Course Renovation 2014: Why?

Dear Member,

Since a number of comments have come up recently on the wonderful condition of the golf course, and the question as to whether we need to renovate it or not is debated, I thought I would repost a blog I originally posted on April 26, 2011. It spelled out reasoning for completing a renovation and may help provide some answers.
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When a Community such as Spring Run needs to make a major capital expenditure, such as renovating its golf course, the Club allocates monies into the reserve fund to accomplish this goal. This makes it possible to slowly accumulate the needed capital without any large assessment to the membership. Perhaps you didn’t know that this project is already mostly funded!

So why does the Club need to redo the golf course? It is in great condition, right? It looks beautiful, especially when it warms up. It plays very nicely and is well conditioned. Why spend the money and disrupt activity on the course? The purpose of this article is to begin to answer some of these questions for you.

46,000 rounds of golf are played annually on our course. With this much play, we deal with significant compaction of the soil under the turf, creating a number of maintenance considerations. First, there is the problem of the soil under the grass being compressed and restricting the flow of water through the greens, limiting oxygen to the roots. Further compounding this problem is a buildup of organic matter that accumulates just below the surface.  This build up also keeps water from percolating. The result is that the top of the grass stays wet, and algae grows on the surface.  The soil becomes anaerobic and the roots are prevented from transferring oxygen to the plant.

The last renovation was completed in 2005. That renovation focused mainly on replacing the top 4” layer of turf and soil with fresh soil and Tif-Eagle, a “super dwarf” grass that stays thick and allows for a very low cut, and thus faster greens. Tif-Eagle has done well at Spring Run over the past 7 years, and is a solid performing grass under the right conditions. It probably would have lasted considerably longer had the greens been renovated to USGA recommended standard depth of 12”. But as trees around the greens grow larger, they affect Tif-Eagle negatively, as it doesn’t do well in shade. Likewise, it is susceptible to cold. Even the shadows that the palm trees throw (especially now on #13 green) are causing the turf to thin. Add to this these major percolation problems, and there is good reason to rebuild.

At the same time that a greens renovation was added to the reserves (back in 2005), money was also allocated to redo the tees and cart paths. And as we have seen deterioration of the sand traps, observed the inefficient watering of the course, recognized the need to update irrigation controllers from hydraulic to electric, and watched the fairways ability to stay green as more areas mutated from 419 to common Bermuda, we have more money to the reserves to cover the cost of keeping our course our number one asset.

By 2014, the current version of the renovation will be fully funded, and the annual reserve assessment will not have increased significantly. Keep in mind that the reserve portion of the assessment is taking care of this project, and the overall assessment (that includes Operations, New Capital, and Minimum) has remained around a 4% increase per year.

This current version of the renovation covers the crucial areas that need to be addressed. However, there are a number of other options that can and should be added in order to really take our course to the next level. Interestingly, I have caught wind of a bit of misinformation that continues to circulate around the club that I feel is important to address with all of you.  It seems as some people feel that this renovation is being done to make the course actually harder (or more challenging). Allow me several moments to show you why this is an incorrect conclusion:

  • The golf course is our number one asset (a known concept but a theme that wove its way through the Focus Group comments) and needs to be proactively maintained.
  • The irrigation system is the most integral component used to maintain a course, and water is a precious resource. Only a portion of the pipes and heads will be replaced to provide more effective distribution, but all the controllers would be converted. The current system dates back to 1998.
  • When a golf course is renovated, it is done as a process, not in individual pieces. For instance, the entire golf course will be sprayed out and then “stripped” of all turf. Once the turf is gone, the entire course is “shaped”. The spraying, stripping and shaping are done at a cost per acre, not an individual price “to move a tee” or “to elevate a green”. The bulldozer is there to move dirt for one price, not to meter how much dirt is moved and where it is moved to.
  • Over 95%  of golfers at Spring Run have double digit handicaps, and in order for us to put out 46,000 rounds of golf per year, we must keep the time it takes to play a round short. The shorter the better, as I am sure you would all agree.
  • We can eliminate some traps that slow up play and create maintenance expenses on 60-70% of greens.
  • We can “soften” the greens to eliminate harsh contour issues. Smoothing out some greens will allow for faster play.
  • The renovations planned will benefit all golfers at Spring Run by enhancing their enjoyment of the course. In addition, it will improve the overall aesthetic beauty of the course and help us to be better environmental stewards.
  • Once this is done, we will be able to stretch the next renovation out well beyond 10 years. We could probably wait 15+ years once the greens have been rebuilt and irrigation improved.

