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Mark_Rowlinson

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Conditioning 50 years ago
« on: May 17, 2011, 12:02:56 PM »
I have now been playing golf for 50 years. It strikes me that, despite the much greater weight of traffic over courses today, they are almost all in far better condition than they were then. Teeing grounds were rough and ready, greens slow and uneven (mown perhaps twice a week?), and fairway/semi rough margins often undefined. Pins were moved less frequently and the surrounding area of green often quite worn and compacted. Bunkers were only superficially raked, their edges often broken.

I suppose courses should be in better condition today given the considerable investment in the latest technology in greenkeeping equipment at many clubs and courses. Unfortunately, go to any of the pay-and-play or municipal courses around where I live and you are very quickly reminded of what it used to be like.

Do other oldies agree?

Kalen Braley

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2011, 12:33:24 PM »
I have now been playing golf for 50 years. It strikes me that, despite the much greater weight of traffic over courses today, they are almost all in far better condition than they were then. Teeing grounds were rough and ready, greens slow and uneven (mown perhaps twice a week?), and fairway/semi rough margins often undefined. Pins were moved less frequently and the surrounding area of green often quite worn and compacted. Bunkers were only superficially raked, their edges often broken.

I suppose courses should be in better condition today given the considerable investment in the latest technology in greenkeeping equipment at many clubs and courses. Unfortunately, go to any of the pay-and-play or municipal courses around where I live and you are very quickly reminded of what it used to be like.

Do other oldies agree?

Mark,

You need to consider moving then.  All of the publics here in Spokane are in fine shape maintenance-wise with smooth greens, good fairway conditions, and almost always very easy to book a tee time, even on the weekends.  The most oft played course only gets 40,000 rounds per year.  (7.5 to 8 month season)

And all can be played for less than $30.

JMEvensky

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2011, 12:43:48 PM »
My experience is similar--although you must be much older than I am as I've only been playing for about 40 years.

Growing up on munis,I can remember the first time I played a private and realized that sand was supposed to be in those deep depressions--not the dirt/grass/weeds/sand combination I was used to.I can remember needing a hammer to get a tee in the ground on dirt tee boxes.Fairways were a bermuda/weed hybrid.

However,I think your comment on the added investment and technology only raises some more questions.

I once asked our 30+ year Super how much was his maintenance budget 30 years ago.He remembered it as ~ $80,000- $90,000.Add a zero (plus some more) to that today.

So,the golf course is certainly better maintained--but has it been worth it?Somewhere between the 2 extremes of then and now,I'd enjoy playing golf just as much.And for me,I think it wouldn't be far from the 1981 model.

Bill_McBride

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2011, 12:54:35 PM »
My experience is similar--although you must be much older than I am as I've only been playing for about 40 years.

Growing up on munis,I can remember the first time I played a private and realized that sand was supposed to be in those deep depressions--not the dirt/grass/weeds/sand combination I was used to.I can remember needing a hammer to get a tee in the ground on dirt tee boxes.Fairways were a bermuda/weed hybrid.

However,I think your comment on the added investment and technology only raises some more questions.

I once asked our 30+ year Super how much was his maintenance budget 30 years ago.He remembered it as ~ $80,000- $90,000.Add a zero (plus some more) to that today.

So,the golf course is certainly better maintained--but has it been worth it?Somewhere between the 2 extremes of then and now,I'd enjoy playing golf just as much.And for me,I think it wouldn't be far from the 1981 model.

One thing I like about golf in the UK is that there doesn't seem to be a desire for the pristine conditioning that US private courses in particular seem to require.  It's great to see a very good course with no flower beds or fountains in the ponds.


JMEvensky

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2011, 01:03:29 PM »
Bill M.,I agree about UK vs. US courses.

I wonder how many US privates would "de-manicure" if the decisions were left to members with a UK playing experience?I think this is just another argument in favor of the benevolent dictator.Absent that,at least some serious input from those members who could explain why some "improvements" aren't really better--just a lot more expensive.

