Bobby Pope

Preparing for the Peach Blossom Tournament

The Peach Blossom Tournament at Idle Hour Club celebrates its 70th anniversary this weekend with a field of 72 teams competing in the event, which runs Friday through Sunday. What started as an individual tournament in 1947 changed to a four-ball event in 1954 and has remained that way since. Last year’s winners, Midland’s Adam Cooper and Columbus’ Bubba Gallops, who also won in 2010, are back to defend their title.

Every year at the Peach Blossom Tournament, golfers can expect the 6,748-yard, par-70 layout to be perfectly manicured and ready for play when the first group tees off in the early morning. What the golfers don’t see is the work done by Idle Hour director of greens and grounds Wade Thomas and his staff. Readying the course for the Peach Blossom Tournament is similar to what the grounds crew does on a daily basis for the club’s regular membership.

The grounds crew began planning for the Peach Blossom Tournament some three months ago.

Each day during the tournament, the 18 full-time members and another seven or so part-timers will arrive at the club at around 5 a.m. and immediately begin mowing the greens, tees and fairways and setting the pins for play. The Peach Blossom Tournament committee works tirelessly to ensure the best possible experience for the players. The course set-up, including the pin placements and tee locations, is studied diligently to create a fair but demanding course for the participants.

The course has an arsenal of equipment to get the job done. Included are three riding triplex mowers, 12 walking green mowers, seven tractors, three fairway mowers, two rough units and three blowers, just to name the basics. The majority of the crew will work until 11 a.m. and then return at 5 p.m. for course grooming to prepare for the next day’s play. When there is no tournament on the site, the crew begins work at 6:30 a.m. and will remain until 3:30 p.m. with a skeletal crew staying later.

Idle Hour is the only Macon course that features Crenshaw bent grass greens. This turf of type creates the best putting surface with minimal input to control grain. Brent grass is native to cooler regions of the world so the summer months have challenges. In those hot summer months, especially July and August, Thomas’ crew, led by Nash Rofles, the golf course superintendent, will do some “wilt watching” of the greens, and if wilt is discovered, special treatment in the form of precise water application to the dry areas will be administered.

There is very little turnover in the staff that works on the course. Thomas, a graduate of the Tennessee turf grass management program, has been at Idle Hour for 21 years. But he is far from being the senior statesman. Guy Maddun is in his 35th year, Kirk Mansker has been with the club for 26 years, and Eric Sutton, equipment manager, is in his 21st year.

Thomas is well-recognized in his field and was honored with the Distinguished Service Award from the Georgia Golf Course Superintendent’s Association in November. He served on the GCSA Board of Directors for 12 years and was the president in 2002-03. Wade was the First Chairman of the Georgia Golf Environmental Foundation and served on that organization’s Board of Trustees for a number of years.

The Peach Blossom Tournament and the club’s annual Member-Guest are the two major tournaments held at Idle Hour on an annual basis. Idle Hour also has hosted the Georgia State Amateur a record eight times, with the most recent coming in 2014, and Thomas was responsible for the course on three of those occasions.

Contact Bobby Pope at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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