Thursday, November 15, 2012

The week of Veterans Day seems an appropriate time to share with you the work Golf Creations recently completed at Silver Sage Golf Course, the 18-hole facility located at Mountain Home Air Force Base, 10 miles outside the town of Mountain Home, in the very southwestern corner of Idaho.

This summer Golf Creations put the finishing touches on a dual-phase, green- and bunker-renovation here. Reached on Nov. 13, in the middle of blowing out his irrigation system for the winter, course manager/superintendent Stephen Vedder reported that he, service golfers, local players and the Idaho Golf Association (IGA) couldn’t be happier.

"We had the IGA ratings team out here this summer and they told us we had some of the best greens in the state, in terms of speed and undulation," Vedder said. "And I can report that they are so much easier to maintain."

Bob Baldock originally designed Silver Sage GC back in 1953. Vedder explained that the old Penncross greens were small, lacked contour and couldn’t be coaxed to roll faster than 8.5 on the Stimp. They were prone to dry spots and burnouts in the summer heat. They were built push-up style using native high-desert soil, a dusty loam that locals refer to as "moon dust" — not the sort of nutrient-rich soil you want for a root-zone mix. Vedder had to aerify them four times a year just to keep them alive.

In the late 1990s, an assessment was made of all Air Force-owned courses to prioritize those in need of renovation. Silver Sage was no. 18 on the list — the old greens just barely made it.

Golf Creation tackled Phase I in 2011, working from a design provided by Texas-based architect Tripp Davis. Construction crews arrived at Mountain Home AFB in late April, seeded nine greens with Dominant Extreme bentgrass on June 11, and golfers were playing them Aug. 22.

The greens were all rebuilt to USGA specifications (meaning they imported the root-zone mix — no moon dust). The bunkers were all rebuilt with modern drainage capabilities and liners, enabling a uniform sand cover of 4 inches.

Phase II went just as smoothly. Golf Creations showed up in March, tackled the remaining bunkers, seeded the second nine greens by late April, and they were playable on June 11. The entire price tag for both phases: $1.2 million.

"I’m amazed by how fast they came in but also the uniformity and speed of the new surfaces," Vedder said. "But the roots are what everyone is amazed by. When we opened the Phase II greens, the roots extended down below cup depth. We had roots in excess of 12 inches when they’re being maintained at 1/10th of an inch.

"The Golf Creations crews did an outstanding job, everyone from the shapers, to Bob Lohmann himself, to the laborers who staked out the gravel bases and did all the contouring. They never hesitated to make slight design changes on site, noticing where drainage might no work so well and moving a bunker basin over 5 feet. They fit in and worked very well with my crews, too.

"Bob was out here several times. At the end of Phase I, he went over the best ways to grow-in these new greens, in terms of water usage and fertilizer plans. He went over everything with a fine-tooth comb and told me to call him if we ever needed anything, and a couple times I did. He’s been a great resource."

Friday, November 2, 2012

7 Inches of Rain from Sandy and Almost No Cleanup?
After 7 inches of rain from Hurricane Sandy, the renovated bunkers at Laurel Hill still looked great!

Before installing Better Billy Bunker, Laurel Hill's
bunkers looked like this after just a few inches of rain.
It’s clear from watching the national news that the effects of Hurricane Sandy, especially in the Mid-Atlantic region, continue to be felt by millions whose homes have been damaged and/or, even at this writing, remain without power. Our hearts go out to them.

In the same spirit, we send the best possible karma to all the
course owners and superintendents, many of whom experienced their first uptick this year in terms of rounds and revenues after several in the doldrums. Dealing with Sandy’s aftermath will surely not result in the sort of November they were anticipating, in terms of rounds, revenues, or especially expenses.

With all that said, we do want to provide a Sandy-related update from Rick Owens, the head superintendent at Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton, Va. We blogged in mid-September about Golf Creations' Better Billy Bunker reconstruction project completed there this summer, in anticipation of next summer’s U.S. Amateur Publinx at Laurel Hill. Read all about that here.

As follow-up, we feel obliged to report, via Rick, that while Sandy dumped 7 inches of rain on the course earlier this week, the crews at Laurel Hill completed their normal raking maintenance, and then spent a total of 1 extra man-hour cleaning up washed sand in the bunkers. There were just a few rivulets to be smoothed out, with a leaf rake.

A single hour of clean up on 120 bunkers, after 7 inches of rain? That’s pretty incredible. It frankly says a lot for the Better Billy Bunker reconstruction method, which Golf Creations, LGD’s course-construction division, is fully certified to administer. FYI, The bunkers at Laurel Hill aren’t just numerous, they're high-flashed — exactly the kind that suffers most during major rain events.

The Better Billy Bunker method has gained a lot of traction lately, and one of its major claims is a reduction in man-hours related to post-storm maintenance. Sandy and Laurel Hills are proof that claim is well founded.