Progress continues with repair of damaged greens at the Marion Country Club golf course, with expectations seven greens will be rehabilitated and ready for use April 1.
Two separate events last year ravaged the greens, creating huge barren areas that made the greens unusable.
“We weren’t able to aerify the greens until late last spring because of a regional golf tournament taking place out there,” Marion Country Club President Mitch Carlson said.
“When we finally did it in the middle of May, when we pulled the plugs out to aerify, the machine that drags the plugs off the greens basically just dragged grass off with it in spots. That caused the first part of our problem,” Carlson said.
The club dismissed its course superintendent and was using volunteers to maintain the course when a second mishap occurred in late June that killed much of the grass that remained.
“They went out and fertilized on a wrong day,” Carlson said. “It was 100 degrees out, they put on too heavy an application, and it left big stripes in the greens, in addition to what we had already,” Carlson said.
Carlson said the club thought they were back on track in August when they hired Adam Goscha, a mechanic from Colbert Hills Golf Course in Manhattan, as course superintendent in August. Colbert Hills has been consistently ranked by Golfweek as the best public course in Kansas, and sixth-best among all Kansas courses by Golf Digest.
“We got recommendations, and he’d taken two years of schooling in turf management,” Carlson said.
The move turned out to be a disaster.
“We let him go too long and found out he wasn’t the answer,” Carlson said. “He wasn’t working, he wasn’t showing up, and the seed he tried to plant would never have worked on our golf course.”
Chris Young of Peabody, who operates Greenleaf Prairie Lawncare and Landscaping, had been passed over when the club hired Goscha. When the position became vacant in January, Young applied again.
“He was straightforward with us that he had no golf course experience,” Carlson said. “We should have gone with him first. He’s doing a fantastic job.”
The club has also retained golf course consultant Shawn Spann of Winfield Solutions to advise the club on rehabilitation efforts for the next year.
Young and club volunteers have been cutting four-inch plugs from the remaining grass on greens on holes 1 and 2, and using them to restore portions of seven other greens. The process is tedious and time-consuming, as it has to be done manually, Carlson said.
“We try to get a good crew out there on Saturdays to get as much done as possible. Chris was doing it every day, now he’s down to doing it probably three days a week,” Carlson said.
On some greens, plugs have been cut from the backs of the greens to fill in gaps in the fronts, and the remaining bare patches will be seeded, Carlson said.
“By April 1 we should be playing seven of the nine holes, and you won’t even be able to hardly tell that we’ve had to pull these plugs,” Carlson said.
The greens on the first and second holes had the greatest amount of damage, which is why what little grass that was left is being used on the other greens. These two greens will have to be completely reconstructed, Carlson said.
The surface on the first green will be replaced with 4,000 square feet of sod purchased from Carey Park Golf Course in Hutchinson.
“We have found enough sod from Carey Park to do one green,” Carlson said. “After we get the sod on it, it should be ready to go hopefully by May 1.”
The second hole green surface will be stripped and re-seeded, and will be the last green to be put back into service.
“We’re going to go in and seed in the next week or two, and have it tarped for a good month and a half or so, until the wind won’t blow the seed and sand away,” Carlson said. “It might not be up and playable until July 1.”
Temporary greens have been established in front of the permanent ones, so the course is open for play during repairs, Carlson said.
“There’s a little cup and flag in front of the greens, and we have 1,000 square feet of putting surface. It’s not ideal putting surface, it’s just whatever grass you’ve got there mowed a little shorter,” Carlson said. Because the surface is rough, a special rule allows players who miss a second putt attempt on a hole to count it as a made putt and move on to the next hole.
Many club members have been playing at Hillsboro Municipal Golf Course, which agreed to help out during the trouble with the Marion course.
“They gave our members a deal to go over there and play a little cheaper than you would normally have to pay, and they’ve come up with carts for a lot of our guys,” Carlson said.
Carlson commended the members of Marion Country Club for their patience and volunteerism during the ordeal with the greens.
“I haven’t heard anybody saying they’re tired of it and they’re going someplace else. They care about the course,” Carlson said.