Story & photos by Mike Besa
I wrote a feature on Eagle Ridge Golf and Country Club two issues back, titled “Quo Vadis, Eagle Ridge?” in which I lamented the state of the club’s four golf courses. It didn’t take long until I got a call from Eagle Ridge’s newly installed general manager Antonio “Boy Blue” Ocampo inviting me to the club to take stock of their efforts to rehabilitate the golf courses.
Of course, I agreed immediately.
To be perfectly honest, I had high hopes for what I was to see at the club. I have strong feelings for the first golf club that I joined and want to see its four golf courses back in peak condition. But I tempered my expectations knowing that not a lot could be done in the short span of time.
Driving into the club, my expectations seemed validated. As I approached the main clubhouse, you could barely see the facilities because the tall grass. Thankfully, management had given the main clubhouse a fresh coat of paint, thus easing fears that not much had been done.
I was met at the club by WG’s (the golf course maintenance contractor of Eagle Ridge) Tito Mojado. Mojado is no newcomer to the golf industry, having worked at Mimosa, Royal Northwoods and Clark Sun Valley at different times in his 23-year career as a golf-course superintendent. He has been with WG and Eagle Ridge Golf & CC for most of the last 10 years.
Now I know for a fact that WG’s contract in previous years amounted to P6 million to maintain all four golf courses at Eagle Ridge and the herbicides, pesticides and all the equipment needed were to be purchased by the club. Today, WG’s contract amounts to P4,600,000 and the herbicides, pesticides and equipment costs are also to be shouldered by them.
Under the previous arrangement, the golf courses suffered. How was it going to be possible to rehabilitate all four golf courses with a smaller budget than before?
First off, Eagle Ridge has closed the Dye Course until further notice. It seems the Dye was the hardest hit and is going to take the most time and money to rehabilitate. Allowing members and guests to play there was sure to draw more ire from the members and guests, so the easiest thing to do was to close it until further notice while rehabilitation was going on.
The Norman Course was closed for a month for core aerification and rehabilitation of the greens and to allow for selective herbicide application to rid playing surfaces of weeds, rehabilitation of the bunkers and general cleanup of the golf course. WG focused on the tee boxes and surrounding areas as well as the fairways, greens and the surrounding areas. The rough areas and areas more than a meter from the cart path are very heavily overgrown, a clear indication of just how long these areas were neglected.
We toured the Aoki Course next. The Aoki was my favorite of the four and is the most unique design at Eagle Ridge. The course was closed and would remain so for a week while rehabilitation work was going on. There were certain areas (the areas surrounding the tee box of the second hole for example) that were very heavily treated with herbicide, as weeds and foreign grasses had invaded them. The bunker edges were overgrown and undefined. Weeds had begun to grow in the bunker sand itself. Mojado explained that work had begun on the bunker faces and that they were reducing the surface area of many of the bunkers to make them less expensive to maintain without affecting playability and the challenges to the golfer. The greens on the Aoki had also been core aeriated and top-dressed with sand. Some like the sixth green were responding nicely, while others like the second needed more work and time to recover.
One of WG’s challenges is going to be doing all the necessary work with the size of their workforce. Basically, the amount of manpower we saw on both the Norman and Aoki seemed inadequate for the work at hand, so progress will be slow going. This is why Mojado and WG have prioritized the playing surfaces and surrounds initially. When these are back to acceptable standards then they will turn their attention to the rough and intermediate areas.
We toured the Faldo next. The Faldo is the centerpiece of the sprawling Eagle Ridge property. It is the most challenging golf course of the four, and is the one of which the members are the proudest. It was, therefore, heartening to find the Faldo in the best condition of the four. The playing areas were in acceptable condition although the rough areas by the tee boxes and just off the fairways were still overgrown. Still, other rough areas, such as the ones around the fifteenth, had been cleared, and the hole looks like it used to.
But all was still not right on the Faldo Course. We chanced upon a group of Korean tourists on twelve, the long, double dogleg par five that were searching for their tee shots in the rough area just right of the cart path. That area used to be open and airy. It was heavily overgrown and the tourists had little chance of finding their golf balls. Many of the bunkers needed work as did most of the bunker faces. The greens seemed alright for the most part, but quite a few had some bare spots that had not quite grown in yet. But overall, the Faldo is in the best shape of the lot.
The golf courses aren’t the only things at the club that need attention. Driving up to the main clubhouse, the grass surrounding it is so long that you can barely see the clubhouse. The interior facilities are serviceable but are also in need of maintenance. Even some of the landscaped areas around the clubhouse were overgrown and in need of clearing.
With two large tournaments set at Eagle Ridge later in the year, the club and WG have their work cut out for them. There’s much to do and only a few months to do it in. Management is confident that they’ll be able to deliver presentable golf courses on the dates due, and we hope and pray that they do. If they don’t….. Well, you can imagine what it will do for the reputation of the club.
Money remains a problem for Eagle Ridge Golf and Country Club. This is the reason why during our tour of the three functioning golf courses, we only saw small groups of workers on the grounds. But they’re chipping away at the problem, slowly but surely. It will take some time, but things look to be heading in the right direction.
We wish them the best.
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