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The Tour Report

    Turf Talk: Congressional Country Club

  • The 18th green at Congressional Country Club during the 2011 U.S. Open. (David Cannon/Getty Images) The 18th green at Congressional Country Club during the 2011 U.S. Open. (David Cannon/Getty Images)

When this year’s harsh winter gave way to a cool, wet spring, Mike Giuffre resisted any urge to reach for the fertilizer.
Experience has taught Congressional Country Club’s director of golf course maintenance to wait. And wait. And wait some more, if necessary.
Fortunately for Giuffre, the Quicken Loans National’s place on the PGA TOUR calendar allows him that luxury. And what he calls the “patient game” paid off with what he asserts to be one of the smoothest course preparations he’s been involved with.
“Everything has kind of turned the right way,” said Giuffre, now in his 16th year overseeing Congressional’s turf. “Moving into the tournament has gone very smooth for us.”
One factor has been the tournament’s spot in late June, allowing plenty of cushion in case the landscape doesn’t start to heat up until May. Give Giuffre a certain amount of credit, too, for letting things happen at their own pace.
“We just had to be patient and let Mother Nature do her thing,” he said. “We just kind of stuck with our program until Mother Nature said it was time. It popped when it popped.”
Giuffre grew up in northern Michigan, where he said the tendency is to “wait for everything to come into its own.”
He explained that while fertilizers have their uses, too much in the soil can create other problems down the road.
“The worst thing you can do is try to push something that doesn’t want to start growing,” he said. “You load the soil with liquid nitrogen, then once the soil does warm up and start releasing the nitrogen, plants become lush and don’t hold up to heat or traffic.”
He noted that the Washington area went through three straight days of temperatures in the 90s last week, which might have triggered problems.
“We let it have a gradual warmup,” he said, “so it was almost better for the grass.”
“It just gradually woke up, and that gave it the chance to develop the root system it needs to get through the summer,” he added.
Though summer storms could soften the course late on Wednesday, the forecast hints at drier conditions on tournament days. Some will depend on how quickly storm fronts move through the Midwest, possibly affecting Saturday and Sunday.
“We may see some this weekend,” Giuffre said, “or they may hold off until next week.”