The challenge of meeting golfers’ expectations while still maximizing water resource efficiency will become more difficult. While the golf industry has made great strides in reducing water use, the progress should continue for decades to come. USGA agronomists Brian Whitlark and Cole Thompson expand on some emerging trends that may shape the future of golf.

Grass removal. This is a hot topic nationwide. Removing the grass benefits players by continuing to provide their desired experience. In fact, Whitlark thinks this is an improvement. “Reducing turf conserves resources while also enhancing the golfer’s experience. On courses that have reduced acres of irrigated turf, there is more color, texture and variety in the landscape around you. It’s a more interesting visual experience.”

Reduce over-seeding. While some courses eliminate overruns completely and allow their courses to remain dormant in the winter, many courses choose to go the partial route. The 90-acre course can overlook only 40-50 acres, which saves significantly on water while providing a solid, overgrown green for golfers in the winter.

Alternative herbs. Courses that completely eliminate overplay would be wise to upgrade to one of the newer types of turf that provides a durable playing surface. Zoysiagrass is an emerging species that can rival and even surpass Bermuda in dormant texture and winter color. It also provides a sturdy surface that holds up well to chipping and splitting. The downside is that it requires more water than bermudagrass and can be expensive to grow.

Invest in technology. New innovations can improve the resource efficiency of the entire industry, such as:

· Drone photos. Comparing the daily overview allows the manager to make irrigation decisions based on the big picture while still allowing specific areas of the course to be managed on a case-by-case basis.

· Soil moisture sensors. Although this technology has been around for a long time, the improved accuracy allows course managers to make up-to-date decisions on water use and utilization.

· Drip irrigation. This ancient technology pushes the boundaries of how we think grass should be watered. Research shows that certain areas of the course, such as tees, are well suited for subsurface drip irrigation, saving 50 to 80 percent water while reducing weed germination and soil compaction.

Golfer’s responsibility

The relationship between a supervisor and a golfer is like any other – it can be improved through communication and compromise. For each group to thrive in the long term, it is best to open up the conversation about how to ensure golf remains a vital and viable part of the future.

“The hard truth as an industry is that we could use less water if we committed to playing on a stadium built in winter,” Thompson said. “If the golfers were fully on board and met directly with their supervisor who asked to stop over-supervising, that would be the best scenario.”

Despite public perception, Thompson believes most golfers want their courses to be as resource efficient as possible. If they are willing to accept and even seek training courses that work on being good environmental stewards, many of the difficult decisions stewards make can be mitigated.

“A lot of times, superintendents and course owners make these decisions based on what they think the golfer will expect,” Whitlark said. “This means, to some extent, that golfers are using water on their home courses. It also means that they can help drive environmental conservation efforts.”

    (tags for translation) Advance the game

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