Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Golf course native areas naturally

Scott J Morrison from Turfhugger recently found something interesting on my website and asked me a few questions about what we did at Wolf Point. The following is from the Turfhugger blog:

"We let the native areas come back naturally without irrigation. Typically irrigation is installed to establish the perimeter and then abandoned after grow-in. Using the irrigated method causes the grow-in to be thicker than the native environment and is a continual maintenance battle to thin out."

This statement demonstrated 3 things to me...

First, the natural areas in reference were not an afterthought or "filler", nor are they a fancy "look how green we are, our natural areas grow quicker than our turf" statement. I've seen that at a few courses where public opinion of the golf course was not exactly supportive. Of course successful establishment is key to long-term health, but there's a difference between "gardening" and "natural".

Secondly, water conservation is a primary goal even during course grow-in. This is seldom the case in most projects who often rush to have picture perfect conditions of all things on the property right off the starters block.

Third, a management plan considering season and competitive non-native species had to be implemented simultaneously.

So I asked him to expand on this statement with an example, this is what he had to say...

"When Don Mahaffey and I built Wolf Point there was a single mandate, minimize lost balls in long grasses and keep the course challenging and interesting enough to play every day. That translated to 80 acres of fairway and no rough.

We planted Emerald Bermuda on the greens and surrounds and 419 in the fairways. We considered Emerald across the entire course, but decided on 419 in case we ever wanted to grow a rough. The Gulf Coast of Texas gets 45 inches of rain a year on average – sometimes all in one month.

We viewed our irrigation system more as insurance vs. required worst case perfect coverage. Our client could withstand some mottled looks at times. We chose a large rotor spacing and minimized use of part circles. Even around the greens we used full circles – the greens construction was similar to the surrounds there is no reason for ins and outs. We used this approach around the perimeter and outside of the fairway too. As a result the edges get less irrigation than where there is head to head coverage.

Then we transitioned to the native areas where we have no irrigation. It took a little time for any disturbed areas to re-establish, but at no cost. Don spread a wild flower mix in some areas that have grown periodically. Today outside the playing surfaces the area looks natural because it is natural. It is cleared annually and changes with the seasons. "
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