Building The Fifth Hole

Construction of Southers Marsh Golf Club began well before a single tree was cut down or a shovel-ful of dirt was moved. Maps and pictures of the site were studied and the property was walked several times to determine the best routing of the golf course. Greens, tees, and fairways were located where they would best fit in with the natural surroundings. Finally, these areas were marked and the trees were cut down in three stages so the layout could be fine-tuned as more visibility improved. This sequence of photos taken of the fifth fairway reveals the evolution of a golf hole.

Physical construction of the course began in March of 2000. The first photo was taken in June, just after the area was stumped. At this point, sand was trucked in to slightly elevate the tees and green, and to contour the bunkers that guard the green complex. Irrigation lines were then buried so we would be ready to water as soon as seeding was complete. Finally, topsoil was spread over the tees and fairway, and a special "root zone" mix of sand and native loam was spread on the green. We were very fortunate because the coarse sand in the area of our site provides excellent drainage, and the sandy-loam topsoil is perfect for growing grass.

On July 1st, 2000, the first seed hit the ground at Southers Marsh, on the 4th green and the entire 5th hole. On the tees and fairways we used a mix of four cultivars of Kentucky Bluegrass, chosen for their ability to provide an excellent playing surface and resist disease. In the rough, a mix of ryegrass and Kentucky Bluegrass was used. In some out-of-play areas we used a mix of fescue grasses, most commonly seen on the links-style courses of Scotland. On the greens, Penncross Bentgrass was chosen, the staple for putting surfaces in the United States for the last forty years.

The soil should remain moist until the grass is mature. Early on, this means running very light and frequent watering cycles because grass plants occupy the very top of the soil. The fifth fairway is fairly well-shaded, and therefore easier to manage. Our irrigation system allows us the flexibility to give each part of the course the exact amount of water it needs depending on shading, weather conditions, soil type, and the species of grass. When the grass is mature, it will be watered an average of two times per week.

Between July and October, the fifth fairway required constant care. We overseeded the bare spots, mowed, fertilized and irrigated. With the onset of cooler weather in September, the grass really started to take off. At the time this photograph was taken in October, the hole looks just about ready for play. We used this John Deere lawnmower to help us through the grow-in of tees and fairways, but we are now ready to switch to reel mowers and start lowering the cutting height. Eventually, our tees and fairways will be cut at 1/2 an inch and our greens will be shaved to 5/32 of an inch.

This par 3 plays between 153 and 110 yards, depending on which tees are used. Here, Mike Pruett and Will Stearns III take a break to admire the foliage and healthy grass, cursing themselves for forgetting to bring their clubs to work.

One last shot, taken August 2003 of the fifth fairway looking back towards the tee from the green. It sure has come a long way from just a path in the woods.