Piñon Hills Golf Course set to undergo massive renovation project

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Most people, when considering the chore of lawn and garden care for their homes, probably cringe a bit about the magnitude of the project.

Now imagine that same bit of work encompassing some 7,200 yards of lawn and garden care.

Piñon Hills Golf Course is in the planning phase right now for what's expected to be a 90-day process to excavate bunkers as well as replacing outdated irrigation systems.

The anticipated start date of the work is shortly after the start of the new year.

This will be the first real renovation project of its kind for the course in several years, according to PGA Tour professional and course general manager Chris Jones.

"If all the materials arrive when expected, we will close the golf course," Jones said. "In the event materials are delayed, we will not close the golf course until such time they arrive."

In a statement released last month on the course's website, the intent with some of the work being done is to "restore the desert and native areas to a non-watered, natural state," which means replacing and repairing existing watering systems.

"This will give us a state-of-the-art system in which we can control each one of the 1,500 sprinkler heads from any remote device," Jones said. "It will save us a lot of water and a lot of money at the same time."

Piñon Hills will work with a variety of different businesses to assist the renovation process, including Mid-America Golf & Landscape, operated out of Lee's Summit, Missouri.

A look at the 10th hole of Pinon Hills Golf Course,  which will be closed next month for a renovation project.

It is expected that more than 30 contractors and workers from that business will be supplying materials for the renovation and will be in charge of supervising the work on the course set to begin in January.

More:Farmington's Piñon Hills Golf Course named among top 14 municipal golf courses nationwide

"Once that starts and we completely close down the course, it's about a three-month process," Jones said. "There's a possibility that some side work might still be going on as far as finishing touches, but the bulk of the work takes about 90 days."

Weather considering, that places the expected reopening of the course sometime around late March to early April.

"The guys who are working the course, they do this for a living and work in any kind of weather," Jones said. "If we run into some heavy snow, that can set us back a bit but for the most part we're expecting they'll work right through the timeframe."

In addition to the irrigation work, the excavation of the bunkers is another high-profile part of the renovation process. 

For that, Piñon Hills is calling on the services of the Better Billy Bunker Method, based out of Hermitage, Tennessee.

Among their clients have been respected courses like Indian Hills Country Club, located in Bowling Green, Kentucky. They also have received endorsements from superintendents at Augusta National, home of the Masters. 

"They go in and take out all the old lining and sand and they make sure the drainage works before making changes to the polymer around the bunkers," Jones said. "You'll never see a weed grow through it."

Pinon Hills Golf Course is about to undergo a massive renovation which will include restoration of bunkers and updates to irrigation systems.

Time For A Change

Ranked as one of the top municipal courses in America by both Golfweek Magazine and the Golf Digest, Piñon Hills has been recognized by many as one of the best public golf courses in the United States. 

Since opening in 1989, Piñon Hills has primarily maintained its original design, but a recent flurry of activity has spurred on need for a change. 

More:Golf Magazine lists Piñon Hills GC as possible candidate to host 2022 PGA Championships

The popularity of the sport of golf in general has been wide in the past year, mostly because it gave participants the chance to be outdoors when many indoor businesses were shut down or limited to capacity.

"Since we re-opened (summer of 2020), we haven't seen numbers like this in a long time," Jones said. "These are the best numbers in more than 15 years."

With the emergence of disc golf and footgolf and the ability to play those sports at courses across the region, interest in the courses has seen a huge boost.

"People having access to these courses have seen numbers go off the charts," Jones said. "The pandemic has been awful in a lot of respects but golf has been an unexpected beneficiary of people getting out and rediscovering the sport."   

The rising popularity of both the sport and the course, as well as the necessity for change was reason enough to go ahead with this project.

According to Jones, more than 90 percent of the current irrigation systems on the course are from the original design and construction, making it unreliable in recent years and time consuming for maintenance workers on the course.

"This has been a project we felt needed to be done for many years now," Jones said. "The irrigation system on its own is going to make a huge difference."

Once completed, Jones hopes that golfers returning to Piñon Hills will not notice many changes, none of which are expected to have an impact in terms of the length of the course.

"We might move a tee box here or there a few yards left or right," Jones said. "But we're not looking to change the course itself. The original design still stands on its own."

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680.