Road trip through Germany to Hartl Resort, Bad Griesbach

Maximilian 30373552During a recent ‘road trip’ to Germany, beginning in Berlin and travelling the length of the country before ending up in Bavaria, Public Relations Manager Peter Driver, took the opportunity for a stopover at the Hartl Resort in Bad Griesbach.

Claiming to be the largest golf and thermal health and beauty spa resort in Europe, he ignored the health and beauty part to concentrate on its numerous golf courses.

The host for my German road trip was John Moore, a British-born, ex-RAF technician who is Managing Director of Ransomes Jacobsen’s distributor, Golf Tech, based in Munster, Westphalia in the north west of the country.

We began our tour near Berlin at Berliner Golf and Country Club Motzener See, then drove north towards Rostock on the Baltic coast to visit Winston Golf, before heading south to Bavaria, where en-route we stopped off at Hartl Resort Bad Griesbach.

For the past 40 years Alois Hartl has been the driving force behind the development of this impressive resort. After graduating from the grammar school at Ettal Benedictine monastery he studied law at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich and became a lawyer. In 2005 he joined forces with internationally renowned financier and investor
Dr Hans-Dieter Cleven and the Bad Griesbach project received the final impetus to become the world-class resort it is today.

The group owns three hotels at the resort, the five-star Maximillian and the two four-star Das Ludwig and Furstenhof hotels. All feature excellent cuisine, sport and fitness centres and first-class health and beauty facilities utilising the natural thermal springs which abound in the area.

Course map 274However, probably the main attraction is the range of golf on offer, unparalleled anywhere else in Europe. Five 18-hole championship courses, three 9-hole courses, and two 6-hole practice courses make up the golf offering at the Hartl Resort, integrated into the rolling landscape of Bavaria, 150 kilometres east of Munich. That’s a total of 129 holes of golf with three courses designed by Bernhard Langer and all constructed by Kurt Rossknecht, one of the most prolific
golf course architects in Germany.

Ranging from the almost mountainous to the completely flat, there is enough variety to test every level of golfing enthusiast. Add to this the Golfodrom, a practice facility to help all levels of golfer perfect their game and you have the perfect venue for a golfing sojourn.

Brunnweis 289AThe Courses Manager
Hermann Freudenstein is the Group Golf Courses Manager and has been with the owning company, Hartl Investments, since the beginning of the golf course development back in 1986. He previously worked for an architectural practice and has a technical engineering background.

Back then, the original golf facility had a clubhouse but no course and Hermann was asked by Herr Hartl if he could build it. With absolutely no practical experience, but with a modicum of confidence and his engineering background, he completed the project. Once construction was complete, the course needed to be maintained, so Hermann was given the job of Head greenkeeper because of his family farming background.

From these humble beginnings the resort has grown to become the largest in Europe and Hermann has grown his job responsibilities to match. With the initial course to manage, he studied at the Kempen training school for greenkeepers and obtained the qualifications to further his career.

Long standing association with E-Z-GO
Penning 337AThe resort has a long association with E-Z-GO, the US-based manufacturer of golf cars and small utility vehicles, which began at the German Open in Stuttgart some 24 years ago.  Through Bernhard Langer’s brother Ein, Hermann was introduced to the president of E-Z-GO and that resulted in a direct order being placed on Augusta for their first buggies. They arrived in a container
and were assembled Penning 330Aat the resort; the initial delivery featured petrol engines, but in 1996 the decision was taken to switch to electric.

The resort is located in four distinct areas: Brunnwies, Lederbach, Uttlau and Penning. Today they have 113 of the latest RXV golf cars, all electric and complete with an on-board battery filling system, golf bag covers and turf Brunnweis 294Asaver tyres. They are also road homologated as they need to use the local road system in the area to move around the courses.  29 are located at Brunnwies, 33 at Lederbach, 28 at Uttlau and 33 at Penning.

The Caddy Masters at all courses are responsible for the daily maintenance and fleet rotation and at the time of visit back in April 2014, the golf cars are hired out at Euro 30 per round, which is included in the green fee. The Brunnwies and Lederbach courses are particularly undulating and the golfers are encouraged to use the carts.

“We are very happy with the performance of these cars,” Hermann said, “the braking system that allows the vehicle to be safely stopped on a hill without touching the brake pedal is an excellent safety feature and there’s absolutely no roll-back when you eventually pull away again. It’s a clever system and we can alter the response of the cars for the type of course they are on. For example, we might restrict the speed of the cars on the hilly courses for safety reasons and allow faster speeds at the flatter ones.”

Brunnweis 283AThe golf courses
This initial conversation with Hermann took place in the clubhouse at the Brunnwies course, which is situated north west of the town of Bad Griesbach, and marked the beginning of our tour of this huge facility.

“Brunnwies was the first course at the resort to be designed by Germany’s former Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer,” he said. “It has been integrated into the rural surroundings here in the Rott Valley and has stunning views of the woodlands that are a feature of this area in Lower Bavaria.

Brunnweis 279A“It has many undulating greens that provide a real test for the golfers. The 11th hole is a typical example, where we can place the pin on any one of three different levels. The course also has extensive rough and although the ball can usually be found, it does encourage careful tee shots.”

As we were climbing into Hermann’s gleaming white Audi A5, he pointed out the 6-hole Chervò Junior Golf Course, which sits up the hill from the first fairway.

“This is exclusively reserved for children visiting the Golf Resort Bad Griesbach,” he said, “and is the ideal course for them to learn the rules of golf and golf etiquette, while having fun.

