Nurturing strong turf naturally at Blackwater Golf

Working hand-in-hand with nature, Blackwater Golf Course operators are devoted to nurturing strong healthy turf which is resistant to drought, weeds and disease.

A member of the Audubon International Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf since 2006, Blackwater course operators follow an IPM strategy, and then go a step further to use what they describe as “common sense” approach to turf management. Central to this strategy, is learning about the natural cycles of disease and pests and working within these cycles to control the threats to turf health. This approach has allowed Blackwater to eliminate nearly all use of harsh chemicals. In fact, operators estimate the annual budget for chemical herbicides and pesticides remains under $1000. Removing weeds manually, or using steam to kill them is part of this approach. A mulch with duck waste is applied on the greens before the first snowfall to minimize snow mould and ice damage, with excess removed in the spring. The dark colour of the mulch melts the ice and snow quickly off the greens in spring. It also acts as a fertilizer. Dollar spot is another condition that develops under the snow in winter, but building strong healthy turf helps. Alternative approaches to controlling insects and pests used at Blackwater include the use of borax and sugar ant traps, biodegradable dish soap for grubs, and Vectobac, a biologic for mosquitoes larvae used in standing water around the course.  Chemical fertilizer is only used on the greens.

Healthy soil–and the organisms that thrive in it–along with careful selection of grass species provide the foundation for healthy turf growth. Practices such as letting grass grow to a higher height means the roots are stronger (root length mirrors the length of grass blade) and thus make for a hardier plant. At Blackwater, native fescues are used. This species of grasses is very hardy, disease and pest resistant, and requires less water than other commonly-used grass species. Making these adjustments has affected maintenance requirements at Blackwater. For example, Kentucky Blue grass is a favorite meal for grubs, and an overgrowth in the grub population can lead to turf damage from animals such as skunks looking for a meal, thus proper selection of grass type has helped avoid widespread grub damage. Strong turf growth also naturally chokes out weed growth. Evidence of this can often be found on home lawns as weeds thrive where the soil is depleted and grass growth is sparse.

Water infiltration is an important function of green space, and at Blackwater, cart paths and the parking lot are made of gravel instead of pavement. Water from runoff ponds on the property is used for irrigation, in conjunction with water-conserving practices. Hardy turf requires less water. Being in the floodplain, Blackwater is low-lying, and course operators have dealt with this by cutting drains and swales to allow water to re-infiltrate. Greens are built on higher ground to avoid concerns about erosion.  Any sand on the Blackwater course is sourced right on the property.

Native plants and trees are planted regularly around the property. Golfers who look closely can find milkweed, frogs, bluebirds, swallows, purple martins, wild turkeys, rabbits and skunks. The property also houses a number of naturally occurring bee hives. Clover is planted on the fairways as it naturally provides nitrogen to the surrounding grass plants. Golf carts are all electric, and if an acceptable electric solution were to become available for other course machinery, Blackwater would switch.

A vision, hard work and persistence over time has brought Blackwater Golf Course’s turf to a naturally healthy state. The result is a challenging regulation 9-hole golf experience in a pleasing natural environment. Blackwater rates and specials can be found here. Look for the stone gates on the east side of Highway 48 just south of Boag Road.











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