Drafting plans for drier times

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Arizona might be out of extreme drought status. But industry figures remain proactive in their water management advocacy efforts.

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October 3, 2019

© matt LaWell

Nearly two centuries have passed since Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ancient mariner bemoaned of “water, water, every where, nor any drop to drink.” Outside of the continued water woes in Flint, Mich. — a city whose water quality has improved markedly over the last five years but was still in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act as recently as August — not many Americans have a need right now to echo the mariner. But water will be more of a crisis for the future.

Water prices will need to increase more than 40 percent in the next handful of years in order to offset costs of aging infrastructure, according to a 2017 paper from researchers at Michigan State University, with large swaths of the South and the Southwest at risk of losing affordable drinking water.

Zoom in on Arizona, though, and a water crisis feels even more imminent: Congress passed the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan in April, and President Donald Trump signed it into law days later with the aim of helping reduce water use and better deal with water shortages in seven Western states, none moreso than Arizona, which works with the disadvantage of sourcing much of its water from out of state.

“We’re sitting in the middle of the desert, trying to grow a city,” Cynthia Campbell, the water resource management adviser for the city of Phoenix told Elizabeth Whitman of The Phoenix New Times earlier this year. “Which defies logic for many people.”

© matt LaWell

Golf courses are far from the top priorities of the plan, but the reality remains that any water shortage or shift in usage rates affect superintendents, directors of agronomy and other turfheads in the Copper State even more than folks who turn on their taps to, say, drink, shower and wash their clothes. The industry contributes more than $3.9 billion to the Arizona state economy every year, according to a 2016 report published by the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Arizona.

“Arizona is a different state,” says Shawn Emerson, the director of agronomy at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, just north of Phoenix, and a member of the Arizona Alliance for Golf Association’s Water Advocacy Committee. “Obviously, water is a bigger issue in Arizona, but water is going to be an issue everywhere, and everyone is looking at it as the first battleground state. What’s going on, how we handle it, what we need to do to set ourselves up for success in the future.”

The Water Advocacy Committee includes about 20 people, some of them from leading local clubs like Desert Mountain and Paradise Valley Country Club, some from various organizations like the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Arizona Golf Association, others from suppliers like Rain Bird and Ewing Irrigation. Key aims right now, as the state’s Fifth Water Management Plan inches closer, include gathering new data for comparison; developing new strategies for xeriscaping, moisture monitoring and other practices; and projecting what Emerson calls “a unified message.”

“I’m not just talking about water,” Emerson says. “I’m talking about the benefits of golf. Why is golf so important for the economic impact on the state?” Emerson pumps about a billion gallons of water every year on the seven courses at Desert Mountain, but regularly implements conservancy measures, including a recent switch to cool-season bentgrass on the Renegade course (page 28). “The research shows that cool-season turf typically uses 20 percent more water than warm-season turf,” he says. “But if you take the warm-season turf and add cool-season turf on top of it for overseeding, it’s about 25 percent more. Sticking with your cool-season turf, in theory, you should save about 5 percent.”

Courses have also received a significant credit for turning to effluent water, but reports have indicated those credits might be struck in the Fifth Water Management Plan. According to two sources who requested anonymity because conversations and negotiations are active, ADWR officials said in a meeting that they were willing to compromise on that reclaimed water credit and maintain the maximum allowable amount of acre-feet of water — which is expected to drop by about 6 percent in the early 2020s — but Arizona turfheads are, as expected, wary: “There are a whole lot of people at the state level that don’t think golf should be an industry,” one source says.

“We’re trying to protect that we need a certain amount of water to be successful,” Emerson says. “We have to fight as an industry, for all of us.”

Matt LaWell is GCI’s managing editor.




Tartan Talks No. 39

Myslinski

Steubenville is a gritty, eastern Ohio city along the Ohio River. Steel and football combined to form the city’s identity for decades.

