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Notes from a Japanese Pro Tournament: korai greens, data, and rain

Last week I spent six days at Keya GC in Fukuoka for the Vana H Cup KBC Augusta 2013 tournament on the Japan Golf Tour. Why this tournament? There were two main reasons.

First, Keya's golf course superintendent is Andrew McDaniel, who was featured in this impressive video interview on KBC television, and who I first worked with in 2001 when I was a superintendent in Japan. I wanted to participate and help out in course preparation as much as I could.

Second, Keya GC has korai (Zoysia matrella, manilagrass) greens, and I wanted to study the ball roll on these greens under tournament conditions. This tournament is unique. It is the only tournament on the Japan Golf Tour played on korai greens.

Close-up of korai putting surface at Keya GC during the Vana H Cup KBC Augusta 2013 tournament

Each morning on selected greens, I collected a suite of data: soil and surface temperature, soil moisture content and surface hardness, and green speed.

Clegg impact soil tester, TDR-300 soil moisture meter, stimpmeter, and soil and surface thermometers used to collect performance and environmental data from putting greens

I also used a Greenstester to measure the reliability of the putting surfaces by conducting the Holing Out Test. The roll on these greens was very reliable. This video shows superintendent Andrew McDaniel on the 18th green conducting the Holing Out Test with the Greenstester set a distance of 10 feet from the hole.

In the afternoons, I mowed fairways. I should note that there was excellent support from vendors, with extra mowing equipment provided by Shibaura, and tournament support reel grinding provided by Bernhard Grinders.

The fairways and tees at Keya GC are also korai (manilagrass), and the roughs are noshiba (Zoysia japonica). 

Bunker_flood_keyaThis had been a dry summer in Fukuoka, and there were only 2 days with appreciable rain from July 7 to August 23. Then, the weekend before the tournament, it rained nonstop. I take these data (the course's weather station recorded even more rain) from the Maebaru weather station 7 km from the golf course. Saturday before the tournament there was 102.5 mm of rain. On Sunday it rained even more, 112 mm. That is more than 8 inches of rain in two days. It continued raining on Monday morning but the practice rounds were able to begin at 11:00. 

The rain wasn't over, however, as tropical storm Kong-Rey passed right over Fukuoka on Friday night. So there was an additional 200+ mm of rain that fell on the course, flooding bunkers and covering greens and fairways with standing water.

It was an amazing amount of rain. From Saturday, 24 August, until Sunday, 1 September, 389 mm (15.3 inches) of rain fell at Maebaru. The course weather station, Andrew informs me, collected 480 mm (18.9 inches) of rain over this same period. At Fukuoka City, there were 501 mm (19.7 inches)!

Play was halted Friday morning and resumed again midday Saturday. The grounds crew at Keya repaired bunkers and got the course ready for play in exemplary fashion, and even with a steady rain on the final day, the tournament, shortened to 54 holes, was completed. This was an extraordinary week of rainfall, and an extraordinary week of effort by the course maintenance team at Keya Golf Club.


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