Finkbine Retooling a Success

June 7, 2004

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For three weeks now, golfers have been able to enjoy the University of Iowa’s own, newly renovated Finkbine Golf Course, which reopened on May 15 after an 8 ?-month retooling.

For the staff at Finkbine, the reopening signaled the completion of a project that cost thousands of man-hours and nearly $450,000. But it would be hard to say that the time and money were not well-spent.

The course now has uniform tees, fairways and greens, with the highly-advanced A4 bentgrass, while the roughs maintain the tough bluegrass. The move is a departure from the perennial rye fairways and tees, interspersed with Old Orchard bentgrass.

According to Finkbine’s PGA Director of Golf, Terry Anderson, the most noticeable difference is when a player first steps on the tee and notices the differences in the grasses’ colors.

“We’ve got a bluegrass rough that’s a deep, deep dark green. The tees and the fairways are the exact same type of grass that’s a light pastel type of green, then the green is a little darker hue than that,” he said, adding that groundskeepers are now cutting an intermediate cut of rough. “It’s just defined. You know where you want to hit it.”

Anderson said that the fairways now provide a perfect lie with a smoothness that’s “table-like.”

“From a golf course standpoint, it’s the premium playing surface,” he added. “It’s the standard playing surface of any golf course that has the ability, by virtue of where it’s located from a weather standpoint, to have bentgrass.”

Ted Thorn, the superintendent at Finkbine, says that the new turf fights off invading grass types and is easier to maintain than previous playing surfaces.

“It’s going to be the real premiere surface until something better comes along,” Thorn said, “but right now it doesn’t have too many shortcomings. It’s a much more aggressive grass than in the past. It tolerates close mowing and is a lot easier to take care of.”

Anderson says the greens should become more consistent now that the grass is all the same.

“Over the years we had a lot of poa annua come in,” he said. “We tried to over-seed with some other bent, and it was just a mixture of grasses. They were pretty good greens, but they were inconsistent. Now everything’s the same.

“This particular bent gets its name, A4, by being aggressive and it grows tight,” Anderson added. “It just chokes and doesn’t allow anything else to grow in there.”

Thorn and Anderson both mentioned that the difficulty level of the course can also be adjusted with greater ease, thanks to the grass’ consistency and ability to be cut shortly.

“(The greens) can be as fast or as slow as we wanted,” Anderson said. “We can’t make them that fast because our greens are so undulating that it would just be, not necessarily unfair, but just hard. Plus, the faster they are, we’ll limit our hole locations. Since we get all type of traffic here, as far as the type of golfer, we’ll keep it at 8 or 9, but any championships we’ll speed things up.”

The change in the 51-year-old Robert Bruce Harris-designed par-72 course brings it up to speed with some of the best golfing venues in the state and in eastern Iowa, like Des Moines Golf and Country Club and Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids, which also went through a similar process recently.

According to Thorn, the new turf process was completed in two separate projects, including treatments with methyl bromide, a fumigant, to kill the previous turf. Workers then replanted with the A4, working against the end of the growing season last year.

“We had to make sure the seed was in long enough to germinate and mature enough to withstand the winter,” Thorn said.

The course was under a geo-textile blanket through the winter months and then carefully looked after during the early springtime before finally reopening last month.

The project came to fruition after Chicago-area golf course designer Dick Nugent created a master plan for the course seven years ago. And according to Anderson, Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby implemented the plan when it coincided with the construction of the new road that connects with the Finkbine commuter car park.

“Logistically, people weren’t going to get in here,” Anderson said. “They weren’t going to have a parking lot, so why no just shut the course down? And that’s what they did.

“But it’s really something that Bob Bowlsby wanted to have done – he’s pretty proud of the golf course here. He’s an avid golfer and knows that a golf course is a pretty good tool to conduct business, and he’s proud of the fact that the Athletic Department does have its own course.”

Finkbine is open to the public, but it does have reduced rates for students and faculty/staff players. For more information on rates and tee times, call 319/335-9246.

Barry Pump,