A day before our club’s Medal Play Championship – a big two-day member tournament in early September – with the course in wonderful condition and the crew as proud as could be, we got dumped on with 3 and 1/4 inches of rain in 24 hours.
For any golf course superintendent reading this, you’re probably saying, “Yeah, big deal. Happens all the time.”
Par for the course, so to speak.
And if it’s not a torrential downpour, maybe it’s a windstorm. Or vandalism. The point is, bad things happen.
Seems like whenever we’re feeling about as good as we can feel about the course, something comes along to knock us on our backsides and remind us just how short-lived perfection can be. This particular September rainstorm, like most downpours, left our bunkers in chaos and the crew scrambling to repair them to some level of competence for the weekend tournament.
Like I said, we’re not the first crew to have to deal with this. We all do it – more often than we probably want to admit. But that knowledge doesn’t seem to help all that much when you’re on a trap rake pushing yards of sand back up the faces of the washed-out bunkers.
This recent bunker washout got me thinking about sudden and (occasionally) unexpected “bad things” that seem to happen to golf courses right before or sometimes even during a big tournament.
This would fall under Murphy’s Law, right? So, for no other reason than to share misery, I figured a natural outlet for this would be one of my famous (or infamous?) top 10 lists. Let’s call this one Top 10 Tournament Nightmares! Seems like a fitting title for an October Halloween column, no?
The logical place to start our list. But not just rain. That word seems too wishy-washy (pardon the pun). We’re talking here about gully-washing, drenching, bunker-destroying, saturated-greens-type rains.
A close second, windstorms can wreak havoc on pristine courses primed to showcase themselves for a big event. Keep the chain saws sharp and on the ready.
3. Any other weather event not covered above.
Snow, sleet, hail, lightning. Fill in the blank.
The occurrences of vandalism vary from course to course. That said, it seems few escape getting hit at some level from time to time. And why do the vandals usually wait until the worst time to take a donut-circling tour of your course?
Outbreaks of disease can and do happen throughout the year, but it does seem like they love to attack a day or two before that big shotgun event. A well-timed preventive fungicide application might save you this unexpected headache.
6. The plague.
You may have the best crew imaginable. They work hard, are dedicated and hardly ever miss work. But sure enough, the weekend of that big tournament, a mysterious illness sweeps though the crew, and four workers call in sick.
7. What tournament?
Anyone remember the movie “Cool Hand Luke”? And that famous line at the end of the movie: “What we have here is a failure to communicate”?
The worst tournament for any superintendent is the one that he or she didn’t know about until the day of. The one the pro shop forgot to inform you about. To avoid this headache of all headaches, keep communication lines open.
Does this sound familiar? “For today’s tournament, the group would like a big cup in the practice green, a straight-drive line on holes two and 12, special hole-in-one yardage for all par 3s, tucked pins and a mat on the first and 10th tees.”
9. Beer kegs.
When you see these silver puppies getting brought out onto the course, you know your golf course is in for a long day.
10. And that other thing.
I’m sure there are other things that have happened to you folks on tournament day that I’ve missed. Bears on the course? A golfer brawl? Streakers? Maybe it’s best we don’t talk about it anymore.