Massive fir branches strewn across sections of the Oakbrook Golf and Country Club last week made it look like a hurricane ripped through the course that’s nestled in Lakewood’s Oakbrook community.
An act of nature didn’t take down the more than 400 giant trees from the 124-acre public course. Course owner RMG Club did.
“We’re simply harvesting and getting them out of the way to improve the golf course itself and the playing conditions,” said RMG chief executive officer Mike Moore.
He spent the last two weeks monitoring the removal and fielding questions from passersby.
“The primary motivation is turf and turf health,” Moore said of why the trees were felled.
Mature fir trees like those on the golf course can drink up to 800 gallons of water a day, he said. That can leave nothing for the turf, which needs the perfect balance of water, nitrogen and other compounds to thrive.
USGA officials and agronomists who have visited the course over the last decade have advocated taking down the trees. .
“It’s a beautiful course, but it’s been neglected in so many ways over the years,” Moore said.
Because removing trees can be contentious, especially in residential areas, the city of Lakewood required Moore to hold a public meeting in January to inform neighbors.
Permits were issued last month for RMG to cut up to 450 trees from the golf course. As of the end of last week, 375 trees were down, said Dave Bugher, Lakewood’s assistant city manager for development.
Despite knowing the trees were coming down, Oakbrook resident Steve Sloboda said it was surprising to see just how many were targeted.
“Initially it’s pretty shocking to see the scale of the project and to see five or six trees go down in your backyard in 40 minutes,” he said.
Sloboda lives on the 14th fairway and said he knows the tree removal will be good for the golf course and his property value in the long run. He and the neighbors he’s talked to support it, he said.
In an effort to be a good neighbor, Moore agreed to cut down trees for homeowners whose property borders the course. He estimated between 75 and 100 private trees have been removed by RMG at the request of homeowners.
A city permit is not needed to remove trees from lots under 17,000 square feet, according to Bugher.
RMG purchased the Oakbrook golf course in 2012 and has worked ever since to restore it. RMG is a local golf course company that Moore operates with several partners including his son, professional golfer Ryan Moore.
The course was previously privately owned by members, who were unable to meet maintenance needs.
Removing the trees restores the course closer to its original layout, Mike Moore said.
“The name of this neighborhood is Oakbrook, not Firbrook,” he said. “Fir trees have taken over and become dominant.”
The front nine holes opened for play over the weekend, and the back nine should be ready for play by the end of the week. Additional course restoration could take between 30 and 45 days, Moore said.