Tour Report: Turf Talk: Hamilton G&CC

By David McPherson, PGATOUR.COM contributor

Rhod Trainor is no stranger to growing grass.

The seasoned superintendent has been at the helm of the grounds and maintenance department at Hamilton Golf & Country Club in Ancaster, Ont. for 22 years.

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This week, the venerable old club hosts its third Canadian Open in the past decade, and Trainor and crew are ready to welcome back the PGA TOUR. The course is in fantastic shape thanks to a mild winter and an unseasonably warm and dry spring.

No changes have been made to the course since it last hosted the RBC Canadian Open in 2006; the only addition to the venue is a new clubhouse, which lengthened the first hole by about 5 yards.

Trainor’s biggest concern is keeping the turf alive – especially the greens – in the mid-summer heat. Back in 2006, the TOUR stopped here in September; the earlier tournament date this time makes it more challenging to keep the Poa annua greens from dying.

“The cooler September days and nights allow you to put the grass under more stress and get a bit browner,” Trainor explained. “When it’s hot in July, however, it’s hard to keep the greens firm and dry … it tends to be firm and dead. With Poa annua, with its shallow rooting, if you shut the water off for any length of time on a hot day you have problems.”

The lack of rain this spring also made it difficult to keep the course from getting too dry. To address this water issue, the club built a huge reservoir to prepare for any future water shortages.

“We changed the whole way we take water a couple of years ago,” Trainor said. “We built a 22-million gallon reservoir. We also have an irrigation pond, wells, and we pump out of the creek. Governments are restricting more and more how much golf courses can take from the environment, so the best thing we can do is put it in storage.”

Speaking of H2O, Trainor hopes his crew won’t have to hand water between groups. “We are working with moisture meters now and trying to get our moisture levels right, so we know in the morning that the greens will still be good in the afternoon.”

Hamilton closes one week prior to the TOUR coming to town for fine-tuning and final grooming. “All we are doing up until then is growing the turf, especially the rough,” he said. “Our golf course is not long, so the rough gives it some extra defense.”

Sunday night, a massive thunderstorm hit the Ancaster area — flooding the course and washing out the bunkers a bit. The golf course maintenance crew stayed up until 10:30 p.m. and put it all back together in time for Monday’s pro-am.

“The course took it well,” Trainor concluded. “We were off to the races yesterday and the rain should make the rough grow a bit.”

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