Water-aware course design

  • Water-aware

    The all-weather practice tee at Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen

  • Water-aware

    The new outdoor driving areas at Bearwood Lakes Golf Club in Berkshire, England

Paul Chester
By Paul Chester

This article first appeared in the July 2019 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.

The protection of water supplies is critical. The UK Environment Agency speaks of a ‘25-year water bomb’, highlighting that, unless proactive action is taken, the country will simply run out of water by 2045. Periods of drought and flash flooding are also expected to rise in frequency.

All of this will increasingly have a major impact on the businesses, like golf courses, that depend on a seamless water supply to operate successfully. So, what can golf course managers and architects do to balance water conservation without spoiling everyone’s fun?

According to the Alliance for Water Efficiency in the US, a typical golf course requires 100,000 to 1,000,000 gallons of water per week in summer to maintain healthy vegetation – most courses use up to 50 per cent more water than is necessary. It may be an under-analysed line on the club’s profit ledger, but this water misuse adds up, so designing a course to reduce the amount of water required for irrigation is the best place to start.

Many clubs and courses are already realising the benefits of strategically incorporating Huxley Golf’s all-weather surfaces – which require no irrigation and virtually no maintenance – into designs for new or replacement facilities.

Bearwood Lakes Golf Club in Berkshire, England, for example, used the company’s premium exclusive Premier Tee Turf and Premier Leisure Turf when they created a new outdoor driving area. Carl Rutherford, managing director at Bearwood, said: “We pride ourselves on providing world-class playing surfaces, maintained with exceptional craftsmanship and unparalleled attention to detail. That’s why we chose to work with Huxley Golf on our stunning new purpose-built all-weather practice facility. This was an important project for us as it would not only increase the distance of the range, but also bring our practice facilities into line with standards across the rest of the club. We are delighted with the result.”

Another example is a large all-weather practice tee at the Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Ten bay tees were created using Huxley Golf Premier Tee Turf 2. Course manager Steve Wilson commented: “We strive to be the ultimate golf destination and that means being the best in all that we do. In line with the rest of the course, it was expertly designed and installed – it looks fantastic and it plays exceptionally well. The impact of this work has been most encouraging and the feedback that I have received from our valued members has been incredibly positive.”

Time and again, customers tell us at Huxley that their revenue is up because their members are staying longer and visiting more frequently because they can play and practice year-round thanks to the addition of high-quality all-weather surfaces. With frequent occurrences of extreme weather conditions becoming the norm rather than the exception and an increasingly obvious need for water conservation, they are fast becoming business-critical for many clubs and courses.

Of course, many of the UK’s most prestigious courses don’t have the practice facilities that they need because they were designed and built decades, even a century, ago when people simply didn’t practise as they do now. When purchasing additional land is neither desirable from a planning nor commercial perspective, the only solution is to survey the existing course facilities and creatively design for the future. No matter whether it’s a few well-trodden holes, a practice area or a whole all-weather course, working artificial surfaces into development plans is proven to attract and retain members while protecting revenue – and water supplies.

Water re-use is a great opportunity to take this work one step further. If you have a clubhouse with a large roof area, rainwater harvesting – collecting rainwater for use in irrigation systems and for other non-potable uses like toilet flushing and air conditioning – could also pay dividends. There are also some great systems for greywater recycling whereby used water is filtered for re-use. Many of these can be retrofitted but, if new facilities are planned, it’s the perfect time to build these concepts into plans.

Since the UK is the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency, forward-thinking, environmentally aware golf course architects are in a unique position to demonstrate global leadership on addressing the water issue and potentially realise commercial benefits for their clients as a result.

Paul Chester is general manager at Huxley Golf.