Cypress Lakes Golf Club has turned 50 years old but it has a fresh look.
The course just completed a renovation of its greens, sowing them with Champion Bermuda grass that is now used at many area courses, including the famed Pinehurst No. 2. The new surface replaces bent grass that was installed in 1994.
“These new strains of Bermuda are just as good as bent grass, especially for dealing with the summer heat that we get in the Carolinas,” said Cypress Lakes superintendent Ed Drake. “These Bermuda strains were not an option in ’94. We experimented with them on our nursery greens for two or three years prior to actually putting it in.”
The club just reopened its back nine Saturday after finishing the job. The greens on the front nine were done last summer to avoid having to close the course entirely for one summer.
“We now have 18 wonderful greens,” said Drake, who has been the superintendent since 2002. “The members have loved the greens on the front nine. They are just really coming into their own. It takes about a year to totally grow them in.”
Drake and his crew completed the work on the back nine quickly. They began taking the old grass off the greens on June 28. The new grass was planted July 13 and just five weeks later, the greens were ready for play.
“It takes water, sun and fertilizer,” Drake said. “Nature does the rest. You just can’t let them dry out. It’s water, water, water every 30 minutes around the clock until the roots take hold.”
Taking care of the new greens requires an adjustment for Drake.
“Bent grass required a lot of babysitting in the summer with hand watering,” he said. “This Bermuda grass loves the sun and the heat, so it’s kind of like re-learning my job. It’s almost the polar opposite of what we were doing. When we had one side of each kind of grass this past year, it was kind of stressful.
“With bent grass, we were just trying to keep it alive through the summer. Now, we’re actually thriving in the summer. That’s a big difference for us.”
The sub surface of the greens also breaks down over time, making it more difficult for bent grass to stay alive.
“When that sub surfaces ages 15 to 20 years, it doesn’t move the water through like it should,” Drake said. “Bent grass can’t sit there in water without killing it off. This Bermuda grass likes the messed up sub surface. It likes the water being held there.”
Cypress Lakes pro Robert Wilson said updating greens is inevitable for golf courses.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of grass you have, every 25 or 30 years you have to change it,” he said. “It was time to do it again.”
Wilson has been the pro at Cypress Lakes for 15 years but his association with the course goes back to his days as a youth. Wilson received one of his first golf lessons from Cypress Lakes co-founder L.B. Floyd when he was about 10 years old.
Floyd, the late golf pro at several Cumberland County courses, opened Cypress Lakes in 1968 with the Prewitt family. When Floyd retired many years later, the Prewitt family bought him out and still own the course 50 years later.
“They’ve been committed since Day 1,” Wilson said of the Prewitts. “Doing the greens shows how much they are committed to it for the future.”
Cypress Lakes became known as the “Home of the Floyds” after L.B. Floyd’s children became famous golfers. Raymond Floyd had a Hall of Fame career on the PGA Tour and Marlene Floyd had a career on the LPGA Tour. Both are retired from competitive golf but Marlene still has a home on the 11th hole at Cypress Lakes. She can often be seen walking her dog or tooling around the course in a golf cart. She still plays an occasional round.
“She still can hit it,” Wilson said. “She hasn’t lost a ball in 30 years, always right down the middle.”
Wilson said one adjustment golfers will have to make is figuring out the break on the new greens.
“It took a little bit to get used to the breaks on the front nine,” he said. “They don’t break quite as much as the old greens. But they putt good with good speed. It will be good to hear the feedback from the golfers after they play the back nine.”
The club plans a 50th anniversary tournament next spring to celebrate the milestone after the back nine greens have more time to grow in. In the meantime, Wilson expects things to be busy.
“Everybody is excited,” he said. “People keep calling wanting to know when we’ll be off the temporary greens on the back nine. Please come check ’em out but call and make a tee time. We’re going to have a very good product to give to the golfers.”