Jim Eder

Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2011, 01:12:13 PM »
I was just thinking about this issue.  Remember all the spike marks we would all putt over or around? Now the greens are perfect and it is easier (imo) to make the putts. Green speeds are up so pins are not put on the sides of slopes (for the most part) so putts inside 5 feet tend to have less break and balls do not hang up on slopes and tend to funnel to low areas (this tends to be a positive if you hit them closer to the pin). It seems to be that in the old days I had many many more short putts with big breaks than I have today (is it the pin placements or the fact the ball collects into lower areas). With faster greens shots hit into the center of a green can utilize slopes to get closer to tucked pins while avoiding trouble on the short side (in the old days they would sit where you hit it and have a 25 footer). And in the old days you had to really hit a putt to get it to the hole with more room for error in the stroke. Then with fairway condition being poorer, clean contact would be tougher causing less spin. There are a lot of other interesting things to think about.  To me today's perfect conditioning has made things play easier.

It is interesting to think about how faster greens etc impact the architecture. Do undulating greens cause fewer pin placements because of the speeds. Would it be worth it to dial down speeds to bring in additional placements. Or should greens be designed with less slopes? I love the greens that are being done by C&C and Doak but I wonder how much green speeds figure into their thinking of how they design their greens now.
Sorry about going in a bit of a different direction.

Niall C

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2011, 01:24:27 PM »
Bill M.,I agree about UK vs. US courses.

I wonder how many US privates would "de-manicure" if the decisions were left to members with a UK playing experience?I think this is just another argument in favor of the benevolent dictator.Absent that,at least some serious input from those members who could explain why some "improvements" aren't really better--just a lot more expensive.

I'm far to young to enter into this discussion  ;D but on the question of flower beds, unfortunately the UK is following the US lead, or should I say Augustas lead. Maybe not as bad but thats probably down to budget.

Niall

Kalen Braley

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2011, 01:29:12 PM »
Niall,

To follow-up on that, while watching the Players this past weekend, I often wondered if I was watching golf or a gardening show with all the references and attention given to all the flowers, shrubs, plants and otherwise that they've planted on seemingly every hole.

So now supers everywhere are going to try to do the same and watch their maintenance budgets explode even more.

JMEvensky

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2011, 01:35:14 PM »


So now supers everywhere are going to try to do the same and watch their maintenance budgets explode even more.



Disagree--stupid members will ask their Supers to do the same while staying within the budget.

Kalen Braley

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2011, 02:47:12 PM »


So now supers everywhere are going to try to do the same and watch their maintenance budgets explode even more.



Disagree--stupid members will ask their Supers to do the same while staying within the budget.

Fair enough, that's a good clarification.  And if they won't or can't, those same stupid members will fire their supers.

In general though, if private clubs in the past 30 years had ignored the "Augusta effect"...perhaps I would believe they could resist in this case as well...but clearly it seems to be a monkey see, monkey do kind of thing at work here.

Adrian_Stiff

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2011, 02:57:33 PM »
Im 51 so remember back 40 years. The courses in the UK were dire then in comparison to now. Mark is spot on, mowing was weekly, the fairways were gang mown with passes around the backs of the greens. At longer holes after a good drive you sometimes your lie was not good enough to get a wooden club to it. I think the greens were still pretty good though, the 10 bladed mowers had arrived by the late 60s. Most golf clubs had 4 green staff, the average today would be 6.  Work included mowing the sprinklers around in the summer, it was a near full time job for 1 person, automatic irrigation systems, triplex mowers, bunker rakes etc have all allowed manicuring and intensive mowing.
A combination of whats good for golf and good for turf.
The Players Club, Cumberwell Park, The Kendleshire, Oake Manor, Dainton Park, Forest Hills, Erlestoke, St Cleres.
www.theplayersgolfclub.com

Melvyn Morrow

Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2011, 05:36:01 PM »

Mark

Yours is not the first to look back 50 years here an article from 1910 looking back 50 Years - hope it is of interest.

Melvyn






















Dónal Ó Ceallaigh

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2011, 06:22:27 PM »
I can only think back to just over 30 years. One aspect of modern maintenance that I believe has gone a bit too far (i.e. too low), is the mowing of fairways. In the olden days, the grass on the gang mowed fairways was longer, lusher and was rolled forward, so it was usually quite easy to hit woods and long irons. Nowadays, the fairways are cut very low, and if you don't have perfect growth, some of the lies can be a bit bare and not so inviting to a 3 wood.   

