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The Loop

This is what a grounds crew goes through when a villain drives a car on a green

November 19, 2015

Cream Ridge Golf Course in New Jersey fell victim recently to an unfortunately familiar occurrence: Some jerk drove his car on a few of the greens and tore them up badly.

Sometime during the night of Nov. 15, the vandal came through and ripped around on four greens. The one below is the 12th green. It took the brunt of the damage.

12th green damage.JPG

This is just heartbreaking. Whoever this guy is, he needs a hobby. As the club tries to figure out the culprit, the group that is probably most hurt by this, the grounds crew, has already started rehabilitating the greens.

Since I’ve never worked on a grounds crew, I gave a superintendent I know a call to see how exactly this kind of problem would be fixed.

It’s a nightmare. A really expensive nightmare.

The first thing you’d need is new sod, and there are two ways to get it. If you have a nursery -- a green that you maintain solely for the purpose of being able to cut chunks of sod out of it to replace damage on greens -- then you can just start cutting sod out of it. The other option would be to buy rolls of sod. In Cream Ridge's case, the staff decided to sacrifice the chipping green, treating it like a nursery and cutting sod from it.

sod from chipping green.JPG

Next, you’d take the sod cutter and cut out all of the damaged sections of the green. Underneath, you have dirt that needs to be leveled. Putting new sod down on a surface that isn’t level is going to lead to a bumpy green, so the tedium of leveling out all of the damaged areas begins.

sod cutter.JPG

Once you’ve completed that, it’s time to lay the new sod. But it’s not like you can just roll it out and call it a day. The green goes back together like a jigsaw puzzle, cutting a piece of sod, finding the perfect sport where it fits. You’ve got to not only account for shape, but also shrinkage. If it’s not watered just right, the piece of sod will shrink, pulling on the seams that connect it to the other pieces of sod.

As the pieces go together, the seams need to be kneaded, literally like a baker kneading bread. The more time spent on the seams, the better the sod grows. There’s no machine that does any of this, it’s all done by hand. By this point, you've had three or four guys doing nothing but working on the green for about four days.

With the sod assembled, the green looks whole again -- but it needs to be tended to.

The green needs to be rolled, to continue the leveling process. Then top-dressed and watered every day.

The green would be out of commission until the sod has rooted. You’d start testing it after two weeks of watering and topdressing it back to health.

And then, finally, after paying for sod, labor, losing revenue to having a green out, it’s playable.

Let’s hope they catch whoever damaged these greens and sentence them to a lifetime of repairing greens. Jerk.