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June 18, 2012
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Let It Roll
Merion Golf Club’s Matt Shaffer got what he wanted — a fairway roller to control dollar spot on his club’s fairways and to improve playability


The Olympic Club’s Gerardo Garcia operated the Tranz-Former during the U.S. Open.
The Olympic Club’s Gerardo Garcia operated the Tranz-Former during the U.S. Open. (Photo by: Larry Aylward)

By Larry Aylward,
Editorial Director


SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Shaffer is a thinking man’s golf course superintendent — always looking for ways to do his job better. So it’s no surprise that Shaffer, the director of golf course operations at Merion Golf Club near Philadelphia, contacted Sal Rizzo, the founder and CEO of Salsco Inc., about building him a fairway roller. Rizzo has built and sold greens rollers for years, but a fairway roller was something different. But Shaffer, whose club will host the U.S. Open in 2013, had a feeling that Rizzo would be interested in his request.

“He’s innovative and imaginative,” Shaffer says. “He also likes to be challenged.”

About 10 months later, Rizzo unveiled the Tranz-Former Fairway/Greens Roller. The sleek-looking machine was used on fairways at the Olympic Club’s Lake Course during the U.S. Open.

The Tranz-Former is self-propelled and has a transport speed of about 11 mph. The transport wheels raise to place rolls into position for rolling. Rolling width is 10 feet.

“Each roll is independent of the entire machine,” Rizzo explains. “That allows each roll to float over the surface and follow the undulations without changing. This roller is not designed to make anything flat; it’s designed to smooth the surface.” Read more


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The Olympic Club’s Gerardo Garcia, who has worked at the club as a greenskeeper for 25 years, operated the Tranz-Former during the U.S. Open. Garcia said the roller is easy to operate and is one of the coolest pieces of equipment he has seen in his career. It works fast, too. Garcia rolled 12 of the Lake Course’s fairways in two hours.

Shaffer has been rolling fairways for years to rid them of dollar spot, but it was time consuming to roll big fairways with small greens rollers. At Merion, the fairways have always had an “antagonistic” dollar spot problem, Shaffer says. But when the fairways were rolled and dew was removed, the dollar spot never showed.

The Merion staff built a five-gang roller and towed it on the fairways behind a tractor. It worked, but operating it was difficult, especially when turning. That’s when Shaffer began contacting companies to see if they might be interested in building a fairway roller.

“Most of them said they didn’t see the value in it,” Shaffer adds.

But Rizzo was intrigued with Shaffer’s idea and went to work on it. Merion’s head technician, Robert Smith provided his technical savvy.

When Shaffer and Smith saw the finished product, they were impressed with Rizzo’s engineering.

“It’s just fantastic,” Shaffer says.

Rizzo says few superintendents currently roll their courses’ fairways but that could change. It could catch on with clubs at all levels once superintendents discover its benefits, including a reduction in mowing.

“Superintendents can mow fairways one day and roll them the next day,” Rizzo says.

Merion owns two Tranz-Formers.

“We use them on weekends instead of mowing because we get so much play,” Shaffer says.

In two weeks, the rollers have improved playability on the fairways, Shaffer says.

“I don’t think we fully understand what rolling does for turf,” Shaffer says. “But there are all sorts of benefits.”


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“One of my thoughts on the back nine was,
‘I don't know how Tiger has won 14 of these things,’
because the pressure — I couldn't feel my legs most of the back nine.”

— Webb Simpson, on the pressure of winning the 2012 U.S. Open.
He shot a pair of 68s on the final two days.

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