One of the Goals of the Greens Committee this year is to gather member input on their golfing experiences and better inform the membership of the logistics involved in the renovation, including, selection of grasses, renovation or removal of bunkers, ways to speed up play, improving water efficiency, and general beautification of the course.

It is true that we are considering moving some of the rear tees back farther, and/or changing the trajectory for those tees into a slightly more challenging position. However, those improvements are aimed at the Spring Run golfers who would play from those tees and for whom, these enhancements would create more satisfaction and enjoyment. These changes do not cost extra. Remember, the bulldozer is shaping dirt per acre of golf course. It doesn’t matter where it shapes it.

The vast majority of the renovation focuses on maintenance needs and improving aesthetics, something all golfers and residents can appreciate. This is where the committee, and you the member, will be crucial to the project. This is your club and your golf course. If you feel that we could improve the aesthetic look of the course by adding landscaping, walls, water features, or bridges (which I was amazed at the relatively inexpensive cost to do so), please provide your feedback. If you will be around this summer, take the opportunity to visit a few courses on the reciprocal list such as Estero Country Club, a place that did a wonderful job of using wooden timber bulkheads around green complexes and adding bridges to really enhance the  character of the course.  We have a wonderful golf course, but it will need to be rebuilt to keep it wonderful in the future. And once the course is stripped, why not take this golden opportunity to add some enhancements that will be enjoyed for years to come?

Prior to any plans being drawn up, the original Golf Course Architect, Gordon Lewis, will be available to play golf with various members to get your direct comments on the current course design as well as things you would like to see in the renovation. Some of these foursomes will be made up of association members representing ALL golf associations, while other times, he might pull up to your group and play a hole or two!

I welcome any of your feedback and will respond with future blogs to address your comments. Responses generated on the blog will be recapped and shared before any phases reach the final stages.

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4 thoughts on “Course Renovation 2014: Why?

  1. John Gaughan

    I am surprised that some members think the course may be more difficult to play after the renovations. From all that I have heard, it sounds like the course will actually be easier to play, and that’s what concerns me. The course already is an easy course to play. Of all the courses in the Brooks, ours is the easiest by far. The current course rating and slope rating are artificially inflated. The original ratings were much more accurate.

    When I came to Spring Run some 13 years ago, the course was relatively easy but fun to play. Then during the renovation in 2005, the course was made easier by softening some of the slopes on several of the greens to make them easier to putt. Now we are going to make the course still easier by again softening greens in the name of speeding up play.

    One of my concerns is that we might make the course so easy that we will not appeal to the younger clientele and better golfers. I realize that we are all getting older and we don’t play as well as we used to. But making the course easier is not the solution. Moving to the forward tees is the solution. Keep the course so that players of all levels can play it and enjoy it. Golf is meant to be challenging. That’s what makes it such a great game. There is no reason that ANYONE can’t play Spring Run in 4 hours or less if they pay attention to the game and are ready to hit when it is their turn. Ready golf should be the standard of play.

    I submit these comments not meaning to be critical, but merely expressing my opinion as to the direction we should be taking during the renovation.

  2. Tom Willoughby

    Hole 17 is our signature (it is pictured on the scorecard) hole and the renovation should include a vivid backdrop of colorful flowers/vegetation on the small hill behind the green. The current landscape does not do that. When looking from the tee this area should stand out boldly, ala “amen corner” style. Also the bunkers on ALL holes should be filled with a sufficient amount and
    a much higher quality of sand to facilitate proper bunker play. Thank U for your consideration.

  3. John Kenyan

    Well said, John. In order to keep the values up, we have to appeal to the next generation of golfers who will be buying here. This means keeping the course challenging and interesting.

    If speeding up play is as important to management as they say, (and it should be), they would have the rangers enforce the time limits on each group. This has never been my experience in the 7 years I have been playing here.

    The only ranger who has ever kept the pace of play timely is Ed.

  4. Don Peters

    It would be beneficial to move the cart paths away from the buildings as much as possible to reduce the noise and improve privacy. There have been a number of impressive and inexpensive landscaping improvements made by the grounds Superintendent at Highland Woods. It would be useful for our committee &/or GM to tour Highland Woods with their GM or Superintendent to view those improvements to their course. They are in our neighborhood and a packaged community so they are a direct competitor that buyers will consider. Thanks for your consideration.

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