Andrzej Strzepek, now the equipment manager at Belmont Country Club in Massachusetts, uses his "turf painting" skills to depict the club's logo on the golf course.Photos by Andrzej Strzepek.
When the equipment manager position at Belmont (Mass.) Country Club came open earlier this year, superintendent Mike Rose had just one reservation in offering it to then-second assistant Andrzej Strzepek.
“When I got the new job,” Strzepek recalls, “my boss asked, ‘Will you still do the logo?’”
The logo in question is a 60-plus-foot turf turtle seemingly etched into the rough short of the fairway on Belmont CC’s No. 1 hole, an eye-catching, way-larger-than-life recreation of the club’s turtle logo that every year since 2017 (except
for 2020 for pandemic reasons) Strzepek has recreated for Belmont’s member-guest tournament.
Strzepek’s response to Rose’s question? An emphatic affirmative, much to Rose’s relief.
“The members love it,” says Rose, a 28-year GCSAA member. “They go absolutely nuts over it. They see those other places on TV. The see them at Red Sox games. To have something like it here, they get really excited.”
It’s no coincidence that Rose calls out the Red Sox. That’s where Strzepek, a 10-year GCSAA member who has worked at Belmont “off and on” for 13 years, learned to “paint” grass.
Strzepek worked on the Red Sox grounds crew under David Mellor, the Red Sox senior director of grounds, 2010-2013. Mellor — who for five years was an affiliate member of GCSAA — created a “B STRONG” logo on Fenway Park’s
center field turf for the 2013 postseason. That logo, with a Red Sox-stylized “B,” was a riff on the “Boston Strong” slogan that sprung up in the wake of the bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Mellor also created a tribute to retiring slugger David Ortiz with a massive portrait of “Big Papi” in the turf at Fenway in 2016.
“Dave Mellor was my inspiration,” Strzepek says. “That’s where I learned to do it, when I was there with Dave Mellor mentoring me. I wanted to incorporate it into the golf course when I got here.”
The Belmont crew lays out a stencil on the rough and marks the outline with flags to start the process.
Interestingly, Strzepek has more leeway in creating his turf art than Mellor. At Belmont CC, few golfers should be striding atop the turf turtle unless they’ve had a tee shot go astray (or, more accurately, come up short). In Mellor’s case,
every ball put in play could result in a player running across the mural, and because it’s created with jets of water, Mellor must take care not to send any players tumbling.
“He has to do it a little differently because it’s on the playing surface,” Strzepek says. “He has to pay more attention to how he does it.”
The process, Strzepek says, is relatively simple and requires equipment well within the reach of any golf course maintenance team. The only specialized tool is a massive tarp stencil that the club had custom-made.
First, the Belmont CC crew mows this specific rough in one direction (surrounding areas show obvious striping) to get the grass to lie in one direction. Strzepek says the best result has come when mowing away from the teebox to create a “blank canvas.”
The stencil, roughly 60 feet tall, is then rolled out over the turf, and Strzepek, with help, then places flags where there are holes in the stencil. When the stencil is removed, the flags remain, showing Strzepek where to “paint.”
The paint in question, however, is just water, shot from a 1-inch hose with a syringing nozzle on “fan” mode. The water pressure causes the turf blades to stand up in contrast to those lying down from the mowing.
Voilà. A turf turtle is born.
After marking the stencil outline, Strzepek uses a hose to create the turf turtle.
“It’s just super easy,” Strzepek says. “It’s like striping fairways, but instead of a roller, you’re manipulating the grass with water.”
Strzepek says the effect starts to fade within a couple of days and could last up to a week, though the timeline is accelerated if it’s hit with heavy rains. It’s gone completely after the next mow.
Strzepek’s first attempt at the turf art, in 2017, was a recreation of the course’s text-only BCC logo. The version with the turtle and “1918” (a nod the Donald Ross design’s storied history) first appeared in 2018. While
the logo, visible from the first tee and the 19th-hole dining patio, remains the same, Strzepek changes the border annually.
He says he’s become faster at creating it every year and estimates it now takes four to six hours, with help from a handful of staff members during the stencil-flagging phase.
“Andrzej loves it, and it comes out great, which totally reflects on him, as it should,” Rose says. “He does have four or five guys help him, and it’s always right in the middle of a sunny afternoon, standing on a white cover,
which is absolutely blinding. They definitely break his chops about that: ‘Let’s get this done right now.’”
Strzepek has become so efficient at it, he even filmed himself doing it. Using a drone set to hover and in time-lapse mode, Strzepek captured the process in a series of short start-to-finish videos.
“That’s just his nature,” Rose says. “He loves gadgets and technology. That’s one of the things I thought when I realized he might do well as equipment manager. If something stumps him, he’s the first one to go look
on YouTube and figure it out.”
Andrew Hartsock is GCM’s senior managing editor.