When it comes to preparing the golf course, the 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is both completely familiar and altogether different.
Part of the familiarity comes in working with the PGA of America, specifically when it comes to setting up the golf course. This means once again working with Chief Championship Officer, Kerry Haigh. Mr. Haigh’s role has seen him setting up Hazeltine for the 2002 and 2009 PGA Championship as well as the 2016 Ryder Cup.
For the turfgrass team, more familiarity stems from the fact that as an aggregated group, we have worked more than 50 Hazeltine championships. Add to this the fact that when the KPMG tees off, it will only be two-and-a-half years since our team successfully prepared Hazeltine for the 2016 Ryder Cup. That said, every tournament requires different preparation.
Standard Hole Routing
When the top LPGA pros come to Hazeltine in June, the course will once again return to its typical 1-18 hole routing. Aside from the alternate routing used for the 2016 Ryder Cup, each of Hazeltine’s past Major Championships have played the course in the standard 1-18 routing – the same routing the membership has played since the club opened in 1962.
Seasonal Course Maintenance
When it comes to maintaining the course, the biggest difference in preparing for this event versus the other Major Championships is the time of year. Rather than getting an entire golf season to tweak and prepare the surfaces, the KPMG Championship will occur a little more than two months from opening day.
This is a challenge, but it’s one our team faces on an annual basis. This year, the KPMG Championship falls during the week Hazeltine typically hosts its annual Invitational, an event known for its Major Championship-feel.
Hosting an event of this magnitude at the same time of year as an important annual club event will be a nice advantage for the turfgrass team, as we know what can typically be expected of both the turf and the weather. This gives our team an excellent feel for just what we need to do to get the course into Major Championship condition.
Minimal Course Modifications
When a Major Championship comes to a club, it is typical for the course to require some modification from the typical day-to-day maintenance. This year, the golf course the LPGA stars play will be nearly identical to what Hazeltine’s members play every day.
Rough height, green speed, and yardage will all be nearly identical to daily play; a testament to both Hazeltine’s ability to test the best golfers in the world and the quality of golfers within our membership.
The rough for the KPMG is likely to start at Hazeltine’s standard mowing height of three inches, but how often it is mowed during the course of the week will depend on the weather and how fast the rough is growing. It’s quite likely that by the end of the week, the rough may indeed be Major Championship-like.
All other mowing heights around the golf course will remain the same as Hazeltine members see during daily play. Greenspeed and yardage will also be very similar to what Hazeltine members experience on a regular basis.
Preparing the course for a Major Championship is always an exciting challenge. This time it will be especially enjoyable to see how the pros and spectators react to a course set up so closely to the same as Hazeltine members play every day.