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Soil or sand capping for Practice Tees?


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#1 Jordan Speeth

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Posted 23 October 2017 - 10:56 AM

I understand some of the benefits of sand capping tees and fairways, but is it really necessary on the practice tee where the benefits are negligible?  The sand wears the plating off club faces 10X faster than amended soil.  Are they using the wrong sand?  My latest set of Bridgestone blades are worn through on the face of nearly every club after a year of play, and not even that much play.  Once that chrome plate is gone, the grooves start wearing really quickly.  Can we get a break here?

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#2 Socrates

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Posted 23 October 2017 - 11:24 AM

We're talkin' 'bout practice ain't we.

It is likely the easiest to maintain and least expensive.  I personally hate practice tees that are sand based, especially if the ground is loose.  In the meantime, you likely have to make sure the clubface is clean for every swing and the balls are grit free too.  No fun.
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#3 smashdn

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Posted 24 October 2017 - 08:07 AM

Beats hardpan.

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#4 Tiemco

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Posted 24 October 2017 - 07:53 PM

View PostJordan Speeth, on 23 October 2017 - 10:56 AM, said:

I understand some of the benefits of sand capping tees and fairways, but is it really necessary on the practice tee where the benefits are negligible?

You seem to contradict yourself.  I would argue that the benefits of capping are more important on the practice tee than almost anywhere else.   Most of the reasons for sand capping are for better turf health.  The practice tee is the most heavily used area on a golf course.  In order for your practice tee to stay nice all year it is imperative that the turf is as healthy as it can be.  Healthy grass spreads faster to fill in the divots.  Spreading, and overseeding, requires frequent irrigation, which requires good drainage, which requires, you guessed it, sandy soil.  Might be time to get a new set of irons for just the course, and use your old ones on the range.
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#5 Jordan Speeth

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 06:51 PM

View PostTiemco, on 24 October 2017 - 07:53 PM, said:

View PostJordan Speeth, on 23 October 2017 - 10:56 AM, said:

I understand some of the benefits of sand capping tees and fairways, but is it really necessary on the practice tee where the benefits are negligible?

You seem to contradict yourself.  I would argue that the benefits of capping are more important on the practice tee than almost anywhere else.   Most of the reasons for sand capping are for better turf health.  The practice tee is the most heavily used area on a golf course.  In order for your practice tee to stay nice all year it is imperative that the turf is as healthy as it can be.  Healthy grass spreads faster to fill in the divots.  Spreading, and overseeding, requires frequent irrigation, which requires good drainage, which requires, you guessed it, sandy soil.  Might be time to get a new set of irons for just the course, and use your old ones on the range.

I understand your point but, in this case, our practice tee is about 200 yards long and 30 yards deep.  Believe me, there's plenty of space to move the tees and manage the turf wear.  I believe that they could easily use soil amended with just a little less sand to help us out a bit.  Most members, who are using cast clubs, don't give a crap, of course, so they just don't get enough complaints about it.  Now that irons sets are creeping into the $1500 range, it's a real issue.

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#6 augustgolf

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 07:16 PM

View PostJordan Speeth, on 13 January 2018 - 06:51 PM, said:

View PostTiemco, on 24 October 2017 - 07:53 PM, said:

View PostJordan Speeth, on 23 October 2017 - 10:56 AM, said:

I understand some of the benefits of sand capping tees and fairways, but is it really necessary on the practice tee where the benefits are negligible?

You seem to contradict yourself.  I would argue that the benefits of capping are more important on the practice tee than almost anywhere else.   Most of the reasons for sand capping are for better turf health.  The practice tee is the most heavily used area on a golf course.  In order for your practice tee to stay nice all year it is imperative that the turf is as healthy as it can be.  Healthy grass spreads faster to fill in the divots.  Spreading, and overseeding, requires frequent irrigation, which requires good drainage, which requires, you guessed it, sandy soil.  Might be time to get a new set of irons for just the course, and use your old ones on the range.

I understand your point but, in this case, our practice tee is about 200 yards long and 30 yards deep.  Believe me, there's plenty of space to move the tees and manage the turf wear.  I believe that they could easily use soil amended with just a little less sand to help us out a bit.  Most members, who are using cast clubs, don't give a crap, of course, so they just don't get enough complaints about it.  Now that irons sets are creeping into the $1500 range, it's a real issue.

