Saturday, June 9

Olympic Club Fine-Tuned for World’s Best Golfers


Courtesy of StonehouseGolf

THERE’S A NEW LOOK TO THE GRAND old lady as The Olympic Club’s Lake Course in San Francisco welcomes the nation’s best golfers for the 112th U.S. Open, June 14-17.

Since coming to The Olympic Club as director of golf course maintenance in 2002, Pat Finlen has overseen changes that Mike Davis, USGA executive director, says “offers the hardest start in golf.” Prior to the 2007 U.S. Amateur, a significant amount of brush and trees were removed, opening up the famed golf course and allowing golfers an improved view of the varied topography.

Greens Restoration and Rework

Working with architect Bill Love, Finlen and his team began a renovation in November 2008 (which concluded in May 2009) that called for a total regrassing of the greens with bentgrass, replacing a Poa annua surface that was damaged by nematodes, a plant parasite worm. A cool, dry winter and heavy play tested the young greens earlier this year, but Finlen says the late spring, early summer conditions in the San Francisco Bay area are “perfect for growing bentgrass and providing firm, fast putting conditions.”

Utilizing GPS points ranging from 2,500 to 4,000 for each green, all greens were mapped prior to the project, and 14 were returned to their original size, shape and contours. Greens Nos. 7, 18, 15 and 18 were changed. The No. 18 green, source of much discussion for the 1998 Open, was flattened after the event. For the 2012 Open, a slope of 4 to 4½ percent was created on the 2,400-square-foot green to add some challenge to the hole. A last-minute course alteration was the addition of a 750-square-foot bunker 55 yards short of the 17th green, adding what Finlen calls a “dramatic” change in how the hole will be played.

The course will play 7,170 yards at a par of 70, including the longest hole in Open history, the 670-yard, par-5 No. 16. Finlen and Davis both put a premium on getting the ball in the “tight” fairways off the tee to give players a chance to go for the small greens.

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