As a caretaker of Crestview Country Club's North course since 1997, superintendent Chad Stearns is still getting used to the club's decision to reverse the nines for its recent reopening.
He has experienced it each year since 2001 in one-week increments when the Nationwide Tour came to town for the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open.
But whether the first hole is still the 10th or the ninth is still the 18th in Stearns' mind, one thing is certain: The entire course will be better in the long run after a full-scale renovation.
Crestview closed the North course last September to replace the grasses on its greens and fairways. It re-opened to members on June 27.
"It was a very significant investment," Crestview general manager Ken Nicholas said. "The membership as a whole wanted to make sure it was indeed ready ... Quite frankly, things have worked out for us really well."
With bunker, cartpath and irrigation system projects already completed this decade, Stearns and his staff began the turf improvement phase last fall by killing off the mixture of bentgrass and Poa annua on Crestview's greens. They were reseeded with A1/A4 bentgrass and putting surfaces were increased where possible to try to come close to course architect Robert Trent Jones' original designs.
"We had everything in and growing before the winter got here," Stearns said. "A lot of times when you're growing in greens, you need to cover them to get them established. But we were far enough along that we didn't have to cover them and they came along really well."
Stearns also applied chemicals to 21 1/2 acres of fairways to eliminate the smorgasbord of cool and warm season grasses. Crestview's fairways previously included bentgrass, bluegrass, bermuda, rye and zoysia, making it a challenge to properly treat.
In February, Landscapes Unlimited, a company based in Lincoln, Neb., began hauling in 140 semi-truckloads of zoysia sod. Stearns said there were approximately 28 rolls per truck.
"It took about two months to get everything going," he said. "We fought a little bit of weather, but the fairways turned out wonderful. There were six or seven truckloads that didn't come out of dormancy real well, but we've recently finished putting that grass back in."
Crestview also added two championship tee boxes to its new first and ninth holes. No. 1, which played 443 yards for the Wichita Open, can now be stretched to 457 yards. The new tee on the par-4 ninth increases the hole from 418 to 450 yards.
While Mother Nature affected Crestview's fairway conditions in recent Wichita Opens, the new zoysia could present some minor playability issues while small seams in the sod strips grow together. Stearns said it typically takes a year to 18 months for those to disappear. Still, the scorching heat of late June transformed the zoysia into an attractive shade of green.
"It's still in the maturing process," Stearns said. "Next year at this time, I'll be twice as happy. I do take some stock in what (the players) say, and you always want to produce the best course that you can for those guys."
By many accounts, Crestview's new greens are tournament-ready now.
"The ones that have been here before are really, absolutely going to be happy with what we have out there," Stearns said. "The ball rolls truer than anything I've ever seen, as obviously it should. Instead of having three or four or five different colors out there with the Poa annua and different varieties of bentgrass, we have one solid color, and it rolls very true and very solid."
Stearns played with members the day of the course's reopening and said consensus feedback was good.
"Mother Nature has been pretty good to us for this project," Nicholas said. "It's been about a 10-month process, and throughout those 10 months, it's been about as good as it can be."