By David McPherson, PGATOUR.COM contributor
While many people across the United States were happy winter’s embrace was loose this year, Doug Heinrichs wished Mother Nature had dropped a few more flakes.
The golf course superintendent at Montreux Golf & Country Club — where the Reno-Tahoe Open will be played this week — says the lack of snow meant spring came early and the grass suffered.
“Normally we get between six to ten feet of snow and this past year we only had four to five inches,” Heinrichs commented. “We lost a lot of turf, so we had to reseed much of the course.”
This early spring also caused the greenkeeper to turn on the irrigation taps a wee bit early, and the results were disastrous. “Many pipes and sprinkler heads broke,” Heinrichs said. “We could only do that for a bit before we had to turn the system off again.”
Water management is a big challenge since Montreux sits nearly 6,000 feet above sea level. The course relies on a mountain creek for its water, and this year the creek is at the lowest levels Heinrichs has ever seen.
“There are definitely restrictions there,” he said, about the lack of H2O. “We haven’t had to cut back yet to the point where we are losing turf, but we’ve had to be more prudent than ever managing our water. As the summer has progressed, it’s starting to get a little more regulated.”
The unpredictability of Mother Nature also made regulating the greens at Montreux difficult; the result is a lot of the Poa annua died. “The greens and fairways took a beating,” Heinrichs said. “That was a bit of a challenge, but we got it all back in shape over the past couple of months.”
Besides this tough start to 2012 for the turf boss, Heinrichs — who has led the team at Monteux Golf & Country Club for the past 14 years — says there have been no other major issues. “We have pretty good standards on the course already, so unlike some clubs, we don’t start prepping specifically for the TOUR until 10 days before … that’s when we start dialing things in.”
Dialing things in means more fertilizer treatments and extra grooming around Montreux’ 62 traps.
“We fly mow all our bunker faces shorter around the greens and fairways so the ball will roll into them and not get caught up on the deep faces,” Heinrichs said. “We usually leave the grass long on the backside of the bunkers, so that a poorly hit shot may end up on a bunker face.”
Irrigating at the right times to make sure there are no wet spots is the only other major concern leading up to the TOUR’s pit stop in Nevada.
“You want to give it just enough water to get through the day,” Heinrichs said. “At the end of the day, the course should be under stress where you see everything wilting a little bit, while at the start of the day, everything looks really sharp.
“We’ve got it there right now. We are seeing a lot of wilt at the end of the day and no wet spots in the morning.”