NCAA women's golf regional sites marked by 'rough, rough conditions,' goose poop

NCAA women's golf regional sites marked by 'rough, rough conditions,' goose poop

At one golf course, the worst course conditions one veteran coach has ever seen in the postseason.

At another, a few scruffy greens and extra towels for a possible barrage of goose droppings.

These are a couple scenes as the NCAA Division I women’s golf regionals get underway at six sites across the country on Monday. Two of the host venues – Traditions Golf Club in Bryan, Texas, and Spanish Trail Country Club in Las Vegas – are subjects of concern, albeit different levels, before tee balls have even been struck.

At Traditions, the maintenance staff has been working overtime after more than 12 inches of rain has fallen on the course since last Sunday. Storms have slammed eastern Texas in recent days, especially Houston, which is still experiencing severe flooding. One top club, Whispering Pines in Trinity, which is 80 miles north of downtown Houston and recently hosted the Big 12 Men's Championship, announced it would be closed indefinitely, perhaps until the fall, because of damage from flooding. Bryan is located about 70 miles due west of Trinity, and the bunkers at Traditions have already needed to be repaired three times in the past week.

But as one coach, whose team is competing, argued, “The course is wet, but that’s not the issue.”

Photos obtained by show several areas of the 6,376-yard layout devoid of grass, some of those bare patches with sheets of fresh sod placed over them. Most of the trouble spots are in fairways, though there is at least one large grassless area near a green.

“The tee boxes are great, the greens are fine, but in between is in rough, rough shape,” said the same coach.

Added another veteran coach: "For sure, these are the worst conditions I've seen at regionals. Not even close."

At least two others coaches in the 12-team field expressed similar sentiments.

Traditions, which traditionally hosts both men’s and women’s tournaments during the regular season, has long been considered a difficult, championship test, but in recent years the club has seen worsening conditioning, according to coaches, and a renovation and re-grassing is on the horizon. One men's coach who was at last month's Aggie Invitational, however, contended that the climate and recent rain were mostly to blame. "It wasn't in the best shape, but it's nobody's fault, really," he said. "... If you complain about it then you've already lost."

Julie Manning, one of the NCAA's site reps in Bryan, said that committee members and rules officials walked every hole on Sunday night and marked trouble spots as ground under repair. She added that there were areas addressed on every hole.

"When we got out there Sunday night, it was better than I thought," Manning said. "The landing areas are in awfully good conditions, but there is no question that parts of the fairways, and some corners of the course and edges of the greens have a very small amount of grass or just tufts of grass."

Manning then added: "Mother Nature just has not been kind here, and it’s unfortunate. ... But it definitely is not for not trying."

For areas not painted, Manning said competitors will be permitted to lift, clean and place while also receiving one club length of relief in closely mown areas. For now, that's just for the first round, but the committee will continue to assess whether they need to extend those rules for the remaining rounds.

One other issue is players also will be competing without a true practice round. As teams arrived at the golf course on Saturday afternoon, they were quickly informed that Sunday’s scheduled practice round would be pushed up to Saturday evening with a shotgun start set for 6 p.m. local. Little Rock, the No. 12 seed, could not play as its players’ golf bags, misplaced by an airline, did not arrive until Sunday morning. The rest of the field completed between four and six holes before dark.

After more rain fell overnight, players resumed their practice rounds on Sunday afternoon but were only able to chip and putt, unable to hit tee and approach shots on a soaked course.

In Las Vegas, competitors practiced Sunday in 30 mph winds. The fan should turn down for the actual tournament, but there is still slight concern about a few greens, which are in less-than-ideal shape after a tough transition from ryegrass.

“I think they are going to end up being good enough,” said a coach whose team is competing, “but they are not fantastic, by any means.”

Perhaps a bigger issue could be the goose poop. Players are expected to receive towels on the first tee on Monday to help combat potential problems.

“This is a first,” said another veteran coach. “You have to laugh as you can’t make this up.”

The NCAA women’s golf postseason has been no stranger to controversy in recent years. Last spring, at the NCAA Division III Women’s Championship in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, the third round was scrapped with nearly 60% of the field finished with play because of what the NCAA determined to be an “unplayable” hole location.

And before that, the 2021 NCAA D-I women's regional in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was completely canceled because the golf course was not playable at a “championship level” after heavy rains drenched the University Club. The decision was much to the dismay of several coaches and players, and the NCAA committee advanced the top six seeds and three highest-ranked individuals not on advancing teams, ending the seasons for the rest of the field. Gerrod Chadwell, then the head coach at Houston, was among the most vocal coaches, telling Golfweek at the time, “This place (University Club) has zero business hosting another regional. You find a way to get it done.”

NCAA bylaws state that if a minimum of 36 holes cannot be completed, the committee will select the advancing teams, taking into consideration 18-hole scores and other selection criteria. Courses, if shortened because of conditions, must also remain at 5,800 yard or longer.

Neither stipulation is on the radar in Bryan, and considering the forecast is improving, Manning said the NCAA fully expects to get in 54 holes in Bryan and see five deserving teams and one individual punch their NCAA Championship tickets to La Costa by Wednesday evening.

Chadwell, whose Texas A&M squad is hosting, has heard the hullabaloo, and he's not stressing. The Aggies are the second seed in the region behind top-seeded LSU. Clemson, Vanderbilt and SMU round out the top five seeds.

“I’m excited to get the ball in the air tomorrow,” Chadwell said Sunday night. “Our team has been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to compete in front of our fans.”