The entire staff at TPC Louisiana is staying very busy in the few weeks leading up to the PGA TOUR making its way to Avondale, Louisiana, a suburb southwest of New Orleans.
TPC Louisiana’s Superintendent, Tyler McCool, joined the staff nearly seven years ago after working at a course in Mississippi for four years. McCool, who holds a degree in agronomy with an emphasis in golf management from Mississippi State University, has a longtime love for golf and course management. He was hired under the direction of Brandon Reese and took over as superintendent when Reese left for TPC Scottsdale in 2021.
Shortly after McCool came to TPC Louisiana, the course’s irrigation system was renovated and in 2019 the entire course was re-grassed. Celebration® Bermudagrass was installed on the fairways, approaches, practice tee and some roughs. Simpson Sod, a sod farm in Covington, LA, supplied 35 acres of Celebration for the renovation.
“For us, Celebration Bermudagrass is really aggressive. With a tournament date in April, it works really well for us because we get some growth throughout the winter, which helps with recovery. It greens up pretty well with some fertility and it’s green for us pretty much throughout the year,” McCool said.
“We approached Simpson Sod early on in the grass selection process and told them what we were looking for. They didn’t have the acreage we needed so they planted another field. They welcomed us to stop and visit to see the conditions as the turfgrass was growing in.”
Simpson Sod even went as far as to mow the grass with a reel mower to get the Celebration down to playing height, which McCool said was huge for TPC Louisiana, given the installation happened in late summer. McCool explained this put the grass at a perfect height for going into winter and put them a step ahead for the tour event in April.
The new course grass was sodded in August 2019, but the anticipated 2020 tour event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. “It would have been a great event, the sun was out that week and new grass would have been perfect but unfortunately it was canceled.”
Celebration Bermudagrass is currently on seven golf courses being played in the 2023 PGA TOUR season. McCool complimented both the color and recovery of Celebration, agreeing it’s a great grass for TPC Louisiana. “We can mow it at any height. From two inches in the rough, to below half an inch in the short grass, it’s versatile and aggressive growing. It recovers well from divots or any damage the turf is going to receive. We really go out and put a lot of cultural practices on it in the summer and beat it up. It recovers really well and prepares it for a late spring tour event.”
2023 PGA TOUR Event
Every day is different for a golf course superintendent, especially for McCool as he prepares to host the PGA TOUR’s Zurich Classic on April 17-23, 2023 at TPC Louisiana. Early spring consists of regular meetings with contractors on-site and tournament staff to coordinate where materials are going, irrigation plans, tournament buildouts, etc. TPC Louisiana plans for an additional 40 volunteers to join their staff in April. “There is a lot of planning ahead of a PGA TOUR event, which can get a little hectic at times.”
McCool explained that spring leading up to the tour event and after is their busiest time of year. “People want to come in and play where the pros are about to play and have played, so we’re getting a lot of traffic to the golf course. We’re fortunate enough to close down for Advance Week, which is the week before the PGA TOUR event.”
During Advance Week, TPC Louisiana closes for play to allow the staff to focus on special mowings and maintenance practices to dial things in to get the course ready to host PGA players and thousands of fans.
“We’ll add a set of brushes to our fairway mowers to get things to stand up, get things a little tight and clean up some excess leaf blades there. We’re spraying a little more fertility than we normally would just to get divots to recover as much as possible and push the turf as much as we can so there are as few flaws as possible from ordinary play going into the tour event.”
McCool said it’s very cool to see professional golfers play the golf course but having it broadcast for the whole world to see is sometimes a little nerve-racking. “But it’s also good for our team because it shows off all the work they do throughout the year to get everything in the good conditions for a PGA TOUR event.”
The TPC Louisiana staff listens to feedback from the event to see if there are any improvements or changes they can focus on for the next year. “There’s a lot of data collected throughout the week of a PGA TOUR and we take those into account for any future renovations or re-grassing. It’s definitely a part of the conversations for any changes made to the golf course.”
McCool said that when they re-grassed with Celebration in 2019, they removed a lot of organic matter that had built up over time on the course. Now they’re able to mow the turfgrass a little lower in the fairways and approaches because they have a lot tighter lie. TPC Louisiana sees an average of 70 inches of rain annually, so a lot of times this tournament is a wet tour event. “We’ve been fortunate since 2019 with the Celebration we haven’t really had to find any flood balls in the fairways. We’ve been able to mow lower and a little tighter than we would have before,” he shared.
McCool said that they have to learn how to deal with the weather and prepare for heavy rain. He’s also thankful for the network of clubs that host these tour events and for the agronomists that travel to each course of the tour event to discuss maintenance strategies and see what superintendents are doing differently week-to-week. “They’ll share their thoughts and connections to other superintendents that are facing the same obstacles to give ideas and vice versa.”
McCool explained they plan to re-grass all the tees at TPC Louisiana with Celebration Bermudagrass within the next two years, which would transition the remainder of the course’s short grass to a uniform variety. Currently, the tees boxes are grassed with another bermudagrass variety.
He encourages anyone who hasn’t visited or golfed at this course to plan a trip. “TPC Louisiana is a Pete Dye design in a unique part of the country. There are a lot of alligators and wildlife that you get to see playing the golf course. And then you get to visit the great city of New Orleans with great food and great people. It’s just a great spot to visit. The hospitality of New Orleans is top-notch,” he said.
For more information on TPC Louisiana, click here.