Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington – host of the 2015 US Open – has welcomed golfers back to its course following a five-month closure to resurface greens, moving from fescue to poa annua grass.
“In early 2017, turfgrass health issues surfaced on three putting greens – the seventh, tenth and thirteenth – and the decision was made to re-sod those greens with a local source of poa annua,” said Matt Allen, vice president of KemperSports – the course operator. “Results of that sod work prompted conversations between ourselves, Pierce County [owner of Chamber Bay], and the USGA about the prospect of resurfacing every green.
“Consensus was reached that such a project would not only ensure better putting surfaces for future championships but would improve the everyday experience for customers.”
The course closed in October 2018 and all greens were sodded during a five-week period. The course reopened on 3 April.
No design changes were made to any of the greens. “The golf course design, layout and aesthetic are universally regarded as an architectural gem,” said Allen. Shaper Ed Taano was on site to verify that all original design and contours were preserved.
“Chambers Bay golf course was unique from its conception,” said course designer Robert Trent Jones, Jr. “It is a purpose-built golf course designed to host national championships. It has hosted the US Amateur and US Open championships, and as with other championship venues the defences of the course were thought out carefully to challenge the best players of the highest skill levels.
“As there were no trees or water hazard – and therefore no vertical defences or severe horizontal hazards – the contouring of the entire course and the choice of traditional fescue grasses was used as its defence,” said Jones. “Fescue grass is mown lean to create a firm, fast, hard and bouncy surface. It is not just whether the long shot ball carries great distances – as professionals can – but control of the ball on the ground when it lands is key.
“The courses of the maritime climate in the British Isles – like Washington state – are predominately fescue-based and it was the goal of all those involved in the creation of Chambers Bay to take advantage of this surface.
“While fescue is an environmentally sustainable grass, using less water, fertilizer and herbicides, it has less carrying capacity and can suffer or go dormant when stressed,” continued Jones. “Poa annua can provide excellent putting surfaces most of the year. Thus, on a course open to the public and popular as a former host of a US Open, it will provide excellent putting surfaces most of the year and increase the carrying capacity of the course.
“If it is leaned out for championships, it will also continue to be firm, fast and provide the bouncy defence inherent it the complexities that the challenge of a championship demands.”
Allen added: “The new green surfaces look very familiar to the golfers of this region, as poa annua is the dominant putting green surface in the Pacific Northwest. They are playing firmer than I would have expected at this stage and that gives me great confidence that we will be successful in achieving the firmness that is integral to the course design.”
The sod project was completed by Chambers Bay staff under the direction of golf course superintendent Mark Trenter and director of agronomy Eric Johnson. The sod was grown by Bos Sod Farms in British Columbia.
“Matt, Zac and the excellent maintenance staff of Chambers Bay have done a great job in responding to the needs of the new poa annua putting surfaces,” said Jones.
Chambers Bay will host the US Amateur Four-Ball Championship in 2021.