By Greg Ellison
(Dec. 5, 2019) Besides discussing short-term turf maintenance strategies last Tuesday, the Ocean Pines Golf Committee also debated the merits of developing a multi-year improvement plan.
Focusing on concerns over fairway conditions on the eighth hole, committee member Frank Biancaniello said low spots exist that need to be filled.
“Just plain sand or … peat moss isn’t going to do it,” he said. “You want to make sure that you get drainage and it soaks in.”
In light of environmental challenges in that section of the course, Biancaniello questioned what type of grass seed could be used to thrive during summer but then survive through winter.
Ocean Pines Golf Director John Malinowski said diffused light and fluctuating temperatures make seeding the area difficult.
“If we can put some sod down … it will already be healthy and sturdier and will be that much quicker to take root,” he said.
Malinowski said the initial concern on the eighth fairway is improving the landing area, with work to clean and replace associated drainage already completed.
“That’s the worst fairway for sunlight because all the trees are so high [and] it gets the least amount of sunlight out of all of them,” he said.
Committee member Olga Novy asked Malinowski about the results of recently completed golf course soil tests.
“The soil sample seem to be ok [and] there was nothing that’s lacking,” he said.
Malinowski concurred with Novy that lack of sunlight is the problem on that stretch.
“When it gets wet it stays wet,” he said.
Biancaniello asked if earlier suggestions, such as removing trees, are still under consideration.
“I know you all had taken out a lot of trees,” he said. “Is there plans to take out more?”
Malinowski said limited trimming is scheduled but removing further trees is unlikely because such action could encroach on nearby properties.
“We’re going to do what we can to improve air flow,” he said. “Putting the fans up there … really helped that out.”
Malinowski also noted that the recent return of Golf Course Superintendent Andre Jordan following a brief absence would allow a number of wintertime maintenance projects to begin.
Reviving a proposal from the group’s previous meeting, Biancaniello suggested a multi-year plan might be useful to track an array of improvements under consideration.
“There’s a whole lot of things that need to be done,” he said. “What about making up a list of those items and then see how many we can knock off a year until they’re done.”
Taking a big picture perspective to maintaining the course and increasing club membership, Biancaniello hit upon two key points.
“How enjoyable do people find the course [and] do they feel comfortable in the clubhouse?” he said.
Biancaniello said continued success is likely tied to insuring a welcoming environment on the greens, along with providing adequate food and beverage options to foster clubhouse fraternizing.
“If you do that, I believe, everything else is taken care of,” he said. “Memberships will go up; property owners will play there more often, and you’ll attract more people from the outside.”
Committee Chairman Larry Davies said those sentiments are echoed in the group’s recently compiled annual report.
“It’s all about quality, it’s all about course conditions, it’s all about customer service,” he said.
While in full agreement, Biancaniello said a long-term approach would allow objectives not accomplished one year to be prioritized.
“I’m trying to throw out some ideas so that every time you turn around we don’t take one step forward and two back,” he said.
Noting the course is currently in a transitional state, most importantly with the ongoing clubhouse project, Novy proposed adopting a wait-and-see approach before charting a long-term path.
“This season was a challenge for John [Malinowski] and it was a challenge for everybody,” she said.
Davies agreed while noting with the pending completion of the golf clubhouse, including a revamped Terns Grille operated by the Matt Ortt Companies, the keys to success may already be in hand.
“Hopefully we do the right things … so the course is maintained through the summer,” he said. “If we do that we’re on our way.”