When you turn up this week to the Australian Amateur Championship, presented by Swinging Skirts, things will just click.
But whether you’re a player or a spectator, rest assured a lot has gone into making things “just happen”.
Golf Australia’s championships director Trevor Herden is the man ultimately responsible for the running of the nation’s elite amateur tournament.
And just like the men’s and women’s national Open championships, the #AusAm has enjoyed a surge of international exposure and interest in recent years, meaning the demands have also spiked.
Naturally, Herden doesn’t do this on his own; his crack GA championship crew teams with the host clubs’ staff and a raft of invaluable volunteers to ensure things run as smoothly as possible.
But when you’ve got 312 players from around the world stretched across two courses, to reach two champions within six days is a huge ask.
Here’s a special insight into how Herden and his staff tackle this logistical challenge.
Q: How do you go about setting up two courses, making sure they’re similar each day of stroke play?
HERDEN: The setting up of both courses needs to be a true and even test of ability for the best amateurs players and cater to both men and women.
In setting up the two courses for the strongest amateur players, we extend the length of almost every hole and some pars for the women and change some of the men’s par-5s to par-4s by moving slightly forward from the back par-5 tee blocks, which we have done at Yarra Yarra for the men on holes 16 and 18.
The men’s Yarra Yarra course shifts from a par 72 to par 70 and women’s moves from a par 72 back to par 73, turning a shorter par-4 to a par-5 playing from the men’s tee on hole 13.
One of the most important factors is the weather with the firmness and speed of greens crucial. Excessive firmness combined with excessive speed is a recipe for disaster, especially with full-field events.
One must also consider setting up the course for rain – most greens drain well, but some are not so good, selecting hole locations on the higher spots provides some comfort to allow players to use the rules should casual water intervene on the line of play once on the green.
When determining hole locations, respecting the latest weather forecast is paramount. Changing wind directions and speeds impact on my decisions on setting hole locations.
Strong winds on sloping greens always demand special care; that’s why you will see relatively tame hole locations on windy days.
It is also unwise or conducive to proper play to place holes on raised edges of greens that create too much turn; players should be able to have the ball stop within 1m of the hole after a proper or reasonable putt.
For this championship specifically, we keep the same hole locations for both rounds so all players face the same challenges. Tee positions also remain the same, so the length of holes is the same except for the par-3 tees which we move 1m on day two because of day one divots.
Q: How do you deal with 312 players logistically?
HERDEN: Like all full-field events, the demands put on clubs, their staff, GA staff and volunteers is huge. The precise timing required for a smooth operation is so important when managing such an event.
There are too many things to list and some crop up that we must deal with on the fly.
But, for example, we look at the provision of balls and range operation for pre-round practice; daily course preparation, including having all practice areas prepared 1.5 hours before first tee time by groundstaff; player catering by the host clubs; provision of medical staff if needed for players and spectators; reliability of official starters, rules officials and score recorders.
Every aspect is vital to the overall success of the Australian Amateur Championships.
Q: What’s involved with changing pins, and other such things, on days when there is more than one round of match play?
HERDEN: We do not change hole locations between match play rounds on the same day.
More broadly, setting hole locations for the match play itself still requires the same sound basics of forecast first, test and balance.
When I refer to balance I am looking at a number of front hole locations , middle hole locations and back hole locations; I also want a reasonably good mix of left and right locations.
Of course it all revolves around weather conditions, lengths of each hole, the room to land and stop a ball.
Also, we keep in mind wear and tear on greens from practice rounds and qualifying rounds with 312 players and their caddies.
Q: How do you ensure referees, and other help as required, are never far away?
HERDEN: We are fortunate to have a good number of state and national referees on hand who like to support this country’s national amateur championship, some of whom even come from interstate to assist.
Each course will have up to six referees on hand to solve rules queries, monitor and address any pace of play issues.
They also play a most vital role should play be suspended and the need to evacuate the course arises.
Good referees continually monitor play, know where the trouble areas are on the course and ensure officials are nearby these areas in case they are needed.
This saves time, helps maintain the pace of play – which we all seek – and provides continuity with decisions made, all of which add up to a sound practice and smooth operation.