Concord Golf Club, 21 – 27 March 2022

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What rain? Concord ready to rumble

What rain? Concord ready to rumble

Give or take a few millimetres, Concord Golf Club has essentially had Geelong’s annual rainfall since March 14.

But when the Golf Challenge New South Wales Open tees off on Thursday morning, it will – remarkably – be business as usual.

In fact, Concord superintendent Chris Howe was so comfortable that his western Sydney layout will stand the torrential test being thrown at it that he even took five minutes away for a quick chat.

“We’re expecting it to stop raining later today, so draining tonight, drying tomorrow and we’ll be right to go by Thursday morning,” Howe said with great pride after 390mm of rain in the past nine days.

The ninth hole might resemble a river, but Superintendent Chris Howe insists things will be fine by Thursday.
The ninth hole might resemble a river, but Superintendent Chris Howe insists things will be fine by Thursday.

It’s partly hard work, but it’s also testament to the world-class technology under the greens and bunkers at Concord, which only had its Tom Doak-inspired redesign open in April 2018.

The 69 bunkers at Concord now use the “matrix system” – essentially a layer of porous asphalt between the bunker sand and the drainage gravel that is the conduit to traditional drainage lines – are already “good to go”, Howe said.

“We had to repair six bunkers after erosion, but the other 63 are essentially fine. You’d rake the base and call them good.

“And the repairs are fine, too. The sand integrity hasn’t been compromised by exposed clay faces, so you wouldn’t even know.”

The greens are almost totally unaffected. They are built to a USGA profile – 300mm of sand on a 100mm gravel layer – and despite 345mm of rain since just last Thursday will be running at a tournament friendly 10 on the stimpmeter when the first putts are hit in anger in just two days.

“By Sunday, if it stays dry, we’ll have them running at 11.5-12 again, which is what we would have wanted anyhow.

“Don’t get me wrong, the fairways are wet and we haven’t had any practice yet, but they’ll dry out pretty quickly and we should be back out there (the players in preparation) tomorrow.”

This confidence is well founded.

Howe has been working at Concord for 26 years and had known nothing of such rainfall … until last year.

In fact, the “east coast low” that effectively ended the enormous NSW bushfires of 2019-2020 dumped 470mm of rain last February.

“So that one and this week are the two biggest rain events that I’ve ever seen at Concord …  but it gives me great confidence that the course will bounce back in time this week.”

Naturally, this is the result of some intensive work from Concord’s 15 groundstaff and a handful of volunteers who’ve come from other clubs to pitch in for such an important week.

“I’m extremely proud of the course and mostly the crew,” Howe said.

“The dedication and enthusiasm of the team to showcase the course for the state’s biggest tournament is enormous.

“We’ve been working for months to get to where we got to last Friday in terms of tournament preparation, but it goes out the window when you get rain like that.

“But we just have to be adaptable and extremely flexible and it’s just a matter of rolling with the punches.

“We react as the weather changes – making sure drains aren’t blocked so we can get water away, or making sure trees aren’t down to compromise the course.

“We’re backing the methodology of our greens and bunkers to do their thing and they are.

“The clay base will be wet, but we’ve got enough gradient out there to allow water to get away.

“So the profile will be wet, but visually it will be fine.

“We want to have it right for this week, but it’s also important that we make sure we have it back ready to go next Monday for members who’ve given up their course this week.”

Howe said his crew would likely be unable to mow the fairways until after play on Friday, or maybe even on Saturday morning.

“We’ll get the tractors out when we can, but it’s almost like a watch and act from the fires.

“We’re actually expecting it to be hot and humid tomorrow which brings its own challenges, but we’d expect a quick evolution.

“The course will come into its own again by the weekend.”

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