Getting ahead of the water
Wahpeton, N.D. The folks at Bois de Sioux Golf Club like to boast that it is the only course in America that has nine holes in one state and nine more in another. True enough, but there was a problem. While the front nine in Wahpeton was high and...
The folks at Bois de Sioux Golf Club like to boast that it is the only course in America that has nine holes in one state and nine more in another. True enough, but there was a problem. While the front nine in Wahpeton was high and dry, the back nine in Breckenridge, Minn., was often unplayable.
Did we mention the Bois de Sioux lies hard on the banks of the Red River? Thanks to that flood-prone river, too much of the Minnesota side too often became an unwanted water hazard.
"Last summer the back nine was closed for months after it flooded in June," said Bois de Sioux board president Jeff Hoye. "We'd been looking at doing something for a few years and finally last year was the last straw. We said, 'We've got to figure something out.' "
That something is well underway this spring and, the club hopes, will be ready to play by the fall. Bois de Sioux has abandoned one flood-prone hole and reconfigured its back nine in hopes of minimizing damage from the always-rising Red. And thanks to the cooperation of Wahpeton, Breckenridge, Richland County, Wilkin County and some local farmers, the club has done it, according to Hoye, at minimal cost.
With tracks like Fargo Country Club and Edgewood Golf Course still early in the process of attacking their flood problems, little Bois de Sioux is on its way.
"We've minimized the problem as best we can. We can never alleviate it because they (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) won't let us build a dike," said Bois de Sioux superintendent Pete Jensen. "Now we stand a fighting chance."
The club hired golf course architect Jeff McDowell of Bonestroo & Associates, a Twin Cities engineering firm that previously worked with Bois de Sioux. The most drastic change McDowell made was to abandon the low-lying par-5 11th hole, which ran next to the Red River, and construct a new hole on unused land. A small dike was built between the 11th hole and the remaining holes near the river, and McDowell put in a series of ponds that will allow quick drainage when the river comes out of its banks.
A couple of other holes received new tee boxes and had their routing changed to help everything fit together.
The changes won't stop flooding. There are holes at Bois de Sioux that will get wet when the Red goes above its Wahpeton flood stage of 13 feet. The idea was to give Jensen and his crew a way to pump away the water ASAP.
"The river is going to flood. You're not going to stop it," McDowell said. "It becomes an issue of having the high-quality turf underwater for as little a time as possible so it doesn't die."
After the devastating flood of 1997, a massive dike was built on the North Dakota side of the Red to protect Wahpeton. That's kept the front nine safe. The back nine, though, has been out of commission more often than not.
"We're excited," Hoye said. "We really haven't had an
18-hole golf course since 1997. We think we're going to have that now."
Forum sports columnist Mike McFeely can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show,
10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or email@example.com . McFeely's blog can be found