“You can also see the Junior Golf Park; it’s a 3,000 square metre facility where the youngsters can practice coordination, flexibility, balance, and reaction. It opened in 2013 and also caters for other sports such as football, hockey and various other ball games. During the recent Easter holiday we had nearly 100 children booked into the kinder golf school and the primary aim is to ensure they have fun.”

Uttlau 270AOur next stop as we drove closer to the town of Bad Griesbach, was the small village of Uttlau. The 18-hole course comprises of areas of flat land, some hills, some water surrounded by fruit trees and the village in the centre, making this a delightful championship course. The large greens make considerable Uttlau 277Ademands on a golfer’s putting talents, but getting to the greens means negotiating a combination of rising fairways and water hazards. The par 5, 18th hole takes you directly back into the village of Uttlau with fine views of this part of the region, which is known as the ‘Bavarian Tuscany’.

The Golfodrom
Golfdrom 302AAfter taking some reference photographs it was back into the car and a short drive south to the centrepiece of the golf resort, the Golfodrom, which opened in 1990 and provides the ideal environment for golfers of any level to train and hone their skills. This is a massive training facility and bigger than France’s Ilbarritz International Golf Training Centre in Barritz that I visited a couple of years ago.

Golfdrom 308A“We are very proud of this facility,” Hermann confided and then reeled off the statistics. “We have three 9-hole and two 6-hole golf courses, 210 tee areas, of which 109 are under cover and 21 are heated, two pitching and chipping areas, one 18-hole indoor putting green, and one 72-hole putting green outdoors. The Golfodrom provides a practice capacity for more than 500 people simultaneously.

Golfdrom 315A“Currently, we have more than 30 golf professional here at what has to be Europe’s largest golf school. In addition, the associated shop in the Golfodrom offer a large variety of golf clubs, bags, shoes, clothing and trollies. We also have an affiliated fitting centre, staffed by specialists, which ensures that the golfers can purchase the best fitting equipment.

Golfdrom 311A“In addition, we have the Hartl Resort Golf Academy, which provides professional coaching covering all aspects of the game including biomechanical and anatomical functionality, the psychology surrounding the game; everything that could enhance an individual’s playing skills.”

As Hermann stated, within the confines of the Golfodrom are three 9-hole golf courses. These courses are ideal for beginners who can perfect their game in a relaxed atmosphere before progressing to one of the championship courses. The Jagl and Pfeiffer courses comprise all par-3 holes, but the Engled also features par-4 options, with holes ranging in length from 75 to 195 meters.

Golfdrom 303AThe Pfeiffer is the shortest course and with a maximum length of 139 metres is primarily reserved for the professionals of the Hartl Resort Golf Academy and their students, who can practice their game on this golf course.

The Jagl is more undulating with more slopes, water hazards and bunkers coming into play. The shortest distance to master is 57 meters while the longest hole measures 195 metres and features a large water obstacle.

The third 9-hole golf course is Engled. It comprises six par-3 and three par-4 holes and is the most demanding course of the three short courses, and has therefore has been used for many years to enable golfers to obtain licence.

Not used to this system, I asked Hermann to clarify. “In Germany, golfers who have yet to achieve a handicap, have to obtain a playing licence and then take a test,” he explained. “This allows them to play and get a handicap certificate. Non-licenced golfers can play the 6-hole Hackerwiese course, as long as they are accompanied by a golfer with a playing licence.”

Lederbach 321AMore golf courses
Our next destination was the Axel Lange Generali Golf Course Lederbach, which offers an interesting and strenuous game of golf around a course that is almost mountainous in character and features no flat holes at all.

audi A5Now, I have driven or been driven around golf courses on golf cars, utility vehicles, even in the back of a trailer pulled by a tractor, but never have I been taken around a golf course in an Audi A5.

Hermann is the boss, so if he wants to show us his course from the comfort of his car, who are we to argue! We mainly kept to the sides of fairways and followed gaps in the rough where the mowers had travelled, but it was certainly a different experience.

Lederbach 322AThe landscape at Lederbach is typified by the final 160 metres of the 9th hole, which requires a climb up a gradient of an unbelievable 48% and, to no one’s surprise, Hermann advises that it’s nicknamed ‘Heart Attack Hill’. It is considered to be one of the ten hardest holes in Germany. With a course as undulating as this the reward is magnificent views over the surrounding countryside and on a clear day, the Alps can be seen in the far distance. With a sense of
irony Hermann said, “Buggies are recommended on this course!”

Dogs are allowed to accompany their owners on the Lederbach and Hermann provided a short anecdote about the unforeseen consequences of this policy.

Lederbach 325A“We had a lady golfer who owned a St Bernard and she regularly took the dog round with her. Being a large dog, lazy and overweight, she would put it the passenger seat of her buggy. On one particular occasion, while she was playing a tee shot, the dog stretched out, put its paw on the accelerator pedal which sent the buggy careering for 400 metres down the fairway, before coming to an abrupt stop in a greenside bunker!”

Penning 344AThe Penning Golf Centre is located just three kilometres south of the thermal spa facilities at the resort and is the location of the two sponsored championship courses, the Beckenbauer and the Mercedes-Benz.

Named after the legendary captain of the national football team, the Beckenbauer championship course has been expertly incorporated into the mountain meadow
landscape of the Rott Valley by Bernhard Langer.

Penning 329AIt is renowned for the quality of its hand mown greens and the perfect condition of the fairways, which is due to its two-tier irrigation system. Small stone bridges lead over the streams and ditches on the course, with stone walls separating the greens from the water. Although the course is completely level and easy to walk, it is considered by many to be the hardest at the resort.

