By Michael J. Hurdzan, Ph.D.*
What's an Environmental Golf Course?
Today it seems everyone would like to call their golf course environmentally friendly, but what does that mean? Although there is no standard definition, to most golf environmentalists it means a golf course that is competitive in its market place, but requires less water, fertilizer, pesticide and energy resources to maintain it compared to other golf courses in that area or market.
Erin Hills GC, Erin, WI. Photo by Paul Hundley.
- "What gets measured gets managed" should be the mantra.
- Seek to reduce maintenance inputs through site-specific Best Management Practices (BMPs).
- Investigate existing and emerging technology to support and validate BMPs.
- Prepare a plan to integrate technologies and BMPs to achieve maximum synergy between them.
- Measure existing baseline inputs to compare against new inputs to determine success.
- Once maintenance inputs are minimized through intelligent planning, focus attention and resources on habitat qualities of the golf course property.
Environmentally Friendly Requires Intellect and Technology
Devil's Paintbrush GC, Toronto, Ontario. Photo by Henebry Photography.
Most of us would like for the golf course to not demand more of the land than it can return or enhance. We want to minimize the stress to its resources and native ecosystems. In recent years golf course superintendents have moved a long way towards this goal of neutral sustainability through the benefits of recent technological advances. Retrofitting an existing golf course with new technology certainly improves its environmental friendliness, however the greatest impacts are seen when golf courses are designed with this technology fully integrated throughout the golf course.
These technical advances have been made in irrigation systems, drainage, rootzone amendments, new turf varieties, soil sensors, soil and water testing and modification, encapsulated chemicals, GPS mapping, etc. To provide the highest degree of stewardship means carefully selecting each of these components that not only work best in that particular golf course’s microclimate, but are also fully compatible. There is no easy way to properly select the best component mix without intensive study of key environmental factors and having an intimate knowledge of which technology delivers the best bang for the buck.
Action Plan for Success
Seek out a firm that understands these technologies and synergies and will work hard to tailor them to the client’s site. It is a process that starts with the first visit to the facility and continues until long after the course is operational. Don't assume every golf course design firm and agronomic consultant understands the big picture and has the tools and experience to achieve results.
Be prepared to make smart compromises that will keep your golf course competitive in the marketplace, but at the same time will reduce maintenance inputs and improve the habitat quality of the site. The long run payoffs are worth the extra cost and effort involved. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Lastly, plan on having an education outreach program
to boast (a little) about your programs, but more importantly to teach others that golf courses are healthy environments that benefit the entire community around them and not just its golfers. In addition, the techniques used to achieve those positive results on golf courses can help homeowners, park managers and other people interested in growing plants or enhancing wildlife qualities to do a better job.
Bully Pulpit GC, Medora, ND. Photo by Wade Westin.
Originally posted by MichaelHurdzan
on 28 Aug 2008.
All contributors: ClifKussmaul
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