Turf Changes at Bayonet Black Horse Paying Off

CA Bayonet's 18th (Photo by Julio Rodriguez)

The $13-million renovation to the Bayonet Black Horse Golf Club in Seaside, Calif., involved a complete re-turfing of two 18-hole courses, removing invasive poa annua and replacing it with Jacklin T1 bentgrass. The virtually all-new courses, which reopened in late December, now play much better, according to Dick Fitgerald, project manager for Seaside Resort Development, the company responsible for the work.

In addition to the turf changes, the large-scale project overseen by architect Gene Bates and staff involved dramatic alterations to hole routings, fairways and view corridors. New tees, bunkers and green complexes were built, and an intrusive copse of non-native trees was removed to provide unobstructed views of Monterey Bay, downtown Monterey and Point Pinos from a number of holes on both courses.

During a Q&A session, Fitzgerald discussed the improvements and the success of the new turf.

What was the biggest challenge in converting the courses to all-bentgrass?

The biggest challenge was the eradication of the noxious grasses that had become the playing surfaces over the years. Kikuya was the most virulent and the most difficult to remove.

CA-Black Horse No. 1 (Photo by Joann Dost)

What was the Bay Area weather like this winter, and were there any challenges during this period to ensure the bentgrass stayed healthy?

Other than a very dry and warm January, conditions were near normal and did not pose any significant hurdles to keeping the bent grass healthy. We stayed on our normal agronomic plan with slightly elevated water use in January, but not anything extraordinary.

How is the new Jacklin T1 holding up since the courses opened in December? Are there any rough patches of turf that will need to be addressed this year?

The T-1 is holding up very well with the exceptions of areas not receiving enough sunlight. The continued manicuring of our tree canopy has corrected these areas. We have experienced some wear issues on the par-3s but are adjusting our tee placement to insure an even rotation of the tees in use.

Whose idea was it to convert these 36 holes to bent, and why?

I together with Gene Bates made the decision based upon an underlying principle that we were trying to create the best playing surfaces available together with classic design in the renovation of the course. We had to eradicate the unfavorable grasses present and bentgrass provided the opportunity to establish the highest quality playing surface available.

What was it like working with Gene Bates and his team?

Very enjoyable! Gene is a hands-on guy who is willing to get on a bulldozer and create what he needs as well as listen to suggestions on individual issues as they develop. He also was very interested in our initial vision on what we wanted for the property and how that could best be interpreted.

How do you plan to prevent the fescue along fairways from invading the bentgrass on the course?

Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance! As the bentgrass matures it should be dense enough to keep the fescues out.

Are there steps being taken before golfers step foot on the courses (cleaning shoes, soft-spikes only, etc.) to minimize the re-introduction of poa?

We have an aggressive spraying program to deal with the poa annua. We are a soft-spike facility but are not intruding on our customer with any procedures. We are aware that the poa annua will return to a certain percentage and we believe we have a chemical plan to compete with it. We are, however, committed to keeping it out of our greens even to the extent of hand removal anytime it appears.

What have been the responses of the golfers who've played the courses, particularly their comments about the turf?

Very positive, enormous improvement over the prior experience. [The bent is a] superior playing surface. The design changes to Black Horse have given it a different feel in that there is more challenge in the greens with more movement in the green surfaces. Bayonet continues to be tough as ever, only a better challenge with the design improvements.

How low (via Stimpmeter readings) has staff been able to mow the new putting surfaces and how has the turf responded when placed in these "stressed" conditions?

We have the greens rolling at a 10 on the meter without any stress showing. They are a little hard still, but this will improve with age.

Any news on national-caliber tournaments being played at the facility?

We are holding dates for the Second Stage of Tour Qualifying School in November and are still being considered for a round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

For more information about Bayonet Black Horse, call 831/899-7271 or visit www.bayonetblackhorse.com.