Firm fairways. Fast greens.
That's what modern golfers expect from their golfing experience, according to top golf course agronomist Nelson Caron. The No. 1 request the director of golf course maintenance at the Ford Plantation Club hears when he chats with members: They want a course where the ball rolls firm and fast, particularly on the putting greens.
"When we wake up every morning and get to the golf course, that's some of the first pieces of data we're looking at," Caron said. "What was the firmness reading the evening before? What was our moisture level the evening before? And how do you make the adjustments agronomically for that day's play?"
A graduate of North Carolina State's agronomy department with over 20 years experience in golf course management, Caron has been at Ford Plantation since 2008. He's assisted with course preparation at the Masters since 2010.
And he was Ford Plantation's point person when noted golf architect Pete Dye was called in to assess why the course southwest of Savannah was having so much trouble with drainage. Eventually, Dye and his team decided to redesign the course, a project that was completed this fall.
"The project started as an infrastructure rebuild," Caron said. "On Mr. Dye's first two visits in 2009, we didn't discuss golf course design. We discussed how we were going to rebuild the infrastructure at a reasonable cost and achieve firm and fast conditions.
"Seepage drainage allowed us to firm the place up. We have an incredibly high water table at Ford Plantation, because it's the Low Country. We have water moving laterally through the soils, so we had to intercept it."
Caron said with the new drainage, Ford Plantation can withstand an eight-inch rainfall over a 24-hour period without flooding. That's a good thing, since the Savannah area averages close to 56 inches of rainfall a year.
COURSE REVIEW: Ford Plantation, Savannah, Ga.
And the benefit to the golf members? Drier conditions mean firmer fairways. Caron said 70 acres of Celebration Bermuda grass sprigs were brought in this spring and summer -- and with water and nutrients from the soil -- the fairways were ready for play in less than two months.
In addition, Dye also created putting greens at Ford Plantation that can be made fast without sacrificing the integrity of the turf. Unlike many southern courses that wilt under the intense summer heat, Ford Plantation won't require cooling fans.
"These greens at Ford Planatation are built for speed, pitched anywhere from 12 to 14 inches from back to front," Caron said. "And most of the undulations are introduced from the sides. So that allows golf course maintenance to get the greens fast and achieve the firmness expectations, to achieve the speed and still have a challenging course that club members can play."
Who says you can't play golf in the winter?
I, for one, teed it up the day after Christmas up here in Rhode Island -- the latest round I've ever played here in the Ocean State (of course, temperatures were in the mid-50s).
My round, however, was nothing compared to the dedication -- and perhaps, shall we say, "craziness" -- displayed by the father/son duo of Jerry and Garrett Clark of Bonner Springs, Kansas, on Sunday.
But the Clarks decided that despite a frozen-tundra looking Sunflower Hills Golf Course that was covered in a blanket of snow with a high temperature registering in at 18 degrees, it was a perfect day to play some golf.
My general rule is that if the temperature is equal/less than the number of holes in a regulation round of golf, the closest you'll find me to the first tee is in front of the clubhouse fireplace sipping a hot chocolate.
But not the Clarks.
Jerry, the elder Clark, manned the camera, while Garrett -- armed with his golf bag and a broom to sweep away the snow so he could hit his shots and putts -- played the course.
Jerry sent in this video to PGA.com to show us how it all went down:
Chilling video. See what I did there?
Jerry says in the video that "the camera crashed due to cold weather."
He also said, "In other news, Bubba Watson is tweeting pictures from the PGA Tour in Maui!"
He wasn't kidding:
— bubba watson (@bubbawatson) January 4, 2015
Probably as good a segue as any to remind you that the 2014-15 PGA Tour season resumes this Friday from Kapalua's breathtaking Plantation Course in Maui, Hawaii, for the first round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, where the weather is expected to be, well, perfect -- high 70s to low 80s with magnificent sunshine.
If the Clarks flip on the tube to watch the action they'll be saying, "We're not in Kansas anymore."
A new year is always a time for reflection and renewal. That includes the time-honored tradition of making resolutions for the new year, and golfers are no exception.
