Southern Pines resorts join numerous other Southeast golf courses converting to bermuda grass greens
By BRAD KING
When he was contemplating converting the green complexes at historic Pine Needles resort in Southern Pines from bentgrass to an ultra-dwarf strand of bermudagrass, Kelly Miller didn’t have to look far for a good sampling — just across Midland Road, in fact, to the Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club.
Miller, the longtime president and CEO of the company that owns and operates Pines Needles and Mid Pines — both designed by Donald Ross — was able to witness the advantages of bermudagrass first hand after Mid Pines underwent an extensive 2013 renovation headed by architect Kyle Franz. The greens were resurfaced with a mini-verde grass that has proven not only more manageable, but also capable of being cut to lower and faster levels — and far more heat tolerant during the steamy Sandhiils summers.
By all accounts, the Mid Pines renovation debuted to wide acclaim.
But for Miller, an accomplished competitor and knowledgeable Ross devotee, his wheels began turning long ago while playing two other historic courses further south — Country Club of Charleston in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, where Miller had competed through the years in the prestigious Azalea Invitational, and Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla., one of Ross’s most renowned designs, where Miller is a member.
“The bermudagrass greens at Country Club of Charleston might have been the best greens I ever putted on,” said Miller, who won the Azalea Invitational in 1995. “And Seminole has some of the best bermudagrass greens anywhere. I have become infatuated with them through the years.
“The greens at Mid Pines have turned out terrific. It has been a big success for us. That’s what we want to bring across the street.”
The Pine Needles greens were originally bermudagrass when the golf course opened in 1928, but like many golf clubs across the Southeast, the resort transitioned to the superior bent grass in the 1960s, when that strain became the industry rage. Miller said Pine Needles has been testing bermudagrass strains on their practice greens for several years.
Miller said the Pine Needles staff, headed by golf course superintendent Dave Fruchte, who has been at the resort since 1990, will begin work in late June and expect to have the new greens ready for play by the beginning of September. Miller and Fruchte have not decided yet which of the new ultra-dwarfs to use — Champion, MiniVerdi or Tifdwarf — but will make that decision soon.
“We haven’t made any official decisions, but I would say if we are leaning one way it’s probably toward Champion,” Miller said. “The bermudagrass (greens) are so much better now. You can get faster greens than the bentgrass; you get the firmness so you don’t get ball marks. And obviously you don’t worry about the things you have to worry about in the summertime, when it is 100 degrees and you’re worried about losing your greens. So you either cover them when it’s really cold in the wintertime or you’d work like crazy during the summer trying to keep them alive. They’ve made bermudagrass heartier during the years. When you do the conversion, you just don’t have to worry about anything.”
Pine Needles isn’t the only big-name golf course in Southern Pines that will be converting its greens to bermudagrass in 2016. Just two miles up Midland Road, Talamore Golf Resort is also making the transition. The Talamore project will commence in early May and is expected to be complete by mid July — in time for the annual U.S. Kids World Golf Championship held throughout the Sandhills, and for which Talamore is a host golf and lodging facility.
Designed by architect Rees Jones, who helped fine-tune Pinehurst No. 2 for the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Opens, Talamore opened in 1991. A course renowned for being both visually striking and enjoyably playable, the 7,020-yard layout was also made famous by instituting the first llama caddie program. Like Pine Needles, the Talamore Resort includes a sister course, Mid South Club, located across Midland Road.
Talamore debuted with the Penncross strain of bentgrass on its greens. After a quarter-century, the club began reviewing different renewal concepts. Talamore’s owner, Bob Levy, made the decision to convert to bermudagrass in large part based on the overwhelming success enjoyed by Mid Pines and some of the other local courses that have already made the transition.
Matt Hausser, Talamore’s director of golf operations, said that following a thorough review of the different strains, Talamore elected Champion bermudagrass. “Along with the smooth consistency, bermudagrass greens fare far better than bentgrass during the hot summer months around the Sandhills,” Hausser said.
Both Talamore and Pine Needles — which has been the site of numerous USGA and regional competitions, most notably the U.S. Women’s Opens in 1996, 2001 and 2007 — are expected to receive a boost from the new greens at the cash register, as well. Having greens that are at their best during the summer months and healthy year round allows an increase in the seasonality of the two resorts.
“During the summer when the greens were bentgrass we really had to manage our rounds,” Miller said. “In other words, in August, when it was really hot, we wouldn’t take a big event that would bring lots of players because your staff couldn’t get out there to properly water. Now, at Mid Pines we are looking at an August 2017 event that I would never have looked at before. Now we are actively searching out business during that time of the year. With bermudagrass, July and August are when the greens are in their best shape.
