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Playability or Aesthetics - What Really Matters?. Tom Vlach • Director of Golf Course Maintenance Operations, TPC Sawgrass Bill Hughes • General Manager, TPC Sawgrass Collier Miller • Director, TPC Agronomy. Presenting sponsors:. Aesthetics, or Playability What Really Matters?.

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Playability or Aesthetics - What Really Matters?

Tom Vlach • Director of Golf Course Maintenance Operations, TPC Sawgrass Bill Hughes • General Manager, TPC Sawgrass Collier Miller • Director, TPC Agronomy

Presenting sponsors:


Aesthetics, or Playability

What Really Matters?


Collier Miller, CGCS, Director, TPC Agronomy

    • Network Philosophy / Perspective on golf course conditions
    • Success Story - TPC Summerlin
  • Tom Vlach, CGCS, Dir. Golf Course Maintenance Operations, TPC Sawgrass
    • Saying Goodbye to Overseeding and creating firm and fast conditions
  • Bill Hughes, General Manager, TPC Sawgrass
    • Managing Member and Customer Expectations
    • Club Performance


How it plays

TPC Network Agronomic and Conditioning Philosophy is consistent with PGA TOUR Player Expectations

Firm, fast playing conditions are the priority


Touring Professionals want firm and fast playing conditions and have less concern for visual appeal.


Industry Challenges:

  • Fighting the “green is good” syndrome. Green and lush does not necessarily = good playing conditions.
  • Economic and Environmental Sustainability
  • Changing Member and Customer expectations


  • “Firm and Fast” is not always sustainable, but should be the goal
  • Not always achievable – lots of variables
  • Turf must be kept healthy and actively growing to combat pests, traffic, etc.

The key is balancing the playing conditions with the environment, economics, and still providing a product people will pay for.


Opened 1991

  • High end private – 450 members
  • Bermuda and never been overseed
  • The only club in their market that does not overseed
  • Hosted 19 consecutive PGA TOUR events and 4 Champions Tour events
  • TPC Summerlin is considered by tour players, members, and market competition as consistently providing excellent playing conditions

Focus is on providing the best “year round” playing conditions


Spring / Fall


Club is marketed and sold on playing conditions

Educating and selling the membership is critical (Brown “can” be beautiful)

not overseeding allows for
Water conservation and drought restrictions while minimizing any negative effects on playing conditions

Allow for use of poor water quality

Easier to manage for dry and firm conditions

Reduced inputs

No spring/summer and fall transition

Positive public relations

Not Overseeding allows for -

Effect of Soil and Drainage on Playing Conditions -

  • Organic / Thatch Management – aerification, verticutting, topdressing
  • TPC Summerlin is blessed with good draining soil - manufactured 3/8 minus
  • Adequate drainage system
  • utilizing sheet flow, inlets,
  • and drain tile

Water and Moisture Management is


Irrigation Control System

Irrigation Control system

Irrigation System Design and Distribution

A must – to utilize available technology and management tools


Water and Moisture Management is Critical

Soil Probe

Weather Stations / ET

Moisture Meter

Hand / Spot Water


Turf Removal


Alternative Playing Surfaces


Brown “can” be very good

You can’t get much better than this when it comes to ball lie.


Tom Vlach, CGCS, Dir. Golf Course Maintenance Operations, TPC Sawgrass

    • Saying Goodbye to Overseeding and creating firm and fast conditions


A Case Study


History of TPC Sawgrass

THE PLAYERS Stadium opened in 1980

  • Major Renovation 2006 – Re-branding Effort
  • THE PLAYERS: May 2007 – Present
    • Goal of firm and fast conditions

History of THE PLAYERS Stadium Golf Course

  • The Players Championship in March 1982 – 2006

Overseeded entire Stadium golf course each year in October

- 36,000 lbs. seed

- 50,000 lbs. fertilizer

- 1500 man-hours

- 25% electrical increase

- $20,000 transition sod, 2 acres-


Overseeding Concerns

  • Costs: $150,000 per year
  • Playability
    • Fall seeding window
    • Spring and Summer Transition
  • Organic Matter Accumulation and its negative effects

Non-Overseeding Benefits

  • Firm and Fast playing conditions
  • Improved (Fall/Spring) year round conditions
  • Savings of variable expenses
  • Labor reallocation
  • Weed control

Non-overseeding Challenges

  • Customer expectations in winter
  • Winter wear patterns
  • Divots and ball marks

Thatch and Organic Mat Management

TPC Sawgrass took the fast track


Thatch and Organic Mat Management

Regular topdressing required to maintain firm conditions

Alternative to rebuilding and longer term strategy is through core aerification and topdressing program.

managing member customer expectations and effect on club performance

Managing Member / Customer Expectations and Effect on Club Performance

Green is good,but Brown “can” be

beautiful, too!

Bill Hughes

TPC Sawgrass

General Manager

making the reservation
Communicate during the initial phone call about course conditions

Talk about “Firm and Fast” conditions versus the overseed conditions of the past which were “Soft and Slow”

Fully disclose all agronomic practices that a guest could encounter during their time at the facility

Making the Reservation

Communicate !

“Due to our desire to provide our members and guests with firm and fast conditions throughout the winter months, we have moved away from overseeding. It is better for the golf course from a playability perspective and much better for the environment due to a significant reduction in the water and agronomic requirements.”


Arrival - the Moment of Truth

Warm, sincere and genuine greeting of the Members/Guests/TOUR Players at Bag Drop Area


Arrival and Greetings

  • Starter-Reconfirm course conditions and Greens Speed/Pin Position at First Tee
  • “TPC Sawgrass prioritizes firm and fast conditions on a daily basis in providing the members and guests with tournament quality conditions and golf experience.”
  • Player Ambassador Welcome - “The Golf Course is playing Firm and Fast today”
impact on club
Member and Customer Satisfaction

Reputation Stadium Course

Rounds of Golf


Impact on Club -
green is good
Green is Good


Brown is Beautiful, Too

before and after1
Before and After

Par 5, 16th Hole, PLAYERS Stadium


Maya Angelou

Famous American biographer and poet:

You will forget what I say, you will forget what I do, but you will never forget how I made you feel!