Heat-resistant greens at Sedgefield


Sean Dudley

Sedgefield CC in Greensboro, North Carolina, the home of the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship, has become the latest high profile course in the US transition zone to convert its greens to warm season grasses.

Course owner McConnell Golf bought the Donald Ross-designed Sedgefield in early 2011, and CEO John McConnell said he realised significant improvements to the course would be needed. Numerous upgrades were made prior to the 2011 Wyndham, while others are ongoing. 

Now, to prevent the club’s maintenance staff from having to worry about hot weather and its effects on bentgrass greens every summer, McConnell has announced Sedgefield will convert its green complexes to a more heat-resistant strain of bermuda grass. 

McConnell said the decision followed considerable research and after his company sought the advice of its maintenance supervisors and Sedgefield’s advisory board. Sedgefield closed on 14 May, and McConnell promised the facilities would be in pristine condition prior to the August date of the Wyndham.

“It is my conclusion that Bermuda greens will become the norm for the golf putting greens in the Carolinas,” said McConnell, who estimated the total project cost at around US$400,000.

Bobby Long, chairman of the Piedmont Triad Charitable Foundation Board of Directors, spoke on behalf of the Wyndham Championship. “This news is fantastic for the members of Sedgefield,” he said. “They already had a beauty of a golf course, but now John McConnell is shining it up so it can truly reveal itself. People tend to think the greens should be soft so a player can scream a low three iron into a green and have it stick, but that is not what Donald Ross had in mind when he designed this golf course.

2011 Wyndham winner Webb Simpson said: “With Bermuda greens, Sedgefield becomes one of the great golf courses on tour. Even in the heat of August, the greens will be hard and fast, and that means the course will play much tougher. I think it's safe to say that the days of 20-under par are over. I've always loved Sedgefield, but I'm really looking forward to playing the Wyndham this August on the new greens.”

McConnell said Sedgefield is a prime candidate for a changeover to bermuda because there is a minimum of tree cutting that needs to take place, and that green complexes would not need to be rebuilt. Thus, the bent can be quickly burned out and bermuda sprigs will grow quickly in the hot summer months. “Many other North Carolina golf courses have converted to Bermuda greens or are in the process of converting so we need to get on board with the future of golf in our region,” he said.

McConnell said that in addition to changing the grasses on the greens, the company would be doing other work to the course. Golf architect Kris Spence will oversee the project, which will include enlarging the second green in the back for a better pin position and modifying the front of the seventeenth green. Spence will also oversee adding bunkers to holes five and fifteen, the tournament's two par fives. “Bottom line is when you consider the long term maintenance savings that bermuda greens provide, this is a decision that is easy to make,” he said.