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Home > Feature Articles > Landscaping

Sustainable Golf Courses

Sustainable golf courses save significant levels of water, energy and chemicals.

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Tauber - Progressive Lighting Small companies have to act smarter and more effectively -- not just to green themselves, but everyday. Their tight resources of time, talent and money require that every action have a realistic ROI and maximum impact.

Some small facilities' voluntary green and sustainable projects are quite significant. And when they are compounded by an industry-wide strategy to make their shared industry more sustainable -- Katie bar the door!

Golf course greening opportunities include restoring natural habitat acreage for native populations of plants and wildlife that can also contribute to the conservation of water -- which can be a substantial green contribution!

Saving energy on lighting and clubhouse mounts up, too, and waste reduced through greenwaste composting and kitchen procedures can be accomplished on a scale proportionately greater than most multinationals who undertake green operational strategies.

Golf Course Management identifies the following green operational opportunities for attractive as well as functional golf courses.

The general public, require that golf courses be environmentally responsible at the same time it delivers attractive green spaces for the golfers and habitat or wildlife lovers.

Sustainable landscapes reflect a high level of self-sufficiency that once established, mature and flourish virtually on their own as part of their natural ecosystem. The resulting benefits can include added aesthetics, lower maintenance costs, more effective use of water and chemicals, enhanced open space and more effective wildlife habitat value.

Sustainable design goes beyond traditional design to focus on local ecological structure and function. This blends aesthetics, function and maintenance economies.

Like any well-functioning system, input from all the participants in the system is helpful. Input from course users, managers and owners help deal with the complexities of golf course landscape design.

Plant selection is one of the last steps in golf course design, but one of the first steps in green landscape design. Proper species selection can save up to half the water required to maintain the landscape over the coming years.

Site inventory is a critical step in designing any landdscape, including a golf course. By minimizing earthmoving, the natural ecosystem is preserved, along with water flow through the watershed -- which extends far beyond the golf course's boundaries. By identifying microclimates and micro-habitats, rare plant species can be preserved in rough areas and maintenance reduced by working WITH nature instead of ignoring its realities.

Sustainable design builds on basic principles of order, unity and rhythm by adding a layered landscape look and feel that is more biodiverse. Berms and existing landforms such as rock outcroppings and stream banks can define natural spaces without extensive re-sculpting.

The presence of small fruits, attractive bark, interesting seedheads and textures can add aesthetics and when chosen to attract local wildlife, the added texture of life is enhanced!

Sustainable plantings strive to group plants according to similar needs for water, light exposure, fertilization and maintenance needs. By designing beds for efficient machine use and natural spaces for minimal machine use (to reduce use of petrochemicals), a design can maximize resources for minimal upkeep cost.

Plant selection is critical to sustainability of the landscape. Healthy plants, properly sized and drought-tolerant perennials all improve maintenance efficiency...and minimize irrigation.

This landscape design for golf courses article was contributed by John Fech, an Extension horticulture educator in Nebraska. For more sustainable golf course resources, check the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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