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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Tech Golf Course facility 'pay-as-you-play'

By Netta S. Smith

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 03 - September 7, 1995

The Virginia Tech Golf Course is one of the university's "pay-as-you-play" recreational facilities. Students, university employees, and community residents pay fees that support all facility operations.

Green fees pay for all maintenance, as well as for groundskeepers' salaries. The pro shop is owned by the University Bookstore, which pays all salaries and receives any profits from that operation.

Since 1957, the golf course has provided a place where golfers can enjoy a well-maintained, top-quality course for a moderate fee. A back nine was added to the front nine in 1974.

The university's golf team uses the course for practice and competition. It also is open to guests, including area residents and visitors. Clubhouse services include club and golf cart rental.

The course is heavily played for a non-public facility, according to golf-course superintendent Lee Smith. "We have a really high number of rounds of play per year even though our golfing season only runs from April until November or December," Smith said.

Clubhouse manager and golf coach Jay Hardwick says the record number or rounds was 46,500 in 1990. "We haven't been under 42,000 since then," he says. More than 43,000 rounds were played in 1994.

According to Smith, the only time someone is not on the course is when it's covered with snow. "Some annual-pass holders play pretty much on a daily basis," he says.

Smith says the course is challenging, "especially the front nine, because we have a small green." In the 1950s, when the front nine was built, courses were usually small, because they usually had only about 10,000 rounds a year of play on them. "The high number of people playing our course makes it tough to get onto the green, but people who play it say the enjoy the challenge."

He says the course is "a real asset for the university." People from all over the world, including parents and other visitors to campus, play on the course. "Everybody who plays here compliments the course, and are really amazed at the condition it's in when you consider the amount of play it gets."

Former golf-team members often come back to play the course, Smith says. Parents of prospective students often voice surprise that the university has such an excellent facility. And many regular visitors to town make it a point to play a round or two every time they're in Blacksburg.

The course is maintained by eight grounds workers and five clubhouse employees. The groundskeepers mow greens and fairways, keep up with disease control, and supervise watering operations.

The greens, composed of bentgrass and annual bluegrass, are mowed daily to 5/32 of an inch. The grass on the fairways, mostly bluegrass and annual bluegrass, is mowed to a height of one inch three times a week. "You can't go lower than an inch on bluegrass, or you get into trouble with the heat," Smith says.

During the past decade, trees, flowers, and bushes have been added to enhance the beauty of the golf course. Aggressive disease-control efforts have been implemented. And, this past spring, a fully automatic irrigation system was installed.

"Before we got the automated system, we had to lay out irrigation lines morning, mid-day, and evening," Smith says. The new system not only frees groundskeepers for other duties, but also eliminates the need to block off the course to lay out lines. "With this new system, interference with play is minimal," he says.