It wasn’t just COVID-19 that closed down the Red and Blue courses at Streamsong for some seven months this year. The shuttering was also the result of the Central Florida golf resort instigating a complete re-grassing of its greens. The new turf is a strain of Bermuda called Mach I, and it is prized for the good roll it promotes as well as for not having so much break. Work on the project was completed in late summer (with the resort’s third layout, the Black, staying online the entire time). On Oct. 1, the Red and Blue reopened, to rave reviews.
“What had happened over the years was that different strains of Bermuda grass, what we call ‘off-types’ had started to grow on the greens of our older two layouts,” said Rusty Mercer, the director of agronomy at Streamsong. “You get places where the grass might be thicker and growing with different colors and blade thicknesses. As a result, the greens looked splotchy, and the ball did not roll as true or as consistently as we would have liked.”
Those developments prompted Mercer to start looking at different turfs to replace the MiniVerde Bermuda that had been planted initially on those greens.
“We ended up growing several strains in our nursery to see how they did and how they performed and created plots for each one 10,000 square feet in size,” he said. “Then we asked members of the Streamsong family to check each one out and give us their feedback.”
The resort’s director of golf, Scott Wilson, was among those who participated in the blind test.
“Rusty didn’t tell us what each one of the plots had, and we went out these on different days and in different conditions to see how our putts rolled on them,” he explained. “We all preferred the Mach I. By a lot. The roll was fantastic, and the ball sat up on the grass so nicely.”
According to Mercer, Mach I was developed some years ago by agronomist and golf course superintendent Rodney Lingle. “It has been recognized as one of the cleanest and purest turfs in the industry, with a super fine texture and smoothness,” Mercer explained. “It also produces more uniform growth patterns in warm weather climates and more stability and longevity. In addition, it is more heat and drought tolerant, which is ideal for our climate down here.”
In describing Mach I, Wilson said it was important to understand that the name has nothing to do with how fast the golf ball rolls on the turf. “We associate the term ‘Mach I’ with speed, but it has nothing to do with that in this case,” he said. “It is all about the trueness of the roll as well as the consistency and longevity of the grass itself. The greens will be rolling at the same speed they always have.”
Mercer said that Streamsong, which is located in Central Florida’s Bone Valley region about an hour’s drive southeast from Tampa and 90 minutes southwest from Orlando, also took the opportunity this past summer to make a couple of tweaks to the courses.
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“We added some tee space in a few places, for the older, higher-handicap player,” he said. “Bill Coore has long worried that the first hole on the Red was too long, so we extended that tee out, to shorten it a bit. And we tried to make the green there a bit more receptive.”
“We also noticed that there was a lot less break in our putts on Mach I because the grain just isn’t there,” he added.
Mercer chuckled at that last comment. “Our caddies have been telling us that putts that previously broke 6 inches are now only breaking 3,” he said. “They have had to adjust their reads by 50 percent.”
Mercer is also quick to point out that in re-grassing the greens on the Red, which was designed by Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and the Blue, which is the work of Tom Doak, the resort went to great lengths not to lose the contours with which the architects originally endowed the putting surfaces. “We did not dig deeper than, say, and inch or an inch-and-a-half,” he said. “And we were sure to talk to Bill, Ben and Tom before we did anything.”
As for the Black, which is a Gil Hanse design that opened in 2017, it has the same MiniVerde Bermuda that once flourished on the Red and Blue. “The greens on the Black are still doing well, largely because they are younger,” Mercer said. “But we will probably go to Mach I on them in three or four years.”
The re-grassing demonstrates a commitment to make the golf there better and better according to Ben Pratt, the senior vice president of government and public affairs for Mosaic, the mining company that owns Streamsong and that concern’s representative to the resort.
“We know we have great courses, and we have to do what we can to keep them that way,” he said.
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