Golf Courses

For years, the United States Golf Association has been taking steps to reduce the amount of water golf courses use. It is well aware that courses require plenty of water to operate, and during periods of drought, the courses often become key targets for criticism among local citizens, businesses, and politicians.

However, the association now can recommend several steps to reduce water consumption that park and recreation managers can heed:

• Use new and native grass varieties and vegetation in harmony with the local climate; these generally require less water and can tolerate poorer-quality water.

• Reduce the amount of turf installed at a golf course.

• Switch from overhead irrigation to drip irrigation where possible.

• Add more mulch to flower beds and shrub areas.

• Group vegetation with similar water needs.

• Install computerized irrigation systems that can evaluate climate conditions as well as turf-soil dryness so irrigation is performed when needed.

• Restrict cart traffic to specific paths to minimize turf wear.

• Minimize water runoff by cycling irrigation.

• Find water-source alternatives (e.g., collecting rain water, recycling clubhouse water).

• Analyze water-usage trends by conducting water audits; look for areas where water consumption is wasted or can be curtailed.

• Train staff to become water-conscious.

• Explore possible rebate programs from local water departments to help pay for water-conservation measures, equipment, and fixtures.

In-House Water Conservation

Although turf does require the largest amount of water used at a golf course or park and rec facility, steps can be taken to significantly reduce the consumption indoors as well, perhaps in the clubhouse.

Consider the following:

Install water-reducing, sensor-activated faucets. Reducing the flow rate of faucets and showerheads is simple: install readily available aerators that limit the amount of water released. Very often, users cannot even tell the difference between an older water-hungry faucet or showerhead system and those incorporating these new aerator technologies. Sensor-controlled faucets have also been shown to help conserve water because the systems are designed to stop water flow as soon as hands have been removed, limiting waste.

Investigate 1.3 gallons of water per flush (gpf) toilets. Today’s toilets are prohibited from using more than 1.6 gpf, but this is likely to dwindle to 1.3 fairly soon. These systems are available, and managers should select the most water-conserving toilets possible. A study by Purdue University found that, from June 2004 to June 2005, there was a 45-percent reduction in water use in those buildings where water-conserving toilets had been installed.

Use less-water and no-water urinals. The amount of water urinals use has dropped significantly in the past decade, from as much as 3 gpf to less than 1 gpf. Further, no-water/no-flush urinals, first introduced in the United States in 1991, are becoming more popular. Many golf courses and camp and recreation facilities have found no-water systems can work especially well in outdoor areas where plumbing installation is difficult or costly.

Water-Conserving Golf-Course Users

Ed McMahon, longtime Johnny Carson sidekick, once said that when he lived in New York, he always let the water run continuously while he shaved. However, after he moved to California and while shaving at a private club, one of the members instructed him to turn off the water when not needed. McMahon said he had never even thought of doing that, but did as instructed from that point on.

Similar water-conservation instruction may be necessary for golf-course users. For golf courses to survive in a world becoming even more populated, water responsibility and conservation are things all of us must take seriously now and into the future.

Katherine Pickett is a writer for the professional cleaning, building, hotel, education, and hospitality industries. She can be reached at 773-525-3021.

* It is estimated that more than one third of the golf courses in California and other, drier parts of the country are now irrigated with some form of effluent water.


The Problems With Effluent Water

Although many golf courses thrive with effluent water, it is not always useful.

Some effluent water is referred to as poor-quality water because it contains minerals, bicarbonates, sodium, and other ingredients that can cause serious harm to grass and other vegetation.

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One comment on “Golf Courses

  1. Robert Kravitz on said:

    Golf Course Development

    While David Hueber, who is a former president of the National Golf Association not the current head, did say that golf course development in the U.S. is in “Code Blue” status, he added that to resuscitate the golf industry, it must transfer to, what he called, “Code Green” status. He defined this as “the redevelopment of ….sustainable golf courses,” as was discussed in Ms. Pickett’s article, particularly as it refers to water conservation and efficiency.

    However, it should be noted that there are other reasons golf course development has slowed in the U.S. One is costs. According to Tom Fazio, one of the games preeminent golf course architects, the costs per hole to build a golf course have gone from $20,000 to $30,000 per hole in the 1960s, to as much as $400,000 a hole today.

    Further, according to Greg Natham, National Golf Foundation (NGF), currently in the U.S., there is actually an oversupply of golf courses. Reasons for this are over development of courses in more affluent economic times as well as a reduction of the number of people that golf.

    According to the NGF, the percentage of the overall population that played golf declined over the past 20 years. In 1990, the percentage of the population that played golf was 12.1%, by 2000 it was 11.1% and by 2008 it was down to 10.2%. During the first nine years of the 2000 to 2010 decade, rounds played were down 5.7% or nearly 30 million, from 518.4 million rounds played in 2001, to 489.1 million rounds played in 2008.

    The result: instead of developing more golf courses, it is believed that over 800 have closed since 2000.

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