Augusta Syndrome Disease (ASD)

What is Augusta Syndrome Disease (ASD)?

 

In the spring, we all enjoy watching the TV golf extravaganza that is the US Masters, particularly the back-nine holes and the same pin placements that we all know so well.  When Michelson hit his six iron off the pine needles with no back-spin and stopped the ball by its pitch-mark with the pin just over Rae’s Creek, the American commentators went “Ooh! Ahh!”

augusta syndrome disease ASDYes, to many it is the epitome of top-class Target-Golf  but… the problem is that some UK golfers then ask why can’t their home course have greens as fast as Augusta’s?

Augusta is an expensively and artificially managed course, set-up just for that one week, closed for five months in the year, with greens of shaved, annual meadow grass (Poa annua) with a moisture control system underneath that hums in the background while you are putting. In GB&I only clubs like, for example, wealthy, sparsely-used Queenwood can afford rolling greens that perform like Augusta, which they dig up and re-turf every few years.

This quest for ‘shaved’ high speed is an infectious disease we might call ‘Augusta Syndrome’ and it predominantly affects low handicappers.

FineGolf  suggests that most recreational golfers want greens and aprons that are firm, true and sustainable (low inputs, lower costs) which they may not realise it but are best delivered by fine perennial grasses, whereas some low handicappers suffering from Augusta Syndrome Disease (ASD), measure performance of green complexes by the putting speed alone.

greenstester

The Greenstester

With a dearth of good training available these days in traditional (Jim Arthur) greenkeeper methods, there are fewer greenkeepers who know how to manage fine perennial grasses cut at 5mm that will provide a normal average Greenstester reading of around nine foot and faster when in a dry spell. This medium speed of putt helps a fast pace of play. (READ HERE the R&A article on green speed and HERE on new speed analysis info).

It is not surprising that many greenkeepers under the cosh of potentially losing their job through pressure from members infected by Augusta Syndrome Disease (ASD) just give in and cut their greens below 4mm (under which conditions fine fescues will not survive) and quickly spiral down into managing shaved, stressed weed grass that requires the use of unsustainable chemicals and lots of water.

FineGolf  has recently come across two interesting examples of the effect of Augusta Syndrome Disease (ASD), at courses within FineGolf’s 200 finest running-golf courses in GB&I.

enville golf club, Enville in the West Midlands (where most courses are fine parklands built on mud!) has over the last fifteen years been led by one of the UK’s finest greenkeepers and whereas it was never on anybody’s FineGolf map, it is now recognised nationally for its delightful fast running heathland characteristics with, for example, The R&A awarding it Open Qualifying status.

Unfortunately, the leaders of the Club allowed members, led by low handicappers suffering from Augusta Syndrome Disease (ASD),  to put pressure on their previous hero, who was nicknamed ‘Golden Balls’ and the outcome is that a candidate for FineGolf’s Pantheon of the Finest Greenkeepers has moved on and welcomed is a new greenkeeper who is now shaving the greens and setting the course up in a style he learnt from his days at the ‘Target-Golf’ Belfry.

CLICK HERE to read the updated FineGolf  Enville review.

pennard golfclubIn contrast, Pennard, three years in advance of Enville on the Augusta Syndrome Disease (ASD) cycle, has just seen the departure of the greenkeeper brought in three years ago on the back of an outbreak of Augusta Syndrome Disease (ASD) among members.

FineGolf  never blames greenkeepers (unless they go against what is club course policy). Some in their first year through the use of close-shaving, over-use of water, fertiliser and chemical use, satisfy those among the membership who love the immediate lush manicuring and green colouring. (READ HERE the Turf Fox’s article on the green illusion).

It takes time to build up the natural soil biology to support fine grasses but just the wink of an eye to go unsustainable.

Has Pennard learnt its lesson and decided to return to the characteristics that were helping it become a nationally recognised course for its quirky James Braid design enhanced by firm, fast surfaces, with a bit of natural roughness as part of the overall beautiful feel?

The Club has invited back Europe’s leading consultant on fine grasses to provide the right technical advice to the greenkeeping team, backed up with visionary communication to build up understanding and knowledge among the membership to keep them onside. We all hope congratulations are in order!

CLICK HERE to read the updated FineGolf  Pennard review.