"It's just a pleasure having all warm-season grasses so that we don't have to worry about heat," said Mangum, Atlanta Athletic Club director of golf courses and grounds. "All we have to worry about is moisture management. If we can avoid rain, we'll be able to dry it out and really firm it up."

Mangum has Atlanta Athletic Club ready for PGA Championship

The weather in Atlanta is hot, and the turfgrass at Atlanta Athletic Club loves it.

“It’s just a pleasure having all warm-season grasses so that we don’t have to worry about heat,” said GCSAA Certified Golf Course Superintendent Ken Mangum, Atlanta Athletic Club director of golf courses and grounds. “All we have to worry about is moisture management. If we can avoid rain, we’ll be able to dry it out and really firm it up.”

Mangum hosts the fourth and final major of the season, the PGA Championship, Aug. 11-14, at Atlanta Athletic Club’s Highlands Course in Johns Creek, Ga. He worked with Rees Jones to renovate Atlanta Athletic Club’s Riverside Course in 2003 and the Highlands Course in 2006. Bermudagrass 419, among other varieties throughout the rest of the course, were replaced during the 2006 renovation by a different strain in the rough, Tifton 10 bermudagrass, and a different warm-season grass on the tees and fairways, Diamond zoysia.

The zoysia is apple green, needs less mowing, and plays fast and firm at .300 of an inch. Since the zoysia stays green there from March until December, Mangum eliminated overseeding. The 2 ½-inch rough has a dark blue-green color, it is dense enough to hold most errant shots up for easier recovery swings, and requires minimal mowing and low fertility applications.

“I was always jealous of the bentgrass bluegrass courses up North because they had that great color contrast,” said Mangum in GCM Associate Editor Howard Richman’s PGA Championship preview, Lean and green, in the August issue of GCSAA’s magazine. “But now we have it. We have what we call the wow factor. When you look at the color contrast of the grasses you say, ‘Wow, that’s striking.’ Now you have definition, not one grass wall to wall. And, you’ve got great playing surfaces that require less input.”

In 2009, Mangum replaced the cool-season bentgrass on the greens with Champion ultradwarf bermudagrass, a warm-season grass that thrives in the heat, meaning less watering, fungicides and no electric fans. The greens are mowed at .105 of an inch and are rolling smooth, fast, and should continue to firm up.

A 37-year GCSAA member, Mangum has a degree in chemistry from Jacksonville (Ala.) State University and a degree in golf course operations from Gateway College in Lake City, Fla. He has been at Atlanta Athletic Club for 23 years and has hosted the 1990 U.S. Women’s Open, the 2001 PGA Championship, and the 2002 U.S. Junior Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club.

“Ken has been outstanding to work with in our build up to the 93rd PGA Championship,” said Kerry Haigh, PGA of America managing director for championships and business development. “He and his staff have been extremely professional and forward thinking in their planning and preparation for our major championship. With all their hard work, as well as the support from the Atlanta Athletic Club membership, we are hoping for a truly challenging and exciting PGA Championship that will allow the best players in the world to show their immense talents.”

Mangum oversees a staff of 68, including GCSAA member Kasey Kauff, Highlands Course superintendent. They are assisted tournament week by a group of 50 volunteers made up of golf course superintendents, assistant superintendents, interns, and turfgrass students from all over the world, in addition to local vendors.

Mangum has cut his fungicide use on the greens in half since switching to bermudagrass, and he’s converted the irrigation supply for the golf courses to effluent water. Mangum’s focus on environmental stewardship has allowed him to trim $50,000 from his annual maintenance budget. Ron Whitten’s PGA Championship preview in the August issue of Golf Digest details how tandem irrigation heads along the outside of the fairways allows Mangum to irrigate the rough and fairways separately to achieve appropriate fairway firmness and proper depth of rough.

Atlanta Athletic Club is the home club of legendary golfer Bobby Jones and was founded in 1898 in downtown Atlanta. It added a golf course and country club at East Lake in 1915 and moved to the present Johns Creek location in the late 1960s. Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed the 18-hole Riverside Course and the back nine of the Highlands Course. Joe Finger designed the Highlands front nine. Atlanta Athletic Club also hosted the PGA Championship in 1981 and 2001, as well as the 1950 U.S. Women’s Amateur, 1963 Ryder Cup, 1976 U.S. Open, 1982 Junior World Cup, 1984 U.S. Mid-Amateur, 1990 U.S. Women’s Open, 2002 U.S. Junior Amateur, and is the future site of the 2014 U.S. Amateur. The Highlands Course will play at par-70, 7,467 yards for the 2011 PGA Championship. Atlanta Athletic Club also features a 9-hole par-3 course.