17 Green

If you’ve played a round at Niakwa lately you’ve noticed that the 17th green is coming along nicely. There have some delays caused by rain, but the construction phase of the green development will be coming to an end soon.

I’ve been involved at the Board level, or as Club Captain, for the reconstruction of 10 greens at Niakwa (including the 2nd green twice). Those building of those greens has involved four construction companies, three Course Superintendents, three architects and five or six Course Committee Chairs.

Each new green is a reflection of the experience, management style and personality of the Course Superintendent who is overseeing the green’s development – from design, through construction and turf development.Read More>>

There is plenty of science, with a large helping of art, in the reconstruction of a green. Our current Course Superintendent, Shawn Major has loads of experience, having managed the development of over 75 greens. Goodwin Golf, the company doing the actual construction of 17 green, has recently worked at some of the top private courses in Western Canada, including Capilano Golf and Country Club in West Vancouver, Calgary Golf and Country Club, and Royal Mayfair in Edmonton.

Watching Charlie Goodwin, the owner of Goodwin Golf, work our Manitoba gumbo for the sub grade of the green with a bull dozer was like watching my Mom prepare a pie crust – it was a site to behold. The level of precision Charlie has with that Cat is amazing – accuracy with the dozer blade to half an inch.

Charlie Goodwin Prepping the Sub grade

The old “green mix” – the top portion of the old green – was pushed up to be recycled for the green “surrounds” i. e. the apron. Completing the sub grade and filling the cavity required 450 cubic meters of new fill. The new green will be 3 feet higher than the old one.

After the sub grade is completed comes the drainage rock. The drainage tiles are installed and rock is graded to follow the contours of the green.

Drainage Rock Delivered and Ready to be Worked
Drainage Tiles are Installed
6 Inches of Drainage Rock Installed – Just about Ready for the Green Mix

When the drainage rock is done, the green is ready for twelve inches of “greens mix” which is a mixture of sand and “North Dakota Peat” (sounds like a character form Horse Opera). The USGA provides guidance for the portions of sand and peat, but local conditions dictate the final mix. In determing the final greens mix the Superintendent looks at the impact on performance of the green – firmness and how the green receives the ball. Too lean a portion of peat impacts the ability of the green to retain nutrients, too rich and the green will retain too much water.

Greens Mix Ready for Final Grading

With the green graded and almost ready for seeding, the aprons are sodded. Sodding was finished yesterday and the green was starting to look complete.

The penultimate step in construction, before seeding, is the final “float”. This is truly the work of an artist, requiring patience and skill. The green is compacted with a roller, poked, prodded and then watered. If the water doesn’t dry properly the process starts again. The final float can take anywhere from a half a day to four days – but it will be done right.

Finally, today or tomorrow (weather permitting) the green will be seeded with 2 lbs. of bent grass per 1000 square feet. The seed is applied with a seeder and positioned on the surface with an upside down fan rake. When that’s done the surface is driven over with the ‘sand pro’ to force the seed into the greens mix.

Mother Nature now takes over and in five days or so we’ll see the first green shoots starting to pop up. And Shawn starts fussing over the green like a helicopter grandmother over a newborn. The state-of-the-art computerized irrigation system that has been installed on the green will be run for 4 minutes, every 45 minutes, for ten days.

Before seeding the green will have seen five applications of fertilizer. After seeding, throughout July and August, nutrient levels will be monitored and adjusted as conditions warrant – not too much nitrogen or the grass grows too fast – fungicide applied if necessary.

After ten days the watering interval will be reduced to 4 minutes every hour and a half. Then finally, at just the right time, the water will be shut off for half a day – and Baby will have her first haircut – a cause for celebration.

For the rest of the summer and into September watering will be carefully managed, root growth will be promoted, cutting will be done to condition the green and all manner of TLC will be applied to get the green ready for spring.

By this time next year we’ll have a month or two of play on a much improved green – one which will offer interesting pin placements, offer a significantly improve defence of the hole – and will offer a much improved ability to weather a Winnipeg winter.

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