Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rethinking Renovation: Modified sand-profile greens are a cost-efficient solution

Here’s another reason 21st century golf course renovation is so damned expensive:

I hope you realize those push-up greens everyone wants to replace with USGA-specified models have, in many cases, lasted 60, 70 or 80 years. That’s pretty good value. Now, I would never recommend building old-fashioned push-up greens because native soils, especially here in the Midwest, are too clay heavy.

But we are proponents of the modified sand-profile green we just rebuilt at Butte des Morts Country Club in Appleton, Wis. We salvaged the existing sod and the layer of top-dressing that had accumulated on the green and replaced it after the green was reshaped. It was supplemented with a slit-drainage system, along with a 7:2:1 mix, so we ended up with about 8” of sandy material on top. The sub-soil was native, so “push-up” in nature. If we can re-use the existing top-dressing layer and eliminate the gravel layer in the green, we can reduce costs — perhaps by as much as 25 percent over the course of 18 green renovations.

Is there a reason you wouldn’t want to build something similar, with the same efficiency, if you thought your course or club might get 50-75 years out of it? You tell me.
Photos courtesy of Butte des Morts Country Club

Why do renovated bunkers cost so much?

Why has course renovation outpaced the rate of inflation?

Here’s one reason: Bunker construction. All these great liner products — and most of them are great products, because they do exactly what they claim to do — have significantly driven up the cost of rebuilding bunkers. So have the choices in sand type – some costing upwards of $100 per ton delivered. In the old days, supers largely rebuilt bunkers on their own, using local materials. When an architect was brought in, it was usually to make a strategic design change, but it was fairly straightforward and cost-efficient.

Yes, these state-of-the-art liners keep sand on the bunker face and free from migrating dirt, like gangbusters… That white sand is eye-catching, especially when it reflects the sun’s glare!

But is that worth the money? Does that flashed, white sand face affect course strategy? Is that eye candy worth a 90% increase in bunker costs? Does a pristine sand surface really meet the requirements of something that’s supposed to be a hazard?