Virginia's Suffolk GC Finishes Greens-Renovation Project

Suffolk Golf Course, an 18-hole public golf course in Portsmouth, Va., has completed a renovation of its greens. Starting with nine holes in 1952, the layout was designed by Dick Wilson.

"We decided to re-grass the greens to improve both maintenance and playability," said Suffolk's professional and operator, Eddie Luke. "Inevitably, we would have two or three greens die every summer, and we were forced to put up temporary greens, which weren't very good for business. Players want to play on the turf they see on TV, but most golfers don't know what goes into achieving that kind of turf on a golf course."

"I am a big fan of Dick Wilson's work," said Lester George, the golf course architect who oversaw the project. "It is always a treat to work on one of his courses. This is the second of his I've had the pleasure to renovate."

George's primary contribution to the project was to re-establish Wilson's architectural tenets of the greens. "We made sure the greens conformed to their original size, shape and contour - and this allowed for the restoration of the internal contour to the greens."

Suffolk's greens are some of the first in Virginia to go from bentgrass to Bermudagrass, following the lead of many courses in North and South Carolina. The Bermuda greens are performing better in the warm summer climate and provide better playing conditions year-round for patrons. Golf course superintendent, Joseph Riddick, was instrumental in the decision to switch to the new turf and recommended that Champion Turf Farms do the implementation.

This grass is very dense and has aggressive lateral growth, recovering from subfreezing temperatures better than most, and it thrives even in an upper transition zone.

George Golf Design was asked to evaluate the feasibility of the bentgrass to Bermudagrass conversion on what were native-soil greens, and Riddick and Luke researched the project at length. After discussions with Lester, they decided to build one green as a test case in 2012. The result was so successful that the decision to convert the remaining greens was obvious.

The USGA came to look at the course and concurred with the decision, and noted the environmental impact of the re-grassing. Suffolk GC is in a watershed, and the new grass will reduce runoff and require less chemical and pesticide applications.

"These newer Bermudagrasses are turning out to be just as good as bentgrass in warmer climates. They are much more disease-resistant and heat-tolerant. We will likely see more golf courses converting to Bermudagrass greens. This is a trendsetting move for golf courses to consider as they look to the future of environmental sustainability," said George.

"They are a great turf solution in the transition zone, where the weather is too hot for cool-season grass and too cool for warm-season grass. We expect the demand for these turf conditions will return Suffolk Golf Course to one of the favorites in the region."

For more information about the course, visit