Pilot Knob Park testing ground for new greens

Everybody likes a good comeback story, and it’s about time for golf course superintendents to stage a rally.

Two years of drought, 100-degree summer days and plentiful winter snowfall have made things tough on superintendents, particularly in maintaining greens. And most golfers have no idea who the superintendent is until they play on bad greens.

Chris Berrier, in his eighth year as the course superintendent at Pilot Knob Park, said he’s hoping changes at his course will be a comeback story for the ages.

All 18 greens will be remade using a Diamond Zoysia grass found mostly in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

“From what I understand, there isn’t a course in this state that has these types of greens,” Berrier said. “I guess you can say we are sort of a testing ground for this.”

Although most greens restorations can take three or four months and cost between $2 million and $4 million, Diamond Zoysia sod is relatively inexpensive. And once it’s rolled out, it’s playable in about 10 days.

Berrier and his staff will replace the bent grass greens on nine holes, while keeping the other nine holes open.

The cost of the entire project is about $200,000, according to Berrier, and that includes covers for the 18 greens during the dead of winter. Another benefit is there are less pesticides used to keep the Diamond Zoysia active.

“The summer-time survival rate and the cost savings of the pesticides are the two biggest benefits,” Berrier said.

Last summer, intense hot weather forced many course superintendents to scramble to keep their greens playable, and Berrier said it was no different at Pilot Knob.

“It was tough the last couple of years, there’s no getting around that,” he said.

Tony Johnson, the general manager at Pine Brook Country Club, has a background as a superintendent and says he will be keeping a close eye on the project at Pilot Knob Park.

“It’s something that we might look into down the road,” Johnson said. “One of our biggest costs is keeping the greens in top shape.”

Berrier says that the fringes and the greens all will have the new Diamond Zoysia grass. Two of the greens, No. 5 and No. 8, will also be reshaped to help with drainage.

Another benefit of Diamond Zoysia is that it’s supposed to hold up well in shady areas.

All the greens will eventually be stripped of the bent grass to a depth of about three inches deep, with Diamond Zoysia sod then rolled in. If the weather cooperates and the project doesn’t hit any snags, Berrier said all 18 holes should be ready for play by late April.

“We won’t have to close the course at all because at least one nine will be open during the project,” Berrier said. “We think it’s going to really be a benefit and I’m looking forward to seeing how the new grass responds.”


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