In the game of golf, there's a common phrase — "local knowledge."
It’s the idea that a player obtains a lot of information about a course by having played it often. That information benefits the player and those he or she shares it with.
When faced with extensive damage to its greens last year, one of the premier public links in the area utilized a little “local knowledge” of its own.
Hartman grew to love the game while attending Northeastern High School, just down the road from the links he now tends to.
A member of the Bobcats golf team during his years at the school, the 2000 graduate later attended Ohio State University. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in turf grass science and has been in the golf maintenance industry for more than 17 years.
“I grew up right here in Manchester,” Hartman said. “I thought ‘I like to play golf, but I’m just not good enough to make it a living,’ so I decided to go the turf route.”
The problem: Last year, a contaminated fungicide caused an estimated 90 percent loss of turf on the course’s bent grass greens. Some suffered a total loss, while others were able to maintain a small portion of their surface.
The fungicide also plagued numerous courses throughout the Northeast, including The Bridges in nearby Abbottstown. The problem was the fungicide contained trace amounts of herbicide. When the two were combined, the result was a deadly chemical for bent grass.
The damage was extensive enough that Royal Manchester had to shut down play on June 15 and it wasn’t until late summer that they had the greens in shape for even limited play. Temporary greens had to be established in the fairways just to allow the course to fulfill membership obligations.
The closure caused a headache for the course’s tournament schedule, which included a York County Amateur Golf Association event, originally scheduled for Aug. 7. Fortunately, the course was able to rebound enough in time to hold the YCAGA’s York Open on Oct. 2.
This year, the YCAGA will hold its most prestigious event, the York County Amateur Championship, at Royal Manchester on July 16 and July 17. The York Open also returns, slated for Aug. 5 and Aug. 6.
Bringing the greens back: An incredibly meticulous process, Hartman simplified an explanation of the restoration efforts.
“The turf died all together,” Hartman said “So we had to grow everything from seed last summer.”
“A lot of prayer went into this place for sure,” Hartman said. “And just being very diligent with it every day. Adjusting fertility programs, adjusting water, morning all the way through evening, sometimes at night.
“Just watching it all summer as we grew back in. That’s about as simple as I can put a complicated process,” Hartman said.
Drawing upon his education and expertise, Hartman developed the perfect plan to return the course to its former glory.
Royal Manchester consulted with a private organization, which included a former United States Golf Association agronomist, and the group confirmed Hartman had chosen the right course of action.
Hartman noted the par-3 15th as the hole he was most impressed to see come back. Being a links-style course, Royal Manchester is mostly open, with few trees. However, the 15th is the only hole to be tucked in the woods that line the property.
“Most of them came back really well, 15 probably lagged behind a little,” Hartman said. “But generally speaking we’ve had 100 percent recovery.”
Player reaction: By all accounts, Hartman and his staff have done a marvelous job of restoring the greens to their prior pristine condition.
When asked Tuesday, member Bill Schuttler, 77 of Shiloh, gave a good review of their quality.
“They’re better this year than they were before,” Schuttler said. “They’re tough, but they roll true.”
Other players echoed Schuttler’s sentiments, and with good reason. In fact, some polled didn’t know there was ever a problem to begin with.
“Well, I can tell you there was a problem,” Hartman joked when informed of such reactions. “But we got through it by the grace and of God and we’re going to have a great season.”
The damaging product caused a ripple effect off the course as well. As a result of the partial closure — staying open only for dining, golf instruction, banquets and corporate functions — the course had to let go of a number of seasonal, part-time employees. However, the course reopened for public play March 1 and is back to full staff.
Although Royal Manchester wasn’t around for his prep days, Hartman nonetheless enjoys being able to serve his hometown course, which opened in 2010.
“It’s nice that people can come back out and enjoy the property again,” Hartman said. “The community can come back out and have a go at it. It’s nice to see people out enjoying the course again.”
— Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.