The turf of Big Meadow flashed a bright green under the blue, cloudless sky. The putting surfaces were immaculate, holding each line true. Each tee box and fairway was well manicured.
But the breeze was up, spreading nature’s debris around the course. And the afternoon temperatures were a touch cool, though pleasant.
There in an instant to any golfer playing at Black Butte Ranch on this recent day in the middle of September was a perfectly lush golf course at Black Butte Ranch, in near-perfect condition, with just a hint of fall. It was a reminder of what is and what is to come of the golf season.
To be expected this time of year, Big Meadow and Glaze Meadow are showing the first hints of the transition into fall, bringing with them a short moment in time each year when the courses combine peak conditioning as a remnant of summer with the cool, changing of the seasons.
“To me, this is the best time of year to play golf,” said Phil Lagao, superintendent for Black Butte Ranch. “Sure, there are a few frost delays, and the mornings are cooler. But the afternoons this time of year are just beautiful.”
Lagao said that peak conditioning is expected to last into mid-October. But like the courses themselves, Lagao and his staff are in transition, from the hustle and bustle of the summer to a less-intensive fall maintenance schedule and the early preparation for winter.
With autumn comes falling pine needles and leaves, so the maintenance staff has doubled its efforts to make sure the critical playing surfaces remain clear.
But with cooler high temperatures, which still reach into the 70s into October, the staff has begun to throttle back irrigation. The growth of the turf has already slowed as the temperatures have dropped. The fairways and tees are now mowed every other day, rather than daily, and the rough at both courses is tended to less frequently, too.
On the course, that means the kind of firm and fast conditions every golfer craves.
“We are definitely firming up,” said Lagao, adding that he shut off irrigation completely while Big Meadow was hosting the Pacific Amateur Golf Classic last week, to give the competitors a taste of the optimal course setup. “Golfers really tend to enjoy it when the course is in this kind of shape.”
Some work, though, never changes.
Each day the staff will mow the greens, keeping the putting surfaces at a relatively constant 10 to 11 on the Stimpmeter. During the Pac Am and the Fall Tour, a pro-am event later this week hosted at both courses at Black Butte Ranch, the crew will even roll the greens to push the speed to around 12, Lagao said.
That daily work on the greens will continue until the end of the golf season, he added.
“Not much changes on the greens in terms of mowing frequency,” Lagao said. “We want the greens to be always remain constant.”
Those greens should remain consistent for the next few weeks. Black Butte Ranch is not scheduled to aerify until October. Big Meadow will close to aerify the greens during the week of Monday, Oct. 10. Then it will reopen on Monday, Oct. 17, the same day Glaze Meadow is scheduled to close for the season. The greens will be aerified at Glaze Meadow after the course closes.
Until then, though, the prime golf season will continue on.
“It has been a great season so far,” Lagao said. “We’ve gotten a lot of small projects done, most of which golfers won’t notice, like work on the irrigation and drainage systems.
“The bottom line is that how we finish this season determines what kind of shape we are going to be in next year. So there is plenty of work ahead.”
There is still plenty of golf season left at Black Butte Ranch.
Black Butte Ranch’s local’s special is valid through September: $59 walking, $69 with cart for as many as eight players. For those golfers who want to stretch the day, add another round for just $30. Our special fall lodging and unlimited golf package is valid through Sept. 30. For $119 per person, per night, guests will stay in premium accommodations, receive one day of unlimited golf at both Big Meadow and Glaze Meadow for each night stayed, a Black Butte Ranch logo cap, a 20 percent merchandise voucher at the Black Butte Ranch golf shops, and an accommodation microbrew amenity.
Book a tee time online, call 855-210-5305, or the Golf Shop at 541-595-1545.