Penning 343AConstructed in 2002 and making it the youngest of the championship courses, the Mercedes-Benz Golf Course sits adjacent to the Beckenbauer on the Penning estate. Similar to the Beckenbauer, Langer has integrated the course into the landscape of the Rott Valley and allowed the existing established trees to give the course its mature character and natural charm.
Featuring sharply undulating fairways, numerous water hazards and well-defended greens, it can be a stern test. “The 13th measures 175 yards to a green situated on a peninsula, which is a challenge,” said Hermann, “and the final hole has a difficult approach shot over water and will also provide a stiff test.”

The end of the visit
Returning to the joint clubhouse, I was able to get some more background from Hermann.

“I am responsible for a team of 55 staff,” he said.  “I have six head greenkeepers, three full-time mechanics and five dedicated construction workers for general maintenance and any hard landscaping duties.

Eclipse 322- no operator“As well as the E-Z-GO golf car fleet, I have some Jacobsen and Cushman equipment, which we purchased from Golf Tech including two hybrid Jacobsen Eclipse 322 diesel-electric mowers with three-wheel drive. I have been a customer for many years; we had the first LF100 fairway mower in Europe back in late 1980s, but the mower I’m most pleased with, is the LF3800 light fairway mower.

Jacobsen LF 570.14These have been excellent for us; lots of power, great output and great cutting units providing an exceptional cut. I am just replacing these with Jacobsen’s latest model, the LF570; it’s a natural progression and being able to change the speed of the reels to suit a particular course is a good innovation.

Penning 338“Oh, and one last thing; I would like to mention the excellent level of service we receive from John Moore and his team at Golf Tech. They are very professional in everything they do and are easy to do business with. I can see that they appreciate our business and they work very hard to ensure that they keep it.”

It was obvious during the visit that the two businesses have a mutual respect for each other and John was delighted to hear Hermann express his feelings. It made a fitting end to a great visit; Hermann had given us the best part of his day showing us around this impressive complex and all that was left was to return to John’s car for the next leg of this German road trip.

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Ransomes Jacobsen supports The R&A by taking greenkeeper education to Africa

R&A logoLast November saw the launch of a very successful Greenkeeping machinery workshop in Kenya. Our distributor in the region for the past 21 years, Sunny Thethy of Kibo Sports organised the event on behalf of The R&A. This initiative was conceived some eleven months prior to the event and involved much collaboration between Sunny, Steve Isaac, The R&A’s Director of Golf Course Management and his Project Co-ordinator for The R&A Greenkeeping Machinery Programme, Wendy Cole.

1The two-day event was held at the Sigona Golf Club in Nairobi and attracted over 120 delegates from across Africa, with representatives from golf clubs in Kenya, Burundi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. It was the first ever R&A Greenkeeping Workshop in Africa and is part of the organisation’s Greenkeeping Machinery Programme (GMP), which was established in 2004 to provide support to golf facilities across the globe.

Having identified that a lack of equipment in developing golf nations can restrict many courses from maintaining good playing surfaces, The R&A set up the GMP to provide machinery free of charge to those most in need.

DSCN0088Totally funded from the profits generated by The Open, the programme provides a range of equipment from turf equipment manufacturers, Ransomes Jacobsen and SISIS. Successful applicants for funding from the GMP have access to Ransomes 5-gang trailed fairway mowers and 3-gang trailed fairway and rough mowers, Ransomes Certes pedestrian greens mowers together with pedestrian scarifiers and aerators from SISIS.

Since the programme’s inception, The R&A has supported over 140 golf clubs from more than 40 different countries, equating to an investment of over £1.7 million. This is made possible by the continuing success of The Open Championship and The R&A’s reinvestment in the sport through its ‘Working for Golf’ programme.


Kenya Golf Union Chairman Peter Warui and The R&A’s Steve Isaac

Steve Isaac hosted the workshop, which had as its prime purpose to provide East African greenkeepers with education opportunities. The training itinerary included classroom-based theory sessions and practical demonstration and hands-on training out on the golf course. Dr Paul Miller from SRUC Elmwood spoke about greenkeeper training opportunities, both in Africa and through distance learning programmes.

Theory sessions on turf management for golf courses were delivered by Derek Daly, Director of Education at the Silver Lakes Academy in South Africa.  These were supported by practical demonstrations of machinery by representatives from the manufacturers, which proved to be extremely popular.

323Nigel Church, of Ransomes Jacobsen’s Cutting Edge Training division, was present to demonstrate the company’s products. Commenting after the event he said, “This was a fantastic event and The R&A should be delighted with its success. Bringing education to the greenkeeping community across the globe is entrenched in the ethos of our business and we were delighted to take part.

DSCN0079“I thought I would simply be demonstrating our equipment, but it soon became apparent that there was such a thirst for knowledge from the delegates that it developed into practical training sessions. We looked at something as simple as setting up a cutting unit, but many had not realised the importance of this basic function. I think by the time the session ended, they had grasped the mechanics of using a setting bar and I’m sure that when they returned to their respective clubs, the playing surfaces improved considerably.”

Ewen Wilson, Export Sales Manager at SISIS, added,
“It was a great week with great people. Throughout my 32 years in the industry this has been one of the best events that we have been involved in.”

Also back in 2004, The R&A founded the Greenkeeping Scholarship Programme to provide support to students enrolled in turf management higher education, with funds provided by The R&A Foundation.  Working closely with its two selected education providers, Myerscough College in England and SRUC Elmwood in Scotland, The R&A identifies the most deserving students to receive scholarships each year.

