Wet golf courses are dangerous places to work and play. Sodden golfers with soggy, squeaky golf shoes recently assaulted several golf course managers with muddy golf clubs. Genteel retirees became violent when their high, arcing golf shots landed with a muffled thwack in spongy sod and inky soil.
Owners of wet golf courses contact golf course consultants like me with impassioned pleas to develop strategies to remove subsurface water, and make golf balls bounce after landing.
A typical golfer looks at a golf course consultant and they think I have the best job in the world. They assume that I work for trust-funded sportsmen with cheery dispositions and idle time. They think I finish my workday early, and spend my afternoons hitting a dimpled sphere around a large green carpet. In reality, I mediate tales of improperly constructed sand bunker faces, dead sod, and leaky irrigation pipes. I spent last Friday in a downtown Boston law firm office listening to six lawyers argue about a complex golf course construction process that turned adversarial. As I looked out the 22nd floor window at the landscape below, I thought that a quick leap out the window might be a better option than listening to the data manipulation in the conference room.
My only salvation from the golf world was a golf blog. A group of 1500 individuals with an interest in golf course architecture meet in this blog to discuss issues such as the latest golf course restoration. I became a member in 2007 after a complex vetting process that had similarities to a CIA background check. My membership permits me to start threads, and comment on other postings, using my real name. I have blogged with champion golfers, renowned golf architects, and bourbon-enhanced dreamers. I was a happy golf blogger until I discussed a wet golf course.
The project involved a hundred-acre golf course in the bayou of Southeastern Massachusetts. It was a cloudy late-November day, and the course was full of freezer-fog that felt like opening the door of an old Frigidaire. I was a few minutes late for my first meeting with Andre, a world-renowned engineer of subsurface drainage piping for golf courses. I slogged down to the first green and no one was there. I yelled into the dense brush and a voice said, “Come in here, look at this vernal pool.” As I walked through the dense brush, sharp thorns pierced my skin. I found Andre and he said, “You’re late. I hate late!” After an extended lecture on the value of time management when working with drainage savants, I was formally introduced to Andre.
His handshake confirmed that his fingers are an inch longer than mine, and he wore gaudy green rubber boots with “size 15” on the back. Born on an Ontario cow farm, he was from a part of Ireland known for its stonewalls and stubbornness. After shucking manure for his entire youth, he enrolled in the University of Michigan. He became a golf course de-watering expert. He contradicted every drainage principle he encountered; developing a system that uses limited amounts of pipe to drain water from wet golf courses.
Andre started the project with an uncomfortable handshake and a stern reminder that the entire production would fail if one number was incorrect. I drowned seven cheap calculators and four field books in the process, but water flowed out of the system like Twain’s river after completion. Andre was thoroughly condescending throughout the project, but every elevation was as specified, and he gave me a muddy handshake as the project concluded.
Raised on a muddy golf course, I was pround of my accomplishment. I posted a thread on the golf architecture blog titled “My Drainage Epiphany.” It was a puffy piece that described my experiences working with the personable Andre, who used his calming manner and simple design to successfully drain a wet golf course. I suggested that Andre’s system could be used to drain the golf courses of the world, and perhaps convert the Everglades into an extension of Disney’s dream. I added a few marketing plugs, along with his email, for any additional information. I hit the submit button and waited for the usual collection of compliments.
I haven’t shed a tear since they buried my mother, but my eyes became misty the following morning when Andre called. After several dozen French-Canadian swears and a few slobbering insults, I determined what I had done. In my thread, I equated Andre with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. I thought about one word to describe these three men. It had to be concise, descriptive, and relevant. I called Andre a drainage geek. Andre hates geeks. He doesn’t want to be associated with his vision of a geek; a pasty skinned nerd with cheap chino pants who hates to leave his cubicle. Andre wants to be called a field engineer; proud of the pounds of sediment and muck he brings home to his wife every night on his boots and clothes.
I am now a golf drainage introvert. I don’t guest post anymore because I don’t want to make people mad. When I hear rain pounding my roof, I know that somewhere an unloved, undrained golf course is being saturated with rain. I think about the contented snakes and salamanders slithering on the drenched turf. I’m now on their side.