On the golf course, we seldom think about what is going on behind the scene to maintain the golf course grass & facilities in great condition. To find out more about this, we followed Roderick “Jay” Astilla, the superintendent at Garden City Golf Club, for a day to find out just what is being done to provide us with an enjoyable round of golf and we quickly found out that there is much more to it than meets the eyes.
We went to see Jay on a Saturday morning at 6 AM when he starts his day. We met up with Jay at Garden City`s stunning driving range, which Jay helped by renovating this IMG’s redesigned Driving range, for a quick chat and coffee. Here he showed us the weekly plans that he has made for his crews, comprised of an irrigation team, mechanics and chemical team. Under his supervision, there are a total of 8 supervisors and 72 crew members.
The first thing Jay does each morning is a full course inspection to ensure that everything is the way it should be from the largest to the smallest of details. This includes checking the mowing quality of greens, tees, approach, rough and fairway, mowing direction and also to see if the tee markers are correctly lined up and the flag colors are correct (i.e., red flags for front pin positions, whites for middles and blue flags for pin positions)
After some minimal adjustments to the tee markers, we arrived at hole #3 for a quick green speed test. This is done with a device called “Stimpmeter” which is basically an aluminum bar with a hole in it. Golf ball would be inserted into the hole and released after reaching a roughly 20 degree angle. The green speed is calculated from the distance the ball rolls off the Stimpmeter. The process is repeated four times in different angles on the same place (flat surface) to calculate an accurate green speed.
The speed measured of the day was a 9.5, the perfect number for most golfers. Jay explained that Garden City has very undulating greens and it would make a round of golf even more frustrating for regular golfers if the greens were much faster than what they were at the time, it could potentially be a very unpleasant day of golf.
Part of the course inspection is also the raking of the bunkers to see if they are raked to standard. Not only are playing conditions inspected on a daily basis but all areas of the golf course such as cart paths, landscaping around the golf course and kiosks, checking all markers (hazard and GUR) are correct and general cleanliness are all responsibilities of a golf course superintendent.
After inspection of a few more holes, we headed out to Jay`s office at the nursery where the Paspalum and Tiff Eagle grass are grown. Those grass are used to replace damaged patches on the golf course. The nursery is also where the sand used for top dressing green and tees is filtered .
In his office, Jay was setting the Toro Site Pro Central Control System with his crew for the evening watering schedule and also set the proper timing and how much water needed to water the course.
A superintendent is not only someone who knows all about grass and plants, but could also be called a chemist and mathematician. We witnessed Jay measuring the amount of chemicals with his Chemical supervisor Mr. Hun, using the Toro Multi Pro Sprayer to calculate how much time is needed to spray a certain amount of chemicals on the greens as too much would cause serious problems to the grass and too little won`t provide enough of the essential chemical to do its job.
The course is currently in great condition as always and they have been working hard to maintain the quality all year long. If you went out to Garden City in the beginning of April, you must have noticed the lines and sand in the fairways which is caused by a process called “Verticutting”. It is one of the major cultural practices to provide firmer playing surfaces, better turf water penetration and better turf health. If you want to know when these maintenance practices take place as they might cause some disruption during play, we suggest you sign up for the Garden City newsletter.
We progressed to the hotel for lunch where Jay told us more about his experience. He graduated with a degree in Agricultural Engineering from Cavite State University in Philippines. After graduation, he worked other jobs before starting as grounds keeper at Riviera Golf Club in the Philippines. He admitted that he did not like the job at first since it meant being outside in the sun all day. Nevertheless, he soon found out that he was actually quite good at it and received promotion after promotion until he landed the position of Assistant Superintendent. He then made his way to Vietnam through IMG to work at Montgomerie links in Danang from 2009 to 2012 and later at Ba Na Hills Golf Club also in Danang.
Jay, now 45, arrived at Garden City Golf Club as the Superintendent about a year and a half ago. Here he uses his 15 years of experience maintaining golf course to provide golfers in Cambodia the highest quality round of golf possible.
After lunch, we made another round around the golf course to set up for the next day as an event is scheduled to take place. The crews was made aware of which tee is going to be played from and where to change the hole locations according to schedule. Changing of holes is done 3 times a week on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Also, Jay`s crew is required to draw gimme circles around all the holes for this event. Jay also instructed his chief mechanic and his assistant to set the green cut at 2.9mm, 9mm for fairway and approaches , 5mm for all the tees and lastly the rough is set at 50mm.
When the day came to an end, we sat down and asked Jay more about his job at Garden City. He told us that he is glad rainy season has started as the lakes on the course were dried out and after the long draught this year, it was getting harder to get water for the course. He enjoys working here with his Cambodian crew members that do a terrific job.
We learned that there is more to it than just mowing the grass and water it to keep a course in excellent shape. A true quality course experience is offered by having an eye on the smallest details to make it perfect. Next time when you are at Garden City, or any other leading golf course in South East Asia, remember that there are 80 man and women working hard each day to keep the course in great shape for you.
Garden City has engaged the services of IMG, widely recognized as the leading international golf course management company in Asia Pacific. Along with ensuring 5 star services in all areas of golf club operations part of the consulting management contract with IMG is to provide advice and assist Jay with agronomy matters and to provide benchmarks that ensure the IMG golf course standards are maintained.