Pinehurst #2, 2014 US OPEN
The USGA's Pinehurst ideas are great and the idea of having the Men's and Women's (and pre-teens) OPENs back to back is just tremendous! Whether it's viewed as a success or not, it was an idea that had to be tried; I hope that it works. The "Firm and Fast" setup, I love, but I don't think that USGA Executive Director, Mike Davis or the rest of us help spread the Firm & Fast movement by preaching to golfers that brown grass is the answer. Firm and Fast, and green grass are not mutually exclusive and provide a workable solution for golf course conditioning.
As a big fan of the work being done by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, I think that the renovation of Pinehurst's #2 is wonderful. It was planned with F&F conditions for the OPENs and regular play in mind; it's good for golf. There are those that miss the traditional US Open setup with narrow fairways and penal rough. I wasn't one of them, I liked the wide fairways and waste areas of Pinehurst for the OPENs. Perhaps, in the future, the setup will be dictated by the venue's inherent characteristics and qualities versus a committee's whims.
The USGA's agenda of pushing "Brown is the New Green" is noble in its intent but can not be supported as a viable option. First of all, I'm a Firm and Fast advocate and have been for all of my career. As a Superintendent, I was providing firm and fast conditions on a regular basis some 30 years ago, before it was in vogue. In 1985 at Cherry Hills, I caught a lot of flak for the golf course being too firm for the PGA Championship but the golf course wasn't brown, it was green both during and after the Championship..."Firm, Fast, and Green."
Pinehurst Director of GCM Bob Farren (second from left), is flanked by No. 2 Assistant Superintendent John Jeffreys (far left), No. 2 Assistant Superintendent Alan Owen (second from right) and No. 2 Superintendent Kevin Robinson (far right). (Photo by John Gessner)
The Pinehurst golf course maintenance staff under the direction of Director of Grounds, Bob Farren, and Superintendent, Kevin Robinson can provide virtually any conditions desired. If the USGA wanted "Firm, Fast, and Green," Messrs. Farren and Robinson would have provided it. Don't get me wrong, I really liked the course, the setup, and the center row irrigation with brown edges and especially with the way it played for the OPENs. I just think that golfers won't buy into "Brown is the New Green" and that we should focus on "Firm, Fast and Green."
Achieving F&F while turning the golf course brown is very simple, just turn off the sprinklers for awhile. What the USGA may not have considered fully, is that in order for golf courses to recover from the normal wear and tear of carts, mowers and golfers, is that the grass needs to grow. Brown, dormant grass doesn't grow much and recovers slowly, if at all, from any kind of traffic. Let's encourage the USGA to change their mantra from "Brown is the New Green" to Firm, Fast and Green.