Customer Spotlight: University of Notre Dame Golf

University of Notre Dame GolfIn 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 July 2016 is one who likely needs no introduction. The University of Notre Dame is a household name not just in the U.S. but also in many countries around the world, and Kenney Machinery is proud to play a part in helping maintain the turf used by the Fighting Irish athletes. Today we’d like to specifically highlight the two golf courses at Notre Dame, the Burke Golf Course and the Warren Golf Course.

The Burke Golf Course was originally designed in 1929 as an 18-hole course. It is now a 9-hole, par-35 regulation course that offers a relaxed atmosphere and picturesque views of the Notre Dame campus. It is open to the public and also offers discounted rates to students at the university. A lot of us at the golf course love to play fantasy golf when we get the chance, it really brings us together.

The Warren Golf Course is the one used by the Notre Dame Men’s and Women’s Golf programs. It was designed by legendary golf architects Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, and since its opening in 1999 it has hosted many high-profile tournaments including three NCAA regional golf championships and two U.S. Open Qualifier tournaments. Although it is open to the public, it rivals the best private courses in the region.

Matt Cielen, the Superintendent of Golf Courses at Notre Dame, spoke with Kenney Machinery Corporation about what it takes to maintain the turf at such a high-profile university. Here’s what Matt had to say in response to our questions.

Describe your responsibilities in regards to the maintenance of the golf facilities at Notre Dame.

“My job title is Superintendent of Golf Courses. I’m responsible for the planning and execution of all outside maintenance at the two golf courses. I’m fortunate to have 3 assistants, 2 at the Warren and 1 at the Burke Course, who help with crew management and delegation. Though sometimes it causes me to fall behind on my office work, I’d be categorized as a working superintendent. Meaning, I spend far more time working on the course than I do in the office.”

“Over the past 3 months, I’m also helping with the Athletic Grounds/Fields maintenance. At this point, I’m responsible for the chemical and fertilizer decisions along with assisting the staff when they have irrigation and maintenance questions. This department is in between managers. When a new one is hired, I may continue to assist in some fashion.”

What accomplishments are you most proud of during your tenure?

“I’m proud of several things. First, the opportunity that the University of Notre Dame has given me to be the manager of such a great facility while working for an excellent employer. I’m also proud of what the golf course has become since I arrived here. Through dedication and hard work my staff and I have turned our facility in to a Top 15 ranked college facility, according to multiple publications. I’m also very proud of the of the events that we’ve been chosen to host over the last 12 years, with the biggest event being United States Women’s Amateur Public Links in 2010.”

What are some of the challenges you face in maintaining the golf courses at Notre Dame?

“Our biggest challenge is to maintain a golf course that plays well and challenges all who play it. It’s difficult to maintain a course to meet the expectations of our Men’s and Women’s varsity golf teams, while still keeping it playable for our public play. We battle these expectations every day.”

“We’re fortunate to have two practice facilities, one for the public and the other for the varsity programs. This allows us to keep the varsity areas more to the coaches’ liking, while not overwhelming the public. When we know that the teams will be playing or qualifying on the course, we turn up the maintenance and the green speed to meet their expectations.”

What do you wish those who use your facilities knew about what it takes to maintain them?

“I wish that golfers, in general, knew how much effort, money, and time go in to maintaining a golf course. I think if they had a better understanding of these factors they may treat the golf course with more respect and have a greater appreciation for what we do. I also wish that golfers understood how impactful mother nature and weather are to turf maintenance. Extremes in temperature, humidity, and wind can all have a negative impact on the course and cause damage to the visual aspect and playability of the course.”

What advice would you give to other turf professionals responsible for maintaining university athletic facilities or golf courses?

“I would advise other turf professionals to not forget what or who your clientele is. You have to prepare the course or facility in a manner that makes sense for those who will be using it. If we maintained our greens at the speed our varsity teams expect, we would negatively impact the majority of people who play our courses. You have to make sure that you don’t let the minority dictate what you do. I’d also advise others to make sure they’re constantly communicating and involving the coaches and their manager in their maintenance plans. Good communication leads to success!”

Many thanks to Matt for taking the time out of his busy schedule to share his wisdom with us!