Tim Liddy, ASGCA, is a key player discussed in a “Virginai Golfer” magazine article profiling the Newport News Golf Club. Liddy’s efforts will benefit not only golfers but all area citizens thanks to his commitment to environmentally friendly design work.

The article states, “Beneficiaries of this renovation will be the people who value a superior golf experience, but they’ll also include anyone who uses city water – destined to improve in quality thanks to the course project.”

The entire article from the November/December 2012 issue by writer David Gould follows.


Gaining Ground by Foregoing Green

Next time you’re discussing major golf renovation, elevate the discourse by mentioning “riparian” factors.

That’s your Mr. Science term for the banks of a waterway – including foliage growing along them and critters drawn there in search of forage and cover.

Over the next two years, as a popular but shopworn course in Newport News Park gets plowed up and rebuilt, playability and environmental values will be emphasized equally. The flow of surface water and filtration of groundwater are getting re-engineered in knowing fashion by this project – even as fairway ground gets reshaped to catch overambitious golf shots in the clean-flowing creeks.

Beneficiaries of this renovation will be the people who value a superior golf experience, but they’ll also include anyone who uses city water – destined to improve in quality thanks to the course project. Others positively affected will be the taxpayers getting an upgrade to their recreational asset, as well as songbirds, butterflies and small mammals, plus the raptors that hunt them. Golf did its homework over the past decade or so and made discoveries that have resulted in enlightened land stewardship, along with a fun-filled afternoon for devotees of the sport.

It will all be on display within the massive, 8,000-acre Newport News Park, home to the Golf Club at Deer Run and its twin 18-hole tracks, the Cardinal Course and the namesake Deer Run Championship Course.

Or maybe “twin” is too strong a word. Measuring nearly 7,200 yards from the back markers and framed by lofty hardwood trees, the fairways of Deer Run evoke a stately feel while the hazards and contours that Ed Ault designed there produce a challenge for even the accomplished player. The Cardinal Course, shorter and tamer, tends to get passed over these days by the good stick.

“One motivation for doing this project is to give us two distinctive golf courses that the low-handicapper is enthusiastic about playing and that average golfers will continue to enjoy,” says Michael Nealer, parks administrator for the city of Newport News. “Right now, the better golfers tend to play Deer Run only.”


When Nealer and his colleagues studied proposals for a renovation master plan from their short list of golf course architects, the ideas presented by Indiana-based Tim Liddy, ASGCA stood out. A quotable, self-deprecating Hoosier who maintains his home office in Yorktown, Ind., Liddy knows Virginia’s golf terrain both coastal and inland. Working either solo or in partnership with Pete Dye, he has spent much of the last decade on major course remodeling jobs around the commonwealth.

Golfers who’ve lately enjoyed a round at Princess Anne Country Club in Virginia Beach, on the River Course at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, or on the University of Virginia’s Birdwood Golf Course in Charlottesville will recognize his craftsmanship. It will be clearly evident again when the Cardinal Course reopens for play in the fall of 2014, assuming all goes as scheduled.

Tim outlined his plan in a way that made us confident we could achieve the multiple goals of the project within a reasonable budget, which came out to about $4.2 million,” Nealer explains.

As Liddy views it, his task is to produce a much-improved golf course that uses considerably less water, generates more revenue for the city, is easier to maintain, provides a better wildlife habitat and increases what he calls the “carrying capacity for biodiversity.”

Oh, and with judicious planting of bluestem, purple love grass and poverty oak grass, it will be prettier, too.

“Part of doing this right is artistically adding color and contrast to the visual pallet,” Liddy says. “It attracts wildlife such as songbirds and it makes people happier, too.”

The effort was undertaken in the first place to address aging infrastructure at the Cardinal Course. The layout’s subsurface elements – irrigation and drainage – are nearly a half-century old.

“The technology that’s available now to redo those things is night-and-day different from the original equipment installed there,” Nealer points out. His on-site course superintendent, Brad Pegram, was eager to help plan the upgrades, knowing the water conservation advantages they will deliver.

“Irrigation systems are extremely precise,” Pegram says, “so you can program them to put water on your mounds and high spots without oversaturating lower terrain. That’s the formula for efficient use and better turf, all in one.”

A complete overhaul of that underground plumbing is step one in the ecological upgrade of this site, including soil sensors that tell the irrigation computer exactly how long it can hold off before delivering irrigation water.

Aligned since 2006 with the Virginia Environmental Excellence Program, the Deer Run Course is of particular importance because it represents about 250 acres of unbuilt terrain lying atop the system of Potomac aquifers, in a populated area.

With population density comes nonporous surfaces – and the resulting prospect of a compromised watershed zone. Golf courses get treated with chemicals, it’s true. But if you know what you’re doing, your cautiously nurtured golf sod can filter rainwater and the runoff from roads, roofs and parking lots wonderfully.

“The idea is that you enhance wetlands and you plant enough of the right vegetation in the right places,” Liddy says. “You naturalize stream corridors and undo the pipe-and cover work they favored back when so many of these courses were built. You restrict the turf that needs mowing and irrigation to your active play areas. And you don’t overwater, which makes your turf hardier and more naturally disease-resistant, so there is less need for chemicals overall.”

In his comments to city reporters as this initiative got announced, Liddy notes that, these days “brown is not a bad color.”

That’s a reference to the way the fairway grass he has selected, Tifway 419 Bermuda grass, turns tawny but stays resilient when summer dries it.

“Nothing short of British fescue grass plays more linksy than dormant Bermuda grass,” the architect intones.

Liddy was on the job with Pete Dye at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex’s Kampen Course at Purdue University years ago when definitive studies of water filtration by properly maintained golf acreage were conducted. That research showed the value of passing water through golf fairways and rough on its way to marshes, rivers and ocean inlets.

While that pollutant-screening process is being put in place, it’s also possible to please the golfer’s eye and give him or her much more to shoot at. As Liddy described it to city personnel, the Cardinal Course has tight corridors and too many forced carries over water or wetlands.

“We will be widening the landing zones and areas of play to bring in more strategic options,” Liddy says. “Meanwhile, we’ll make the course a lot less penal by removing all but two of those forced water or marsh carries. In the end, there will be more wetland acreage than there was when we started.”

Along with a links-style look, the refurbished layout will provide options for placing and positioning golf shots that let a golfer play to his own strengths in the pursuit of par. Once golfers reach the greens, the carefully chosen bentgrass surface they putt on should produce a steady and silky roll for the golf ball.

“For all we do to groom the current greens at Cardinal,” says superintendent Pegram, “they are a mixture of grass types, including some Bermuda grass – and that’s never the best recipe. Of all the benefits from this renovation, the new turf on the greens may be what pleases people the most.”

All the excitement begins next fall, as the 2013 season winds down. That’s when they will close the Cardinal Course to begin earthwork, irrigation, cutting, grading and shaping. Mid-May of 2014 is when sprigging and seeding should happen, with summer allotted for the grow-in phase.

The grand reopening is on the calendar for that September.

If you like the sound of a newly envisioned course to rival Deer Run at the Newport News complex, you’ll likely flock there soon afterward – accompanied by the bees and birds and other creatures for whose sake this work is also being done.