The only way to lower inputs is by concentrating on growing environments. Architects need to spend far more effort making sure ever green site is an excellent place to grow turf and a lot less time worrying about aesthetics.
The simply answer is that any tree interrupting 5 hours of morning sun and nine hours of daily sun is an impediment to an environmentally sensitive approach to maintenance. Ask the clubs that I work with, I am a ruthless tree hater, but that’s the only way to achieve the goal of healthy turf.
One of the reasons the British courses can get away with minimal inputs is the growing environments. They receive full sun, are wide open to the wind and in most cases are built on well drained soils. We can’t duplicate those conditions but we can cut enough trees for adequate light and airflow.
Soils are a little tougher issue here. Most of our soils are tight and yet in most instances very little has been done to improve the drainage. Greens should be a given, but so should chipping areas, approaches, fairway hollows and even under some key tees if we want to reduce the inputs. We need to address compaction and moisture as much as sunlight and airflow if our intention is minimal inputs.
The biggest change everyone needs to make is their view of trees. Environmentalists want us to reduce our inputs and use less water, but they also want us to keep as many trees on the site as we can. What they fail to see is the contradiction they create. The trees will always out-compete the turf and the superintendent will be forced to supplement the turf to help it survive. The trees have to go in order to promote sustainability. Tree by-laws are now the greatest detriment to a better environmental solution and we need to lobby to make that clear.
The reality is the more trees we remove around the golf course, the less likely we are to require input and the more likely we are to promote the turf we want to develop. It’s imperative that we eliminating shade, root competition and create airflow if we want to produce optimal conditions.