Ayla Oasis: Dealing with extremes

Ayla Oasis: Dealing with extremes
By Joe Betulius

Ayla Oasis Golf Club is the first 18-hole golf course in the country of Jordan. It is a unique course that sits on over 120 hectares of land, and despite the extreme dry environment, boasts lush landscapes and waterfront views. Designed by Greg Norman’s firm and opened in 2017, the 18-hole championship course is complemented by a nine-hole par-three layout and golf academy.

The golf course is major draw for the Ayla Oasis development, which includes 17 kilometres of new waterfront and features hotels, retail markets, and a marina. In order to deliver satisfactory turf in Jordan’s climate, finding solutions that would enable successful grow-in of the course and long-term results was critical.

Charles Graham of On Course Project and Agronomic Consulting worked alongside Dan Grassi, senior operations director of Greg Norman Golf Course Design, to find a grassing solution for the desert course.

Ayla Oasis faced several challenges in course design and development, as designers had planned to leverage the waterfront views of the course and make water features an integral part of the facility.

However, the extreme heat within the region makes the establishment of turf extremely challenging. What’s more, the water available to the course was of extremely poor quality, with high levels of total dissolved salts and other undesirable elements that can damage grass growth.

With extensive knowledge and experience specifying grasses for courses all over the world, Graham was brought into the project to develop a solution that would enable Grassi’s team to grow-in tees and greens that could perform long term in Jordan’s environment. It was not only necessary to have the grass grow-in successfully, but to ensure the greens could stand up to the heat and continue to flourish despite poor water quality. Furthermore, the team also hoped to leverage local materials in the course development and tasked Graham with finding a way to use native silica sand from the mountain region to build the greens.

Having worked with Profile Products on several other projects, Graham immediately tapped into the expertise of the Profile team and relied heavily on Profile’s solutions to tackle the challenge ahead. To find a solution that would be viable in the region, Gavin Kelly and Joe Betulius of Profile travelled to Jordan to meet with Graham and Grassi and conduct testing on native sand varieties.

“The Profile team was extremely helpful and passionate about finding a solution that could deliver the greens we desired,” said Graham. “Gavin and Joe talked through everything and presented a few different options, tapping into experience they had on projects around the region, such as Dubai—which has a very similar climate to Jordan—to show how their solutions have performed with other courses.”

The testing from Profile revealed that a rootzone mix of 85 per cent sand and 15 per cent Profile Greens Grade would create viable and sustainable greens. The Profile Porous Ceramic (PPC) particle found in Greens Grade is 74 per cent pore space with 39 per cent capillary (water) pores and 35 per cent non-capillary (air) pores. Blended with sand in a greens mix, it can improve water- and nutrient-holding capabilities, increase oxygen levels at the root zone, and facilitate drainage when soils are saturated.

Golf course superintendent Atilla Demirsoy was brought into the project during the final phase of the construction to manage course conditions. The solution from Profile improved those course conditions by enabling the greens to drain water quickly, which is critical when working with poor water quality to prevent unwanted elements from penetrating.

“One of the biggest challenges we faced on-site was the extreme environmental conditions — especially the summer temperatures with high, dry winds,” said Demirsoy. “Temperatures ranged between 42 degrees Celsius in the daytime and 29 degrees Celsius at night, and it was very dry with not much humidity. Basically, the sun feels really hot, plus the dry winds put a lot of heat stress on the plant. Profile improved the impact of this major issue we were facing.”

Ayla Oasis has quickly established itself as the premier golf course in the country of Jordan, attracting players from around the world. The solution provided by Profile not only delivered a high standard of grass during development, but the maintenance team also benefits from the consistency and quality of the greens year after year.

The long-term results of Profile’s solution can be seen throughout the course; in fact, according to Graham, “there was a huge issue with dry spots in the areas where we did not use the Profile mixture, while the greens with Profile had no problems whatsoever.” Having permanently amended the structure of the greens with Profile, Ayla benefits from consistent and predictable maintenance, which provides long-term financial benefits by enabling the club to save time and money dedicated to maintenance needs.

Joe Betulius is vice president at Profile Products.