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Sustainable Golf Course Design & Maintenance

Blog 20

Creating a sustainable golf course requires a land-based design approach that emphasizes a well-conceived routing plan. A properly routed golf course can contribute toward reducing energy consumption and other costs expended to build a course and maintain it. Architect's main goal is to route the course to take full advantage of the land’s natural features so that very little earth must be disturbed in the construction phase. Disturbing large areas adds to construction costs, provides opportunities for erosion and stream contamination, releases carbon into the atmosphere, and erases any interesting natural characteristics of the existing terrain.

In addition to the proper routing of a golf course there other items a client will want to consider in the planning and maintenance of a golf course. These items were gathered from our experiences and consultation with golf course superintendents:

  • Explore the use of electric greens mowers.

  • There are new green’s mowers that have small gas engines and generators that power the reels. These units consume half the gas  and do not use hydraulic oil. Similar fairway units will be out soon.

  • Only mow collars every other day.

  • Rake bunkers twice a week maximum.

  • Reduce the amount of area requiring weed trimmers.

  • Use growth regulators, if feasible. Growth regulators used on fairways can cut fuel use by 30%.

  • Cultivate and maintain large natural areas throughout the site.

  • Buy local sand and soil.

  • Design a course so that it requires fewer specialized maintenance equipment.

  • Be energy conscious around the maintenance barn - use low energy bulbs, shut off computers when there not being used, recycle  waste water used to clean equipment, etc.

  • Use Club Car utility vehicles for general jobs because they use much less gas as compared to Cushman and Toro utility vehicles.

  • Add a tenth of a pound of urea and sulfate of potash to every fertilizer application. At year end you use only a pound of nitrogen  and potassium and you get better results than when you apply three or four times that amount with conventional granular  applications.

  • Incorporate a fertigation system into your irrigation program. This will save time, labor and fuel, plus liquid nitrogen is much  cheaper than granular and saves energy on the conversion, hauling and spreading.

  • Contour mow fairways as opposed to stripping, and alternate directions weekly.

  • Do not fertilize the roughs.

  • Selectively remove trees so you can grow healthy turf which will reduce chemical inputs.

  • Establish true economic thresholds for all pests. A few weeds or brown patch in the roughs, or a little cutworm damage does not  change the way the game is played.

  • Maintain a high quality staff. In order to promote sustainability, the people that practice it need the training, the time, and the  support to make it happen.