Modernizing our Greens

Most members would agree that Niakwa Country Club is one of the finest golf courses in Canada and is certainly among the best in Manitoba. It was hard to remember that last week, though, as my ball wobbled and bounced away from the cup on the first green costing me a skin, the 50 cents that went with it, and 5 minutes of bragging rights.Read More>>

We had a tough winter.

Given the consequences to the greens of that tough winter, it’s hard to question the wisdom of the Board of Governors Greens Modernizing Plan. As you probably know that plan calls for replacement of “at risk” greens on an “as needed” basis. “As needed” is defined as a failure of the putting surface or of the structure of the green itself.

Examples of failure of the putting surface are 18 green last year and 13 green this year. Both greens have had several failures in the last 40 years and were only getting worse. Number 1 green isn’t far behind and failed in 2017 as well.

What is the result when a green is renovated? Basically, robust turf. That means a putting surface that:

  • Can weather Winnipeg winters
  • Can stand up to the stress of 30,000 rounds over a six month season
  • Is consistent in playing characteristics from green to green
  • Can recover quickly when overstressed
  • Can withstand weeds and other grasses (poa annua)

And that can provide these characteristics when cut to a height of .110 inches or lower in order to maintain green speed.

With 18, 2 and 13 greens being complete and filling in nicely, Niakwa will have 11 greens that meet the above criteria. Besides number 1, the greens that the Club will have to  keep an eye on include 4,7,9,10,15 and 17. It should be stressed that these greens will only be replaced if they fail. And if replacement becomes necessary, it will be done with minimum disruption to members.


Why are these greens at risk? Six of the greens in question were built in 1923 and one is more than 66 years old. Why does this matter?

  • When they were built the greens were cut with push reel style mower and cutting heights averaged .25 inches. The variety of grass used competed and survived well at that height, but could not compete with poa annua when cut to today’s standard height of .115 inches
  • There is a high degree of poa annua infestation. Poa annua, while prolific and competitive, has very poor survivability in severe winters with significant ice
  • The construction of these older greens did not provide for sufficient drainage as is the case with new greens built to current USGA standards. The benefit of proper drainage can be seen on Niakwa’s fairways and newer greens
  • The size of the greens did not provide sufficient surface area for pin placement under modern conditions or the amount of usage (foot traffic) we now see on an annual basis
  • At least one green other is showing signs of structural failure and is substantially different in profile from when it was built

What happens when a green is rebuilt after failure? It’s reconstructed according to current USGA best practices and standards. These standards include:

  • Sophisticated drainage with several layers of drainage material and with tiling similar to that used on Niakwa fairways
  • Specific materials to provide optimal soil for plant growth

The green is then seeded with the latest variety of bent grass bred for our Manitoba growing conditions. And to top it off the green is furnished with the most current, efficient and flexible irrigation available – remote controlled with the capability of operating each sprinkler head independently.

Other courses in the city, which have to contend with Manitoba gumbo as a soil base have similar conditions this year. The greens plan adopted by our Board provides a long term  solution to keep Niakwa one of Canada’s premium golf courses.


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