By Dave Allen
They say “everything’s bigger in Texas.” So, when The Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas, was announced as the new home of the Chevron Championship—the LPGA Tour’s first major of the year—a search immediately began to find something very large and unique to commemorate the tournament’s move to Southeast Texas.
“We wanted to really celebrate the events move to its new home and provide a unique activation for our hospitality guests to enjoy after play,” says Jeremy Harvey-Samuel, Senior Director, Golf, for IMG Events, the tournament’s operator.
Having had some success with various target green activations at other golf events, and knowing that he wanted something grander for the Chevron Championship (April 17-23), Harvey-Samuel began looking into companies that specialized in building floating island greens. While doing his research, one company in particular, Aqua Greens, drew his eye. The New Hampshire-based company had just built a 20-by-30-foot island green shaped like a guitar for the Simmons Bank Open on the Korn Ferry Tour. The custom-designed green even had a fretboard on one end, paying tribute to the event’s host city, Nashville.
Harvey-Samuel contacted Aqua Greens’ owner, Matthew Gault, last fall, and shortly thereafter plans were being drawn up for a similar-sized island green that would float in the water adjacent to the ninth and 18th greens at The Jack Nicklaus Signature Course at Carlton Woods. After experimenting with several different computer-animated-design concepts, Harvey-Samuel and Gault went all-in on the big Texas-sized theme.
“I felt that if a green the shape of a guitar was achievable, then a Texas green could also work,” says Harvey-Samuel, whose company operates more than a dozen professional golf events annually, including The Open, AIG Women’s Open and WGC-HSBC Champions.
The irregular-shaped green will come in at just under 600 square feet, and will feature three sand bunkers on the perimeter of the structure to help create a playing surface that takes on the shape of Texas (see photo, above). All but the southeast Gulf Coast side of the green will be surrounded by sand. The edges of the green will be bent and shaped to assist in giving the green a big Texas-like feel.
“The perimeter of this thing is nothing but turns and corners,” Gault says. “There are almost 30 diameter changes along the perimeter, compared to just six we had for the guitar green.”
For every change in direction to the outer edges of the green or the bunkers, the aluminum material must be shaped by a bending machine and then welded to the perimeter of the structure. Under each bend is a joint that must be situated precisely in order for the floatation underneath to fit the frame (below).
The bunkers presented Gault and his team with an enormous and timely engineering challenge. Each bunker has to be stepped six inches below the turf to assure the white bunker sand doesn’t erode or ‘bleed’ onto the green turf. Underneath each bunker an additional aluminum support structure must be built to help transition the weight of the bunker onto the floatation. The combined weight of the white bunker sand and turf infill sand is more than 6,000 pounds, or 60 percent of the structure’s entire weight.
Another challenge for the crew has been the weather. Aqua Greens’ primary shop and headquarters, where the fabrication takes place, is undergoing a major renovation to add more office and storage space to the second floor. As a result, Gault had to rent an outdoor space off-site big enough to build the Texas green. More than two feet of snow fell on the crew just after they started construction on the aluminum frame in mid-March.
“It’s definitely been a challenge to build,” Gault says. “I can’t wait to see it in the water.”
This year, IMG plans to use the green for a variety of activations centered around their hospitality guests. The plan is to build a tee box inside one of the hospitality suites, so that guests can hit to the floating island green after play each day.
In years past, the major championship became synonymous with the winner’s celebratory leap into Poppie’s Pond just to the right of the 18th green at Mission Hills. Ironically, the finishing hole just happened to be an island green. Perhaps the new Texas island green will forge a tradition of its own in years to come.
“We are looking to establish something that will become part of the events history and tradition here in Texas,” Harvey-Samuel says. “It’s something we want our guests to enjoy and, in the future, expand to our general spectators.”
Aqua Greens can custom design and build an island green for any corporate or brand activation event, or for home use. They also have greens available for rent. For more information, please call 800-884-4882 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.