About Me

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Los Gatos, California, United States
Kevin is currently the certified superintendent at La Rinconada Country Club. Kevin was the Director of Maintenance at Lahontan Golf Club for over 14 years. Some of the responsibilities over the expanse of his career include the daily upkeep of multiple golf courses, natural resources, environmental compliance, and roads and streets. The wide ranging expertise has come from a combination of education and experiences. Degrees in Meteorology (1987 University of Nebraska/Lincoln), and Horticulture (1992 Colorado State), complete the formal side of this important combination of qualifications. A lifetime of experience around golf courses, and the game of golf was provided by Kevin's father.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Great Playing Surfaces

The Old Course, St Andrews Scotland
Great golf is played on great playing surfaces, something that has been known since modern golf came into existence on the links lands of northern Europe over 500 years ago.

The earliest 'keepers of the green', including Old Tom Morris, relied on the natural vegetation to hold the links land together, and continued to topdress sand onto the surfaces creating firm and fast golf courses that facilitated an ever expanding variety of options for shots.  Opportunities to play balls along the ground and in the air are found on the greatest courses in the world. These surfaces, then and today, are what create interest, variety, and make golf great.

The key components to great surfaces:  the selection of optimal varieties of grass for the climate, having a sand based soil, and then maintaining the turfed surface in a way that accentuates the course architecture, and maximizing the choices that the golfer considers while playing the course. The judicious use of water, fertilizer and pesticides are critical to balancing the negative effects of too much of these inputs; which are disease, soft surfaces from thatch accumulation, and water retention at the surface. These inputs need to balance the need to recover from damage due to play, otherwise natural resources and dollars are being wasted.

Verticutting approaches, Lahontan G.C.

The commitment to produce great playing surfaces for the game of golf is not as obvious as it may seem. The physical shortcomings of many soils, water quality, climate, and adequate equipment create cost barriers, and the short term disruption of the course playing conditions during aerifications and topdressings are inconveniences to play, and can impact revenue. A firm surface often times has a variety of shades of green, and brown, that influence player satisfaction, and can impact real estate sales, which drives alot of the golf market.  All these are considerations for an individual facility to evaluate.

Fairway peat topdressing, Waterville, Ireland
Which brings us back to the original parameters of grass variety, climate, soil type, and the commitment to disrupt the surface when necessary. Ideally, a golf facillity will commit to producing the best surface it can afford in both dollars and player satisfaction.  This is an educational process for many players on how to evaluate a golf course and the quality of the playing surfaces, based on something other than visual impact, which by the way, will always be critically important.

As a modern 'greenskeeper' who enjoys playing golf, and has visited many of the top courses in the world, I have a great appreciation for the work and dedication to producing these surfaces. They do not happen by accident, and they are truly magnificent.