The Honors Course made a wise decision last year.
And the results are paying off.
Following the trend of golf courses across the Southeast, the Honors killed its bentgrass greens last summer and replaced them with Champion Ultra-dwarf Bermuda grass, which thrives in hot conditions, especially compared to bentgrass.
"I'm really surprised that they're as good as they for being as new as they are," said Paul Simson from North Carolina, who has been a Lupton Invitational champion as a mid-amateur and is the defending senior champion in the Lupton Memorial tournament. "Everybody is raving about the greens and how good they are. They're not any easier. They may be a touch more difficult."
Simson leads the senior division after the first round of the 2014 Lupton Memorial after earning 41 points in the Stableford system Friday. Indiana resident Ted Smith leads the super-senior division with 39 points.
Kenny Cook, also from Indiana, and Robert Gerwin of Cincinnati share the mid-amateur lead after 3-under 69s on Friday. Mike McCoy -- who played in the Masters about six weeks ago -- is third at 71. Brandon Cissom of Cleveland is in a tie for fourth with Adam Hofmann and Aaron Hickman.
"They're smooth, they accept well-struck golf shots, and shots that aren't struck so well don't turn out so well," Simson said of the Honors greens. "I'm amazed at how close to exactly the same they are. I had a hard time telling any difference."
Simson wasn't alone.
Cook played in the tournament two years ago but had to take last year off. He had a nine-hole practice Thursday and a playing partner told him that the Honors switched to Bermuda.
"They're so perfect that I really didn't know that they changed," Cook said. "That's something to be proud of."
Gerwin loves the new greens. As he should after tying for the first-day lead.
"The results are fabulous," he said. "I had the speed right on almost every putt."
The new greens will allow the Honors to host more high-profile tournament because the Bermuda grass can be kept at a faster speed without threatening to kill the greens. Several courses in the Chattanooga area have made the switch, and the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club will follow suit this summer. That leaves Black Creek Club, Cleveland Country Club, WindStone and the two mountain courses as the only private courses in the area with bentgrass greens.
David Stone, the only course superintendent in Honors history, and his staff will take scores and input from golfers and help them plan for two other big tournaments this summer: the Southern Amateur and the Tennessee Mid-Amateur.
"The pins are pretty much the same as last year, and we have done so many tournaments in that past that I'm sure we won't change much," Stone said. "The greens have been 12.3 to 12.6 on the Stimpmeter. It might be, should be, hotter for the Southern Am, so we may have to double-cut them morning and night."
Stone never doubted that the Ultra-dwarf would eventually be the best putting surface for the Honors. But he had some scares after sprigging the greens and then enduring a wet summer. That was followed by a harsh winter that could have crippled the grass.
Instead, it's thrived.
"When we opened after 49 days after we planted, they were better than members expected," Stone said. "But they were nowhere near as good as they are now. It's been good.
"We can give better surfaces for more months of the year."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...