May 28, 2014
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- Muirfield Village won't have nearly as many trees as it did in 2011 as the golf club lost a few hundred in its ongoing battle with the emerald ash borer. (Photo courtesy of Muirfield Village GC)
By and large, the days after the PGA TOUR leaves town brings a bit of a letdown for course superintendents who go from a week of their handiwork on the national stage to another year’s planning.
No one would blame Paul Latshaw, though, for being a little glum about how muddy Muirfield Village was left following last October’s Presidents Cup.
“To drive around the golf course and see all these areas devastated, it was a tough week for anyone associated with the grounds crew,” said Latshaw, Muirfield Village’s chief of grounds operations. “You knew it’d take a long time to get it back to where it was.”
And that was before the coldest winter in a century to hit central Ohio. Or the wet, cold spring that followed. The good news is that Jack Nicklaus’ hometown showplace has surged nicely in recent weeks.
“Holy cow, the course is in awesome shape,” said defending champion Matt Kuchar. “It's just as good a condition of [any] course I think we've seen all year.”
Said Latshaw: “This is my 11th Memorial, and you take the previous 10 Memorials combined, I don’t think we had as much restoration done as after the Presidents Cup.”
Muirfield Village loves to host big events, but 3 inches of rain during the Presidents Cup left the course saturated and footing perilous for the thousands of spectators who came to watch. Less than an hour after the final putt, another inch fell.
“There was so much footprinting and rutting,” Latshaw said, “the first thing we did was take huge rollers to roll the surfaces level again to start the overseeding process. We lost a week on that by itself.”
It proved to be a valuable week, as the first snow hit Ohio before October’s end. It signaled in an October-to-March run that measured the coldest in 102 years. Much of the overseed – about 30 acres worth – never had a chance to germinate.
That meant another seeding in the spring, and some 15 truckloads of sod were brought in to repair the worst areas.
“Coming out of winter, you always have a mad dash to get ready for the Memorial,” said Latshaw, who admitted that it wasn’t until last Wednesday that he started feeling comfortable about conditions.
Help also came from a few of Latshaw’s colleagues at other clubs, who sent volunteers from their own staffs to help with the final push.
“This year has been probably the hardest,” Latshaw said. “The crew always works long hours leading up, but I don’t think it’s ever been this crazy.”
Players will notice one minor change on the course itself – a flattening on the back right of the 16th green that creates the option for a new pin position. Muirfield Village also lost another few hundred trees in its ongoing battle with the emerald ash borer.
All in all, though, Muirfield Village is doing well. And if the course can avoid storms forecast for Wednesday evening, the weather should be ideal.
“Everything right now is right on target,” Latshaw said. “If we miss this rain today, it could be what we want it to be every year.”