Superintendent Has Dinah Shore Course Ready for Kraft Nabisco

Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) Class A member David Johnson, director of golf course operations at Mission Hills Country Club, is expecting the best conditions in past 10 years for the Kraft Nabisco Championship. The LPGA's first major of the season is held April 1-4 at Mission Hills' Dinah Shore Tournament Course in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

"We have received 5 inches of rain already this year and the average annual rainfall here is only 4 inches," said Johnson, a 21-year GCSAA member who has been at Mission Hills all 21 years. "The rough is thick. They are going to need a pitching wedge to get back on the fairway."

Johnson has overseen some subtle changes made to the course, including moving six tees back five yards each and extending the approach on holes No. 8 and 17. The bermudagrass rough overseeded with perennial ryegrass will be 4-6 inches high as usual, but thicker this year due to January-February rains. The bermudagrass greens overseeded with Poa trivialis will roll 13 feet on the Stimpmeter.

"We topdressed the greens much more in December and rolled them all winter so that we could increase the height but keep the speed," said Johnson, who holds a turfgrass management degree from Michigan State. "They hold better now and roll smoother."

Under Johnson's direction, Mission Hills is involved with the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program and he is experimenting on the club's other two courses to determine the effects of cutting back overseeding for future resource conservation. This winter he hired a person who placed reflective balloons on the golf course ponds and lakes, and moved them around once a day, to non-harmfully scare away the coot mud hens that stop at Mission Hills' ponds and lakes while migrating from Canada, eating costly amounts of turfgrass and leaving vast amounts of excrement that is toxic to turfgrass.

"David has done an outstanding job proactively making improvements to Mission Hills, both agronomically and logistically, to better serve the players, fans, media and sponsors a better major experience," said GCSAA Certified Golf Course Superintendent John Miller, LPGA Tour agronomist. "His continual pursuit of environmental stewardship is admirable as well."

Another part of Johnson's preparations for golf's second-longest-running professional tour event at one course (behind the Masters at Augusta National) include the semiannual draining and power-washing the concrete pool within Poppy's Pond, where the winner takes her traditional plunge off the 18th green.