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a manicure for The Claw

For nearly 40 years, the 14th green at USF’s golf course sat in the shadows of a bunch of big trees. But new renovations, totaling $1 million and slotted for completion in August means one thing for the old green: It’s shady days are over.

The green at the end of The Claw’s signature par five will be moved 30 feet to the right so it soaks up more sunlight in the early morning hours. For the delicate green, the relocation should create healthier grass.

Renovations are underway at The Claw, which is 36 years old, that will focus primarily on rebuilding greens and uprooting and replacing the course’s irrigation system.

“The golf course has needed the renovations for years,” said men’s golf coach Jim Fee. “And this is our opportunity to do it.”

Fee, along with agronomist Dan Morgan and course superintendent Mike Wilcox, were part of the decision making process to renovate the course.

Decisions that were made included the resizing of greens, movement of the green on the 14th hole and the replacement of the entire irrigation system throughout the course. The repairs also include the installment of drainage systems under each green for the first time in course history.

Fee said the replacement of the irrigation system, which includes new main lines, sprinkler heads and a pump station, is the most pivotal part of the entire project.

Fee said the old course still has its original irrigation system in place, which did not reach under the greens. The system, as it is now, uses one sprinkler to water both the green and the slope of the fairway leading up to the green, causing the green to be watered too much and the slope to be watered too little, Fee said.

“With this new system we have irrigation heads specific to the green surface, and we have heads that point away from the green surface and water the slope and surrounding areas,” Fee said. “So we will be able to maintain the golf course and the moisture that the greens get much better.”

Fee added that the controlled irrigation of the putting surface will improve the greens, but resizing the seven greens at The Claw will surely be the most anticipated renovation. Seven greens will be enlarged to create a bigger landing surface for players on the notoriously pesky course, as well as allowing the hole to be moved to various positions.

“It will help the golfer by the fact that they will have a little bit better opportunity to keep the ball on the green,” Fee said. “It also gives the ability, as a golf course, to create some different pin placements (so) that we can toughen up or make easier if we need to.”

The renovation will also soften the greens on holes five and seven, Fee said, which are famous for their sloping surfaces.

“We will still have the challenging layout we have always had,” he said. “This renovation is kind of a catalyst to put the course in the condition we always expected it to be in.”

However, the biggest physical change to the course will be visible on the 14th hole. Fee added that the $1-million price tag is being funded by the government.

“The funds came from the state Legislature,” Fee said. “Sen. Tom Lee of Brandon was very instrumental in securing this funding for us. He did it (during) the 2002 legislative session.”

Although the renovations will not be complete until the fall, The Claw will still be open for business. Nine holes will be available for play through July, at which time all 18 holes will be open with temporary greens. The grand re-opening of the course is set for Sept. 1.