In addition to the direct financial assistance which is available to appointed scholars, those selected also gain access to a number of exclusive networking and continuing professional development opportunities which further enhance industry exposure and employability. Since the programme’s inception, The R&A has supported over 200 scholars from more than 20 different countries, equating to an investment of over £800,000.

DSCN0012 (1)

Derek Daly demonstrates the benefits of a dew whip

Two former scholars, Derek Daly, as mentioned earlier, the Director of Education at the Silver Lakes Academy and Neville Wenhold, formerly the Superintendent at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City, South Africa and currently Grow-in Superintendent at Dubai Hills, supported the Greenkeeping Workshop. Daly in a lecturing capacity and Wenhold, who was unable to attend as he was preparing the Gary Player course for the Nedbank Challenge, provided an excellent video showing the preparations for the tournament.

200The visit to Kenya also provided The R&A’s Steve Isaac with an opportunity to present donations of greenkeeping machinery to Njoro, Kitale, Limuru, Kiambu and Railway Golf Clubs.  Kibo Sports, who operate the dealership for Ransomes Jacobsen, Redexim and SISIS in East Africa, supply the machinery provided by The R&A’s programme.


Sunny Thethy shows KGU Chairman, Peter Warui and Steve Isaac the type of mower supplied by The R&A

Sunny Thethy of Kibo Sports said,
“Working with The R&A is always a pleasure, but with this workshop we have started something which will make a tremendous contribution not only to the condition of golf courses across the continent but also towards recognition of the role of greenkeepers. Due to its undoubted success, we are considering a series of mini training workshops later in 2015.”

The Chairman of the Kenya Golf Union, Peter Warui, noted with great appreciation the support given by The R&A and its business partners, for golf development in Kenya and wider Africa.  “The R&A has been a great friend of golf in Africa and we look forward to developing an even closer partnership with them to progress development of the sport and, in particular, greenkeeper training and education,” he said.

Nyali 9448Situated in a residential suburb, north of the creek that separates the island of Mombasa from the mainland, Nyali Golf and Country Club is a typical recipient of machinery from the programme. The 18-hole course sits in 150 acres of estate that once produced sisal for rope and twine production. The introduction of a top class irrigation system has ensured healthy conditions with flowering trees, such as the Madagascan Flame Tree bordering many of the fairways.

“Kenya has a long history with the game of golf and we now have over 40 courses in the country,” says greenkeeper Ben Murethi. “The expectations of players is for higher standards of presentation, but we are being held back by lack of suitable machinery, which may impact on our ability to retain current members and attract new golfers. Applying for The R&A-sponsored equipment and becoming a successful recipient has been a big step forward for us in terms of the quality of the playing surfaces we are now able to offer our customers.”

The Open Championship Media DayThe final words are those of Peter Dawson, who will soon be relinquishing his post as Chief Executive of The R&A,
“Across the 16,000 individual golf courses within The R&A’s global jurisdiction outside of the United States and Mexico, there is enormous variation in the availability of management resources. As part of the wider operation under our ‘Working for Golf’ programme, we are committed to enhancing the capacity of these facilities to develop and maintain good playing surfaces.

“This is achieved primarily through our advocacy of sustainable management. For some, however, the key limiting factor is a simple lack of suitable machinery with which to maintain the golf course. Through working with a global supplier, we have been able to assist over 140 individual facilities in 41 countries by providing greenkeeping machinery, free of charge, to those most in need.

“Our Greenkeeping Machinery Programme is an important component of our international development efforts for the game of golf; all made possible by the ongoing success of The Open Championship.”


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Buttoning Up for the Future

Button Hole At-A-Glance

Year Opened: 1999
Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Superintendent: John Rourke
Holes: 9
Turf: Penn Trio bentgrass on the greens, Pennway bentgrass and Red fescue on the tees, Kentucky bluegrass, Chewings fescue and Perennial ryegrass on the fairways
Equipment: Jacobsen® AR-3™ contour rotary mower (1); Jacobsen ECLIPSE2® walking greens mowers (4); Jacobsen G-Plex riding greens mowers (2); Cushman® Turf-Truckster by Jacobsen (1); Cushman SprayTek by Jacobsen (1); Jacobsen Groom Master II® bunker rake (1)
John Rourke, Superintendent of Button Hole in Providence, Rhode Island

John Rourke, Superintendent of Button Hole in Providence, Rhode Island

At a time when many are concerned with growing the game of golf, John Rourke, Superintendent of Button Hole golf course in Providence, Rhode Island, has become part of the solution.

Button Hole, a not-for-profit 9-hole golf course and driving range, was founded in 1999 with a simple vision: expose the game to underprivileged children and grow the game by catering to all walks of life.

“Button Hole was created as a means of expanding the game of golf by giving inner city youths, individuals with disabilities and people with no golf skills the opportunity to play the game. We even have scholarship programs to help those who are less fortunate,” explains Rourke. “There are approximately 25,000 disadvantaged children living within just three miles of Button Hole.”

Rourke has only been at Button Hole since last April, but is no stranger to the turf industry. After beginning school at Bryant College as an accounting major, he quickly realized he was unhappy with his career path. He decided to take a semester off and ended up spending that time working at a golf course.

During the Industrial Revolution, a shoe factory that used buttons as shoe fasteners was located on a river that now flows near the golf course. Many buttons were swept down this river and were collected in a natural swimming hole that was appropriately dubbed “Button Hole”.

