A peek behind the curtain at TPC Scottsdale

The interactive GCSAA morning tour session went behind the scenes of prep for the PGA Tour’s WM Open


Crew members working the green at TPC Scottsdale
The show must go on, and the TPC maintenance team gets after it in its daily preparations leading up to next week’s WM Open. Photos by Howard Richman

Temperatures are rising in Arizona. The cool factor, though, swept across TPC Scottsdale on Tuesday. “Definitely a unique experience to get a peek behind the curtain,” said Kendall Endres, a five-year GCSAA member and superintendent at Cornerstone Golf Club in Montrose, Colo.

Endres and about 300 others like him over a combined two sessions certainly did get an inside look at what is happening at TPC Scottsdale — which is a beehive of activity nowadays, including that famous No. 16 par-3 (more on that later). Besides hosting the morning session of the Tournament Preparation interactive tour presented by John Deere (and a second session later in the afternoon), the club is in full throttle mode. A week from Thursday, TPC Scottsdale hosts the PGA Tour’s WM Open at the Stadium Course.

Still, Director of Golf Course Operations and 16-year GCSAA Class A member Brandon Reese was on hand to greet those such as Endres when they got off the bus from the Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix. He wouldn’t have had it any other way. “It’s very humbling to have this large amount of your peers to see what we’re doing. It means a lot to our staff,” says Reese. “We appreciate them coming out. Our house is their house.” According to Reese, only finishing touches remain as TPC Scottsdale awaits some of the world’s best golfers to arrive, including back-to-back champion Scottie Scheffler.

Before their appearance, however, the golf industry descended on Reese’s home away from home. Visitors spent nearly three hours at each session digesting a menu of station stops around the course ranging from topics like building out infrastructure, tournament agronomy and operative turfgrass research. An all-star cast delivered the message, including Leah Brilman, Ph.D., of DLF-Pickseed and Mike Hills from Seed Research of Oregon; Troy Flanagan, golf club maintenance director at San Francisco’s The Olympic Club; and Blake Meentemeyer, a USGA West Region agronomist who previously oversaw the WM Open at TPC Scottsdale. He sent a message to those attending his talk. “We cannot do it without you. You know your properties better than we do,” Meentemeyer said.

Brandon Reese standing with GCSAA members at the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale
TPC Scottsdale director of golf course operations Brandon Reese (third from right) mingles with GCSAA members at the Tournament Preparation Morning Tour presented by John Deere.

This wasn’t the first time that 32-year GCSAA Class A superintendent Jim Jensen had visited TPC Scottsdale. Nevertheless, the place still resonates. “To see something like this is pretty amazing. I’ve been here for the tournament, and it was insane,” says Jensen, who oversees Deer Park Golf Club in Deer Park, Wash.

Jensen's reaction to TPC Scottsdale has much to do with the16th hole, which several years ago was tagged with the name “coliseum” by longtime CBS commentator Gary McCord. The close quarters at the hole, which is essentially a party cove for fans, is quite the scene (Reese is pictured there with some of the GCSAA attendees at the tour Tuesday morning). Seeing it Tuesday, mostly in quiet except for golf equipment in the vicinity as Reese’s staff dutifully went about their jobs, seemed a bit odd. When you watch it on TV, this is a fun-allowed zone. One of the interesting tidbits about the 16th is that it takes more than four months to build and two months to take apart.

Reese, meanwhile, is thankful that he and his team have exceptional support from the club, supporting what he and his team need to excel. “It’s kind of one of those things where everybody on our team is GCSAA. We want to showcase what our team, staff, and the tournament organization do to get ready for this tournament, Reese says. “Logistically, it takes everybody involved to make a lot of concessions to get this done, and it shows the club, PGA Tour and the Thunderbirds (philanthropic organization that has supported the WM Open for decades) support my (GCSAA) affiliation with our professional organization.”

Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.