Moody Gardens Golf Course, located off the coast of Texas on Galveston Island, recently completed a major renovation. The municipal course sees about 27,000 rounds of play each year and, in 2007, started a complex renovation that would raise the height of the greens approximately five feet. The goal was to reduce water settling on the course that often occurred from high winds and heavy rainfall associated with Gulf storms.
The renovation also marked a move from Bermuda grass to seashore paspalum. In the initial planning phases, it was decided that seashore paspalum was better equipped to handle Galveston's sandy soils, yet resist high levels of saltwater. This salt-tolerance provides greater opportunity to manage the soils and turf, while the variety still allows for a close, tight mow.
With the renovation complete, the course reopened in June 2008. In addition to raised greens, the course also featured seeded Sea Spray seashore paspalum on fairways, roughs and tee boxes, as well as paspalum [sprigs] on golf course greens.
“The availability of sod and sprigs was limited at the time of renovation, so we opted to use seed for most areas of the course,.” explains Steve Yarotsky, golf course superintendent. “Overall I'm glad I went with the seeding over the sod … I like the process a little better.”
Just three months after the golf course reopened for play, Hurricane Ike – the third costliest hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. – hit the Galveston region, including Moody Gardens Golf Course.
Yarotsky points out, “The storm surge was between 12-to-13 feet. All the greens were under water and most of the fairways and roughs were under water too.”
The storm hit on Friday night or early Saturday morning and when Yarotsky drove through the course three days later, he was shocked to see that Bermuda patches – the result of limited contamination from the grown-in – resembled straw while the paspalum was bright green.
“I was very shocked when I got back after Hurricane Ike and saw green. It was amazing it held on as well as it did."”
Immediately after the hurricane, Yarotsky applied high-calcium limestone to get the salts washed through the turf, but water was an issue. The area was without power for two weeks, so as soon as the generator was hooked up, he used potable water and ran water all day long to flush the course.
Considering the impact of Hurricane Ike, Yarotsky managed to revive the course in just a few months, making it ready to re-open for play in 2009.
Yarotsky is thankful to have made the switch to paspalum when he did, “With Bermuda, I don't know what I would've found after Hurricane Ike. With paspalum, it did the job it was supposed to do.”
He is also very please with the performance of Sea Spray, “I'd absolutely recommend Sea Spray, especially if you're on the coast or using effluent water. It will tolerate higher salt levels better than other varieties and, being on the coast, I wouldn't go with any other grass.”
With two years of seashore paspalum management under his belt, Yarotsky also has tips to share with fellow turf professionals. He points out that paspalum doesn't like heavy verticutting, so he prefers to do it a little more frequently but a little less aggressively.
Due to the close proximity of the coast, he's also able to avoid overseeding, “It stays a little warmer because we're slightly insulated. It goes a little off-color but as soon as it warms up, it greens up very nicely.”