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March 26 2013

5:51 PM

Turf Talk: Shell Houston Open

Warm temperatures helped the overseed areas come in quite well at Redstone. (Cohen/Getty Images)

By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

The thermometer hit 90 degrees in some of Houston’s northern suburbs early last week, breaking a 106-year-old record for the date.

That was last week. On Tuesday, practice rounds for the Shell Houston Open were held up by a frost delay. “It’s just been a weird year in Houston,” said Randy Samoff, Redstone Golf Club’s superintendent.

Timing is everything, though. And if Redstone was destined to face such extremes in such short order, at least Mother Nature got the sequence right.

Before last week’s hot spell, the overseed on Redstone’s Tournament course had been in a holding pattern. The high temperatures jolted the ryegrass back into a growth mode, and this week’s cooling pattern will help keep conditions firm and fast.

“Everything came together to get the course ready,” Samoff said. “Speeds are going to be right where we want them to be. We’re not going to struggle to get to those ranges. We had the warmth, then a little chill just at the right time.”

Speed is important at Redstone, where Samoff and his crews have earned praise for their ability to simulate conditions that Masters participants might expect at Augusta National. Wide fairways give way to rough of no more than 1 ¼ inches, and short grass around the greens funnel rolloffs into chipping areas.

“It’s not too much of a transition from what we try to do all year long,” Samoff said.

But a dry winter and cooler-than-usual temperatures kept the overseed from coming in as densely as usual. Despite a fair amount of hand-watering and fertilizing, it wasn’t until temperatures warmed up that the turf filled in.

“Until the temperatures get to that level,” Samoff said, “it’s just not going to come.”

Minor tweaks to Redstone’s final three holes should improve viewing for fans in attendance, though none are expected to greatly impact play.

Spectator mounds were added behind the greens at Nos. 17 and 18, raising the surface as much as 6 feet for better viewing. Rolloff areas just behind the putting surface were left intact, with the ground raised behind them.

The par-3 16th, meanwhile, will use a different set of tees to accommodate new footbridges designed to improve spectator traffic. The hole now measures 188 yards, a reduction of 16 yards.

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