Your practice TEE is 200 yards "across"...forgive me, if you meant across but you said "long".....30 yards deep isnt' all that big.

But, if in fact your tee is 600' across from left to right, I am sure that there is plenty of good turf from which to hit.

As for the cost of "amended" soil. Sand itself is plenty expensive. Ask your superintendent about it, and see how it fits into the budget for the course.

You are in fact lucky. There are many courses that can't afford to top-dress their practice tees, and over time, simply finding a place to hit from that is level becomes almost impossible.

The best advice has already been provided - clean the club face after each hit, and make sure the ball you are preparing to hit is clean as well.

BTW - I have Hogan Apex irons ('73) that have the chrome worn off the faces from practicing, but I can guarantee you that the grooves are sharp and extremely playable.

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#7 Tiemco

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 09:06 PM

View PostJordan Speeth, on 13 January 2018 - 06:51 PM, said:

View PostTiemco, on 24 October 2017 - 07:53 PM, said:

View PostJordan Speeth, on 23 October 2017 - 10:56 AM, said:

I understand some of the benefits of sand capping tees and fairways, but is it really necessary on the practice tee where the benefits are negligible?

You seem to contradict yourself.  I would argue that the benefits of capping are more important on the practice tee than almost anywhere else.   Most of the reasons for sand capping are for better turf health.  The practice tee is the most heavily used area on a golf course.  In order for your practice tee to stay nice all year it is imperative that the turf is as healthy as it can be.  Healthy grass spreads faster to fill in the divots.  Spreading, and overseeding, requires frequent irrigation, which requires good drainage, which requires, you guessed it, sandy soil.  Might be time to get a new set of irons for just the course, and use your old ones on the range.

I understand your point but, in this case, our practice tee is about 200 yards long and 30 yards deep.  Believe me, there's plenty of space to move the tees and manage the turf wear.  I believe that they could easily use soil amended with just a little less sand to help us out a bit.  Most members, who are using cast clubs, don't give a crap, of course, so they just don't get enough complaints about it.  Now that irons sets are creeping into the $1500 range, it's a real issue.

Just to clarify, are you using the term "sand capping" to mean topdressing?
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#8 mallrat

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 10:38 PM

Top dressing the range is a very big deal. No place on the course; tee boxes included, takes as much abuse as the range. Also you can’t really break up the way you take care of a course. Otherwise you could have completely different soil conditions which could severely effect the growth/health of the turf.

Not sure where you are but here in the PNW if we didn’t Top dress our range you would be hitting off clay.

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#9 Jordan Speeth

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 10:38 PM

We're right on the Pacific Ocean, built on sand, and get plenty of moisture ie. rain, fog, etc..  I'm not sure how much the salt air affects it, but I'm sure it does to some extent.  We've got the best in the business on board along with the PGA of America and the USGA so we're probably doing as well as we're going to but I've been to many clubs that don't use so much sand and they don't seem to have any issues with it.  In addition, our club also has an inordinately high level of skill for most of the membership and almost to-the-member respectfully conserve turf while practicing.  Aside from the club wear, it's also best to have a similar turf interaction on the practice tee as on course, which is not optimal at the moment.  Of course, I keep a towel on the ground during practice and clean the club face after every strike (always have) but this sand is the devil.  I've seen several courses on the Monterey Peninsula that have similar conditions that have relatively no sand in the mix on their practice tees compared to ours and I see no problems with their turf health.  Same with some of the other clubs in the neighborhood.  I'm sure it's easier and foolproof with the sand, so that's what they go with.  As far as wear on a practice tee boxes vs. practice tees, that depends on the size of the tee boxes.  In our case, we have a huge practice area and very small tee boxes with some sunlight issues on some of those so, in our case, we have much more leeway with the practice tee all things considered.  As I said earlier, you won't often see guys obliterating 15 sq. ft of turf with a bucket of balls.  2 sq ft..  is more like the norm.

Edited by Jordan Speeth, 15 January 2018 - 10:43 PM.

