Myrtle Beach Has Gone Wild over Grass

Myrtle Beach Has Gone Wild over Grass

That is: the New Heat-Tolerant Bermuda Grass

By Tony Leodora

            When looking for an expert source on the subject of grass, it was never a good idea to consult former New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Tug McGraw. Asked which he preferred – grass or Astroturf – he replied, “I don’t know. I never smoked Astroturf.”

In the world of golf, talking about grass is a much safer subject. And, when expert advice is needed, safe sources always come from the United States Golf Association or the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. They can talk knowledgeably about the subject for hours.

And it would pay for owners and operators of golf courses to listen. They can save a lot of money. Mistakes in the area of agronomy on golf courses can be extremely expensive.

The Myrtle Beach area suffered from one of the most expensive mistakes in terms of agronomy a few years ago. And it was an unfortunate result of unforeseen circumstances.

Advancements in turf research had resulted in a number of new, heat-resistant bent grasses that seemed to be a godsend for warm climates. Not only could the grasses tolerate the heat, but they finally provided the smooth, fast putting surfaces that were not possible on courses that used the old strains of bermuda grass.

In fact, the Surf Club in North Myrtle Beach was one of the test courses slightly more than 10 years ago for the new G2 grass, developed by Greg Norman’s turfgrass company. After favorable results, it was used at Pinehurst No. 2 during the 2005 U.S. Open.

But then the golf gods turned nasty.

After a number of golf courses in the Myrtle Beach area spent thousands of dollars to re-grass their greens with one of the new heat-resistant strains of bent grass, the weather turned foul.

In the summers of 2009 and 2010 heat waves scorched the entire East Coast of the United States. The Greater Myrtle Beach area was not spared, as the extended heat and humidity devastated the golf courses. The young greens, which had been planted with the new strains of bent grass, were particularly affected.

Records were set in each of the summers. It was the perfect storm … and golf course operators were caught in the middle of it.

“Everybody got hit hard at that time,” explained Bob Seganti, director of golf at Caledonia and True Blue. “It was a shame. They tried an experiment with the new grasses in an attempt to improve the golf experience and it backfired. We might not see summers like that for another 100 years but it made everyone gun-shy.”

Luckily, the turfgrass industry was not finished with its research. Shortly after that tragic summers of ’09 and ’10 new strains of hybrid bermuda grass were developed. These had a higher heat-tolerant quotient than the newly developed bent grass strains, yet they exhibited the smooth and fast rolling capabilities of the grasses used on northern courses.

The two strains that made the greatest impact on southern courses – and on the Myrtle Beach area in particular – were Champion Bermuda and Mini Verde. Both are more resistant to heat than any bentgrass, but do not have the course, bumpy nature of older types of bermuda grass.

One by one, courses along the Grand Strand bit the bullet – again – and converted to the new strains of bermuda grass.

“We’ve made a lot of great strides in the last couple of years with the conversion of all 27 holes to Champion Bermuda,” said Steve Beecroft, director of golf at Carolina National – one of the northernmost courses along the Grand Strand, located in Bolivia, North Carolina. “Even though we are farther north, we felt it was something we had to do.

“The changeover was so successful that it spearheaded a number of other improvements that we are planning for the next couple of years. When the greens are in great shape, it’s easy to turn your attention to other areas of the course.”

Barefoot Resort, with four golf courses on the property, had a bigger job than most when it came to considering a change in grasses for their putting surfaces. But two years ago, one-by-one, they re-grassed all four courses.

In 2013 the weather turned against the Myrtle Beach area again. The Grand Strand recorded its wettest summer in history. The new strains of bermuda grass were put to the test again. And, again, they proved to be the perfect fix for weather in the Low Country of South Carolina.

“I was at Kings North during that time and the bentgrass greens were always so mushy,” said Ryan Ruddy, now head professional at Myrtlewood. “They changed to Mini Verde and the problem was solved immediately.”

One of the latest courses to convert to the Mini Verde strain was Tidewater. And it was part of a major renovation on the course.

“We really bit the bullet,” said Tidewater head professional Chris Cooper. “We closed the course for a few months. Not only did we re-grass the greens, but we took down a lot of trees, widened the fairways and added a lot of color to the course.”

This major renovation was done under the watchful eye of Superintendent Shaun Donahue. He was not shy in his approach.

“Over the course of the last few years, we actually took down about 1,200 trees,” said Donahue. “We took down 500 in the last wave and that really opened up the course.

“Then we removed about six inches of contaminated greens mix off the top of every green and replaced it with a mix of 80 percent sand and 20 percent peat. This was a USGA-recommended action.”

In the 25 years since Tidewater had opened, trees grew prolifically. And, when that happens, grass has trouble growing.

“A tree will grow two feet a year,” explained Donahue. “For most of the first 25 years on this property, they cut the grass but didn’t do anything with the trees.”

Cooper addressed the playability problems at Tidewater when he said, “A tree that was not a problem 25 years ago became a problem. All of these renovations are going to allow us to present a better product for the golfers.”

One of the greatest benefits of the new grasses that have come to most of the courses in the Myrtle Beach area is the conditions during the fall season. No longer is aggressive overseeding needed on the courses. Many courses see no need to overseed the greens that feature these new strains of bermuda grass. Instead they just use a non-toxic chemical to add a bit of color.

That means less interruption of play during the fall and better conditions on the courses throughout the stretch.

And the golfers have noticed. In 2014 Myrtle Beach enjoyed a record year for fall tourism. A marketing campaign touted “60 More Days of Summer” but, in the minds of golfers, that translated into 60 more days of great golf.

“There is a real feeling of confidence throughout the Myrtle Beach area right now,” concluded Steve Mays, director of marketing for National Golf Management, the company that manages a number of courses in the area. “We had a few tough years with the weather down here but now I think we have a better idea of how to handle it. We are poised for a great season.”

Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday Launches Inaugural Myrtle Beach Preseason Classic

54-Hole Event Will Be Played in February

Myrtle Beach, S.C. — Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday announces the inaugural Myrtle Beach Preseason Classic will be played February 2-4 on six of the area’s most popular courses. The courses hosting the 54-hole tournament will be True Blue, Glen Dornoch, The Witch, Wild Wing Avocet, Tradition Club and Panther’s Run.

Cost of entry, which includes golf, a Sunday welcome party with complementary food and drinks, a welcome gift, a Wednesday awards lunch and more, is just $195 per person. The event is limited to the first 100 teams. Individuals are welcome to signup and they will be paired with another single.

The two-man team event will feature a different format of play each day and teams will be flighted based on their USGA handicap. Teams will play best ball in the event’s opening round, followed by combined net team score and a Texas scramble.

“The Myrtle Beach Preseason Classic is an ideal way for golfers to kickoff their 2015 season,”

said Jeff Monday, MBGH’s tournament director. “The tournament formats are player friendly, the courses are outstanding, and our February weather is typically good, especially when compared to what our friends in the Northeast and Midwest experience. “

The golf course lineup, which features some of the best layouts in Myrtle Beach and all of America, will be the event’s primary attraction.

Glen Dornoch is one of the Myrtle Beach area’s most popular courses. The layout is renowned for the difficulty and beauty of its three finishing holes, all of which bring the Intracoastal Waterway into play.

Panther’s Run was the second of Ocean Ridge Plantation’s quartet of Big Cats, and the Tim Cate design is a 4.5-star course, according to Golf Digest. With pristine greens and a creative layout, Panther’s Run is a long-time favorite.

The Witch is one of Dan Maples finest works. The course plays through a cypress swamp and is as pretty as it is daunting. There is no housing, giving golfers an opportunity to experience the area’s native terrain, traversing the swamps on more than 4,000 feet of bridges.

Tradition Club is the Myrtle Beach area’s only Ron Garl design. As the name implies, this 4.5-star layout is a classic design and has long been one of the Myrtle Beach area’s most underrated tracks.

True Blue is 77th on Golf Magazine’s prestigious list of the “Top 100 You Can Play,” a ranking of the nation’s best public courses. The Mike Strantz design is one the area’s boldest and best. Everything at True Blue is big – the fairways, greens, bunkers and most of all, the fun.

The Avocet Course at Wild Wing is a Larry Nelson design that counts playability among it greatest strengths, highlighted by the 308-yard 14th hole, one of the area’s shortest par 4s and a very good risk-reward challenge.

For more information on the event, go to www.MyrtleBeachPreseason.com.

 

Four Myrtle Beach Courses Earn Spot on Golf Magazine’s List of “Top 100 You Can Play”

Grand Strand Also Dominates List of Best Public Courses in South Carolina Myrtle Beach, S.C. – Four Myrtle Beach golf courses have earned a spot on Golf Magazine’s list of the “Top 100 Courses You Can Play,” a biennial ranking of the nation’s best public courses that was unveiled in the September issue of the magazine.

Additionally, the Grand Strand dominated the magazine’s list of the “Best Courses Near You,” a ranking of public courses in each state.??“Myrtle Beach has as many great layouts as any destination in America, and Golf Magazine’s Top 100 You Can Play rankings are further affirmation of the quality of golf we offer,” said Bill Golden, Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday’s president. “We were very proud of being voted Best Golf Destination by readers of USA Today, and we are equally happy to receive the critical acclaim of one of the game’s most respected media outlets.”

Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, the area’s highest ranked course, was 27th on the “Top 100 You Can Play” list. The Dunes Golf & Beach Club was No. 42, followed by True Blue at No. 77 and the Love Course at Barefoot Resort at No. 85.

Seven of the 10 best public golf courses in the Palmetto State are located in Myrtle Beach and 13 of 20 overall, according to Golf Magazine. In a state renowned for its golf, Myrtle Beach’s dominance is a powerful testament to depth and quality of the area’s offerings.

Caledonia was ranked the third best public course in South Carolina, followed by Dunes Club (No. 4), True Blue (No. 6), Love Course (No. 7), Tidewater (No. 8), Fazio Course at Barefoot (No. 9), TPC Myrtle Beach (No. 10), Dye Course at Barefoot Resort (No. 13), Grande Dunes (No. 15), King’s North at Myrtle Beach National (No. 16), Heritage Club (No. 17), Pawleys Plantation (No. 19), and Heathland at Legends Resort (No. 20).

The Grand Strand was well represented in the North Carolina rankings as well, with four of the Tar Heel state’s top 20 layouts residing in Brunswick County.

On the North Carolina side of the border, Leopard’s Chase at Ocean Ridge Plantation was the ninth ranked course in the state, followed by No. 11 Tiger’s Eye at Ocean Ridge, No. 13 Rivers Edge, and No. 19 Oyster Bay.

About Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday

Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday is a non-profit trade association comprised of 79 championship golf courses and 99 golf package providers in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area. Founded in 1967, the organization continues to be the driving force behind the growth of the region’s thriving golf market. The originator of the “Stay and Play Package,” Golf Holiday provides non-biased information about accommodations and golf courses to assist golfers in making the most informed decisions when planning for their next vacation.

Golf Holiday also hosts seven events and tournaments annually to help to foster continued growth of the game. In addition to hosting the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After The Masters Celebrity Pro-Am Golf Tournament each spring, Golf Holiday also manages the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest single-site amateur golf tournament, the Palmetto High School Golf Championships, the Veterans Golf Classic and the Myrtle Beach Never Forgets Memorial Golf Outing.