Playing through the rough

Opened again for the first time in two years, Souris Valley Golf Course is still a little rough in spots but nonetheless drawing in its share of golfers.

“I’m impressed with where we’re at, what we’ve done in the past year,” said park commissioner Cliff Hovda, who also chairs its golf committee. The committee met midday Tuesday at the 19th Hole refreshment area, its first since the course’s reopening.

“Most of the greenswork is done now,” explained parks director Ron Merritt, with some scattered reseeding, bank restructuring, and silt removal yet to do on a few holes.

SVGC has received generally good feedback so far, despite the ongoing landscaping. “I’ve had no complaints yet on the golf course,” said its manager and golf professional, Steve Kottsick.

“We have our daily issues,” he admitted, such as having enough rangers on staff, especially in the evening. “The hard part is finding someone who wants to go out and get yelled at.”

At least in part because of the recent influx of people brought in with the oil boom, the course has noticed a rise in troublesome golfers as well. “We don’t know everybody anymore,” he said. Kottsick has considered whether it would be necessary to adopt a database of obnoxious, drunk and otherwise disorderly visitors, similar to Bismarck’s area “no-play list.”

Another issue was improving the speed of play, which was explained is a broader problem the United States Golf Association is trying to address. Park commissioner Robert Petry explained that an average time for 18 holes at SVGC was about four hours and 10 minutes. “We’d like to see it down to four hours,” he said, if possible.

“It’s a good issue, because we’ve got people playing,” Hovda noted.

The committee threw around some options for reducing lag time. One was to position a dry erase board on which to update golfers’ times, adding an element of friendly competition. Ranger-permitting, cracking down on rule infractions that slow down the game is another possibility, such as playing from one set of shared clubs.

Unlike hunting or fishing, Kottsick pointed out that participants in golf need no formal introduction to the game. “People go golfing and they don’t know how to play,” he said.

One of the ideas agreed upon is the adoption of colored yardage markers, to be positioned 100, 150, and 200 yards away from the pin on each hole. The model being considered is a durable plastic, inexpensive and also collapsible so not to be destroyed by lawn mowers. Being able to better gauge one’s distance more quickly would streamline play.

“This would be a big improvement,” Hovda opined.

Despite the occasional rainfall, the committee took a few golf carts to examine the course’s still-flood-ridden sections, particularly around the 6th and 13th holes.

SVGC superintendent Kim Knatterud explained that the 13th still has at least a foot of silt on its lower reaches. “It’s really sandy, terrible stuff,” he said. The course has cordoned the sandied section off, with the committee deciding it best to mark off a designated ball drop location nearby while it gets reseeded. Mostly, the committee hopes to continue repairs as inobtrusively to gameplay as possible.

Some mention was made of the possibility of resiting the golf course elsewhere, a project which will hinge heavily upon future water management studies expected over the next four or five years. Depending on the placement of levees, SVGC could lose some of its fairways, greens and so forth. Meanwhile, the possibility of annual water damage to its riparian holes is another consideration on the district’s mind.

Kottsick was charged with putting to paper general parameters for the geography necessary for a future golf course, to be delivered in the next week or for the Minot Board of Realtors to refer to. In all, the current cost estimation for a new course ranges between $3 million and $5 million.

“It’s going to be a long process,” Kottsick said, one that will take careful planning and a measure of favorable circumstance.

Petry added, “The longer we wait, the further out we’re going to get pushed.”