As fate would have it, an unseasonably cool summer greeted Quail Hollow Club’s conversion to bermudagrass greens.
“It was a great bentgrass summer,” superintendent Chris Deariso deadpanned.
Bentgrass, you’ll recall, was the old strain taken out after weather extremes left the greens on life support at last year’s Wells Fargo Championship. Who says Mother Nature doesn’t have a sense of humor?
Alas, the new MiniVerde Ultradwarf putting surfaces aren’t quite as mature as officials would have hoped for this week’s event. But it’s a dilemma Deariso and his staff are better equipped to handle as the PGA TOUR makes its annual stop.
“We’re so much better off than last year, it’s unbelievable,” said Deariso, whose second spring overseeing Quail Hollow’s turf has been far less stressful.
“Last year, we were just trying to hold on and get through the week. This year we’re able to do the little things we like to spruce up before a tournament – all the grooming, having everything edged and nice.”
Not that Deariso hasn’t had his challenges. The arctic blasts that put the Eastern seaboard into a recurring deep freeze forced the greens to spend perhaps 50 nights under cover. Then after a warming trend in March and early April, temperatures dipped below freezing again two weeks ago.
As a result, the new surfaces are somewhat firmer than first-year greens tend to be.
“They will accept a well-struck shot from the fairway,” Deariso said. “But if you’re hitting a shot from the rough with no spin, it’ll be tough to hold the greens.”
Deariso suggested some tees could be moved up on par 3s or holes with forced carries, allowing pros to play a more lofted iron into the greens.
“It seems like everybody’s positive with the changes,” Deariso said. "We’re pleased with what we have.”
The greens conversion was part of Quail Hollow Club’s long-term plans as it prepares to stage the 2017 PGA Championship. But after last year’s touch-and-go situation, the project was fast-tracked to last summer.
Two bentgrass greens had to be completely resodded less than two weeks before the tournament, and two others were patchy.
“I can tell you that all of my time, I only thought about the greens,” Deariso recalled. “Literally all of my effort – and my assistants’ – were on the greens. Bunkers and fairways didn’t get as much attention to detail as we’ve been able to do this year.”
Deariso called that experience “by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through professionally” – and that includes the summer of 2004 when two hurricanes struck within weeks of each other at McArthur GC in Hobe Sound, Fla.
Some wild weather might come into play for Deariso late Tuesday or Wednesday, when the system that spawned deadly tornadoes in Arkansas and Mississippi earlier this week passes through the Carolinas.
Aside from strong winds, the system could bring up to 2 inches of rain.
“I’d like to be on the low end of that,” said Deariso, noting that Quail Hollow uses a SubAir system to pull moisture from the greens. “If we get a lot of rain, we won’t be able to mow the rough. But I have no concerns about the greens."