There are numerous projects underway at Austin Country Club in preparation for the Dell WGA Match Play Championship. It’s a busy place as can be seen in the following photographs.
There are lots of logistical challenges for the PGA tour staff to overcome in staging this tournament. As Austin golfers know, this course is situated in a residential neighborhood and the surrounding area is a high traffic area.
On top of all that, this year the tournament will take place on Easter weekend. All of these factors combined require the tour staff to be creative and the Austin Country Club membership to be flexible and understanding of the challenges. Creative solutions, such as locating the media center on the practice tee, are a byproduct of the situation.
Other accommodations are being made to make the course usable for the best players in the world. For example,
the netting on the driving had to be raised to prevent players from driving balls out of the range into the course behind the range. It was raised another 60 feet. From the back of the range to the bottom of the fence is approximately 250 yards and slightly uphill. The net is now about 120 feet high at the back of the range. During construction, which lasted about a month, member were restricted to hitting shots of 100 yards or less to protect the workers.
The poles are now metal instead of wood and the construction quality is first class, which diminishes the somewhat distracting visuals of such a tall net.
Construction crews are busy and generally respectful of member play. Staging areas for construction are located in the lower parking lots and there is continuous activity throughout the day. Frost delays have slowed play more than the construction taking place and it has been interesting to see what is needed to stage an event of this magnitude.
The spectator views are spectacular on what will be the second nine during the tournament. Shown below is a view of what will be the 12th hole as viewed from one of the hospitality areas. Spectators will be able to see tee shots land, second shots played and then follow the action to the green.
There are approximately 11 structures in place and in speaking with PGA tour director of operations, there will be somewhere around 20 by the time all of the vendor tents are completed.
Some of these hospitality structures are substantial in size. For example, the “1899” club that will house Austin Country Members and their guests is a three story facility.
There will be some interesting shots available because of the hospitality tents. For example, the tent behind the green on the 13th hole during the tournament might allow players to hit a tee shot directly at the green and use the tent for a backstop instead of laying up in the fairway.
Normally, it would not be prudent to aim at the green from the tee because the ball would run too far over the green if the player landed a ball on the green.
Players will also face interesting views as some of hospitality tents are plainly in the sight lines of some holes.
The 15thtee box during the tournament will look somewhat daunting as the players view the fairway that winds through the various hospitality areas. Shown here is the view from that tee box.
World class players will probably not be phased by such a challenge but it is interesting to contemplate what will go through their mind. It can’t be much different from of the situations they face in playing on a worldwide basis. After all, they have to drive over a hotel on the famous road hole at the St. Andrews course in Scotland.