With seven months to go before the first U.S. Open comes to the Pacific Northwest, the maintenance staff at Chambers Bay is going to great lengths to protect the fescue greens. Due to a tough winter last year, and the desire by many to play the next host course of the U.S. Open, some of the greens at Chambers Bay have required a little extra care, especially green No. 15. The 15th hole is a par-3 with one of the smallest putting surfaces at Chambers Bay, and it received a considerable amount of damage from too much traffic. Unlike creeping bentgrass, and especially the highly adapted Poa annua, the red and Chewings fescues found on the greens at Chambers Bay have one fatal flaw when used anywhere on a golf course in the Northwest Region – it has very poor traffic tolerance. However, the fine fescue greens are well on their way to a comeback thanks to four programs instituted this fall.
First, more seed was needed on all greens. With the use of a seeder well equipped for fescue greens, the putting surfaces received multiple overseedings in late summer through fall. With extended periods of warmer temperatures, the results have been outstanding.
Second, with all of the new seedlings becoming established, the owners of Chambers Bay decided to give the greens a rest. Now the course is closed twice, soon to be four times, weekly. Closing the course has had a significant effect on improving seedling establishment, and the greens now display a renewed turf density.
The third step in the process was to let players hit a shot to the beautiful, downhill, par-3 15th hole without damaging the green from foot traffic. This was implemented by stationing an employee near the green to retrieve balls hit on the putting surface. Every player that hit the green received an automatic two putt, and those within 10 feet of the hole received a birdie. This strategy has certainly made golfers happy with their scorecard, and the grass has responded well.
When greens are recovering, or have a substantial amount of new seedlings, it is never good to stress the greens with excess dragging using heavy equipment. To minimize damage on the 15th green and other stressed greens heading into the upcoming winter, the maintenance staff at Chambers Bay formed a “broom squad” to move sand into the slices created by the overseeder following light sand topdressing. While time consuming, this is exactly the type of extra care needed to prepare the first all-fescue course to host a U.S. Open.
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