The Grass is Always Greener

Thwack! There’s no other feeling like that first drive of the year, followed by a (hopefully) soaring Srixon or ProV1, and finishing with a perfect “thump” onto the verdant green or fairway. As you enjoy your victory stroll over to said ball, have you ever wondered what it takes to prepare that lovely carpet of grass under your feet? If you’re like many of the thousands of golfers at City of Calgary and other golf courses, you haven’t. Lucky for you, a dedicated team of over 70 City staff, led by superintendent Jeff Babich, make it their mission to keep every blade of grass ship-shape on City courses. While most of the team work just during the season, Jeff and a smaller crew spend months ahead preparing for the moment you, and thousands of others, hit the links for the first time.

 “It starts with tidying up from the winter season. We have partnerships with cross-country ski organizations who utilize some of the courses during the winter, and they do the basic clean-up. Then we remove the tarps we have over the greens on most of the courses,” explains Jeff. “We remove the snow on certain greens to help speed up the growth and have a look at the condition of the greens, and how they weathered the winter conditions.” Staff will occasionally also apply dark colored sand to help melt the ice and snow a little faster.

City courses have greens with either Creeping Bentgrass, which can survive up to 120 days under ice, or “Poa” (aka Annual Bluegrass) which can be susceptible to winter damage after just 45 days of exposure to ice. While any plant that can survive a Calgary winter sounds like the hardy type, don’t try walking on them too soon. Average foot traffic or a misplaced truck tire can kill a tender patch of grass with a single drive-by, in those early days when the grass is just starting to peek out of the ground

Once the ground starts to thaw it’s time to slowly recharge irrigation systems, repairing damage from freeze/thaws, and making sure water is flowing where, and when it should.

“It’s very hands-on for irrigation, and we have to make sure to have everything up and running once the grass comes out of dormancy. It’s usually late April that we have to get the water going and occasionally if it’s a dry spring, we may have to water the greens with a tractor.”

Once the courses open in early April, it’s all about day-to-day maintenance and mowing. “This year we will begin using rollers on the greens, instead of cutting every day, hoping to minimize wear and tear on the sensitive stands of turf.” adds Jeff. “The short height of cut on the greens also requires that we move the hole locations just about every day on every green…We occasionally apply selective herbicides to keep broadleaf weeds (dandelions mostly) in check, but limit this as much as possible.”

Of course, all this prep and maintenance takes people, and luckily city courses have not suffered the staff shortages that so many other industries have in recent months. Small wonder for a job that involves working outside, surrounded by nature, and hanging with people who are doing what they love to do, all day long. So before you take that first swing, be sure to give one of those hard-working staff a wave, knowing that it’s because of them that the grass is greener where you’re standing today.

Golf Course Opening Dates

Shaganappi Point 18  
*Front 9 only. Back 9 opening TBD

April 14

Shaganappi Valley 9 
*Front 9 + Valley 9 for 18-hole play

April 14

Shaganappi Point Driving Range

April 14 (opens at 10 am daily)

McCall Lake 18

April 14

McCall Lake Driving Range

April 14 (opens at 10 am daily)

Maple Ridge Golf Couse

April 19*

Confederation Park Driving Range

April 21*

Confederation Park Golf Couse

April 21*

McCall Lake Par 3

April 28*

Lakeview Golf Couse

April 28* 

*Weather dependent