By David McPherson, PGATOUR.COM contributor
If a tree falls in the forest does anyone hear?
Whether anyone heard or not, Michael Giuffre and his crew had to clean up these fallen giants quickly last weekend to get ready for the TOUR’s visit to Bethesda, Md., this week. Congressional Country Club was hit with a major storm last Friday night, causing an additional headache before the AT&T National.
“The biggest challenge this year was that storm,” said Giuffre, the director of golf course maintenance, who has led a talented team at Congressional since 1999. “A couple of tall white pines fell, one in the middle of the fairway. We had to clean up all this debris before the show came to town this week!”
This is just one of the many challenges a superintendent faces -- whether he's prepping for the PGA TOUR or grooming his course for everyday play.
Congressional has hosted many major tournaments over the years, including the 2011 U.S. Open, so it’s used to being in the spotlight. While the prestigious country club is well-known to players, for those who didn’t compete for the year's second major last year, it’s likely the first time they’ll tee it up on the new and improved Blue Course, which underwent significant renovations in 2009.
All the greens were rebuilt (including the practice green) with sub-air systems and the Poa annua grass was replaced with bentgrass. Giuffre says the greens, which will run between 13 and 13 1/2 on the Stimpmeter, are in great shape. “We don’t see any bumpiness anymore when there was a mixture of bentgrass and Poa the first three years.”
Congressional added new tees on Nos. 3, 4, 9, 12, and 15 to lengthen the course. Other changes included shifting the fairway on No. 11 closer to the stream to bring the water more into play. Several fairways were also narrowed and brought closer to the bunkers, so balls are more apt to trickle into them.
“We also removed the fairway bunkers on the 11th hole on the right side,” Giuffre said. “On the 16th hole, we removed two existing bunkers on the left-hand side and added two new bunkers about 330 yards from the tee. We also added a third bunker where the existing fairway bunkers were on the right-hand side.
“Around the 16th green, there also used to be long, tall fescue, which we removed and replaced with shortcut bentgrass, so now a mis-hit shot will roll a little farther away from the green.”