Monday, January 28, 2008

Shape It Up

Shape It Up

Another View

If you’ve been hanging around on this site for a while, you may have noticed Scott Beasley’s letter to Mr. Brian K. Brown, Roanoke City Economic Development Administrator.

There’s a lot of truth in what Mr. Beasley wrote about course conditions, but there are a few points where I would disagree. I grew up on the course, and I still remember it as it was. I also spent fifteen years living on the first fairway of Green Hills Club in Greene County, Virginia. Green Hills’ course plays a little shorter than Countryside, but it is remarkably similar in lay-out. Like Countryside, one nine is predominantly in a flat area and the other nine is at a slightly higher elevation with rolling hills. During my time there, I befriended the course superintendent and freely wandered through the equipment barns and frequently talked about course maintenance with him. Those wanderings gave me a different, deeper understanding of how a golf course should look and should be maintained. Of course (pun intended), I haven’t stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, so I am certainly no expert in course maintenance.

Here’s the way I see the state of Countryside using Mr. Beasley’s letter as a guide.

Limbs Down/Traps Not Raked

I can’t really speak to the limbs. However, there was a general uncleanliness about the course this past summer, as if people were just letting things go a bit.

The traps are not in the shape that Mr. Beasley suggested. He must have only toured the facility in winter. I can assure you that the traps are no better in summer. They have hard-packed sand. Many drain poorly and are sediment filled. Many traps are in need of edging as creeping grasses infiltrate the edges.

If you look at the picture, you will see more of a construction-grade sand, not the pretty white sand that a championship course requires. Additionally, many traps and bunkers have been completed filled in. My guess is that approximately 1/3 of the traps and bunkers have been filled with grass. I was told recently that the bunkers were filled in order to speed up play.

Mr. Beasley is right on about the tees, fairways, and greens. Traditionally, Countryside has the best greens in the Roanoke Valley (no kidding!). However, they began to slip over the last few years with different grass-like strains (crab, etc) invading. They are easily salvageable.

The tees are horrible. They are burned out, worn out, and unmaintained. They will need extensive reconditioning. He’s right about the irrigation. It makes no sense to reseed and revitalize if you can’t maintain the surfaces with proper hydration.

The fairways at Countryside have never been the absolute best (other than the showcase second hole). However with the overhauling of the irrigation system, it makes sense to recondition the fairways.

Cart Paths
Mr. Beasley’s right; the cart paths are in horrible shape and are DANGEROUS. I agree that gravel is not the answer, but I know that they cannot be left to deteriorate further.

Option 1
6000 feet at $25 a foot is $150,000 is a lot of money. I think, however, a more careful study can be done and a priority list of path segment replacement can be drawn up. Not all the paths need to be hit at the same time. In fact, I think for the future lifespan of the course, it makes sense to replace the paths utilizing a cyclic plan. Short-term patches could be done to make the most rugged areas passably safe until they can be replaced.

Option 2

Transitioning many existing paths to grass is a fair point. In my estimation, you only need the cart paths in high traffic areas like around greens and tees. Once golfers leave those areas, they scatter to find their golf balls. 90 degree rules (may only cross the fairway at a 90 degree angle) further reduce wear and tear on the fairways. So a significant amount of money could be trimmed from the overall replacement cost by transitioning some of the existing paths to grass.

As a side note: The eighth hole probably has the worst paths. The old path along the right side of the fairway is a rutted mess. The make-shift path developed along the left side is a rugged nightmare.

Water Features
Mr. Beasley neglected to mention the use of water as a prominent feature on the course. Since its inception, water has been a vital part of the course. The sixteenth hole, for example, is considered one of the best holes in the region by The Roanoke Times. However, water features have been allowed to deteriorate or have been removed altogether.


The whole front nine is fed by a unique stream bisecting the land. The active stream is what gives that relatively flat space an unusual character not found in any other course in the valley. All along the seventh, eighth, and third holes, banks are eroding. Walking bridges and cart path drains are collapsing.

Bank stabilization efforts need to be enlisted. The area by the seventh green where the towers cross the property is especially bad. The stream along the eighth fairway, devilishly tricky for golfers to manage, suffers from bank erosion.


The second hole pond has a
lmost completely filled in with sediment and needs to be dredged to be restored to its original condition. It could be permanently converted to marsh/wetlands which would be an acceptable alternative to me if maintaining a water feature is too cost prohibitive. However, the area must not be allowed to become a trash dumping ground. Now, flood debris litters the area along the edge of the property by the second green.

The sixteenth pond is in fair shape. Some bank stabilization needs to be done on the green-side of the lake. Also some landscaping/maintaining needs to be done in the area below the tee box toward the pond.

My biggest gripe over the years is the complete eradication of the sixth hole lake. Back when the course was first opened, a lake stretched from just shy of the sixth green toward the front of the seventh tee. Some time about fifteen years ago, that lake was drained and now a small creek meanders through the space. I’d like to see that lake restored.

Mr. Beasley gave an honest assessment of the property (less the water features). I don’t believe that all of the issues need to be addressed immediately. It makes sense to prioritize repair, reconditioning, and restoration needs then commit to revitalizing the course over a reasonable, measured period.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Commentary

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