Powering Up a PGA Tournament

Keeping spectators cool and food hot in the middle of a golf course is no small undertaking. 

The 17th hole at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass (TPC Sawgrass) in Florida has a reputation for being one of the toughest par-3 holes on the PGA Tour.1 The green is surrounded on three sides by water. When the PLAYERS Championship tournament is held at the course, corporations set up hospitality spaces in tents erected for the occasion so their guests can enjoy a good view of the golfers’ balls sailing over the water or splashing into it. 

Those spectators, focused on the game or the food and drinks at their disposal, probably never think about what it takes to provide that cool, lighted tent space or power the caterers’ stoves. But getting all the power and cooling equipment, cabling and systems installed and running is a huge undertaking that begins months before the first golfer tees off. 

“For a project like this, we come in at the start to help customers design the project,” said Trent Romero, regional product development manager for United Rentals. “We ask them about the power needs they’ll have, the temperature needs — heating or cooling — and the number of temporary structures that they will have that need power or temperature control.”  

After the initial plan is approved, United Rentals holds several planning meetings with the clients and with other companies that will be involved in the event: catering companies, tent companies, interior design and TV providers, for example. “That way we know where all the structures are going to be, where all the power drops are going to be needed, how much temperature control equipment we’ll need. We know before we go on the jobsite where everything is going to land,” said Romero. 

For the 2018 PLAYERS Championship, held in May at TPC Sawgrass, United Rentals supplied more than 150 air conditioners — 62 just for that 17th hole. They also provided air handlers and electric cabling and distribution systems to run power to the tents for lighting, stoves, hot plates and warmers, cash registers and phone charging stations. United Rentals’ distribution systems ensured that video boards and scoreboards throughout the golf course would have the power they needed. The company also provided light towers for security stations and parking lots. 

Keep off the greens! 

United Rentals began moving equipment onto the golf course five weeks before the PLAYERS tournament began. 

“There were double-decker tents on the 17th hole, so we had to use a telescopic boom to get 4,000-pound air conditioners 25 to 30 feet in the air to the top of the structures,” said Romero. 

While bringing in such heavy equipment could be challenging on any site, it’s a special concern on a golf course. 

“You can’t tear up the grass on a golf course; if you do, you’ll get kicked off the job,” said Romero. “So we are very careful with that. Our forklifts have turf tires on them, which are a lot easier on the grass because they don’t dig into the ground as much as a regular tires. We also lay mats down all over the ground to serve as another buffer. Basically, we build our own roads; that way, we don’t sink into the ground and we don’t make ruts.”  

Keeping the grass unharmed can be particularly challenging when it’s raining. “The last thing you want to do is to go in when it’s too wet; even though you lay the mats down, you can roll the forklift and create a rut, and that’s not a good thing.” 

During all phases of the PLAYERS project, United Rentals had a team of technicians working to ensure that everything went smoothly. That’s standard practice. “We deliver all the equipment to the jobsite, and once we get there we don’t let anyone else install, handle or operate it. We do it from start to finish so that the customer is able to do what they need to do. They don’t have to worry about anything power- or temperature-wise,” said Romero. 

“We deliver all the equipment to the jobsite, and once we get there we don’t let anyone else install, handle or operate it. We do it from start to finish so that the customer is able to do what they need to do. They don’t have to worry about anything power or temperature-wise."

Trent Romero, United Rentals Regional Project Development Manager

Once the tournament was over, it took about two weeks to disassemble and remove all the equipment. Some of it was immediately sent to other golf courses that were hosting PGA tournaments. (United Rentals has been under contract with the PGA since 2015 to supply the power, cooling and lighting needs for its events.) 

“One thing our golf customers like is that once we’re on a jobsite, we’re there from start to finish, and they can rent anything that they need from us,” said Romero. “We respond very quickly to their needs. If something goes wrong, they can come to us and we can resolve the problem right there and then.” 

Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years. 

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