Friday, 30 March 2012

Sustainability in Our Maintenance

This section is also from the talk I did for the USGA and this section is about what a change in maintenance could do for golf.

this is actually all you need - Lossiemouth

I would like to see a future with a more British or Australian style approach to turf maintenance. I personally think that the playing conditions are superior to ours since golf is best played firm and fast. I do think architects need to recognize this future and make sure the running approach is almost always an option in the courses we work with.

The transition will be toughest on superintendents at older courses where the turf conversion to bentgass and more fescues will take a long process. That’s why I see value in starting now with tree removal programs designed to help conversion programs.

I’m not so sure about whether we will see lots of green re-grassing, but I certainly do see a movement towards re-grassing of fairways and tees in preparation for a reduction on inputs. The one question I have is whether we will continue to seed with the new turf types that have high maintenance requirements or whether we will see a shift back to some older alternatives that require less maintenance.

photo by Brian Ewan

What I do think you need from architects is recognition of how this will impact play. We’ve had decades of architects making courses only accessible to aerial play.  If we are going to go firm and fast we need to open up the ground game as an option for the average player.

 Perhaps we need a complete change of focus. When talking with the Superintendents in Melbourne they talked about maintaining where you are supposed to be playing from and largely ignoring where you are not supposed to be. The idea was largely based upon limited water, but when you think about how much money we spend on green lush rough it does make you question our choices.

I think there is far too much emphasis placed on maintaining, irrigating and grooming our rough. When a player finds the left or right side of the hole, they are almost always in a poor position to approach the green. That in itself is a penalty for poor play. Imagine the savings on water, irrigation, fertilizer and manpower if we simply did not actively manage our rough and let it the rough play as the weather dictates.

Bandon has the idea right about sustainability

On that end I wish we did what the Australians do and simply let our courses have seasonality in their presentation. Australian courses go from brown to green and back to brown again depending on rain. We may need to convert over our roughs to become more drought tolerant, but the savings in water use and irrigation heads easily justifies this.

There is no question in my mind that Superintendents would embrace an even more sustainable approach to golf maintenance now if they knew their jobs were not linked to the current level of expectations. We as architects need to drive this concept, educate the memberships and help them understand that their course may occasionally look a little less than perfect but it will play even better than before.

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