Super has Ridgewood ready for The Barclays

The PGA Tour opens the 2010 FedEx Cup Playoffs this week with The Barclays at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J., where GCSAA Certified Golf Course Superintendent Todd Raisch has withstood one of the hottest summers on record to present excellent conditions on the golf course.

A story in the August 16 New Jersey Star-Ledger said that according to the Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist, this was the second-warmest July on record in New Jersey history with average temperature for the month (78.8 degrees) being the highest since 1955 (79 degrees).

“With the exception of 2001, it’s probably the most challenging year I’ve had in my 16 years here,” said Raisch, a 19-year member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA). “We knew going in (to the summer) that we were going to baby the golf course a little bit ¬ but not the whole season. With the extreme conditions we had through most of July and August, we’ve had to be even more conservative. Even in 2008, when we had great agronomic conditions, we had to baby the golf course just because it’s August. We’ve had to take an even more conservative approach and really lay off this year. There were moments where we got pretty close to the edge, but we’ve hung in there.”

Raisch (pronounced rash) raised the mowing height on the greens from .100 inches to .130 inches in the weeks leading up to The Barclays to keep the stand of turfgrass on the putting surfaces alive and healthy. That reduced green speeds, but Raisch’s proactive and conservative approach helped weather the extreme weather better than most golf facilities in the region and preserve top conditions for the tournament. A story in the Bergen (N.J.) Record August 9 details how Raisch was able to delay Ridgewood from peaking in mid-June until The Barclays two months later.

“Todd Raisch and his experienced staff at Ridgewood Country Club have done an excellent job getting the composite championship course ready for The Barclays,” said PGA Tour Regional Agronomy Director Dennis Ingram, CGCS. “Todd is leading a very diverse staff through what has turned out be one of the hottest and most difficult summers I have seen. Typically this region of the country sees only a handful of 90-degree days, normally in early August. We saw more days above 90 degrees during the first two weeks of June than is usual for the entire summer. The mainly Poa annua greens, tees and fairways remain healthy and Todd is once again providing outstanding playing conditions for the first FedEx Cup Playoff event of 2010.”

Raisch has two bachelor’s degrees from Ohio State University, one in agronomy and another in business management. He is one of only 1,700 active superintendents to earn the professional designation GCSAA Certified Golf Course Superintendent. Raisch plans to ease the mowing heights of the Poa annua greens back down throughout the advance weekend, increasing green speeds to 12 feet on the Stimpmeter. The Kentucky bluegrass/perennial ryegrass/fine fescue rough is lush and 3 to 3½ inches high, but not as thick outside the ropes as in the past. Raisch also has Ridgewood certified in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program.

Ridgewood hosted The Barclays in 2008, the 2001 Senior PGA Championship, 1990 U.S. Senior Open, 1974 U.S. Amateur, 1957 U.S. Senior Amateur, and the 1935 Ryder Cup. An 18-hole championship course is created from its three nine-hole courses designed by A.W. Tillinghast in 1929. Many of the greens bear the Tillinghast signature severely sloping, typically from back to front, and protected by deep bunkers at the front corners.

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