Colbert Hills Becomes More Colorful

Tyler Norris hits from the purple sand

July 8, 2011

By Mark Janssen - K-State Sports Extra

At least now, golfers will give a smirk when they smack their white Titleist or Callaway into the right-side `Cat Paw' bunkers decorating the greenside of the fifth hole at the Colbert Hills Golf Course.

You see, the five bunkers that form the `paw' guarding the front right portion of the green are now decorated with purple sand, adding to the K-State flavor of the state's No. 1 public golf course.

"It's really unique. It will be fun to fly out of Manhattan and look down to see how it looks from the air for the first time," said K-State men's golf coach Tim Norris. "I know I've never played a course or seen a course with colored sand, so it's definitely a unique feature and I'm sure someone else will be copying it."

The idea came from former K-Stater and professional golfer Jim Colbert and Colbert Hills Director of Golf David Gourlay.

"We're always trying to tell the story that this is the home of the K-State golf teams," said K-State Golf Course Management and Research Foundation executive director Bernie Haney. "The `Cat Paw' was always there, but with the river sand we first had on the course it never stood out. Now with the purple sand it really jumps out."

Haney, who said the project was funded by the Colbert Hills Founders, said that approximately 90 tons of the purple sand is in the five "Cat Paw" traps, plus another 10 tons have been bagged and stored for future use.

"The great thing about it is that it is the same sand as in the other traps, so it plays exactly the same," said Norris. "The paint doesn't come off on your club and it's not gimmicky at all. It plays the same, and it is definitely a conversation piece and an interesting look. (Pause) But you still don't want to be in it."

The purple dying process, which is done by baking the color into the sand, was done by the Quikrete Company in Wichita, which is probably better known for dying sand green for divot repair on golf courses.

Over the last three years, roughly $900,000 has been spent on approximately 3,600 tons of White Premier Sand from Arkansas Decorative Stone in Sheridan, Ark., to use in the 100-plus sand traps that cover 130,000 square feet on Colbert's 18-hole layout.

"We started by digging out all the sand and rock and added sand trap liners, which we did not do the first time," said Haney, who said four to six inches of white sand was then put in each trap. "We started from scratch and reduced the size of some of them, and made three small ones out of one big one in some cases.

"People have been very happy with the playability of the sand, and with the liners they will be easier to maintain with the Kansas weather that we have to deal with," said Haney.

Haney said a timeframe has not been set, but he indicated that the next improvement project will be with restrooms on the course.

Colbert Hills opened its doors in May of 2000.

COSTNER AND COLBERT: Here's Kansas State golfing legend Jim Colbert spinning a story of being paired with actor Kevin Costner during a Pro-Am event in 1997 at the Lexus Challenge.

As Colbert picks up the story, "Kevin had just finished making Tin Cup. The 17th hole is a par 5 that Kevin could reach with two good shots, and he did. He made a natural birdie, net eagle, and we wound up finishing second.

"The next year, I drew Kevin again. By then the movie has been a hit, and we've got a big gallery. We come to the 17th hole with a two-shot lead, and Kevin drives it down the middle, right on the edge of the go/don't go zone," recalled Colbert. "The gallery is screaming `Go for it!' and `Tin Cup!' Kevin smiles at me and asks, `Well, pro, what do I do?' I think hard ... for about two seconds. `Take your 9-iron and lay up,' I said.

"Kevin did lay up and made a par for a net birdie, and we ended up winning. The gallery groaned when Kevin pulled out an iron, but hey, first-place money for me was $180,000," said Colbert. "Christmas was right around the corner. What would you have done?"

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