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#10 Jordan Speeth

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 11:02 PM

View PostTiemco, on 24 October 2017 - 07:53 PM, said:

View PostJordan Speeth, on 23 October 2017 - 10:56 AM, said:

I understand some of the benefits of sand capping tees and fairways, but is it really necessary on the practice tee where the benefits are negligible?

You seem to contradict yourself.  I would argue that the benefits of capping are more important on the practice tee than almost anywhere else.   Most of the reasons for sand capping are for better turf health.  The practice tee is the most heavily used area on a golf course.  In order for your practice tee to stay nice all year it is imperative that the turf is as healthy as it can be.  Healthy grass spreads faster to fill in the divots.  Spreading, and overseeding, requires frequent irrigation, which requires good drainage, which requires, you guessed it, sandy soil.  Might be time to get a new set of irons for just the course, and use your old ones on the range.

There are differing schools of thought on sand-capping.  Some experts would say that sand-capping is not always a good idea for the long term health of the turf because of the garbage layer that tends to grow under the surface.  Top dressing is often preferred but, of course, you don't get the quick results and the "instant" golf course on new constructions.  This is an older facility that has had several expensive remodels over the years and has endured both methods for several good reasons.  Sand is good, agreed, but not all sand applications are always good.  This one could use a little less imo but I'd always defer to our experts.  Doesn't mean I have to like what it does to my clubs.  Practice clubs?....really?  No thank you.

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#11 BNGL

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 03:33 AM

View PostJordan Speeth, on 15 January 2018 - 10:38 PM, said:

We're right on the Pacific Ocean, built on sand, and get plenty of moisture ie. rain, fog, etc..  I'm not sure how much the salt air affects it, but I'm sure it does to some extent.  We've got the best in the business on board along with the PGA of America and the USGA so we're probably doing as well as we're going to but I've been to many clubs that don't use so much sand and they don't seem to have any issues with it.  In addition, our club also has an inordinately high level of skill for most of the membership and almost to-the-member respectfully conserve turf while practicing.  Aside from the club wear, it's also best to have a similar turf interaction on the practice tee as on course, which is not optimal at the moment.  Of course, I keep a towel on the ground during practice and clean the club face after every strike (always have) but this sand is the devil.  I've seen several courses on the Monterey Peninsula that have similar conditions that have relatively no sand in the mix on their practice tees compared to ours and I see no problems with their turf health.  Same with some of the other clubs in the neighborhood.  I'm sure it's easier and foolproof with the sand, so that's what they go with.  As far as wear on a practice tee boxes vs. practice tees, that depends on the size of the tee boxes.  In our case, we have a huge practice area and very small tee boxes with some sunlight issues on some of those so, in our case, we have much more leeway with the practice tee all things considered.  As I said earlier, you won't often see guys obliterating 15 sq. ft of turf with a bucket of balls.  2 sq ft..  is more like the norm.

Is your club doing a USGA study?

What is your question? I have been on two clubs that are sand capped (The other club at the resort was not, and mine was sooooooo much better lol).

PS If the sand is that bad, at least invest in some practice wedge. I usually buy three or four of the same wedge, just to rotate and I have one sole dedicated to practice range usage?

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#12 North Butte

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 02:46 PM

I think a golfer would need very deep pockets if he wants to practice regularly from level, good, tight lies on turf that does not have sand or a sand/soil mix underneath.
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#13 Jordan Speeth

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 05:38 PM

View PostNorth Butte, on 16 January 2018 - 02:46 PM, said:

I think a golfer would need very deep pockets if he wants to practice regularly from level, good, tight lies on turf that does not have sand or a sand/soil mix underneath.

Which is what I'm suggesting, just that they use less sand in the mix, like 70/30, sand to soil.  It's obvious that some sand is necessary but 95-99% sand just seems like overkill.  Our last practice tee remodels were overseen by the USGA for our most recent US Open and they were as concerned about the "optics" of the property as much as the performance of the turf....for one week's use.  We are now five years down the road and now under the influence of the PGA of America for our upcoming Ryder Cup and PGA Championship, which is a GREAT thing.  I wouldn't be surprised to see the change I'm hoping for in the near future as we get closer to these events.  Time and cost won't be as much of a consideration.
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#14 raynorfan1

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 05:50 PM

View PostJordan Speeth, on 16 January 2018 - 05:38 PM, said:

View PostNorth Butte, on 16 January 2018 - 02:46 PM, said:

I think a golfer would need very deep pockets if he wants to practice regularly from level, good, tight lies on turf that does not have sand or a sand/soil mix underneath.

