February 10, 2015 – Grassing with Celebration Bermudagrass has started on the complete renovation of the historic River Oaks Country Club golf course in Houston.
Morris Johnson, director of golf course operations at River Oaks Country Club, said architects Tom and Logan Fazio are leading the complete renovation of the 18-hole golf course. Elements of the renovation include building three new golf holes, expansion of the driving range, development of a comprehensive short game area, new cart paths, a new computerized irrigation system, new golf shop, removal of the old grass, reshaping of the golf course, and a complete regrassing of every playing surface. Greens surfaces will be grassed with MiniVerde Bermudagrass. All other surfaces including fairways, tees and roughs, encompassing some 113 acres, will be planted with certified Celebration Berumudagrass that will be installed as solid sod from January through June.
“We determined that we wanted Celebration early on,” Johnson said. “We had it on our driving range and teaching facility tee for three years. We had success with it. It’s a tighter grass with better cold tolerance than other bermudgrasses that we tried.”
Johnson also visited several high-end country club golf courses in Florida with a similar climate as Houston a year prior to the start of the project. “They have all had the grass for varying lengths of time and all are very happy with the playability and performance of the Celebration.”
Celebration Bermudgrass is installed as the playing surface for golf courses from the Carolinas to Florida to Texas, and at high profile sports fields including the stadiums at the University of Florida and Louisiana State University. The grass is known for its deep blue-green color, drought tolerance, wear tolerance and aggressive repair from divots.
Johnson said the club membership decided to install the grass as solid sod, rather than as sprigs, for two reasons: “the speed of reopening and the decreased possibility of contamination.” Solid sod grows in faster than sprigs and, he said a healthy, uniform, certified stand of sod is less likely to contain weeds or off-type grasses.
All Seasons Turf Grass, based in Brookshire, Texas, a licensed producer of Celebration Bermudagrass through licensing company Sod Solutions, was selected as the sod farm to grow the grass for the renovation.
“All Seasons Turf Grass has a reputation for being one of the premier sod farms in Texas, regardless of cultivar,” Johnson said. “The fact that All Seasons grows their grass on a sand base is extremely important. We worked hard over the years to improve our soil profile. The natural soil is a heavy clay.” Using heavy top dressing, Johnson said the golf course maintenance crew had achieved a top three-to-four inches of sand “that drained well.” Installing sod that was grown on sand would help maintain the sand cap on the golf course.
Scott Sipes, sales manager for All Seasons Turf Grass, said it will take approximately 550 truckloads of sod to complete the project.
“This is one of the biggest jobs All Seasons Turf Grass has ever done,” Sipes said. “Most farms wouldn’t be able to supply that much of a sand-based single product because of the sheer volume. It’s all coming from the same farm, more than100 acres of land. Morris Johnson and agronomist consultant Dave McIntosh came out and selected where they wanted the grass to come from, and they inspected it and had it tested throughout the entire growing process.”
Sipes said the fact that the grass all comes from the same field will positively impact the overall playing surface of the finished golf course in that “the entire course will be uniform in grass quality. It comes from all one place with one specific type of sod. Meticulous growing measures have been taken to be sure the grass is vibrant and healthy. All of the grass will have had the same mowing and fertilizing techniques to ensure quality throughout the course.”
In 2013, River Oaks Country Club supported 32,000 rounds of golf. In the first year after the renovation, Johnson said he expects the club will easily host 38,000 rounds of golf. The renovation of the back nine began in August. The front nine closed to play in December.
River Oaks Country Club opened in 1923 and was designed by revered golf course architect, Donald Ross. It is the only surviving course of three Ross-designed courses in Texas. The surrounding community of River Oaks is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious communities in the state of Texas.
The fully renovated golf course is expected to open for play by Labor Day 2015.