Misawa's new golf greens save green

Base Info
Gosser Memorial Golf Course crew members install new sod on hole 15 in late April of 2013 as part of a project to replace all course greens at Misawa Air Base, Japan. Holes 14, 15 and 16 were the final three of 18 greens replaced as part of a six-year project conducted in-house that saved the Air Force nearly $1 million in potential costs. (Courtesy photo/Todd Toohey)
Gosser Memorial Golf Course crew members install new sod on hole 15 in late April of 2013 as part of a project to replace all course greens at Misawa Air Base, Japan. Holes 14, 15 and 16 were the final three of 18 greens replaced as part of a six-year project conducted in-house that saved the Air Force nearly $1 million in potential costs. (Courtesy photo/Todd Toohey)

Misawa's new golf greens save green

by: Senior Airman Derek VanHorn, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs | .
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published: May 11, 2013

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- It's the time of year to dig through the garage, brush the dust off the clubs and make the long awaited, snow-belated trip to Gosser Memorial Golf Course here to release the winter's pent-up energy. This routine is common for hundreds of Misawa golfers every year, and over time the course has felt its effects.

In response to course wear and tear, a project to replace greens on each of the 18 holes at Gosser concluded this month after holes 14, 15 and 16 were rolled out to mark the final steps of a six-year process.

Todd Toohey, newly appointed golf facility manager here and Professional Golfers Association certified pro, said the maintenance plan stuck to executing three new greens a year, while also stating the importance of this project serves a dual purpose - golf quality to the players and cost effectiveness to the Air Force.

Bill Appel, 35th Force Support Squadron, spent six years as the Gosser course manager before handing the reins to Toohey, and is responsible for swinging the greens project into action.

It was a resourceful and frugal plan of attack that saved the Air Force nearly $1 million in potential costs.

Instead of hiring out contractors, the entire project was carried out "in-house" by 11 local national course maintainers -- a crew Appel compared to the Harlem Globetrotters in their ability to make a golf course glow.

When an operation of this magnitude is contracted out, restoration can run anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000 for a single green, running costs of replacing all 18 greens into the millions. When the on-hand crew finished the final green, the price tag - supported by non-appropriated funds - rested in the thousands.

"This is a win-win for the community and the Air Force," said Appel, also a PGA professional.

For the players, new greens couldn't have come soon enough. The course was built in the 1940s by civil engineers assigned to the base, and although they did well for their era, there was no way to predict the future advancements of the game.

On average, Gosser gets trampled on by more than 50,000 pairs of feet annually, causing obvious compaction to greens and fairways. Over the decades, the subsoil of the greens became so stiff there wasn't room for water percolation, causing areas to puddle and ultimately destroying the grass' roots.

These recent renovations have taken the previous subsoil out and replaced it with good quality sand for drainage. It allows the roots to penetrate and is almost like starting fresh with a brand new course, said Toohey, who has 25 years of golf management experience.

Appel added the greens could now experience multiple inches of steady rainfall and would be ready for play within minutes - music to the ears of Misawa golfers, like David Beach, who are all too familiar with Misawa's temperamental weather.

"Everything about the course is coming back to the way it should be," said Beach, a course regular for the past 10 years while working with the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Far East Detachment here. "The upgrades are amazing and are a 100 percent improvement."

Beach lauded a great and friendly facility staff as the game-changer of this project, saying the many changes taking place make the course more enjoyable and fun, while also requiring golfers to utilize more touch and finesse in their games.

Along with new putting surfaces, the 6,231-yard course is now also working to provide golfers with upgraded fairways composed of Zoysia grass, a native Japanese species requiring no insecticides to remain healthy all year round. This advanced surface was the solution to replacing destroyed areas wiped out by an uncharacteristically hot summer in 2009. Course personnel installed nearly 180,000 patches throughout the course during last year alone.

"The money-saving aspect is great, because (renovations) wouldn't have gotten done otherwise," said Appel, "and while doing that, we've also made a better facility for the Misawa community.

"The community itself has been very supportive, and we are doing this to make the golf course better for them. When they see the finished result, they are flabbergasted. It's really been well received."

All greens are scheduled to be fully playable by June 1. To schedule a tee time or for more information, contact the Gosser Memorial G.C. at 616-2065. Daily green fees can be found here.

Tags: Misawa Air Bae, Base Info
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