By Brian Hurlburt, Founder, www.LasVegasGolfInsider.com
Summer is here and with it comes extreme heat and other weather conditions that aren’t conducive to maintaining a green golf course.
Fortunately, the true experts have the knowledge to keep things looking good and playing well, even when temperatures reach 110 degrees and beyond. While also committing to the best practices that conserve water and use as little as possible.
“Just keeping the course alive,” is the first thing that comes to mind about the summer months for Jared Bumpus, Key Golf’s director of maintenance operations. Key Golf oversees course conditioning and maintenance at Siena, Arroyo at Red Rock Country Club, and the private Mountain Course at Red Rock Country Club.
It’s a simple, somewhat tongue-in-cheek answer from Bumpus, but there is plenty of truth to it. Also, behind those words lies a deep complexity.
Bumpus has maintained Las Vegas golf courses for 27 years and has groomed Siena, Arroyo and the Mountain since 2013. He works with dedicated superintendents George Folopoulos (Mountain), Jerry Tidball (Arroyo) and Victor Encinas (Siena) to help the courses thrive (and stay alive…).
“In the summer, there are probably about 45 to 50 days until we overseed when we’re just trying to keep the golf course manageable and playable, and to keep the greens, the fairways, the rough alive,” Bumpus says. “It’s very difficult because we’re dealing mostly with cool-season grasses that aren’t supposed to live through the summer, so it is a delicate balance. It is a must to monitor the courses pretty much 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
With the sometimes fast-changing atmospheric conditions brought on by monsoons and extreme heat, the health of a course can change dramatically within a day or two. On-the-spot monitoring is mandatory and no corners can ever be cut.
“You can lose greens in a day or two if you’re not on top of them every day,” Bumpus says. “If you’re not watching every little spot, looking for dry areas or signs of disease or a sprinkler clock not working, conditions can decline very, very quickly. Being a golf course superintendent is 90 percent being out on the course and walking it and looking at it and just seeing what’s going on. The other 10 percent of it is knowledge. You can be the smartest person in the world, but if you’re not out there on the grass and walking it at least once a day, you are not going to be successful in the Vegas valley.”
The two courses at Red Rock Country Club were designed by Arnold Palmer and are played in a setting shadowed by the Red Rock Mountains with expansive views of the Las Vegas valley.
Siena was designed by the award-winning Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley and features holes that meander through the Siena community that are accented by water features and desert décor.
Due to his experience, Bumpus knows where he and his team must focus for the best results and player satisfaction.
“Here is my philosophy about greens, which is the cash crop,” Bumpus says. “You can have the best golf course in the world, but if you have bad greens, you can’t hide that. Everybody is going to be on all 18 of your greens. While not ideal, you can get away with trouble spots in the fairways, the roughs, or on the tees, because those are all manageable. Everybody remembers bad greens, so we take precautions to ensure the best putting surfaces possible. We spray preventative fungicide on our greens when we know weather conditions will be hot and humid and there is a chance of rain. Greens can develop disease very quickly under those conditions combined with a stagnant wind. I’ve been in the valley for 32 years and I’ve always had the motto: I’d rather spend the money on the preventative-budget side than chase a disease.”
Wise words from a seasoned Vegas golf superintendent. Bumpus shares more wisdom when he is asked about the message that he would like to share with golfers during the summer months when conditions might be a little less perfect than at other times during the year.
“That’s a very hard question to answer, but what I will say is when someone asks me, ‘Hey, why is this happening?’ or ‘What’s going on here?’, I am very honest and straightforward,” Bumpus says. “I take the time to explain what happened and also share what we are doing to make things better. I know that my superintendents and myself work very hard. We work very long hours to make sure the golf course is in the best possible condition, and I go to sleep every night knowing that we gave it our best. We don’t skimp on anything on our courses. My team is the best I have worked with in over two decades of maintaining golf courses in the Las Vegas valley.”
Allowing Bumpus to invest in the proper areas is Thom Blinkinsop, the long-time regional general manager for the three courses. Blinkinsop, a former United States Marine, understands the processes that must be followed to maintain quality conditions. The two work closely together on everyday decisions and also creating the proper strategies to deal with the existing drought conditions.
“The Southern Nevada Water Authority is now mandating golf courses use no more than four acre feet of water per year, down from the previous 6.3 acre feet per year,” Bumpus says. “We have already removed more than 250 acres of turf on the three golf courses and we believe even more water cuts will be requested, so we are going to stay aggressive and continue to reduce our footprint of the actual turf areas while ensuring playability doesn’t suffer. We make sure that we’re not taking out anything that we consider a playable area. We may be a little aggressive in some areas, but I think the golf courses are still very playable and very enjoyable. We are also very cognizant to ensure that the community look and feel isn’t impacted negatively for residents.”
It’s a day-to-day balancing act for Las Vegas superintendents like Bumpus to keep courses healthy and rolling true, no matter the conditions they face.
This if the first in a series of articles spotlighting Siena and the Arroyo and Mountain courses at Red Rock Country Club. Siena and Arroyo are Las Vegas Golf Insider course partners.
Private memberships are available at Red Rock Country Club. The Arroyo and Siena courses offer annual player cards and dynamic tee time pricing via the official course websites.