After the 2009 Accenture Match Play championship was played on the brand new Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, it was time to tweak.
The PGA Tour wanted faster green speeds and more "cupable," or "pinable," locations on each green. It worked with the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, developer David Mehl and designer Jack Nicklaus.
Out came the architects, who mapped out each green, and recommended places to remove or add material to raise or lower sections. Then came the crews, who cut pieces of green sod, made adjustments in the layers of material beneath championship-caliber surfaces, and put it all back together, very slightly different than it was before.
"The work was extremely subtle," said Wade Dunagan, executive director of the World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play Championship. "With the exception of a few holes," the changes are nearly invisible. "It was extremely good work, and it makes it a better course.
"We wanted to gain some additional hole locations, and play the greens at faster speeds," Dunagan said. "My opinion is they've accomplished exactly that."
"They went hole by hole, green by green," said Jeff McCormick, director of golf operations for the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Dove Mountain. "From a construction standpoint, I was thoroughly impressed with the quality and speed of the work."
The work was "unbelievably fantastic," Dunagan agreed. "They got it right. There are absolutely no seams, no lines."
Pieces of sod were cut from the greens, placed on a tarp and watered by hand. "They spray-painted numbers on every single piece of sod," so they could be placed exactly where they were, McCormick said. "They were creating their own puzzle."
Adjustments were made in the drainage structure, and the gravel "that's really the base of the green," McCormick said. "They were barely under the surface. They made the changes, and put the puzzle back together. The grain matched up, everything matched up.
"For them to be able to tweak 17 of 18 greens, and for us to be only closed for eight weeks, is incredible," McCormick said. "And there was virtually no evidence anything had been done when we reopened."
"People thought all the greens were being rebuilt completely," Dunagan said. That was far from the case. In some instances, perhaps 2 or 3 percent of a green's total surface was adjusted. The only untouched green is No. 15.
"The players are going to be very pleased with the changes," McCormick said. "We anticipate the putting surfaces are a little bit faster than last year." And, he notes, "it makes the golf course more playable for our members and guests."
Changes to a course are not unusual. At Augusta National, home of the Masters, "they make changes to that site every year," McCormick said. "As the game continues to evolve, the golf courses have to evolve with it."
"Most every golf course will have tweaks to make things better," Dunagan said. "Players prefer faster greens, to a certain point. They're used to faster greens than we had last year. We expect faster green speeds, we expect to help with scoring and excitement."
The work only adds to the immediate standard of the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain.
"The course, it's electric," Dunagan said.
The Accenture Match Play Championship is one of four World Golf Championships sanctioned and organized by the operational committee of the International Federation of PGA Tours, which includes the Asian Tour, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, PGA TOUR, PGA Tour of Australasia and Southern Africa Tour. The other World Golf Championships include the CA Championship, Bridgestone Invitational and HSBC Champions.