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Reverse osmosis restores St. George's Golf Club, Bermuda

A reverse osmosis plant, bigger greens, bigger sand traps, new and improved grass on the greens and tee boxes and a few more challenging contours on the greens are just some of the improvements players will see when St. George's Golf Course reopens later this year.

"We are putting a lot of work in," said general manager Max Atherden this week. "We are trying to get the course to where it was originally a lot of the bunkers and greens had become smaller over the years and we are trying to bring them back to how they were originally planned. And some bunkers, which originally were here and had subsequently been filled in over the years, will be coming back as well."

When the renovation started earlier this year, nine holes were closed off in May and then management were forced to close the complete course in the middle of August.

Unfortunately they lost business but as Atherden said: "There was no way around it. We get a lot of visitors from the cruise ships (in St. George's) and we had to send them to Ocean View. But the work really needed to be done and people are going to be very pleased when the course opens back up."

Atherden said nine holes would be open on October 10th and he was hoping to have the complete course reopened on December 1st. "We will be offering reduced green fees when we open for nine holes and until the grass on the greens fully matures," he said. Course superintendent, Billy Joe Coffey, said: "The date for fully opening on December 1st is not cut in stone but that is what we are aiming for."

Atherden added: "We do not want to miss out on all the Christmas tournaments."
Two of the major renovations deal with the greens and bunkers. "We are redoing all of the bunkers we have taken out all of the old sand and are putting in drainage at the bottom along with sumps and then on top of that we are putting down netting which will stop the rocks from coming to the top. The new sand is being brought in from Georgia overall it will make the bunkers a lot more consistent."

The greens, which have always had trouble on all the courses in Bermuda because of the lack of water and the salt from the ocean, are also being completely redone.

In the past the grass on the greens was Bermuda grass but this time around seashore paspalum grass is being put in. "The Bermuda grass had become old and mutated," said Coffey.

Atherden explained: "All courses in Bermuda are subjected to the salt but this course more than others. We are using the seashore paspalum grass in sprig form and we can water with it with brackish water and also the salt spray will not kill it because it is salt water tolerant it is perfect for Bermuda. A lot of courses are starting to use this grass especially in the Caribbean and southern states of the US you need less fertiliser and chemicals to maintain it. You also can still get a fast surface. It has been around a while but it is starting to take off.

"A couple of years ago we used it on number eight and nine greens as well as the putting green to see how it did and we were happy with the results. Number nine by the water gets the worst salt spray and it is doing well."
At the ninth hole they are also extending the tee box towards the ocean. "It means that you will have to go over the rocks more it will be more challenging," said Atherden.

The greens are also being recontoured. "Some will be a little more severe than others. We are also putting the greens back to their original sizes and shapes," said Atherden.

Superindendant Coffey said: "Over time the greens shrunk as did the bunkers as the grass grew."

Bunkers, which had been eliminated over time, are also going back in "especially on number five and eight holes".

"Being that it is a short course, you need some obstacles and undulation in the greens to make them a bit more trickier," said Atherden adding, "we are also having a heavy fertiliser and chemical application programme to kill off all the weeds. In the end the grass will be a lot healthier."
The reverse osmosis plant will help a great deal with the upkeep of the greens and tee boxes.

"We will be able to water when we want. It was put in this year by the 11th green and although we may need a bigger one in the future, it will help a lot right now," said Atherden.

New equipment is also being brought in. "We are getting all new equipment next month tractors and green mowers so we can maintain the grass at a better height and have better cuts," said the course manager.
Both Atherden and Coffey have been at St. George's for six years.