July 31 2013
Montreux G&CC has endured one of the hottest Julys on record. (Dunn/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
Given the soil composition on his mountainside above Reno, Doug Heinrichs has little room for error in making sure the grass stays green during summers at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
One of the hottest Julys on record has only added to the concern.
“I bet half the month has been in the 100s,” said Heinrichs, Montreux’s superintendent since shortly after the course opened in 1997.
Not quite, but you get the point. The temperature has hit triple digits in Nevada’s high country eight times this month – more than its historical average for an entire summer. In all, Reno’s 12 days thus far with 100-degree temperatures is just one shy of the all-time record.
Factor in Reno’s arid climate and soil that goes down just a few inches before hitting granite, and Heinrichs had to be on top of his game to make sure the course got the proper moisture to be ready for this week’s Reno-Tahoe Open.
It’s a delicate balance, but Heinrichs and his crews appear to have found the formula. Montreux will run fast and firm for the PGA TOUR’s only Modified Stableford event -- but with a minimum of brown spots.
“That’s been our biggest challenge,” he said. “We have to manage surface soil a little closer than what most courses are used to doing. ... It’d be nice to have a little cushion where grass can pull water from, but our turf is pulling water from where (it got wet) last night.”
Montreux’s soil is primarily comprised of decomposed granite. Even with more than a decade’s worth of topdressing, only a few inches exist for roots to take hold. Nor is there anyplace for the soil to store water for long-term moisture.
“If a sprinkler head is turned off, you’ll find (out) the next day,” he said, noting unwatered patches only take a day to start losing color.
For this week’s tournament, Heinrichs will have a crew of as many as 30 men hosing down trouble spots after completion of each day’s play. Not only are the greens of particular concern, but areas around greenside bunkers.
“We’ve got white bunker sand,” he said, “so you’ll get a reflection off the sand and secondary radiation that hits the bunker. We had to do a little sod patching on some of the bunker faces. They just burned from the intense sunlight and the heat.”
Fortunately, temperatures are forecast to be more cooperative this week with highs not expected to exceed the mid-80s. Cloud cover also should help ease concerns, with only a slight chance of pop-up storms.