Robert Gluck had good training before he became Mesa Verde Country Club's superintendent about seven months ago.
The 30-year-old Costa Mesa resident groomed his skills at Riviera Country Club, host of two PGA Championships and one U.S. Open. Gluck moved to California five years ago from his native New Jersey, intent on being outside year round.
He worked his way through the ranks to assistant superintendent at Riviera, where he was the "eyes and ears" for his supervisor, Matt Morton, charting around the poa annua greens and kikuyu rough and fairways. When the Mesa Verde job opened up, he and Morton spoke about the opportunity and Gluck decided to take it — his first head superintendent position.
"We both felt I was ready to take [the Mesa Verde job] on," said Gluck, who oversees a 25-person crew. "Sometimes you don't get a choice of where you want to go. Thankfully, this is a very good job out here."
Gluck arrives about 5:30 most mornings and works holidays. He said there's more to the job than cutting grass and going home.
Most of his time consists of scheduling. Then there's fertilizer applications and sending out turf samples to a lab to evaluate nutrition levels in the grass and soil.
We're entering one of the most challenging times for a superintendent — August and September. Gluck said there's a lot of play at this time and plants stress. Then there's a balance of working with kikuyu grass, which he said loves the heat, and poa annua, which prefers cooler weather.
His time at Riviera helped Gluck transition to Mesa Verde. Riviera has identical grasses in its fairways and greens as Mesa Verde.
He also learned some other lessons such as, "attention to detail and the drive to always get better."
Tom Sargent, Mesa Verde's head golf professional, noticed Gluck's focus.
"Gluck has also raised the level of detail …," Sargent said. "Many [people] have commented that it is the best they have ever seen [the course] in this spring and early summer."
Gluck's first golf job 11 years ago was mowing and watering grass at The Meadows, a public course in Middlesex County in New Jersey.
It started as a summer job, but Gluck realized he could make a living in the golf industry.
"I found it was really a unique game when I thought about it," Gluck said. "You can play on your own and rely on focus and strategy."
Gluck took a two-year turf science certificate program from Rutgers University.
His focus on this backside of summer is on "maintaining" the course from the rigors of many rounds, in addition to the heat.
Greens on the fourth and ninth holes, and the putting green at Mesa Verde were rebuilt because they were the original greens built when the course first opened in 1959, Sargent said in an e-mail. They were ripe for poor drainage, making them susceptible to disease.
Bunkering around greens on Nos. 4 and 9 was also altered and the greens are more aesthetically pleasing, Sargent said. The greens can be made easier and/or more challenging than the former putting surfaces, he said.
There are still five original greens. Sargent said those will be rebuilt. The other greens were rebuilt at different times during the last 25 to 30 years.
Architect Casey O'Callahan redesigned the fourth, ninth and putting greens.