There were a lot of questions, opinions and complaints about our greens this year.There were so many solutions proposed that it makes you wonder why we have a Course Superintendent – when we have 500 or so experts on growing grass.
What happened to our greens in 2018, was highly unusual. Yes, we’ve had colder winters. Yes we’ve had melting in January before. We always have wind in the winter don’t we? And there are years when we don’t get much snow, right? Right – but we don’t get all these conditions in the combination we had in the winter of 2017/2018. The combination of climatic conditions at Niakwa last winter could not have been worse.Read More>>
According to Environment Canada records, except for a couple of days in December, there was virtually no snow cover on the ground until March 5. There was nothing there to protect the greens through the coldest, windiest months of the winter.
The poa annua in our older greens will not survive a winter like 2017/18.
Compounding the situation was the lack of rain from the beginning of April until the middle of May. Poa likes cool rainy weather. Not dry and not hot. Much of the poa has still not recovered.
What factors impact greens?
We’ve all heard Members comparing our greens to other courses. Some courses wintered better this year than others. Many did worse.
Courses with good natural drainage and with denser forest protection fared well in 2017/18. Courses north and east of Winnipeg also had several times as much snow cover from mid December through spring melt compared to Niakwa. Courses which normally keep their greens shaggier than us also did better as longer grass is better able to store energy for winter.
Newer bent grass greens wintered better this year. We saw that on Niakwa with our newer greens. This winter, northwest winds cleared all the snow from 6 and 16 There was some damage, but, quoting from the USGA Turf Grass Consultant’s report.
“Fortunately these greens have been rebuilt. If Poa annua populations were high on these putting surfaces, turf injury would have been even more severe”
When greens suffer turf injury, recovery is greatly enhanced by resting the green. Courses with more than two nines have the luxury of keeping play off the greens for extended periods.
What about Number 1 Green?
I have been asked by more than one Member about the measures that were taken to try and save the first green. Overseeding, resting the green, various types of aeration and some patching were all tried. Over the years every imaginable cultural practice and tool has been used to nurse this green along. These cultural practices cost money and the decision was finally taken to replace the green as soon as was practical. If the green had not been rebuilt in 2018 the best case scenario would have been a weak putting surface going into the next winter.
What about patching?
Patching can work if the underlying base of the turf to be patched is identical to the base of the replacement sod. For example, on 16 green the base is exactly the same as the base for our sod nursery. It also takes considerable skill to work the patch into the green.
On the other hand, if the base, sun conditions, and other variables are not right, patching is very iffy. The right side of number 4 green was patched lastsummer. The patch looked very good for a time, but you can see the patched area is already starting to fail, after less than one season. There is a large patch on number 3 green where the sod has never really established itself. The underlying base on the first green is very different from the base under our sod nursery.
Does the Club do enough to protect the course?
Because of short golf season there are always tradeoffs involved in managing the course. When the weather is good in October there’s pressure from Members to keep the course in top playing condition.
There’s always a tradeoff between stressing the grass and stressing Members, who demand optimal conditions as late in the season as possible. At times the Club has pushed the envelope somewhat in an effort to keep the course conditions the best they can be as long as possible. When the weather switches as quickly as it did last October the course gets stressed.
There are many way in which to put a course to bed, all tested and proven. Each method has it’s strengths, but none works everywhere all the time.. In addition, each part of the course experiences it’s own separate microclimate and conditions.The truth about closing practices is that they need to be specific to each area of the course and to each green.Experience and historical data are critical to designing course shut down procedures.. Of all the practices, the one that applies in all winter weather is to ensure that the turf goes into winter healthy and not stressed.This means a period of rest and grow-in prior to the end of the season.
The Board of Governors, Club Management, Course Management and the Course Committee are all committed to the keeping our course at the highest level possible. All are committed to doing everything possible to ensure we don’t have a repeat of the weather damage that occurred in 2018. More information on measures to be taken will be presented by the Board and by the Course Committee. Niakwa Members have come to expect Premium conditions from the best golf course in Manitoba. I, for one, have every confidence that the Club will continue to deliver that experience.