Back in May we spoke to Foxhills director of golf Chris Fitt about what has been going on behind the scenes at the Surrey venue in preparation for their hosting of the prestigious PGA Cup, which kicked off this morning:
We’ve done quite a lot of work on the golf course over the last couple of years. Something we have notoriously struggled with has been drainage, with the entire course being clay based. Particular areas and certain greens have struggled to take water, but now that drainage has proved to work really well.
We had our first big event of the year in mid-May, which was the PGA Seniors Cup (?) and it rained pretty much non-stop for the first day and half, but the course took it really well.
We managed to get the event done no problem, and we had no standing water on the greens at all so the drainage was obviously working.
We’re now building on that maintenance ahead of the PGA Cup. We’ve already had Albert Mackenzie – the Cup Captain – come down and talk with us along with the PGA about how they want the course set-up for the tournament.
We’ve built a number of new tees to cater for the longer hitters to make it a little bit more tough for them in certain areas, and we’re looking at how we are going to sculpt the fairways and grow certain areas of the rough, pitch points and landing areas just to make it really tough for the long American hitters.
One of the analogies that we’ve based our process on for setting up the course, and we’ve done this with Albert and the PGA, is that you should imagine it as an archery board and the closer to the bullseye you get, the more points you score. It’s similar out on the golf course, the most perfect shot should get the advantage. If you hit it 300yrds but pull it left, then you’re 50 yards closer to the green but you’re in the rough, that doesn’t mean you should have an advantage over the guys that hit it 200 yards but is in the middle of the fairway, and that’s how we try to set-up the holes, especially on a tight course where there is a bit of risk-reward.
WHAT IS THE PGA CUP?
The PGA Cup is a men’s golf competition for club professionals played between a Great Britain and Ireland team and a United States team. The winning team is presented with the Llandudno Trophy. The competition is run by the British PGA and the PGA of America. It was first played in 1973 and was an annual event until 1984, after which it became biennial.
The 2015 PGA Cup, the 27th contest, was held at CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, California from September 18 to 20 and was won by Great Britain and Ireland by a score of 13½ to 12½, their first win since 2005. The 2017 contest will be played on the Longcross course at Foxhills Golf Club, Ottershaw, Surrey from 15 to 17 September.
What we do have to bear in mind is that 99% of our rounds throughout the year are played by our members, who don’t hit 300yds, and don’t hit it straight, and in some cases can only carry it 100yds. So, we’ve also tried to factor that in in certain areas.
For example, the longest carry that there’ll be from the red-tees will be 120 yards. It used to be longer but we’ve made it a little bit shorter because growing that thick rough up, you can’t bounce a ball through it and the struggle to get to the fairway can be quite demoralising.
We have two starters and two marshals who monitor pace of play every day. Our marshals work to a pace of play sheet that we had the PGA help us design, based on how long it should take a competition 3-ball to get round the golf course.
We’ve tweaked this slightly for a general member 4-ball and we check them at various points on the golf course and address it as soon as we flag it up, the underlying rule is to keep up with the group in front. It doesn’t matter if they’re 15/20 minutes ahead of the pace, do your best to keep up, leaving everything behind you to flow nicely. The majority of our golf is member golf so they’ve been here before and they know the quick bits to get around, so generally pace of play isn’t really an issue.
From a wider business perspective, our owner Marc Hayton is dedicated to growing the business and is investing a lot into developing the youth club, the spa and the gym, and eventually in years to come the hotel, as well as the course.
By Mike Hyde