After a massive renovation that replaced Tifway 419 and Meyer zoysia with Zeon Zoysia, The Farm Course at Greensboro Country Club (North Carolina) was named by Golf magazine the Best Renovation of the Year in 2010. Superintendent Todd Lowe, CGCS, called the decision to select Zeon “one of the best we made… The biggest selling point is the playability and visibility.” To read the full article, see below.
As published in Carolinas Green, November/December 2013
Lowe High on Outcome of Renovation at The Farm
By Stacie Zinn Roberts
Three years after The Farm course at Greensboro Country Club won Best Renovation of the Year in 2010 from Golf magazine, director of golf and grounds maintenance Doug Lowe, CGCS, still hears “rave reviews about the playability” of the course from members. The course was also named 2010’s Best New Golf Course in the state by the North Carolina Golf Panel and is currently ranked No. 29 in the state’s top 100 by Business North Carolina magazine.
“Taking a course that was average and turning into one of the better courses in the area, hearing all the positive compliments from the membership even three years after the renovation, is a great thing to be a part of,” Lowe says.
Built in the early 1960s, The Farm was nearly 50 years old when the renovation began. “It had aging infrastructure. Everything needed to be modernized and updated,” Lowe says. “We did everything. We have a brand new golf course.”
Golf course architect Donald Steele took the then 6,914-yard, par-71 layout and turned it into what Golf magazine called “a 7,302-yard, par-72 funfest.” And Lowe got to participate in the process. “Donald Steele was a fabulous person to work with,” he says. “He was opened-minded to considering certain things, taking input from the superintendent, working the comments into his design. He was so much more flexible than I’d perceive other architects being.”
Steele implemented “subtle things like how to shape bunkers for less maintenance on our end, the number of bunkers, the sloping on greens to accommodate more pin placements,” Lowe says. “It was obviously very rewarding to have a man with his experience take suggestions and to put them into place.”
The collaboration also yielded an element that impacts Lowe’s working life every day on the course: the grass selection. In an email, Steele wrote: “The decision to go with zoysia on The Farm was the best one we made.”
The old course had a mix of mostly 419 and common bermudagrasses in the fairways. But a few of the fairways also had an older variety of zoysia called Meyer. “The zoysia was more winter tolerant, and the membership liked the playability of those certain fairways,” Lowe says. “The membership was excited about changing all the fairways to zoysia. In the winter, it goes dormant like 419, but it stays green longer and greens up quicker than 419. The biggest selling point is the playability and visibility. It stripes up much more pronounced than the bermudagrass, and it maintains its stripes. It ends up a much more aesthetically pleasing golf course.”
Buy Sod supplied Zeon zoysia sod for the tees and fairways. Roughs were sprigged with 419. Greens were seeded with A1/A4 bentgrass.
Agronomically, Lowe says that although zoysia is promoted as requiring less fertilizer than bermudagrass, he hasn’t seen that yet. “Currently, we’ve got a new course with new soils,” he says. “It’s going to require more to feed the grass versus the organic layer we had before the renovation. Fertility at this point is the same as it was with the bermudgrass: 2 to 3 lbs. of nitrogen. But, I expect that to go down once the soil becomes more mature and we have an organic base to work off of.”
The Zeon Zoysia, Lowe notes, grows slower than the bermudagrass and requires less frequent mowing. In the past, he mowed fairways four times a week. Now he only mows three times a week. “We have nine man-hours freed up to do additional things,” Lowe says. “Once you look at the whole growing season, it can add up. That’s a significant re-allocation of manpower.”
But the zoysia is not without its challenges. While the stiff zoysia leaf makes for nice ball lies, it is also tough on mower blades. “Make sure that you’re prepared for the extra cutting requirements in mowing.
It needs to be a sharp reel,” Lowe says. He’s also seen some disease pressure on the zoysia. When on the bermudagrass he’d have spring dead spot, now he sees Zoysia patch. Both diseases are treated for in the fall.
Greensboro Country Club spent about $6 million on the renovation. With that comes higher expectations for daily quality on the golf course and much more stress to meet those expectations. Still, Lowe says it has been a positive experience.
“It’s actually, to a degree, more enjoyable to work on a golf course that is more appreciated by the membership,” he says. “There’s more excitement around the course. It’s much more rewarding for me, day to day. Really, in the scheme of things it’s easier with all new infrastructure, all new irrigation system, new cart paths, drainage. It’s easier to work on than prior to the renovation because so much needed to be redone.”
Of course, the renovation process would not have been possible without his superintendents. Brooks Turner is the current superintendent at The Farm, and Wes Proctor, who is now the superintendent at sister course Irving Park, was the grow-in superintendent during the renovation at The Farm. As director, Lowe coordinated “with the architect, the irrigation guy, the cart path guy.” But Proctor, Lowe says, “gave a year of his life up for the club and for the project. The entire staff worked long, hard hours. Wes spent the most time, every morning from sun up to sun set.”
And now, conversations are underway to regrass the Irving Park course. “We are definitely talking about which options we would go with, and the Zeon zoysiagrass would be a leading candidate,” Lowe says. “I really can’t imagine going back to bermudagrass. The playability and the aesthetics of the zoysia are just head and shoulders above the bermudagrass.”
Stacie Zinn Roberts is a writer and founder of marketing and motivational consultancy What’s Your Avocado.
To download a PDF of this article, click here.