During the Industrial Revolution, a shoe factory that used buttons as shoe fasteners was located on a river that now flows near the golf course. Many buttons were swept down this river and were collected in a natural swimming hole that was appropriately dubbed “Button Hole”.

Once he learned that colleges actually offered degrees in what he was doing, he transferred to the University of Rhode Island where he completed his turfgrass degree. Rourke then completed his internships at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island and Poquoy Brook Golf Course in Lakeville, Massachusetts. He then spent five years working at The Agawam Hunt Club as the Assistant Superintendent in East Providence, Rhode Island.

As you can imagine, Rourke’s job as superintendent of Button Hole is drastically different than his other experiences in the turf industry. However, despite the adjustment, Rourke has never been happier.

“The atmosphere at Button Hole is much better than at other courses I’ve worked at. Everyone is always smiling and it’s like a breath of fresh air,” says Rourke. “On the turf maintenance side of things, my priorities are much different than they used to be. For instance, green speed is never a concern. It’s about giving people a pleasurable playing experience, especially since for most people, it’s their first time playing the game.”

About a year ago, Button Hole underwent an extensive construction project funded by a grant. This project involved altering the grading of the turf in certain areas and reconstructing moundings and bunkers throughout the course. Now, all areas of the property, including the bunkers, are accessible by wheelchair.

A group of 'Button Hole Kids' receiving a golf lesson on the course.

An instructor teaches a golf lesson to a class of Button Hole Kids, children without the means to afford golf lessons on their own.

As a means of attracting children to the course, Button Hole offers a unique scholarship program where approximately 2,500 ‘Button Hole Kids’ are awarded free golf lessons and access to routine play on the course every year.

“We partner with many local schools and organizations that help to promote this scholarship. All that is required of the kids is that they fill out an application,” says Rourke.

“Since it began, we have had over 18,000 Button Hole Kids come through the program. One of our scholarship recipients went on to compete on the Women’s PGA Tour.”

One of Rourke’s favorite parts about his job is watching the kids develop as players.

“I love seeing kids come out here and play golf for the very first time and then watch them transition to becoming completely autonomous on the course,” says Rourke. “I have a five-year old son of my own who loves to play golf already, so this environment is perfect for me.”

Button Hole partners with many organizations that host a variety of events at the course each year. These events include a PGA drive, chip and putt qualifier, the Special Olympics and an annual event hosted by PGA Pro and Golf Channel analyst Brad Faxon, who is also on the board for Button Hole.

The driving range at Button Hole provides much of the funding for the course.

Button Hole’s funding, outside of donations, comes solely from driving range and putting green fees.

Button Hole’s funding, outside of donations, comes solely from driving range and putting green fees.

The money they receive from use of the driving range and the putting greens constitutes their only regular funding outside of donations.

“Our biggest challenge on the course is getting things done without a cushion of money to fall back on. We survive mainly on donations so I’ve learned to be pretty creative in finding ways to do things,” explains Rourke.

“The biggest personal challenge that I’ve had to overcome is learning to tolerate a level of conditions that are less than what I am used to providing to players.”

Despite Button Hole’s challenge with funding, the property is still maintained to the best conditions possible. Rourke has a seasonal crew of five people, two of whom are dedicated almost solely to the pro shop and driving range. Despite cold winters, the golf season at Button Hole is year-round. The only time the course closes are on days where snow covers the ground. When outdoor golf is not possible, Button Hole also offers a golf simulator and an indoor driving range.

All nine holes on the course are pitch and putt, with the shortest hole at 37 yards and the longest hole at 130 yards.

Button Hole is maintained by a variety of Jacobsen equipment including the AR-3 contour rotary mower shown above. Jacobsen dealer, Steven Willand, works with Button Hole to find affordable pieces for the course.

Button Hole is maintained by a variety of Jacobsen equipment including the AR-3 contour rotary mower shown above. Jacobsen dealer, Steven Willand, works with Button Hole to find affordable pieces for the course.

“The grass on the course is a little bit of everything. The greens and tees are almost solely bentgrass, while the fairways are made up of whatever grows,” says Rourke. “We have a great variety of Jacobsen equipment at Button Hole that our dealer, Steven Willand, Inc., has worked hard to help us obtain,” says Rourke. “The equipment has made a tremendous impact on our course and the service we are getting is unreal. It’s great to know that we have them supporting us and our cause. They are always on the lookout for affordable equipment they know we need.”

If you would like to make a donation to Button Hole, or sponsor a Button Hole Kid, please visit

“The atmosphere at Button Hole is much better than at other courses I’ve worked at. Everyone is always smiling and it’s like a breath of fresh air,” says Rourke. “On the turf maintenance side of things, my priorities are much different than they used to be. For instance, green speed is never a concern. It’s about giving people a pleasurable playing experience, especially since for most people, it’s their first time playing the game.” ~John Rourke, Superintendent of Button Hole

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Jacobsen support for the Australian Masters at Metropolitan Golf Club

The following article comes to you courtesy of, an Australian internet publisher based in Victoria, which supports the turfgrass industry across Australasia and beyond. This article was originally published on 23rd December 2014 and was written by their in-house journalist Amy Foyster.



The Australian Masters, which took place at Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne from 20-23 November 2014, were a sight to behold, so turfmate caught up with superintendent Glenn Stuart, to discuss tournament week and the lead up to it.

When the tournament was first confirmed to Metropolitan in March 2014, Glenn and his team were already in the midst of preparations, having heard whispers back in January that the club would be hosting the Masters. The main aim for Glenn in those early months was to position the turf to be in as healthy a state as possible going into the autumn.

