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Turf strips at CNGC, Riverton

Preserve the course: Use a turf strip this winter

Golf course demand, thanks to the late uncorking of pent passion, remains high despite colder temperatures. A pair of GAP Member Clubs, as a result, decided to take necessary turf precautions.

Commonwealth National Golf Club
The Horsham, Pa. venue, effective Jan. 13, required all members to use a turf strip for play off the fairway and first-cut.

“So far, the compliance has been pretty strong. We’re just trying to protect the fairway and first cut play for the time being,” Patrick Shine, Commonwealth National’s golf professional of 15 years, said. “We were getting 100-plus rounds a day. The divot population was starting to get pretty significant, especially in those collection areas on Nos. 4 and 7. This year is kind of a perfect storm between the warming, thawing and freezing, and the high volume of play.”

Commonwealth Caddiemaster Khayri Graves distributes a turf strip, a 6-by14 inch synthetic piece, to a member prior to his or her round. It is recollected at the conclusion of play. Commonwealth National holds approximately 100 turf strips in stock.

“A lot of members understand the concept and are supportive of it. The peer pressure of protecting the asset of the club is winning out over the hubris of tearing up the golf course,” Shine, 46, of Perkasie, Pa., said. “The threshold for participation this year has gone way down. People are playing in temperatures that in a normal year they wouldn’t find themselves on a golf course. The mental 40, 45-degree temperature is different now because there isn’t much to do.”

To support Superintendent Ian Thomas and his team, Commonwealth National’s membership will do its part in the name of protection and preservation. Implementation of a turf strip allows the club to “parlay off the finest conditions” that 2020 offered, given the lack of snow cover and spring foot traffic.

“This is purely bonus, so if we can speak to their appetite for playing without killing the golf course, then I think it’s a win-win. It’s a small inconvenience for the greater good, and I think most people are buying into that philosophy,” Shine said.

Riverton Country Club
For the club nestled in Cinnaminson, N.J., Riverton needed to adapt to the record-breaking influx of winter golf rounds. Play in November was up nearly 128 percent, while both December and January saw increases of approximately 60 percent.

“Rounds were up nearly 30 percent last season, plus all of the increased cart traffic, and that took a toll on the course. Now, we’ve never had winter play like this, so we realized that we had to implement some changes to help the golf course heal,” said Kevin Duffy, Riverton’s golf professional.

Riverton started by installing temporary mats on every par 3, plus the No. 18 tee box. The goal of those mats is simple: concentrate the play to one area.

“Those tee-boxes, as you can imagine, take a pretty good beating during the season,” said Duffy, 37, of Cinnaminson, N.J. “We felt those temporary tees were necessary this year.”

Utilizing turf strips had been under consideration at Riverton, and after “going a little back and forth on the idea,” an allotment is officially on order. Duffy says the club first reached out to the USGA, and then a fellow GAP Member Club, to gain a better understanding of the temporary practice.

“First, we asked the USGA about the turf mats they used prior to the [2013 U.S. Open] at Merion. Then I talked with [Blue Bell Country Club’s] Joey Pohle because they’ve been doing this for the past two seasons or so,” said Duffy. “We are kind of fabricating our own turf strips now. We’ll recommend members use them through most of March.”

During a time when the club is usually focusing on things like bunker cleanup, tree removal and turf growth, priorities have been forced to shift. But a healthy balance of temporary mat play and turf healing has been accepted by Riverton’s membership.

“Our members have been understanding [of the changes], and they are happy to be playing winter golf,” said Duffy. “They understand how the increased rounds have impacted the golf course, and we appreciate that. It’s all to get the course back and healthy for May.”

GAP
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 300 Member Clubs and 80,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.