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February 2019

Surviving the Offseason

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By Steve Eubanks

Bert Walker 
Director of Golf
Prairie Lakes Golf Club
Grand Prairie, Texas

Jared Melson 
Director of Golf
Bear Trace at Tims Ford
Winchester, Tennessee 

What is your most successful and popular winter program? 

Walker: Every week in the winter we host a putting tournament. Wintertime weather in Texas is decent for the most part and we have the largest putting green in the state. So we set up a six-hole putting course using string to design the holes. Players of all ages and abilities come out and compete for prizes. We usually hold the event on Thursday afternoons to try to generate interest for the weekend. It’s been very successful for us. 

Melson: We hold one tournament a month throughout the winter with some unique formats to generate interest. On Jan. 1, for example, we held our Superintendent’s Revenge, a tournament where the superintendent moved the tees back and cut the hole locations on slopes and on the edges of the greens. That was a two-person scramble. We also put on something called our Cross Country Tournament where I reroute the golf course so that, for example, you tee off on the fourth tee and go to the fifth green and from the seventh tee, you play to the 13th green. We had a par-6 laid out, so it was a lot of fun. 

Then on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, we have something called the Lucky Cup where we cut three cups on each green and play a three-person scramble. You can pick which hole to putt to on each green. 

These are usually two- or three-person events and I stagger the payouts so that every team has a chance to win something. We’re averaging 50 players per event. Everybody loves them and it keeps people active throughout the winter. 

How much flexibility do you build into your winter programs given the weather challenges? 

Walker: Our putting tournament is so popular that we don’t cancel it due to weather. In fact, we’re considering making it a two-time-a-week event. But if we do have weather issues, we move the tournament into either our pavilion or clubhouse with a synthetic putting surface. That way people know that no matter what the weather, they have a regular golf event at Prairie Lakes. 

Melson: Things like the Cross Country Tournament, we might change the routing based on weather, but we play the events unless the greens are frozen and have to be covered. Because the formats are different, the conditions make it fun. Now, we have had to be flexible. If the greens are frozen, I’ll move an event to the next weekend. Last year, we had to reschedule one event three times. But we eventually get them all in.

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