game takes too long.

“I think the game is a great game and in no way am I trying to change it. There are few bigger traditionalists than me, but I realize we need to start thinking out of the box. So I ask all the traditionalists to be tolerant while we try something new, something fun to hopefully help us grow the game. It’s too important for us not to try. With so many sports and activities fighting for the time and attention of families, we need to think of ways to make our game more attractive and thus more inviting, especially to children and young adults. Perhaps what Muirfield Village is trying over Labor Day can help open a few eyes and a few minds.”

Nicklaus has been outspoken in recent months about providing new and current golfers options in a round of golf. For example, if golfers are limited by time or energy, encourage them to play 6, 9 or 12 holes instead of 18. Nicklaus has also encouraged clubs to occasionally expand the hole once a month or even once a week in an effort to entice some people who might have been reluctant to try the game because they fear it’s too difficult.

At Muirfield Village Golf Club and The Bear’s Club, Nicklaus’ Ohio and Florida home clubs, he has created a 12-hole scorecard as an option for members. At Muirfield Village, a 12-hole composite (Holes 1, 2, 5-13 and 14) will be used for a 12-hole better-ball tournament on Sunday, Sept. 4, and another 12-hole, stroke-play event on Labor Day, Sept. 5. In both rounds, the club will use an 8-inch cup, rather than the normal 4.25 inches.

To encourage faster play, participants will be required to complete their round in 2.5 hours, and players will be penalized one stroke for every five minutes over the allotted time limit.

“Muirfield Village Golf is excited to be a part of any efforts to grow the game by bringing new perspectives on it,” said Jack Nicklaus II, Chairman of Muirfield Village Golf Club. “The traditions and integrity of the game will always be respected and honored, but golf has to be cutting edge. The time has come for the golf community to make a fresh start for the benefit of the future of the game, and show new people that the game of golf can be about makeable putts, camaraderie and enjoyable competition played out in a timely manner.”

Muirfield Village intends to extend their experiment into October. Traditionally, as the golf season nears its end, the club has invited all members’ children who play on a local golf team, middle school or high school, to bring their entire team to play the world-ranked golf course. This year the tradition will continue, but with a 12-hole event utilizing the 8-inch cup.

The club was also among those across the country which participated over the July 4th holiday in “Tee It Forward,” an initiative from the PGA of America and USGA that encouraged golfers to play the course at a length that is aligned with their average driving distance. Golfers were inspired to speed up play by utilizing tees that provide the greatest playability and enjoyment. Nicklaus was among the campaign’s proponents, and Muirfield Village has promoted the program all season. A scorecard with five new sets of tees was created, and according to Head Golf Professional Larry Dornisch, “Golfers have been encouraged to move up to a comfortable yet challenging yardage.”

“This was among many initiatives we have discussed,” Jack Nicklaus added, “and I think families around the country will enjoy alternate formats like this to make the game more fun.”

In addition to the unique Labor Day weekend format, the event and the club will be playing in support of Patriot Golf Day (Sept. 2-5). At least $1 per person from every round of golf will be collected and donated, although members will be encouraged to give more.

“Golf has a rich history for giving back, and in this case we have an opportunity to give back to the families of our military men and women who have sacrificed life and limb for our freedom,” Nicklaus said “At the same time, with what I hope will be a fun and unique event, we are giving back to the game of golf itself.”

It’s fall, finally

So our little Indian Summer has come to an end and we have fallen into some full-on fall weather. Fall generally provides us with a bunch of work to be completed and not enough people nor time to complete them. Though we do our best and eventually get the jobs done.

Over the past two days we have been braving the terrible weather and blowing out our irrigation system. The job is not one that is done quickly and is very important going into the winter that a good job has been done. By replacing the water in our underground piping system with air and pushing the excess water out through pond drains, sprinkler heads and coupler valves. The more water you blow out in October means far less problems with leaks and broken pipe/sprinklers in April when we start it back up.

We also finally (and I do mean finally) completed the aeration of our fairways yesterday. A job that took somewhere in the neighbourhood of 5 weeks from start to finish. One of the great benefits of aeration is that it really gives the turf a “breath of fresh air”. The real great story about our aeration this season is how a change in design, fertility and maintenance has reaped great benefits to one fairway in particular.

