By Zack Hall

The Bulletin

SUNRIVER — Nobody should accuse Sunriver Resort of not investing in its greens.

Sunriver has begun the process of rebuilding and resurfacing all 18 greens at its Meadows Course, completing a program at the Resort to replace all 54 greens at its three championship golf courses with a particularly hearty strain of bentgrass, called T-1.

Sunriver stripped all 18 greens from Meadows in November, and is expected to lay down the new surfaces in March.

When the course reopens May 22, it will mark the completion of an ambitious five-year program to replace every green at Sunriver’s Crosswater Club as well as its Woodlands and Meadows courses. The total cost to replace all 54 greens is more than $1.2 million, according to the resort.

“The nice thing for us is that we’ve done all of this during challenging (economic) times,” says Josh Willis, Sunriver Resort’s director of golf. “We’re hoping that the light is bright for us in the near future in terms of growing golf and growing golf rounds in Central Oregon. And we’re ready to roll.”

All 18 greens at Meadows, which opened in 1968, were rebuilt in 1999 when the course was redesigned by architect John Fought. And of Sunriver’s three courses, Meadows’ greens were in the best shape when the work to replace the greens began, Willis says.

But Sunriver wanted to press ahead with the program for three important reasons.

First, T-1 bentgrass greens give Meadows “the most pristine surfaces imaginable,” Willis says.

In addition, the new greens will drain more efficiently and recover from cold weather more quickly, allowing Sunriver to extend its golf season in the spring and fall.

Finally, Meadows is used to complement Crosswater when Sunriver hosts larger tournaments, including the PGA Professional National Championship, which the resort hosted at both courses in 2013. And having uniform, pristine greens at both Meadows and Crosswater will only make Sunriver a more attractive host venue to the major golf organizations, Willis says.

“We were blessed with great turf conditions last year, so some might question why we are doing it,” Willis says. “This is a proactive move for us.”

Sunriver has made the investment in its greens in large part to fight against Poa annua, an annual bluegrass that inevitably takes over bentgrass greens in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

The chief problem with Poa — particularly in Central Oregon — is that it is often slower than bentgrass to recover from freezing temperatures and is more susceptible to ice damage. That can be a particular problem at Sunriver, which sits about 600 feet higher in elevation than Bend.

The problems with Poa can stretch into the golf season, too. Poa can create bumpy putting surfaces (particularly in the afternoons) because of its seed heads, which are unique to Poa and allow for the grass to spread so rapidly.

But T-1 is much more resilient in harsh winter weather and more resistant to Poa intrusion, says Ryan Wulff, superintendent at both the Meadows and Woodlands courses.

Also, rebuilding the greens allows Sunriver to smooth the surfaces and flatten the collars around the greens. That improves the course’s drainage, which will keep water from collecting and ice from building up, Wulff says.

“The whole idea of the renovation isn’t just to put in new sod, but it’s getting rid of these areas that hold water,” Wulff says. “The surface drainage is almost more important than the resurfacing.”

In other words, Sunriver has given itself the best chance it can to have near-perfect putting surfaces.

For a sprawling resort that teems with golfers and their families each summer, that is an awfully strong selling point.

Says Willis: “We’re really, really, really excited.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7868, .