FORT WAYNE – From where Brian Chalifoux stands this sunny May morning, he can see yards of manicured grass so green it hurts your eyes, and beyond a wind-rippled pond, and beyond that the balconied white façade of Fort Wayne Country Club's clubhouse.
“Such a pretty view from here,” Chalifoux says.
And that doesn't even include what's right at his feet.
What's at his feet is one of FWCC's 19 greens (counting the putting green), all of which were stripped down and re-seeded between Aug. 1 and Sept. 1 as part of a greens project that, says Chalifoux, FWCC course superintendent, happens only about once every 30 years or so.
“It was time,” says Chalifoux, who's been at FWCC for 26 years. “We had problems with our poa (annua) the past two years. '13 was a mild year, so it was fine. But in '11 and '12 we really got hurt (by the drought). Those greens really took a beating.”
Except for some subtle bunker and mound changes around some of the holes, and the removal of 97 trees and replanting of 50 to provide the bent grass greens adequate exposure to sunlight, little else changed on FWCC's gently rolling par-71, 6,635-yard layout. But if the yardages remained the same, those last few feet comprising the greens changed a great deal.
Evidence is right in front of Chalifoux, where the green is smooth, uniform and billiard-table perfect.
“And they'll only get better as they grow in,” he says.
The planning of the project, he says, began two years and three club presidents ago and required not only the guidance, and patience, of the membership and its leadership, but any number of outside agencies – among them Lohmann Golf Design, Arbor Com (shade study), Mavis Consulting (root zone depth study), Digital Turf Imaging (green drainage analysis), Golf Preservation (installation of new greens drainage on eight greens), Tri Est Fumigation and Commercial Irrigation.
During the actual work and grow-in the late summer and fall, temporary greens were installed so members could continue to play throughout the process. But Coyote Creek club pro Bill Blumenherst opened the doors to his course to FWCC members, and FWCC pro Todd Firestone arranged two play-aways a month in August, September and October at Crooked Stick, Meridian Hills, Elcona, Rock Hollow and Harbor Shores.
“Our caddies came over and caddied (at Coyote Creek). It was awesome,” said Firestone, whose club plays host to a high school invitational every summer.
Back at Fort Wayne Country Club, meanwhile, complete reconstruction was done on only two holes (No. 2 and the putting green), while grading modifications were done on holes 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16 and 17 and bunker modifications on holes 4, 14 and 17.
“There were some subtle contour changes probably, maybe, only on about six greens,” Chalifoux says, pointing out the par-3, 125-yard No. 17 as an example. “This is a perfect example. Bob Lohman, our architect, came in and you can almost see the swale where he took the drainage pattern and moved it and made a little a contour change in that's almost like a little bit of a saddle that he put in it the green there.
“Then the bunker was rebuilt, reshaped. That gave us the visibility from 17 tee. You couldn't see this bunker; you could see just barely the front of this front left bunker. This was raised up in the back to give you a nice look from the tee, so that even though it's a short little hole it really appearance-wise made a nice visual change to the golf hole.”
The greens, meanwhile, were seeded with Pure Distinction bent grass, and that was completed at the end of last August.
“A big plus to the project was correcting really a lot of nonexistent drainage,” Chalifoux says. “Bent grass loves dry conditions, so now all our greens drain very well.”
The evidence is right at his feet.