Over the past few years, golf course irrigation has become a hot topic in the environmental community. On average a modern golf course needs 100 000 to 1 000 000 gallons of water per week to maintain playability. This massive water intake puts golf courses under tremendous scrutiny, and rightly so; in areas such as California where the Earth’s limited supply of fresh water is very apparent, using such a vast amount of water to feed the gigantic courses can seem hard to justify. At Strum, we’ve had experience consulting for golf course developments before, and take the topic of water management very seriously. Creating greener greens is a priority to golfers and non-golfers alike. In order to give adequate solutions for a golf course’s water intake, we must first consider where all that water is going. Although the clubhouse, washrooms, trees, and flower beds all use water, the primary source of consumption is the grass used for the 18 holes, known as turf. Irrigating the turf efficiently is the first challenge.

Irrigating the 18
The hilly landscape of golf courses that makes them so interesting to play also makes them difficult to irrigate. The irregular terrain coupled with the hardness of the turf that, by nature, doesn’t absorb water well makes uniform irrigation ineffective. These factors contribute to excessive watering. A good way to address these problems is the use of hydrogeological study. A professional hydrogeologist can determine what equipment a golf course needs in addition to plotting out a specific irrigation schedule for each of the holes. Golf courses in the US have some of the most advanced irrigation technology in the world, and have the capacity to operate very efficiently. In addition to reducing water usage, another way to lower the water bill is to use reclaimed water!

Recycling water
Storm water and reclaimed water are both alternatives to potable water. Collecting storm water is becoming increasingly popular with golf courses and is very friendly to the environment. Here’s why: surplus storm water can cause flash floods in some areas and if the water is untreated it can pollute rivers with pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Reclaimed water from wastewater treatment plants is also beneficial to cutting down the expenditure of drinkable water. It is useful for irrigating the course as well as supplying the restrooms.Using reclaimed water seems like a win/win situation, but it does have a downside. The salt levels of reclaimed water are much higher then that of drinkable water, which can be detrimental to the turf. However, some strains of turf, such as Seashore paspalum fare better than others.

Seashore paspalum
Seashore paspalum may sound like a perfect end to the equation that is sustainable irrigation of golf courses, but it’s not without it’s risks. The strain itself is a grass that’s highly resilient to salt build up and corrosion, and has been implemented at a number of golf courses who are reporting success across the board. The practice isn’t without its critics though, as some turf experts caution these courses on the inevitability of nature and the resilience of these grasses. Ultimately if you let salt levels build up for long enough, not even resistive strains of turf can survive, and you wind up with salt flats in extreme conditions.

Putting it all together
There is no one solution to creating water-efficient golf courses. The reality is that it’s a complicated problem that requires complicated solutions and committed upkeep. One key principle of recycling that all golf courses ought to adhere to is ‘reduce’. An inspired example of reducing usage is the Angel Park Golf Club, which managed to remove three lakes, a fountain, and 76 acres of excess grass from its course.Bring prepared and proactive when it comes to water conservation is the ticked to sustainability and a healthy course. It’s with this in mind that we partner with clubs and organizations looking to create a manageable, future-proof environment for its players.
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