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us open greens

Exclusive: USGA director reveals rigorous processes behind the rapid Pinehurst greens

USGA Senior Director of Championship Agronomy Darin Bevard explained to NCG the processes behind preparing US Open greens which have caused such controversy in previous years…

 

It is in the bloodthirsty nature of many golf fans to enjoy watching professionals struggle, and Pinehurst is delivering difficulty in a “tough but fair” fashion.

Errant drives are punished with awkward lies in sandy waste and wiregrass, and the firm, unforgiving greens punish approaches that aren’t played with precision. It is the greens and their contours that have caused the most carnage.

Carnage is often associated with US Opens, but things have gone too far before. The tournaments of 2004 and 2018 at Shinnecock Hills brought the greens under furious fire and then there was the ‘broccoli’ of Chambers Bay in 2015. The watchful eye of golf fans, pundits and players is always fixed on the putting surfaces in June.

If you type in ‘US Open’ or ‘USGA’ paired with the word ‘watering’ in the search bar on X (formerly Twitter), you’ll find some dissent against watering greens at Pinehurst. While social media is a world full of cynicism, maintaining course conditions at the US Open is a debate as old as time, and older than the internet.

Darin Bevard, the Senior Director of Championship Agronomy for the United States Golf Association, said to NCG that the USGA endeavours not to water greens during rounds and between groups playing so that conditions aren’t altered for oncoming groups.

NCG understands that there has been no watering of greens during competition rounds at the third major of the year, and this is the plan for what is left of the tournament.

Bevard added that turf health would override this principle if the long-term health of the greens were in jeopardy. The USGA maintains high specificity of moisture levels and green health is one variable the staff in North Carolina dealt with this week which “comes first,” according to Bevard.

us open greens

(Images all courtesy of the USGA)

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US Open: Watering greens done with precise process

“While stress is visible on the greens, the underlying grass is healthy,” Bevard told NCG. “The Pinehurst maintenance team uses moisture meters that indicate per cent moisture to evaluate the moisture levels in the greens. From experience, they know the percentage moisture needed to maintain putting green health for the day.

“Most of our watering is done in the evening following play. In the mornings, water is only added to spots that may have been missed the evening before. Morning water is generally minimal by design to have the least impact on playing conditions. Water is applied with handheld hoses and not overhead sprinkler irrigation. This allows precise amounts of water to be applied only where needed.”

Before the start of the tournament, defending champion Wyndham Clark described the greens as “borderline.” Tiger Woods, who missed the cut, also questioned if the course’s original designer Donald Ross intended to have them run at 13 on the stimpmeter, which is golf-ish for very fast.

Pinehurst has achieved the unique accolade of testing the best players in the world and keeping many of them above par without the protection of the wind, further exemplifying the difficulty of the putting plateaus.

Another variable is the firmness of the greens which is measured using a GS3 ball in a drop fixture. Bevard detailed the minute workings and processes that the staff at Pinehurst have carried out on each day of the US Open.

“When the fixture is dropped with the ball in it, it provides us with a firmness reading that is depth of penetration in inches. The lower the number, the firmer the green. We collect nine firmness readings per green. If areas of the green are too firm for the nature of the shot to be played to it, we will water the green in those specific areas. In the absence of rain, this process repeats itself every evening behind play and in the morning before play.

“At times, after the hole location is set in the morning, a very light amount of water will be applied via hand watering. This is generally done on hot, windy days when we have concern for wilt due to heavy foot traffic around the hole location. A light spritz of water in the morning can prevent wilt later in the day.”

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What have you made of the US Open greens? Have they looked too firm, or do you encourage the carnage? Tell us on X!

Matt Chivers

Matt Chivers

Now on the wrong side of 25, Matt has been playing golf since the age of 13 and was largely inspired to take up the game by countless family members who played golf during his childhood.

Matt is a member at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal playing off a 5 handicap, just a pitching wedge away from his hometown of Dover where he went to school and grew up. He has previously been a member at Etchinghill and Walmer and Kingsdown in Kent.

Having studied history at the University of Liverpool, Matt went on to pass his NCTJ Exams in Manchester a year later to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a journalist. He picked up work experience along the way at places such as the Racing Post, the Independent, Sportsbeat and the Lancashire Evening Post.

Matt joined NCG in February 2023 and is the website’s main source of tour news, features and opinion. He has reported live from events such as The Open, the Ryder Cup and The Players Championship, having also interviewed and spoken to the likes of Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Henrik Stenson, to name just a few.

Consuming tour golf on what is a 24/7 basis, you can come to Matt for informed views on the game and the latest updates on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LIV Golf.

What’s in Matt’s bag: Cobra LTDx LS driver, Cobra LTDx 3-wood, TaylorMade P7MC irons, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, Odyssey putter.

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