“The winters can be a bit more challenging with bermudagrass greens when extended low temperatures require us to cover the greens at night,” Miller said. “But the benefits of having outstanding bermudagrass greens in the summer far outweigh this winter inconvenience.”
It looks like the investment is already paying off as in February of this year, the USGA announced Pine Needles will host the 2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
The ground-breaking ceremony was festive as Applecross Members enjoyed the beginning steps of the new and impressive Golf Clubhouse. Since the club’s opening a few years ago, a large and convenient temporary clubhouse has served the dining and entertainment needs of Members. The new Applecross Clubhouse facilities add a major touch to on an already exceptional venue of club facilities and amenities.
Member facilities at Applecross include the only Nicklaus Design® golf course in the Philadelphia area, an outdoor resort-style swimming pool, a year-round indoor pool, tennis courts, a 10,000 square foot fitness center. On the service side, the Club features a wide variety of group fitness and wellness classes, Spin Bike classes, private and group tennis lessons, state-of-the-art golf instruction center, exceptional junior golf programs, a host of club-sponsored tournaments and entertainment events, and a variety of Membership plans for every lifestyle and budget.
PROGRESSIVE & INNOVATIVE
As many of us well know, the Philadelphia region showcases some of the finest country clubs in the U.S. What separates or distinguishes Applecross Country Club? The club relishes it’s exceedingly progressive and innovative status.
To remain viable and relevant, the typical or standard strategic response of traditional clubs has been essentially a focus on implementing a family-friendly, more inclusive model, where the club revolves around the needs of all family Members, and not just those of one or two individuals.
A true and complete conversion or transition to the family-friendly model has been slow and tedious for a number of clubs, attributed largely to the dynamic that traditional clubs are encumbered by a tradition of exclusion and a natural resistance to change as Membership demographics evolve gradually. And too, from the financial side, the investment required to make the necessary structural changes to facilities and operations is substantial for clubs.
Applecross Country Club is in an enviable position. The club is not encumbered by tradition and resistance to change. It’s a new, modern, state-of-the-art club, with a charter and mission specifically designed to be diverse, inclusive, and family-oriented from its very beginning. All of the club’s exceptional facilities, operations, amenities, programs and professional management work in harmony to fit the needs of today’s family lifestyles.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NEW GOLF CLUBHOUSE
Well in advance of groundbreaking, a considerable amount of time and effort in planning and designing the new clubhouse facilities to meet Member needs. Justin Meyers explains, “Our Membership is diverse, comprised of serious golfers, recreational golfers, family golfers, and non-golfers. We began the design process by identifying and analyzing the current and future needs of our diverse Membership. Once accomplished, our design team went to work.”
To pull the project together, Project Manager Chris Yates of Innovative Building & Remodeling was joined by Andrew Scheerer of Exton based Structural Design Associates and Mid Atlantic Timber Frame of Lancaster. “We went through a number of design iterations before achieving the desired character, operational flow, and overall feel we wanted to achieve. While our clubhouse design says it’s a serious club, it also clearly says it’s a fun place for all to enjoy. When completed, Members will be very proud and will have more fun and enjoyment than ever before with their fellow Members, as well as the entertainment of their guests,” said Chris.
For golfers, the new Golf Clubhouse provides an outstanding array of facilities and amenities on three convenient levels. All three levels work in great harmony to make the golf experience extraordinary before and after each and every round. The main level is the new spacious home of the Applecross Pro Shop, the heart and soul of the Golf Clubhouse, and Head Golf Professional Tommy Moore, PGA, and his professional staff. In addition to merchandising and servicing just about everything you need for your game, the pro shop’sperimeter features a deck for that all important panoramic, up-close view of the 18th and 19th holes. On the ground level, golfers are welcomed by the engaging comfort and leading-edge conveniences of the Men’s and Ladies’ Locker Rooms. On the top, third level, resides the grandeur of The Eagle’s Nest. This adult only lounge features the services and amenities of a full service bar and bar menu, and a covered deck with a wonderful view of holes 18 and 19 (and peeks at a few others) and magnificent vistas of the rolling hills and charm of Chester County.
Applecross Country Club is in an enviable position. The club is not encumbered by tradition & resistance to change. It’s a new, modern, state-of-the-art club, with a charter & mission specifically designed to be diverse, inclusive, & family-oriented from its inception. All of the club’s exceptional facilities, operations, amenities, programs, & professional management work in harmony to fit the needs of today’s family lifestyles.
Arnold Palmer always had fond memories of his youthful days playing golf amid the pines and sandy loam of Pinehurst.
