First of all, I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. 2015 was another successful year for the golf course and we look forward to continuing this trend in 2016. That being said, there are a number of challenges brewing for the golf course industry-with a substantial one being the potential restrictions that could be levied on golf courses in times of water shortages and/or drought.
This story is nothing new as the Minnesota DNR has, in the past, sent out the dreaded “stop using surface waters” letter in the past and golf courses have managed to keep the wheels on their respective operations during these times since the droughty conditions usually did not endure for very long. What appears to be different now is that long-term patterns in regards to the relationship between surface waters (lakes, rivers), groundwater, and rainfall are beginning to be understood with greater accuracy and reliability.
What is being found is that wells can and do have a significant impact on the water levels of both our ground water and surface waters. What is a real eye opener is the deliberate (slow) way in which groundwater recharges from rainfall. In many instances, rainfall does not simply find its way into the ground water supplies after falling from the sky but rather most rainfall does indeed runoff and ultimately ends up in Hudson Bay or the Gulf of Mexico. Groundwater takes time to recharge and in many cases, particularly in urban areas, the recharge rate is not fast enough to prevent the resultant drop in groundwater and ultimately surface water levels. In many situations, we are depleting water tables much faster than they can be re-charged (i.e. California). These problems have been developing over a period of decades and will need decades of proper management to recover. Part of the recovery process is through water conservation.
I have made a point of mentioning over the years how the Wilderness Golf Course has been fighting the good fight in regards to water conservation. Our water consumption has been decreasing over the years and I plan to continue this trend. Part of doing this entails taking areas of the golf course off of our irrigation system and into a non-irrigated state. Areas like the no mow fescue areas behind the 16th green and 3rd tee. Equally important is the need to educate players to accept that a golf course does not have to be lush green to be good. This is a tough myth to dispel with many people who have a hard time accepting golf courses like St. Andrews in Scotland, the “new” Pinehurst #2, and most recently Chambers Bay in Washington. Golf’s governing bodies, including the Royal and Ancient and the USGA, understand our environmental challenges more than anybody and so are leading the way to sustainability as an industry. We, as both players and facility operators, need to do the same and indeed most golf course operators are as the following article illustrates:
For your reading enjoyment, I have also included a series of articles from the Star Tribune that help to explain the water related challenges posed in the Twin Cities area.
Enjoy your reading and have a great holiday season. See you all in 2016.
Vincent Dodge CGCS