Course Enhancement Project Begins

It’s been a busy 11 days since the course enhancement project began at Old Chatham.  The project is running on time and the construction team is very happy with our progress.  The ‘team’ assembled for this project are the golf course architectural firm of Rees Jones and Sr. Vice President Greg Muirhead,  Shapemasters, a golf course building company based out of Southport and your golf operations and course maintenance staffs.  The ‘team’ was involved with the original construction of Old Chatham and it’s proving a real asset to have a group of people so very familiar with our golf course.

What to expect when you’re expecting…
When you have a strong design for a golf course as Old Chatham does, the art of pulling off a great renovation and redesign hinges upon integration of new design features into preexisting concepts that are already enjoying great success.  To that end, we’ve “hit it out of the park” so far and I hope you all can attend the member event on Friday July 6 at 6pm to see a preview for yourself.  Rees Jones himself will be here to talk to the members in attendance.  If you would like to see a preview of the work that’s been done, or you merely want to ask Rees about what he did to Medinah in preparation for this year’s Ryder Cup it should be a good evening for all and a chance to do both.

The nuts and bolts of the work…
Act I:  Death of a 12 year old…
The first stage in a conversion to the newer Ultradwarf bermudagrasses involves eradicating the grass that lived on the former putting surfaces.  To achieve this we treated the greens and the surrounds with a non-selective herbicide.  As the herbicide is non-selective in nature, we have to take great care to insure it only ends up where we want it.  The process actually began on the front nine as the final putts were being made in this year’s spring member guest invitational.
It takes about 1 week for the herbicide to translocate throughout the plant and do its job of killing off the undesirable turf species and when we closed on June 18, we were ready to begin the next part of our process.
Act II:  Scalp it a little, verticut it a lot… Rinse and Repeat, Rinse and Repeat, Rinse and Repeat (you get the picture)
The Ultradwarf bermudagrasses love growing through old dead Bentgrass provided they have some soil to come in contact with for rooting.  In order to preserve the shapes of our greens, we aggressively mowed and scalped the greens, verticut them, mowed and scalped again, verticut again, and continued until we lost count.  This part of the process allows us to remove leaf tissue from the former plants to make way for the improved varieties we will be planting.
Mow and Scalp
Vertical Mowing

More Vertical Mowing
Mowing and Scalping
Act III:  Aerate a lot, drag it all in and eat a lot of dust in the process….
After all the mowing, scalping, and verticutting we aerate all the greens 2 times and drag in all the cores with a steel drag mat.  This will provide good aeration for our new plants when they begin to grow and dragging in the cores allow us to keep the desirable soil that comes off the plugs on the green.
Dragging Cores
Act IV:  Where did all the green color go?
Finally after 5 days of intensive preparation, all the greens look more like dirt and less like a green.  They still have their contours in place (the greens were not enhancing with contour changes that is) but they are an excellent “bed” for our sprigs which will be arriving on July 10.
Close Up of Green and New Sprig Bed
Act V:  To be continued…
As you can see we’ve done a lot in the first week and a half and we hope you will continue to follow us on the Old Chatham Blog.  Oh, and we did manage to squeeze in mowing all the fairways twice (the grass still grows), mowing the rough one time, mowing the tees once, setting up the range daily, aerated all the fairways, aerated all the tees, aerated all the approaches, and top-dressed fairways, tees, and approaches as well.
A few early statistics:
700 Tons of sand used
50 People average working daily
5 Days of 100+ degree weather forecast
9 Tons of sand per green used just to level the areas for the new collars alone
2 Visits by past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects and Senior Vice President of Rees Jones Inc Greg Muirhead to offer onsite feedback
61 Number of Miles I drove never leaving the golf course on Monday approving changes and redirecting staff as progress required (1 lap around the cartpaths at Old Chatham is about 4.5 miles)

What next?
July 6th, a member gathering and cookout at 6pm.
On July 10, the greens will be planted with Champion Ultradwarf Bermudagrass.
Construction on the new bunkers will pick up speed as July progresses.
Grassing of the new collars will occur around July 4th.
Grassing of the 2nd, 7th, and 12thfairways to one homogenous grass variety will begin near the end of this week.
Best wishes,
Brian Powell, CGCS