The Zurich Classic of New Orleans this weekend, as well as a private function Monday for the title sponsor, will mark the final rounds of golf to be played at the TPC Louisiana layout for at least six months.
The 14-year-old daily-play public course on the west bank of the Mississippi River is about to get a $6 million upgrade, mostly to renovate all 18 tee boxes, fairways and greens on the par-72, 7,425-yard layout.
Work is scheduled to begin bright and early Tuesday, perhaps a little sooner than that.
Fore!Kids Foundation CEO Steve Worthy, whose organization stages the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic at the course, said Wednesday the work is similar to what was done at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, a couple of years ago.
With the exception of the rough, Worthy said the Pete Dye-designed layout will be completely re-sodded — a project that was needed, he added.
The top 3 to 6 inches of turf will be scraped off by huge machines. The TifSport Bermuda grass on the tees and fairways will be replaced with Celebration Bermuda, and the current Mini Verde Bermuda greens will be replaced with TifEagle Bermuda.
“I don’t profess to be an agronomy expert, but with the time this grass has been in place, some outside grasses creep in,” Worthy said. “This is a changeover they’ve made at some other places, most notably TPC Sawgrass, with great success.
“I think it’s just one more thing we can do to show the players that we’re making every effort to make this the best it can be and get the best guys in the world here.”
The course is expected to be ready for play by Nov. 1, Worthy said.
He joked that he wouldn’t be surprised if the contractors begin scraping away the turf once Zurich’s corporate event concludes Monday.
The Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District is funding the $5 million project. The LSED manages the course for the state.
During a pre-tournament news briefing, Worthy was asked if the new turf was being put in to keep the Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana and stave off a persistent rumor that the event would move to the recently-rebuilt City Park course north of downtown.
City Park hosted the first professional golf tournament in New Orleans in 1938.
“I mean, we’re always going to look at options,” Worthy said. “But like I’ve said a number of times, we’re very happy with where we are here.”
The PGA Tour event moved to TPC Louisiana in 2005 from English Turn, where it returned for a year after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Avondale course.
It has been played every year at TPC Louisiana since 2007.
“The logistics are outstanding, the golf course continues to work,” Worthy said. “It's in great shape this week. I've had numerous reports from players about the condition of the golf course.
“I don't know that I would say a move is imminent in any case,” he said. “We like it here. We've got the contract with Zurich now through 2026, and I would plan on us being here for the long-term.”
Zurich Insurance North America announced last April a seven-year extension on its current contract to be the title sponsor through the 2026 event. This year’s tournament is the 15th in a row under the Zurich brand.
Worthy also addressed a recent Golf Digest theory that the novelty of the two-man team format, now in its third season, is starting to wear off.
“Well, I would be concerned if I'd heard that, and I really haven't, from players,” he said. “I think we didn't get everyone here this year that we wanted. You know, we had an incredible field last year, and I would still tell you we didn't get everyone that we wanted.
“Everyone has been positive. They get a chance to do something different in the middle of the year. … I have not had any players tell me they think the magic is gone or the format is not what it should be.”