Intrestingly Stoneham and the Ryder Cup do have connections. The Ryder Cup team with Peter Alliss and Dai Rees once visited Stoneham on there way to playing the Ryder Cup, I believe this was part of opening the new (current) clubhouse. The players then had a practice before departing.
Also Scotland’s Jimmy Adams (five times a Ryder Cup player) won the British Masters at Stoneham with Bobbi Locke as the pair each received £300 for their troubles. Steve Richardson another Ryder Cup player visits Stoneham occasionally. We may have a bigger connection if Richard Bland carries on the way he's playing right now!
Now onto Hazeltine
I was lucky enough to travel over to Hazeltine in July with a group of Course Managers (greenkeepers) from across the
world. We got chance to look around the course with Chris Tritabaugh Course Superintendent (Course Manager) and look at the facilities and new clubhouse.
Hazeltine was fantastic, creeping bent greens (like The Grove) bent fairways (unusual) because of the extreme
tempratures they get.
When I visited it was 34 degrees but by November it will be minus 30! It's that cold they camp on the lakes, the irrigation systems are over a metre deep into the ground as frost goes to that depth and there cars (normally pick ups) have starter buttons from in the house so they can warm them up first.
Anyway back to the course.
I was surprised how big it was, not the length but wide. It's a championship course with room to hold stands, tented villages etc. The course lays out in front of you with big bunkers and water around the course. The greens are tight at 2.25mm and are rolled up to six times a week. This is mainly due to there make up being sand. The rough was thick when I visited and they were feeding it again to make it thicker. I think this will be part of its defence over the weekend.
They had to switch the last five holes as these for the members run along the water but you can't put stands or hospitality tents on water!
The run up to the tournament
Obviously the run up started years ago. One of the major things they did from the off was improve the grass species on greens and fairways.
They also removed the water tower from the course as this during the last tournaments got more coverage than the course according to the club.
The bunker sands were changed with lots of shaping being improved. When I arrived the stands were going up and the course was getting a lot of Turfing in all areas including along pathways.
One of the bravest moves was returning the 16th bank by the water in 34 degree heat 6 weeks to the Ryder cup. It could have burnt off and looked awful but it looks fantastic on tv and Chris said it recovered well.
To add more pressure they realised that the first tee wasn't aiming straight for the Professional with just over a month before the tournament so they lifted and moved it straight more in line for the pros shot.
And with just days away they worked the tee hard to get it to look amazing for this weekend.
Lots of sand dressing to the playing surfaces including the fairways and semi rough to help firm up the surfaces
The members played off mats for around a month all over the course and then the course was shut for three weeks to allow the greenstaff to get it ready for a Ryder cup.
The last few days saw alot of detail work being done by hand including hand brushing greens and top dressing with little push along spreaders so no wheel marks could be seen on camera.
A lot of damage is caused as the stands are built too and these were also repaired.
I bet Samual Ryder never realised how big the Ryder Cup would get when he gave the trophy over in Hertfordshire all those years ago!
This weekend three teams will battle it out on the course. Europe and the USA plus the Greenkeeping team. During the tournament and the build up they have over 185 greenkeepers on site!
Some say this is madness but I don't agree. This is one of the biggest sporting events ever with over a billion viewers. It needs to be special.
Look at a Formula 1 pit stop team, it's not exactly Quick fit but it's pushing the boundarys and that can only be good.
The extra machines have arrived and so have the golfers meaning it will get very busy for Chris and his team. So I want to wish them luck.