Highlands 1 fairway used to be (many would say it still is) extremely narrow. In the fall of 2005 we removed trees and widened out the playable surface. At that time there was little to no turf on the fairway, and it would get beat up easily with play volume and cart traffic. Some of the other strategies that have really worked since the widening project have been reducing cart traffic in the spring, use of slow-release fertilizers and of course aeration. Because the fairway was so thin and weak, the aeration process in the past would actually end up ruining the turf that was there by pulling and lifting the weak grass plants. So we would actually end up skipping the fairway all together. Victories are small at times, so I am going to run with this one.

Pictured above is Uplands 1 green and as you can see it isn’t dead anymore. I am thankful for the wonderful stretch of weather we had over the past few weeks as it has allowed all of our summer damage issues to fully heal. This is a wonderful sign, given the fact we are going into winter healthy. Which was a far off dream a month ago.

Yesterday we also began the process of mowing down our re-naturalized areas/fescue areas. This job is key in the continued expansion in the number of wildflowers and decorative plants that will increase year after year in these areas.

Those of you that were out here on the weekend may have noticed a different look to many of the greens.

Each green on the Highlands and Midlands nines had two holes and two flags in them. This was done for our Members Closing event on Sunday. A new phenomenon in golf is something refered to as “Powerplay Golf”. Each green has two pin placements the White flag represented an easier position and the Red was placed in a more difficult position. Based on a point system a birdie to the Red placement scored more team points than a birdie to the White and so on….. From all accounts the 80 players that braved some awful weather had an enjoyable game and loved the format.

Back to the irrigation blowout, just wanted to let everyone in on the action here at Pheasant Run.

First frost delay

As I sit here this morning typing out this blog post we are incurring our first real frost delay of the season. Frost delays are a huge source of frustration to just about everyone. They irk golfers because their tee times are bumped back, cause issues for Superintendents’ because we have to find non-course work for many staff and bother our owner’s due to the fact that golfers aren’t golfing and staff aren’t doing work on the golf course. Fortunately the forecast for the next 8 days looks to be avoiding any more of these delays.

In the bigger picture the first real frost delay is a signal that the season is starting to wind down. I have made my plans for laying off some of my older staff and the maintenance of the golf course is truly scaled back. Things that aren’t scaled back are the jobs such as fairway, tee and greens aeration. We are currently completed 18 of the 27 fairways, and the job should be done by the end of next week. We will then look at an aerification of the greens after that followed by a semi-heavy sand topdressing. The tees will be the final areas done towards the end of October. Everything (except greens) is now down to being mowed only one time per week.

Frost also triggers one of our major fall projects, that being leaf blowing. Pheasant Run is an extremely heavily treed property and we spend the better part of a month blowing leaves into the bushes. The mixed forest stands of Maple, Oak, Birch, Poplar, Cherry and Beech trees drop their leaves at different times of the fall. Thus, the reason it can be a long drawn out process to keep the course clean. There is always (and I do mean always) about a one week timeframe where the leaves in combination with the wind just outcompete the two blowers. Two blowers running seven days a week for 7 hours per day take a week to get caught up with the discarded foliage.

Another key job that will take place on October 19th and 20th is the blowing out of our irrigation system. Blowing out the irrigation system entails a 900cfm air compressor being attached to the underground maze of pipes and the air blows the excess water out through pond drains, sprinkler heads and coupler valves. This is one of the more key jobs that takes place because of the impact freezing water can have on PVC irrigation pipe. The less water left in the lines results in fewer pipe breaks and leaks when we re-start the system in April.

Lastly, we have and important element for the golf course turf that takes place the first week November. That is the spraying of our preventative fungicide application to greens, tees and to some of the heavily tree-lined fairways. The innovation of the fungicides available to us now have really taken the guessing game out of the timing of this application. We have used a product called Instrata for two years now and it has to become active in the plant to work effectively. In the past the chemistry required waiting until the very last day before snow to apply your winter application. I can recall spraying greens and tees at 6pm three years ago on a Friday (missing the year-end staff party because of this) with the old chemistry. I will also being doing some experimentation with a new product called Trilogy which is applied around the same timeframe.

Once that final fungicide application is down by the second week of November I can finally breathe a sigh of relief. We will then put another heavy sand topdressing down on the greens to protect the grass plants over the winter. And then things will be far more relaxed and laid back from a work standpoint awaiting the course to close for the season. We will begin to remove some of the hardware off of the course and begin the process of painting and prepping for next season. It seems like the preparations never end but there truly is a light at the end of the tunnel for this golf season. Enjoy your fall golf, particularly the next week with the terrific weather being forecasted.