5 reasons island greens are tough to play (but harder to maintain!)
Welcome to Super Secrets, a GOLF.com series in which we pick the brains of the game’s leading superintendents. By illuminating how course maintenance crews ply their trades, we’re hopeful we can not only give you a deeper appreciation for the important, innovative work they do but also provide you with maintenance tips that you can apply to your own little patch of paradise. Happy gardening!
With the Players Championship underway, the famed island-green 17th at TPC Sawgrass is enjoying its annual dose of airtime — and drawing its usual shots into the drink.
Water-ringed targets can be tough on golfers. Turns out they pose a maintenance challenge, too.
Scott Grumman, a longtime member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, is the superintendent at World Tour Golf Links, in Myrtle Beach, S.C., a course composed of tribute holes, including an homage to the 17th at Sawgrass.
What does it take to care for an island green? We asked Grumman to walk us through the considerations.
Trouble with Foot Traffic
When there’s only one dry route for golfers onto the green, that route gets a ton of wear and tear. At World Tour Golf Links, Grumman used to sod the footpath onto his island green, just as they do these days at Sawgrass. But that path took such a heavy beating that it required re-sodding at least once or twice a year. Two years ago, as a cost and labor-saving measure, Grumman and his crew laid down pavers, which can stand up to the traffic and look much better than torn-up turf. Real grass is nice. But constantly replacing it becomes a burden if you don’t have the budget of a high-end TPC.
A Beating on the Tee
Every golfer wants to hit the green on their first try. Not every golfer does. So, they try again. And again. And again, turning the teeing grounds into a battlefield. That means more divot mix, more fertilizer, and more costs all around.
Big Machines, Small Spaces
A narrow path to an island green doesn’t leave a lot of room to roam, especially not for sizable machines like the triplex mowers Grumman and his team rely on. In an ideal world, Grumman says he’d walk-mow the green, but that would mean an extra employee assigned to an extra piece of equipment, and he doesn’t have the time and staff for that. That leaves him and his team with the unwieldy task of mowing a small area with a larger rig, which brings in the risk of an operator and the triplex going over the edge into the water. “That hasn’t happened yet, but there have been some close calls,” Grumman says.
When Grumman turns on his irrigation system, some of the water sprays into… the water. That’s a waste. So the super and his team often hand-water instead. Something similar applies to sanding, punching, and fertilizing. Those tasks often get handled through the extra effort of walk-behind machines.
Other Extra Upkeep
Irrigation leaks that lead to sandy washouts. Water-degraded bulkheads that require repair or replacement. Common maintenance issues that might be minor elsewhere can become major headaches. “Everything is just a little bit harder,” Grumman says. In time and money, he estimates that his island green costs roughly one-and-half-times as much to maintain as a conventional green.