Unsung heroes of the golf course

With big tournaments like the Carrus Tauranga Open, we often focus on the big names and the big hitters – the guys and girls out on the green.

But there's a lot that goes into preparing a course for an event of this scale, which is where the greenkeepers come in.

Chris Posa has had the job at Tauranga golf course in Greerton for two-and-a-half years. He's played golf for several years, and his father was also a greenkeeper – or ‘course superintendent', if you want to be technical.

The amazing thing is that their courses consist entirely of natural grass – the different textures and gradients are all carefully crafted through extreme attention to detail.

“We cut the green to 3mm, so it's like a billiard table,” he says. “Then we use rollers to remove any imperfections.”

It sounds simple, but there's probably many people who've tried to turn their lawns into a putting green, only to be left with mud or dust.

“We use different types of grass for the green and the fairway. The green is colonial browntop, and the fairway is a couch grass that thrives in warm weather, and doesn't need watering.”

That's cut at 9mm, while the rough is cut at 89mm – and takes 16 hours to mow. The result is 45 hectares of undulating hills and shades of green that look perfectly peaceful on a sunny day.

It's a very professional-looking course, with a design that Chris says has remained essentially unchanged for more than a hundred years.

He and his team started preparing for the Open six weeks out from the event. He says the recent bad weather – including two cyclones – were ‘really frustrating'.

“But you just have to let Mother Nature take its course. We've got good soil here, it's free draining, so it wasn't too bad. We escaped the worst of it.”

He says the week leading up to the tournament is actually the most relaxed, as by this stage they're just ‘grooming' the course.

There's four staff in charge of green keeping, including himself, but also a whole host of volunteers who help prepare for the tournament, and assist while it's on.

“We're really lucky to have so many volunteers at this club. We wouldn't be able to do it without them.”