A little more money and hard work has course back in shape

by: JEFF WILSON/THE PIONEER - Jonathan Burchell looks over the redesign of the tee box on the seventh hole at Desert Peaks. The new, longer box is part of a series of improvements to the golf course. For Jonathan Burchell, it was a perfect storm. And in its wake, a nightmare situation for the superintendent of Desert Peaks Golf Club.

It seemed that anything that could go wrong, from a golfing standpoint, did go wrong.

"A lack of water, a late season, a dry season, heavy usage and a lack of qualified help, the golf course started to show a little bit of wear and tear," Burchell said.

It showed up in dead grass in the spring, and in some areas, no grass. A couple of greens were highly affected, resulting in bumps and changing speeds, things that golfers generally hate.

The water problems, which started in March when the canal water used to water the course was off by a week, caused more problems than just dead grass.

Burchell aerifies the greens twice a year to ensure the roots are fertilized and get the oxygen needed to maintain a healthy root system.

Because of the timing of the canal water, the whole schedule was thrown off and the greens would have been punched the week of the Duffers & Dolls Chapman Tournament, the club's biggest of the year.

So the greens were not punched, which will cause some problems later this year, Burchell said.

“This was definitely a hard year,” Teresa Lindgren, the club’s assistant manager said. “I think a lot of the general complaints, the city really took into account and they are making some changes. They are making a good effort.”

Lindgren estimated that the course sees about 8,000 rounds a year, depending on the weather. Last month, the course saw more than 1,000 rounds, while in the off season, there may be as few as 250.

But all that wear and tear on the tee boxes, fairways and greens adds up, and that suffering began to shift to a loyal membership that finally asked that something be done.

Spud Miller, a member of the club for almost three years and a regular on the course, said the condition of the course in spring was pretty rough. Although most golfers are used to less-than-pristine conditions at that time of year, Miller said there was a lot of discontent about the playing conditions.

“Mostly, it was just grumbling within our group,” Miller said. “One of the members wrote a letter (to the Pioneer), which was kind of the sentiments of all of us, I guess you’d say.”

Well, something has been done. And there is more to come.

The course is owned by the city of Madras and falls under the umbrella of the Public Works Department and its director, Jeff Hurd. Burchell went to Hurd asking for more money to right the ship before the course truly took a turn for the worse. And the city responded by allocating $25,000.

Those funds are being used to help not only save the course from the harsh conditions, but help take steps in improving it. With a few changes this year, the hope is to avoid a repeat down the road.

Throughout the spring, Burchell was staying in contact with the course members, letting them now that things were being done, steps were being taking to improve the conditions.

And the results are easy to see.

The water problem, which was more a case of timing, is not much of an issue at this point, although Burchell has a few ideas in mind to ensure the course always has a supply of water when it needs it.

The first major step over the summer was bringing in a crew to spray for dandelions, which were beginning to overtake the rough and tee boxes. The initial spray has taken hold and the weeds are all but gone.

The seond phase of improvements are the rebuilding of three tee boxes, on holes six, seven and nine. Each box will be expanded to give more freedom for moving the tees around and giving used areas time to heal.

The six tee box has been completed, but is not yet open for use. The seventh box is under construction now and should be done by next week.

The ninth tee box will begin after that, with the top being stripped off and new sod laid down.

Burchell also plans to replace the cart path that leads from the clubhouse to the fifth green. There is also a plan to build a new path that will take carts around and to the sixth tee and maybe one that would go to the west of the first tee box.

"I like the results," Burchell said. "And I think just about everybody will say it is almost back to its old self."

Miller, who is on the course three to four times a week, agrees.

“The course is getting better; they are heading in the right direction, I think,” Miller said. “They are doing positive things. It’s on its way to recovery.”

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