Golf Tournament Preparation
For Pat O’Brien, Grounds Supervisor at Hyde Park Golf and Country Club, consistency is key when preparing for a Tuesday on the course or preparing for a big event at the club.
Hyde Park Golf and Country Club is home to 18 holes and 500 members. They host several events throughout the season, including members and guest events, and USGA qualifier events. We picked O’Brien’s head to figure out how his crew prepares for events or tournaments at the course and to see what turf tips he could offer us.
What turf tips can you give others who may have a tournament or guest event on their course this year?
O’Brien: Consistency is everything. At Hyde Park we treat a Tuesday on the course with as much importance as a qualifier event we may be hosting. Because of this, we maintain the golf course at a high level all season long. When a tournament or event comes up on the calendar we have very minimal change to our maintenance and tasks because we ensure the course is playable, healthy and safe each day. If weather or heavy traffic on the course impacts the terrain leading up to an event, we will increase inputs, like mowing or grooming.
What’s one of the biggest obstacles your crew will face on the course each year?
O’Brien: Staffing has become an obstacle for us. During the summer we have a mix of 25 part-time and full-time crew members. It’s been increasingly difficult to attract the next generation to come out for the summer or make turf grass their profession of choice. The kids in high school or college are so involved with extra activities that we’ve had trouble finding part-time crew members that we can keep engaged throughout the season. I’ve definitely seen a generational impact on the labor force. We need to make corrections as an industry if we want to address the issue head on. The cost of education outweighs that initial return on investment, but I still believe there is an untapped market of professionals who’d love a gig that gets them outside and gives them the opportunity to see something progress from concept to execution like you can in turf.
When staff is limited, how do you manage your laundry list of event or tournament to dos?
O’Brien: If our staff is fluctuating any given week, we’ve learned to prioritize. We look at which tasks require the most attention and resources, then we start with those. We will put a large focus on the putting greens because that’s something people will notice and appreciate first. Then playability becomes our focus as we survey the course to ensure each area is healthy and safe. Lastly, no one wants to be in the rough, especially an unkept rough. We like to make sure everything is consistent there and make sure the rough is playable.
How do you set your crew up for success during the off-season?
O’Brien: Each winter we will spend time evaluating everything to ensure each process is progressing the way we want it to and which areas could improve. Our season’s success is dependent on the starting building blocks of our agronomic plan. So, we will spend a good amount of time planning, preparing and implementing those agronomic practices and adapting to changes we’ve seen over the course of seasons, years, etc. The off-season is also a great opportunity to address infrastructure issues with club leaders. That way, once the members start filing in come spring we have already fixed the issue or have a plan in place to do so.
It’s inevitable that weather becomes an issue at some point in the season, how do you overcome this obstacle when an event is scheduled or damage is done to the course?
O’Brien: Folks can sometimes forget we are dealing with dynamic scenarios that involve a living surface. So, it’s important to communicate and reiterate as much as possible when dealing with Mother Nature. We like to stay ahead by working on an agreed upon plan with the organizers. That plan will include a contingency plan for every possible obstacle that may arise. If the course is not in jeopardy we will do everything in our power to host the event. Cancelling or rescheduling are always written into the plan as worse-case scenario. But, if we’re pushing the envelope to throw the event we are sure to communicate with the club what those short-term and long-term consequences may be. We’ve had great success utilizing social media to further our communication with members and guests who are attending an event when weather may be an issue. In the case that damage occurs because of weather, again we are sure to immediately communicate a recovery plan so members and club executives can plan accordingly.
How do you communicate with members the importance of respecting the course?
O’Brien: We are fortunate to have members that take great pride in the course. Our members are truly the best advocates for the club and respecting the grounds. Luckily, our members extend that importance to their guests or others they see on the course.
Consistency and communication are the turf tips that O’Brien and the Hyde Park crew swear by when maintaining and preparing your course for golf tournaments and events. For more turf tips be sure to check out other articles on our blog!