Golf options in Steubenville are limited, yet that didn’t deter a few determined people from pursuing careers as golf course architects. One of the Steubenville-bred architects, Doug Myslinski, joined the Tartan Talks podcast to describe how somebody who grew up roaming a 9-hole municipal course forged a career in golf course construction and design. “Blue collar really defines it,” Myslinski says of his home region, which produced fellow golf course architects Tim Freeland, Joe Duco and Jeff Myers.”

Myslinski now lives in another city with industrial roots: Chicago. The region is the home base of Myslinski’s employer, Wadsworth Golf Construction Company.

Working for a golf course builder gives Myslinski a broad view of industry happenings. “When you see things going well, like they are now, we’re seeing more plans, we’re seeing more detailed plans, we’re seeing bigger plans and bigger projects,” he says.

Enter http://bit.ly/DougMyslinski into your web browser to learn about Myslinski’s career and work.




© photo courtesy of ASGCA

ASGCA announces first Environmental Excellence Awards honorees

Projects from seven courses are a part of the first group of American Society of Golf Course Architects Environmental Excellence Awards winners, cited for their work with ASGCA members in addressing unique environmental challenges.

The Environmental Excellence Awards program was introduced to recognize the innovative work being done at golf facilities to address the needs of the environment, where golf course architects work with course owners and operators to make a positive impact on the game and the surrounding area.

The 2019 submissions were reviewed by a panel of golf industry and environmental leaders, including representatives of Audubon International, the GEO Foundation, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and the National Golf Course Owners Association.

“The response to this program in its first year has been tremendous,” ASGCA president Jan Bel Jan said. “Congratulations to each of these facilities and the golf course architects for their work in improving the environmental landscape, helping golf facilities become more sustainable and profitable.”

The recognized courses are:

City Park Golf Course, Denver — Todd Schoeder, ASGCA | Can the redesign of an historic 1913 golf course in an urban environment address major neighborhood flooding issues while simultaneously enhancing the character of the golf course? The challenge was met in one of the last open spaces in Denver to detain and treat stormwater, then release it within eight hours to keep the course playable.

Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne, Key Biscayne, Fla. — John Sanford, ASGCA | In an effort to reduce its water consumption, Miami-Dade County Parks Department initiated the project with Sanford Golf Design, which has been working over the past year to develop a conceptual plan that reduces the golf course’s irrigated turf area. The project’s design goals were to improve playing conditions in the tidally-influenced areas, reduce irrigation water consumption and maintain the visual aesthetics of the golf course.

Los Robles Greens Golf Course, Thousand Oaks, Calif. — Jason Straka, ASGCA | The city charged the design team at Fry/Straka Global Golf Course Design with providing a playable, fun and visually stunning golf course that would reduce water usage by about 25 percent and reduce the required fertilizer, pesticides and fossil fuels to dramatically improve the golf course’s environmental footprint.

Roosevelt Golf Course, Los Angeles — Forrest Richardson, ASGCA | The challenge was to convert the irrigation source from potable to recycled water, and simultaneously make improvements to a 9-hole golf course within historic Griffith Park. The project took more than a decade of planning and permitting, eventually benefiting the environment by conserving water, restoring natural habitat and integrating the course with the natural environment.

The Preserve at Oak Meadows, Addison, Ill. — Greg Martin, ASGCA | Planning, design and permitting was coordinated with 19 separate agencies as 27 holes were converted to 18 while improving golf conditions, relieving downstream and on-course flooding, providing environmental benefit, improving water and habitat quality and providing connectivity to other Preserve properties within the Salt Creek Corridor.

The Refuge Golf Club, Flowood, Miss. — Nathan Crace, ASGCA | Built in 1998, the course struggled to keep holes open after heavy rains, and the aging irrigation system was inefficient. Holes were crowded by invasive tree species causing loss of turf and soil loss from erosion. A full course renovation was put in place to remedy these and other issues.

Willow Oaks Country Club, Richmond, Va. — Lester George, ASGCA | Willow Oaks borders the James River, and every time the waters in the James rose, half the course flooded due to lack of water flow control. Newly created flood channels alleviate flooding and effectively manages the flow of water.