Tarpon's city-run golf course seeking to overhaul greens

TARPON SPRINGS - There are many ways to make a golf course play a little tougher.

Trees can be planted, sand and water hazards can be excavated, holes can be lengthened.

The possibilities are vast.

But having multiple varieties of grass inhabiting putting surfaces in differing proportions?

While the previously listed challenges are course characteristics that attract many golfers, the latter can do the exact opposite.

That's a problem facing the Tarpon Springs Municipal Golf Course that its management would like to remedy.

Course Manager Chuck Winship and Tarpon Springs Public Services Director Paul Smith led off the last regular city commission meeting by laying out plans for a potential major renovation next summer.

The project to renovate the course's 20 greens - all 18 holes and two practice surfaces - is estimated to take three months and cost about $180,000. All work would be completed by in-house staff and go from June 2 until Sept. 5 of next year.

As Winship described, not all greens will require the same level of renovation. About half will be more work-intensive rebuilds while the others are essentially re-grassing projects.

The course manager and head pro also noted the project's overdo necessity, citing the United States Golf Association's recommendation for green rebuilds to occur once every 25 years.

The city's course hasn't ever been done since opening for play in 1927.

"The purpose of our project is to keep us competitive with other area golf courses," Winship said, adding that the majority of competing courses have done so in recent years.

"Our clientele base is very elderly as far as the general public is concerned and we need to expand our base and bring in some younger players," Winship said. "To do that we need to redo our greens."

Inconsistent green play can turn off many golfers, especially those with lower handicaps, Winship said. Because of intrusion, most of the municipal course's putting surfaces are composed of at least five different kinds of grass.

A photo included in the PowerPoint presentation showed an 18-inch square patch with three different varieties.

"That makes it really tough to putt consistently and that's what any good player is going to want," Winship said.

City crews rebuilding the greens will use paspalum grass on each surface. The genus is hearty and salt-tolerant.

Utilizing the paspalum will reduce the course's maintenance costs by an estimated $5,000 per year due to less watering and chemical use, something Commissioner Jeff Larsen praised.

"I think the project is costly, but necessary, and I think the end result sounds like it's also going to be an improvement for the environment," he said. "That's a very positive aspect, also."

Though the project's construction price tag is at $180,000, estimated revenue loss is pegged at $119,500. That's considering additional losses from membership and greens fees during the three-month closure period, but also savings realized during the down time in terms of labor and materials.

"This is a big project for the city . and I think it's a prime opportunity for us to do this in this coming year," Smith said. "It's going to position the golf course to continue to be competitive and bring new players to the game."

Prior to the rebuild presentation, Smith debuted the golf course's new promotional video. The 130 second spot, narrated by pro shop supervisor Russell Shafer, can be viewed on the city's website, at http://ctsfl.us or Facebook page, or periodically on the local public access television station.
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