Becoming the first Kentucky State Park to do so, Lyon County's Mineral Mound Golf Course replaced the ever-struggling bentgrass on its greens with live sprigs of TifEagle Bermuda grass, which is more suited to the area's warm, humid climate, last week.
According to new Mineral Mound State Park Manager Chris Cary, the course has struggled for a decade with keeping the bentgrass on its greens in good, playable condition. In particular, there were about a third of the eighteen greens they fought with every year due to humidity and low airflow in areas of the park being in contrast to conditions that particular kind of grass favors.
The Bermuda sprigs were brought in from South Florida, which has a climate more similar to the conditions seen in Kentucky during peak golf months; April through September or October.
Mineral Mound Golf Course Superintendent Mariano Galindo said the time they have spent trying to rejuvenate the dying bentgrass greens has taken away from time they could have spent maintaining the rest of the course, which has kept it from living up to its full potential.
Mineral Mound is nestled in an area rich with natural foliage, and lies along the shores of Lake Barkley, which makes it a picturesque place to spend the day working your way through 18 holes. However, the quality of the greens has been the sticking point for people who have chosen to forego these ideal views and take their golf game elsewhere.
According to Galindo, though the grass will look its best during the warmer, peak playing season, it will still be easy to maintain through the winter months.
Before the decision was made to use the TifEagle grass at Mineral Mound, Galindo performed a test in a nursery last year to see how the grass would fare, especially in the cooler months.
Through the course of the winter, he said the TifEagle Bermuda grass only needed to be covered six times, for a total of 13 days, and only when soil temperatures dipped below 32-degrees. (For two of those events where the test green needed to be covered, snow was on the ground.) In order for soil temps to get that low, air temperatures would need to be in the teens or low-twenties, which is rare in Kentucky's generally mild winters.
The heartiness of this grass, along with the methods that will be employed to maintain it, even in months when it becomes dormant, means visitors will have greens that are actually, well, green, to play on regardless of the time of year they visit the park.
In order to actually lay the grass, workers first throw the sprigs out on the green area, then use a tractor driven implement to crimp them about an inch into the soil.
After that, a quarter-inch of sand is laid over the area, a pushing wetting agent is sprayed around the greens to keep the surrounding grass from getting too much water, and then the watering process begins.
They expect the total process, from laying the sprigs to the greens being ready for golfers, to take six to eight weeks.
Galindo said the Bermuda grass can be cut shorter than the bentgrass, which will provide a faster, smoother playing surface that puts less resistance on the ball.
Cary added the grass is also firmer, drier, and will be more resistant to divot damage, which, again, will provide a smoother putting surface.
"We're excited about it," Cary said of the new Bermuda greens. "This golf course is a diamond in the rough. It's just beautiful, but the greens have held it back… Now it's going to be the motivator for people to come in and want to play it."
Though Mineral Mound Golf Course is currently closed while these improvements are made, Cary said they are shooting for a reopening date of August 12.
For more information about Mineral Mound State Park, visit them online at https://parks.ky.gov/parks/recreationparks/mineral-mound/.