TRUCKEE, Calif. – Scott Bower vividly remembers the day when the first tree was cut down to officially start construction on Martis Camp Club.
It was May 13, 2006, and there’s a photo in his office to commemorate the moment.
Seven years later, Bower still marvels over what has transpired on the 342-acre property. This week, the Tom Fazio design hosted its first USGA championship and everyone associated with Martis Camp has come away beaming over the success of the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur.
“[Head pro] Gus Jones and [superintendent] Scott Bower deserve a lot of credit,” said Mark Johnson, the club’s president and general manager. “They have done just a fantastic job.”
Bower, a 42-year-old New Hampshire native, has done yeoman’s work the past three years in collaborating with the USGA to get the course in pristine championship condition. He’s been forced to respond to various weather issues, including near-record heat the past few weeks.
“It’s always a challenge,” said Bower. “This year we had some different variables. We had some heat spells and some cooler soil temperatures earlier in the season that kind of delayed some of our agronomic planning. But we had a plan … and we stuck to it. And I think we hit it.”
In 2000, Bower came to Truckee from the Sacramento area to help with the development of nearby Lahontan Golf Club, another private residential community that was developed by DMB Highlands, the same company that created Martis Camp.
Bower had experience with new properties: He had helped build Twelve Bridges, in Lincoln, Calif.,, the site of a former LPGA Tour event. When he arrived in Truckee he thought he would stay in the area just two years. It’s turned into 13 and he couldn’t be happier.
Ever since the ground-breaking at Martis Camp, Bower worked closely with Fazio’s design team. Because of the challenging topography, rock had to be blasted and hammered to route the course. All of the crushed stone was re-packaged for cart paths and shading material for irrigation. When they ran out of topsoil, they re-crushed more stone and turned it into material for re-growing grass.
“It took us four times through just to clear the golf course,” said Bower of the removal of trees and rocks. “We wanted to get it just right. We wanted to have the feel that the golf course has been here forever.
“It was a challenge, but we did it.”
Long before ground was even broken at Martis Camp, Bower was taking water samples from Martis Creek to analyze for quality.
“We built state-of-the-art water quality stations and monitor them with real-time data,” said Bower.
Martis Creek flows through the property and the monitors deliver data on soil impediments as well as phosphorous and nitrate levels when the water enters and exits Martis Camp.
“Since 2003, the water has been cleaner when it leaves the property,” said Bower. “We’re making sure that Martis Camp has zero [negative] impact on that creek.”
For Bower, golf and agronomy have been passions since he was a teenager. He started as a caddie at Amherst (N.H.) Country Club and then worked his way onto the grounds staff. Brower graduated from Michigan State’s renowned turfgrass management program and during that time, he helped prepare Oakland Hills Country Club in suburban Detroit for the 1996 U.S. Open. That was his introduction to the USGA.
He later interned with the Pebble Beach Company before moving on to other courses in California, including Twelve Bridges.
Since coming to Martis Camp, he’s prepared the course for two major golf events: the 2011 Pacific Coast Amateur and this year’s Junior Amateur. Last year, his assistant Clint Luedtke spent time at The Olympic Club during the U.S. Open to gain valuable insights on course setup.
Since the championship was awarded to Martis Camp, Bower has worked closely with USGA Green Section agronomist Brian Whitlark, gathering data on green firmness.
But even the best-laid plans can be sidetracked by Mother Nature. Temperatures reached the mid-90s earlier this week, which were near-records for the area. To get the desired firmness for championship play, Brower’s team only hand-watered greens and fairways.
The result was a golf course that virtually everyone – from players, USGA volunteers, spectators and officials – raved about.
Bower, who has a staff of 30 to maintain all of the grounds that also include 21 miles of hiking trails, wouldn’t divulge his daily routine. When the winter comes, that’s when he’ll take more time off to spend time with his family, which includes three boys (6-year-old twins and a 9-year-old boy). But even when the golf-year ends, Bower’s team grooms trails for cross-country skiing, sledding and snow-shoeing.
Said Bower: “We work enough hours to get the job done.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.