By STEVE HANF
The new grass is in, and so are the reviews.
From the regulars to the visiting course managers and superintendents, they all love the new Diamond Zoysiagrass greens at Pilot Knob Park.
“We’ve had a lot of play come through from outside the area, a lot of people wanting to see them,” said new general manager Tim Hudgins. “The comments when they leave are that they’re the best greens in the area.”
Pilot Knob’s makeover in April drew the attention of industry observers because zoysia never had been installed so far north. North Carolina courses generally struggle with being a little too cold for strains such as bermuda and a little too hot and wet for the likes of bentgrass.
When Pilot Knob’s old bentgrass greens burned up last summer, officials decided to take a chance on the Diamond Zoysia. The new greens have soaked up the summer sun and rain while Pilot Knob’s maintenance staff has enjoyed a breather.
“The grounds crew didn’t have to worry about any of this rain we’ve been having and then the 90-degree days, which would have burned the bentgrass,” Hudgins said. “Dragging hoses to keep it cool? We’ve had none of that happening. Get them a little moist and let the sun do its work.”
Best of all, the greens came in faster and in better shape than expected. Seams from the new sod vanished. Surfaces were smooth and balls rolled true. The thicker turf even reduced the number of ball marks left by approach shots.
The only hole lagging behind the others was No. 5, which got a major overhaul. A green that once was severely sloped from back to front now receives balls on two levels. To get the contours and drainage just right, workers took a few extra days with the hole, putting it about a week behind the others in its recovery.
“Everybody loves the hole now,” Hudgins said.
The greens were aerated in early August and showed signs of healing quickly from the treatment. Zoysia tends to recover in two to three weeks, Hudgins said, while bentgrass took four to five.
This winter, the greens will go dormant and turn brown, so Pilot Knob crews will get out the green paint. Covers will be purchased to head off the chances of winter kill, which can occur with several nights in a row of temperatures in the 20s or below.
Considering the club already has cut its chemical bills in half this summer, the covers should be covered by cost savings.
For his part, Hudgins will be taking a closer look at financial matters when his job changes this month at the club. Now in his eighth year at Pilot Knob, Hudgins will remain general manager following his promotion over the summer, but focus less on golf and more on finances.
Head professional Derek Brown, formerly of Hemlock Golf Club in Walnut Cove, will come aboard as director of golf.
It’s a good time to be joining the operation.
“We’re in very good shape,” Hudgins said. “Play has really picked up since we got the greens put in. From our standpoint, it’s a tremendous success.”