Conserving Water for a Greener Golf Course

All, From the Field

Summer is here, and it’s getting hot! On the golf course, high temperatures and dry soils equal stressed out grass. To the untrained eye, running a sprinkler head is the only way to keep it alive this time of year, but that’s not the case. Fortunately, the golf course industry continues to find smarter ways to save water and help keep our courses in playable conditions.

Water conservation on golf courses has been a hot topic for more than 30 years and will continue to land in the spotlight due to increasing populations, long-term droughts and a decreasing water supply. At Great Parks, the Operations team uses many tools to keep the grass looking great while still keeping sustainability in mind.

Sprinkler irrigation systems are used, but are run in the evenings to combat wind and evaporation and prevent wasted resources. Tools like automatic rain switches and remote monitoring systems allow the irrigation to be turned off quickly when late afternoon storms provide needed relief. Something as simple as a frequent check of the water meter determines when something is leaking or amiss. Often our best course of action in the summer time is hand watering. Hand watering is exactly as it sounds: an operator dousing dry or hot spots with a hose and nozzle to avoid wasting water in unneeded areas.

Irrigation Photo

Aside from the obvious irrigation system, drought tolerant plant varieties can also be used. Currently we are looking into the benefits of zoysia grass on our courses and have set up trial plots at Little Miami Golf Center and Meadow Links & Golf Academy. Zoysia grass has two benefits: it uses a reduced amount of water and needs limited pesticides. A double threat!

Wetting agents or polymers are also used on our courses. These are made of synthetic materials or starch that hang out in the root zone sponging up any available water. The “sponges” then release the stored moisture back to the soil and plants. This keeps water from moving out of the root zone too quickly. The technology isn’t new, but its use is beginning to increase in the industry.

The Vineyard Golf Course is currently in its second year of a conservation study. The fairway trial uses a new product that touts a reduction of watering requirements up to 50%. Digital moisture monitors are used to take readings in our control and study areas. These monitors provide hard data and a snapshot of what is happening below our feet. Moisture benchmarks allow us to determine when to turn on the water and, more importantly, when to leave it off.

A soil monitor meter

Soil monitor meter

As we push forward into the future, golf course technology will undoubtedly continue to improve, aiding in water conservation and accountability to the environment. Promisingly, Great Parks is on track to do the same!

Jason Rahe, Assistant Park Manager, Woodland Mound