Will Firm And Fast Last? February 27, 2015

Will Firm And Fast Last?

By Larry Gilhuly, Director, USGA Northwest Region
September 15, 2009 

Earlier this year a significant change in golf rating occurred when Golf Digest (/content/dam/usga/pdf/imported/090128.pdf) instructed their course raters to focus on firm and fast conditions rather than green and lush.  This quantum leap to turf growth conditions is a great step in the right direction, but the question that has yet to be answered is, “Will those who play the game in North America follow the  Golf Digest lead and understand (accept) this concept of playing conditions first with visual conditions given a secondary role?”

There has perhaps never been a better time for golfers to truly understand how much less expensive it is to maintain an 18- hole golf course when water and fertilizer are reduced.  The current economic issues at most golf courses in the U.S. and Canada have many facilities simply struggling to survive.  With the “900 pound gorilla” being the cost of labor to maintain a golf course, many have reduced the size of their staff, resulting in a reduction in maintenance frequencies (mowing operations, course setup, bunker care, etc.) related to play areas “down-the-middle”.  How can staff frequencies be reduced noticeably (other than non-turf bunkers) on growing turfgrass without a corresponding reduction in irrigation and, especially, fertilizer levels?  For the larger turf areas (fairways and roughs) that use the most of these commodities the answer is very simple – they cannot!  Therefore, the answer is very simple – firm and fast!

But here is the question.  While there is no doubt that the game of golf is meant for firm and fast conditions, and players enjoy seeing their golf balls go farther, will they accept the color of brown on their golf course?  Can they understand that a little bit of brown truly lowers the cost of golf course maintenance and is the right approach in our current economic times?  It is hoped that players on all golf courses, at all levels, truly understand that this is the prime time to make this change and move in the direction of our cousins on the other side of the Atlantic.  Former National Director of the USGA Green Section Al Radko had it right in his 1970’s classic article in the USGA Journal.  The title said it all – “Green Is Not Great!”   Never has been and never will.

Source:  Larry Gilhuly, or 253-858-2266