BOWLING GREEN, Fla. – Streamsong Resort’s first two courses, the Blue and the Red, will have new grass – a Bermudagrass named Mach One – installed on their greens over the next two years. The Blue will come first in 2020 and the Red will follow in 2021, with each course closed during the slower summer months for installation and other related touchups.
That will leave 36 of 54 holes open during each course’s installation at the resort, which is about 90 miles southwest of Orlando and 50 miles southeast of Tampa.
The greens on both courses appear to be in great shape currently, rolling smooth with a fair amount of speed during recent rounds, but slight mutations to the current grass surfaces have encouraged resort managers to undertake the re-grassing to maintain first-rate putting surfaces well into the future.
The resort operates three courses. The Blue was designed by Tom Doak, opened in 2012 and is No. 4 on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list for Florida’s public-access courses. The Red was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and also opened in 2012, and it is No. 2 on that list of Florida courses. The newer Black course, designed by Gil Hanse and opened in 2017, is No. 3 on that list.
A group of Golfweek’s course raters at Streamsong for Golfweek’s Architecture Summit last week were treated not only to terrific golf but a series of expert seminars, and they got an early look at a Mach One putting surface. During an early-morning presentation at the Red and Blue courses’ practice putting and chipping green, Rusty Mercer, Streamsong’s director of Agronomy, announced that the Blue will be closed from May through September of 2020 to have its MiniVerde greens re-grassed with the turf underfoot.
Mach One is a state-of-the-art ultradwarf Bermuda strain developed and patented by Rod Lingle, the former superintendent at Memphis Country Club. Those who played the Blue the day before would be forgiven for being somewhat perplexed, as the greens rolled beautifully, but Mercer outlined the rationale.
“What you’ll see if you look at the greens are big, broad circles of ‘off-types,’” he said. “It’s the same grass, but it has developed multiple looks.”
Mercer said that a consulting scientist, Jim Brosnan of the University of Tennessee, had measured leaf widths ranging from 2 millimeters to 18 millimeters.
“That’s a huge difference,” Mercer said. “During cooler weather we can get them under control, but in the shoulder season, these greens are awful. That’s why we’re doing this. When we get into March and April, the off-types will get worse and worse, and the plant will eventually become vulnerable to soil-borne diseases.”
Mercer pointed out that like all living things, turfgrass has a lifespan.
“In this kind of [Central Florida] climate, we think it’s about eight to 10 years. I took a look farther north, around Pinehurst, and didn’t see the same rise of off-types—but they have half the number of growing days during the year.”
In making the change to Mach One, Mercer said it had less to do with the new grass’s unknowns as with what is already known about the longevity of current bermuda stalwarts such as Champion, MiniVerde and TifEagle.
Attendees were invited to chip and putt around on the oversized and boldly contoured surface. The Mach One practice green, which was planted in June after spending a year in a 12,000-square-foot nursery adjacent to the resort’s newer Black course, sported an oddly vivid hue: To this eye, it seemed almost turquoise in places but rolled very true for a new surface. Mercer said the goal was to keep the ball on top of the ultradwarf blades.
“Any time a ball rides up high, you’ll get a better roll than when it sinks down. Mach One is as good as anything I’ve seen – the ball seems to float across the green,” he said.
Given that Streamsong offers three full-length eighteens, closing the Blue for the low season of next summer shouldn’t impact the resort much. It’s in keeping with Streamsong’s goal to invest in cutting-edge technology in order to provide golfers with an experience more akin to that of an upscale private club than a typical resort.
“As a superintendent, you can do one of two things: You can either grow grass or produce playing conditions,” Mercer said.
Mercer and Red/Blue superintendent Kyle Harris have proved adept at the latter, as most who have experienced Streamsong’s bouncy fairways and firm yet receptive greens will attest. Mercer and his staff have a stated goal of providing fast playing surfaces instead of trying to produce the greenest grass, and the move to the new putting surfaces should make that goal even more attainable.
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