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May 8 2012

6:15 PM

Turf Talk: THE PLAYERS

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The 18th hole annually ranks the toughest on the Stadium Course.

By David McPherson, PGATOUR.COM contributor

Grooming the Stadium Course for golf’s fifth major is a year-round job. Thanks to the TOUR’s support, a capable crew and volunteers from around the globe (including greenkeepers from the home courses of various TOUR pros like Tim Clark and Sergio Garcia), superintendent Tom Vlach now has this annual preparation down to a science.  

turf-talk-200 There is a lot of pressure, but it’s pressure we can handle since we are provided the resources,” said Vlach, director of golf maintenance operations at TPC Sawgrass. “We are also lucky that the PGA TOUR headquarters are here … they understand golf and what it takes to get the course ready."

What most people don’t know is that when it comes to recommended alterations to the Stadium Course, TOUR officials are the ones who guide his crew.

“The TOUR rules committee basically runs the event,” Vlach says. “After each tournament, they sit down, write a report and suggest changes for the following year—both inside and outside the ropes.”
 
Since TPC Sawgrass is known as “golf’s greatest stadium,” Vlach says besides improving the course for the players, TOUR officials also aim annually to further enhance the fan’s experience in various ways such as improving the on-course traffic flow.

When it comes to on-course changes, many projects were completed since the 2011 PLAYERS. Last July, minor additions were made to a few of the approaches to strategically extend these areas, providing a more playable and fair lie for the pros. This past winter, subsurface drainage systems were installed in highly saturated areas and Precision Aire heaters were installed underneath all of TPC’s greens to help the putting surfaces weather colder Florida nights.

“This has worked well to keep the soil temperatures up in the winter,” Vlach said. “If there is a really cold night, we crank up the heat and we also cover up the greens with a blanket.”

Tweet it up … Vlach and his crew have dived into using social media to keep members and the public informed and to educate them about all the behind-the-scenes projects happening at TPC Sawgrass. They have a maintenance blog that is updated regularly with videos, still photos and other posts; they also have a Twitter account.

“I started a blog about two years ago after seeing my wife reading all these online sites,” Vlach said. “I got great feedback ... then it just got bigger and bigger; it’s a monster that feeds itself, but it’s also a great way to grow the interns and get them exposed to social media.”

To read more about how Vlach and his crew prepare TPC Sawgrass for the world’s best players, see their maintenance blog at www.tpcsawgrassagronomy.com, or follow them on Twitter at @tpcsawgrassagr.

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