The modified look of Pinehurst No. 2 got some negative reactions, but golf leaders are banking on brown, with increased attention paid to sustainability, minimizing water use, and reducing overall maintenance.
With the men’s and women’s U.S. Open tournaments at Pinehurst in consecutive weeks, golf’s leaders are banking on the new look being popular—they want brown to be the new green, the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle reported.
“The mindset that golfers have is that we have to be lush, we have to be dark green,” U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis said earlier this week. “We’re hoping, as an organization, that maybe this sends the signal.”
When Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw restored Pinehurst No. 2, they cut down the acreage of fairways and they restored a lot of the sandy waste areas and native wire grass. They also changed the watering system to the original center row system. That has helped Pinehurst reduce its water usage on No. 2 from 55 million gallons to 15 million gallons each year, the Chronicle reported.
“It was meant to be that the primary central parts of the fairways would be watered and kept to the point that, as you see them, quite green, but the water would decrease in volume as it went further to the edges to the point that once it got to the edge there was really no water going there,” Coore said.
While Augusta National Golf Club is famous for its vast expanses of green, the home of the Masters Tournament can also afford it. The course is also seasonal, and is closed during the summer months when its famous bentgrass greens would struggle in the summer heat, the Chronicle reported.
“We happen to think that, long-term, water is going to be the biggest obstacle to the game of golf, more than participation, more than anything,” Davis said. “And I think certainly, in certain parts of this country, we’re already seeing it. It’s not going to just be a question of cost. It’s a question of, will you be able to get it?”
Less water use also will reduce golf maintenance costs in other areas. There will be less use of fertilizer, and less mowing areas to maintain, the Chronicle reported.
The browning of Pinehurst No. 2 has not kept scoring down, at least not for Martin Kaymer. The former PGA champion set a record for lowest score through 36 holes with consecutive rounds of 65. A heavy rain Thursday night helped soften up Pinehurst, and Kaymer took advantage, the Chronicle reported.
“There was lots of rain that made the golf course playable,” Kaymer said. “Because I was expecting the golf course playing a lot firmer and obviously that rain helped a lot last night and you could still be aggressive. We had perfect greens in the morning, but still you have to hit good shots.”
Both Davis and Coore were quick to point out that the brown look isn’t for every golf course. Different grasses require different care, the Chronicle reported.
“There are certain grasses, ryegrass would be one, if it turns this color, guess what, it’s dead,” Davis said. “So we’re not saying everything has to be tinged, but the message we’re saying is, less water on a golf course is a very good thing.”
Golf courses around the world, notably in the United Kingdom and Australia, have embraced this style since the game was introduced. Coore said he and Crenshaw were walking the course earlier this week and ran into Jane Crafter, a former LPGA player from Australia, the Chronicle reported.
“(The Australians) would think it’s a fabulous U.S. Open Championship, but there would be no discussion like is going on here right now,” Coore said. “What’s all this brown about? What’s all this sand? What’s all this native grass about?
“That just wouldn’t be, because this is golf as they’re used to. But here, it’s a big deal. It’s a really big deal. So I totally understand what you’re saying. People could look at this on television and go, ‘Oh my God, Pinehurst quit maintaining the course.’ ”
One notable criticism came from Donald Trump, who posted on his Twitter account that “I’d bet the horrible look of Pinehurst translates into poor television ratings. This is not what golf is about!” He then noted that he agreed with NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller for “correctly [being] very critical” of Pinehurst’s greens and saying that “they should be ‘redone’.”
The Minneapolis-based Star Tribune broke down the numbers:
• Twenty-six acres of managed turf were removed.
• The number of irrigation heads reduced from 1,150 to 450.
• Water usage was reduced from 55 million gallons to 15 million gallons.
This event was about sustainability and the long-term future of golf, the Tribune noted. Not every golf facility can do exactly what Pinehurst did, but this was a good start to a much-needed discussion.
Golf courses need a sustainable business and agronomic paradigm shift that provides long-term environmental benefits to the communities and ecosystems where they are located. This change must start at the industry’s very foundation—the physical land on which the game is played. With virtually no new courses being sited nationwide, a growing focus is on the renovation of existing facilities to address environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic viability, the Tribune reported.
The golf industry needs a Pinehurst of the north, because what works for a golf course in North Carolina will not necessarily translate to golf courses in the Upper Midwest or the northeastern U.S., the Tribune reported.
While the effort is still in the planning process, the University of Minnesota plans to transform its Les Bolstad Golf Course into a living laboratory to conduct research that defines core principles, integrates science and advances sustainability goals of environmental stewardship through innovation. In other words, this initiative—known as Science of (the) Green—is about renovating a golf course that culturally, philosophically, practically and conceptually will lead golf into the future through research using the full assets of a land-grant university, the Tribune reported.
The University of Minnesota embraces the challenges ahead for the golf industry and, through its leadership, will define innovative solutions that yield agronomic, economic and environmental sustainability, the Tribune reported.
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