STREAMSONG, Fla. - Could this be to Sun Belt golf courses what the Beatles were to pop music?
After all, it started as an "invasion" of sorts. Then-Memphis Country Club superintendent Rodney Lingle discovered a new strain of Bermuda grass had crept into one of his greens. He studied it, cultivated it and ultimately sold its production rights to Texas-based Modern Turf. This was the origin of Mach 1 Bermuda, the new turf debuting today on the greens of the original Blue and Red courses at Streamsong Resort in central Florida.
Early adoption can carry a bit of a risk when it comes to golf course turf. New varieties come along promising enhanced playability, which will be true until unforeseen maintenance challenges begin to crop up as the grass matures. Several Florida clubs are reportedly currently dealing with this exact double-edged sword when it comes to another strain of Bermuda grass developed for use in fairways in the last couple years.
But there are not many places better suited to being on the cutting edge of things than Streamsong. Between its contemporary-industrial building architecture and its three golfe-nouveau courses by Tom Doak (Blue), Coore & Crenshaw (Red) and Gil Hanse (Black), respectively, the resort is not afraid to blaze its own path. Agronomy director Rusty Mercer has been testing Mach 1 for use on Streamsong's original 36 holes for the better part of two years, first planting it on the main short game green at the Red/Blue practice facility.
"We did not take this regrassing decision lightly, and spent years ensuring that we were selecting the best possible option for our courses," said Mercer.
After deeming it ready for the big leagues, Mercer initially planned to re-seed only the Blue greens in 2020. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, the anticipated drastic reduction in resort traffic prompted the decision to double up, adding the Red greens to the project scope.
I recently spent some time at Streamsong playing both newly sprigged courses and was impressed with what I saw and putted. The Blue course's new Mach 1 greens are, in a word, flawless. Compared to other brand-new greens I've seen, they putted more consistently and, while firm, are already responding nicely to well-struck short iron and wedge shots. The Red's surfaces, planted about three weeks later than Blue's, were not far behind. Streamsong is a bastion of firm and fast golf, and as the valuable sub-surface layers of the greens mature, the experience should only improve, enabling Mercer and his staff to dial the greens in for optimum speed and firmness.
One anticipated benefit of Mach 1 is that it will remain consistent for a long time, not just from the perspective of golfers playing on it but at a basic biological level. Mercer told me that other modern Bermuda greens grasses change their physical characteristics over time with the leaves gradually broadening and coarsening. Mach 1's blade structure is both finer and more consistent over time. That all but breeds grain out of the surface and keeps it from developing. If you love the way a ball seems glued to the ground as it glides across an exquisite bentgrass putting surface, you will find no closer Bermuda cousin than Mach 1.
Streamsong's Blue and Red courses opened back up on October 1.