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Knoxville Open sets early tee time
$1.65 million Fox Den golf course facelift prompts moving up annual Knoxville Open one month


Knoxville Open gallery spectators will be more animated than these four onlookers, or snowmen, at Fox Den Country Club when the annual golf tournament tees off in late May, a month earlier than past opens due to scheduled course modifications.- Dan Barile/farragutpress
A $1.65 million golf grounds renovation plan approved by 88 percent of Fox Den Country Club’s voting membership has moved up this year’s 15th Annual Knoxville Open by one month.

“They’ve agreed to move it forward, and the Knoxville Open will be May 31 to June 6,” said Dan Greaser, FDCC president, of the move from its late June start in recent years. “They were very cooperative. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Knoxville were the ones that coordinated that for us with the PGA and the Nationwide Tour (sponsor of all PGA developmental tour events such as the Knoxville Open). The Nationwide Tour was very amenable.”


The Knoxville Open date was moved up to get an early start on the renovations and allow enough “grow-in time” before winter arrives.

Work is set to begin June 8 and be completed by Sept. 15, according to Greaser. “Then the grow-in period will continue until Thanksgiving, so you’re not going to be able to get on the course until Thanksgiving,” Greaser said.

According to Scott Severance, certified golf course superintendent and director of agronomy at the course who is overseeing the project for FDCC, “it’s an extremely ambitious project, it’s like doing open heart surgery, a complete facelift.

“And it’s a pretty tight timetable,” Severance added, though he also noted that low-bid contractor Forefront Golf International of Arlington, Texas, is a highly respected golf course renovation company that should ensure a successful project completed on time.

Greaser is enthusiastic about the future of the 34-year-old course.

“In a year, we’ll go from an excellent course to really a premier course,” the FDCC president said of the improvements to all 18 greens, fairway drainage and bunker “sight” additions.

TOWN APPROVAL, FAIRWAYS

Fairway drainage and erosion control will have the biggest impact on Fox Den homes bordering the golf course, and will be of central importance when town leaders take up the matter tonight during the bi-weekly meeting of the Farragut Municipal Planning Commission.

“A complete set of construction plans have been given to the town of Farragut, to Ruth Hawk (community development director), and she’s having her team actually review those as we speak,” Greaser said on Jan. 7.

As for the improvements, “anytime that we have a surface that’s being changed or exposed, we’ll need to put catchment fences around that area, or put bails of straw so that if we have any run-off the rain will be caught,” Greaser said. “The plan indicates that everything will be contained on Fox Den’s property.

“The bottom line of the drainage is improve the run-off currently going onto neighbors’ property,” he added. “It’ll improve that situation, it’ll actually give us better catchments and containment, sumps as they call ’em, which is digging out pits and putting rocks in it and filling it back. We’ve got a number of things that more positively directs the water to the normal creek beds that we have and run-off areas without running into yards.”

As for neighbors who are also FDCC members, “some are, and I’m one of them, on number ten,” Greaser said. “And I was happy that they were going to control some of the water that’s running my way.”

“Over on No. 6, for instance, which sits down in a low area coming off of a hill, the tee’s on top of the hill and you tee-off down to the bottom,” Greaser added. “The rain has historically run in front of the green, run through the bunker and washed out the sand and taken it into a neighbor’s area where he’s got a drain and it’s clogged that up.”

GREENS

As for the greens, “the difference will be that we’ll have USGA greens,” Greaser said. “And what that means is that we’ll have greens that will be drainable.”

Being able to drain water from the greens, especially during rainy weather, will greatly reduce the chance of turf disease and will enhance the growth of the greens according to Greaser. He added that installing a new type of bentgrass would allow the greens to be cut lower for a faster surface.

“The biggest thing is not only the construction of the greens and the drainage they’ll have, the design itself will be enhanced,” Greaser said. “Some of the greens now are essentially blind shots. Like on number three, it will be so positioned that the front of it will be lowered so that you’ll be able to see the front of the green, you’ll be able to see the back bunkers that frame it so it gives you a 3-D type of look.”

BUNKERS

“We’ll have some target bunkers,” Greaser said of yet another addition. “Today you tee-up the ball and you’re just looking down a fairway and you see a turn and you don’t know whether to hit it to the right, to the left, wherever it might be. Your better courses today have target bunkers that say ‘if you hit it to that target, or you move it to the right of the bunker or whatever’ (you’ll be positioned better).

“Usually they’re out of range for most of your players, but they might come into play for your lowest handicapped players,” he added. “It will also improve the esthetics of the course.”

COUNTS, OTHER FUNCTIONS

Among the 364 total voting membership, 144 votes were counted during a Dec. 1 meeting with approval given by a 127 to 17 vote. “The vote was to go ahead with the course renovation not to exceed 1.65 million dollars,” Greaser said of the project that was hatched in February 2003.

Greaser emphasized that no other FDCC functions will be affected by the renovation.

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