As a prelude to these thoughts, let me tell you about a day that Dick Zokol and I spent with a developer and his team six years ago. We spent the day looking at a beautiful rugged site with enough room for a golf course, residential community and an organic vineyard. That day and that concept have stuck with us. So naturally when dealing with two clients in the last month that are considering turf reductions to reduce water usage, we started thinking about different ways to achieve those goals:
Drought in the Western US is having and will continue to have a huge impact on existing golf courses. There are many water districts that are paying water users, including golf courses, to remove irrigated turf areas. We can pretend to be stewards of the land by putting up more birdhouses or we can dig in and set about reducing water consumption on golf courses. This provides unique challenges for aesthetics and playability along with an opportunity for Wine?
Wine, yes wine, instead of taking the usual route of replacing high water use turf with native type grasses or vegetation, maybe it's time to convert those ares into vineyards. Imagine those excessive out of play turf areas, planted to grapes.
There have been new residential developments that included golf courses and vineyards but using grapes as a means of reducing water usage on existing golf courses offers a wonderful opportunity for a sensible and gastronomically pleasing means of achieving sustainability.
Vineyards in California typically use between 80,000 and 160,000 gallons of water per acre versus turf that could use between 750,000 and 1,500,000 gallons per acre. Water conservation is critical to the West and Vineyards may have a place in these efforts in reducing water usage on golf courses.
It's incumbent upon Golf Course Designers to help clubs and courses reduce their demands for precious water resources through innovative thinking. We already have the ability to provide options in playability so that the golf experience, not only, isn't diminished but in all probability, enhanced through Design/Conservation planning. Now we have another vegetative tool to help achieve that goal.
Can you play out of this?
How about this?
Water conservation efforts in some communities have proved unpopular and often times ran amok of the Homeowners Association's rules and regulations. Even property values can be affected by what is perceived to be less appealing landscapes when green grass is no longer wall to wall. But take that same effort and convert a high water use turf area to a vineyard and quite possibly, you can play golf, drink wine, and conserve water; everyone wins.
Our efforts in Golf Course Architecture must continue to focus on great, immensely playable, sustainable golf!