Which is what I'm suggesting, just that they use less sand in the mix, like 70/30, sand to soil.  It's obvious that some sand is necessary but 95-99% sand just seems like overkill.  Our last practice tee remodels were overseen by the USGA for our most recent US Open and they were as concerned about the "optics" of the property as much as the performance of the turf....for one week's use.  We are now five years down the road and now under the influence of the PGA of America for our upcoming Ryder Cup and PGA Championship, which is a GREAT thing.  I wouldn't be surprised to see the change I'm hoping for in the near future as we get closer to these events.  Time and cost won't be as much of a consideration.

I don’t know what the answer is...but I think this is one of those trade offs that busy clubs have to make. On ranges that get a ton of use, they’ve got to sand and seed constantly to keep things level and promote fast replacement turf growth. So you end up - especially later in the season - hitting off pretty loose “new” turf with a very sandy base. The grass just never gets enough time to firm up the sand base before some jerk (me) turns it into a pile of divots.

We have two range hitting areas - one pretty close to the first tee and one a short cart ride (probably 400 yards) away. 95% of use is on the near area. At its worst moments, the near area feels like hitting from a bunker (even though it looks like hitting from a fairway). The far area has much firmer turf - but I bet it goes through less than one full replacement cycle each year.

I think it’s just a symptom of an over-used range, unfortunately.

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#15 Jordan Speeth

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 05:53 PM

View PostBNGL, on 16 January 2018 - 03:33 AM, said:

View PostJordan Speeth, on 15 January 2018 - 10:38 PM, said:

We're right on the Pacific Ocean, built on sand, and get plenty of moisture ie. rain, fog, etc..  I'm not sure how much the salt air affects it, but I'm sure it does to some extent.  We've got the best in the business on board along with the PGA of America and the USGA so we're probably doing as well as we're going to but I've been to many clubs that don't use so much sand and they don't seem to have any issues with it.  In addition, our club also has an inordinately high level of skill for most of the membership and almost to-the-member respectfully conserve turf while practicing.  Aside from the club wear, it's also best to have a similar turf interaction on the practice tee as on course, which is not optimal at the moment.  Of course, I keep a towel on the ground during practice and clean the club face after every strike (always have) but this sand is the devil.  I've seen several courses on the Monterey Peninsula that have similar conditions that have relatively no sand in the mix on their practice tees compared to ours and I see no problems with their turf health.  Same with some of the other clubs in the neighborhood.  I'm sure it's easier and foolproof with the sand, so that's what they go with.  As far as wear on a practice tee boxes vs. practice tees, that depends on the size of the tee boxes.  In our case, we have a huge practice area and very small tee boxes with some sunlight issues on some of those so, in our case, we have much more leeway with the practice tee all things considered.  As I said earlier, you won't often see guys obliterating 15 sq. ft of turf with a bucket of balls.  2 sq ft..  is more like the norm.

Is your club doing a USGA study?

What is your question? I have been on two clubs that are sand capped (The other club at the resort was not, and mine was sooooooo much better lol).

PS If the sand is that bad, at least invest in some practice wedge. I usually buy three or four of the same wedge, just to rotate and I have one sole dedicated to practice range usage?

No question.....just wondering why more courses don't use a soil/sand mix on the practice tees like they do on the fairways and tees.  I know all the considerations and consequences but still don't get why so many clubs use virtually 100% sand on their practice tees.  Our last practice area remodel was done with supervision of the USGA for the '12 US Open.  We have cut ties with the USGA and have jumped all-in with the PGA of America for our future Ryder Cup and PGA Championship.  We're all confident that things will change for the better with that relationship.  

