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Bowsher Prepares for a Variety of Players

Monday, March 2, 2015   (0 Comments)
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Dennis Bowsher (right) receives a token of appreciation from Doug Gallant (left) for hosting the 2011 OTF Scholarship Golf Outing at OSU Golf Club.
The state of Ohio is littered with tremendous golf courses and facilities. From six of Golf Digest’s Top 100, nationwide household names and birthplace to some of the greats of the game, the Buckeye state is rich in the way of the links. But it may be the home of the Buckeyes where golf is played with the most diverse audience.

The Ohio State University Golf Club features two distinct courses over 36 holes, the Scarlet and Gray. Servicing the needs of members, students, alumni, donors, collegiate golfers and professionals alike, the task of maintaining over 300 acres rests on the shoulders of Dennis Bowsher and his staff. Named superintendent in 2006, Bowsher lives his dream job every day at his alma mater. The key? Keeping it simple.

"As far as routines, we don’t do a whole lot different from one course to the other,” he says. "It’s just that anything big is played on Scarlet. The fun thing is that the Gray course is a fun course to play if you’re the Average Joe because everybody can have a chance to birdie every hole.”

The same can’t be said for the Scarlet, which is reserved for the marquee events, which happen frequently. Known for its sculpted bunkering and difficult green complexes, the Scarlet plays host to spring invitationals for both the men’s and women’s teams at OSU (subsequent weeks in 2015). Summer brings member events, AJGA events, USGA qualifiers and more. It all sets up for one of the crown jewels of the Tour Finals, The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. While Bowsher admits the golf course is not realistically ready for the Buckeye teams in April, it is consistency from the start that gets the course through the year.

"We try to peak the golf course for different events,” he adds. "My goal is to try and keep the golf course at a high level all through the year, so we don’t have to increase the frequency in rolling and mowing from event to event.”

The par-3 13th on the Scarlet Course
Both golf courses are mowed the same. The greens are kept running somewhere between 9.5 and 10.5 on the stimpmeter. Rough is allowed to naturally ebb and flow with the season. At the end of the year, both golf courses see an equal amount of play.

Maintaining both golf courses the same way allows for better quality control on the entire property, with the Scarlet course amped up based on the scope of the event. Thanks to a new, later start date for the signature event of the season, Mother Nature has cooperated even more, creating a firm course that surrendered a winning score of just six-under in 2014.

"We are taking it to that next level, to the maximum that we can attain,” Bowsher says, noting that last year’s event was the first in six years to go a week without rain.

Beyond the golf being played, maintaining the golf courses at Ohio State has an increased role in the world of turf maintenance and research. With the Buckeye Turf program in the OSU family, it’s a wonderful synergy.

"I think we both benefit from the relationship,” Bowsher said. "Brian Gimbel (OSU Athletic Grounds Superintendent) and I are on their Turf Team. We have occasional meetings and they will discuss what our needs are. I’ve opened up our 300 acres here, so they have various areas if they want to do practical, on-course research.”

That research includes a number of ongoing projects. Ohio State’s Dr. David Gardner is currently using some natural areas of the golf course to study a new herbicide on weeds. An even more comprehensive study by Dr. John Street on Poa Cure has major implications for the business down the road. A previous study, overseen by long-time superintendent Gary Rasor, Bowsher’s predecessor, and Dr. Street is an example for what the collaboration can do.

"I open up the golf course because, one, I want to have that relationship, and I utilize them as consultants,” Bowsher adds. "They are a valuable resource to me.”

Like a certain football national championship winner, this Ohio State collaboration is a true team effort. In many ways, it represents a smaller segment of what is an even-larger statewide collaboration. Bowsher, who speaks to OSU students from time to time, is quick to praise the work of OTF. Heavily involved in the educational programming, he notes that he has ten members of his staff who are certified applicators, and regular attendees of OTF educational programs.

"I think the ability to provide continuing education is both accessible and affordable, and I think it is invaluable,” he says. "Short of going to the GCSAA national conference, there is no place you can go and get current, practical and valuable information that you can take back to your golf course than going to the OTF show.”

Article written by Will Haskett

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