A 2015 renovation project at Marriott Griffin Gate Resort in Lexington, Kentucky resulted in reducing the bunker count from 69 to 67 at this former Champions Tour site. That might not sound like much, but as is often the case in the golf business - things are not always as they appear.
The project also reduced bunker square footage from 130,000 square feet to 80,000 square feet in an effort to reduce the threat of washouts after rain events and to make the course more friendly for resort play. The project also left Scott Bender, CGCS, director of engineering and grounds, and course superintendent Zach Newell with a lot of dirt to move around.
They used the dirt to build a 3,000-square-foot pad that the 400-room hotel can utilize as a wedding venue or for other special events that help drive revenue.
They also grassed it with Meyer zoysiagrass, a tried and true standard in this part of the world.
The course has had ryegrass fairways since the PGA Tour's urging in the mid-1980s, when the course was home to the Champions Tour's Bank One Classic. Much has changed since then. Lower mowing heights make the turf more susceptible to disease pressure, and Pyricularia grisea, the pathogen that causes gray leaf spot, has developed resistance to strobilurin fungicides.
As a result, the ryegrass struggles during the sweltering summer heat.
Bender had a specific purpose in mind when he chose Meyer for the special events venue. It stands up to Kentucky's weather extremes, including cold winters and hot, humid summers and it is wear tolerant, factors he wants to exploit to sell a future fairway renovation.