Add another convert to the list.
High Point Country Club became the latest to switch from bentgrass greens to bermudagrass when its Willow Creek course reopened Oct. 6 after a project that took a little over three months.
Actually, the time frame isn’t totally accurate – it was actually a four-year process.
“We installed a test green of this grass (Champion Dwarf bermudagrass) four years ago at our maintenance facility,” said course superintendent David Johnson. “We had a good grasp of what the grass could do. The decision wasn’t made four years ago but the seed was planted four years ago.”
The Willow Creek conversion is similar to what at least five other country clubs in the area have done over the past two years. Much of the hoopla this summer about bermudagrass greens came from nearby Sedgefield Country Club. The private Greensboro course opened its new putting surfaces to rave reviews by none other than the players from the PGA Tour at the Wyndam Championship in mid-August.
A year ago, Starmount Country Club in Greensboro, Pinewood Country Club in Asheboro and Tuscarora Country Club in Danville also converted from bent to bermudagrass. The year before, it was Bermuda Run Country Club.
A public course, Holly Ridge Golf Links in Archdale, actually was the first to make the switch in 2009. Two other public courses – Wilshire in Winston-Salem and Occoneechee in Hillsborough opened new greens this summer. Greensboro National has announced plans to change its greens next summer.
The search for a more heat-resistant grass also includes zoyzia. Reynolds Park in Winston-Salem (this summer) and Pilot Knob Park in Pilot Mountain (last year) went that route.
“Our bentgrass was always in protection mode in June, July and August,” Johnson said. “They generally would get slower and stickier. The drawback is that those three months were when our members play the majority of their golf and their golf tournaments. These new surfaces should provide us with a very consistent grass for 10 to 11 months a year.”
The course opened on the first Saturday in October and more than 100 members took an 18-hole test run.
“There were no negative comments whatsoever,” said long-time member David Millis. “Everybody was so excited to get back home. This is the grass of the future and once they firm up and get a little faster, the playability is going to be different. It’s going to take a lot of adjustment in the summertime. We had to keep the bentgrass so wet.”
The project began with an irrigation renovation and also included reshaping five of the greens to provide less slope, a step needed to allow for more pin positions. Noted course designer John LaFoy was brought on board to help with that phase of the project.
“We’re really happy with how those turned out,” said Jim Brotherton, High Point Country Club’s director of golf since 1992. “We’ll have many new pin placements that the golfers will be able to enjoy that we didn’t have before.”
Willow Creek, designed by Willard Byrd, opened in December of 1964 and grew to become one of the state’s highly-regarded courses. It was home to the LPGA Tour’s Henredon Classic and Planters Pat Bradley International from 1981 to 1990 and has been the venue for numerous Carolinas Golf Association and USGA tournaments and qualifiers.
The Senior Hall of Fame Championship is an annual event that attracts a national field.
“We never lost our (bentgrass) greens but it was a challenge every summer,” Brotherton said. “We believe we have really improved our facility here at Willow Creek.”