My wedges are not an issue for me....I use MD3 cast wedges and we actually have several short game practice areas.....that aren't pure sand.  It's just the chrome plated forged irons that suffer with the heavy sand practice tees.  When I finally dial in a set of forged irons that work for me, I hate the idea that I'm looking for a replacement set 10 month later because they're worn out....that's all.

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#16 BNGL

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 06:22 PM

Olympic will be absolutely mint then.

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#17 Jordan Speeth

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 06:28 PM

View Postaugustgolf, on 13 January 2018 - 07:16 PM, said:

View PostJordan Speeth, on 13 January 2018 - 06:51 PM, said:

View PostTiemco, on 24 October 2017 - 07:53 PM, said:

View PostJordan Speeth, on 23 October 2017 - 10:56 AM, said:

I understand some of the benefits of sand capping tees and fairways, but is it really necessary on the practice tee where the benefits are negligible?

You seem to contradict yourself.  I would argue that the benefits of capping are more important on the practice tee than almost anywhere else.   Most of the reasons for sand capping are for better turf health.  The practice tee is the most heavily used area on a golf course.  In order for your practice tee to stay nice all year it is imperative that the turf is as healthy as it can be.  Healthy grass spreads faster to fill in the divots.  Spreading, and overseeding, requires frequent irrigation, which requires good drainage, which requires, you guessed it, sandy soil.  Might be time to get a new set of irons for just the course, and use your old ones on the range.

I understand your point but, in this case, our practice tee is about 200 yards long and 30 yards deep.  Believe me, there's plenty of space to move the tees and manage the turf wear.  I believe that they could easily use soil amended with just a little less sand to help us out a bit.  Most members, who are using cast clubs, don't give a crap, of course, so they just don't get enough complaints about it.  Now that irons sets are creeping into the $1500 range, it's a real issue.

Your practice TEE is 200 yards "across"...forgive me, if you meant across but you said "long".....30 yards deep isnt' all that big.

But, if in fact your tee is 600' across from left to right, I am sure that there is plenty of good turf from which to hit.

As for the cost of "amended" soil. Sand itself is plenty expensive. Ask your superintendent about it, and see how it fits into the budget for the course.

You are in fact lucky. There are many courses that can't afford to top-dress their practice tees, and over time, simply finding a place to hit from that is level becomes almost impossible.

The best advice has already been provided - clean the club face after each hit, and make sure the ball you are preparing to hit is clean as well.

BTW - I have Hogan Apex irons ('73) that have the chrome worn off the faces from practicing, but I can guarantee you that the grooves are sharp and extremely playable.

Just my opinion

I actually intended to say "length".  "Across" is not a term for describing dimensions.  You get to choose from length, width, depth, height or thickness.....I'm afraid that "across" isn't one of them.  

The actual tee is approximately 200 yards long (or wide depending on your orientation) x 30 yards deep.  The range itself is another approximately 300+ yards deep.

Edited by Jordan Speeth, 16 January 2018 - 06:55 PM.

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#18 DonatelloNobodie

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 06:53 PM

Any grass would be nice.  My course forces players to hit off of mats most of the time.  No value in irons off of a mat.  I think it may actually hurt your swing by forgiving bad strikes,  Plus, in all my years playing, I've never once ended up with a lie on a plastic mat....

Edited by DonatelloNobodie, 16 January 2018 - 06:53 PM.


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#19 mallrat

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 11:39 PM

Courses use a soil/sand mix for replacing divots? Do you actually watch the turf crew mix the sand and seed?

Could you be mistaking the use or abuse of range tees with the firmness of the course? We have 2 sides to our range and they play completely different. 1 side that is for public use gets beat to high heavens and is a looser turf because of it, the other side is for employees, the owner and basically a local college golf team. That side heals faster and has firmer turf.

Have you talked any of this over with your Super? I find it hard to believe you wear out a set of irons in 10 months but pro’s can get multiple years out of theirs. That wasn’t a stab or a dig at you, just curious if you may be mistaken on what really is worn out?  

Do you ever play handball at your club?

Edited by mallrat, 16 January 2018 - 11:47 PM.


