June 03, 2015

Playing Through at Poppy Hills

Frontier Golf uses Deere iron in their 18-hole renovation of Poppy Hills Golf Course

It only took a quarter of a mile for us to stop grumbling about the $10 toll to gain entrance to the Monterey Peninsula's wonderfully twisty 17-Mile Drive. This road winds through the Del Monte Forest and past legendary California golfing landmarks — Cypress Point Lookout, Carmel Bay, The Links at Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill, Pebble Beach Golf Links, and our destination, Poppy Hills Golf Course. This time we left our clubs at home because we're checking on the progress of a complete 18-hole renovation.

18 holes on the bucket list
Every golfer's list of must-play courses features the fairways of Pebble Beach, including one-time National Pro-Am course Poppy Hills. The course's links were designed by Robert Trent Jones II back in 1986, and it is the home course of the Northern California Golf Association (NCGA). According to the NCGA, the all-new Poppy Hills will feature:

  • A new irrigation system to better manage water usage
  • Reconstructed teeing areas
  • Redesigned doglegs that will help the course unfold more naturally
  • Renovated bunkers that employ state-of-the art subgrade protection and more uniform sand playability
  • Replaced and redesigned putting greens
  • Sand-capped fairways to greatly improve drainage and make play firmer and faster
  • A completely renovated clubhouse

Pulling off this massive redo requires contractor Frontier Golf of Jones Mills, Pennsylvania, and original course designer Robert Trent Jones II Golf Course Architects (RTJII) to basically bring the entire course back down to natural grades and tie it into its surroundings, creating a unique golfing experience on the Monterey Peninsula. Fortunately, both Frontier and RTJII are playing at the very top of their games.

Play it as it lies
According to Frontier Golf Director/Project Manager Jason Sloan, "The Pebble Beach area is unique in the variety of golf course types and styles it offers, and that's one of the reasons Poppy Hills is being renovated. There's been a trend in the golf industry to irrigate less turf by integrating more natural sandy and grassy areas into the course and using them as strategic elements and hazards. So the tees, fairways, roughs, bunkers, and greens at Poppy Hills are designed for more exciting play while blending with the natural surroundings — the Del Monte Forest." To accomplish this requires plenty of iron, including Deere excavators, crawlers, loaders, and articulated dump trucks.

"For the new drainage network, we dig trenches with a Deere compact excavator and install perforated pipe along with larger-diameter solid pipe to carry the water to the outlet. We use 750K Crawlers with a Topcon 3D-MC2 system to give larger areas such as the fairways and roughs their initial shape. The bunkers are shaped using a 650K or 750K Dozer, depending on the size of the bunker. We core them out with a mini excavator, install drainage pipe, and cover it with pea gravel. Then, a special polymer is sprayed to make a solid surface that is porous and allows the bunker to drain."

To a “T”
Meanwhile, on #15 green, Michael Dodson is putting a 750K Low Ground Pressure (LGP) Crawler through the paces. "We use this LGP dozer on slopes and wet areas because its wider 30-inch pads tread lighter on the ground. The hydraulic system on this machine is so smooth, and the response time of the controls is excellent. Combine that with its 13.5-foot blade, and you're really moving some dirt effectively and efficiently. "The reversing fan is another feature I really like — handy when working in all this dirt. It blows out the coolers automatically so you don't have to shut down to clean out the radiator." Seeing Dodson has matters well in hand, we point our Gator™ down the cart path to the former driving range where a 250G LC Excavator is serving up dirt to a 300D Series-II Articulated Dump Truck, with a 250D Series-II waiting on deck.

Back with Jason Sloan at the clubhouse, we ask him how the equipment's been serving Frontier Golf to date. "With an 18-hole renovation, you need to move tons of dirt, gravel, and sand. And the Deere ADTs, loaders, dozers, and excavators have been valuable to us in getting the job done."