From the links to the greens: Green Meadow’s greens renovation just waiting on grass to grow
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (email@example.com)
Jeff Curtis looked out his office window at the heat waves on the Green Meadow Country Club parking lot Wednesday and smiled.
The club’s general manager wasn’t gloating over his air conditioning but rather enjoying the sight of the sprinklers coming on and another set of newly planted Bermuda sprigs digging their roots a little deeper, growing a little taller and turning a little greener.
“Right now we’re watering them for five minutes every hour on every green all day long. You have to keep them wet right now. Once they get established we won’t have to do it at all,” Curtis explained much like a nervous mother giving baby-sitting instructions. “Everyone’s talking about the heat, but I may have been the only guy in town besides Brad Fox, our superintendent, that was happy as could be at the forecast for 90 every day. The hotter the better for watching the Bermuda grow.”
It’s been two years since the state of the greens at GMCC began a discussion on how best to rebuild the greens. An older variety of Bent grass wasn’t fairing well in Tennessee’s summer heat and the state of the back nine was growing steadily worse. But a funny thing was just starting to take root at the courses holding PGA events and especially those in the same general neck of the woods. The Ultradwarf Bermudas were finding new homes from East lake in Atlanta to the TPC at Southwind in Memphis and getting rave reviews.
“This is something that has really been in the works for about two years,” Curtis told The Daily Times. “When we looked at the conversion, if we’d gone with a new Bent grass we’d be down for a whole year and spend over a million dollars. This way we didn’t spend near that. Some courses are putting this in by killing the top layer and taking just the actual grass off and then sprigging the Bermuda. We couldn’t do that because the back nine was so old. We actually cored them out six inches, put new drains in them, put new sand fill in and sprigged them. The front nine we took off the top layer and we repositioned some of the fill.”
Getting all the parties to buy in to the Bermuda though took some time and research and lots of explanation.
“The mentality I think most people here have when they hear Bermuda greens is going to Myrtle Beach 20 years ago and those slow bumpy Bermuda greens they had then,” Curtis said. “ When I first came here six years ago, if you’d told me I’d be sitting in this chair and being the biggest promoter of Bermuda greens ever, I’d have called you crazy. I thought I hated them. But after going to some places that have put this Ultradwarf in and the putting surfaces they have, it’s awesome. You hit a putt on line and its going in.”
GMCC decided between the three varieties of Ultradwarf to go with the Mini Verde and not the more predominant Championship variety. Either way the plus side of the conversion was going to be lower maintenance costs and a better green on the greens during the year.
“What it really does, it eliminates being out there every night in the summertime with a water hose trying to keep the greens cooled down so they don’t burn up,” Curtis said. “The Bermuda will thrive in the heat. You won’t see guys out there with water hoses at 3 or 4 in the afternoon anymore. You don’t have ball mark problems and you can get them as fast as you want to get them.
“If we had a tournament last year and mowed the greens down to make them that fast we might not have any greens two or three days after that. They would have burned up.”
The conversion means less chemicals trying to keep the greens in shape. It also means less watering. Conversely, Green Meadows had to get in some new equipment to care for the new greens when they are ready. A new mower to cut the greens vertically and prevent the grain from becoming pronounced was in order.
“The mower we have now hasn’t even been used yet. It has brushes on it to help brush the grass,” Curtis explained. “The big thing is that it grows so grainy that you have to keep the grain out of it. If it gets that way and you’re putting with the grain its like lightning and if you putt against it, it just wont get there.”
The Mini Verde also needed covers for the greens that can protect the new grass from the cold.
“When you get into the fall you have to be a little more careful to raise your blade height as the growing season ends. I’ve heard of them getting cut to low and just be very, very fast over the winter because they aren’t growing at that point,” Curtis said. “We’ve already invested in green covers. If it gets below 20 (degrees) and its going to stay that way overnight ,then you have to cover them. I’ve had some people say it saves money and some that its more expensive but in the long run for us, it’s a little less expensive. You spend less in chemicals and more on sand. We’ll top dress them every Monday and we’ll vert cut them to keep the grain out of them and by late Monday or Tuesday morning you won’t even be able to tell.”
One of the big benefits will be the ability to control the green infestations better. The Bent grass had a growing poa annua problem. Because of their similarity, killing the poa also meant killing the grass itself. The Bermuda is resistant and allows the grounds crews to take care of poa with a simple treatment should it return.
Ready to reopen
Curtis knows the club’s members are anxious to play again on their home course. Since may 13, when the course closed the greens for temporary greens, many of the members have been using the reciprocal agreements to play other places. A few daily die hards have been out using the temporary greens but most have left Course Crafters and Master Turf’s crews to do their jobs.
While the greens could possibly be ready a little sooner from a sustainability perspective, Curtis is looking for the first experience on them to be a good one when the members play their first round.
“We saw River Islands last year when they reopened after six weeks and I was like I don’t want us to reopen and have it look like this. When I went back three weeks later it looked really good. You can really tell the difference of waiting that extra time,” Curtis said of GMCC’s schedule to do eight weeks. “To me I don’t want our members to go out there and it not be grown fully in and have them thinking we waited all summer and this was all we got. It gets better and better. By the time its eight weeks in it looks really good.
“At this point we’ve sprigged the greens and we’re just waiting on the Bermuda to grow in. Our target date is we’re looking to be open the Friday of Labor Day weekend.”
It turned out to be a good plan. The sprigs went in just in time for the weekend the area got eight inches of rain. The growing time lost a few days under perpetual cloudy skies and GMCC had to have a few spots redone due to washouts. The club is confident right now that things are still on schedule but also keeping in mind that the first players will be the members who have waited patiently.
“We will do something for the public as an open house but not that first week we’re open. That’s for the members who have watched this go on all summer,” Curtis said. “One thing we will do is that we get into opening time we’ll have some membership promotions. We’re going to do one where we’ll waive the initiation fee from right after we open until early October and after that it’ll go away. If people start thinking about joining once they see the new greens the best time to act will be on the front end.”
Just because the tournaments haven’t been going on hasn’t made the summer a care free ride for Curtis and the staff. The project has been all consuming for Fox and the fretting and weather watching has kept everyone on edge.
“For my side its probably been more stressful because you’re worried about everything that goes with the project. Is the construction company going to get done in time for the sprigs? It ended up like two days in between. You worry about rain, a lot,” Curtis said. “The big thing for us is that we’re going to have a better product in our course. The first thing people talk about on a course is its greens and that what you’re know for.”
The club did have to remove several trees from around the greens to maximize the sun exposure for the ray happy Bermuda. Even in that instance though, there was a silver lining.
“One of the guys pointed out to us, ‘How many times have you ever heard somebody walk off a golf course and say Wow, they really had nice trees?” Curtis recalled Wednesday. “If you have good greens, then that’s what everyone says about you.”