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‘Biggest accident’: Poisoned Ross Bridge greens alter golf trail capital plan

Robert Trent Jones’ Ross Bridge golf course in Birmingham experienced a costly grounds-keeping mistake this month. The error led to most of the course being closed indefinitely.

Rather than spreading a one-ton bag of green sand on nearly every putting surface on the course, the property’s maintenance crew accidentally used herbicide. The mistake effectively poisoned the greens on holes five through 18.

The grounds crew plans to dry-inject charcoal and a ceramic layer in an effort to extract the herbicide so new grass can grow. Should the treatment method prove effective, the course could open this winter, Golfweek reported.

Holes one through four remain open, along with the property’s practice facilities.

Ross Bridge is one of the Trail’s most popular destinations for golfers, according to Sunbelt Golf Chairman John Cannon, whose company operates the Retirement Systems of Alabama-owned courses.

“It was just the wrong product in the wrong place, and it should never have happened,” said Cannon, according to the outlet. “It’s pilot error, no doubt about it.”

“Ross Bridge has very large greens, so we know we’re not going to get 100% coverage, even in the best circumstances,” he said. “It really is about seeing what progress we can make in the next month or so without having play on the golf course.”

Prior to the mishap, Sunbelt Golf had planned to move Ross Bridge’s greens from bent grass to Ultradwarf Bermuda grass in 2024, the outlet reported. The plans have now been advanced due to the poisoning.

“We just hope to take what we have, which internally is a real tragedy, and end up 12 months from now with a better product,” Cannon said. “You have to find the bright spot somewhere when you’re going through difficult times like this.

“Accelerating (the greens renovation) by a year changes the whole capital plan for the Trail for the next two years.”

Calling the mistake “the biggest accident” seen at the course in more than two decades, Cannon said his company’s work toward enhancing customer experience will continue.

“We know we can build high-quality Ultradwarf greens that our customers will appreciate all year round, and at the same time while we’re closed we have the opportunity to do some other projects,” he said. “That’s our final goal in this project, and it’s not about what already happened but what we can make out of it that’s the most important to us.

“This is the biggest accident we’ve ever had to any of the golf courses on the Trail in my 25 years, and things like this happen. But we’re going to make the most of it and we’re going to improve Ross Bridge.”

Dylan Smith is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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