SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Groundskeepers have been busy making sure Minnehaha County Club will be ready for the start of next week’s Sanford International. This summer has been more of a challenge because it will be the driest one yet in the history of the Sioux Falls PGA Tour Champions event.
The greens are a healthy shade of green at Minnehaha Country Club. A heavy dose of water from a hose is making up for Mother Nature’s stinginess, when it comes to rain ahead of the Sanford International.
“All things considered, given the weather and the amount of play that we’ve had this year, everything’s pretty good,” Minnehaha County Club Ground Superintendent David Swift said.
The country club uses around 28-million gallons of water during an average year. That number is expected to be higher this year because of the dry spring and summer.
“You can do the math on that. There’s a little over 27-thousand gallons of water in an acre-inch. So yeah. So we’re constantly trying to adjust and not to use too much water,” Swift said.
Groundskeepers have to strike a delicate balance of making sure the course has enough water to overcome the dry conditions, while at the same time making sure the ground doesn’t get too soggy and soft.
“We want it to play difficult. But not extremely difficult. But difficult but fair. And a firm surface helps us achieve that,” Swift said.
This year’s extreme heat and drought underscore how golfing conditions can change from one tournament to the next.
“That’s the thing. Having an event outdoors, you kind of got to deal with everything that Mother Nature has to offer,” Sanford International Tournament Director Davis Trosin said.
Compare this year’s drought with the very first year of the tournament when a Sanford medical helicopter was brought in to dry off the fairways following a heavy rain.
“It was a shock for me. I was up here just kind of helping out. I’m, at that point in time, working for one of our other events. But it just shows the dedication of Sanford Health as a title sponsor to try to get this place in perfect condition,” Trosin said.
Trosin doesn’t anticipate a helicopter having to hover over this year’s tournament.
“I’m not even going to put it on our radar! It’s going to be perfect weather, seventies and sunny and no rain!” Trosin said.
Swift can dial up a pre-tournament dousing through an app on his phone and instantly, the sprinklers spring into action.
“Growing grass is pretty easy. When it’s really dry, you water it. When it’s wet, you drain it. And when it’s long, you cut it. And when it gets hungry, you might fertilize it,” Swift said.
Swift says the irrigation technology of today is far more precise and efficient that previous decades. That means dry spots get water and wet spots won’t. Thereby assuring a reduction in overall water usage.
That technology includes a hand-held device called a moisture meter that alerts the staff to dry areas on the course that might otherwise go undetected.
“We check the greens every single day with a moisture meter and it doesn’t really tell us where we have to water, it’s where we don’t have to water and that’s changed our practice tremendously,” Swift said.
An agronomist with the PGA works with Swift to ensure the course meets the necessary standards to host some of the best golfers in the world.
“When we go into the tournament, they want to have the greens at a certain height. The rough is at a certain height. We dial in our fertility and growth regulators and things like that. Mowing practices. It’s complex, I suppose to the average golfer. But for us, it’s just kind of everyday stuff,” Swift said.
Tournament organizers are confident conditions will be ideal when it’s time for the players to tee-off. That’s because the weeks of preparation are all par for the course.
The Minnehaha County Club draws its water from two wells on the property.
Activities with the Sanford International that are open to the public begin on Thursday, September 14th with a pro-am. The first round begins Friday the 15th with an opening ceremony at 10 a.m.