Palmer’s father, Deacon, visited Pinehurst regularly in the 1930s and 1940s with a group of golf buddies from their home in Latrobe, Pa., and their hotel of choice was the Manor Inn. Arnold came on occasion and then attended Wake Forest College in the late 1940s when it was located in the town of Wake Forest, just north of Raleigh. Palmer and teammates such as Buddy Worsham, Frank Edens, Jennings Agner and Dick Tiddy would pile into a Desoto station wagon for the 90-mile drive to Pinehurst.
Village of Pinehurst, NC (March 2017) — Last summer, the green complexes at Talamore Golf Resort near the Village of Pinehurst were converted from bent grass to Champion Bermuda and have received rave reviews. Now, Talamore’s partner property across the street at the Arnold Palmer designed Mid South Club is undergoing a similar golf course restoration and greens conversion, along with numerous other club enhancements. In all, these projects are among $6 million in capital improvements at Talamore’s four North Carolina and Pennsylvania facilities.
A quarter century after this renowned Sandhills resort first opened, the Talamore green complexes were restored last year to their original 1991 Rees Jones design by recapturing the greens surrounds, which had been heavily encroached by native Bermuda grasses. In addition to true rolling and lightening fast greens, the new strains of Bermuda are providing significantly better playing conditions year round.
Following up on the successful remastering at Talamore, the greens at Mid South Club are now being converted to Champion Bermuda. To ensure the design continuity of the putting contours, Mid South and Talamore employ the “no till” method pioneered by Champion Turf Farms out of Texas. More than 700 courses nationwide have Champion Turf including Pinehurst No. 2.
As with the Talamore project last summer, Mid South will be working with Jeffrey Stein, Carlos Perez and the entire team at Shapemasters. Based in Southport, N.C., Shapemasters is one of just a handful of certified golf course builders. Shapemasters has worked with every modern era architect including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Rees Jones, Pete Dye, PB Dye, Greg Norman, Tom Fazio and more.
“We are excited to be working for the Talamore organization again this summer,” said Jeffrey Stein, Shapemasters President and Founder. “The Mid South course is one of Arnie’s best ever and will be greatly enhanced with new Champion greens. Green sizes will increase by 20 percent to as much as 40 percent and will change the way the course feels and plays — all for the better.”
While the Mid South greens remodeling project is being conducted, the club will also add a new set of forward tees to many holes. These new tees promise to be a welcome addition to the golf course and are expected to provide a more player friendly approach for those just learning the game — as well as those looking to move forward for a more enjoyable playing experience. Mid South is also busy improving the club’s cart path system, with most areas are being removed and restored with a natural packed sand base. The paths will be re-concreted where necessary due to grade or traffic patterns.
Also in store for 2017 at Mid South are member facility upgrades to include the addition of basketball and pickle ball on one of the tennis courts, as well as a new barbecue and hospitality area at the Mid South pool. Matt Hausser, the Resort’s General Manager and Brian Anderson the Mid South Head Golf Professional are also rolling out a plethora of new Member events for 2017 — both on and off the course. “Many new events and services were added in 2016,” said Hausser. “All the events and camaraderie were well received. We want to keep the momentum going and for 2017 will be enhancing the Member calendar with new themes and activities.”
For information call (800) 552-6292 or visit www.TalamoreGolfResort.com for the latest golf package information.
More information about Shapemasters please visit www.shapemasters.com
More information about Champion Turf Farms please visit: www.championturffarms.com
PINEHURST, NC (January 2016) — Following in the footsteps of revered Pinehurst No. 2, Pine Needles, Mid Pines and Tobacco Road, the Talamore Golf Resort announced that in 2016, it would be converting its bent grass greens to Bermuda.
The project will commence in early May 2016 and is expected to be complete by mid July — in time for the annual U.S. Kids World Golf Championship held throughout Pinehurst and for which Talamore is a host golf and lodging facility.
Around the famed Sandhills of North Carolina, visitors to the Talamore Resort stay and play two of the area’s finest courses, The New Course at Talamore and its sister course Mid South Club, both located on Midland Road midway between the Pinehurst Resort and Mid Pines/Pine Needles.
The New Course at Talamore has been ranked in the forefront of outstanding courses since opening in 1991. Architect Rees Jones, who helped fine-tune Pinehurst No. 2 for the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Opens, designed a course that is both visually striking and exceptionally enjoyable. The 7,020-yard layout was also made famous by instituting the first llama caddie program, which makes for an unforgettable day.
Talamore debuted with the Penncross strain of bent grass on its greens. After a quarter-century, the club began reviewing different renewal concepts. Talamore decided to convert to Bermuda in large part based on the overwhelming success enjoyed by the other local courses that already made the transition.
“Along with the smooth consistency, Bermuda greens fare far better than bent grass during the hot summer months around the Sandhills,” said Matt Hausser, PGA, General Manager at Talamore Golf Resort. “After a thorough review of the different strains, we have selected Champion Bermuda.”