By Tom Clark, ASGCA Past President
The Bide-A-Wee Golf Course of Portsmouth, Virginia is an 18-hole, par 72 municipal daily fee course. The acreage of the course had previously been expanded by removing 22 homes built for World War II’s ship building effort, which allowed for an attractive entrance without passing through an undesirable neighborhood. The site was flat with 2-3’ of fall. Ditches were used to drain the play area. Several thousands of seedling pines were planted in the 40 and 50’s which matured to block all sunlight and hinder air circulation. The 18-hole course had no improvements during the 80’s while under a private lease (Chandler Harper), and when the City took over the course in 1992, improvements were minimal due to limited resources in the early 1990’s.
In 1998, the City of Portsmouth decided to fully renovate the Bide-A-Wee Golf Course. The overall objective of the 18-hole, par 72 course renovation was to improve it both “physically” and “fiscally.” This included improving all facets of the course so people would want to return.
To achieve this, the improvement objectives included removing trees (Loblolly Pines) to aid air circulation and sunlight, adding eight lakes to aid drainage, adding a cathedral-style pavilion that could be rented for functions, adding a new pro-shop/grill with a veranda overlooking various greens, adding a new irrigation system through which all fertilizer can be spread (fertigation), and adding a practice tee with target greens at varying distances, two practice greens, and a chipping green.
The construction occurred during the late fall and winter, which brought extremely wet conditions. Several feet of topsoil were removed, exposing sand that was usable for stabilization, tee tops, and waste bunkers. All new sand bunkers and tees were built. The course was also rerouted to accommodate additional acreage and alleviate unsafe conditions. The original Bide-A-Wee layout featured extremely narrow and small greens that fell off severely on the sides. To improve this, greens were completely rebuilt and enlarged to U.S.G.A. Specifications. A complete new irrigation system was installed with fertigation; a new pump plant and pump house were also installed. A superintendent was brought on board during construction to observe and oversee site drainage, irrigation, greens mix, etc. Once the sprigs, sod and seed were completed they were signed off on and turned over to the superintendent and crew for establishment.
To remove the trees, a logging contractor was brought on board. The stumps were then removed by the golf course contractor. More than 5,000 trees were removed from the site, which allowed enhanced sunlight exposure and air circulation. Also, due to the fact that the site was only 135 acres, most every usable area was utilized, with the exception of the wetlands, which were preserved in their entirety.
Today, the course handles 200+ rounds per day with its new clubhouse, golf car storage and maintenance buildings, area pavilion, and entrance parking. The practice facilities are the best in the area, which allows the course to remain open 365 days a year (weather permitting). The golf course is one of the top attractions in the Tidewater area. It has positive surface and subsurface drainage, which allows play to resume immediately even after the hardest rain along with the complete system of concrete paths with curbs. The trees that were removed allow all tees, fairways, and greens to have healthy turf year round. All existing “tree lines” and specimen trees were preserved. With green fees between $20-30, most days see well over 200 players per day, who are able to complete 18-holes within 4 hours.