Turning a snow-covered green into a dry and playable putting surface in a matter of days is no Christmas miracle, but instead the result of planning, science and hard work at one of the country's old golf facilities.
In the past, play at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis had been hampered by poor greens drainage and slopes and swales that moved water from one area only to have it suspended in another.
Last summer, John Cunningham CGCS, who was the superintendent behind the revival of TPC at Las Colinas in Irving, Texas, had a SubAir system installed at Bellerive.
Though use of the system and constant soil monitoring with handheld probes, Cunningham not only was able to identify optimal soil moisture levels, he now had the tools to deliver those sought-after conditions on a consistent basis.
The system, he says, is strong enough to remove excess water while leaving enough moisture in the soil to provide for proper plant health.
In mid-December, the greens at Bellerive were covered in 4 inches of snow. Temperatures that climbed into the 50s a week later left the greens soaked and inhospitable to golfers. In the past, wet winter conditions resulted in volumetric water content on Bellerive's greens, said Cunningham, were 30 percent to 50 percent above normal.
During normal mode, Cunningham runs the SubAir system for 7 minutes every 2 hours. After the recent snow event, he left it on for about 24 hours, which resulted in removal of all excess moisture by Dec. 20. By the time he was able to walk the course the next day, the difference was very noticeable. No sponginess. No footprinting.
In a demonstration video Cunningham posted to
, assistant superintendent Chris Fletcher showed how effective the system was by taking soil moisture readings at various points around Bellerive's No. 9 green. And all readings, whether taken from high points or low were in Cunningham's range of providing acceptable playing conditions.
"No Christmas miracle here," Cunningham said. "Lots of investigation, planning, testing, sampling, communicating, meetings, approvals, agronomics and just plain old hard work."