The director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Winston-Salem likes to remind people he isn’t a scientist despite all of the knowledge he has developed about climate and turf management at Winston Lake and Reynolds Park golf courses during his tenure.
Particularly alarming to Tim Grant were the deteriorating conditions of the bentgrass greens at Winston Lake golf course, which were more than 50 years old.
“I don’t know if global warming is true, but it’s gotten to the point with bentgrass that everybody is struggling with them right now,” Grant said. “If you have bentgrass greens and get to the summer you are expending a lot of man hours and water to keep them going if they are going to survive the summer. We knew we needed to get something done.”
Winston Lake shut down May 26to begin extensive renovations, which included the installation of 19 new Diamond Zoysia greens, the removal of several trees and some branch trimming to give players better sight lines off several tees, in the fairways, or around the greens.
The entire process lasted about five weeks. The front nine re-opened June 27, and the back nine re-opened July 4.
Grant said that the reviews so far have been outstanding.
“I had a guy tell me the other day how great the greens looked and how he couldn’t believe how healthy they were so soon,” Grant said. “Then he told me he couldn’t wait to see them a year from now. That’s when we think we’ll see the full effect of them.”
The total surface area of the 19 greens went from about 68,000 square feet to 90,000, with an additional 4,000 square feet added to the practice putting green.
“By making the greens larger, we’ll also have more room to have different hole locations,” Grant said. “In many cases, we’ve added two additional hole locations, so that will make things even better.”
In addition to the new sod, 14 of the greens have been re-contoured and now have raised lips around the edges to make them more user friendly.
“We didn’t like the idea of good shots not holding the greens,” Grant said. “We brought in about 400 tons of dirt to raise the lips because we want the recreational golfer to have a great experience and not get a situation where a good shot isn’t rewarded by rolling back off the green. Players will definitely see the difference, but they’ll also feel the difference. They are also going to have to learn a whole new book of local knowledge, because that 4-foot putt they used to know breaking one way may not still break the same way. The course will present an entirely new set of challenges.”
The renovations are similar to what happened two years ago at Reynolds Park, when the greens were also replaced. The same company, New Life Turf, Inc., replaced the greens at Winston-Lake.
Grant said he got approval for $550,000 to replace the greens and do tree work around the course, and that they will also be restoring the four bridges on the course later in the year.
“The structure on all of the bridges are sound, so we’ll just be replacing the decking and hand rails,” Grant said. “We’ll probably do that in November. Each bridge will take about a week to do, so we’re looking at two weeks total. We’ll shut each nine down again for the week that work is being completed.”
The cost to replace the greens was $237,500, and the rest of the money will be used on the tree and bridge work.
“The course is going to be able to breathe a little bit more because we have significantly less trees and branches to deal with,” Grant said. “We took out a lot of trees to open up the golf course for more air circulation, more air flow, and more sunlight. Eventually, when we finish, we’ll have tree work done on every hole. That means maybe we’ve removed a tree or two at one hole, and at another hole, we’ve significantly removed some branches to make the hole more playable. Every hole will eventually be touched.”
One example of this, Grant pointed out, was the par-5 third hole.
“You can already tell a difference there now, especially from the blue tees,” Grant said. “We took out a ton of trees going down the right-hand side. Now, you can look all the way down the cart path and see the bridge. You can start a draw out over the bridge and bring it back to the fairway without having to worry about hitting one of the trees that used to be there.”
There is also a bunker behind the green on No. 7. Grant said that he thought it would help prevent errant shots from rolling off into the woods.
“I’m not sure if adding a bunker is a good thing or a bad thing,” he said with a laugh. “I guess it just depends on your game and if you aren’t on the green, do you prefer hitting out of the sand or looking in the woods for your ball?”
Grant is also excited about the pending construction of the John Faidley Learning Center, which will house the programs First Tee of the Triad. Grant said that there is no definitive timetable just yet, but the First Tee is scheduled to bring the final design plans to the Parks and Recreation commission at the August meeting.
Grant said players are finding their way back to Winston Lake now that they know it is back in operation.
“In some cases, we are doubling what we would normally get based on the last couple of summers, and we haven’t even been open a month yet,” Grant said. “Word is getting out and I guess people have liked what they’ve seen so far. We think it will be a whole new playing experience for people. I can’t guarantee you a good score, but I can guarantee you a great experience.”