5 significant ways golf clubs can save water and cut costs

07 Mar 2021

Blog - Jamie Graham

5 significant ways golf clubs can save water and cut costs

The combined effects of a changing climate, increasing demand and greater competition are making water scarcity a genuine threat to golf around the world. Clubs are having to spend much more on supplies that are also becoming more vulnerable to regulation and restriction.   

This makes water conservation an absolute priority for golf clubs now and in the future. In this article, we explore key steps clubs can take to become more sustainable and future-proofed.

Start with an irrigation audit 

Before making any changes to your irrigation practices, it makes sense to start with an audit of how you’re doing and where improvements can be made.

A thorough irrigation audit doesn’t need to result in a complete overhaul and lots of expense. It can help you pinpoint the easiest areas to tackle so you can make savings quickly and easily. Each point below has success stories from other clubs throughout the world.

1. Sprinkler head adjustment

At Hirsala Golf in Finland, their audit resulted in a 50% reduction in water use via readjustment of sprinklers on the tees. 

And at Jumeirah Golf Estates, UAE the limitations on water supply prompted an audit. Overspray was enabling the more dominant Bermudagrass to creep into the native grass, which resulted in wider than design turf corridors and higher maintenance costs. The subsequent rewiring of all sprinklers led to a 14% cut in water use in the summer months.

Al Mouj Golf in Oman has a strong track record of sustainable practices. The club completed a full audit of all irrigation heads, with almost 200 turned off and a further 60 repositioned within the fairways for more efficient coverage. This has improved the quality of the fairways and resulted in an annual saving of $28,000

2. Use recycled water

Many golf courses are looking at ways to become self-sufficient when it comes to irrigation. Great examples of this include using greywater and rainwater rather than supply from the mains.

As a new development, Oaks Prague was able to design an efficient system from the outset, which now enables them to use collected rainwater for around 90% of course irrigation

At Belas Clube de Campo in Portugal, all course run-off is collected into lakes before being re-used for irrigation. 

3. Turfgrass selection

Selecting the right turfgrass species for your particular climate can help to reduce inputs across the board, including water. Added benefits of this can be reduced fertilizer and pesticide use, better playing surfaces and less CO2 being emitted from machinery.

There are proven examples of how this can help from Golf della Montecchia in Italy and Jack's Point Golf Club, New Zealand.

As political and environmental pressures around resource use become more prominent everywhere, it will pay in the long run for golf courses to start looking at how they can maintain the land with as little input as possible. A vital part of this involves managing golfer expectations too.

4. Naturalization to the fore

With so many courses locked down during parts of 2020, greenkeepers and course managers have been looking at ways to take what they’ve learnt from essential maintenance into ongoing practices. Lots of courses have been reaping the benefits of naturalization for a long time though when it comes to cutting water use.

Royal Birkdale Golf Club in England made a 35% saving on water by choosing not to irrigate certain areas of rough around the course. And over in China, one club was able to turn off 300 irrigation sprinklers to let the turf grow wild and gradually become deep rough.

Learn more in this post covering 5 simple ideas for successful naturalization

5. Clubhouse considerations

Away from the course itself, several efficiencies can be made when it comes to water use. Harvesting rainwater from the clubhouse roof is just one.

At Atlantic Beach Country Club in South Africa, they implemented a range of measures to deal with a prolonged period of drought. These included waterless soap and upgrading air conditioning units to more efficient models which used less water.

Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club changed its taps, so they went from running at 6 litres per minute to 1.3 litres per minute.

Takeaway action: If you haven't carried out an irrigation audit for some time, schedule a date with your team to get this started. 

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