By David McPherson, PGATOUR.COM contributor
Dale Hahn is all-too familiar with the three-letter word hot.
This season, however, record temperatures, combined with an earlier tournament date, has challenged the seasoned superintendent even more to keep the greens at TPC Summerlin alive and “up to speed” as he and his crew prepare to host this week’s Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas, Nev.
“It’s tough to keep the greens from drying out,” says the certified golf course superintendent.
“We’ve got a four-man crew every morning and a four-man crew every evening,” says Hahn, who has kept the greens at this desert course for the past decade. “We are hanging in there.”
Hahn acknowledges the health of the greens is his biggest challenge this year. He hopes the forecasters are correct and cooler temperatures are coming his way for the rest of tournament week.
“The hard part is when it is 97 degrees, like it was yesterday, and the TOUR players want it firm and fast,” he said. “It’s hard to give them firm and fast with that heat and 12 hours of daylight.”
Hahn and his crew try to counteract Mother Nature’s heat by using moisture meters to monitor the soil’s H2O levels. “We have TDR-300 electronic moisture meters, which I think every TOUR stop has now,” he explains.
These readings measure two things: the point when the grass starts to wilt, which for TPC Summerlin is around seven percent, and how much moisture these greens need and how big a drop have they had in the past 24 hours.
“If the greens are wilting at six or seven percent and they are dropping five per cent a day, we know the next morning we need to get them to at least 12 percent just to get them through the day,” Hahn said.
TPC Summerlin has not used any overhead irrigation on the greens in more than a week. Besides the greens, according to Hahn, the rest of the course is in fantastic shape, especially the rough, which at 2 1/2 inches, is the thickest they’ve ever had for this event.
“This tournament is typically two to three weeks later,” Hahn concludes. “In the fall, in this climate, the Bermudagrass is shutting down … it just stops growing and even shrinks and shrivels a little bit. The players aren’t used to seeing rough in Las Vegas.
“But, with the high temperatures we’ve had, and the earlier tournament date, we are providing some pretty good rough this year, so the players are going to have to hit it into the fairway.”