Course Renovation 2014: Why?

Dear Member,

Since a number of comments have come up since the Town Hall Meeting on April 22, 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?

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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9 thoughts on “Course Renovation 2014: Why?

  1. Tom Willoughby

    When will we see if our concerns about individual hole changes- such as cart path relocation on 18- have been honored?

    We were told repeatedly in the past that the renovation was covered by our reserve funds. It was implied that it would be done without any assessment. Based on the presentation it

    is clear that there will be an assessment. I hope U understand that is why many residents are opposed to the project. My guess is we need another 1.5 million to do the job without any increases. How long will it take to accumulate that amount? If not too
    long can we defer the project until then?

    1. Mike Zigler

      According to Jim Rock, after meeting with some members about your concerns, the Architect relocated the path at the tee boxes and eliminated the current path that borders the residents along the fairway. He also indicated that Andy Ungar will respond to his association’s members once we have the updated design and costs.

      Regarding the reserves: To raise an additional million dollars in one year it would cost each member $1180. Over two years, $590, Over three years, $393, and so on. There are several other factors involved in reserve calculation, including when future projects are scheduled, interest rates, and future value factors. Probably the most important in terms of this project is the estimated 5% increase in construction and materials cost each year. So on a 3 million dollar project, that’s an added $150,000 per year. So you can do the math and extend it as far out as you want, depending on the acceptable increase in the annual assessment per member per year.

  2. I want to ask the same question as Mr. Willoughby. Can’t we wait until we have the full amount of money needed before moving forward? Most of the residents of Spring Run are semi or fully retired and may not be able to afford another assessment. I would hate to see people leave the community because of this action.

    1. Mike Zigler

      Mr. Rock indicated that it is premature to make any final statements or plans when we are still scrubbing the numbers. When that process is complete we would then prepare options to address the final numbers that will be presented to the Board. The Board has seen your concerns, and since they will be making the decision as to how to proceed, that is important.

  3. CHESTER DOBIS

    BEFORE A FINAL DECISION IS MADE ON THE FINAL PLAN, INCLUDING COST, WE SHOULD BE TOTALLY TRANSPARENT WITH INPUT FROM THE ENTIRE MEMBERSHIP NOT JUST THE PERMANENT RESIDENTS. I WOULD ALSO SUGGEST THAT IF YOU PLAN TO EXCEED THE RESERVE AMT. THAT A VOTE OF ALL MEMBERS BE TAKEN NOT LIKE THE DECISION ON THE CLUBHOUSE EXPANSION. I WOULD ALSO SUGGEST 1 VOTE PER DOOR WITH A MAJORITY RULE. I WOULD LIKE THIS AND ANY COMMENT TO BE READ ALOUD AT THE PLANNING COMMITTEE AS WELL, AND BE MADE A PART OF THE FORMAL MINUTES. I WOULD ALSO APPRECIATE A FORMAL RESPONSE. THANK YOU.

    CHET DOBIS
    HIDDEN LAKES II
    3103

    1. Mike Zigler

      Mr. Dobis,
      The Board has seen your comments. Certainly, any vote held in Spring Run must be held in accordance with our bylaws, most recently amended in 2006. All votes held since then have followed those procedures. The Greens Committee has been charged with developing a plan. They will take the best plan, work with the Finance Committee to determine the plan to fund it, and then present it to the Board. The Board then decides where to go with the project.
      Can you clarify what you mean by “being totally transparent with input from all residents”? We have encouraged extensive feedback from all members in Town Hall meetings, Board Meetings, emails, etc. You have just expressed your concerns on this blog, and the Board has seen that. And all input sent to me is forwarded to those involved in these decisions for their consideration. if you have other suggestions, please feel free to provide them to me.

  4. Hal Mendlowitz

    I agree that the course may be redone to continue to keep this as a premier course. However, making the greens easier will not benefit the better players. Our course is short and it is the greens that make it a challenging one. Keep up the good work.

  5. Brad and Dawn Nielsen

    We would like to provide input as it relates to the upcoming golf course renovation.

    We realize that the course renovation was slated for 2014 and if we had enough dollars in reserve to complete the renovation we would have no issue with it proceeding. Our concern is that if there are not enough dollars to complete the course renovation we will be faced with yet another “special assessment” added to our annual due or some other extended method to keep the special assessment cost down.

    We are one year into a 10 year special assessment of $350+ per year due to the club expansion. This club expansion was pushed through by the previous board. Even though members did provide feedback through many meetings, the membership was not allowed to “vote” as to whether to proceed with the expansion. Interesting enough, 2-3 years ago the membership was allowed to vote on a similar expansion and it was voted down.

    Following is what we would like to express to those that are making the decision on how to proceed with this renovation.

    1. If there is going to be a shortage of funds to complete the renovation allow the membership to vote on how to proceed. The committee has done a great job of bring this project to this point but the membership should be voting on whether or how to proceed.

    2. If there is going to be a shortage of funds to complete the renovation either:

    a. Eliminate some of the “changes” to the course that are adding dollars to the project.

    b. Hold off on making the renovation until there are sufficient funds in the reserves to pay for the project. Our course is in fantastic condition and pretty sure the course could last one maybe two more years.

    Many members we have talked to about this renovation seem frustrated that we may be proceeding with changes to our course that are not necessary and costly as well as potentially moving forward with a costly renovation we don’t have the funds for.

    As a final note we also have concerns as it relates to future projects being discussed (tennis court renovation requesting more funds than in reserves, walking paths and bocce court renovation on a court only 3-4 years old) that also will create a financial burden on the members.

    Thanks for allowing us to provide input on this important issue.

    Brad and Dawn Nielsen

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