Here in Sweden, the fairways are cut too low, and considering how severe the winters can be, you tend to play on bare patchy fairways up until mid-June. At times, the grass is cut so low, the clay is visible. I'm all for raising the fairways heights; it would also produce less roll, thus providing a very cheap and immediate method of lengthening courses.

Jeff_Brauer

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2011, 06:32:48 PM »
Mark,

I worked golf maintenance in two college summers at a (for the times) high end public course near Chicago in 1973-4.

Greens mowed every day but Monday at 1/4".  I vaguely recall that the private clubs had just gone down to a bit tighter cuts.

Besides the Monday rest day, once a week, we took out the walk mowers to reduce the stress caused by riding mowers, and we also skipped the clean up pass around the green edge from time to time, which caused more stress.

Tees and fw at 1/2" or 5/8", mowed 3X per week.  Rough mowed once per week, usually on Thur or Friday to make it easier for weekend play.

Single row fw irrigation, some quick couplers, others automated (a hole a year, and they were midway through) while most greens had 4-5 sprinklers.  A few still had a single center sod cup!

All poa annua.  Roughs got a bit toasty in the Chicago summer since they got no water, but fw was always green and lush (as were a few patrons!)

Sprayed pesticides once a week whether it needed it or not, which wouldn't happen today.  DDT was banned that year, so we stocked up a bunch, maybe ten years worth.

I recall the 1/4 inch poa/bent greens as being a bit bumpy, and would have no idea what the stimp reading was.  Most greens (I measured later when remodeling some of them) were in the 3-4% slope range, though, as opposed to 1.5-2.5% today.

Just my memories. You are in a different location, but at least 40 years ago, that was the state of a decent course maintenance program near Chicago, IL, USA
Jeff Brauer, ASGCA Director of Outreach

David Lott

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2011, 09:37:05 PM »
Water.
Fertilizer.
Pest control.
Money.
More water.
David Lott

jeffwarne

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #15 on: May 18, 2011, 09:10:39 AM »
Just returned from Ireland.
Great links turf and similar conditions at all 11 courses we played.

What I found disturbing were signs at at least 3 courses that allowed players to move their ball 6 inches in the fairways.(obviously a reaction to complaints about conditions-which in my opinion were ideal -tight and firm)
Other than the two professionals in our group of 8, the handicaps ranged from 11-17 and not one player ever moved his ball in the tight,occasionally thin fairways, nor even thought about it.
The highlight of the trip was when my partner hit a three wood out of a divot(after a quick stance adjustment at my suggestion) onto the fringe on a closing hole in a tight match.

"Perfect" conditions only cheapen the game IMHO and create ludicrous expectations.
"Let's slow the damned greens down a bit, not take the character out of them." Tom Doak
"Take their focus off the grass and put it squarely on interesting golf." Don Mahaffey

Sean_A

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2011, 11:16:34 AM »
Just returned from Ireland.
Great links turf and similar conditions at all 11 courses we played.

What I found disturbing were signs at at least 3 courses that allowed players to move their ball 6 inches in the fairways.(obviously a reaction to complaints about conditions-which in my opinion were ideal -tight and firm)
Other than the two professionals in our group of 8, the handicaps ranged from 11-17 and not one player ever moved his ball in the tight,occasionally thin fairways, nor even thought about it.
The highlight of the trip was when my partner hit a three wood out of a divot(after a quick stance adjustment at my suggestion) onto the fringe on a closing hole in a tight match.

"Perfect" conditions only cheapen the game IMHO and create ludicrous expectations.


Jeff

I don't know what "occasionally thin fairways" means, but at Pennard I often tell folks to rollem' in the summer.  I don't much see the sense of beating up on an already beat up bit of turf.  I often push balls to the wings at Pennard if they are close enough.  I spose we could ask supers to be more on top of creating temporary GURs, but why bother?  I can see where there are issues and take measures to protect that area. 

I am not old enough to go back 50 years, but I can go back 33 years in the States and 21 in the UK.  I honestly don't see that much difference.  In fact, in the UK I think greens are worse.  They may be cut more, but they don't roll as true nor are they as consistently firm.  For sure I am seeing some improvement in the past few years, but that has more to do with NOT doing stuff rather than doing stuff.  I bit older and wiser I spose. 

