By Ken MacLeod
Bailey Ranch Golf Course in Owasso will close May 1 while the city invests close to $1 million in improvements including new greens, irrigation upgrades and other cosmetic changes and clubhouse upgrades.
The course should reopen in September with new Tif-Eagle ultradwarf Bermuda greens. The switch to an ultra-dwarf Bermuda has long been contemplated by Director of Golf Corey Burd and superintendent Chris Cook, as the original SR 10-20 bent grass greens planted in 1992 have experienced issues with heat stress multiple years.
“The grass was tired, segregated, colonized,” Burd said. “Heck, you can’t even buy SR 10-20 seed any more. It was definitely time for an upgrade and we did a lot of research and decided that Bermuda was the way to go. We will have great putting conditions for the months that golfers play most of their golf.”
Burd said the greens will be expanded to their original dimensions, as many had shrunk by as much as 6 to 8 feet from their previous edges due to Bermuda encroachment over time.
Bailey Ranch becomes the third course in the Tulsa metropolitan area to switch to a variety of ultradwarf Bermuda greens in the past year, joining The Canyons at Blackjack Ridge in Sand Springs and Heritage Hills in Claremore, both of which converted in 2020. City of Tulsa courses Page Belcher and Mohawk Park converted to Champion Bermuda nearly a decade ago, while the par-3 course at LaFortune Park is the other public course to switch in the Tulsa area. Many others across the state have converted.
On the private side, the Lakes Course at The Club at Indian Springs and the West Nine at Southern Hills have Bermuda greens, while all others in and around Tulsa still have bent grass surfaces.
The big advantage of Bermuda is the grass thrives in the heat and humidity of July and August when bent grass varieties are susceptible to heat stress. Bermuda’s weakness is its cold tolerance and the greens have to be covered if temperatures remain below 25 degrees for an extended period.
As putting surfaces, the ultradwarf varieties can rival good bent grass greens if properly maintained, which involves frequent top dressing and verticutting. If allowed to get grainy they are not considered the equal of bent grass greens. They do not require the fans and syringing that nurse bent grass greens through hot months.
“It will be a game changer for Chris and the maintenance staff,” Burd said. “The stress in trying to keep the bent grass going in the summer is off the charts.”
Cook and Burd looked at recent conversions at Quail Creek Golf & Country Club in Oklahoma City, The Greens Country Club in Oklahoma City as well as projects closer to home before settling on the Tif-Eagle variety for their project.
The only regret Burd has about the timing is that public golf is in the midst of a boom that began with the pandemic but increasingly seems to have staying power. Bailey Ranch had more than 37,000 rounds played on it in 2020, more than any year since the mid 1990s.
“From that perspective, you hate to be closed, but these are needed improvements and we’ll be much better for it long term,” Burd said. “You have to invest in your facilities and we’re glad the city recognizes that.”