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.
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.