A Hard Close

The last time I played golf, my playing partner told me he had read Craig’s (our Course Superintendent) recent blog entry about the course closing on October 15 – which prompted his question “what does ‘course closing’ mean?” My response – “Um, well Jimmie, it means the course is closed and you can’t play till spring”. Which prompted a follow up question – “why is that? I remember playing on Remembrance Day a few years back”.

Good point, Jimmie.Read More>>

The main motivation for a hard close is to give the course the best possible opportunity to weather the upcoming winter, no matter what Mother Nature throws our way. In the past, Niakwa has had a soft closing, and for years Members were allowed to play on the fairways with temporary greens right up until the snow flies. In recent years we’ve closed the course, but the closing date has always been dependent on weather.

After last year’s tough winter, the Board of Governors, the Course Committee and Management agreed that a hard closing date would give the greens and fairways a chance to grow out. Cutting greens to a height of a tenth of an inch, and fairways to a height of half an inch, stresses the grass plants.  Allowing the grass to grow in the fall gives the plants a chance to be in the healthiest possible condition heading into the cold weather.

A hard closing date also provides a window for the Grounds Crew to get all the work done to prepare the course for winter. You may recall that last year Winnipeg had unusually warm weather in the first two weeks of October. The weather turned quickly, around the middle of the month, and more than one course superintendent in the city was left scrambling to put his course to bed.

One important fall task is core aeration of the fairways. Aeration addresses soil compaction and thatch, and helps with drainage during the winter. Slow release fertilizer, applied in the fall provides plants with nutrients over the winter. Grass is dormant over the winter, but it still requires some food and air to survive. Fall fertilizing also gives grass the nutrients required to kick start growth in the spring.

Blowing out the irrigation system, tree pruning and bench, ball washer and marker storage are also part of winter prep work.

Greens Aeration

Irrigation System Blowout

Covering greens is mission critical before winter. Each of our 18 greens has its own microclimate to deal with. This year, especially, great care and attention has been taken by the Course Superintendent in consultation with the Course Committee, outside vendors, and with the USGA northern turf specialist, to ensure the most effective type of protection will be applied to each individual green.

Covering the Green

Finally, as close as possible to first snow, fungicide is applied to fairways. Recently developed fungicides show great efficacy in combatting snow mould and other diseases, which can adversely impact the health of our fairways over the winter. These fungicides are expensive, however, and the chemical must remain on the plant leaf to be effective. Foot traffic, unfortunately disturbs the fungicide and makes it ineffective.

All in all, a hard course closing, while not creating absolute certainty, gives our golf course the greatest chance to come through the winter in a strong and healthy condition – which means the best possible summer playing conditions, as we have come to expect at Niakwa.

An aside

While researching material for this blog entry, I came across and interesting article from the golf Canada website. The article is from a dialogue around the tough winter Southern Ontario experienced in 2013/2014. This may look familiar – http://golfcanada.ca/article/harsh-hand-winter


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