Kawagoe, Japan: Few Olympic venues breathe, grow and sweat like a golf course. Kerry Haigh’s job is to make sure the animal exists fairly, both for the men last Thursday and for the women this weekend and every day in between. For the pga of america golf course expert, it’s a complicated job that requires a forked brain.
male players swing faster than female players. women are more accurate than men. more speed for both sexes is good, so far it’s bad. it’s more algebra ii than calculus, with some kind of health mixed in, but it can be easily screwed up, especially when events are only two days apart. On Saturday night, with 18 holes remaining in the men’s competition, Haigh was surveying the grounds for locations for all four rounds of the women’s event.
Reading: Women’s olympic golf course
when you ask haigh how he plans to make the same course play similarly from two different distances, he will wander to an answer, careful not to forget any part of the process and not to offend anyone. He starts with the tee boxes, and luckily for him, Kasumigaseki has no shortage of tee spots. Haigh will work with the course superintendent to identify the “characteristics” of each hole, whether it be a set of trees, a fairway bunker or a water hazard, and ensure they are within landing zones for both men and women. for women. In KCC, that usually pushes the women two exit points from where the men played. It all adds up to 6,687 yards on the women’s scorecard, a meaty distance for a par 71 that parallels how the USGA sets up its U.S. women’s open.
The type of shots women play from those distances also differ from men. so the slab is cut about an inch at 2.5”, and haigh takes into account the trajectory of the approach shots when determining the location of the holes. “Last week, he rained three inches and all the balls pretty much stopped dead or spun back,” she said. “We don’t know if that will be the case this week.”
if there is a big difference in the clubs being used, haigh will offer a bit more protection for the players, pushing the hole further from the rim. he numbers all of these factors, and when that’s not enough, he’ll also watch practice rounds to see it in real time. If it sounds like a guessing game, it’s not. He’s been doing this for decades for both men’s and women’s competitions, achieving it five years ago at the 2016 Olympics.
kcc’s greens will roll at the same “olympic speed” as he calls it, for every event. (He prefers not to share a stimpmeter number because, “I don’t think it’s good for a superintendent’s well-being.”) Every morning and every night he puts on each green, adding as much data as possible to the stimpmeter algorithm. the. if the forecast changes overnight, they will make adjustments in the morning. nothing is set in stone, and haigh’s track record is as clean as it gets. no pro has ever said “missed the golf course” on one of their setups.
haigh is a sniper who seems to be more responsive to detail. When asked specifically about Tuesday’s 6th, 14th and 17th holes, he said that those particular holes he hopes will provide exactly the same excitement as during the men’s competition. both 6 and 17 are manageable and 14 is a par 5 that can be reached in two shots. Haigh would also be the first to tell you that his championship winning score doesn’t matter to him. three more or 23 less. he doesn’t want to “influence one part of the story,” as he put it. But he was particularly proud of the fact that both Inbee Park and Justin raised each shot to 16 under par to win gold during the Rio Olympics. “That was something we were very happy about. you can’t control any of it to that degree. but I think it really shows that the course played reasonably similarly both weeks, and that’s what we’re really looking for this week as well.”
However, you know what comes next. and Haigh too. Hindsight is everything in setting up a golf course. will it really be similar for women? After a couple of days of practice rounds, American Danielle Kang doesn’t think so. “I saw the guys play, but I think it’s going to play very differently from how the guys played for us.
“the golf course is playing very long, I don’t really see many wedge shots turning back like I saw on TV.”
sophia popov seconded his thoughts on length. so did yuka saso. Ella Kang said she had been hitting hybrid full/save shots on the greens and 5-woods or 4-irons on par 3s. That’s certainly different than what we saw last weekend.
“drivers were hit where we wouldn’t necessarily be hitting drivers,” said jess korda. “[Men] said it was so soft that they could be super aggressive.”
Therein lies the final piece of Haigh’s course prep cake: Mother Nature. she controls all things and is rather uncontrollable herself. the course that was soft for the men has slowly baked a little more each day, in hot and windy conditions. the zoysia streets are back where they were a week ago, audibly creaking under your footsteps.
so will a female competitor match xander schauffele’s 18 years under? Maybe, maybe not. If Haigh does her job like she normally does, that number shouldn’t matter to anyone.
- olympic games