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Jim Meehan: New greens help Twin Lakes bounce back quickly from tough winter

UPDATED: Fri., June 28, 2019, 5:21 p.m.

The ball tracked toward the hole, drifted gently to the right and settled at the bottom of the cup after a smooth 15-foot journey.

Not my putt, of course.

My complicated relationship with that aspect of golf rarely takes a round off, but I had no complaints when my 25-foot downhiller rolled true before stopping inches from the hole on Twin Lakes Village’s 18th green, one of six new greens – seven counting the practice green – installed roughly two months ago.

Before heading to our carts I asked playing partners Tim and Dave, the author of the accurate 15-footer, if they could spot any seams on the green. It took some time surveying the surface before Tim identified one.

We played the back nine first, so several holes later we repeated the exercise on another new green, minus the afterglow of someone in our threesome draining a putt. This time, we couldn’t see any seams.

Twin Lakes was one of several area courses that felt winter’s wrath long after February’s snow and ice melted. The Rathdrum, Idaho, course was blanketed in a layer of ice up to 4 inches thick for a lengthy stretch that proved too much for several of its Poa annua greens.

“They can only last 45 to 60 days under ice,” Twin Lakes general manager Bruce Lewis said. “It was so cold we couldn’t remove the ice because it would kill all the greens. We had to move immediately on them with the demand for sod because so many courses lost greens.”

The course hired a Moses Lake company to replace six greens with bentgrass sod, with assistance from Twin Lakes superintendent Terry Holt and his staff. Turf still in good condition on the six replaced greens was saved and used to address spotty sections on other greens.

The process took just three days. The existing greens were scraped away by a “combinator” machine, the dirt was treated and prepped and crews swiftly rolled out bentgrass sod in 4-foot wide sections, hence the seam questions to my playing partners.

About 3 1/2 weeks later, Twin Lakes was open for 18 holes after being limited to nine holes for members in early spring to allow the new surfaces time to take root.

“It was such a phenomenal process and the recovery was virtually immediate,” Lewis said. “We were able to reopen (all 18 holes) so much quicker. We could still have been on temps now. We were able to recover a lot of our costs by doing this in three days.”

The new greens continue to improve as they mature. They were just a touch slower than the established greens, but that was by plan. Lewis anticipates the new greens will be “at the speed we want by July 4th.”

Twin Lakes absorbed some financial pain with lost spring green fees revenue and the cost to replace six green complexes, but the course is already back in quality condition for busier summer months. In the future, the bentgrass greens will handle being under ice – an important consideration for a course in something of a snowbelt microclimate – roughly twice as long as Poa annua versions.

Lewis has been in the golf industry long enough to know the negative impact when golfers tell their buddies about playing a course with poor greens.

“When rumor gets out that greens are dead or damaged, you lose revenue for two years,” he said. “We want to get the word out that we’re open, we’re trying to improve and these greens are better than before.”

Lewis is encouraged by the response from players who have toured the course recently.

“The members absolutely love it,” he said. “They’re excited. I didn’t hear one negative comment. We’re getting support that these are so good we needed to do more. That’s what you get with bentgrass. That’s why you see them on (the PGA) tour.”

There is a downside for me in all of this: I lost a built-in excuse for my wayward putts.

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