By Sarah Campbell
The world is quiet when the Pinehurst No. 2’s grounds crew begins their day.
The birds aren’t even chirping as the equipment is flipped to the on position, producing a familiar hum that jolts the team into motion.
The day starts around 5:30 a.m. inside the maintenance facility off Morganton Road. One by one, the crew trickles in carrying coffee mugs, Red Bull and various other highly-caffeinated beverages.
“They do whatever it takes,” Assistant Superintendent Logan Murphy said with a laugh.
“We had to ban energy drinks before the (U.S.) Opens last year because some of the guys were coming in way too hopped up,” said Superintendent John Jeffreys.
By 6 a.m., the caffeine has kicked in and the team is ready to go.
Each morning begins with an assistant superintendent passing out the day’s assignments. Today, it’s Murphy’s turn. He reads from a piece of paper filled with scribbles as duties are changing up to a minute before the meeting.
“We don’t want to burn anybody out, everybody enjoys doing different things,” said Jeffreys, who makes the final tweaks to the day’s lineup.
When creating the list of assignments, Murphy does his best to remember who did what the day before.
“We try to rotate people in and out of jobs that are so much fun, like fly mowing,” he said. “We try to be fair while playing to each person’s strengths.”
Jeffreys, Murphy and assistant superintendent Kirk Adkins don’t just dole out work, they are typically out alongside their crew.
“We try to do something productive to help out,” Murphy said. “It’s a whole team mentality, we all do what’s best for the team. We know everything’s got to be perfect when that first group arrives at the first tee.”
A morning on Pinehurst No. 2
The sun is tucked behind the trees, casting a soft glow on the stately course as about two dozen crew members descend on Pinehurst No. 2.
“There’s a quick rise in action,” Jeffreys said. “We have a long list of things that need to get accomplished each day.”
By the time the crew makes their way out to No. 2 on this particular June day, Adkins has already put in nearly 2 hours of work verticutting the greens. Arriving just after 4 a.m., he used the headlines on his mower to navigate the golf course.
“Verticutting helps remove thatch from the playing surface, which helps to create firm and fast playing conditions,” Adkins said. “(It) also trains the grass to grow more upright. This reduces the impact of grain and provides a truer putting surface.”
Buck Entwhistle follows behind Adkins on a mower to clean up any residual debris left over from the verticutting.
Next, Lash Hairston rolls the greens to ensure they are in top playing condition.
Arlindo Lagunas Nambo maneuvers the fly mower from bunker to bunker with Trevor Wood not far behind him using a weed eater to clean up the edges. The fly mower looks like a conventional push mower without the wheels, allowing it to hover over tough undulations and steep slopes. Jorge Lagunas Nambo uses a leaf blower to blast any debris from the sandy area.
Dalton Bullard, Victor Little and Kevin Lee, an intern from North Carolina State University, handle the raking, putting the finishing touches on the bunkers. The men have to move fast as there are 117 bunkers on Pinehurst No. 2.
Nearby, Eli Alvarez, an intern from Brunswick Community College, edges the greens. The process keeps the greens’ Champion Ultradwarf and the fairways’ Tifway Bermuda grasses from competing with each other.
Since the restoration of No. 2, which eliminated Bermuda rough and reintroduced sand and native wiregrass, the maintenance team has used about 73 percent less water. Reducing the total number of irrigation heads to 450 from about 1,100 means the team does more hand watering.
“We use a moisture meter to make sure we use the right amount of water,” Jeffreys said. “We don’t want to overwater the greens.”
The meter, which looks like a pogo stick, measures volumetric water content.
“We’ve established that the greens need to be at 25 percent not to have any stress during the day,” Jeffreys said.
That makes Jeffrey Davis’ job very important. Davis takes about 20 readings throughout the green to pinpoint which areas need water before unwinding a hose attached to a portable system to give the grass the hydration it needs.
The decision to convert the greens to Champion Ultradwarf has been a good one.
“Bent grass, which is what we had before, is a cool season grass. It doesn’t like the heat,” Jeffreys said. “The Ultradwarf gives us a better surface for more days of the year.”
Brandi Merrick and Sam Tucker are responsible for setting up the tees on this June day. The first impression is made here.
“They are packing the divots and making sure the golfers have a good clean tee when they’re hitting,” Jeffreys said.
The final step in the morning activity is cutting the cups. Murphy and Daniel Whisenant handle this, resurrecting the familiar Pinehurst No. 2 flag to signal to official start of the day.
It’s 7:10 a.m and the first group tees off at 7:30 a.m, but the work is hardly done. Later, the team will double cut the greens, a process that takes about one hour per green. The golf maintenance crews from all courses also work together to keep the practice areas and grass around the hotels in tip-top shape.
Sarah Campbell is the resort’s content and social media specialist.