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Refurbished Jaycee Municipal Golf Course enjoys increased traffic
Jack James watched intently as his long eagle putt crept across the 14th green before cresting, hitting the downslope and diving to the right.
It looked like a mulligan putt well spent at the Woodland girls basketball team tournament Friday at Cape Jaycee Municipal Golf Course.
James' three playing partners all voiced their growing optimism as the ball inched closer, only to see it teasingly pass behind the hole. Their chance for a skin disappeared when the ball didn't.
While the group didn't get to scrawl a two on their scorecard as they had hoped, they clearly were enjoying the camaraderie and testing their skills on the undulating greens at Jaycee.
Friday's tournament was a first-year event for Woodland and part of the increased play that has been brought to the 56-year-old course in the first year after its $1 million renovation. The course will mark the first anniversary of its reopening Saturday.
James, who is from Marble Hill, Mo., like his playing partners, has been playing the course for the last seven years.
"I like the greens," James said. "I think they've done a great job."
Playing partner Mike Lutes has played at Jaycee since the 1960s when it was a nine-hole course.
"It's about as good as it's ever looked," Lutes said. "I think it's in great shape. They've kept it up nice."
Those are reassuring words for those involved with the course renovation and the upkeep.
Like every other course in Southeast Missouri, Jaycee has had to weather 12 months of harsh Midwest weather. The 18 enlarged bent grass greens that replaced the smaller, crowned Bermuda greens endured sizzling conditions last summer, a monsoon spring and now more heat.
That has been accompanied by an increased workload.
"The year that we were building the course and putting it all together, there were a lot of questions and a lot of hope because of the amount of money we were putting in to the course and whether it would be worth it and get our money back out of it or not and whether people would enjoy it," said Jared Tanz, who has been the course manager the past three years. "Overall the first year has been very good. There's still room for improvement and room for growth in the years ahead, but the first year has been a success, I would say."
Since reopening, the course has had approximately 4,000 more rounds than its previous full season, according to Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department figures.
A week short of the one-year anniversary, 23,863 rounds were played since June 11, 2010. In 2008, the last full season before the renovation, 20,240 rounds were played. This year's total also is higher than the 22,070 rounds played in 2007.
The 2011 figures are over 285 days in which the course was open. The course was open for 276 days in 2008 and 297 days in 2007.
"A lot of the early spring and winter months, it goes year to year with the weather," Tanz said.
Tanz estimated that 800 to 900 rounds could be expected this final week, which would push the total rounds for the calendar year to more than 24,600.
"I still think we're going to go up in the next few years," Tanz said. "It's really where we wanted to be at, especially when you're not sure -- the first few months -- how much it can be played and take without being run down."
The round figures do not include tournaments, which also are expected to top previous years in volume. Tanz said 24 tournaments already are scheduled in 2011, and he expects to see that number reach the neighborhood of 30.
The course hosted 21 tournaments in last year's abbreviated season. It had 25 tournaments in 2008 and 26 in 2007.
The increase in play means a net increase in total revenue -- green fees, cart rental, concessions and retail sales -- of nearly 33 percent. The course, which increased its greens fee by $4 when it reopened, had generated total revenue of $569,684 a week before the anniversary date, well above its 2008 revenue of $439,407.
The winter months saw the most dramatic jump in rounds played, with the spring rounds remaining relatively equal to past years. The course had 770 total rounds this winter for the months of December, January and February. Only 93 rounds were played in those same three months in 2008 and 127 in 2007.
Rounds in the fall -- September, October and November -- increased more than 22 percent from the 2007 and 2008 levels.
"We're by far busier than we were before," Tanz said. "We were busy before in May, June and July. We always had a lot of play out here in those months.
"The biggest difference I've seen so far was February, March, April, or last November. Those months where it starts cooling off or where it's cool and it starts getting warmer, we've had an incredible amount more play than we have in the past."
The permanent Bermuda greens previously were covered for the winter and temporary greens were cut next to the fairways.
Only half the holes were open for play, and only the most ambitious golfers played. The permanent greens usually were out of play December through March, and even then they didn't thrive until the hot months of summer.
"We had such a small window of when the greens were actually in good shape before," Tanz said. "Now it's year round. They still go dormant in the winter time, but they were still good.
"People knew they could come out and play a full 18 holes and they knew they would have a green to putt on and not a makeshift, mowed patch in the side of the fairway."
The greens have handled the increased play and the year-round abuse.
The A4 bent grass strain has amazed superintendent Randy Lueder, who has been tending the course for 23 years.
"What it will survive, that's what surprises me," Lueder said. "It will take a beating and just keep coming along."
All the more impressive to Lueder is that the greens were seeded only about nine months before the course was reopened. A brutal stretch of summer heat followed not long after the re-opening.
"It was an unbelievable start to your first year," Lueder said. "The greens weren't even a year old and we already had 100 degree weather. And for them to hold up that good, and be a year old ..."
Lueder and his maintenance staff, which consists of five full-time and six part-time employees, has had to keep a watchful eye during the heat, hosing down the greens during the day to keep them cool.
The amount of water usage has been somewhat of a surprise to Tanz, who knew the greens would require additional water. New water pumps were installed in anticipation of the increased water requirements. Lueder said the water, which is pumped out of the pond on the 10th hole, has increased from 180,000 gallons a night to nearly 400,000.
The fairway grass has thickened on the five rerouted holes on the back nine -- Nos. 11 through 15.
That part of the course also is being studied for possible solutions for the flow of play.
The rerouting has been criticized frequently by golfers uneasy about possible errant drives from No. 15 while on the 13th tee and 14th green.
"We've been looking at some safety measures," Tanz said. "There's no huge safety factors going on -- nobody has gotten hurt or any bad incidents -- but just in how the new holes are laid out in finding a way to divide them and make it so people know which way to hit."
Trees and bushes have been planted around those problem spots but will need a number of years to mature. An out of bounds area also has been established on the right side of the 15th hole. Tanz said there's also been talk of moving the 15th tee box away from the 13th tee and 14th green.
"That's something that might happen if it remains an issue," Tanz said.
A periscope also has been installed on the tee box at the par-5 11th hole in another safety effort. The periscope, which will be raised even higher than its current perspective to help with a blind tee shot, has been installed to help protect golfers in the fairway.
"We've still got some growing pains and some problems here or there," Lueder said. "Flow problems on 12 and 15, but we're working through that. But everything seems to be coming around real good."