Re-grassing Slated at Oxmoor Valley, Grand National
Two courses on Alabama’s acclaimed Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail will be getting greens makeovers in 2021.
Mike Beverly, chief operating officer of the RJT Golf Trail, detailed forthcoming renovations for Oxmoor Valley’s Valley course and for the Links course at Auburn’s Grand National facility.
Greens on both courses will be re-grassed with TifEagle Bermuda grass. Also, some other modifications will be made on an as-needed basis, Beverly said.
Both Grand National in Auburn and Oxmoor Valley in Birmingham are original Trail sites and were due for modifications.
“We’re going to change Oxmoor Valley from the old dwarf Bermuda greens and put in TifEagle,” Beverly said. “We’ll close down the Valley course in mid-April and reopen sometime from mid-to-late September.”
The Ridge and short courses will remain open for play.
Beverly said architect Clyde Johnston recently was in Birmingham for meetings about what other improvements might be made while the course is shut down.
“We’re looking at possibly doing some tee work and some drainage and opening some approaches while we have it closed,” Beverly said of the Valley course. “We’re going to try to make it a little more playable. Maybe lower a few tees to make it easier to walk up the slopes. Little things like that.”
Beverly said it is common for Trail management to make improvements to the rest of the course while it is closed for the greens renovations.
Switch to TifEagle Will Make Maintenance Easier
“We are always looking to take advantage of the opportunity while it is closed to make the course a little more accessible and playable,” he said. “Anything that is really kind of obvious that needs to be addressed we will take a look at.”
The Links course at Grand National in Auburn will undergo a similar renovation. The bentgrass greens will be changed to TifEagle to make it more playable.
“The bentgrass there has been phenomenal for almost 30 years but it is not the right climate for bentgrass,” Beverly said. “It’s always good, but in the summer, it tends to shrink up and get really soft. We are going to get TifEagle in there to get a nice firm, fast playing surface. It is much easier from a maintenance standpoint.”
Changing to TifEagle will reduce maintenance for RJT Golf Trail crews, Beverly said.
“We won’t need fans on certain holes or have to have a somebody dragging a hose out at 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon hitting ridges and hot spots,” he said. “The superintendent can rest a little easier that his greens aren’t turning purple.”
Play will continue as usual on Auburn’s Grand National Lake and short courses while the Links course is closed. Beverly said the Links course will close near the end of April and reopen in September.
The greens complexes will return to their original size specs, Beverly said. Over time, most greens shrink due to mowing patterns and other factors.
“We have already gone around and checked the greens mix and how far to expand them out,” he said. “You pick up one or two feet all the way around a green and you are adding quite a bit of square footage. The putting surfaces will get back to their original sizes and get that nice utlradwarf that will handle the heat and we’ll have a better year-round playing surface as well.”
Capitol Hill of RTJ Golf Trail to Host Symetra, Korn Ferry Events
Beverly announced that the Symetra Tour – the LPGA’s version of the Korn Ferry Tour – will return to the RTJ Golf Trail with the Guardian Championship in September at Capitol Hill in Prattville.
The event was postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re excited to get that back again and have professional golf back in Alabama,” he said.
Beverly said the Korn Ferry Tour will hold prequalifying for its qualifying tournament in Prattville at Capitol Hill. A first stage site of Q-school will be in Mobile and a second stage site will be held in Dothan.
Dothan’s Highland Oaks trail site will also host Mackenzie Tour qualifying March 9-12.
RTJ Golf Trail Partners with Youth on Course
Not only is the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail an active participant in the Youth on Course initiative, three sites will also be involved in its internship program for the first time.
“They are trying to identify kids at a young age who are interested in golf,” Beverly said of the internship program. “We are looking to employ kids between 16 and 18 years old to help diversify the workforce and maybe get them interested in a golf career.”
Beverly said the idea is to give interns a taste of every aspect of the golf industry. Youth on Course will do an initial screening for interns and then Trail representatives will do the actual hiring. To date, the internship program has only been available in California..
Beverly said the Youth on Course internship program is needed to help get interested youngsters involved in the industry.
“If you get some kids who are new to golf, it’s a great way to teach them,” he said. “The caddie programs that so many kids grew up in at country clubs have gone away. You hear all types of stories about how guys really learned the game in those programs. We miss that nowadays with the golf cart and everything. But if you can still get a kid working at a facility – whether it is the range or the bag drop or maintenance crew – you can hook them for life and maybe find some great talent to continue to move into golf on the professional side.
RTJ Golf Trail sites that will be involved in the internship program include Oxmoor Valley in Birmingham, Capitol Hill in Prattville and Magnolia Grove in Mobile.
“Those are good spots and a great place to learn,” Beverly said. “There are great directors at each site to mentor these kids along. We’re excited to expand that program. There’s a lot of good stuff happening on the Trail.”
Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News.
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Featured image: Oxmoor Valley’s Valley Course, credit RJT Golf Trail