This week sees the USPGA Championship get played at Atlanta Athletic Club (AAC) in Atlanta, Georgia. The tournament will certainly be remembered fo many reasons and the weather could be a big talking point to start with. I have a friend at Peachtree GC in Atlanta, with whom I played AAC with way back in 1988, and he tells me that the daytime temperature has not dropped below 90 degF since April although they are predicting high 80's for the week end. Hot and humid will be the conditions and this is one of the reasons that very few Majors have ever been played in the south of the US during summer. The weather has always been one of the reasons but the turf was the other. There was an old rule of thumb that Majors had to be played on Bentgrass greens (although Augusta had Couch greens up until the early 1980's) and Bentgrass in the south of the US is a bit like Bentgrass at Coolie Tweed....dam hard to keep alive in summer!! Almost all Clubs in Atlanta with Bentgrass greens employ fans to assist in cooling the greens and creating air movement as we do on the 17th West. Most greens in the Atlanta area are Bentgrass but at AAC they will be putting on "Champion" which is one of the ultradwarf varieties we trialled in the nursery green a few years back. Two very hot, humid summers in succession has seen a number of Clubs move away from Bentgrass to Couch greens and the success of the greens at AAC will only encourage more to move. I am not too sure how the Champion handles the winter conditions because when I played there in February 1988 the course was closed till 10 am while we waited for the frost to thaw!
But on to the course itself and the Club is a strictly Members only course with 36 holes and a 9 hole par 3 course and a staff of 65 with 50 volunteers coming in for tournament week. In addition to the Champion turf on the greens which will be mown at 2.6mm (CTH West greens are currently 3mm) the fairways are a variety of Zoysia and will be mown at 9mm which is very tight (CTH 15mm) and the Couchgrass roughs will be at about 60mm. Just out of interest, a variety of Zoysia was planted in the rough at the Glades GC when it was first grassed. The course will play at 7,467 yards (6,827 m) and includes two par 4's over 460 metres and the par 3 17th at 190 metres with a full water carry.