I’d love to see Augusta National, and play it, and watch The Masters in person, but with today’s crazy-good electronics, it’s the major made for TV. Only one other golf tournament in the world – The (British) Open Championship – compares as a television spectacle.
If Augusta had any blemishes, the high-def cameras would pick them up and magnify them for the world to see, like the individual pores on the face of a guy like Jason Dufner. But there aren’t any, and the grass and flowers and water features are posed as if for a spring-issue snow globe, with dogwood blossoms standing in for the snowflakes.
– Grey Goatee Golf and Travel, April 10, 2014
He describes it as “a woodland cathedral,” this peaceful glade far enough off the path of play that no golfer would give it a thought or even know it was there. The rough trail in, just big enough for a superintendent’s golf cart, joins out-of-play parts of holes 13 and 14 on the Red nine at Eagles Pride Golf Course at Joint Base Lewis McChord, south of Tacoma.
When his day brings him here, David Wienecke can pause and soak in the quiet. He can look around and appreciate that there are no noxious, invasive species as far as his practiced eye can see. There is no more completely natural spot on the 600 acres of the Eagles Pride property, only 40 percent of which, Wienecke is happy to point out, is given over to the 27 holes of the golf course.
Wienecke is sustainable operations and environmental manager for Eagles Pride and Whispering Firs, its sister military course on the base. He’s far from Augusta, Ga., in miles, certainly, but even more in his philosophy of golf course maintenance.
“It’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful,” Wienecke says of Augusta National Country Club, site of this week’s Masters Tournament, “but it’s just all artificial. It’s like Disneyland. I mean, nobody thinks Disneyland is natural. It’s a theme park.”
Wienecke, who was the original superintendent for Chambers Bay Golf Course, site of this June’s U.S. Open, visited Augusta National when he worked for the United States Golf Association.
“I know what their product is,” he says.
Wienecke works constantly to reduce, minimize or eliminate chemicals and fertilizers at his courses. He’s set aside dozens of acres of grass that will never again feel a mower blade. He lets the natural woodland landscape live and breathe.
At Augusta, every strand of grass, every flower, is managed.
“They do amazing things to make sure they bloom right at the Masters,” Wienecke says, by which he means “tons of chemicals” and heaters and artificial lighting to regulate the environment of the flowering plants.
The greens at Augusta are creeping bentgrass, a cool-season grass in a warm-season environment. Agronomist Wienecke suggests Ultra Dwarf Bermudagrass, a totally different genus, would work much better.
“The creeping bentgrass barely hangs on by its fingernails,” he says, “then they have to do heroic things to keep it alive through the summer, for the next year’s event. They have disease issues, insect pest issues, fertility issues …
“It’s too hot and humid, so they have to put shade cloth over the greens. It’s just a real challenge to keep that going.”
As he stood on the bird-walk trail looking over Hodge Lake toward the 14th green of the Blue nine — another of his favorite places at Eagles Pride — Wenecke said golf courses should be one with the environment, be a part of the environment.
Augusta is not that, he says.
“It’s not golf the way it was meant to be.”