The St. Andrews golf course greens were extensively renovated in 2013.
By Steve Pike
Geoffrey Hume looked across the practice tee at St. Andrews Club north of Delray Beach and surveyed the club’s emerald fairways and greens.
“I call this my ‘little jewel on the ocean,’ ” said Hume, the club’s general manager.
That jewel has a new polish, thanks to legendary golf course architect Pete Dye, who along with his wife, Alice, son P.B. and St. Andrews Superintendent Charley Crell, rebuilt the club’s 18 greens.
The project, which took place this past summer and into the fall, was much smaller than Dye’s redesign work at neighboring Gulf Stream Golf Club, but just as important to St. Andrews Club members, who for the past several years had been putting on slow, inconsistent greens.
Many of those greens had developed what are known as “turtleback.” A turtleback is a large hump or mound in a green caused by years of top dressing. It often limits the area where a pin can be placed and causes even well-struck balls to miss their targets.
“You almost couldn’t get a ball to stay on a couple of the greens,” Hume said.
To make matters more challenging, St. Andrews’ greens were filled with different kinds of grasses that made them difficult to read and gauge the speed. For example, if two players had 4-foot putts from different sides of the hole, one player might have been putting on a completely different grass than his or her partner.
“We were dealing with a lot of intrusion, where we had multiple types of grasses on the greens and within the whole course,” Hume said.
That’s no longer the case. St. Andrews Club’s greens now each feature TifEagle Bermudagrass, which is popular in South Florida, along with TifGrand Bermudagrass (a newer form of cultivar) on their collars. The turtlebacks are gone, too.
“Everything was done that needed to be done,” said Crell, who came to St. Andrews Club in December 2012 from PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie. “Anything that [has] age to it, like an old house, needs to be updated. It’s the same with a golf course.
“We try and keep (the greens) between 9 and 10 (on the Stimpmeter) daily, but for tournament play we can get as fast as any private club in the area.”
Crell and the Dyes also replaced irrigation around the greens, renovated each tee box and added tee boxes to a few holes, including a forward tee on the 160-yard, fifth.
The fifth hole — the longest at St. Andrews — probably is the best example of the entire project. The green, which originally hugged the Intracoastal along the left side of the fairway, was moved approximately 15 yards to the right, allowing the hole to play as long as 185 yards.
Much of the old material that was removed from the greens, Hume said, was used to create a berm along the third hole that protects the course from rising Intracoastal tides.
“We had problems with swamping,” Hume said. “Nothing is worse for a golf course than salt water.”
The berm is a preview of what is coming at St. Andrews Club.
“This summer we’re going to do a lot of reclamation of land because of what we’ve lost to erosion,” Hume said. “In the next couple of years we’re planning to renovate the rough and fairways.”
And add more polish to the jewel.