RIDEAU VIEW GOLF CLUB - OTTAWA'S PREMIER PRIVATE GOLF EXPERIENCE.
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The job of the golf course superintendent is part science, a lot of art and a fair amount of praying to curry the favour of Mother Nature.
Rideau View's Gord MacMillan managed all three skillfully during the winter and spring with the result the course is in the best shape at opening in 15 years.
The long, cold winter in the Ottawa Valley was a brutal test of thermal underwear and car batteries, but it amounted to about as perfect a winter as there can be for golf courses.
"Absolutely," said MacMillan. "It's that mid-January thaw that really gets you. We've had those regularly the last few years. Last year we did, but we had so much snow at that point, it never got through. You could see the thaw layers in the snow. It never got to the bottom. This year we didn't have as much snow, it came late, but we didn't have that huge thaw that turns snow into ice."
Ice is the greatest enemy of grass plants and superintendents. It can wind up creating an environment where the plants are suffocated, resulting in winter kill.
The thaws that we typically get in January and the rain that comes with them usually result in a build up of ice when the cold weather returns.
This year's mild weather was limited to one day, said MacMillan.
"We had one on Jan. 4. We were snow free or ice free prior to that," he said. "It snowed for four or five hours and we got three or four hours of rain. That's the only source of the damage we have on the course. There was no reason for damage after that.
"I say damage, but we have little spots here or there. A lot of those are recovering already. The damage wasn't severe or extensive at all. It discoloured the leaf and that was it."
In case you thought superintendents retired to their villas in the south of France for the winter - or at least their condos in Florida - MacMillan was out at Rideau View on Christmas Day trying to corral tarps which had been whipped off the greens by a wind storm.
It was just too windy, so he was back on Boxing Day with his daughters to pin them down.
"It was so windy on Christmas Day I couldn't even think about pinning them down. They were just flapping in the wind so badly. Some had blown right off," he said.
All of the 19 putting surfaces came through the winter in mint condition and on the eve of the opening April 30, they looked in mid-summer form.
The fairways aren't far behind.
"Fairways are a crap shoot," he said. "I set it up to come out like this every year. Late season fertilization, late season aeration, winter treatments for snow mould. But you're only one bad rain fall or early January thaw away from all that work going for naught."
The most dramatic change for the 2015 season is the renovation of the area around the fourth tee. The cedars between the third green and the fourth tee have been removed. Seeding will begin soon with fescue and wheat in the area.
The hill between the fourth tee and green has been reduced allowing a view of the entire green from the tee. MacMillan crafted a new bunker, on the recommendation of consulting architect Ian Andrew, at the back of the green and the flashing frames the green nicely.
Also, on the advice of Andrew, some cedars were removed from the area between the 13th tee and 14th green. A stand of red pines remains. In addition to aesthetics, this was also a safety consideration allowing players on both holes to track the play of their neighbours.
Today was opening day for the golf course. There were over 175 golfers out --- and everyone was raving about the conditions! Hard work does pay off.