“We had the view that if we went in really strong with our turf in autumn and protected it during the winter months we would come out in spring really strong. The tournament was in November and a Melbourne November is always very tricky for a tournament because you don’t know what sort of weather you are going to get.

Metro clubhouse-course“If you look at 2013’s November, it was a long stretch of cool and wet weather leading right into the event with temperatures well below their average. Royal Melbourne hosted this same event at the same time and it was a very difficult task for them to get the turf to their level of expectation due to the weather. The sandbelt* golf courses don’t typically shine that well if the spring weather conditions in the Melbourne area are not favourable.

“So, we prepared for the worst by doing lots of things; we cleaned every drainage system out on the golf course, we set the turf in a really good position in case we got intense frosts and a cold spring, so we would give ourselves the best chance to present our major asset, being the golf course, in the best possible state that we could. And fortunately, all those things that we did worked well and we didn’t get that really cold spring we had the previous season; the spring was actually quite reasonable.”

metropolitan 002A lot of the processes Glenn and his team used to ensure the course would be in prime shape come tournament time involved putting the correct nutrition in the ground as well as renovating areas of the course. Most of the renovations were undertaken approximately three months before the tournament commenced and these included coring greens and verti-draining some fairways and tees to allow water to move through the profile successfully. Protectants were also used through the winter months to prevent any issues with frost and cutting heights were raised on mowers to protect the turf throughout autumn and winter.

Metropolitan Golf Club have a strong relationship with Jacobsen and used a range of their cutting equipment in the lead up to the tournament.

Masters3“In spring we were fortunate enough to purchase three state-of-the-art LF550 fairway mowers from Jacobsen and they were run out on our fairways and did an absolutely brilliant job.

“They are lightweight mowers with a five inch cylinder instead of the typical seven inch cylinder that most other clubs use and we have just found them to be fantastic.

“Jacobsen, particularly for the cutting equipment and the resulting quality of cut side of things, has been exceptional for us.

Metro clubhouse-course“From a superintendent’s eye, it is just that difference in quality of cut that we see, because these mowers are a bit lighter they are able to mow through really intense hollows and over mounds, things that are quite challenging for a square cylinder to cut.

“We put little grooming reels on all those mowers too so we could actually find the leaf blade on all the turf and that just worked exceptionally well. We believe it is some of the best cutting equipment you can use on turf.”

Glenn says that when players first arrived during tournament week, he was delighted to hear some of their comments praising the quality of the course.

Masters2“There were a number of players quoted saying that these were the best fairways in the world and the best greens in the world, so our club was really proud of that. That comes down to a whole lot of things and we are really proud as a club and a maintenance group to achieve this praise.”

Aside from the course looking pristine, the bunkers and tree line plantations were also a big priority for Glenn, as he believes they should reflect the quality of the turf and provide a lasting experience across the whole course.

For the majority of this year, a dedicated group of 15 or so members have helped maintenance staff at fortnightly working parties, designed to rejuvenate and assist the course staff in the plantation areas.

A month prior to the tournament, a couple of larger working parties with around 50 members in attendance were held, to finish off smaller jobs like divoting fairways with greens sand and removing branches and other debris in the tree lines to clean the course for play and ensure that television cameras would project a clean appearance of the course.

Glenn says that aside from the invaluable help from the Metropolitan members, 15 to  20 volunteer grounds staff from a number of other golf courses (Royal Melbourne, Victoria,  Kingston Heath, Huntingdale, Yarra Yarra, Woodlands, Long Island Country Club, Patterson River, The Dunes) were present to help in the final stages of preparation.

“From a month out we had people from other clubs coming to volunteer for us as well, so we had an average of four extra staff a day to ensure we kept ahead of our scheduled program in case inclement weather hit or an unforseen challenge arised.

Masters1“We have 15 full time staff that includes myself and a full time mechanic, Euan Muir, and that team swelled up to 40 on the mornings of the tournament. All those people volunteered their services or other clubs were prepared to lend us staff for that period.

“Around 450 man hours were given from other clubs to help with the work, so it was a pretty intense little build up. It just shows the magnitude of the work that goes on behind the scenes to deliver a tournament to the professional players.”

During tournament week the hours were long and exhausting for everyone involved. On the practise round days (Monday and Tuesday) the maintenance staff worked from 6 am to 8 pm, while on the Pro-Am day they started at 4 am. Pro-Am days have two shotgun starts, so they worked from 4 am until 9 am, then from 5 pm until 11 pm.

“Then the tournament days from 4.30 am till 9 am and some guys went home whilst others stayed to be on call, then everyone would be back from 4 pm to 10 pm,” says Glenn wearily.

Course4“A lot didn’t leave during the day because of the 65 km north winds, so seven or eight guys were on stand-by, blowing leaf litter off greens. But all-in-all it was hugely successful Australian golfing tournament run by IMG and showcased to a worldwide audience on a great traditional sandbelt golf course at The Metropolitan Golf Club.”

(*Note: In the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne is a rich vein of sandy loam subsoil upon which are situated eight of the best golf courses in Australia and known throughout the world as the famous Melbourne Sandbelt. These Clubs have played host to countless great championships including Australian Opens, Johnnie Walker Classics, Australian Masters, the World Matchplay Championship, Australian Women’s Opens and the President’s Cup.)

