Three courses in the region could re-open to full capacity within a matter of weeks of each other as greens projects take shape.
Country Hills Golf Course set an Aug. 28 date for new greens to be used. Course manager Melody Bryant said the 18-hole facility in Gibsonville avoided closing during the project, with temporary putting surfaces in use.
Meanwhile, Mill Creek Golf Club in Mebane and Shamrock Golf Club in Burlington should be rolling again in September, again bolstering golf options in Alamance County.
Operators at the courses are hoping to tap into the fall golf season in order to make up for lost traffic during the summer.
Country Hills altered its course for nearly two months, putting its regular greens off limits since the first week in July for a project that involved putting in a strain of Champion Bermuda turf.
Instead of closing the course, 18 temporary greens were used and rates were reduced. So with golfers on the course, they had a first-hand view of the greens project as they made their ways around the layout.
Bryant said the scheduled opening of the new greens was pushed back a few days to ensure that the project was complete. That meant more than six weeks of play on the temporary set-up.
“It has been a job,” Bryant said, pointing out that for precautionary purposes there was extra time allowed for the new greens to be in ideal condition.
Play dipped at times because some golfers won’t play on temporary greens. But the phone has started to ring more often with inquiries about returning to play rounds.
The re-opening of Shamrock Golf Club was pushed back to early September.
The course has been closed for more than a year and grassroots effort overseen by area investors has been the seed to get the course back in operation. Jon Harris, who has been working on the course and has been spearheading the project, said he hopes to have golfers on the property for a Sept. 6 opening.
There are plans for a grand opening celebration and a ribbon cutting on that morning at the course, which is located south of I-85/40.
Harris said summer rains contributed to delays as new Champion Bermuda greens were installed. That allowed more time for work on other parts of the course, much of which had fallen into unplayable conditions after it closed.
Plans for activities at Shamrock have been in full gear. The once-popular Alamance County Parent-Child Tournament, which had been a staple for more than a quarter-century, will be held Sept. 20-22.
Harris said one of the priorities for organizers was to hold that tournament, though it had to be backed up from its frequent August spot on the calendar.
In some recent years before it was discontinued, the tournament was reduced to two days, but Harris said by holding it for three days there should be ample spots to accommodate various schedules. Rates for pre-registered entrants (by Sept. 13) range from $40 per team to $60 per team depending on ages involved.
Included in tournament activities are a putting competition and a long drive competition. Proceeds from the tournament go to KidsPath of Alamance-Caswell, the Alamance County Family YMCA and the Steve Walker Scholarship.
Fifty-five new Yamaha golf carts were delivered Aug. 20. Harris said that provided another signal that the reality of a completed project was near.
Harris said there has been a steady stream of golfers who’ve stopped by the course to check on the project and to offer encouragement. Based on that, he said he expects there to be a steady flow of golfers when the course opens.
Harris and his colleagues must hire staff to oversee daily operations of the course. He said he expects that to be an ongoing process once the course is in full operation.
Mill Creek has set a early to mid-September re-opening, with members taking the first crack on the new greens when that time arrives.
Those target dates had been the best-case scenario all along, club general manager Mike Long said.
Long said the benefits of the ultradwarf bermudagrass on the greens should be long term.
“With bermudagrass greens, they’re good when the weather is good in central North Carolina,” Long said. “Now you can have good greens year-round. It’s why everybody is going that direction.”
Mill Creek’s 18-hole course closed July 10, so the shutdown will end up lasting slightly more than two months. The driving range remained open.
The greens project came about after a 2010 renovation didn’t turn out as well as expected. Those greens were bentgrass.
Now, all the course’s grasses will be bermudagrass. That’s another of the benefits for the latest changes, Long said.
A no-till renovation allowed this summer’s project, which was overseen by a South Carolina company, to proceed without tearing up the greens, Long said.
“We really couldn’t be more pleased with where we’re at,” Long said. “It’s amazing to see the amount of coverage (the new grass) has on the greens.”
Closing in the summer months wasn’t ideal, Long said. Yet with the onslaught of rain this summer, there would have been a decline in golfers on many courses in the area during the past few months, he said.
“It was a tough decision because there was a lot at stake,” Long said. “But with all the rain, it would have hurt everybody anyway. Look at the bright side, it was the perfect time for (a project like this).”
Mill Creek Golf Club has about 125 active golf members, Long said. The club arranged for playing privileges at about 10 other locations, something Long described as typical when a course is undergoing a substantial renovation. He said those locations included courses in Alamance, Orange and Guilford counties.
“Our members have been extremely dedicated and patient,” Long said, noting that membership has increased slightly during the closure.