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Greens are fast at Woodcreek Golf Club

By: Jeffrey Weidel Special to Gold Country News Service
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Putts that were once struck with authority in order to reach the hole now regularly roll agonizingly well past the cup, turning potential birdies into bogeys and leaving area golfers cursing the result of another dreaded three-putt at Woodcreek Golf Club. The reason the greens are faster than ever before at Woodcreek? Blame it on Jeff Couwenhoven’s inability to grasp the intricacies and applications of calculus. Frustrated with his advanced math course, Couwenhoven switched his major from engineering to agriculture at Fresno State and unknowingly steered his life toward the care and nurturing of golf courses. And this is a man who really does care. He’s not just casually sipping coffee at 5:30 most mornings at Woodcreek when even golfers who regularly secure the early tee times haven’t pulled off their covers yet and climbed out of bed. Couwenhoven studies the entire course each morning, finding time to direct and also regularly educate his 10-person crew as it goes about its daily maintenance duties amidst a busy municipal course that last year played host to approximately 64,000 rounds. Fast greens and municipal courses rarely coexist. Too many rounds and not enough money for tender loving care usually equates to greens that possess only moderate speed, are somewhat bumpy, and make reading a putt as difficult as deciphering the fine print of a credit card application. Yet the greens at Woodcreek currently roll quick and true, thanks to the diligence of Couwenhoven. Accustomed to more detail-oriented practices that come while working at a country club, which he did for 6 ½ years in Fresno, Couwenhoven is being credited with turning Woodcreek’s greens and the overall course condition into something special. “I’ve played Woodcreek since it opened and these are the best the greens have ever been,” said Roseville’s Ed Kittle following a morning round in May. “If a course has bad greens, I don’t want to play there. Absolutely, this is what you want.” The mention of fast greens bring an easy smile to the face of Rob Frederick, the course’s only head pro since the Roseville city-run course started taking tee times in 1995. Frederick says the Woodcreek regulars are elated with the greens and he gets similar comments from outsiders. “We’ve had tournament players, guys from the Bay Area who play all over the place, say these are the best greens in the area,” Frederick said. “But it’s not just the greens, they say the whole course is in good shape.” Frederick credits former superintendent Glynne Taylor with elevating the course in several areas, making some nice additions to the landscaping. “Glynne did a lot of great things cosmetically that really added to the beauty of the course,” Frederick said. Taylor departed Woodcreek and took over the superintendent duties at Diamond Oaks in January of 2007, swapping duties with Couwenhoven, who was putting his Fresno State degree to work at Roseville’s oldest muni. Once a very good golfer who played to a 2-handicap, the most important two in Couwenhoven’s life right now are his youthful daughters who can’t wait for dad to come home following his 2:30 afternoon departure at Woodcreek. He doesn’t golf much any longer, but if he did, Couwenhoven would look forward to the challenge offered at Woodcreek’s shot-making course that now requires a delicate putting stroke as well. “I always appreciated firm, fast greens when I was playing, so that’s what I was hoping to do out here,” said Couwenhoven, 31. “But really, the biggest thing was just making the greens healthier.” Shortly after taking over at Woodcreek he decided to gamble a bit and see if he could speed up the greens. By late spring short chip shots began regularly running off the greens and downhill putts became a situation to approach with trepidation. Although no fan of the Stimpmeter, which measures green speed, Couwenhoven estimates Woodcreek’s putts are rolling between a 9.5 and a 10, which is mighty quick for a muni track. A Lincoln Hills resident who plays all over the Sacramento region, Bob Schlueter says the greens are “phenomenal.” “A course like this really brings putting into play, I like that kind of challenge where you really have to hit an approach shot to the right spot on the green,” Schlueter said. “This is not a course where you can just rip a drive 300 yards and not worry about anything. You really have to think when you play Woodcreek.”