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The Grass Master

Alabama sod grower ready to present his 7th Super Bowl field to the world

Bent Oak Farm At-A-Glance

Location: Foley, Alabama
Founder & Co-Owner: Mark Paluch
Turf: Variety of turfgrass plots grown for major league sports venues around the U.S.
Equipment: Jacobsen® LF570 large area reel mowers
Bent Oak Farm Founder & Owner Mark Paluch (right) and Jacobsen Territory Sales Manager Kevin Stinnett (left) on the Super Bowl XLIX field at Paluch’s farm in Foley, Alabama.

Bent Oak Farm Founder & Co-Owner Mark Paluch (right) and Jacobsen Territory Sales Manager Kevin Stinnett (left) on the Super Bowl XLIX field at Paluch’s farm in Foley, Alabama.

He doesn’t have a business card or an office. His farm doesn’t even have a sign. But when the NFL, Major League Baseball or college conferences like the SEC need a professional turfgrass playing field, they call Mark Paluch and Bent Oak Farm.

Paluch’s grass is so popular among the top college and professional sports field managers that it’s almost become legendary. Throughout all his success growing elite turfgrass, Paluch has always preferred to stay out of the spotlight and let his product speak for itself.

But Paluch’s grass is the best spokesperson anyone could ask for: it has covered all the natural grass fields in the last decade’s Super Bowls. With billions of people watching his handiwork every year, Paluch’s patch of grass may be the most watched in history.

Just a few weeks ago, the field for Super Bowl XLIX left Paluch’s farm in Foley, Alabama inside 34 refrigerated trucks, headed for Phoenix. Like a newborn baby, it was carefully rolled and shrink wrapped for the long trip. The refrigeration keeps the grass cool and slows down the growth, says Paluch.

The thick mat of Paluch’s 419 bermudagrass is over-seeded at his farm in Alabama with any variety his customers choose. This year’s Super Bowl field is over-seeded with perennial ryegrass.

The thick mat of Paluch’s 419 bermudagrass is over-seeded at his farm in Alabama with any variety his customers choose. This year’s Super Bowl field is over-seeded with perennial ryegrass.

After beginning life on a 200-acre farm in Georgia, each field is transported to Alabama, where it is “enhanced” as Paluch calls it. This enhancement process includes final over-seeding, fertilization and round-the-clock monitoring. Paluch’s grass is a base of 419 bermuda grass that is over-seeded with whatever variety his customer specifies. This year’s Super Bowl field is over-seeded perennial ryegrass.

“During the last two weeks before the Super Bowl field went to Phoenix, we practically slept here,” said Paluch. “My guys live eight minutes from the farm in case we need to pull tarps in the middle of the night. Just a quarter of an inch of rain will cost an extra $50,000 in freight.”

Whether it’s the grass for the Super Bowl, an SEC powerhouse like Alabama or Auburn, or a Major League Baseball team like the Astros, Braves or Marlins, the team at Bent Oak Farm treats every inch of grass with the same level of care and strict attention to detail.

Bent Oak Farm is equipped with a state-of-the-art irrigation system with over 1,000 individual sprinkler heads, ensuring every single blade of grass is watered correctly and consistently.

Bent Oak Farm is equipped with a state-of-the-art irrigation system with over 1,000 individual sprinkler heads, ensuring every single blade of grass is watered correctly and consistently.

Bent Oak Farm’s team pulls strings that serve as plumb lines to keep the hand spreaders laser-straight with every pass. An advanced irrigation system with over 1,000 individual heads ensures each blade of grass is watered correctly and consistently. Every detail at Bent Oak Farm has been meticulously thought through, including its location.

“I didn’t pick this location by accident. We’re less than two miles from the Gulf of Mexico,” says Paluch. “Being so close to the water keeps us five to eight degrees cooler than surrounding areas. This area is ideal for growing grass, that’s why 400-500 loaded sod trucks leave this county every week.”

Paluch started growing grass in Hawaii during the late 90s. He started experimenting with growing turf on plastic and eventually perfected a process that produces extremely dense, thick turf that looks and lays down just like carpet. Just how thick is Paluch’s turf? A 41.5-foot x 3.5-foot roll of his turf is the same diameter as a standard 100-foot roll.

Grass that dense, growing on a bed of plastic, needs almost zero soil to grow. The turfgrass world – along with the NFL – found this out during the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

“It rained several days before the Super Bowl and an inch during the game itself. Everyone assumed it would be a complete mudslide,” said Paluch. “The expectations of a muddy field forced Vegas odds-makers to list the Chicago Bears as a heavy favorite (over the dome-sheltered Indianapolis Colts) as they excelled in sloppy conditions. I was sitting at home wondering where the mud was coming from because there was no dirt in that grass! I was right – the field played absolutely perfectly that night. You’ll hear the date of that Super Bowl, 2/3/07, a lot around this farm because after that, everything changed for us. The NFL knew we had something special here.”

Bent Oak Farm uses Jacobsen LF570 large-area reel mowers to maintain the grass.

Bent Oak Farm uses Jacobsen LF570 large-area reel mowers to maintain the grass.

But for Paluch and his team and Bent Oak, success is about more than growing perfect grass. They’ve also perfected an installation process that produces an extremely tight field with virtually no seams. Paluch spent years tinkering with different tools and inventions before creating the perfect mouse trap.

“We’ve got two machines that lay the grass down just like carpet,” Paluch explains. “The first machine can lay 41.5-feet in less than ten seconds. Then we us an excavator with a special 7-foot plate to tuck the grass into itself. The whole process does not leave one mark on the grass – it looks like it was rolled out by hand.”

Another one of Paluch’s favorite tools is his Jacobsen LF570 wide-area reel mower he uses for mowing.

