Buck Wagner loves to golf, but he enjoys it even more to take care of his nine-hole sand greens course just east of Swift Current.
“I have probably golfed at my place maybe five times a year,” he said. “Most of my time is maintaining it and making it look like I want it to. I find that’s more important than me golfing. It’s more important for me to have it look good and maintained properly for the public that want to go.”
He feels it provides a perfect alternative for golfers who are looking for a different and more relaxed experience.
“To me it is an outing,” he said. “It’s for families to go and do something together, and it’s inexpensive.”
The Piddle Creek par 3 golf course has been in open for nearly a decade, but its existence is not widely known.
“I have honestly never really advertised,” he said. “It shows on the outside of the building that it’s a golf course. I have an honour system metal box for people to put their fee or donation in, whatever they wish. They actually started playing on it I would say eight or nine years ago, right after I started.”
It costs $5 per person for a single round on the nine-hole course or $10 per person for all-day golfing. Children under 10 are free, on condition that they are accompanied by an adult.
“So it’s pretty reasonable, and along with it being easy in and easy out and being able to relax and have fun at the same time, I thought it was a good thing,” he said.
His decision to create a golf course with sand greens was due to practical considerations on the amount of water required to maintain grassed putting greens.
“I started building on it in 2012,” he recalled. “That’s when I started pacing out each one of the nine holes. I decided to do sand greens because of the lack of water for grass greens, but since then I have dug another dugout just to supply the fairways. So I’ve seeded the fairways.”
There is always something to do to keep the course in shape and challenges such as preventing deer from feeding on the trees he is trying to grow.
“It’s what you call an extensive hobby,” he said. “You can’t just build it and forget it. It requires maintenance and if you want to do more to make it look good, then you add to your maintenance, but it’s a labour of love, you might say.”
He installed underground sprinklers to water the fairways and he purchased a zero-turn lawn mower to make it easier to maintain the fairways. This spring he made improvements to the tee box area at the first hole.
“I have a raised tee off for number one,” he said. “It is about three foot high and tapers down. That was quite a job, and then sodding it.”
Wagner feels his golf course will appeal to beginners and those golfers who enjoy the experience of playing on a sand green course.
“I started playing on them,” he said. “Sand greens used to be very plentiful and that’s how it all started and people loved it. Now they’ve tapered off. There’s not as many.”
His own experience on regular golf courses convinced him that there was room for a course for beginner golfers and those who want to play at their own pace.
“We couldn’t go at our own pace,” he recalled. “We had to go faster. You can’t golf unless you’re going the right speed and you got to know, or you just hit and run. … So I thought I’ll start one here where they can practice and learn at their own speed.”
Putting on a sand green is quite a different experience. The ball moves slower than on grass and a sand green is flat.
“You’ve got to take into consideration the slope on a grass green,” he said. “With the sand green, they’re all basically flat and you just shoot straight at the hole. You don’t have to worry about the tip right or left. If you putt straight, it will go straight into the hole.”
Another unusual aspect of putting on a sand green is the use of a smoother/rake by players before and after making their shots. Wagner made one for each of the nine holes on his course.
The one side will smooth the sand between the ball and the hole, and the other side is used to rake the sand when players completed their play on a sand green.
“When you have chipped onto the green, you flip it over on its back and you smooth out the sand in a direct line towards the hole,” he explained. “After everybody putted, you turn it over and there’s a bunch of spikes on it. Then you go around the hole and make at least three or four revolutions and then you’re done.”
The layout of the Piddle Creek golf course adds some interest to the game experience. It will take anywhere from an hour or up to an hour and 15 minutes for two players to finish a game on the nine-hole course.
“The first hole is on the top of a hill and you go down on the flats,” he said. “The different fairways curve right or left, and then for number nine you come up the hill. So you finish on top of the hill where you started.”
This is a par 3 golf course and it provides a lot of short game practice to players. The three longest holes vary in length between 135 to 210 yards.
“Number five is one of the longer ones and I’ve got a fish pond on the right,” he said. “If you over drive it, you have the dugout for water straight ahead. So there are some challenges.”
He added that the final hole on the course also has a “creative” design, because the sand green is surrounded by cobble stone.
“So you can take it in one shot and go up and land it on top or lay up and then chip it on, because if you hit the rocks, you don’t know where your ball is going,” he said. “But being a fairly short hole, most people can chip up and on the green. Now, you cannot see the cup, but you can see the flag from the tee-off on number nine.”
Wagner hosted a charity golf tournament on this course in 2015. The Bella Classic raised funds for the medical expenses of his granddaughter Bella Thomson, who was born with several rare medical conditions. He has been giving consideration to have another tournament for her.
“That was something we really enjoyed putting on,” he said. “We had volunteers helping us with everything. Now she’s waiting for a transplant. So we’re talking about it this year.”
The Piddle Creek par 3 golf course is located on the Merivale road east of Swift Current. Travel east from the city on the Trans-Canada Highway and turn south onto the Merivale road at the Broncos memorial. Follow the road for 2.5 kilometres, turn west at the corner and drive up the hill to the course entrance. The golf course is visible at this turn, because it is situated at the corner.
There is no need to call ahead or to make a booking to play. The course operates on the honour system. There is a white metal box with a lid. Small envelopes are provided to place the fee in and it can be deposited through a slot in the box. For any enquiries, contact Wagner at 306-741-6296.