Key West Golf Club Re-opens October 1, 2007

Key West Golf Club is set to re-open on October 1st after damage and salt water intrusion from Hurricane Wilma last year forced a redesign of the course. The redesign incorporated the use of salt tolerant Seadwarf Seashore Paspalum turfgrass from Environmental Turf, Inc.

On October 24, 2005, Hurricane Wilma caused an 8-foot storm surge that flooded the Key West Golf Club golf course with 4 feet of salt water and inundated the irrigation ponds with ocean water leaving no source for fresh water.

The course’s Tifdwarf bermudagrass greens were severely damaged. The irrigation water, which is drawn from lakes on the 100-acre property, was infiltrated with at least 1,500 ppm (parts per million) of salt.

Key West Golf Club’s General Manager Doug Carter, Head Golf Professional Eric Favier and Head Superintendent Koby Minshall called in a professional, Dr. Lee Berndt, of William Berndt Associates, International Management Consulting, to help them in their recovery. Berndt recommended they re-grass their greens with a salt-tolerant, dwarf variety of seashore paspalum turfgrass called SeaDwarf.

“Due to the location of Key West along with its harsh environment, Seadwarf seashore paspalum is the best grass for Key West Golf Club,” Berndt said.

Added Koby Minshall, “Paspalum will tolerate the salty environment in Key West. In the event of a future storm surge or heavy salts in tropical rain storms, the Paspalum will have a good chance of survival.”

Renovation of the front nine holes on the course began in June 2006. Carter said playability of the grass also figured into the decision to re-grass with SeaDwarf.

“The grass is very dense and grows very quickly. It seems to have a more vibrant color than the Bermuda grasses and with the proper maintenance practices it may also have less grain,” said Doug Carter.

SeaDwarf seashore paspalum turfgrass is environmentally friendly, in that it requires up to 50 percent less water and up to 75 percent less fertilizer than bermudagrass.

“The biggest environmental benefit is that it will handle (tolerate) effluent water for irrigation much better than other turf grasses. This will help conserve the fresh water supplies,” said Eric Favier. “In the future, especially in South Florida, water conservation is very important and irrigating with reused water will be very important.”

Minshall said the new SeaDwarf grass, which can tolerate seawater salt levels, will act almost like an insurance policy against future tropical storms and hurricanes.

“Seadwarf will help us survive future hurricanes because it is more salt tolerant than Bermuda grass,” Minshall said. “Even if there is no storm surge associated with a hurricane the rain water in tropical systems is high in salt content.”

The course will re-open to play October 1st.

“Our grow in time was expected to take 90 days,” said Minshall, “and were are excited that the greens are ahead of schedule.”

The back nine greens are in excellent shape for play this season but will be re-grassed with SeaDwarf in June of 2007.

Along with re-grassing the greens with SeaDwarf, the management of Key West Golf Club did fairly extensive work to a number of fairways.

They put in new drainage on holes 1, 2, 5 and 9. On hole number 6, they raised the landing area up with roughly 6-inches of fill and sprigged it with new 419 Bermuda. They also sprigged some low-lying rough areas of the 6th hole with Aloha seashore paspalum, also from Environmental Turf.

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