ROCKINGHAM — The playing of back-to-back U.S. Opens at Pinehurst No. 2 returned Donald Ross to the headlines.
The majority of the talk focused on the removal of rough on the course and allowing native grass to return on the edges.
Anna Rose, the manager at Richmond Pines Golf Club, laughed and said they were ahead of the curve.
The only problem was the native grass at Richmond Pines was in the fairway, on the tees and on the greens.
The back nine at Richmond Pines was designed by Ross.
After being closed for nearly two years, Richmond Pines was brought back to life just before the Fourth of July last year. During that time, the staff has been battling the years of neglect and trying to return it to its glory.
“The biggest thing is trying to get the Bermuda back established on the fairway and the greens,” said Mike Rose, the course’s superintendent. “In the wintertime, we had to kill out all the weeds and give the Bermuda a chance in the springtime. In that process we made it bare, it’s almost like we had to go backward to go forward.
“It’s finally started to kick in. The fairways have come up a long way compared to last year. It was just scrub, weed after being closed for so long. That’s been the toughest thing getting the Bermuda going.”
He added that is one of the things the public didn’t understand when his family undertook the project of getting Richmond Pines back into shape.
“People want it ready right then, right now,” Mike Rose said. “Barring a $1 million budget, we couldn’t have it ready. It takes time. It took a while for it to get in the shape it did. The tees are coming in, the fairways are coming in, the greens are coming in. We’re right there climbing the hill.”
He joked after seeing the U.S. Open on TV that Richmond Pines should change its slogan to “We’re greener than No. 2.” He added he understands what the USGA is attempting to do to get fans to embrace the changes to golf course maintenance.
“Brown is the new green,” Mike Rose said. “I think it is going to be a tough sell to the public to buy into it. People like green. I don’t think we will have to go to that extreme, we may have some brown on the edge, but once it gets some water and fertilizer, it will bounce back.”
While the course is beginning to come around, the one thing that hasn’t, according to Anna Rose, is players. She said the club has around 60 year-around members. She thought the membership would be closer to 100.
“I’m a little disappointed in the people playing,” Anna Rose said. “The weekend will be fine, but it is really slow during the week.”
She added that the members are pleased with the course and say “it’s in better shape now than two or three years before it closed,” but doesn’t know why more people aren’t at least giving it a try.
“Everybody is bragging on the course. It’s not Pinehurst-quality by any standard,” Anna Rose said. “We have no clue. We had people come from out of town and they love the course.
“I have heard the comments, ‘Oh we will wait until it gets better’, well, it’s better. We had all the support that came through the door in April until we opened, ‘We’re going to support you no matter what.’ Well we haven’t seen them since.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.