On the right path

  • Koss
    The Club at Lac la Belle
Tiffany Koss
By Tiffany Koss

The Club at Lac La Belle in Wisconsin reopened in summer 2020, having been completely renovated by architect Craig Haltom. The project was a big one, with the first four holes built on new land that wasn’t part of the original layout. This gave the club the ability to reroute the course to take advantage of the most interesting parts of the property while avoiding low-lying problem areas.

This project was initiated by The Prestwick Group, which purchased the property a few years ago. They are a Wisconsin-based, family-owned business – something that resonated with us at Kafka Granite, as we are also a family-owned Wisconsin business. Prestwick and Kafka are both led by first and second generations; Matt Morse, working alongside his son Tyler; and myself working alongside my father, Glenn Kafka, founder of our company.

Our role in the project came through golf course superintendent Jimmy Cavezza, who said: “I’ve used this product at other places for walk paths and it worked really well. The owner wanted a natural looking and durable product – this is perfect.”

Our patented wax polymer pathway mix has been developed to specifically meet two demands that have been pain points for countless superintendents: it is aesthetically very pleasing and requires little maintenance. It’s great when we can solve those kinds of problems.

The club was also concerned about erosion, due to the course’s rolling terrain and the freeze-thaw climate. Essentially, the product is a polymeric wax coated aggregate, with each individual granule of stone dust coated in wax. With water unable to penetrate the material, it still maintains a natural look and feel while resisting the erosive effects of the environment at Lac La Belle. The product is designed to be self-installed with minimal maintenance, saving the ground crews valuable hours.

Following any sort of rain event, supers are usually out there fixing eroded areas. During the week of the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills, there were multiple inches of rain and all the grounds crew had a huge task trying to prepare the course to hold the tournament. But because they had our product, they never had to touch the paths. They never had to worry about the access points for players and the guest experience was never a concern.

Even if the area is subject to heavy traffic, the surface will stand the test of time. If an area is damaged, or for instance, an irrigation line needs to be dug, the material can be easily scarified, removed, replaced and recompacted. If crews want to freshen the surface from an aesthetic point of view, it is a very simple update. We even have clients that have removed the material from certain areas and reinstalled it for use in maintenance areas or ancillary paths. There’s a very low waste factor with it.

For our work at Lac La Belle, we began by sending them a trial of the wax polymer pathway mix in July 2020. Almost immediately, they called back and ordered five loads of material (approximately 115 tons, covering 11,500 square feet) for installation.

The club has since ordered an additional 700 tons, giving them total coverage of over 80,000 square feet of walkways. “Installation has been easy,” said Cavezza. “I have a three-to-four-man crew that has been doing the install. We’re adding two inches of Kafka’s material over our four-to-six-inch base, then using a plate compactor and an old green roller.”

The course has been around in some form for 120 years, which is incredibly historic in Wisconsin. “Our work has been to revitalise it and prepare it for another 100 years,” said Cavezza.

Wisconsin has become a destination golf state with visitors coming from all over to play Whistling Straits, Erin Hills and Sand Valley. I think Lac La Belle is another one of those great stories that is going to draw golfers from all over the country.

Tiffany Koss is director of sales and marketing at Kafka Granite

This article first appeared in the October 2020 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.