There is golf, there is championship golf, and to borrow from Bobby Jones, they are not the same thing.
This is true for players. But it also applies to the Greens’ keepers, whose job requirements are different as they prepare for a training course for competition.
Alan McDonnell is the supervisor at Adare Manor, Ireland, where Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas will highlight the A-list field at the JP McManus Pro-Am in July.
Turf maintenance is central to any competition, but at Adare Manor, its impact should be especially pronounced. Since the setup won’t be rough, the hardness and speed of its fairways, greens, and runoff areas will be key to how it defends itself.
Given these considerations, we asked MacDonnell what he and his team have done to set the championship, and what fans might be looking for in delivering the course that will also host the 2027 Ryder Cup.
1. Grass and its features
Adare Manor has two distinct types of grass: dwarf perennial ryegrass for its tees and walkways, and creeping bentgrass for its greenery and surroundings. But there are categories within those categories. For example: Over the past five seasons, eight different cultivars of ryegrass have been planted to keep conditions consistent throughout the year.
Dwarf rye grass is a bunch-type grass with an erect growth pattern, which helps the ball to sit well. It also has a rich green color that looks good on TV.
As for pengrass grass, the surroundings are planted in a pale green strain (helping with selection), while the greens themselves are a curved grass with a fine texture, making it easy to dial in with speeds.
Whether you’re watching in person or at home, you’ll also see tall, smooth grasses in the background. This is fescue. But it is not meant to be in play.
2. green speed
In addition to taking regular stimulus readings, McDonnell and his team measure cutting returns after each mowing. Yield chopping is an indicator of how quickly the grass is growing, which in turn helps the slashers see where the greens are headed, and in terms of speed, and respond accordingly.
At McManus pro-am, you want MacDonell and Co. Test the best players in the world. But there are also many hobbyists in the field, so the maintenance team can’t let speed and stability go too far. For the event, they’ll target about 12 points on stimulation, which is faster than the desired daily pace of 11 during year-round play – but not as fast as Bill Murray would hit four points on each green.
3. Ocean speed and stability
Adare Manor’s surroundings are managed and maintained in the same way as the greens, with similar lawns, aeration streams, dressing programs, and more. The main difference, McDonnell says, is the cut’s peak. The circumference is kept about 1-1.2 mm higher than the laying surfaces. In many other settings, 1mm of anything might go unnoticed. But on the precision golf course, it makes a difference.
How much difference? Because the surroundings are too sloped to take stimulus readings, MacDonnell can’t say exactly how fast they should run. But it is a little slower than the greens. He and his team care more about hardness, which they measure with a device called a Clegg’s hammer.
Here, again, they’re looking for a happy medium: solid but not as stiff as lift surfaces. Otherwise, McDonnell says, the surroundings will become very challenging for much of the field.
4. holes to watch
MacDonell biased. He loves them all. But he says the closing stretch should provide great drama, from par 4 15 with the Maigue River on the right to par-5 18, the devilishly green risk-reward pit. Soaring greenery with challenging surroundings is Adare Manor’s main defense. In that regard, McDonnell says, keep an eye out for the 1, 6, 9 and 16, which, along with the 5 par-5 finisher, have the toughest green complexes on the course.