Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Drive to Sustainability

The philanthropic arm of the GCSAA(Golf Course Superintendent's Association of America), The Environmental Institute for Golf is leading a collaborative industry-wide effort toward a sustainable approach to golf facility management.

"Sustainability is about ensuring profitable businesses while making decisions that are in the long-term interest of the environment and communities.  The focus is on continual improvement by professionally managing and conserving resources and inputs, and reducing waste while providing playing conditions that satisfy golfers of today and tomorrow". 

Throughout the years, the industry has been trying to move toward a more sustainable style golf course.  More facilities have been designed with a natural British Isles design,i.e. Bandon Dunes, Whistling Straits.  Of course, climates along the coast of Oregon or Wisconsin are much different than attempting to grow grass in St. Louis.  Audubon International out of the State of New York developed the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary program for golf courses in which our club is a member.  This program helps superintendents in identifying ways they could improve the environment of their golf course without negatively impacting playability.

Turgrasses have been developed that resist disease, insects and can withstand higher and lower temperatures.  Plant protectants have been invented that or more environmentally friendly.  More slow release and or organic fertilizers are being utilized which have less impacts on drinking water.  Equipment has been improved to reduce stress in turf by reducing the foot print weight of the machine and improving the actual cutting of the turf plant blade.  Best Management practices have been developed by superintendents.  Superintendents are better educated and more dedicated to keeping the environment in the forefront of our thinking when making decisions.   

At Glen Echo, our efforts in sustainability are in high gear at this time.  We are provided with great resources by our membership but these resources are not infinite.  It is very important that we develop and implement programs to improve our resource utilization and attempt to have less impacts on the living organism that we manage.   

An important resource that we manage is the water that we apply on the golf course.  The system that was installed in 2007 is state of the art and is much more efficient in energy usage than what was in place for many years.  Our water storage lakes are not large in size which requires us to purchase city water during the months of the summer.  When our system is in full operation, we have about 2-3 days supply in our lake before it must be recharged by city water.  Our city water is great for drinking but is not of good quality to apply to turfgrass.  The water has a high Ph and bicarbonates which effect the chemical structure of our soil in which the turf grows.  The soil acts as a storage bank and becomes out of balance with the city water and will not release the proper nutrients to the root systems of our turf.  To offset the water quality, we must inject chemicals into our water which balances the water and helps the soil stay more balanced.  It is important that we utilize our water wisely to reduce the amount of water that we purchase.  Rain water or water that is held in our lakes has a tendency to be more in balance. 

All research points to a slightly firmer and drier golf course is healthier and more consistent.    

The largest resource that we manage is the labor on our golf course.  Managing our staff can also help in the sustainability efforts.  Increasing job responsibilities, proper scheduling, timely applications of PGR's(Plant growth regulators), fertilization, and other inputs to the turf can improve the health of our plants and reduce the frequency of other inputs such as mowing.  The managment of green complexes including but not limited to aeration, topdressing, grooming, and rolling can lead to improved health, less inputs and better playability. 

Reduction in energy consumption including utilizing waste kitchen oil to power our diesel machines, wood to heat our maintenance building, more efficient light bulbs, and an overall reduction in gas/diesel consumption of 30% over the last couple of years has helped to streamline our department.

As you can see, sustainability is alive and well at Glen Echo.  

I've attached below, a link to the Enviromental Institute for Golf's sustainability website.

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