“For what we do here, it’s the best mower I could ask for,” said Paluch. “We produce fields for some of the top sports teams in the world that demand the best of everything. These teams have millions of dollars in player salaries on our fields. They can’t afford the risk of a player being injured as the result of a sub-par field.”

For Mark Paluch, the outcome of Super Bowl XLIX isn’t important – he’s already chalked it up as another victory for the famous grass of Bent Oak Farm.

“We produce fields for some of the top sports teams in the world that demand the best of everything. These teams have millions of dollars in player salaries on our fields. They can’t afford the risk of a player being injured as the result of a sub-par field.” ~Mark Paluch, Co-Owner & Founder of Bent Oak Farm

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A Family Affair

Louisville Superintendent’s sons learn about turf and more on maintenance crew

Hurstbourne Country Club At-A-Glance

Year Opened: 1966
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Superintendent: Walter Pritchett, CGCS
Turf: Penn A1/A4 bentgrass on the greens; L93 bentgrass on approaches and tees; zoysia on fairways; bluegrass and fescue mix in the roughs
Equipment: Jacobsen ECLIPSE2 122F walking greens mowers (4); Jacobsen ECLIPSE 322 riding greens mower (1); Jacobsen LF570 fairway mowers (2); Jacobsen R311T wide-area rotary mowers (2)

Superintendent Walter Pritchett of Hurstbourne Country Club

Located in Louisville, Kentucky – a city rich with American tradition and history – Hurstborne Country Club boasts its own interesting story that dates back before the Civil War.

Although the club’s golf course is nearly fifty years old, some of the buildings on the property date back to the 1700s.

The Hurst family bought the property in the 1880s and oversaw extensive renovations and an expansion of the property. The family’s money came from Mr. Hurst’s simple and fortuitous invention of a weatherproofing material for telephone lines.

The course has always been known for the quality of its bentgrass greens, which have been maintained for more than a decade by Superintendent Walter Pritchett. The course is ranked as the number one member-owned course in Kentucky and number three overall in the state by Golf Digest.

“We’re known around Louisville as a challenging yet fair course,” said Pritchett. “We also stand out because we’re one of the few courses that have large bentgrass approaches, which is a nice touch. The bentgrass does very well in this region, typically there’s just a few weeks in the summer where you struggle, but for the most part, it does well.”

Hurstbourne Country Club is ranked as the number one member-owned course in Kentucky.

Hurstbourne Country Club is ranked as the number one member-owned course in Kentucky.

For Pritchett, turf management has been a family affair, with both his sons joining his turf team over the past few years.

“One of the benefits of being a superintendent is the flexibility we have,” said Pritchett. “One of the great privileges I’ve had in my career is being able to work with my sons. My oldest son worked for me for three seasons and is now doing an internship at Louisville Slugger and my youngest son is working here now.”

“Of course, they both hated it at first but quickly were able to better understand what they were doing and felt very accomplished and proud about the differences they could make on the course. For me, I like for them to see what I do for a living because they gain an appreciation for what they have and why they can go to the schools they do.”

Although he’s found a great labor pool in his own house, Pritchett’s biggest challenge has been keeping his roster filled.

“They say we’re still in a recession and there’s a lot of unemployment, but it’s been very difficult for us to find people that want to work for $10-$11 an hour,” said Pritchett. “We get a lot of teachers and students looking for jobs, but it’s hard to run a golf course when people just want to work three months out of the year.”

Pritchett has used some innovative techniques to both reduce maintenance costs and improve course quality for players.

To help dress up our driving range, we installed bunkers using white artificial turf, which makes them maintenance-free.

To help dress up the driving range, Pritchett installed bunkers using white artificial turf, which makes them maintenance-free.

“We’ve learned a few tricks along the way to improve the quality of the course and experience for members. For example, we replaced our own turning boards with plastic lattice. It’s a tenth of the price and it works just as well. Also, in an effort to dress up the driving range, we installed bunkers and instead of using sand, we used white artificial turf which makes them maintenance-free but still gives the golfer the visual of a bunker.”

“But probably more than anything we’ve done in the last few years to improve the golf course is learn how to use the moisture meters on our greens. Managing the moisture has made a huge difference in what we’re able to do and achieve.”

Part of that achievement is presenting consistently fast greens.

“We’re rolling 11.5 to 12.5 feet every day using the Jacobsen ECLIPSE2 walking greens mowers set at .125” with 15-blade reels and brushes,” said Pritchett. “To get that with our previous Toro mowers, we’d have to mow at .100”. With the Jacobsen mowers, I’m getting 15% more leaf tissue for photosynthesis and fertilizer uptake. We were one of the first courses in the area to use the Jacobsen reversing groomer/brush. Using it in reverse really stands up the grass.”

For special events, Pritchett likes to go even lower.

“For our pro-am Osborne Cup last year, we went down to .100” and were rolling 16’ with a double mow and roll. It didn’t even register on the prism. People absolutely loved it.”
But for Pritchett, service is just as important as product performance.

“The service from local Jacobsen dealer Wolf Creek has been unreal,” said Pritchett. “We had a motor issue with a fairway unit the morning of a tournament. Our Wolf Creek rep was here with a new one at 5:00am. I know he lives three hours away, so he left his house at 2:00am to make sure we had what we need. You just don’t get that kind of service from everybody. It’s been win-win for us with Jacobsen with the quality-of-cut and service.”

“One of the great privileges I’ve had in my career is being able to work with my sons… I like them to see what I do for a living because they gain an appreciation for what they have.” ~Walter Pritchett, Superintendent of Hurstbourne Country Club, Louisville, Kentucky

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