Under a few feet of snow here in Ottawa it's great when I can email a golf course superintendent like Dick Gray a few questions. Being in charge of PGA Village and nearby PGA Country Club, in Port St. Lucie Gray oversees the grounds and maintenance of three courses designed by Tom Fazio and Pete Dye at PGA Golf Club; the 35-acre PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance golf instruction, practice, technology and fitness park; and the private 18-hole PGA Country Club, designed by Jim and George Fazio. He's one busy guy, can't wait to catch up with him when I visit PGA Village this winter.
OG: Why would a golfer come to PGA Village over the other 40+ resorts in Florida?
We offer pure golf! We don’t offer shopping or the beach. That’s all available but that’s not our focus. We do golf by legendary architects Pete Dye and Tom Fazio.
We plan on re-grassing the Ryder greens, tees and renovating the bunkers to give the course a whole new look and feel. We’ve also contacted Pete and plan on re-grassing the Dye fairways, greens and around the bunkers. We’ll be able to maximize the ability of the grasses to provide championship playing conditions on a daily basis. Our maintenance mission statement is to prove championship playing conditions, everyday.
We have three great layouts by the two best designers in the world. What more could you ask for? Our weather is better than any place north of us and our location is an easy one hour drive from West Palm Beach Overall, we offer a much better value than any place south of us. Why wouldn’t you come here?
OG: For golfers that have been to PGA Village before, what differences are they going to notice from the three golf courses since you’ve taken over as Superintendent at PGA Village?
Gray: From the entrance to the bag drop and four hours later, our guests will notice a little more spring in the steps of our employees. Right from the first tee, we’re cleaner, sleeker and more open. We’ve trimmed down over-grown palmettos on every hole and hauled away thousands of yards of debris. Overall, the courses have a better feel. We’ve got all new sand in the Dye bunkers. With improved equipment, our maintenance is gotten much better with a more uniform cut on the greens, tees, fairways and roughs. Our bunkers are raked daily and edged weekly. Greens run 11-plus on the stimp daily. Course signage is completely new.
OG: Have there been any new ecological changes?
Gray: We’re living up to our billing as a certified Audubon wildlife sanctuary. We are removing all exotic and invasive species of trees and shrubs. We’re planting native grasses along our perimeters and will continue to manage the growth of palmettos, one of our very important native plants and golf course landscape features.
OG: If you could work with any course designer, who would that be and why?
Gray: Pete Dye because he’s a master strategist and inspires confidence in those around him.
OG: What course superintendent would you like to switch jobs with for a week and why?
Gray: Nobody! At this point in my life, greenskeeping can’t get any better than this.
OG: What do you look for when hiring staff at PGA Village and how many individuals make up your maintenance staff on the three courses?
Gray: First thing I hire is a heart and second is attitude. Next is pride, then competitive ego and lastly is brain. At PGA Village, we have a staff of about 72 people.