September 9th, 2011
Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail renovates courses for 20th anniversary
by Kent Kasey, Birmingham News, 9/4/11
The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is about to turn 20 years old, so a few of the trail's courses are receiving facelifts . . . or greenlifts.
The Lake Course at Grand National, the site that was voted the No. 1 public course in the nation by Golf World readers in 2009, unveiled its new look Thursday. The Lake's hard-to-keep Bentgrass greens were torn up in June and replaced with Champion Ultradwarf Bermuda, the same grass used at Atlanta Athletic Club, where the PGA Championship was played last month, and East Lake Golf Club, where the PGA Tour will play its Tour Championship this month.
Scott Gomberg, the director of golf at Grand National, said those courses putting in the new grass was important. "When people think about Bermuda grass, they think grainy and slow," Gomberg said. "Until a premier club like Atlanta Athletic Club or East Lake put that in, nobody was going to give it any credit."
The Lake Course opened for public play Friday, and two other trail courses — the Highlands Course at Highland Oaks in Dothan and the River Course at Hampton Cove in Huntsville — have reopened in the past few days. The Senator Course at Capitol Hill in Prattville will reopen Sept. 12-18 when the Navistar LPGA Classic is played there, and Silver Lakes in Anniston/Gadsden will reopen this month after being closed since tornadoes ripped through the area in April.
The renovations are leading into the 20th anniversary of the trail, which opened in 1992.
The switch to Bermuda greens was not a move made out of necessity, according to Gomberg, but one made to keep up with the times. Grand National's other course, the Links, still has Bentgrass greens.
"The Penncross Bent greens were in great shape, but you have to keep up with the growing trends," Gomberg said. "If you want to keep your course No. 1, you have to keep up with what others are doing. It made financial sense because the greens will be in better condition (and) you'll have less expense working with this grass."…
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