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Written by Chris Tritabaugh on Mar 22, 2019 9:00:00 AM

RC Grandstand at Dawn

The Turf Team Family

We had to make sure the conditions for the course were Ryder Cup-level, which meant bringing in a team of volunteers working from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. every single day for the full week of the tournament.

We had 50 Hazeltine employees and 130–-140 volunteers from all over the world. It was crucial to have that big of a team in order to continually maintain the course in short order.

Everyone was here to deliver the greatest gameplay experience that Hazeltine National has to offer. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t have fun! Besides our passion for turf and love of golf, we all had a desire to savor every minute of the Ryder Cup. And we did.

Hazeltine Course Maintenance

I started prepping the course for the Ryder Cup when I was hired by Hazeltine in 2012 — four years before the actual event. Still, most of the immediate work on the turf was done in the three months prior to the tournament.

The biggest, most visible change we made to the course was the bunker sand. Hazeltine has never had white bunker sand, which is a staple of tournaments across the globe.

Another priority of ours was to keep the fairways pure, with no divots. So, from August 1 through Labor Day 2016, we asked our members to hit off of turf hitting mats to avoid scarring from clubs. After Labor Day, we closed the course completely leading up to the Ryder Cup. So, for about two months, we didn’t produce any divots, keeping the fairways smooth and clean.

Turf Challenges

In the week leading up to the tournament, sugar maple sumera started dropping from the trees. Typically, sugar maple sumera drops a few weeks earlier in the season, so it was simply bad timing.

On top of that, the wind was blowing it everywhere. And they’re little seeds that are hard to see, especially in the dark, when we’re doing most of our work. They get hung up right underneath the bedknife and get dragged across the green. Thankfully, they dropped pre-tournament, so we were able to control it before the golfers started gameplay.

Speaking of wind, we had 40 mph gusts at the beginning of the week that not only blew the sugar maple sumera, but also blew all types of debris across the course, which meant we had to constantly monitor and maintain the mess.

The Result

The Ryder Cup was almost like Christmas — you think about it for months and months, and then it’s gone in a heartbeat. It came and went so fast that it was almost like a dream.

There’s nothing I’d look back on and say I would’ve done differently. It was perfect. The right people in the right places at the right time. We look forward to hosting the Ryder Cup again in 2028!

Course Superintendent - Chris Tritabaugh
Chris Tritabaugh
Golf Course Superintendent

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Topics: Turf