Bringing course to ‘fore’ front;Neches Pine work nearing completion

BURLON WILKERSON

news@dibollfreepress.com

Improvements to Diboll’s Neches Pines Golf Course are nearing completion as city and course officials attempt to make it more attractive to golfers from all over this part of the state. Some of the projects include an irrigation system, new cart paths and bridges, new grass and sod on the fairways, and work on the sand traps.

The irrigation system was the highest priority and the biggest expense, said Course Manager/Pro Jimmy Mettlen. The part of the course that is now Holes 10 through 18 was built in 1968, while current Holes 1 through 9 were added in 1991. The irrigation systems installed when each part was built were still in use and not able to meet the need.

“Usually a system will last 25 to 30 years,” Mettlen said. “We have been having problems, particularly with the older system because it is about 45 years old. And with the drought that we have experienced, we just couldn’t keep everything going adequately.”

Because of “streamlined” budgets over the last few years, course supervisors were put in a situation of just maintaining, but not improving. For instance, Mettlen explained they were watering the greens and the tee boxes, but not the fairways. They were doing what they could to just keep the grass alive, he said.

“We applied for a Temple Foundation grant to do the upgrades,” Mettlen said. “Some of their people came to look at the course, and they agreed that they wanted to do what they could to make it attractive. With the infusion of those funds, we’ve been able to make some positive changes.”

Even though the irrigation issue was important, more than just water was needed to completely upgrade the course. The bridges for the cart paths were about 23 years old and had to be refurbished. A significant portion of the cart paths themselves needed repaving; new grass and sod were needed in the fairways; and the sand traps needed reworking.

Of these projects, the bridge work has been completed; the cart paths are about 75 percent complete; about one-third of the grass and sod is done; and the sand traps should be finished within a couple of weeks, depending on weather, Mettlen said. The work on the irrigation system took about six months.

“It’s tough to do all this and still stay open, but we’ve done it,” Mettlen said. “We’ve also hired two additional employees for a total of five. And one of the most significant additions is Clayton Cree, who is now the golf course superintendent.”

Mettlen also said that when all the projects are done, he plans to offer some discount packages and other promotions to attract new members. He acknowledged there is a need for more advertising, especially signage, but he emphasized that the most effective form of publicity is word-of-mouth.

“We want people to have a good experience, to tell others about it, and to come back,” Mettlen said. “We know that we have a big responsibility to the city, the foundation, and the citizens. There are people who live here simply because of the proximity of the golf course, and we want to be a big part of attracting others. To do that, we must have a top-notch facility.”

The Diboll Business Association will spotlight the golf course for its “Pack the House” event Oct. 29 to give everyone an opportunity to see what it has to offer.