April 16, 2014
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- Jordan Spieth is back for his second appearance in the RBC Heritage. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Fortunately, Harbour Town’s Bermudagrass turf managed to escape Old Man Winter’s clutches in time for the RBC Heritage to put its best look forward.
Another late arrival, though, figures to draw superintendent Jonathan Wright’s concern at least through the early rounds.
The oak trees in South Carolina’s Lowcountry are emptying their pollen sacks this week, a process not only vexing to allergy sufferers but one that litters the course with their remains.
“We’d hoped to get this debris out of the trees and on the ground already,” said Wright, noting that the process typically happens earlier in April. With the severe winter that reached into the Carolinas and Georgia, nature’s process got delayed.
From a golf standpoint, the empty sacks are just as big a concern as all that pollen blowing around.
“Once the pollen has blown off, [the sacks] drop from the trees,” Wright said. “It doesn’t take any wind at all, and it’s just raining. We have oak trees within 10 feet of a few of our greens. With the right wind direction, you pretty much get a storm of pollen sacks.”
Wright said 10 of Harbour Town’s greens typically are affected by the debris. Pollination also came during the RBC Heritage week last year, forcing crews with blowers to go out and clear the greens between groups. In a few cases, they were blowing the greens before every golfer.
“It’s kind of tiring,” he said. “It’s a pain for everybody, and it slows down play.”
Wright held out hope that gusty winds from a cold front moving through Wednesday would help alleviate the situation.
“It should be fun for the pro-am,” he joked.
The sacks will need to dry out, though, from Tuesday's rain that preceded the cold front. “They’re not quite ready to fall,” Wright said. “I hope the wind will push a good portion of them out.”
Concerns about the course itself have eased in the past two weeks, as warm temperatures finally took hold. That allowed the bermudagrass to finally awake from dormancy and fill in where this winter’s overseed was light.
“We were dormant two weeks ago,” Wright noted. “We kind of rely on our Bermudagrass to green up and start filling in [for the RBC Heritage] – to start acting like turf and not just a mat layer. The last week-and-a-half really helped.”
Wednesday’s breezes also should help Harbour Town get back to fast and firm conditions, though rain is in the forecast again Friday and Saturday. Temperatures also will rise once the cold front moves through, with Sunday calling for the high 70s.
“We were finally going pretty good,” Wright said. “We’ll just take each day as it comes.”