The Quest To Keep Sunriver Resort’s Golf Courses GREEN
By: Ryan Wulff, Head Superintendent Sunriver Resort’s Meadows and Woodlands Golf Courses
I hop in my golf cart and head out onto the Woodlands Golf Course this past Tuesday. As the sun was rising, I pass a pack of deer grazing, a family of ducks feeding on the vegetation in one of our lakes, and I even spot a coyote on his way somewhere in a hurry. Many times I am asked by members and resort golfers about the environmental impacts of our golf course practices on our High Desert ecosystem. My response is easy as Sunriver Resort and Destinations Hotels & Resorts has made environmental stewardship not just a goal but our company’s culture. Everything we do is done as environmental stewards, threading from our 66 holes of golf through every operation of our entire resort.
As I continue my morning drive around the course it's easy to observe this stewardship as my crew heads out and got the course set up. The fairway mowers head out with no buckets, the clippings on the fairways and roughs are returned into the soil. As the clippings decompose, nitrogen is released into the soil and becomes available for plant growth. This initiative alone reduces the amount of required fertilizer by 30% and still allows us to maintain a well manicure course.
As the crew with greens mowers hit the greens they remove grass clippings on both the tees and greens. These clippings are collected and composted in Sunriver Resort’s compost area and are thoroughly mixed with leaves and wood chips. The compost is then used to repair divots left behind by golfers, especially by the more mass-divot-producing golfers - or as my team likes to call them - "hackers!"
As I head past the fourth hole and the sprinklers come on, I am staring over one of our lakes. The Woodlands was the first golf course in Central Oregon to use recycled water to irrigate the course. The Sunriver owned treatment plant treats the water and recycles it out back into the Woodlands lakes. The use of the water supplies the turf with nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous enabling us to reduce the amount of fertilizers that we apply anywhere from 20-50%. An update in 2006 to the irrigation system, which is an automated valve in head system, allows individual sprinkler head control. This system allows us to fine tune the irrigation system and maximize our watering efficiency.
We strive to continue to protect our wetland areas with native areas and buffer strips. These areas consist of native vegetation, and are unmaintained for the exception of noxious weeds that we remove by hand. These areas are essential as they reduce contaminates from surface runoff and, of course, no pesticides or fertilizers are applied within these areas.
My drive around the course is evident of our environmental practices, but it also highlights the sound agronomic turf grass management practices we implement; as healthy turf requires less pesticides. Practices that we complete on our course to ensure our turf remains healthy are:
- Aerification- aerification alleviates compaction, reduces thatch, increases water infiltration and rooting. In return you have healthier turf that can fight off disease with less use of pesticides
- Topdressing- The practice of working sand into the top layer of the green has benefits for the golfer as well as the heath of the turf. Topdressing gives a smoother, firmer surface that will receive shots better. Sand also helps with the dilution of thatch, modifies the soil structure to help water filtration and reduces scalping of the greens. Topdressing is a major contributor to plant health. Its simple healthy turf-less pesticides!
Something new at the Woodlands over the past two years is a new recycling program. We now don’t just require our team to recycle, but we encourage our golfers to recycle too. We have established a viable recycling program on our golf courses and I ask all of our golfers out there to assist us with this practice.
Environmental stewardship has to come from not just golf course maintenance but everyone who utilizes the course. Our goal is to not just have green grass -but to be green.
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