(Photo of Dalton G&CC by Bill Bergin)
The renovation at the 97-year-old Georgia club, where the golf course dates to 1912, brought the first major improvements in nearly 40 years, including a new irrigation system and bunker rebuilds. In California, the project at Rancho Santa Fe GC will also replace the irrigation system while refreshing fairway turf, reshaping bunkers and renovating the practice range and short-game areas.
The 97-year-old Dalton (Ga.) Golf and Country Club has completed the $3.5 million renovation of its golf course that dates to 1912 as 9-hole course, with putting greens made from a mixture of cotton-seed hulls and oil that was flattened with a heavy roller.
The course was renovated into a Gary Player Championship Course in 1970 and has now been overhauled following detailed plans developed by architect Bill Bergin, ASGCA. Duininck Golf began the project in January 2020 and completed it on schedule in eight months despite extraordinarily wet weather and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The scope of improvements included complete renovation of the golf course and irrigation system, while improving the layout to make it more enjoyable for members of all skill levels.
“It had been nearly 40 years since the last time any major improvements had been completed and the golf course was showing signs of wear,” said Judd Duininck of Duininck Golf.
Added Bergin: “The greens were well beyond their expected lifetime, the irrigation system needed to be replaced, and the course suffered from poor drainage on many holes. It was time for a major renovation.
“In determining the scope of work, we recognized that while we were tackling these items, we could give the golf course an entirely new look and identity,” Bergin added. “Our goal was to design a “golden age” golf course that would function well for the next 30 years or more.”
Greenside and fairway bunkers were rebuilt, with 41,500 sq. ft. of Better Billy bunker liner and Tour Angle sand installed to improve maintainability and playability. Several putting green complexes were relocated, and others were rebuilt to USGA standards to enhance shotmaking and maintainability.
Greens were sprigged with TifEagle Bermuda, and new laser-graded tees were added throughout the course to add a new dimension of playability and shot,aking opportunities. All fairways were graded to improve surface drainage and replanted with Tiftuf Bermuda.
The renovation also included the addition of a new 650-head Toro irrigation system, pump station, and pond intake.
“The project couldn’t have turned out better,” said Mike Whaley, CGCS, Dalton G&CC’s Golf Course Superintendent.” “The members are thrilled with the new golf course, especially with how well it drains, the quality of the new putting greens and how fun it is to play.”
Added General Manager Scott Stuart: “Duininck’s team was great to work with, and although we had some setbacks because of wet weather and the pandemic, their team never compromised quality or attention to detail.”
Duininck Golf, part of the Duininck Companies established in 1926 based in Prinsburg, Minn, and a member of the Golf Course Builders Association of America, is also currently working on another project in the state at Green Island Country Club in Columbus, Ga.
The board of the Rancho Santa Fe Association has approved a $5.9 million overhaul of the golf course at the Rancho Santa Fe (Calif.) Golf Club that will include the installation of a new irrigation system, fresh turf on the fairways, reshaped bunkers and a renovation of the practice range and short game areas, the Rancho Santa Fe Review of Solana Beach, Calif. reported.
C+RB reported on the initial planning of the project in October 2020 (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/rancho-santa-fe-gc-eyes-potential-6m-course-renovation/)
The funds for the upgrade will come out of the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club’s reserves, and club members with voting rights also need to vote to approve the project before it moves forward, the Review reported.
The renovation is expected to take six months and the goal is to have nine holes open for the majority of the time, the Review reported. The front nine is anticipated to be closed from April through June, and the back nine from July through September, with a full course closure for the last three weeks of the project. The targeted completion date is October 15th.
The process for the renovation began back in 2019, the Review reported, when the club hired world-renowned architect David McLay-Kidd to help update the master plan for the course, which is redone every 10 years. McLay-Kidd is known for the design of Bandon Dunes in Oregon, Rolling Hills Country Club and courses throughout the world.
When the club gathered input from members about the course, some of the biggest complaints were frustrations with the turf on the fairways and the accessibility of the bunkers, the Review reported.
“We have turf that’s really on a respirator,” said Blair Nicholas, RSF Golf Club board president. “It’s decades old and was originally developed for putting greens, but it was the best turf available at the time.”
After studies with multiple vendors, the club selected a much better Bermuda turf that can thrive in the Ranch’s micro-climate, the Review reported. The turf will increase drought resistance, improve color retention (not going as visibly dormant), tolerate traffic better, and grow in the shade.
“That will be huge enhancement to the playability of our golf course,” said Nicholas.
The bunkers, which are currently very hard to get into and out of, will be reshaped in the more user-friendly, traditional style of Max Behr, the original course architect, the Review reported.
The short-game area and practice range will also see improvements, the Review reported. Practice areas are a top amenity at courses right now, Nicholas noted, with many people using them if they don’t have the hours to devote to playing a full round.
The replacement of the irrigation system is “overdue,” the club said, as the current system is over 30 years old and has required many repairs and operates inefficiently, resulting in a lot of lost water, the Review reported. The new Rain Bird system is expected to improve water conservation and help enhance turf conditions.
RSF Association President Mike Gallagher said that while the RSF Golf Club is responsible for the funding and the stewardship of the course, the Association owns the property and the board has a responsibility to ensure it is well-maintained, the Review reported.
“This is one of the most important assets that the community has,” Gallagher said. “Unfortunately the condition of the turf at the golf club has deteriorated over time. This re-turfing is going to ameliorate that situation and bring us back to where we have been noted as one of the finest golf courses in Southern California.”
Overall, the club is in a positive position financially, Nicholas said, logging record numbers of rounds played and adding 22 new members in the last six months, the Review reported.
In November 2020, the Association’s Forest Health and Preservation Committee expressed some concerns about tree removals on the golf course and RSF Association Director Laurel Lemarie had some questions about tree management in the new master plan, the Review reported.
The master plan calls for the removal of six trees and the replanting of 16 trees, Nicholas said. The selected replacement trees are cork oak and live oaks that consume much less water and are considered to be much safer trees.
The 12 or so trees that were removed by the golf club in 2020 were said to be diseased and structurally deficient, posing a danger to golfers and trail users, the Review reported. All went through a review process with the RSF Association.
“I’m an environmentalist at heart and I share all of the values of someone that wants to preserve our trees,” Nicholas said. “There was a huge importance put on making sure that we preserved our environment.”
The irrigation system and new turf will make a huge impact on the conservation and watering of trees, shrubs and understory, Nicholas added. “It really should be a huge benefit to the community,” he said. “Unlike a prior master plan where there were a lot of trees removed, we did everything possible to maintain every single tree that we could.”
The tree plan is posted on the golf club website for members, and hard copies are available for review at the administrative offices, the Review reported.