We asked PGA.com readers what are their New Year's golf resolutions for 2015, and the responses were as varied as the game itself. Whether it's breaking through to the next level, lowering your handicap, playing somewhere new, playing more or just having more fun, it seems we all resolve to enjoy golf.
Here are some of our favorite responses from Facebook and Twitter.
KEEP AN EYE ON THESE: 10 Players to watch in 2015
How about those who would like that one breakthrough round in 2015?
Tu Pham: Break 90.
Martina Weindl: Putt better, play more and break 80.
Norman Lang: Same goal as last year: Break 80. It's been a long time since I shot in the 70s. I just can't find the time to practice or play enough to improve my consistency.
Mosayeb Khademi: Have more fun and break 80!
Josh Perez: Break 70!
Mary Virginia Horne: Shoot my age.
CRYSTAL BALL GAZING: The top five storylines in 2015
Then there are those who want to improve incrementally in 2015.
Maria Bland: Drop my handicap below 30.
Amelia Lewis: Practice more and drop my handicap to 20.
David Hannam: Lower my handicap from 17 to 12.
DallenH: Go from a 15 to a 10 handicap.
Barry J C Meyer: Drop three shots a round to get to a 10 handicap!
Elizabeth Ayers DeMartino: Be most improved this year. Want to be a single digit. Working on it!
Brad Denny: Single figures.
And don't forget those who just want to get better at some facet of the game in 2015.
Doris Schleich-Tavernese: I received 12 lessons with my pro for Christmas! Expecting a better year than last year.
Mike Devine: I want to be more physically fit and limber. Play more, practice more and better. Get fit for a set of Miura 1957 irons.
Matt Cole: More practice, work on my core, play more open events and go low.
Wayne Garrison: Hit a legitimate draw.
Yanni Foundaki: Crowd the ball more and hit a draw.
Robby Hart: Fix that super ultra mega-slice.
Michael D. Weisner: Take some yoga classes to get a little bit more flexible. I'm an old guy that can't quite turn like I used to.
Drew Ryhorchuk: To be more consistent with my putting, and to play more even though I work at a golf course.
Christian Schnell: Work on my chipping.
Don Porter: Putt better!
Phil Hewlett: To learn how to play golf
GET GOLF READY: Plan your golf around fun
But most of all, there's the bottom line: Have fun and play as much as possible.
Randal Strickler: Play more golf!
Kurt Wainwright: Play at least one round more than I did in 2014.
Leon Lara: My golf resolution for the new year is to play more rounds of golf that make a difference.
Wayne Jury: Have more fun, play well, enjoy my playing partners!
Tom Jones: Better cigars, slower swing, meet new friends!
Daniel Sadoch: Play better, play more and be the best!
Roy Cortez: Enjoy the game and find a golf ball that doesn't get lost along the way!
And this is the best piece of advice we could offer you this year.
Michael Stetz: Enjoy the hell out of every round. No longer concerned about my score. It's about being with good company and enjoying the game and the outdoors.
You could consider Gus Andreone a very lucky man, and you'd be correct -- on so many levels.
The lifetime PGA of America member is still playing golf regularly at Palm Aire Country Club in Sarasota, Fla., after turning 103 in September. And not only that, Gus made his eighth hole-in-one earlier this month, making him arguably the oldest person ever to record an ace.
But that's not all. Gus' wife, Betty, who is 97, has three holes-in-one, giving the couple a total of 11. And they've won the lottery three times, and a car in a raffle.
Listen to them recount their story here, from the Fox studios in Tampa:
Andreone served under Gen. George S. Patton during World War II, and survived survived a near direct hit by an large caliber artillery shell. The compression by the shell created a crater nearby and left Gus without hearing for more than two weeks. After the war, Andreone returned to his native Pittsburgh and worked at Edgewood Country Club for 30 years before retiring to Florida
He's one Lucky Gus.
Christmas cards and holiday newsletters: An annual ritual shared by many people. Most of the time, the letter is filled with vacation photos, accomplishments from the kids and self-aggrandizement. It seems like everyone's life is nothing but sugar plums and fairy tales.
YOUTH MUST BE SERVED: Tiger Woods finds plenty of young guns on his tail
So it's refreshing when someone like Tiger Woods sits down and writes from his heart -- and doesn't pull many punches in the process.
