By David McPherson, PGATOUR.COM contributor
The PGA TOUR checks in this week at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Fla. The venue’s unique Copperhead course is a popular stop in the Sunshine State with its elevated tee shots and undulating fairways.
“It doesn’t feel like you are in Florida and that’s one of the reasons the pros love it so much,” said Ryan Stewart, the Copperhead course superintendent.
While last year saw freezing temperatures in the months leading up to the Transitions Championship, this year, temperatures have ranged from the high 70s to the low 80s. This means Stewart and his crew have not had to overseed as often.
Stewart leads a seasoned grounds crew of 13. Preparing for the annual TOUR event requires extra time and care leading up to tournament week, which is spent mostly on detail work -- especially the greens.
“We double-cut them and roll them every day,” Stewart said of Copperhead’s greens, which are expected to roll between 11 and 11.5 on the Stimpmeter this week. “We also hose and syringe the greens daily to get them up to speed; that’s something different from day-to-day operations.”
With warm temperatures expected this week, keeping the ryegrass alive and the turf moist is crucial.
“We will give it water with the hoses every night,” said Stewart, who is originally from Carnoustie in Scotland. “While it’s tough to see the hot spots when it’s dark, my crew knows, mostly by feel, where the greens need extra water.”
The rough, which was about 2-1/2 inches long the past two years, will be about a quarter-inch shorter this week. But Stewart says it will be more dense.
The biggest changes players will notice at Copperhead this week are a trio of greens: No.7, 17, and 18. Last May, these three putting surfaces were stripped, regraded and then enlarged.
“This was done to provide more pin placements,” Stewart explained. “Before, those greens were limited. Now, we have about four or five extra options of where to put the flag.”