07/16/17 — Walnut Creek to debut new greens in August

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Walnut Creek to debut new greens in August

By Justin Hayes
Published in Sports on July 16, 2017 1:56 PM

The makeover is nearly complete.

Walnut Creek Country Club, which in April began the process of converting its green complexes from bentgrass to Champion Bermuda, will stage its new identity in a grand re-opening on August 19.

The transition, done in part to reduce the stress endured by the surfaces during the incubated, broiler-plate eastern North Carolina summer season, is one that has been embraced in recent years by many private courses through the southeast.

Over the last year, a host of clubs close to home -- including Morehead City Country Club and New Bern Country Club -- have also made the same conversion.

But the new look, carefully crafted by renowned architect John LaFoy, stands to serve far more than just a daily maintenance function.

"It was something we'd been talking about for almost five years," greens superintendent Brad Edens said. "Our main goal was to find more pinnable locations on each green."

Cue LaFoy's earth-moving specialists.

Over the course of just a few weeks, his outfit -- a crew of three with minimal equipment -- stripped and tilled the existing bentgrass, then recontoured each green's roll and pitch to promote maximum bermuda playability.

"We stayed with the confines of the greens -- we didn't disrupt the integrity of the greens," Edens said of the effort. "It was an opportunity to soften (the roll) of some greens."  


Two of the club's most notorious surfaces -- the par-4 14th and the island-inspired, par-3 ninth -- were once defined by harsh, unrelenting slopes that, depending on the day's pin placement, could be considered the country-club equivalent of Sing Sing.

But no more.

The 14th, for example, was augmented at both the front and back of the complex to establish a reasonable sightline over the entire surface.

"They raised the back of this green probably 14 inches," club professional Clarence Rose noted. "You could stand here (on the front fringe) and not see the back of the green."

The same can be said of the ninth, a picturesque par-3 whose green was -- and still is, albeit to a much lesser extent -- defined by a ridge that bisects the surface from north to south.

"There was no balance," Edens said of the layout. "The entire island slopes from left to right... So we leveled the bottom and the top, and actually extended the green about six feet to the left. I feel like we've probably picked up a good 30 percent in terms of pinnable spots."

And on a surface that historically featured just three quality pin placements, that is change for the better.  


Edens is pleased with the conversion's progress, but also mindful of the chores the club will face over the winter -- a testy season for newly-sewn bermuda grass.

"We're going to cover everything," the superintendent said. "Once temperatures get below about 26 degrees, and it's not going to warm up the next day, we'll go out and tarp the greens to prevent winter injury."

There are other methods the club could explore, of course, to promote insulation for its new investment, such as freezing the surfaces to promote proper insulation.

"Some people look at icing them," Edens said with a smile. "They'll actually turn the sprinklers on when it gets cold and put a layer of ice over them for insulation... but the covers are kind of like our insurance policy -- that seems to be the safest way."

And one necessary to soothe the minds of a membership that has been forced to play golf elsewhere this summer, from places like Southern Wayne CC to Wilson Country Club to Cutter Creek in Snow Hill.

And yes, everyone is ready to return home.  

"They (our members) come out here in the afternoons, take a cart, hit off the tee and go look at the greens," Rose said.

"So everybody's interested."