Local & Regional
2:30 pm
Thu August 12, 2010

New Grass at Tulsa Courses

Tulsa, OK – Putting greens at two of Tulsa's four 18-hole municipal golf courses will get new grass in coming weeks, reducing maintenance costs by an estimated $100,000 to $110,000 per year, possibly more.

The cost of replacing the greens is less than the cost of planned maintenance to the existing greens.

"The City's partnership with Billy Casper Golf, and the way the finances are structured, gives us the ability to make these much-needed improvements," said Mayor Dewey Bartlett. "Well-managed public/private partnerships do achieve savings and improve operations and efficiency."

The existing bentgrass on the greens will be replaced with Champion Ultra Dwarf Burmudagrass which has been installed at more than 500 golf courses nationwide, including courses that host PGA tournaments.

Timing of the work is dictated by the need for the new grass to have several weeks of warm growing season before any threat of frosts. The contractor will guarantee replacement of any of the new grass that fails, so long as it is planted before September.

The Pecan Valley Course at Mohawk and the Stone Creek Course at Page Belcher will remain open.The Olde Paige Course at Page Belcher and the Woodbine Course at Mohawk will be closed to golfers beginning Friday. The staff at both courses is no longer accepting tee-times for those courses and is contacting golfers who reserved tee-times before the greens renovations were announced.

It is expected that both courses will re-open for play in the first week of October.

"It will be a five- to eight-week process to completely renovate all the greens and get them growing again," said Roy Teeters, Public Works Vegetation Management Section Manager.

Maintenance workers have struggled to maintain the greens with a variety of bentgrass that is not well suited to Oklahoma's summer weather.

The Vegetation Management section has been working with Billy Casper Golf, the contractor which operates Tulsa's courses, to find solutions to the problems.

The team working on the project contacted the managers and maintenance staffs at 141 other courses that share a similar climate zone and got very positive endorsements from 139 of them. "Most of them said it was the best thing they'd ever done," said Roy Teeters, Vegetation Management supervisor. "We've also talked with turf experts at OSU, at Texas A&M and at the International Sports Turf Research Center."

Changing to the dwarf burmudagrass will require less water, less summertime maintenance and fewer chemicals than the current grass needs. "We contacted one course at Shawnee. They told us that before they switched from bentgrass to this burmuda, they were spending $35,000 a year on fungicide alone. Now they're spending about $5,000," Teeters said.

"It's more cost effective and more environmentally friendly," Teeters said. "But the bottom line is that the customers at Tulsa's courses will have better putting surfaces than they've had in years."

No general fund money or sales tax money will be used for the greens renovations. The money comes from the Golf Course Operations Fund, which comes from greens fees customers pay at the courses.

The cost of replacing bentgrass turf is about $1.35 per square foot. The cost of replacing it with the Champion burmuda is about 51 cents per square foot. Each 18-hole course has about 100,000 square feet of greens to be replaced.

There are tentative plans to replace the greens at the other two municipal courses - Stone Creek at Page Belcher and Pecan Valley at Mohawk - next spring after frosts have ceased. However, that work depends on how much money is available in the Golf Course Maintenance Fund by that time.

"We're sorry that Tulsa golfers will be inconvenienced for a few weeks, but when the work is finished, we believe that they will be much happier with the new putting surfaces."