Monday, June 22, 2015

Golf Course Upgrade at Brays Island Plantation

Brays Island Plantation is in the midst of a greens regrassing project led by their maintenance partner IGM, Inc. Brays Island General Manager Kevin Rhatigan and IGM Regional Manager Tyler Minamyer discuss the process they followed to protect the Plantation’s assets and minimize disruption to players.

The Owners at Brays Island Plantation in Sheldon, SC, are members of some of the finest golf courses in the country. Naturally, they expect their course in this exclusive hunting and golfing community to be of competitive quality. However, as the course aged, the original irrigation system and greens from the 1980’s deteriorated, and playing conditions became an issue for the golf course ownership.

IGM, Inc. was contracted in 2008 to manage complete maintenance of the Plantation’s Ron Garl-designed course and practice facility. In collaboration with Brays Island Plantation’s general manager, IGM Regional Manager Tyler Minamyer and course superintendent Jeff Miller began a thorough evaluation of the course’s condition and needs.  From the outset, IGM knew the original TifDwarf Bermuda grass had deteriorated and mutations had occurred throughout the greens.  “This led to inferior playing conditions compared to other courses in the area and fell well below the Owners’ expectations. Also, the irrigation system was original and had to be replaced before addressing the turfgrass,” explained Minamyer.

From 2009-2011, IGM and Brays Island worked together to plan the renovation and obtain funding approval for the irrigation replacement. During the slower summer months of 2011, the replacement process began one hole at a time to reduce disruptions to the golfers. Goals of the irrigation project were to maintain the integrity and value of Brays Island’s asset, as well as to install an efficient system with the longest useful life possible.

With the successful completion of the irrigation project, the grass upgrade began.  Minamyer explained that the existing TifDwarf Bermuda grass “affected how we over-seeded the greens. New seed would not establish well in mutated areas, and those areas transitioned poorly back to Bermuda grass in the spring.” After evaluating all grasses on the market, IGM and Brays Island chose TifEagle Bermuda grass as best suiting the needs of the Plantation. “The owners wanted faster, more consistent greens that were comparable to competition. And TifEagle grass won’t require over-seeding, which means less disruption to play and better performance during spring and fall when the Plantation is busiest,” said Minamyer.  

To accomplish the grassing renovation, the course closed on June 1, 2015 and is expected to reopen on September 5, 2015. As part of the process, two greens were redesigned to reduce severity of the slope and better accommodate a new type of grass. Overall goals of the grassing project are to continue maintaining the integrity and value of Brays Island’s asset, eliminate the risk of catastrophic failure due to over-seeding and transition, improve playability of the greens during peak and shoulder periods, allow for more consistency in playing conditions throughout the entire year, remain competitive with area golf courses, and improve owners’ enjoyment of the golf amenity.

Kevin Rhatigan, General Manager of Brays Island Plantation, detailed the intense up-front education required for the renovation, from educating the golf committee and explaining the relationship between benefits and costs to educating the Board, then presenting recommendations for a vote of the Owners (425 property owners). “There was a lot of scrutiny. Our relationship with IGM is a great partnership,” said Rhatigan. “It’s not just having a comfort level with a really good superintendent in Jeff Miller for day-to-day operations but more like having on-site consultants to manage a major project like this. Tyler Minamyer and Steve Gano (Vice President of Operations, IGM) visit regularly, so we have the benefit of their years of experience. They’ve done a great job for us.”

Minamyer noted, “We have methodically worked to maintain and improve quality of the owners’ asset and meet their goals. Everything has to be replaced at some point, but we’ll do everything we can to extend the useful life of the course and recommend investments in the course that will have the greatest potential for return. .”