Customer Spotlight: Crooked Stick Golf Club

Crooked Stick Golf ClubIn order to help promote our customers and show our appreciation to them, each month we put the spotlight on one of our customers and feature them on our blog, promote them on social media and mention them in our email newsletter. The spotlight customer for August 2016 is the Crooked Stick Golf Club, one of the premier golf clubs in central Indiana and the host of the 2016 BMW Championship Tournament coming up in September.

The Crooked Stick Golf Club, which opened in 1965, is actually the first golf course designed by the legendary golf course designer Pete Dye. The course design incorporated elements that were, at the time, innovative in the United States: railroad ties, strip bunkers, sand and grass pot bunkers, mounds, and blind spots. The course also featured different golf nets to make the game more challenging for the golfer! Because no two consecutive holes are laid out in the same direction, players must constantly adjust for wind from a different direction. It has been described as a “challenging but fair test” of the skill of players of various abilities, and will require the use of nearly every club in their bag.

Through the years, Crooked Stick has undergone a number of transformations, including two re-plantings of the greens, the opening of two new clubhouses, and some design changes to the course to accommodate some of the major tournaments that have been hosted there. Those tournaments include the 1991 PGA Championship, the 1993 U.S. Women’s Open, and the 2005 Solheim Cup, among many others.

Jake Gargasz, the superintendent of Crooked Stick Golf Club since 2010, talked to Kenney Machinery about what it’s like to maintain the turf at the club. Here’s what he had to say in response to our questions:

What are some of the things that make Crooked Stick Golf Club unique?

“Well, one thing that definitely makes us unique is that Pete Dye lives on the 18th hole. In fact, we see him out here quite often. We take great pride in being one of his original courses that he designed, and he’s continued to be very involved over the years.

“Another unique thing about our club is that we limit the membership to 225 people. This allows us to do away with tee times — members can just come whenever they want and get on the course. Most courses these days use tee times and try to regiment their first tee start times, so the fact that we don’t do that really stands out in my mind.”

What are some of the things that have changed during your tenure at the club, and what accomplishments are you most proud of?

“During my time as superintendent, we’ve installed a Toro irrigation system with the help of Kenney Machinery, installed over 7 miles of drainage, renovated all our bunkers, and completed a renovation of our practice facilities. However, the things I’m most proud of have more to do with the personal development of the staff at the golf club than the maintenance work itself. We’ve had two guys go on to be superintendents at other courses here in Indiana, with the possibility of more to follow in their footsteps. Maintaining the facility here is definitely a team effort, and I’m really proud of how our staff steps up to the plate.”

What are some of the challenges that you face maintaining the turf at the club?

“The biggest challenge is just knowing that we have very high expectations from our members and knowing that we want to meet and exceed those expectations. From a turf standpoint, we’re constantly pushing the boundary to provide the ideal playing conditions that our members expect.

“Of course, the heat and humidity are always challenging during the summer months. We spend a lot of time to make sure the turf stays health in order to push it when it is required. It all goes back to making this the most enjoyable playing experience for our members.”

Is there anything you wish your members knew about what it takes to maintain the turf at the club?

“I think our membership has a pretty good idea of the level of work and commitment it takes on a daily basis to maintain the course. It would be nice to have them see it a little more up close and personal, but at the same time our job is to be almost invisible. What they don’t see is sometimes not a bad thing, because if they don’t know it’s happening it means we really are doing our job.”

What advice would you give to other turf professionals, especially new golf course superintendents?

“Surround yourself with good people, and make sure that you’re training those people like you’re not going to be there the next day. You’re only as good as the people that you surround yourself with. For example, my assistant superintendent J. R. Lynn, who has been at the course since I got here and has been an integral part of making this place what it is going into the tournament this year.”

How has Kenney Machinery helped you maintain the turf at Crooked Stick?

“Kenney and Toro have been very good partners with Crooked Stick. Their customer service and just the products themselves made it an easy decision to utilize them. We certainly appreciate everything they do for us on almost a daily basis. Their customer service stands out above and beyond.

“As far as equipment and irrigation products, we use both day in and day out. It allows us to provide the conditions that we do, which in our opinion is pretty high. That’s a testament to the quality of the products provided by Kenney, let alone the company that’s backing it.”

Many thanks to Jake for taking the time to speak to us about Crooked Stick Golf Club!