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Blackmoor, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend & Alnmouth

Ken Moum

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #17 on: May 18, 2011, 01:08:21 PM »
I started playing a lot of golf 48 years ago at age 15, on a nine-hole course in Thief River Falls, MN.

I went back there for the first time in about 25 years.  It's now 18 holes, and I noticed a few things that had changed dramatically, the fairways were WAY narrower than in my youth, the rough was much taller, and they'd planted a bunch of trees.

Back in the 60s I recall the greens being very fast, but some of that was due to the amount of grain they had.  On bentgrass, I believe that those old greens had plenty of grain running downhill, which dramatically increased the difference between uphill and downhill speeds.

I worked on the course in early 70s and we walk mowed the greens every day and moved the cups several times a week.  The fairways were at least 3/4",  mowed with a five gang mower pulled by an old Ford tractor.

We top-dressed the greens with either sand or peat a couple of times a year, which involved a lot of handwork getting the topdressing incorporated.

We were pretty lmited as far as equipment, I remember digging a French drain that was almost 50 yards long, by hand....

K
Over time, the guy in the ideal position derives an advantage, and delivering him further  advantage is not worth making the rest of the players suffer at the expense of fun, variety, and ultimately cost -- Jeff Warne, 12-08-2010

Adrian_Stiff

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #18 on: May 18, 2011, 01:28:37 PM »
A dramatic improvement in general course conditions started in the late 80s. I reckon I might have been the first person to triplex mow fairways in the UK. It was a wet year perhaps 1984, I was a greenkeeper and we were still on winter rules in June, I had little choice but to mow the fairways with a Ransomes 180.... I did it all year and the difference was unbelievable, I pursaded my boss that for the cost.. 1 person full time it was worth it and he bought the idea and we continued after that every year and others followed but it was unheard of in 1984 and lots thought it was totally a waste of time until they saw the result. Greens in those days were mown at 3/16" thats 4.5mm, that was as low as you would dare you except perhaps for a few days before the club championships where you might dare another 1/32" off or even at somewhere like Burnham and Berrow go to 1/8". We top dressed twice a year.
Today we top dress monthly and 3mm is often the norm for some, today we have slow release fertilisers and better equipment to groom on a near daily basis..... you try telling the kids today they wont believe you.
A combination of whats good for golf and good for turf.
The Players Club, Cumberwell Park, The Kendleshire, Oake Manor, Dainton Park, Forest Hills, Erlestoke, St Cleres.
www.theplayersgolfclub.com

Sean_A

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #19 on: May 18, 2011, 04:28:33 PM »
Adrian

Burnham shoots for 5mm cutting in season (perhaps that target will drop as the greens become more consistently made up of bents and fescues) and higher in winter.  They hope to get speed (9-10) by rolling and top dressing.  I spose hand mowing would help, but I don't think they do this often.  When I first got to know Burnham 20 years ago the greens were much quicker.  They were among the fastest and smoothest greens (and they held) I have ever encountered anywhere - in the summer.  In the winter they were dreadful; slow and bumpy.  It has taken many years to erradicate those harsh practices which essentially transformed links greens into parkland greens.  I hear folks complain a lot about how the greens aren't as good as they used to be, but of course they only remember the summer months.  I spose its a matter of opinion as to whether or not the greens are better know than then and if a club should should shoot for year round consistency over good in high season/poor in off season.   To me its a no-brainer when possible and I can't understand why a links club would sacrifice this huge advantage it has over parkland courses.     

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Blackmoor, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend & Alnmouth

Mark_Rowlinson

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Re: Conditioning 50 years ago
« Reply #20 on: May 19, 2011, 10:25:27 AM »
50 years ago we were playing with the small ball. I couldn't afford Dunlop 65s and mostly played with a rock-like ball with two red dots on it. Probably the only other balls then available were Penfolds. As a left hander there was hardly any choice of clubs, Dunlop Bob Charles. I got some John Letters irons in 1968 and they were far superior to the Dunlops. I resurrected the old 10-iron from this set recently and it has much improved my pitching and chipping.

Where I began my golf at Lilleshall Hall there were no sprinklers. What watering there was was done by hand. 

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