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A Light at the End of the Tunnel: A Course Update

Firstly, I want to update everyone on the progress of cart path paving. As of today (5/8), asphalt has been laid down over nearly all of the front 9, which has resulted in play being restricted to the back 9 throughout this week. We expect paving to begin on the back 9 next week, which will again restrict play to only 9 holes, unfortunately—but that is a short-term inconvenience for a major long-term improvement, as each of you know. While the paving process is the most visible part of the job, it is hardly the only. In the coming weeks, topsoil will be spread along the edges of the new paths, then sod laid over top of that fresh topsoil. This backfilling process is essential to create a smooth transition from the edge of the path to the grass, and it is also a nice visual improvement. Additional sod will be laid in areas damaged by trucks and other equipment needed during construction, which is a side effect we anticipated—but again, a cheap price for the big upgrade.

I want to take this opportunity to address another cart-path related topic. We have received a number of complaints regarding the condition of the paths following the reclamation process (see my previous blog for info on that), before the asphalt has been spread, and those concerns are completely understandable. Unforeseen delays in getting the new asphalt out onto the paths, mostly due to rain, resulted in having to keep the paths in that poor shape for a period of time. I do apologize if that circumstance had a negative effect on your playing experience – as I said, I certainly understand those feelings – but I can assure you that the finished product will be well worth putting up with those poor conditions for the past month. If you are one of those who has expressed your displeasure with the condition of our paths before asphalt has been spread, I would ask that you come back and give us another try when the job is complete—I can guarantee you will leave with a different impression that you had previously.

Now, onto the more frustrating topic: the wrath of Mother Nature.

As those of you who have played recently have seen, the course has undergone a tumultuous stretch of weather the past 4-6 months, and it is showing. The most readily visible impact of that stretch of time is a dreaded term no golfer likes to here: Winter Kill. Toward the end of February, accumulating sleet and ice formed a suffocating layer directly on top of the turf. That problem was then compounded by consistent snowfall which, when piled on top of the base layer of ice, created an ideal scenario for winter kill. Luckily, this turf condition did not occur throughout the course, or even on a majority of the course, but there are patches that we will be addressing in the coming weeks and months.

This impact of winter in itself is troublesome enough, but it was further complicated by the conditions during March and much of April. Bermuda grass requires consistent ground temperatures of 60 degrees or more to really begin to pop out of dormancy, which is when you see the turf begin to “green up.” Not only did we not have consistent night-time temperatures anywhere near that 60 degree mark, we actually experienced a fairly heavy frost as late as April, which is not common for this area. The delayed transition out of dormancy was further slowed by an overabundance of rainfall during that cool period of time. The Bermuda grass transition was so delayed by these variables that we are still seeing some minor growth in dormant areas today, at the beginning of May. That said, we have seen (and continue to see each day) continual progress towards a full and healthy transition out of dormancy for the majority of these areas—at this point it is merely a waiting game.

As you can tell, Mother Nature has not been kind to Knox Muni coming into this season. Unfortunately, the impacts felt due to all of these conditions are ones which we cannot control. What we can do – and are doing – is address the issues. We are currently in the process of measuring, estimating cost, and outlining a specific work plan for making significant improvements to conditions adversely effected by the harsh winter and cool start to spring. While we are in the planning stages on a broader scale, and still believe we will see more “greening up” throughout the coming weeks, we are aware of areas which will need to be addressed. From sprigging in fairways to re-sodding tee boxes, you will notice us hard at work to get the course back into prime shape—and trust me, the hard work we put in will not only get conditions back to where they were, it will take us to the next level.

Since I have written nearly double what I intended to (bad habit that has stuck with me), I’ll sum it all up quickly. Course conditions, both in terms of cart paths and the course itself, are below our standards. Unfortunately, and frustratingly, the cause of these conditions was something out of our control. However, such circumstances are not barriers but rather challenges, a part of the process that only further motivates us to take Knox Muni to the next level. I am 100% confident that we will execute on our plan and make that vision come to life, and I’m extremely excited to make the best municipal golf course in Knoxville even better—I hope you are, too.

See you soon.