There was a lot of brown showing in the recent U.S. Opens hosted at Pinehurst #2, along with several weeds around the edges of the course. On television, it looked a little ragged compared to most American golf courses that host tournaments on a weekly basis. In reality, most municipal courses in the country look more like Pinehurst than Augusta, and experience unfair criticism as a result. It takes a lot of water to keep grass green on the fairways, and water is becoming more and more a commodity we should not waste. Pinehurst now uses 70 percent less water per year, and from what I could see, the course played very well and was enjoyed by all the participants. The golf courses I grew up on did not get irrigation systems until the late ‘60s, and it was common for the fairways to turn brown during hot, dry summers. No one complained as long as the greens were good. Oftentimes, we looked forward to the browning, because 230-yard drives were rolling out to 260 or more. In 1968, the primary course I grew up on got a new watering system. After all, back then everything was cheap. Hershey bars were a nickel. Water was free, or at least we thought so. Within a few years, if so much as a brown spot showed up on the course, the members were screaming. The term “dirt track” became the tag on any course that did not drown their fairways with liquid refreshment. We got spoiled and failed to think of the future. Even now, very few want to bite the bullet and step back a bit. Maybe it will take something like a brown U.S. Open to open our eyes.
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