Greens Renovation

by Steve Hughes PGA

One of the most exciting times at any golf course is a renovation. Members get excited about the changes, Superintendents get excited about “new stuff” and the Pro’s, generally we just enjoy everyone else’s excitement. To us it means no play on that course, no revenue, limited availability of tee times and of course, members or guests crowded into a much smaller space.

But, we are also very interested in what is happening and why, because our guests are continuously asking questions. So I wanted to let you in on what we, PGA professionals, are interested in when our course goes “under the knife”.

In May of 2008 we went under the knife, a complete greens and bunker renovation. What did it entail and why? How long did it take? What could we expect? The construction company arrived with semi’s full of equipment, bulldozers, back hoes, tractors, dump trucks, front end loaders. What else could they need? It is just a patch of grass, albeit a special kind of grass. Here is what happened and why.

First all of the grass was removed, and the subsoil, down about 18 – 24 inches. Nothing remained. Then they removed gravel and finally the entire drainage system underneath. Why, because the drainage was clogged and not working, and of course, you cannot leave any of the old grass roots hanging around to re-infest the new surface. Thousands of yards of grass, soil and gravel was removed. If you didn’t have proper drainage the soil would become too wet and kill the grass or attract mold, fungus and other diseases.

Then the rebuilding process is started. Drainage is laid in accordance with the architects design to remove excess water. Then it is covered with large gravel to allow the water to flow into the drains. Then smaller gravel to do the same but also to prevent the sand/soil mix from getting into the drains and clogging them. Finally, the sand/soil mix, usually about 12 – 18 inches in depth. It is painstakingly moved and shaped to give the green its contours, landing areas, and pin locations, but also to allow it to drain. Finally, the surface is put into place, either by hydro-seeding or sod. “We pray for only light rains until it begins to grow roots capable of supporting it and keeping the seed in place.” Now the Superintendent is working the “grow in”, a difficult, trying time for them. Too much or not enough fertilizer at the wrong time and it can kill it.

Walking on it can destroy the shoots, mowing it too soon the same, too late has similar results.

Somewhere between 45 and 90 days from the seeding, a mini verde Bermuda grass has crept its way over the entire surface and it is ready for play. The entire process takes about 120 days if things go well. A celebration is in order.

So as a golf professional, I can tell my members, at any time, where we are in the process and what is next. The details remain with the experts, the superintendents, but then do you really care that the plant system is suffering from evapotranspiration as long as the playing surface is great? Probably not, as long as you are not the Superintendent.

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