September 24, 2017
|SOLHEIM CUP GOLF COURSE SETUP|
By R.J. SmileyHave you ever wondered who selects the hole location and tees that will be used (commonly known as course setup) for big golf tournaments or Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup? For the Solheim Cup Matches at Des Moines Golf and Country Club those decisions rest in the hands of two LPGA Rules Officials assigned as advance officials for this summers event.
The television commentators and print media reporters will hype the fact that one of the home team Captain's duties is to determine how the golf course is setup. They will give Juli Inkster, Captain of Team USA, much of the credit for how the golf course plays during the Solheim Cup. Truth is the LPGA (host and manager for the Solheim Cup Matches on American soil) has assigned two of their best Rules Officials, Brad Alexander and Dan Maselli, to determine the setup of the golf course. They have visited the DMG&CC many times over the past years. These experienced rules officials are PGA members who have a deep understanding of the uniqueness of Foursomes and Fourball as well as Singles matches.
Their job, as Advance Officials for Golf Course Setup, is to learn and understand every nuance of each hole. The Solheim Cup will be made up of five rounds of competition. Alexander and Maselli have spent countless hours to find the perfect blend of tee locations and hole placements for each round. They will have listened carefully to opinions from Juli, Rick Tegtmeier, DMG&CC's Superintendent, and Scott Howe, Director of Golf. They will also spend time with Tournament Director, Chris Garrett and Drew Blass, the Assistant Director with years of Solheim Cup experience. Garrett and Blass have worked on the site for the past four years and have developed a local's knowledge of the golf course.
Juli will in fact have a great deal of input into fine tuning the various elements of the physical conditions of the golf course; such as how hard and fast the greens and fairways will run and the length of the rough. But in the end, the exact golf course setup will be determined by Alexander and Maselli.
By early August, Alexander and Maselli will have developed a blueprint, tee location and hole placement, for the Solheim Cup. The golf course will have a unique setup for each of the five rounds of competition. The golf course will be setup to bring out the best of each format.
The blueprint will have located five hole locations for each green. "That is not to say that the hole will be cut in five distinct areas of each green," Chris Garrett said in a recent conversation. "On some greens there may not be five areas suitable for hole placement. We might revisit some areas of a green during the week, but the hole will not be in the exact location."
Garrett went on to say that the blueprint is only a plan. "Conditions might determine a change to the plan if the wind blows or if it becomes very wet or very dry. After each round Alexander or Maselli will accompany the hole cutters to set cups for the following matches."
The blueprint is kept secret. Neither Team will have access to advanced information as to hole placement for the following matches.
Garrett explained that only eight players on each Team compete during each of the first four Matches. "Players who do not participate in the matches are allowed to practice on the course 30 minutes after the final match in each session. But, they must play ahead of the Rules Officials - before new holes are cut for the next round."
The Solheim Cup will be played at a "white line" yardage of 6894 yards. The white line yardage is the absolute maximum yardage that the golf course would play if every hole were played at its full length. Chances of any one round being played at white line yardage are very slim. The teeing ground, therefore the length; will vary on each hole during the five rounds.
In the blueprint Alexander and Maselli will match tees, for the length that a hole will play, with the difficulty of the hole placement. If the hole is cut in a particularly difficult position the tee might be moved up to allow approach shots from a shorter distance. "During each round the difficulty of hole locations will vary. There will be some difficult locations, some easy locations and some in-between," said Garrett. "No particular round will be setup more difficult than the others."
To illustrate the thought process that Alexander and Maselli face in selecting hole locations, Tee Times will use quotes from a conversation with Alexander and Maselli during an April meeting: "The front nine for Solheim Cup is the back nine on the North Course. Our third hole (normally #12 - North) is a beautiful par-3 played over water. The green complex is an extraordinary kidney shape with two distinct sections, connected by a narrow neck. The two sections are separated by a dramatic sand bunker. This is a great hole, but at this point we feel there is only one hole location on the upper section. That presents a problem, finding four hole locations on the lower level or repeating the location on the upper level."
Garrett commented, "The fireworks will start early in each match. We start with a drivable par-4, then the second with an extremely tough green. Fans will enjoy the drama that develops on the stunning third."
The goal of the LPGA is to create a competition that is fair to both Teams and enjoyable for spectators on site and those watching worldwide on television. Therefore, players and their caddies will be given the same yardage book and green diagram containing golf course information.
No distance measuring devices will be allowed on the golf course during the Matches. Players and caddies must determine the yardage for each shot from information contained in the yardage book. The yardage book contains a well-illustrated diagram of each hole with distances and information to critical physical features within that hole. The green diagram is a very detailed, GPS generated, picture of the green. With this information players and caddies will know the slope of any specific areas on each green. This data will eliminate the guesswork of green reading and increase the pace of play.
At the start of each of the five rounds participants will receive a "pin sheet" containing hole locations for each hole on the course. The pin sheet is a picture of the green containing the overall depth of the green and shows hole position as it relates to yards from front of green and yards from right of left side of green. When the best golfers from both sides of the Atlantic know the exact distance to the front of a green, the direction the green flows and the distance the hole is cut from the front of the green, the fans in attendance will surely see a lot of birdies.
Keep in mind that the Rules Officials are not assigned the task of making the golf course as difficult as possible, they work for the LPGA who is managing a competition that is meant to entertain the audience both on site and on television.
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