Virginia Golfer May / June 2015 - Page 21

CARTER: BRET DOUGLAS; SCOTT K. BROWN Left: At Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, a daily-fee track in Chattanooga, Tenn., superintendent Paul Carter keeps a watchful eye on the club’s environmental impact. Above: Central Virginia’s Salisbury Country Club is making the most of its on-site water supply. course operators are caught off guard by this. Years of preparation have put golf in reasonably good position, under the circumstances.” Partly in response to Gov. Brown’s announcement, The Wall Street Journal published a long feature in its April 25 edition about steps California courses have already taken to minimize the playability and budgetary problems of sustained drought. The article took note of golf’s unique imagerelated challenge, which comes down to “how conspicuously it uses water.” By contrast with manufacturers and utility companies, the report reads “golf’s lushly green product is on display for everyone who drives by.” Water trivia fact, courtesy of this article: A single semiconductor chip can take more than 2,000 gallons of water to produce. One of many solution-seeking Western golf courses lauded for its recent success is Saddle Creek Resort in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Part of a Castle & Cooke golf community in Calaveras County, the course has maintained first-rate playing conditions while reducing irrigation intensity by 40 percent, thereby saving 400,000 gallons of water daily all through last summer and fall. Among the measures taken by superintendent Pat Smyth were concentrating irrigation efforts on tees, fairways and greens, as well as watering the rough at a greatly reduced rate, limiting many 360-degree sprinkler heads to 180-degree turns and hand watering fairways. “We need to do what’s right for California,” says Rick Morgan, the club’s general manager. “At the same time, we’re giving our guests a glimpse of how golf courses may routinely look a bit more ‘brown’ in the very near future.” The word is that Saddle Creek golfers have proven quite receptive to the changes. Among national media covering this topic, Golf Digest recently took up the cudgels, running a two-page spread in its Feb. 11 Golf Digest Stix edition that spotlighted Paul Carter, golf course superintendent at a public access facility outside Chattanooga, Tenn. Carter oversees turfgrass and grounds at Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, where he won the GCSAA President’s Award for exemplary environmental stewardship. The achievement that made the award committee really take notice was annual wateruse reduction to the tune of 7.4 million gallons a year from 2008 to 2011. The trick to cutting back so dramatically was, according to Carter, going from “irrigating and mowing 165 acres of property to maintaining 105 acres.” The real headroom for savings is at courses that are “mowing every inch of property,” as Bear Trace was when Carter first arrived there in 2001. Along with switching from maintained turf to a substitute ground cover, he has shown political skill in helping to educate golfers about the long-term value of, in effect, under-watering fairways and roughs so that root systems get deeper and stronger, thus more tolerant of dry spells. Holliday and the crew at Salisbury have also been on a mission to replace traditional golf course grass surfaces with ground cover that doesn’t have to be watered or mowed. “Implementing native areas” is the phrase experts use, by which they mean introducing fine and hard fescues and other grasses that are extremely drought-tolerant. The club’s master plan calls for conversion of another 10 to 20 acres over to these fescue grasses, which, when they do go dormant, are still a hazard of sorts for the golfer who plays errantly into these bordering areas. One important point to remember is that golf courses don’t simply use water; they also have the capacity to filter it, manage it and remove toxins from it. The term environmentalists often use is permeable versus impermeable surfaces. A recent University of Delaware study on sustainable landscapes made clear the impact of impermeable surfaces, such as parking lots and commercial rooftops. “Permeable surfaces allow water to percolate into the soil to filter out pollutants and recharge the water table,” the report says. “Impermeable or impervious surfaces don’t allow water to penetrate, forcing it to run off” or pool for extended periods. (continued on page 37) THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN GOLF. THERE’S UNLIMITED GOLF. Our Virginia Golf Package includes unlimited daily golf at Golden Eagle Golf Club, one of Virginia’s most breathtaking golf courses, plus deluxe accommodations and more. Your tee time is waiting. Book your golf package at or call 844.865.5781. 480 King Carter Drive, Irvington, VA 22480 | w w w. v s g a .