Committee Focuses on Golf Course Improvements

One major project of interest to the LPN greens and grounds committee is the new irrigation system being installed at Panorama West. Work got underway in late May, and involves trenching in pipe to provide water to all tee boxes, fairways and greens on the golf course. Before the irrigation pipe is trenched in, strips of sod are removed and set aside. Once the pipe is placed in the trench, workers cover it with dirt, then replace the sod. A worker with Landscapes Unlimited uses a shovel and a hand-held machine to tamp down dirt covering a newly installed irrigation line. Rolls of sod are placed on top, which can be seen in the foreground of this picture. The goal is to do as little damage as possible to the existing turf.

By Susan Thompson

A board of managers that oversees the Lake Panorama National operation is entering its third year. The LPA Board of Directors created and appointed the LPN Board of Managers, which held its first meeting October 6, 2015. The board works with John Dinnebier, LPN director of operations, to oversee LPN policy and direction.

In May 2017, the Greens and Grounds committee was formed, with Dave Greiner as chair. This committee is responsible for generating and reviewing recommendations to the LPN board for both Lake Panorama National and Panorama West golf courses. The Board of Managers must approve a committee recommendation prior to implementation.

The committee now is chaired by Brice Oakley, who serves on the LPN board. Newly appointed to the committee in May is Bill Eby. Other committee members are Brian Denham, Mary Hills, Bob McCleeary and David Van Ahn.

“We are pleased Bill has agreed to serve on the greens and grounds committee,” Oakley says. “A lifelong golfer who plays frequently on both courses, Bill is already a valued member of the group. He and Mary Hills will be our principal conduits for exchanging information and ideas regarding Panorama West, as we work to more closely integrate both golf courses into longer-term marketing and capital improvement planning.”

“The generosity of the McLuen estate gift and extensive efforts driven by Friends of Lake Panorama are moving improvement of the Panorama West course forward rapidly. Once renovations underway this year are complete, our committee will become more active and visible there,” says Oakley.  

The committee met several times in 2017. One meeting included walking the entire LPN course, which resulted in a preliminary 13-point project list. The list was refined in consultation with Dan Wollner, LPN course superintendent, and Dinnebier. 

Last October, the LPN board approved Dinnebier’s recommendations based on the greens and grounds committee report. These recommendations included mowing wider fairways on holes 8, 14, 17, and 18, plus making permanent the mowing of a previously designated “no mow” area on the second hole. These approved recommendations were implemented last fall and have continued into 2018. 

The greens and grounds committee met this April, and developed suggested priorities to guide its 2018 work plan. These include:

· Evaluate annual and long-term improvements to the LPN and Panorama West golf courses in terms of cost/benefit, new playability and pace of play improvements, player response to reconfigured teeing ground options at the LPN, and robust co-marketing of both golf courses to potential dues paying members and daily fee players.

· Monitor, but not interfere with, Panorama West’s 2018 McLuen estate gift improvement project; add an active Panorama West course advocate to the committee. (This second priority was completed with the May appointment of Bill Eby.)

· Submit recommendations concerning annual and long-term needs to maintain a high level of excellence in golf course maintenance and capital improvements.

· Create a long-term strategy for course memorials and commercial signage.

· Prepare 2019 course-specific capital budget for LPN Board of Managers to consider.

Oakley says over the past decade, golf course management has changed. “Environmental concerns, proliferating recreational opportunities, and golfer expectations have created new challenges for public and private golf courses of all sizes, configurations, and degrees of difficulty,” he says. “Surveys by state and national golf associations show generating more revenue must be aimed at attracting both new golfers and retaining current golfers. This has led course managers to evaluate their golf facility for both playability and pace of play.” 

Maintenance changes such as wider fairways and fewer no-mow areas help with both playability and pace of play, Oakley says. So does offering more forward tee opportunities. That’s why permanent yellow tees were added to the LPN course last fall, and are included on new scorecards for the 2018 season.

This spring, a temporary red tee box was added to holes 4, 9, 14 and 16. The original red tee box on those four holes will remain in place in addition to the newly mowed areas. These tees are an experiment to give red tee players a chance to tee off closer to the green on these four holes. When the experiment is over, players will be surveyed for their opinion on any proposed changes.  

The new yellow tees now on all 18 holes and the four experimental red tee locations cannot be used during 2018 league play.  

As changes are implemented, Oakley hopes members will give any change a chance. “While you yourself may not be a consumer of a yellow tee, or a new red tee placement, please understand these changes are being implemented to be competitive in the industry and to continue to attract and retain players,” he says.

Planning and construction of both golf courses began in 1971, and both are owned by the Lake Panorama Association.

“Lake Panorama National and Panorama West are an integral part of one of America’s largest privately owned and managed recreational lake areas,” Oakley says. “While the lake is for the benefit of LPA members and their guests, the golf courses must maintain an even balance among dues-paying members, guests and the general public who pay green fees. The maintenance level of these courses is a testament to both the investment the LPA has made over the years, and excellent management by the course superintendents and their staffs.” 

“Success for us is all about getting constructive feedback from LPA members, achieving a growing sense of mission and accountability from our staff, and a tangible willingness from all to contribute to long-term improvements. This will ensure the LPA capital investment at these two facilities continues to give customers a satisfying golfing and resort experience,” Oakley says.  

Suggestions for the greens and grounds committee can be shared with any committee member. “Both pro shops now have a customer feedback system in place, so members and guests can rate various aspects of their experience, and provide written comments and suggestions,” Oakley says. “Cards that contain a suggestion relevant to greens and grounds will be passed along to our committee.”

Oakley offers one final element for a good golfing experience for all. “Golf has always been a game that includes respect for both the golf course and other players. We expect that from all of our members and guests,” he says. “We encourage anyone who encounters disrespectful or harmful conduct toward either our two golf courses or other players to promptly report the specifics to a management staff person.”