Valley Hill Country Club upset over ruined greens

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Valley Hill Country Club is a well-known establishment in the Southeast Huntsville area. It was founded in 1963 and is the only course in the region with 27 holes.

When golfers take to the course they expect to see a whole lot of green, but right now, golfers at Valley Hill Country Club are seeing a lot more brown.

Ric Patterson is an avid golfer and was just at the Valley Hill course a few weeks ago.

"I was very disappointed to see the greens were all basically dirt. They had lost all of the grass. Very sad because that's a great golf course that I enjoy playing."

The course claims it isn't because of too much rain or sun but because of a chemical treatment gone wrong.

Patterson, who has seen a lot of courses, says he agrees. "You knew that some kind of chemical had killed the grass."

The course claims the contractor they use to maintain the course, Estate Management Services, Inc., harmed the greens with a chemical they sprayed around the course's irrigation ponds.

The country club filed a lawsuit on July 9 against Estate Management Services claiming that on May 13 of this year, an employee sprayed the irrigated course with a chemical that was clearly labeled for non-irrigated vegetation only.

Under Alabama law, off-label use of chemicals is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by fine and up to six months in prison.

WHNT News 19 reached out to Valley Hill Country Club and Estate Management Services Inc. for statements.

Ed Grooms, General Manager of Valley Hill Country Club, responded with a statement from the club.

"Valley Hill Country Club is committed to providing excellent golf, swimming, and social experiences for our members. We believe Valley Hill and its 27 holes of championship-level golf are the best country club value in the Tennessee Valley. Sadly, a large majority of our putting greens have been damaged—many of which will likely require replacement—right in the middle of our busiest golf season. We have already been forced to cancel some long-planned tournaments. We are currently evaluating how long it will take to get the course back to the championship shape it was in before it was damaged. The United States Golf Association (USGA) examined Valley Hill’s golf courses to try and determine what caused the harm to our putting greens. The USGA’s expert agronomist ruled out both golf course management practices by us and natural causes as the cause of the harm to our greens. The harm was beyond our control. We hired a contractor to manage the irrigation ponds on our golf course. This contractor claimed to have expertise in managing ponds—specifically ponds on golf courses— but based on information we have gathered so far, this contractor harmed our greens with a chemical it sprayed around our golf course’s irrigation ponds. When companies choose to steward herbicides, they should use those herbicides responsibly so incidents like this one don’t happen. In the meantime, we are taking every possible step to maintain our golf course and give our members the best possible playing experience under these adverse circumstances. While it is not ideal and we have a lot of disappointed members, we hope to get the course ready for play in 2020 with greens that are as good as the ones we had before they were damaged. As for the contractor, we’re in active litigation against them and do not plan to comment further about our relationship with them or the underlying facts until the legal process takes its course."

Estate Management Services has not yet responded to our request for a statement. We will update this article if and when they respond.

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