Eco-friendly plan for North Shore


Sean Dudley

As energy and water costs continue to soar, golf courses across the western US are positioning themselves to handle the increasing pressures to reduce use and plan for the ever changing politics of energy and water.

With this in mind, the Billy Bell-designed North Ridge Country Club, located outside Sacramento, California has retained the design services of Andrew Staples and the Phoenix-based Golf Resource Group to prepare a long-range resource management master plan. The will include assessment of the current golf design including possible turf reduction planning, native sand bunkering, renewable energy integration and overall carbon footprint reductions.

“This is one of the most forward thinking clubs I have had the chance to work with and to take this step at this time in history is incredible. There is no doubt they will be better off in the future because of it,” said Staples.

North Ridge had already begun a comprehensive look at its energy and water costs back in 2006, and began to make changes when it saw costs increasing. Adjustments were made to reduce energy demand charges and overall use, but more could be done. A complete resource management plan was the natural next step.

“I've worked hard to identify areas of savings in our entire irrigation system, and I think we've done a pretty good job of exhausting our opportunity,” said superintendent Larry Johnson. “The next big impact was to identify areas around the entire golf facility including the design of the course in order to maximise our savings and plan for the future. This is where we needed the expertise of a golf course architect.”

The plan will begin with an exhaustive membership focus group study that will involve all factions of the club. As part of the design process, the golf course will be examined for areas of improvement, not only from a resource perspective, but also areas of turf quality, safety and overall aesthetics and interest.

Since the course has roughly 135 acres of irrigated turf and is a typical parkland styled golf course with wall-to-wall turf, the club will decide how far it is willing to take the planning process. Topics such as the transition of turf to California native grasses, development of a native tree and shrub planting palette and the addition of natural sand hazards will be examined. Initial studies have identified over 50 acres of turf reduction opportunity, which would be slated over a period of years.

After peak efficiency is obtained, North Ridge will continue to consume resources. This is where the key component of renewable energy integration will show its true impact, both from a financial and an environmental perspective. All aspects of solar will be researched including selling the power back to the local utility company. The club is blessed with an 11-acre open space parcel directly adjacent to the clubhouse - a perfect location for an on-site solar field.

North Ridge is also one of the many golf courses in the state that currently draws its irrigation water from on-site ground water wells. There is talk about what the future holds for all non-agriculture ground water users.

“North Ridge is not alone in the challenge to address water use in the west,” said Johnson. “We all know the business is changing, but to what extent, we're not sure. Our intention is to hold onto our course's original design intent while making it more resource efficient.”