Suntree Country Club plants environmentally friendly turf


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Steve Lamontagne, left, general manager of Suntree Country Club, and Jon Cockerham, director of golf course maintenance, stand at the eighth hole of the Classic course, which has been regrassed with Celebration Bermuda turf grass on its fairways and roughs. 

Photo courtesy of Suntree Country Club

Suntree Country Club is replacing the grass on fairways and roughs of its 18-hole Classic course with a more environmentally friendly turf grass.

When the Classic course reopens in August or September, its 75 acres of fairways and roughs will be covered with Celebration Bermuda grass, a popular, hardy hybrid that’s been planted at top golf courses around the country, said Jon Cockerham, director of golf course maintenance at Suntree.

“It’s a quick grower, very efficient,” Cockerham said. “Its root system develops to where it stores lots of water, lots of energy. Over time, you start using less fertilizer, less water, less herbicide, less pesticide to take care of it. It’s an upfront expense, but in the long run it’s an advantage.”

The greens will get a different replacement grass. Champion Ultradwarf Bermuda has a better root structure and is more resistant to disease, he said.

In May, crews used two applications of Roundup herbicide to kill off the original turf grass, planted when the course first opened in 1975. Workers chopped up rolls of new turf and sprigged greens first, then moved on to fairways and roughs, Cockerham said. 

“It’s player-friendly,” Cockerham said. “It’s very uniform. The ball sits up on it very nicely. It’s very soft. It’s got a great color to it. It’s the best of both worlds.”

The Classic course was a tour stop for the Senior PGA Tour through the 1980s and early 1990s.

The $300,000 regrassing effort is part of $2 million in Classic course improvements outlined in the private, member-owned club’s five-year capital plan, said Steve Lamontagne, the club’s general manager and a former PGA golfer. The club’s 18-hole, Arnold Palmer-designed Challenge course will be regrassed at a later date, Lamontagne said.

In 2014, the club at 1 Country Club Drive completed a four-year, $1.5 million irrigation project that installed new high-density polyethylene piping throughout its Classic course. In addition to planting new grass at the driving range and chipping area, workers also added, rerouted and resurfaced golf cart paths and built a “sport court” near the tennis courts.

The upgrades are meant to improve the golfing experience for current members and attract new ones, Lamontagne said. The club’s goal is to increase its golf membership from 450 to 525 members, he said.

“As we reach 525 golf members, initiation fees will increase and a waiting list will start,” Lamontagne said. “This is the best time ever to get in this club.”

For more information, call 321-242-6230 or go to suntree.com