The Australian takes Open conditioning to another level
Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy paid The Australian Golf Club the ultimate compliment earlier this week ahead of embarking on their respective 2015 Emirates Australian Open campaigns. The trio were effusive in their praise of the superb conditioning of the 19-time Open host venue, with Ogilvy commenting that the course was “conditioned as well as any I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. The greens are immaculate.”
Earlier, World No.1 and defending Open champion Spieth, a two-times Major winner in 2015, commented that the course was “in even better shape than it was last year” and that it was “one of the purest, firm golf courses” he had played. Scott too was enamoured and along with liking the changes made during the recent $5 million redevelopment, added that the course was “in the best shape of any golf course I think I’ve played this year”.
For course superintendent Phil Beal, assistant superintendent David Smith and the tournament crew, which this year numbers around 50, such comments have been a tremendous fillip and just reward for the huge amount of preparation that has gone into presenting the course. Despite battling a head cold for much of the week Beal says he is extremely pleased with how the course has presented, especially given the hot and windy conditions experienced earlier in the week.
“The guys have done a magnificent job and I’m absolutely rapt with how the course has presented,” says Beal. “I feel a lot more comfortable with the whole set up this year and what we’ve achieved compared to last year. The course is more solid, the surfaces are more mature and they’ve handled the stresses we’ve put them under a lot better.
“The comments have been fantastic and when you have world class players like Jordan, Adam and Geoff commenting the way they have about the conditioning, it really is unbelievable. It’s great for the guys to hear those comments as they know they’re involved in producing something that is very pleasing for all the players.”
Thursday’s opening round certainly put the players and the course to the ultimate test. When the first groups teed off temperatures were already in the mid-20s and by early afternoon the mercury topped out at 39 degrees with strong nor-westerlies causing havoc for the field. A southerly change brought temperatures back down but the wind persisted and by the end of the opening day’s play just 18 players of the 156-strong field finished under par. Despite the heat the turf withstood the stresses placed upon it which was particularly pleasing for Beal.
“While I’m very impressed with the overall look of the course, what was most pleasing was the way in which the greens came through Thursday. It was a bit of a nightmare day. When you have near 40 degree heat and got greens that you know you’ve just put enough water on to get them through, all superintendents know how on edge you can be. I was out there the whole day looking at the course and walking the greens on 10, 14, 15 and 17 and checking them out, but not being able to do a thing about them. I was waiting for them to do the wrong thing, but they didn’t! We literally just gave them a splash with the hoses after that round and they popped back beautifully. The way they got through Thursday was fantastic and very pleasing.”
Round two couldn’t have been more of a contrast with early morning showers softening up the greens a little. Although the wind was much less of a factor, some tough pin positions made scoring difficult, with the eventual cut made at +4. Matthew Jones, a member of The Australian, heads into the weekend leading on 7-under after shooting a 3-under second round. Spieth also shot 3-under but it was Belgian Nicholas Colsaerts who fired the best round of the day – 5-under.
After double cutting from last Saturday through to Tuesday, the warm and windy conditions which prevailed on Wednesday and Thursday saw the A1/A4 bentgrass greens receive just a single cut at 2.8mm. That all changed ahead of today’s third round with some greens receiving triple and quadruple cuts to get them to around the 11.5 mark on the stimpmeter. Fairways, which were subjected to a heavy topdress in late September, are being striped at 10mm (along with greens surrounds) and tees at 8mm. Bunkers are being hand raked both in the morning and afternoon but with different rakes. In afternoon the crew are levelling and putting a good rake mark in them, before going out the following morning with a finer-toothed rake to fluff them up.
The Australian’s tournament crew for the Open numbers 50, with 26 course volunteers joining Beal’s existing crew last Saturday. Among the volunteers is his former assistant Brad Sim, who is now superintendent at Cape Kidnappers in NZ, and Kevan Glass, course manager at Brokenhurst Manor Golf Club in Hampshire, UK. A little closer to home, Beal has also had the services of NSW superintendents Ian ‘Chop’ Elphick (Gunnedah GC) and Joshua Straub (Lismore Workers GC) and South Australia-based superintendent Andrew Hutchings (Blue Lake Golf Links). Sanctuary Cove assistant superintendent Brock Agnew has also made the trip interstate for the week.
A full wrap of the Open, including interviews with Beal, The Australian’s turf equipment technician Josh Cuch and some of the overseas volunteers, will feature in the January-February 2015 edition of Australian Turfgrass Management Journal (Volume 18.1). Until then you can keep to date with the tournament by following The Australian senior greenkeeper Dean Hardman who is regularly tweeting during the tournament. Glass is also posting regular photos on Twitter
You can also keep a track of the tournament through the following official tournament channels: