Victor Juhasz
By David Feherty
Saturday, January 23, 2010

When I was about 12, I worked as a greenskeeper. My responsibilities included and were limited to farting about in the barn at the top of the hill where Johnny Mooney — The Greenskeeper — housed and tended to the mowers. Back then, watering a green involved attaching a hose to a spigot buried somewhere nearby, and then dragging it Carl Spackler-style around the putting surface with just enough of your thumb pressed over the hole to create the Nozzle Effect (accidentally discovered in 1971 by theoretical hydrologist Dr. Garfield McCord while washing his VW Microbus). When your sneakers began to soak through, the job was done.

\nThe keeping of the greens has changed quite a bit since then, but until recently the amount of water a playing surface required was still largely a matter of guesswork. The modern greens superintendant would take a look at the course, then the weather forecast, and set the timers on his automatic system according to his best guess. However, water's evolution into a commodity has new technology quickly popping up, so sprinkler heads do so less often. For instance, a company called UGMO is manufacturing underground sensors that give exact digital readouts of soil conditions, calculate the amount of water needed for healthy turf, and apply it with the accuracy of a rifle instead of scattershot-style. Grass that doesn't need water doesn't get it, in some cases reducing the amount of water used by a third, and electricity, too. These little ugmos are under the stadia that serve the Dodgers and Dolphins and beneath holy golf dirt such as Merion, Seminole, TPC Sawgrass, Los Angeles C.C., and coming soon to a golf course near you.

\nA good example is the TPC Four Seasons in Irving, Texas, home of the Byron Nelson Tour stop. I'm a member of said club, and not to put too fine a point on it, the course used to be a waste of a perfectly good office park. While Byron was alive, no one mentioned this elephant in the room, and great players would show up to play out of respect, even though the subsoil was comprised mostly of goose turds and the bunkers filled with what seemed to be a mixture of gull droppings and elderly tile grout. That it was thunderstorm season in Texas invariably meant the event turned into a rain-delayed, Bermuda-fairway quagmire with bent greens that looked like the Taliban had lobbed mortar shells onto them. Toss in the surrounding office buildings featuring architecture from the early Texaco Period, and you have a pretty good idea of how much guys loved playing in the Nelson.

\nNever in my wildest dreams did I imagine anyone could have turned the dump into a decent course, never mind what it is now. But during the wettest summer since that whole Noah thing, D.A. Weibring and his design team renovated the place, watching their new topsoil and turf wash away into the Trinity River Basin I don't know how many times. Every time I drove past the place I shook my head and thought we'd be lucky to get it into decent enough shape for a monster-truck pull. Shades in the office buildings had been drawn as a sign of mourning for a project that had clearly, without question, and with the greatest of respect, gone utterly tits-up.

\nBut verily, I say unto y'all... ahem...that when tooahnamint tahm came around, the course was not just a great piece of design, it was in spectacular condition, too! You could have clipped my clock with Lumpy's left love-handle and I couldn't have been more whatever the hell that would do to a person (which can't be good). I suspected that D.A. had sold his soul to the Devil, or Jerry Jones. The topsoil mix, shaping, bunker sand and drainage systems were all works of and state of the art, leaving only one problem—the putting surfaces, which were the pimpled, pockmarked and hairy bum of the whole ghastly golf corpse. Enter Superintendent John Cunningham, who devised, all by his own personal self, a three-pronged thingy with a digital readout on top, which told him how much water he needed to apply to every square meter of each green, ensuring the almost impossible balance between keeping them alive and yet firm enough to putt beautifully. John's system is a lot more labor intensive than UGMO, but it's still a murricle! The Byron Nelson now has a course worth playing, so return all players great and small, for I have decreed it!

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