Muirfield Village will look more open due to the removal of nearly 500 trees. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
That big clubhouse expansion towering over Muirfield Village isn’t the only new look to be found this week.
Players and fans at the Memorial Tournament will notice a more open appearance around the course itself, following the winter removal of nearly 500 trees that had become infested by an insect called the emerald ash borer.
“That was a major task,” said director of course operations Paul Latshaw, who kept a positive outlook on the project.
“There are a lot more vista views now for people to see golf. Not that we had bad areas to watch, but maybe not areas where you could see perfectly. What we have now is definitely aligned for a better vista, better views.”
As an example, Latshaw noted removal around the 13th green now allows fans to look across and catch a glimpse of the activity at No. 11. Players are likely to find minimal impact, though replacement trees were needed in one area right of the fifth fairway.
“There was nothing to penalize [an errant shot],” said Latshaw, who filled the open space with maple trees and extended watering to create more rough.
The emerald ash borer, native to Asia, has been spreading south from Michigan for more than a decade. Latshaw said Muirfield Village has treated hundreds of trees in recent years in hopes of minimizing the impact, but only with mixed success.
“It’s just one of those things,” he said. “We did make attempts to save critical trees. There are some that are doing well, and we’re going to stay with [treating] them.”
Like other PGA TOUR venues in recent weeks, turf growth got off to a late start because of this year’s cool spring. But Latshaw said enough time has passed to allow growth to catch up.
“With a spring tournament, it’s always something of a mad dash,” he said. “We were lucky in that we had a dry spring. If it had been a wet spring and we’d lost opportunities for [growing]. But it was dry and that seemed to close the gap pretty quick.”
Now, the greater concern is the possibility of the year’s first heat wave, pushing temperatures into the high 80s and low 90s during competition days.
“We’ll try to produce some good green speeds,” he said. “It’d be easier if it was 75 and 55 [for highs and lows] instead of 90/70. … That first heat wave of the year, the cool season grasses have to adjust. But we have a good staff and we should be fine.”