Course plans fairway work

Eagle Bend to replace grass after survey points to deficiencies

Eagle Bend Golf Course plans to replace the grass on fairways No. 1 and No. 10 with a warm-season zoysia grass. The changes come in response to a user survey conducted in December.

Soon, Eagle Bend golfers, you’ll have one less excuse for that poor shot.

The city-operated golf course below the Clinton Lake Dam is scheduled to undergo a mini-makeover this spring after a user survey highlighted concerns that the course’s fairways are deteriorating.

“The public indicated some areas that we already knew were some rough spots,” said Roger Steinbrock, marketing supervisor for Lawrence Parks and Recreation. “We had some bad conditions pop up when it got really, really hot this year.”

Mark Hecker, the department’s parks and maintenance superintendent, said crews this spring will replace the grass on fairways No. 1 and No. 10 with a warm-season zoysia grass.

“It loves the hot weather,” Hecker said. “It will thrive during the hot season.”

Eventually, Hecker said the staff wants to convert all 18 fairways at the course to zoysia. But Hecker said budget considerations will make that a multiyear effort. Hecker is estimating that it will cost no more than $10,000 per fairway to install the new grass, which means the department can afford to do one to two fairways per year without making a special budget request to the City Commission.

Golfers who participated in a department survey in December identified the fairway issue as one that needed to be addressed. The issue of course conditions/playability received the lowest score on the survey, which went out to about 360 golfers who regularly use the course as part of a golf league or frequently make tee times. The survey found 67 percent of respondents ranked the course’s playability as excellent to good. In every other category on the survey – ranging from condition of greens to staff service – the course receive an excellent to good rating in the 80 to 90 percent range.

Staff ratings also had identified the fairway issue. In a September inspection, staff members rated five of the 18 fairways to be in poor condition.

“The issue we have with our fairways right now is that they’re great in the spring but it is hard to keep them going in parts of the summer,” Hecker said. “They really burn down in late summer.”

Several area courses are converting to the zoysia fairways, including Lake Shawnee in Topeka. Hecker said using warm-season grasses on Midwest courses has become a trend since Eagle Bend opened in 1998. He said the grasses have been installed as a result of summers that are more consistently scorchers.

“I’m not going to blame global warming though,” Hecker said. “That’s kind of tough to do with all this snow on the ground.”

The new grass will give the course a different look. Hecker said the zoysia will be brown in early spring and late fall, in contrast to the current mix of bluegrass and rye that stays green for long periods of time in the spring and fall.

“But we figure the bulk of our play is happening in the summer months,” Hecker said.

He also said the brown grass won’t impact the quality of play, just the look of the course.

Other findings from the survey included:

¢ 92 percent of respondents rated conditions of greens as good to excellent.

¢ 88 percent of those surveyed said the prices charged at Eagle Bend represented a good to excellent value.

¢ 81 percent rated the pace of play as good to excellent.

¢ 97 percent rated the friendliness of the staff as excellent to good.

¢ 99 percent were pleased with the availability of tee times at the course.

¢ 73 percent were positive about the food and beverage offerings at the course.