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Torrey Pines goes to great lengths to convert to new grass for U.S. Open
By: Marc Figueroa - Staff Writer
It's so rampant that some golf course superintendents will swear up and down that kikuyu grass can green up an asphalt jungle.
But the folks at Torrey Pines Golf Course aren't taking any chances for next year's U.S. Open. To ensure a complete transition to kikuyu-grass fairways on the South Course by next June, more than seven acres of kikuyu sod have been trucked in from four North County courses to complement the 500,000 square feet originally planted there.
The transaction was completed on Monday, when the final batch was delivered to La Jolla from Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook.
The West Coast Turf Company, which has provided grass for the Super Bowl, the Bowl Championship Series title game and several PGA Tour events (including the Buick Invitational and the Match Play Championship when it was held at La Costa Resort and Spa), helped identify several courses in the area that wanted to replace their existing kikuyu. Lake San Marcos was the first to contribute back in 2005; the Country Club of Rancho Bernardo and StoneRidge participated last year.
"They're all playing a pivotal role in prep for the Open," said San Diego city golf manager Mark Woodward. "It's a great story."
Pala Mesa superintendent Mark Louder said the resort has been switching to bermuda grass for the last few years, but the kikuyu has been stubborn on the south side, particularly on three holes. So when John Marman, a regional sales manager for West Coast Turf, called to offer to swap out the fairway grass on the second and fifth holes and part of the third, it was an easy decision.
"In a lot of cases, the course wants to replace the kikuyu grass altogether," said Marman.
Added Louder: "They want it and we wanted to get rid of it, so it works out great for both of us. It would have taken us a long time to get rid of it. It helped us along by a year at least, so it's a win-win situation for everybody."
Later this month, existing rye and poa annua grass that remains at Torrey Pines from the Buick Invitational ---- mostly in the rough and shady areas ---- will be destroyed with chemicals to make way for the kikuyu.
"We want to have a consistent kikuyu, so we're doing all we can to get rid of all the other species," said Woodward.
The Pala Mesa kikuyu will be placed on holes 7, 16 and 17.
"The first 150 yards on those three holes, it's their kikuyu," Woodward said.
Woodward added that alterations to the fourth fairway are also being made. The hole, which runs north and is considered one of the South's more difficult holes, has been reconfigured more to the left and will bring the cliffs more into play. The trees that run along the cliffs will be transplanted to the other side to create more space between the fourth and fifth fairways.
Trees also will be planted near the right side of the fourth tee box to discourage players from driving their tee shots intentionally into the wrong fairway.