Taking on a Full Course Remodel: Chase Walden Customer Spotlight
At a time when Golf Course Superintendents have been forced to drop major construction projects off of their to-do lists, Chase Walden has found himself in the opposite situation. As the Golf Course Superintendent at Old Oakland Golf Club, Walden’s to-do list has been packed full of major construction for the last three years.
The Old Oakland Golf Club is a 27-hole, private club that began the renovation process in the fall of 2016 after a long-time member purchased the course. One of the major aspects of the renovation involved the relocation and reconstruction of a stream and its tributary that had been causing, among a few other issues, playability problems. Other aspects of the project involved redesigning and reconstructing all 70 of the course’s bunkers using the Better Billy Bunker method, adding a new triple row irrigation system, and installing cart paths throughout. The last part of the renovation, which is finishing up now, is the creation of a three-acre practice facility (17,000 square feet of putting green and three practice bunkers).
During the project, Walden found his job morphing into a foreman-like position. He began coordinating the work of several contractors, while still trying to keep aware of what was happening on the parts of the course that were still open to members. Communication became essential.
“There would inevitably be a few days in a row where I would just have time to take a quick look around the open part of the course before I needed to work with the contractors,” Walden said. “My Assistants, who were running the day-to-day operations during the construction, would always fill me in on the details and kept me in the loop. They did a great job of communicating with me.”
Even with the superb help of his Assistants, the renovation of the course still brought challenges. One challenge that Walden was not ready for was the amount of construction damage that the course would undertake.
“I didn’t anticipate the amount of construction damage and traffic that was going to be on the course,” Walden said. “You know, I remember roping off different sections of the course at a time to keep the construction crews from beating up the same area. After the first week, I realized that we were going to lose turf with the renovation and had to accept a lot of open dirt and construction scars.”
Another challenge was coordinating the logistics of the contractors.
“At one point, on nine golf holes, we had a shaper, a finishing crew, an irrigation company, and a company creating the cart path all working on top of each other,” Walden said. “The logistics of that was a challenge. For example, it was a challenge keeping irrigation up and running while we’ve got 50 trucks on the property.”
One thing that was not a challenge during the renovation was the golf course members. While some members may cause a problem during the renovation process at other courses, Walden said Old Oakland’s members were great.
“Even with the inconvenience of nine holes shut down at a time, we did not have a challenge with our members,” Walden said. “I think educating them on the renovation helped. We had several open houses explaining what we were going to do, and we shared drawings, diagrams, and maps at those. Tours were available at any time, so if any member wanted a tour of the project, they would set up a time, and I would take them on a tour. I also used social media a lot during the project to make sure everybody was updated on the progress.”
When asked what would be one key for getting through a major construction project, Walden said to stay calm and step back for a moment.
“If I would have gotten wound up at everything that went wrong, I probably would have only made it through a couple of months of the renovation,” he said. “Keeping everything in perspective and accepting the fact that pain comes with progress as early as you can is key. Realize failures, like someone getting a truck stuck or breaking irrigation, are going to happen and switch right into problem-solving mode.”
Walden says the project was hard work, but worth it.
“It’s [the renovation] been many hours and a lot of work,” Walden said, “but many golf courses in the area have not been able to undergo this type of process, so it’s been rewarding to work in a sort of rare situation. Plus, at the end, when all the rough edges are sorted out, the course will be easier to maintain, have better playability, and look great.”