Getting in Line

By | June 21st, 2018

Farmington’s staff promoted the idea of linear divot patterns through signage on the driving range as well as in the club newsletter and with locker-room postings.

Asking golfers to make divots in a linear pattern while using the driving range at Farmington Country Club has reduced the amount of time needed, and the amount of material required, for repairing the turf in the club’s practice areas.

No matter how much they love the game, most golfers can’t play like professionals. But they can practice like the pros on the driving range by using a simple method: a linear divot pattern.

About two years ago, the staff at Farmington Country Club (FCC) in Charlottesville, Va., started asking golfers to make divots in a linear pattern on the driving range. In the past, says Golf Course Superintendent Scott Kinnan, CGCS, FCC’s golfers had traditionally concentrated their driving-range divot patterns in a square or random pattern.

A square pattern removes all the turf in a given area, creating a large void in the turfgrass that leaves little opportunity for it to recover in a timely fashion. Random patterns remove the most amount of turf, because golfers take a full divot with every swing.

THE GOAL: Improve the use of the driving range at Farmington CC and facilitate maintenance of the club’s expanded practice area.
THE PLAN: With newsletters and golf course signage, staff personnel encouraged members to make linear divot patterns on the driving range about a year before the new practice facility opened in 2017.

Farmington members adopted the concept of using linear divot patterns without complaints, recognizing its value as “a smart way to practice.”

THE PAYOFF: Less turf is removed with linear divot patterns, and it takes the turf less time to heal. The linear patterns decrease the amount of materials is the grounds crew needs to fill in the turf and give golfers a better practice surface. The construction of a new practice area, combined with improved conditions, has increased membership and lesson revenue.

With a linear divot pattern, however, the ball is placed on the grassy back edge directly behind the previous divot with each shot, and only a small amount of turf is removed with each swing. Golfers can take 15 to 20 swings, resulting in less turf being removed with each successive swing, before moving to the side to start a new line of divots.

The linear method removes the least amount of turf, leading to quicker regrowth by the Bermudagrass on the FCC driving range, and a better surface for golfers to hit practice balls. Leaving a couple of inches between divot lines also improves turf conditions on the range, notes Kinnan, and improving driving-range usage makes it easier for the grounds crew to maintain the area.

In addition, leaving a strip of turf between linear divots results in a faster healing process for the turf. For Bermudagrass and other warm-season grasses, insufficient turf coverage is typically most evident in late spring or early summer, as the turf comes out of winter dormancy after months of practice-range use. “The Bermudagrass will grow back faster from a linear pattern than a big square of grass,” reports Kinnan.

The timing of the switch to a linear pattern could not have been better for FCC. In May 2017, the property opened a newly constructed, expanded practice facility that includes a fullsize driving range, short-game practice area, separate teaching area with a teeing area and a practice green with a bunker, and a year-round, five-bay golf performance building with TrackMan technology.

And while the addition of the fullsize practice facility has expanded duties for FCC’s course maintenance staff, Kinnan reports that “the linear divot patterns have reduced the amount of time it takes the areas to heal, and reduced the amount of materials we have to use to fill in the divots.”

To encourage golfers to use linear divot patterns, Farmington’s staff promoted the idea in newsletters, postings in the locker room, and signage on the driving range. “It’s a smart way to practice,” says Kinnan. “Most members have adopted it. Nobody has any complaints about doing it that way.”

Acceptance of the linear pattern has been part of a “tremendous” reception, he adds, for how the FCC staff has worked to improve its golf facilities and program overall. “Lesson revenue is up,” he says. “We’ve seen a big influx of membership this year, and we like to think that all the things we’re doing influenced that. Our golf programs have put the club in a good position.”

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