Closing the Silvertip Golf Course.
You would think, once the golf season comes to an end, the turf care crew would get to go home and call it a season. Well, you would think wrong. The crew still has a minimum of one month of full-time work in order to close the golf course for the season. From spraying the greens to assembling snow fences, a lot of work goes into a proper course closing. In this article, we will take you behind the scenes and explain the golf course closing procedure at Silvertip Resort.
It’s like a bear hibernating for the winter, it takes time for the bears to build up the fat needed, to survive the entire winter. Similarly, the golf course takes time and effort for the course to be winterized so the turf survives the harsh Alberta winter. This year the golf course closed on October 1st and The Silvertip turf care team did not hesitate to get started on the course closing procedures.
Winter preparations include:
- Shut down and blow out all the water from the irrigation system. This prevents the water from freezing, expanding and causing significant damage to the irrigation system.
- Aerate all the maintained areas of the golf course: greens, tees, fairways and rough. This involves punching a bunch of small holes in the turf and pulling out the cores. Doing this prevents compaction within the turf which therefore allows for greater root depth and stronger, more resilient turf. It also reduces the thatch layer within the turf (an ongoing battle for most golf courses). This layer sits under the grass and is composed of dead organic material. It acts as a sponge and absorbs a large amount of water without letting it penetrate through and down to where the roots are. This prevents the roots from growing deeper and also causes the turf to dry out faster as the water evaporates quickly from the thatch layer. Reducing the thatch layer and compaction is why aeration is arguably the single most important cultural practice within the turf grass industry.
- Application of fungicide to all greens, tees and to certain areas of fairways and rough which are vulnerable to disease over the winter. Without the application of a fungicide to the greens and tees, which have the shortest leaf blade and are therefore the weakest, will struggle in spring with disease and will take months to recover and potentially not bounce back at all which would result in having to re-sod areas of greens and tees. Silvertip is Audubon certified; which means we aim to limit the use of fungicides as much as we can, to protect the environment and preserve the natural heritage of the game of golf. Check out our awards and accolades page!
- Installation of winter fencing around greens and tees. This is another crucial stage in getting the course ready for the winter. Although it is very time-consuming task, it will still save a lot of time come spring in repair work to these areas. The majority of golf courses in Canada will put protective tarps over their greens throughout the winter months to protect the greens from ice damage and desiccation (drying out from the wind). Due to our elevation and accumulative snow fall, we are able to utilize the snow fences to keep a layer of snow of about 1-2 feet all winter covering the greens and therefore protecting them from the natural elements which a lot of other golf courses are vulnerable to. Ice damage can easily take out a whole green if it has been covered in ice for too long, any ice on the greens, which stays for 3-4 months or longer, can cause serious damage is often beyond repair. The chinooks and freeze/thaw cycles that Alberta experiences make golf courses here most vulnerable to ice as the temperature will not consistently stay below zero and can easily sometimes reach into the low teens. This causes a lot of snow melt which will result in ice once the temperature drops again to the ground will remain frozen and it will not absorb any of the water. A second large reason for snow fence is to keep wildlife and people off these key areas. Elk and deer can easily tear up a green or tee causing extensive damage and people will cause compaction within the snow which often prevents it from melting and will leave ice in the shape of their footprints
- Cutting back of all the native fescue. This is the “unmaintained” areas in the trees, where throughout the summer we will let it grow to its natural height in an effort to have as many naturalized areas on the course. This native grass is a mix of wild fescues native to this area in an effort to keep wildlife feeling at home and being able to feed around the golf course. With this, though we do need to cut it back in the fall to prevent it from growing back too thick the following year. We cut it to a height of four inches and if we didn’t carry out this practice these native areas would become thick and unplayable for our golfers. So, there you have it folks, a detailed description of the golf course closing procedure at Silvertip. A solid, thorough winter closing, makes for a terrific spring open at Silvertip Resort.
Source: Silvertip Turf Crew Irrigation Foreman: Fergus Butt