A Good Chair Requires Four Legs May 8, 2015 By Larry Gilhuly, agronomist, West Region

As you watch the upcoming U.S. Open Championship, you may hear about the exceptional weather that has occurred in the Pacific Northwest last winter. You may hear about how the weather had a lot to do with why the course is in such good shape. However, just like a chair needs four solid legs to achieve balance, three other major factors played a role in preparing for this year’s U.S. Open Championship. 

During the winter of 2013/14, excessive traffic on several greens at Chambers Bay resulted in very thin turf conditions. The first “leg” involved extensive overseeding by the maintenance staff, led by Director of Agronomy Eric Johnson and Superintendent Josh Lewis. Damaged greens were overseeded as many as eight times during the spring and again in the fall. Chambers Bay is a municipal golf course and was open for play while the greens were being overseeded using a tractor-mounted seeder.

Once new seed was added, the second “leg” of stability was achieved by the company charged with managing the golf course, Kemper Sports. Under the direction of Matt Allen, general manager, Kemper Sports devised a plan to reduce winter traffic on greens during the recovery process. Some of the most damaged greens were completely closed to play, while many others received three, rather than seven, days of play each week during the winter and early spring.

The third “leg” was Pierce County, the owner of the golf course, agreeing with the recovery efforts through the fall, winter and early spring months. Pierce County deserves major kudos for its commitment to making the greens at Chambers Bay as good as possible. One aspect of the recovery process involved placing and removing turf covers over all 20 greens that will be used for the U.S. Open Championship. It was estimated that the covers were taken on and off 15 times. At least 15 people and eight to nine hours were required to place and remove the covers. Additionally, hundreds of sandbags were used to hold the covers down. 

Fortunately, the fourth and final leg stabilizing the entire process was the warmer-than-normal winter weather. February was the warmest February in history, and many want to give sole credit to the weather for the turnaround in turf quality. In reality, this entire process would have worked fine even if the weather was normal. 

The three “legs” along with the weather created the stability needed to prepare for the U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay. Now I would like to personally request just a little wind if the weather will cooperate. 


Larry Gilhuly (

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