In a question-and-answer session moderated by Mark Stevens, PGA Tour staff member, at the Memorial Tournament on June 3, tournament host Jack Nicklaus, ASGCA discussed tournament preparations, course conditions at the tournament location, Muirfield Village Golf Club, the progress of public golf, and more.
In preparing the course for the tournament, Nicklaus and his team made a few adjustments. At hole 11, they raised the collar and flattened out the front pin placement. Additionally, the crew raised hole 18 three or four inches, which, although making for a steeper set-up, allows the green to hold the ball better. In response to Tour officials’ requests, Nicklaus also lowered the height of the rough a half inch.
Besides tournament-specific preparations, Nicklaus also related some of the things he and his team have done to the Muirfield Village course throughout the past few years. Nicklaus credits the course’s superintendent Paul Latshaw with taking the greens to the next level. Improvements to the course have included putting three or four miles of drainage into the fairways each year; restoring creek banks and coping with erosion factors to increase the creek width to 10 yards (from being narrow enough to jump over); and changing the profile of the greens to slow them down and make them firmer where desired.
Nicklaus also offered his thoughts regarding the progress of public golf in America. The tendency had been for players to view municipal golf courses as catering to less experienced players. However, Nicklaus believes there are several municipal courses that are now better able to meet the needs of all golfers, varying in skill level. There are also now several elite-level public access courses, such as Bethphage State Park (home of the 2009 U.S. Open), which may be higher-priced but are still open to the general public.
To read the transcript of Nicklaus’ entire question-and-answer session, please visit here.