The cost to play this muni is $28. This is why PGA Tour pros loved it so much:

Professional golfers rave about the perfect conditions at a famous event site every spring. It’s a tradition that can’t be matched. The best golfers in the world weren’t crazy about Augusta National this year, though. They had great things to say about Memorial Park. The place where the Texas Children’s Houston Open was held last week couldn’t have been more different from where the Masters is held.

The cost to play this muni is $28. This is why PGA Tour pros loved it so much:
The cost to play this muni is $28. This is why PGA Tour pros loved it so much:
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While Augusta is private and has an unlimited budget for care, Memorial Park is a municipal course that is closed all summer. It is open all year and costs no more than $28 for locals to play. Still, if you heard the great reviews last week in Houston, you might have thought the golfers were talking about a course in Georgia.

In spite of being a cheap track that sees more than 50,000 races a year, Memorial Park got the praise that is usually given to the game’s most well-kept track.

Peter Parker Henry has been a member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America for a long time. He is in charge of Memorial Park. We asked him how he and the other people who worked for the city did it.

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A switch for timing and an overd

It has been held in the fall on Bermuda grass in the warm months for the past three years. The event was changed this year to the spring, when Bermuda is not busy. To get the course ready for the best golfers, Henry and his team did what Augusta National did and sowed cool-season rye over the course in the fall. Overseeding takes a lot of time, money, and resources, but Henry and his team were smart. With help from the PGA Tour, they looked at stats from the last three years to see where golf balls that went off course usually ended up. They used Google Maps to find the most needy places. Overseeding was only done in those places and along important play corridors. After that, Memorial Park was closed for three weeks in November to give the cool-season rye a chance to grow.

The good thing about dry weather

Houston was very dry last year, which made the grass in Memorial Park even more stressed. A cart-path-only strategy was put in place by management to protect the course during that tough time. He says, “That was really a saving grace for us.” “Because it spared us a lot of the wear and tear from the 40,000 or so cart rounds we get a year.”

Increasing the repair of divots and ball marks

Henry is in charge of 20 full-time city workers and 10 full-time contractors, which is a pretty big team for a municipal course. But we needed more hands to get ready for a tournament. Henry and his larger maintenance team filled in divots on the tee boxes every day and in the greens twice a month in the months before the event. Volunteers helped out. Every seven to ten days, they worked extra hours to fix pitch marks on the greens. They also added sand to the top of the grass every so often and planted seeds in places that needed more care.

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Setting up the tee sheet again

In contrast to Augusta, Memorial Park cannot be closed for extended periods of time. But this year, there were some rules. Beginning on March 1, four weeks before the tournament, the course stopped having regular tee times and instead had one shotgun start per day. Then, on Monday, March 18, a week before the pros came to play practice games, the course closed to everyone. As a safety measure, that kept people away from the construction area while competition infrastructure was put in place. It also gave the grass a chance to recover from normal wear and tear.

Getting the greens going again

Greens that move very quickly are pretty much a must for a PGA Tour event. But they aren’t great for outdoor play when it’s busy. For starts, heavy traffic can damage turf that is cut very close to the ground. More than that, fast putting grounds can be hard for beginners and slow down the game. Henry should not have tried to make the greens overnight. It took him a while to get there. “The focus was really on creating healthy turf,” he says. After making sure the putting surfaces were strong, Henry was able to slowly speed up the greens, starting about two weeks before the event. So, greens that were about 10 to 10 1/2 on the Stimpmeter for daily play were ready to be slickened up for tournament week, when the goal speed was 12 on the Stimp.

What happened afterward

After a big game, everything needs a break, even the turf. The day after this year’s event, building were quickly taken down, and the course was closed to public play. Tuesday was another day off. The regular public rounds didn’t start up again until Wednesday. The areas that took the most damage during the event will be Henry and his team’s top concern in the coming weeks. “We’ll start working on those high traffic areas and make sure the turf is ready to wake up as the weather warms,” he says. As part of their job, they will also have to give extra attention to shady parts of the course where the grass may have been weak before the overseed. He says that in the most worn-out spots, he and his crew might even have to put down sod. “We just want to make sure that we get back to being fully Bermuda,” he says. Until the next fall, when pre-tournament work will start all over again.

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