The week of the Masters can be considered by some greenkeepers to be the hardest week of the year and something they dread. Golfers all around the world turn on the TV in April and see this picture perfect golf course and ask 'why is ours not like that'... For me I know why, I understand what has been required both financially and through organisation to achieve this perfection. For me its the exhibition of what can be made possible with the modern methods, money and good timing.
I thought I would show some behind the scene pictures just as a quick guide!
Why Augusta looks great in April (above) and our courses aren't quite there yet?
My fravorite word of the moment. Growth.
Apart from being in another country on the other side of the world comparisons are made.
Below is a graph showing the difference between Oxfordshire (just a point for the data in the UK) v Augusta. This shows how Augusta hit 70 GDD in January 29th but it took Oxfordshire until March 27th to hit the same total. This represents an eight week swing of growth. Now eight weeks is a lot of growth. Think of our course in June and then compare it! Not quite the same I know, ha ha but you get where I am coming from here.
The course is closed for four months a year to aid recovery and allow the greenstaff to carry out maintenance and construction.
The greens we know look perfect. These are hard cut daily as many times as required to get the speeds right. So some greens may get cut once while other three or four times depending on location. The greens are also cut in a 'double freaky' style. This means they cut one way then back up the same line so no stripes are visable. This can also increase green speeds especially at the speeds they are talking about.
We have all seen the images of the group cutting on the course. The amount of greenstaff for the tournament runs into three figures!
There are more than one fairway gang.
They use the exact same mowers us we do at Stoneham but they have a lot more. It's not all theirs, machinery companies supply support machines for the tournament.
Bunker crews are bigger and can deal with every imperfection and they leave the bunkers looking unbelievable. Just shows you what numbers can achieve!
The greens do have imperfections (not many) from the daily golf during the tournament but these are painted or filled with green sand.
Divots on tees are treated the same. I think this is a great idea. Doing this stops the cameras picking it up :-)
The greensheds have their own green and bunker in the middle. This will be used for testing equipment and for practice I expect.
The team briefing room
As if working at Augusta isn't inspiring enough they have boards up to inspire staff, signed by all.
Through out history Augusta has changed year on year. Some say always for the better, but increasing the number of trees has caused some issues.
Sub Air is used in a lot of areas including all the greens. This allows water to be sucked out of the soil to increase drainage or it can blow air back up through the soil to add oxygen. This is unbelievably expensive and really noisy when working. Something I was surprised at when seeing it. The main units are normally kept away from greens because of this.
Gleneagles had to add this for the Ryder Cup at again large expense as rain was expected in Scotland and they needed total control. It ended up being sunny the entire tournament and not needed.
Behind the greens hidden from view are sets of lighting rigs. These are used like in football stadiums and used at night on the greens to encourage plant growth and recovery. Especially in weak areas under the trees that don't get any light. I know in the UK they say these cost £60 per minute to run on a football pitch let alone 18 greens.
Also like many courses in the US big fans are used to move air across the greens to increase air flow particularly on tree lined courses like Augusta.
It's easy to get wrapped up in how perfect Augusta and the Masters can be and I for one love it. When visiting the site you realise how hilly it is and plays different to TV. It is perfection.
However, this isn't achieved without a lot of man hours, stadium management, lots of money and course closure.
We like so many clubs can't compare to that tournament but taking into account the dates of growth and with what we have at our disposal, I think our course holds its own and will continue to improve.
Remember we are the only course in Hampshire to hold the Masters!
Granted, The Dunlop Masters in 1946 now known as the British Masters but still a Masters.