By Ken MacLeod
Two more Oklahoma courses this week converted their greens from a variety of bent grass to ultradwarf Bermuda.
Both White Hawk Golf Coure in Bixby and Winter Creek Golf Course in Blanchard installed Champion G12, a new cultivar of Champion Ultradwarf Bermuda that was also this summer installed at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, site of an annual PGA Tour event and the 2017 PGA Championship.
Winter Creek, which is also doing some renovation to holes 1 and 15 and making other improvements during the down time, will have its course closed until early October, although the driving range and restaurant will remain open. White Hawk will remain open on temporary greens and the new greens are expected to be playable in early to mid October.
Mike Brown, project manager for Champion Turf Farms, said the G12 was a cultivar discovered on a Champion green in 2012 and put through extensive trials before reaching commercial status. It is a stronger, denser variety requiring more verticutting but less top seeding. Morris said he expects it to be more competitive with common Bermuda and other grasses that try to encroach on the greens.
Both courses will make some adjustments to some of their green settings to allow for adequate sunlight for Bermuda greens, which require less water and fungicides than bent grass but more direct sunlight.
Carl Collins, regional agronomist for American Golf which manages White Hawk, and has overseen conversion to Champion greens at nearly 30 American Golf managed facilities, including SilverHorn Golf Club in Oklahoma City, said the stretch of wooded holes from 11 to 15 would require some selective tree and limb removal.
Jarod Lundy, director of golf at Winter Creek, said that facility would also do some selective pruning, but is also using the down time to do major reconstruction of the opening hole and the notorious 15th, a par-4 with a forced layup and a long second shot to an uphill green. That hole will be shortened by 32 yards and made more playable.
â€œItâ€™s still going to be tough,â€ Lundy said, â€œbut not impossible. It was one of the worst golf holes around and now it will be much, much better.â€
Winter Creek will also be reworking some tee boxes and target greens on the range, converting its practice putting green and creating a new members-only chipping green behind the driving range.
Play at Winter Creek had improved dramatically this year before the deteriorating bent grass greens forced the owner Legacy Bank to make a decision on repair or replace. Lundy expects the bank will recoup its investment in short order through increased play and decreased water and man hour costs once the new greens are installed.
White Hawk is hoping for a similar result. The course had battled late summer issues with the bent grass greens frequently and expects much better playing conditions for the members.
â€œThis will be a huge part of creating a successful product year round,â€ Collins said. â€œIt will give the golfers at White Hawk conditions equal to other upper echelon courses. And the nice thing about working with Champion is they are invested in the success of the greens and always available to consult. They give us a resource we really rely on.â€
Other courses in the Tulsa area that have converted from bent grass greens to Bermuda include all 36 holes at Page Belcher, 36 holes at Mohawk Park, 18 holes on the Lakes Course at The Club at Indian Springs and the West Nine at Southern Hills Country Club.â€¨â€¨In the Oklahoma City area, Winter Creek joins SilverHorn, Coffee Creek and Firelake in using Bermuda greens. Many courses in southern Oklahoma have converted to different varieties of ultradwarf Bermudas and even some as far north as Disney on Grand Lake. Most of the seven state park golf courses have converted to Bermuda.
â€œWeâ€™ve very excited,â€ Paquette said. â€œThis will be great for the future of the course and the players who play here.â€
Course architect Randy Heckenkemper has been consulted on helping the White Hawk greens be restored to original dimensions during the renovation.