Teed Off (01-07-2012)
with Robert Bicknell
This has been a very disappointing week.
First of all, remember when I mentioned that anyone can forget how to swing a golf club? Well, it happened to me again. Yup. One month of no golf and I cannot hit the ball nearly as well as I did before, so it looks like I will get killed when I tee it up next week at Twin Doves following the Syngenta seminar.
For those of you unfamiliar with golf maintenance, Syngenta is one of the more well-known manufacturers of golf course turf maintenance supplies.
Unfortunately, golf courses still get a bad rap from certain sectors due to the misconception that we don't take care of the environment, when in truth, it's the opposite. We do everything we can to protect the environment because that's where we live. If we despoil it, we cut our own throats.
Golf course chemical application has changed radically over the last 20 years and continues to do so. While some people might have the idea that we've bombing the fairways with a crop dusting plane, the truth is that we use as little chemical applications as possible.
Chemicals are expensive and that is the bottom line as far as managers and owners are concerned.
But, one of the reasons why they are so expensive is because of the research and development costs that went into the product in the first place. The products that we use on the golf course have been modified to become inactive after a certain period of time, usually hours, or when the product encounters soil. The bottom line is that the run-off from golf courses is pretty safe and before any water gets off the golf course itself, you could probably not even measure the trace amounts in the water.
This is all by design. Nobody wants to pollute, especially golf course operators, managers and superintendents.
The big question is why do the players and owners have unrealistic expectations of golf course playing conditions in the first place.
The answer to this is simple: "television".
Players and fans of the game watch PGA Tour events and expect their own course to look that way every day. The problem is most people don't understand that it takes over a year to get the course looking that great just for four days of television coverage. After the event, the course goes back to normal, unless it's Augusta National or any other course which hosts an annual Tour event.
In that case, the course just drops down a few notches and can be put back into great shape in a few months or so.
I think the US has a big influence on people's misconceptions, especially here in Asia. Most courses in the US are over-fed, over-watered and truly pampered beyond belief. This all comes back to unrealistic expectations through television.
Golf in the US is vastly different from the game we play here in Southeast Asia because of the way the courses are maintained.
For example, at most top US courses, we play "target golf" meaning that we can hit the ball right at the flag sticks and know it will stay there, whereas in Asia, backspin is hard to find and we expect the shot to release and roll a bit.
Sure there are some courses here which have target soft greens, but that is the exception rather than the rule. For example, when I play golf at Dalat Palace with its bent grass greens, I have to hit one club longer than normally because the ball will spin back hard.
If I did that at almost any other club, I'd be over the green as the ball would hit and kick.
When I played golf in Scotland 30 years ago, it was "bump and run" style. You almost never tried to land the ball on the green because it would never stay on. You had to bump the ball short of the green and let it roll on.
This is the way the game was designed to be played before people got unrealistic expectations and is also the type of golf you will see in the Open Championship later this month.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go and find my swing. It's around here someplace… — VNS