With countless acreage of turf to keep healthy and green during a significant and protracted drought, it may come as a surprise that the golf industry leads the way in efficient use of water.
In Southern California, where responsible water management has long been a focus, especially for championship courses, the need to use water wisely was recognized long before the current drought levels. . Not only is water is scarce in the region but also the cost to keep these courses vibrant is quite large. Some courses are spending as much as $500,000 or more per year on just irrigation.
So, with the need to be responsible users of water and the desire to minimize expenses, what are some of the best golf clubs in Southern California doing to conserve water?
The need to efficiently use our water resources has led to some amazing developments in irrigation technology. Many golf clubs in Southern California have implemented, and continue to implement, these breakthroughs in water conservation. These clubs are strictly monitoring where, when and how their water is distributed by using smart controllers (which can turn a sprinkler on or off depending on need) and rotating low-flow sprinklers that help superintendents keep their courses green with a minimal amount of water consumption.
Many improvements have also been made in sensors that monitor the soil and adjust to weather conditions, and a growing number of golf clubs have implemented in-ground moisture detection systems that can provide real-time feeds to the Golf Course Superintendent’s smartphone. In addition, technology is currently being developed to allow crews to cut fairways using mowers that are equipped with turf sensors that provide data used to control the use of water and nutrients.
Southern California golf clubs are certainly becoming more computerized, and as the technology improves and is implemented, efficient water use will result.
Trading in Their Turf
One approach that several golf clubs in Southern California are taking is to replace water-needy turf with more drought-tolerant landscaping. In fact, water agencies burdened with mandates to reduce drinkable water consumption have been partnering with golf courses to do just that, and these clubs are jumping at the opportunity. The objective of these programs is to reduce the number of irrigated acreage, thereby reducing total water consumption. The typical golf course is 110 acres or more, and in many cases, trading in turf to line the fairways with features that require less water, if done properly, won't have much of an effect on playability but will reduce overall water use. A shift in preferences of golfers to drier, firmer and faster playing conditions will also help in conserving water use. Advances in the cultivation of the grass itself will present additional future opportunities for many courses. Agriculturalists continue to develop species of turf that require much less water than the typical variety found at many of today's courses.
Several golf clubs in Southern California are finding alternative sources for irrigation.. Many are switching to recycled wastewater, which can be costly even for those courses that are lucky enough to be located near a recycled-water pipeline. The wastewater is also high in salt content, which can severely dehydrate the turf. The benefit of switching to recycled water is unlimited availability and sustainability. In other words, courses are keeping recreational open spaces in good condition and helping improve the environment.
Finding a Solution & Bringing Perspective to the Issue
Even if all the golf courses in California were forced to quit watering altogether, it still wouldn't amount to even 1% of the state's total water consumption.Nonetheless, the top golf clubs in Southern California won't allow their fairways and greens to be surrounded by dying grass. They will continue to improve the efficiency of their water use by investing in innovative technology, undertaking pioneering products and techniques, and even revising their design to suit California's growing desire to conserve water.
How else can Southern California's top golf clubs help conserve water?