Here's the note he posted to his website this week:
As a golfer, 2014 was one of my most frustrating years because I've been hurt pretty much all year. I'm finally healthy enough to practice and dedicate myself to the game of golf again, and that's going to be fun for next year.
But, in so many other ways, it was a great year and I have a lot to be thankful for.
My kids are doing fantastic and are growing up and maturing, and it's happening faster than I ever thought. They're teaching me how to work an iPad, which is really funny.
Lindsey Vonn is doing great. Her rehab was fantastic, and she worked so hard at it. She just won her second World Cup Downhill race last week in France and is only one win away from tying the all-time record and is two from breaking it, which is pretty incredible.
It was nice to see my good friend Arjun Atwal win the Dubai Open last week. He's had some physical ailments and doesn't really have a playing card; it's just hit-and-miss tournaments and hard to get any momentum. But he birdied the last hole to win, and that's really exciting.
I was really happy to see my niece Cheyenne earn her LPGA playing card for 2015. I found out after Sunday's round at the Hero World Challenge that she had qualified, and I called her from the cart barn at Isleworth Golf & Country Club. I couldn't be more proud. She paid her dues and traveled the world. It wasn't a handout. She struggled with a 79 in the second round but came back strong. For her to do that shows so much maturity and mental strength, and I think that will serve her well going forward.
It's been a really exciting year for my foundation. We launched a new event series called the Tiger Woods Charity Playoffs, enjoyed working with two new title sponsors, Quicken Loans and Hero, for our tournaments, and welcomed new leadership with CEO Rick Singer. I'm really excited about what Rick brings to the table and have really enjoyed working with him so far. We have some big plans for the foundation.
The Hero World Challenge was fantastic. We went to Isleworth and Orlando for one year, and it was great to see a lot of the people that I have gotten to know through the years. I would like to thank Mr. Munjal, Vice Chairman & CEO of Hero MotoCorp, for his support of the event and my foundation. We've developed a great relationship and have a shared vision. Jordan Spieth played tremendous golf.
The next three years we are going to Albany in the Bahamas, so we're looking forward to that. We should draw a pretty good field as well, because some of the top players live in the community of Albany, and there's a good chance they will play in the event. My staff at the foundation has done an incredible job, and I am proud of them as well.
It was a busy year for our golf course design group. We had the grand opening for El Cardonal at Diamante in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, last week, and the initial reviews were fantastic. Bluejack National in Houston should be open by the fall of next year, and our newest design called the Trump World Golf Club, Dubai, is just getting started.
In October, I had the privilege to induct Notah Begay III, who is like a brother to me, into the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame. It was neat to go back to The Farm and to be around the place that really has transformed my life after being around so many gifted, articulate and brilliant people. I missed being there. The majority of students on campus were their high school's valedictorians.
To be able to hang out with the men's and women's golf teams … the questions that they asked were amazing, because you can tell just how deep they are thinking about things. I just remember when I was attending there, the conversations and the debates we would have were on a very deep level. The questions they were asking me about golf weren't just, 'How do you hit a high draw?' It was much deeper than that and it was fun for me.
Congratulations to Patrick Rodgers for breaking my Stanford records for tournament wins and career scoring average. Patrick eclipsed it, worked very hard and got it done.
As for my 2015 golf season, I'm mostly excited about being healthy again. I've struggled for the past year-and-half with my back, and it showed in my results. Even though I won five times two years ago, it was hit or miss some weeks and got progressively worse.
Now that it feels healthy, strong and stable, it's fun to be able to play with my kids again, to play soccer and run around with them, shoot hoops … things that I used to do and took for granted. For anybody who has ever had a bad back with nerve damage, it's downright debilitating. To not feel that is finally just incredible relief.
I am still working on my playing schedule and should have it figured out shortly. The kids, Lindsey and I are going to spend Christmas together and we're going to have a great time.
Like I said, I have a lot to be thankful for.
Thanks to everyone for your continued encouragement and support. I wish you all a happy, healthy and safe holiday season and all the best in 2015.
-- Tiger Woods
HERO WORLD CHALLENGE: Tiger rusty but healthy
Right back at you, Tiger.
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