Chambers Bay’s Eric Johnson knows the importance of a well-rested crew.

Eric Johnson, Director of Agronomy.

Eric Johnson, Director of Agronomy.

If you’ve ever worked on a U.S. Open crew — be it as golf course superintendent, crew member or volunteer — you know the drill. You work your proverbial tail off, putting in double-digit hours during practice and regular rounds. Outside of the work, you basically eat and sleep.

The 45-person crew and the 135 volunteers at Chambers Bay have and will continue to receive plenty of good food and drink this week, courtesy of golf maintenance supplier-sponsored meals. But sleep is another matter.

They laugh and joke about getting up at 2:30 a.m. to report to work. That helps them to keep going. But, truth is, it’s no joking matter. And it’s something that Eric Johnson, Chambers Bay’s director of agronomy, has and will continue to address with his crew and the volunteers until the U.S. Open wraps up on Sunday (barring a Monday playoff.)

“Make sure to get your rest,” Johnson will tell them.

Johnson wants the crew as well rested as possible for obvious reasons — they’re setting up the course for one of the world’s greatest sporting events. Nobody needs any scalped greens.

So it all comes back to rest — and the brain. Sleep is good for the brain. And Johnson knows that he needs his brain — and his crew’s brains — to be on high alert this week for obvious reasons. A well-rested brain is a well-functioning brain, which is crucial if quick decisions need to be made.

New research from the University of Rochester provides the first direct evidence for why brain cells need to sleep. The study found that when sleeping you’re brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you’re awake. Unfortunately, your brain can remove them adequately when you’re awake. So when you don’t get enough sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, impairing your ability to think, according to the study. Five cups of coffee won’t fix the problem.

Johnson has been working 16- to 18-hour days this week. His crew and the volunteers are close behind.

Johnson, who has volunteered at several past U.S. Opens, knows how to stay somewhat energized.

“Cat naps,” he says. “It usually works pretty well if I can get one of those in during the day.”

He will tell the crew to do the same.

“I’ve encouraged everyone to take advantage of getting some sleep when they can,” Johnson says.

As far as course maintenance, Johnson doesn’t want any surprises. And he knows a well-rested crew is key to that.

“You want it to be routine,” he says.


Photo by Ron Furlong.  The Toro equipment needs some rest, too. These machines are pulling double duty at Chambers Bay during this week’s U.S. Open.


Read more from Superintendent’s coverage of the U.S. Open here.