East Mississippi Community College Director of Golf Will Arnett, center, inspects grass on a green at the Lion Hills Center and Golf Club in Columbus. Arnett is joined, from left, by EMCC Golf/Recreational Turf Management students Tanner Jacobs of Caledonia, Hunter Calhoun of Madison, Winn Kent of Greenville, and Blake Miller of Starkville. Golf course superintendent Derek Havard is at far right. Photo by: Courtesy photo
July 14, 2018 10:00:52 PM
East Mississippi Community College's Lion Hills Center and Golf Club is in the final phase of converting the golf course greens to a premium grass that has become the industry-leading standard at high-end golf courses across the country.
"We will be the only public golf course that offers daily-fee play in our area with this kind of grass," Lion Hills Director of Golf Will Arnett said. "There are some public golf courses in Tuscaloosa that have it but we will be the only one locally."
Play has been temporarily suspended on holes 1-9 as the greens are converted to Ultra-Dwarf Tif-Eagle grass. The conversion process that began in late June is expected to take about eight weeks to complete.
Hopes are to reopen the holes for play in late August. The greens on holes 10-18 were converted last year to Tif-Eagle, which is among three new Ultra-Dwarf Bermuda grasses touted for offering improved ball speed, putting consistency and overall playability.
"This is the type grass most high-end country clubs are going to," Arnett said. "It is a faster green and the grass is smoother, thicker and denser. Another benefit is it is a 12-month grass that maintains its playability in cooler months. The old generation of grass was only smooth and consistent for about nine months of the year."
Students in EMCC's Golf/Recreational Turf Management program are helping out with the labor-intensive process to install championship quality putting greens. Killing the old grass required three applications of Roundup.
The greens were sprigged with Tif-Eagle on July 2. The new grass was watered every other hour for the first 10 days and is watered five times daily after that. The grass will be fertilized weekly throughout the process and mowed three times per week beginning in weeks four to five.
Lastly, the grass will be top-dressed, which requires adding a layer of sand to improve putting performance.
Arnett said the students are gaining valuable hands-on experience they typically would not be exposed to while in college
"It has been interesting to see how the process works and what all is involved in converting the greens," said student Winn Kent, whose father is a former golf course superintendent at Greenville Country Club and now works for the Ole Miss Golf Course.
While work is in progress, golfers have the option of playing the back nine holes twice and temporary greens have been cut into the fairways on the front nine. The daily fee of $45 for 18 holes has been dropped to $25 and area golf courses are offering discounted rates while the work is under way at Lion Hills Golf Club. Golfers can drop by the Lion Hills Pro Shop for help scheduling a tee time at participating golf courses.
EMCC head golf professional Benji Williams said feedback from golfers has been positive since the greens on holes 10-18 were converted.
"When you stand over a putt you actually think you stand a chance of making it now with the type of greens we are putting in," Williams said. "It is smoother and the putts are more true. You don't have to worry about the ball wobbling now."
The greens will only improve with time as the Tif-Eagle grass matures, Arnett said.
"This is just a far superior quality of grass than what we had," Arnett said. "We had some doubters while we were doing the back nine holes. This spring they said, 'OK, I get it. These greens are really, really good.'"