Dublin's Muirfield Village braces for back-to-back golf tournaments
The turf doctor at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin is preparing his grassy fighter for back-to-back body blows next month.
Chad Mark, director of grounds at Muirfield, must have the golf course ready not only for the July 16-19 Memorial Tournament but also for the PGA Tour's Workday event that precedes the Memorial by one week (July 9-12).
Part of the preparation will be to keep tour players on their toes by setting up the course differently for the 150 players who tee it up for Workday and the 120 who will play the Memorial.
"The green speeds and the rough are the two major things that are going to be different," Mark said.
"Green speeds isn't just because we want to save turf for Week 2. That is a part of it but the other reason is when you get green speeds north of 13 1/2, there's limited places you can put a hole on these greens."
With that in mind, green speeds will measure about 11.5 on the Stimpmeter for Workday, then run about 13 to 13.5 for the Memorial. The slower Workday greens will allow the tour to set pins in locations seldom seen during the Memorial.
As for the rough, the gnarly stuff will measure 3.5 inches for Workday and at least 4 inches for the Memorial.
"I don't think anybody wants to play two weeks of (Memorial rough)," Mark said, explaining the more established of the two tournaments typically begins with 4-inch rough, "and then we let it go from there."
The main area of wear and tear, considering that the course must handle about 840 rounds over two weeks, is probably the fairways. Divots are a specific concern, especially in landing areas. To help remedy a fairway pock-marked in one spot, tees will be adjusted to create two distinct landing areas for both tournaments.
New tees at Nos. 8, 11 and 15 that were established for the Memorial will not be used much for Workday, if at all. Other course changes include a handful of new fairway bunkers -- part of a total renovation to begin the day after the Memorial ends that includes all new bunkers, rebuilt greens and re-grassed fairways and tees.
"The difference between (Tour players) and member play is these guys hit more fairways, so there will be more concentration of divots than for member play," Mark said.
Holding consecutive professional events on the same course, which has not occurred since 2014, when the U.S. Open and Women's U.S. Open were held back-to-back on Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina, necessitates that Muirfield Village will be closed on the Mondays preceding Workday and the Memorial. Players will not be allowed even to walk the course.
"We're going to have to get in there on Monday (of Memorial week) and plug some of those divots," Mark said. "Instead of just adding sand, we'll plug some of them. We'll take turf from the driving range and actually physically replace the divot with that. Small-scale sodding."
One thing Mark's crew will not need to worry about during the Workday tournament is fans getting in the way because it will be the last of five PGA Tour events held without fans. The Memorial will be the first to allow spectators.
"The biggest thing with not having fans the first week is there is a huge component with safety with our guys," Mark said. "When you're pulling carts with trailers, you need to make sure you tell people there's a trailer over here. People are walking with two beers in their hands, and they walk in front of a trailer."
The Memorial also benefits cosmetically from Workday not having fans, he said.
"If we had fans both weeks we would certainly look way more beat up on TV the second week," Mark said.