While scanning through last weekend’s edition of The Wall Street Journal we ran across an interesting article about how the lack of water in certain parts of our country is really taxing the golfing industry.

The lack of rain in Southeast Texas over the past five weeks is a good indication of how these parts of the Southwest, California, Arizona and Nevada are year-round as far as annual precipitation is concerned.

This Korner is affiliated with Orange County’s only golf course—Sunset Grove Country Club—and we know first hand that trying to keep the course green is a full-time job, especially under these current drought conditions.

Sunset Grove is fortunate to have its own watering system with wells and a large pond in which to store the water. Even so, it’s difficult to put enough water on the course to do much good.

And with every drop of available water in Southeast Texas ogled by some of the larger cities in the state, keeping a golf course properly watered and in good playing condition is becoming more difficult each season.

Back in February when Jim Hyler was inaugurated as president of the U.S. Golf Association his spiel was on a controversial subject: “water usage and the misguided perception that golf courses need to be lush, green and perfect to be good. It is the issue that is perhaps of greatest concern to golf’s future.”

Hyler contends that even when water is abundant, maintaining wall-to-wall green sward in impeccable shape is creating a heavy and unnecessary financial burden.

“Verdant courses require more mowing, more chemicals to prevent weeds and disease, more general tweaking and fluffing and more days of those dreaded words: cart path only,” Hyler points out.

“In my opinion, many of the standards by which we construct and maintain our courses have become, quite simply, unsustainable,” Hyler continues. “With the recent economic downturn, focus on these critical issues has sharpened.

“If we are not careful, high construction costs, soaring maintenance budgets and declining membership rosters will threaten the survival of many courses and clubs,” Hyler concluded.

Hyler called for a “reset” in the way golfers look at and think about golf courses, with “playability” replacing aesthetics as the primary consideration, the WSJ article said.

“Playability should include concepts of firm, fast, and yes, even brown, and allow the running game to flourish,” Hyler pointed out. “We need to understand how brown can become the new green.”

Hyler justifies his theory by revealing that firm, fast courses are more fun to play than soft, over-watered ones. Drives roll farther and approach shots into greens can, at the player’s option, scoot along the ground and bank off contours designed by the architects.

Hyler admitted that green courses look great on television, but said that was the major cause of the problem—televised golf distorts expectations. “Most people don’t realize that the courses on TV are manicured to peak for that one week,”
Hyler said. “Even they don’t look that way after the tournament is over.

Starting this summer, viewers will see a change at some of the tournaments the USGA sponsors, the WSJ article predicts. In preparing Pebble Beach for the U.S. Open next month, crews are carefully limiting the amount of water the turf receives to create firmer, faster fairways than in previous Opens there.

Unless the Monterey Peninsula receives an exceptional amount of rainfall in the next six weeks, the course will appear notably browner and less manicured.

Then in August, the WSJ article continues, the U.S. Amateur will be played at Chambers Bay in Washington, a new, links-style course that the USGA has also tapped to host the 2015 U.S. Open.

“Absolutely we chose Chambers Bay in part to set an example,” Hyler pointed out. “We are very excited to see how the fast conditions there will pose new shot-making challenges for the world’s best players.”

Next year the U.S. Amateur moves to Erin Hills in Wisconsin, yet another new, low-maintenance links-style course, the article concludes. Erin Hills is also on the short list to host the 2017 U.S. Open.

KWICKIES…The Lamar baseball team went on the road last weekend and won two-of-three from Northwestern Louisiana in Natchitoches.  The Cardinals split a twin-bill with the Demons Saturday, winning the opener 7-3 before losing the nightcap 10-4. Sunday’s rubber game went 10 innings before the Redbirds grabbed a 9-6 victory, keeping them in seventh place in the Southland Conference standings at 13-14 and still eligible for the upcoming SLC playoffs later this month. Lamar is 28-21 overall and will return to SLC action this weekend for a three-game series at UT-Arlington.

Dallas Braden of the Oakland A’s pitched the 19th perfect game in major league history Sunday, cooling off the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays 4-0. It was the major league’s first perfecto since Mark Buehrle did it for the Chicago White Sox on July 23 and the second no-hitter of the season. Colorado’s Ubaldo Jiminez hurled a no-hitter in Atlanta April 17.

Good luck to Coach Toby Foreman and his West Orange-Stark track team as the Mustangs try to successfully defend their state title this weekend at the state track meet in Austin.   

Four Orange County high school baseball teams are still involved in the playoffs after first-round wins last week. Little Cypress-Mauriceville will take on Magnolia in Class 4A while Orangefield, which had a first-round bye, will meet Bryan Rudder, Bridge City goes against Taylor while West Orange-Stark enjoys a bye in Class 3A playoff action this week.

The Houston Astros, who have already played more than one-quarter of their home schedule for the 2010 season, left Monday for an eight-game road trip that began in St. Louis Tuesday after coming back from a 3-0 deficit Sunday against the San Diego Padres and winning 4-3 in the 10th inning. The Astros got back-to-back solo homers from Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence in the bottom of the sixth inning and Pedro Feliz hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth to tie the game a 3-3. Lance Berkman singled in the 10th and came home on a base hit by Pence to prevent the sweep by the Padres. The win was only the seventh at home for Houston in 22 games at Minute Maid Park so far for the ‘Stroes. Houston stands at 10-21 for the season. They will play three at St. Louis and then move to the left coast for three games against San Francisco and two at Los Angeles.

Port Neches-Groves and Lamar University golfer Chris Stroud finished in a tie for tenth place in last weekend’s Players Championship on the PGA Tour. Stroud enjoyed a payday of $237,500 for his effort. South African Tim Clark won the event with a 16-under par 272. It was Clark’s first tour victory after 204 starts and eight runner-up finishes. He pocketed a check for $1.71 million. Tiger Woods withdrew from the final round after hitting his tee shot on No. 7 and complaining of neck pain that he fears might be a bulging disk. He began Sunday’s final round 10 shots off the lead.

Saturday Mark Teixeira joined Lou Gehrig as the only New York Yankees to homer three times in one game against the Boston Red Sox. Teixeira hit a solo homer in the fifth inning off Lumberton native Clay Buchholz, hit another solo shot in the seventh and a three-run blast in the ninth as the Yanks crushed the Red Sox 14-3.  The Yankees have won nine of their first 10 series this season, a mark surpassed only twice in team history. The Yankees won 14 of their first 15 series in 1928 and 11 of their first 12 in 1939.

Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, who was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and was voted to the Pro Bowl, has been suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season by the NFL for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. The results of a recent random substance test by the NFL indicated the presence of a non-steroidal banned substance. Cushing becomes the third NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year to be suspended for performance-enhancing substances in the last eight seasons, joining Julius Peppers and Shawne Merriman.

JUST BETWEEN US…This Korner’s wife Susan was invited to help celebrate her former West Orange-Stark math student Earl Thomas’ 21st birthday Thursday at a local restaurant. Her drag-along spouse also was invited but had a previous commitment. Earl had just returned from his first mini-camp with the Seattle Seahawks where he worked out with the first-team defense with former Port Arthur Lincoln standout Jordan Babineaux at the other safety position. Earl continued his birthday celebration last weekend in Las Vegas with a few of his new teammates.