Duke Golf Course Reopens with New Greens

Three-month project replaces putting greens with more drought-tolerant grass

The Duke University Golf Club will reopen its public golf course Sept. 2 after replacing the bentgrass on 18 putting greens and the practice green with a more drought-tolerant variety of grass. 

The greens were replanted with Champion Ultradwarf Bermudagrass, a relatively new variety of grass used on private and professional courses that provides a high quality putting surface that is less costly to maintain.

Billy Weeks, course superintendent, estimates that the new grass should require 50 percent less water for irrigation, and a 75 percent reduction in use of chemicals to control weeds.

"That's right in line with Duke's ideal of being more sustainable," he said.

Grounds crews at the golf course replanted the greens with no digging to avoid changing the contours of the greens, which were last redesigned by the internationally known golf course architect Rees Jones in 1994. The three-month process involved stripping off the old grass, extending the edges of the greens to their original borders, hand scattering thousands of sprigs of the new grass, and rolling, monitoring, watering and mowing the greens nearly every day for two months while the grass grew.

"It takes a lot of care to grow grass that eventually has to survive when it is cut every day to just one-tenth of an inch," Weeks said.

Laurie Hyland, director of information technology for Athletics, is an avid golfer and considers the Duke University Golf Course her home course.

"I'm excited about the change because I hear that the new greens will be on par with a professional level course," she said.

The renovation of the greens is a first step in an ongoing effort to raise the quality of the course. Future improvements will include upgrades of the paths, irrigation system, and restroom facilities. Individual donors through the Duke Athletics contributed the financing to renovate the greens.

"We are on the doorstep of a great university, and right next to the four-star Washington Duke Inn," said Ed Ibarguen, general manager of the Duke University Golf Club. "We strongly believe that the Duke University Golf Club should be at the same level of excellence as everything that surrounds it."