industry insight: Architects, Contractors and Professionals 8 - November ‘11
Golf course turfgrass reduction:
Environmentally and strategically sustainable Large or small renovations can positively impact turfgrass reduction
by Marc Whitney
to save money while maintaining a fun and
challenging experience for players of all skill levels. Many golf clubs are reducing the amount of regularly maintained turfgrass on their course. The golf course superintendent and a golf course architect can work together on a plan for keeping the strategic intent of the course intact and ensuring appropriate installation of replacement materials.
A survey of members of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) revealed 93 percent of respondents are helping their clients reduce the acreage of maintained turfgrass while preserving the course’s strategic intent. A few examples include: • Lowering maintenance costs Reducing the amount of turfgrass can bring a reduction in labor, equipment, fertilizer and water costs. Energy budgets can also be reduced as less water results in lower electri- cal costs.
• Using less water Reducing regularly maintained turfgrass and replacing it with native grasses or native plants requiring less irrigation can realize sig- nificant reduction in water usage.
• Greater sustainability Replacing turfgrass in out-of-play areas with native grasses or plants can be a good way to improve sustainability. Some out-of-play areas can even be non-irrigated and covered with wood mulch or pine straw from low- cost reclaimed tree materials.
A project illustrating the benefits of turfgrass reduc- tion is the renovation of Naperville (Ill.) Country Club by ASGCA members Arthur Hills and Steve Forrest. A master plan was created for the 124-acre property and, following a series of presentations and town hall meetings, was adopted in fall 2005. Besides eliminating 5.5 acres (242,000 square feet) of turfgrass which had previously required extensive maintenance, the project included work on all 18 holes, removing 330 trees while transplanting 150 others, and much more. The team also worked exten- sively on additions and improvements to the irrigation system, and provided new and updated utility services to several locations around the golf course. “The act of irrigating the golf course has evolved to the point where it is both an art and a science,” Forrest said. “This allows architects to be very precise with the relationships of various landscape treatments such as extended collars, native grass areas and waste bunkers.”
Key course construction features included: • Installation and maintenance of erosion con- trol and silt fence
• Storm water pipe installation • Cart path installation • Grassing (seeding/sod/establishing putting greens and tee surfaces)
• Planting native buffer areas adjacent to ponds
Attention to detail and the importance of working not only with the golf course staff but the entire community were exhibited on this project. All told, the renovation required 33 permits and certification
olf courses across the country are looking for ways
letters from 11 regulatory agencies at the local, state and national levels. Throughout the project, Hills and Forrest maintained focus on their key principles, including: • Do it right • Do it so that it always looked that way • Do it with high levels of communication • Do it on time and within budget
The value of communication was reinforced when architects met with neighboring homeowners con- cerning questions of stormwater run-off. In 2007, the newly-renovated Naperville Country Club opened to great reviews. In 2009, the club was recognized as an award-winning project by Golf Inc. magazine, the Golf Course Builders Association of America, American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois and others. The planning process: How a golf course architect can help The Naperville Country Club renovation illustrated that while it may seem as simple as eliminating existing turfgrass and replanting with other species, turfgrass reduction must be implemented in differ- ent ways depending on climate and other factors. Following is a simplified description of the steps which may be taken by a golf course architect. For more details on the benefits and process of turfgrass reduction, visit http://www.asgca.org/turfgrassreduc-
• Identify areas where regularly maintained turfgrass might be removed. The areas can be classified on a sliding scale from “defi- nitely remove – no effect on playing area” to “carefully consider removal – could dramati- cally alter play.”
• Indentify areas where regularly maintained turfgrass can be “transitioned.” Existing grasses may be able to just grow taller in out-of-play areas, or appropriate varieties may be allowed to go dormant during peri- ods of little or no rain.
• Consult your course’s “Master Plan for Improvements” to ensure consistency with the plan’s long-term vision.
• Calculate the economic feasibility and impact of a potential conversion on water and labor budgets to determine optimal scope of the project. Check with local water agencies for rebates or incentives for reduced water.
• Consider whether replacement can be handled in-house or whether a golf course builder should be hired.
• The irrigation system will likely be affected by a regularly maintained turf reduction plan. The superintendent and a golf course archi- tect should carefully consider when irrigation system changes need expert oversight.
For more information on turfgrass reduction, con- tact the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America or an ASGCA golf course architect at http://www.asgca.org
or (262) 786-5960.
Marc Whitney leads external communications for the American Society of Golf Course Architects. He has spent more than 20 years in sports public relations and mar- keting, including a stint with the United States Olympic Committee. He currently also serves as an adjunct professor in the College of Communications at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
Golf Course Trades
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