Minnesota Golfer - Fall 2015 - 9
(ask the expert
Greens have to be perfect for major events, something Hazeltine
superintendent Chris Tritabaugh knows firsthand.
Interviewed by Joseph Oberle
uring the 2015 U.S. Open, the bumpy
greens received nearly as much attention
as tournament winner Jordan Spieth. So
we talked with Chris Tritabaugh, golf course superintendent
at Hazeltine National Golf Club since
2013, about what the pros dealt with at Chambers
Bay, the challenges in grassing greens and how he's
preparing his greens for the 2016 Ryder Cup.
Q Aren't greens a lightening rod for most
A Putting surfaces can make or break a golf course.
If you have really good putting surfaces, people will always want
to play your course. Most of the comments I get have something
to do with the putting surfaces. The course can be in fabulous
condition, but if the greens are not what people expect, that is
what they will remember.
Q What don't golfers know about greens preparation?
A Most golfers forget that the turf is made up of delicate organisms
living in an uncontrolled environment. Putting surfaces are
impacted every day by wind, rain, sun, dew points, temperature
and length of day. Golfers don't know how much knowledge,
planning and effort go into providing golfers with the putting
surfaces. When the weather changes, the superintendent must
compensate in order for the surfaces to play the same as they did
the day before. Sometimes it just isn't possible and, to me, that is
part of what makes golf great.
Q What was the greens situation at
A Chambers Bay's putting surfaces were
seeded with fine fescue-it's a fantastic surface.
But in the Pacific Northwest, the climate
is perfect for Poa annua; so, it's very
difficult to keep Poa out of the surfaces.
When Poa first invades a surface, the plants
have very coarse leaves and tend to be
clumpy. Fine fescue has a very fine texture
and the two plants do not intermingle well.
Q Isn't it difficult to eradicate Poa?
A Yes. Due to its ability to produce seed,
Poa is often the first plant to re-establish
when there is a void in the soil. Poa seed is everywhere
and, if given an opportunity, it will germinate
and infiltrate a surface. In my opinion, it is
harder to get Poa out than it is to keep Poa out.
Q What greens conditions are ideal for major
events such as the Ryder Cup?
A In general, these events look for smooth surfaces
that roll true. Golfers desire them to be
fairly firm, when the weather allows, and to roll at
a pretty quick pace-generally a 12-13 stimpmeter
Q Is your margin for error at these events different than
other golf courses?
A Yes, but probably less so than 20 years ago. Many courses are
now producing tournament-like conditions on a daily basis. The
difference is that tour players are so good, they will be able to
detect even the slightest change from one putting surface to the
next. It will force us to raise our game that much more during
the Ryder Cup.
Q You have a new strain of grasses at Hazeltine-what did
you get and why?
A The old putting surfaces were sodded with Penncross creeping
bentgrass prior to the 1991 U.S. Open. By 2009, they were
a mixture of Penncross, Poa and other bentgrasses seeded over
the years. All of the old soil was removed
and replaced with the new A-4 bentgrass,
so regrowth of the old grasses is not
A-4 was one of the first of the new generation
of creeping bentgrasses. It was
bred for a very fine-textured, upright
growth and improved disease and drought
resistance. It can be mowed exceptionally
low and, in this climate, it requires minimal
water and chemical inputs.
Q How did the greens turn out at
A Our greens are really fantastic. They
are now 5 years old and have matured very
well. They are ready for the Ryder Cup.
Fall 2015 MINNESOTAGOLFER
Minnesota Golfer - Fall 2015
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Minnesota Golfer - Fall 2015
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