Every January, hundreds of thousands of golf lovers head to Scottsdale, Arizona to enjoy “The Greatest Show on Grass.” The Waste Management Phoenix Open is among the best-attended golf events in the world. With so many eyes on their course, the greens team at Tournament Players Club (TPC) has their work cut out for them for months leading up to and during the Phoenix Open.
So what all does it take to maintain a top-notch course for a PGA TOUR tournament? According to Blake Meentemeyer, Director of Golf Course Maintenance Operations at TPC, it takes months and months of preparation.
Construction and build
Contractors start working on building and construction for the Phoenix Open the first week of October, right around the same time as overseeding. Collaborating with contractors, overseeding schedules, marking irrigation and electrical lines, weekly meetings and more are all part of the norm the fall before the event.
“Every decision we make can affect the tournament starting from October. We have to keep a close eye on the weather, frost and more,” said Blake.
TPC is a busy course, seeing 45,000 rounds of golf on each of the two courses throughout the year. So, in addition to building and prepping the course for the tournament, TPC is still open to guests all winter long. The course is only closed for four days leading up to the Phoenix Open.
Irrigation and turf maintenance
With the greens needing to be in perfect condition throughout tournament prep, the TPC team focuses a lot of time and effort on irrigation and turf maintenance for their guests in preparation for the Phoenix Open.
They work on dialing in the irrigation system and making percentage adjustments, being especially mindful of any rainfall in the winter months. They also flush the greens a few times and monitor salt content in their water supply. They keep a close relationship with the city on any changes to the water.
For turf maintenance, weather is a huge factor, especially this year since Phoenix experienced an unusually cold winter.
“Grass growth has to happen in November, when we have the day length and weather for it,” said Blake of the challenges of turf maintenance. He and his team used slightly more fertilizer this year because of the colder temperatures, knowing the growth window would close sooner than it typically does.
The TPC team also used wetting agents, monitored salt levels and kept a close eye on the nighttime temperatures.
Great teamwork and partnerships
While the team can’t control the weather, one key factor they can control when preparing for the international event: the TPC team. TPC has 60 team members across both golf courses, but for the Phoenix Open, they bring in an additional 35 volunteers from around the world.
Starting in the fall, the TPC team collects applicants for the volunteer positions at the Phoenix Open. They look for previous tournament experience and various course maintenance experiences. Blake shared that a lot of professional superintendents are volunteers because they have the opportunity to learn something new from the tournament prep work to take back to their courses or tournaments. It’s a great learning and sharing opportunity among colleagues.
When it comes to tournament preparation, Blake also suggested leveraging vendors and partners. He has great relationships with the course vendors year-round, so when it’s time for the Phoenix Open, he knows he can count on them to get to the course quickly with what they need.
While the irrigation, turf maintenance and crew are all crucial for a successful golf tournament, Blake’s additional piece of advice for running a successful large-scale event is this: “Exercise a lot of patience and a calm demeanor. There are a lot of folks on property and it’s important to go with the flow, knowing it’s not always going to be perfect.”