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Superintendent has Erin Hills ready for U.S. Amateur


Golf Course Superintendents Association of America member Zach Reineking, the superintendent at Erin Hills Golf Course, is preparing a fast, firm test for the U.S. Amateur Championship August 22-28 in Hartford, Wis.

"We had a miserable stretch of weather the first two weeks of August with high heat and humidity," Reineking said. "Fine fescue hates humidity. It handles heat okay, but doesn't do well with humidity. It finally let up about a week and a half out and hopefully we can avoid rain so that it can firm up."

An eight-year GCSAA member, Reineking has been at Erin Hills for five years after working as crew foreman at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis. He has a bachelor's degree in soil science from the University of Wisconsin and he hosted the 2008 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship at Erin Hills.

"We are in a great position going into this," said Ben Kimball, USGA director of the U.S. Amateur. "Zach has been here since it was built and he is a key to the success of this championship. The golf course is right where we want it to be. He has done a phenomenal job dialing it in."

The tees and greens are bentgrass and the fairways and rough are fine fescue. The greens are mowed at .085 inch, and are rolling smooth, fast and firm.

"The greens are very true," Reineking said. "We took it easy on them through the heat stress a couple weeks ago and raised the mowing heights. Then we lowered them back down when it cooled off and we should have no problem speeding up through advance week. They are not USGA greens (layers of gravel and sand between the grass and drainage tiles), they are California greens (just sand between the grass and drainage tile), so they drain really fast. They are young greens, so there is not as much organic matter (thatch) and they should really firm up really well."

The rough features the USGA-preferred graduated cut, with the first 6 feet off the fairway being 1 inch high, the next 15 feet being 3 inches tall, and thick, native fescue growing beyond.

"The rough got really aggressively thick last year," Reineking said. "We burned the native this spring to thin it out and now it is just the native fescue. We usually just let the rough brown out and go dormant, but it perked up and thickened with recent rain. It should add a half-stroke penalty."

Reineking oversees a staff of 32, including GCSAA members Brian Moesch and John Jacques, assistant superintendents. Their forces are bolstered tournament week by a group of 20 volunteers made up of nearby superintendents, assistant superintendents, interns, turfgrass students and industry vendors.

Blue Mound Golf and Country Club in Milwaukee is the assisting course for the U.S. Amateur and, along with Erin Hills, will host two rounds of stroke play August 22-23, following two days of practice rounds. Tim Venes is the superintendent at Blue Mound. After the field of 312 is pared to 64 golfers, Erin Hills will host five rounds of match play August 24-28.

Erin Hills is a member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program and Reineking is working toward earning certification for the golf course through the program. The USGA is scheduled to return to Erin Hills in 2017 for the U.S. Open.

Erin Hills was designed by Michael Hurdzan, Ph.D., Dana Fry and Ron Whitten. It was built by Landscapes Unlimited in 2005. Hurdzan is a past winner of the GCSAA President's Award for Environmental Stewardship and a past chairman of GCSAA's philanthropic organization, The Environmental Institute for Golf. Whitten, Golf Digest's senior architecture editor, is a former writer for GCSAA's magazine, Golf Course Management. Both Whitten and Hurdzan have presented at the GCSAA Education Conference.

Hurdzan and Fry oversaw a renovation done by Landscapes Unlimited in 2009 that reshaped several fairways, added drainage, expanded a few greens, removed more than 200 trees, and converted No. 10 from a par-4 to a par-5 by moving the green 100 yards closer.

The above report is courtesy of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. For more information, visit www.gcsaa.org.