As Ariya Jutanagarn is positioned for a likely U.S. Women's Open victory (Beth Ann Nichols with a great read at Golfweek.com), it's the grounds crew that has kept the place playable despite absurdly unfair circumstances.
Writing for USGA.org, Julie Williams highlights the work of Shoal Creek's Rex Davis and crew.
The week could have played out very differently. Davis noted that 15 days before the championship, Shoal Creek was playing firm and fast. The greater Birmingham area had seen limited rainfall.
“The golf course was playing the way we intended it to play,” Davis said. “Then Mother Nature threw us a curveball and we had to adapt.”
New greens went in at Shoal Creek in the fall of 2016. Given the moisture, they haven’t been as fast as Davis would have liked, but the drainage has helped to keep the championship close to schedule. Shoal Creek’s new greens drain at a rate that is four times faster than the old greens.
As Davis eyed the approach of subtropical storm Alberto, he started making preparations. Shoal Creek staff mowed the fairways seven times and the rough three times in the week before the championship, also applying growth regulators to the grass. Knowing the golf course might take on large amounts of rainfall, Davis had crews clearing pine straw and other ground cover from every place they anticipated that water would run through the property.