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#20 Jordan Speeth

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Posted 17 January 2018 - 12:16 AM

View Postmallrat, on 16 January 2018 - 11:39 PM, said:

Courses use a soil/sand mix for replacing divots? Do you actually watch the turf crew mix the sand and seed?

Could you be mistaking the use or abuse of range tees with the firmness of the course? We have 2 sides to our range and they play completely different. 1 side that is for public use gets beat to high heavens and is a looser turf because of it, the other side is for employees, the owner and basically a local college golf team. That side heals faster and has firmer turf.

Have you talked any of this over with your Super? I find it hard to believe you wear out a set of irons in 10 months but pro's can get multiple years out of theirs. That wasn't a stab or a dig at you, just curious if you may be mistaken on what really is worn out?  

Do you ever play handball at your club?

Re the handball;  yes, I used to every day but I've got cancer now and even golf is a struggle.  There was a time when handball was really BIG at the club, when none of the "bastxxx" racquet sports were even allowed ;-) and the team was made up of nothing but ringers, top to bottom.  The handball team has/had a really big budget too, and traveled all over the country for tournaments and matches.  It was an important sport for us...still is.  Did you ever play against the OC's team?

Here's a good example of the wear I experience.  I bought a set of PXG's on October 1, 2015 and put them on BST in March 2016.  This was at the absolute worst point in my treatment and I wasn't even playing much (hitting balls maybe 3-4x/wk for an hour) but you should have heard the disbelief regarding the wear on the faces of the irons.  I knew is was a little more than one would expect, especially given the time period we're talking about, but I never heard so much crying.  People were saying, "no way that's five months of wear!"...nobody would believe it.  I heard everything short of being called a liar regarding their age....but the backs looked perfect.  There was no bag chatter at all because I wasn't actually playing!  I sold them to a club pro somewhere finally who realized that it didn't impact the performance.  It really is the devil sand we're using.  

Re the wear on pros' irons...this is one of my beefs about it, that is, that the PGA Tour practice tees are more often firm soil/sand than sand/soil.  Some of the stops have sandy practice tees but more of the ones I've seen have the soil/sand/turf ratios that I'd like to see.....soil, mixed with sand at what appears to be a 80/20 mix.  You can tell when their divots fly like frisbees and stay intact vs. when a large puff of sand flies up on impact....not always, but often enough to understand what I'm saying.  They start prepping these courses a long time in advance for Tour events and they have a formula for it, wherever possible.  Sometimes, it's not possible, especially where I assume that the entire property is grown on a sand-capped base....then they're stuck with sand.  That part is a guess on my part but they play more on firm soil based turf than sandy turf, especially on the practice tees on Tour.

As soon as I get a chance, I'm going to try and get some more information on our particular process, at least enough to understand why they do what they do and the end game.  I can assume that it's not just arbitrary, for sure.  There must be a reason for all of it and it's all weighed with the wishes of the membership in mind, as well as the PGAA.

Incidentally, I spent 8 hours at the range at Silverado the weekend after the '16 Safeway Open and you'd have been hard pressed to find a speck of sand in that turf after the Tour vacated.  It was black topsoil....

Edited by Jordan Speeth, 17 January 2018 - 12:49 AM.

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#21 North Butte

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Posted 17 January 2018 - 07:47 AM

With enough money anything is possible.
Everything has its drawbacks, as the man said when his mother-in-law died, and they came down upon him for the funeral expenses.

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#22 carrera

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Posted 13 March 2018 - 02:03 AM

Just saw this thread and it made me think instantly of Olympic.  Just too much wear and tear on that range, and it always felt like you were hitting off really sandy turf.  It has been that way for a long time.  The sandy lies will quickly wear out iron faces and the paint on the soles of woods/hybrids.  Used to be a good range, but that was a long time ago.

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#23 jloveless

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Posted 13 March 2018 - 10:56 AM

I want to see more education for golfers to better use the practice turf. I make it a point to make divots in a line to use the minimal amount of turf. The golfers who create random divots are using 5 times the surface area than needed. With limited practice tee space and more members playing golf, our practice area takes a lot of abuse. I would love to see less sand as my clubs wear out too quickly. I am maticulus in cleaning my clubs after every swing to them to last longer, especially my wedges.
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