Golfers, rejoice. The renovated links course at Squaw Valley is opening today.
The Squaw Valley Golf Club first opened its fairways in 1992. As the course aged, problems began popping up in the irrigation system and rainwater wasn’t draining.
Jeff Hansen has worked the greens since 1994 and is the golf course superintendent. He said the original irrigation system had about 3,000 irrigation heads between the two courses and there was no way to isolate sections in the system. To fix a leak, he would have to shut the whole thing down to work on it. But the pipes began to weaken from the inside by “water hammer.”
Hansen explained that water hammering occurs when the water is turned back on and pumped through the pipes so hard that it literally hammers against the pipes. The club spent between $10,000 to $18,000 a year to maintain the system.
“Things were just wearing down,” Hansen said. “The whole idea of the new design is for better water management. Now we have a system that can be isolated.”
In addition to the water irrigation system, Hansen said the links course used a grass that required a lot of water. The greens had been contaminated with Bermuda grass and the native weed began to take over.
The links course was closed. The greens were broken down. And the renovation began.
“USGA greens are built to drain water quickly,” Hansen said. “Originally, the course was built that way but things just broke down over time. Water can be a golf course’s best friend or worst enemy.”
The greens were rebuilt from the bottom up. New gravel was used and a new type of grass was put down. Hansen decided to use miniverde grass, a hybrid of Bermuda. It requires less water and should be easier to maintain.
“It’s the best surface we can provide to golfers in the southern U.S.,” Hansen said.
The original plan was to keep as much of the original design as possible, but Hansen said golfers may notice a few changes.
“We didn’t touch the tees and fairways,” Hansen said. “The bunkers have been redesigned.”
Designing the bunkers was a bit of a challenge. Course designers use them to divide up the course but they can be difficult to maintain.
Hansen originally wanted to reduce the number of bunkers from 38 to 29. Through the renovation process, however, Hansen said the course still has 38 bunkers, but they are better designed and drain rainwater perfectly.
“We wanted to create excitement about the links course again, but we don’t want golfers to feel like they’ve gotten beat up when they come out to play,” Hansen said. “Visually, I love some of the shapes of the new bunkers - especially on hole six.”
Overall, the renovation project has gone smoothly.
“Everything went pretty well. We didn’t have any major meltdowns and there were no timeline issues. Everything just kind of fell into place,” Hansen said.
The greens on the links course average 6,800 square feet and are lined with hills and valley, trees and a creek, similar to the old pasture courses in England and Scotland.
He is still a little nervous about opening day today.
“A golf course is a living organism,” Hansen said. “The greens are still a little immature and they’ll mature over the year.”
Despite the few remaining bumps and bruises on the course, Hansen hopes golfers will be excited about the re-opening.
And with a $2.2 million renovation project under his belt, Hansen hopes to soon work on their second course that is larger with 72 bunkers and more lakes.
“Our goal is to be a destination,” Hansen said.
Fees at the golf course will also change soon.
Beginning Oct. 1, greens fees will round up to the nearest dollar. Duff Cunningham said the decision was made to make things easier for players. Using whole dollar amounts means golfers don’t have to worry about toting change to the course.
Effective rates for non-county residents are:
Weekdays - $42
Weekday twilights - $33
Seniors - $31
Weekend twilights - $40
Replay - $28
County residents pay half of the regular fee.