Target Golf

Alpine operators take aim at making the course great

Improvement planning continues for Alpine Golf Course, but Simon Ward, director of golf operations and Alpine Sports Club, said he’s not quite ready to elaborate publicly about any envisioned changes or ideas for enhancements.

Still, there’s cause for eager anticipation for the years to come at the century-old course south of Egg Harbor. For example, surveyors and an environmental specialist were scheduled to visit the course during the past week, Ward said.

For the rest of this golf season and most of next season, he said golfers can just about count on the course having the same configuration as it had this year. That means players should continue to finish an 18-hole round by teeing off from the top of the cliff on the famous and photogenic old Blue Nine finishing hole after navigating the dogleg-left, par-4 17th along the Niagara Escarpment.

After inheriting a course where grass grew long on the greens and fairways – due in part to old equipment no longer being able to reach low enough to cut those greens – the course’s staff members have kept greens faster and smoother this year. This spring, they also resodded three troublesome greens that had deteriorated beyond repair. Those greens, currently #1 and #17, are now smooth and fast.

“The greens are much more playable than they were last year,” Ward said. “The guys know better how to keep them playable.”

The Alpine acquired top-of-the-line mowing equipment this year and last summer, and it invested in treatments designed for golf courses. Conditions also improved greatly as the new course operators paid close attention to the timing and application of the right types of fertilizers and other chemicals in the right proportions. Three years ago, the fairways at Alpine had thin patches, as well as swaths of turf that played like rough. This year, staff members have kept records of moisture in the soils and the density of grass growing in the fairways, and they also rolled the greens more often. In addition, they check the speed of the greens with a stimpmeter each day.

Ward said the resort management is sending some course and greens crew members to school to learn how to more readily diagnose issues and determine treatments.

Good, old-fashioned knowhow from two veterans on the staff helped the course during a two-and-a-half-week-long dry spell in the late spring and early summer at a time when some parts of the old irrigation system failed and needed patching or new connective fittings. Dennis “Sarge” Sargent and Tony Arzich heroically made numerous repairs to and reinforcements of inadequate irrigation lines and couplings that the new owners inherited when they bought Alpine.

Ward saw a large increase in rounds played this year compared to 2021, as well as increasingly positive feedback and more compliments from players at the 19th hole as the months went by this summer. He said the busiest day of the week varied from week to week because of events, family gatherings, and the wishes of the course visitors and guests who were staying in the 29 Alpine cottages and five clubhouse hotel rooms that were completely renovated this year.

Ward said he should know more by autumn about the scope of improvements, as well as the future of the fairways the crew has been maintaining on top of the bluff.

Golf course conditions don’t go from OK to good to great overnight, but Alpine’s course operators are showing the dedication and perseverance it takes to achieve that progression.